Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crazy Normal

Back of Alcatraz

Most of the world is crazy, of course. We were hunters and gatherers for more than 100,000 years, say anthropologists. We’re not wired for this frenetic electronic world, how could it not make us crazy?

Prob’ly the only humans comfortable in their own meat are aboriginal tribes in the remotest un-raped forests. Lives spent hunting and working the local foliage, stress free. Paradise, like the actual Good Old Days.

We in these States are crazier than the rest. Our inheritance, courtesy of the ongoing, humanity-wrenching, “Industrial Revolution.” We’re not descended from those who played it safe in the old country. We are born of malcontents, dreamers, the desperate, the dangerously ambitious, the visionaries, the schemers, the seekers--the crazies. (The Natives and stolen Africans are crazy too, from being treated like animals for centuries.)

One other thing makes us a notch wackier, in my arrogant opinion. From a comparative mythology text, not written about us but could be:

“The figure of the tyrant-monster is known to the mythologies, folk traditions, legends, and even nightmares, of the world; and his characteristics are everywhere essentially the same. He is the hoarder of the general benefit. He is the monster avid for the greedy rights of “my and mine.”

The havoc wrought by him is described in mythology and fairy tale as being universal throughout his domain. This may be no more than his household, his own tortured psyche, or the lives that he blights with the touch of his friendship and assistance; or it may amount to the extent of his civilization.

The inflated ego of the tyrant is a curse to himself and his world--no matter how his affairs may seem to prosper. Self-terrorized, fear-haunted, alert at every hand to meet and battle back the anticipated aggressions of his environment, which are primarily the reflections of the uncontrollable impulses to acquisition within himself, the giant of self-achieved independence is the world’s messenger of disaster, even though, in his mind, he may entertain himself with humane intentions.”
   from The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell (Bollingen, 1949) p. 15.

So our Empire has become the world’s boogeyman, the greedy beast of ancient myths and our cave-person brains. We know it’s not right when some folks have so much while so many others have nothing. That "Jesus don’t like killin’, no matter what the reason’s for" (John Prine). We know at some level that our greenback-dollar gasoline paradise must eventually end.  Yet to speak of these is ridiculed or forbidden. They become gnawing un-nameable anxieties with which many thoughtful people struggle.

Antidotes, for me, include trying to be kind and generous to everyone, jerks included. Discovering that if I pretend to be nice long enough, I actually get nicer. (And I’m getting better at pretending, which helps on crazier days.)

Trying also to figure out, and stop doing, whatever in my daily life adds to the world’s greed and destruction even indirectly. I don’t always succeed, but trying makes me feel less crazy, without pills.

Accepting the fact that we are glorified cave-people in a sick civilization helps too. I forgive everyone, myself included, for being stupid, irrationally hopeful herd animals. We are “only human” same as ever.

So thatch your hut, gather some grub, then sing, dance, laugh, love, and all that happy crap we used to do daily, before we became techno-slaves to the machine-beast. The Owners can never take those away from us. Every other aspect of modern “success”, with its worry and stress, is waste. Time for De-industrial Revolution!

“There will come a time when everybody who is lonely will be free to sing and dance and love.
 There will come a time when every evil that we know will be an evil that we can rise above.
 Who cares if you’re so poor you can’t afford to buy a pair of mod-a-go-go stretch elastic pants?
 The will come a time when you can even take your clothes off when you dance.”

         --Frank Zappa, “Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance” from We're Only In It for the Money

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gregarious Peccary Visitation

Saturday was town Free Dump Day. Decided to haul off the rust-eaten water-heater carcass, my ugliest yard ornament. Free.

Meanwhile, in a dark corner of a son’s dank “Old Town" (old) apartment, sat a flood-stained cardboard barrel half-full of lentils, white beans, chick peas, and such. 50 or 60 pounds, 15 years old by the date on one sack. Oh, and an unplumbed second-hand toilet. He’d avoided a “cleaning deposit" by accepting the pile, and sticky floor, in a handshake lease agreement. Neither of us wanted to eat ancient grain, not this week anyhow. Free Dump Day!
Stolen from
The soil around my permanent camp is like bad concrete, so I throw vegetable scraps to my struggling trees, like food. Why not, I thought, toss this grain down too? As we flung it, I realized with mixed feelings the possible sowing of a bird, dirt squirrel, and pack rat Empire like no parched yard in my ‘hood has ever seen.

Official Free Dump Day is popular, what a pile. Ripped sofas, dented ‘fridges, dead computer monitors staring willy-nilly. Rest of the year free dumping is in the desert outside town, leisurely scavenged. Too hectic here. A lot of good stuff, but I spared my helpers the cultural shame of being with a Weird Old Dude Digging Through Trash.

That night there was indeed a grain feast. Javelina, a tropical peccary, have worked their way down South America and north into my back yard. The years of throwing rotting vegetables and moldy bread over the back fence have made the spot a destination buffet, I realize now. Our dogs have gone to heaven, and the crappy “hog-wire" fence to hell; add buckets of greenish, roof-flavored rain water, from last storm, and it’s Full Service.

My wife and I heard them snuffling and splashing outside our bedroom window. Then smacking and cracking hard grain like the crunchiest snack of all time. Appetites whetted, they rediscovered the pail of old dog food, up on a table after being knocked over in the past, and somehow, ka-bloosh!

The young'un, among the junk I kept.

So I went into the moonlight to assess the situation. They’re easy to scare off with a little racket, but I greeted them pleasantly, “Hey you guys, what the hell?” The adults bolted, but a young one came trotting toward me until I stammered, “hey, hey, easy little fella.” It stood looking up at me a few seconds before scampering off, curious as I and less frightened.

No harm done, back to bed. Soon they returned, growling and scuffling for that delicious dry-as-dust dog food. “Aw, just let ‘em eat,“ I said, and we fell asleep anyhow. Good decision: next morning the dog food was gone, the brick floor licked clean.

Now they sometimes sleep in a spot they dug under the biggest mesquite trees out back. After my night shifts, in the pre-dawn light, I hear them rustle and grunt when I get close. “It’s OK, go back to sleep," I tell ‘em. We’ll stay friends for now, me not being Cheap enough to poach a Christmas peccary just yet.

On the golf course. Photo courtesy DB Brighty otGC


The evidence of anthropology is that countless men and women, through history and pre-history,
have experienced a deep sense of communion and communication
with nature and with specific non-human beings.

Moreover, they often experienced this communication
with a being they customarily ate.

Men of goodwill who cannot see a reasonable mode of either
listening to, or speaking for, nature, except by analytical
and scientific means, must surely learn to take this
complex, profound, moving, and in many ways highly
appropriate, world view of the yogins, shamans, and
ultimately all our ancestors, into account.

Gary Snyder, The Yogin and the Philosopher, from Alcheringa, vol. 1 #,2 1975

Diana lives!

 photo stolen from

Friday, November 2, 2012

Whiz-Dumb Cheap

The camping-thrashed and coffee-stained issue.

 My head might not be right, I know, but what else can I think with?

Early in life I felt tuned to a different radio than everybody else. Years of introspection and study, grabbing help wherever I found it, and plenty of drugs, especially alcohol: was “civilization” insane, or I? (Answer: both.) “Sober” now, for the record. So what?

Lame as it may sound, in recent years Psychology Today magazine, more than anything, has taught me how my brain works. The Sept./Oct. 2012 issue was extra helpful. They’re not paying me, but I won’t argue if they want to. Condensed highlights:

p. 21, Everyday Fortune-Tellers by Colin Weatherby:
   People are not good at predicting their own future, but they can get better at it. Ask an outside party--friend, family, expert--for input. Keep your imagination grounded in reality. And don’t be over-optimistic. Fortunately at 54 I can predict I’ll do what I’ve done for many years: work hard, love my family, and have as much fun as humanly possible. Good enough.

Tea's cheaper anyhow.

p.48, The Trouble With Fructose, by Hara Estroff Marano:
   Bad news for cornaholics like myself. Fructose in the form of “corn syrup” sweetens most soda pop, and many processed foods. In small amounts, like in fruit, it’s OK. But fructose must be metabolized by the liver, not absorbed in the stomach like other sugars, and now scientists are linking it to dementia, depression, and stupidity (“reduced cognitive capacity”.) This explains why the whole country seems to get dumber every year.

p. 78, Stealth Attack, by Nikhil Swaminathan:
  Turns out what is killing bees all over the world, especially the U.S., is the insecticide “imidacloprid”. (Germany, France, and Italy have already suspended its use.) It only takes tiny amounts. It’s the same chemical family as “nerve gas” and we don’t really know what it does to humans. Similar substances are known to be toxic. The U.S. uses 22 percent of the world’s pesticides to produce four percent of the world’s agricultural output. So in pursuit of profit, industrial farming uses whatever gives ‘em the best yield, the people and the planet be damned! I’d rather eat an occasional bug.

p. 56, Lessons for Living, by Elizabeth Svoboda:
   Five simple rules for human relationships, modern version based on current research. Five pages crammed into five sentences:

1. Trying to “fix” someone else usually backfires, fix yourself instead.

2. It’s better to under-parent than over-parent, “...let kids live with disappointment and resolve their own problems....”

3. Opposites attract, but not for long.

4. Friends are as good for you as proper diet and exercise; lack of friends is as bad for you as smoking and obesity.

5. After the initial lust fades, long-lasting (“true") love comes when you realize how screwed-up your mate is and stay committed anyway. (Surprise!)

p. 44, The Perks of Feeling So-So, by Lauren F. Friedman:
   I figured this out on my own, maybe I should be a “shrink": People are happier when they accept both the good and bad in life, instead of trying to put a smiley face on everything. “Joyful participation in a world of sorrow” as the Buddhists put it. A great motto for life.

There’s lots more, they do a good job each month. Brains are amazing, and science is constantly learning more about ‘em. Me, and you now, too! Wow!

There may be some wisdom on this here rock if someone can read it.