December 21, 2013


In West Virginia en-route to a play in NYC that never was.
God I feel good. I get up every day whenever I want and for the first time in my life do whatever I want. I live in nearly complete silence except for the sound of water boiling for my coffee, the ruum of the heater and huum of the refrigerator, and little else. No radio, television, CD player or DVD, no music, and no knock on the door disturbs me. I have plenty of books from the modern streamlined Las Vegas library and an abundance of Bic pens and composition notebooks to write in.

For the first time in my life I feel no obligation to anyone. If my son in the unlikely event showed up from his hideout in the East and knocked on my door I am not sure that I would let him in. My friends countable on one hand, Marc, Gary, Richard, Anna and Joe, are welcome anytime but the likelihood of their visits is the same as the likelihood of the man in the moon waving hello. My old friend Abe from 50 years ago in the Marine Corps lives a mile away and he is welcome anytime. Other than that, nobody. People I meet on the street get a hello and goodbye forever. I sometimes talk to people I will never see again at bus stops. There is my social life along with a few remarks on Facebook.

Me & my hero.

It is almost like heaven to be living alone in this small studio apartment that I can just afford on my pittance of a monthly Social Security check, without bothersome intrusions, without relationships, without the desire for women or friendship or work or anything except a computer, which sooner of later will come my way. The utility bill bearable now is sure to eat me alive in summertime but I plan to live without air conditioning with the windows open like I did growing up in torrid Louisiana.

I have food in the cupboard: coffee and sugar (most important!), eggs, pancake and cornbread mix, milk, cereal, rice, beans, carrots, jalapeno peppers and some spices. A clean bathroom where I can shower anytime and an electric clipper to keep my beard and hair trimmed. I sleep when I'm tired and if I awake at 3 a.m. I get up and start work reading and writing. I thank god every day that I don't have to get up before dawn anymore and trudge off to some job where I have to swing a paint brush or hammer all day for some greedy capitalist fuck. For the first time in 50 years I am without a vehicle and don't miss the convenience or expense. Las Vegas has a great bus system and I get an old man's pass for $35 a month to ride anywhere anytime.
On the sidewalk outside The Dakota where John Lennon lived.

Finally I can read what I want and concentrate on it for a change. I'm reading the things I always wanted to read but didn't have time because of the toil and exhaustion afterward, mostly the Greek and Roman classics. I am studying Italian from three books. I am devouring Camus again with a new and more mature understanding, and I am re-reading the things I liked from Bertrand Russell. I am nearly finished with Donald Kagan's "The Origins of War." I go through about five books a week and make notes on index cards. I am still working on the novel that has been taking shape in my head for 15 years. Maybe I will finish it or maybe I won't. The fun is in the learning how to do it right and imagining that if it ever gets published it will blow somebody's mind. I will be damned if I will churn out mediocre crap that I can publish all shiny and self-important on the internet like one guy I know. This blog is the closest I'll get to it and yeah, I admit it, I use it to vent sometimes. But so what? It is free and I can delete it and destroy the evidence!

The only thing I miss is the music and words of Bob Dylan. But I already have so much of it in my head that I can do without for awhile.
For 3 years I wrote by the lower left window.

For the first time since 1968 I feel no obligation or duty to lend my presence or voice to any protest against war or anything else. Someone has to do it and I already did and it didn't do a damned bit of good, so let someone else do it. I'll lodge my protests in writing as I have always done without anyone's notice, comments, or results. I don't expect praise and I repel all blame for the wars and other injustices of dumb-assed lazy-minded cowardly man-and-womankind. As far as I'm concerned they can go on forever as they always have. "It's never been my duty to re-make the world at large/Nor is it my intention to sound the battle charge..." (Dylan)

To hell with Medicare and Obamacare too, I have free medicine and even eyeglasses from the wonderful VA.

I could drop dead writing this and I don't care. I am not afraid to die, in fact I want to welcome it with great curiosity. I don't need anyone with a tearful countenance sitting by my deathbed holding my hand and going boo hoo when I exit this life. Just shoot me up with the morphine if  possible. Death has got to be the best part of life because it comes last.
Finally the White Light
Seventy two years old and free at last, that is how I feel. Liberated from the fire of American hell and the demons and torturers of my youth and later life. Liberated from the ones who made demands imposed expectations and hounded me through my life with snarls and bites and stings and upturned noses when I complained that it hurt. Freed from the hypocritical judges and punishers who condemned me to loneliness and poverty and pariah-hood for innocent and guilty mistakes. Freed from the ones whose expectations I could never satisfy, the would-be artists and spiritual guides who could not guide themselves from their own amused and supposed superiority. The one with the incredible unforgiving bitch of a wife who withheld forgiveness for something that I never said and busted up a relationship that I valued highly more than once. From the one who sits like a great fat Buddha on Staten Island silent unresponsive and too wise for his own ego. From the vengeful ex-brother-in-law who badmouthed me for decades and poisoned my son, from the bitter passive-aggressive former wife, from the confused pampered and over-educated son seething with misplaced anger, and from the undeserved hatred of a manipulative old bitch of a mother-in-law 90 years old and still trying to have it her way, totally unconscious of what she did to me. Free from the self-righteous mean bastard of an uncle in Texas and his pretentious asshole of a daughter, and from the condemnation of an obese elder sister who put me in jail for nothing and then gorged herself to diabetes and blindness, and from others I could name but won't, not because I fear a libel suit, because I have nothing to sue for, but because of my innate gentle Irish courtesy, an unexpected gift from my sweet tragic mother, and not because I forgive them because I don't. I will never forgive them. Forgiveness is not my strong suit and I don't give a damn to get it either. Here is my answer to their lifelong oppression: The Finger.
It isn't bad having a borderline personality disorder.
I saved seven cents in September and two dollars and forty cents in October. It is four days to Social Security payday (Christmas) and I have been broke for four days, but I have tobacco and coffee AND SUGAR and I am as happy as hell! For the first time in my surprisingly long life I am physically and mentally healthy, and happy! I hereby express my gratitude to whatever gods there are. I know without evidence that they are. It is better by far than believing in nothing.

As G.K. Chesterton wrote: "When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything."

That's not my problem. Maybe my problem is that I believe in everything.

December 20, 2013

Jesus Christ King of the Slaves

I'm not saying that this Jesus Christ was wrong, get me? I think in fact he was a good fellow and that he truly existed and died on a Roman cross. I even give it that he was a spiritual, even a mystical being. But spirituality is accessible to anyone rich or poor, educated or not. Mysticism is something else. But in the end he was only a man. Not a god. No man no matter how extraordinary can be a god except to other men (and women by implication). No, he was a teacher who jerked everybody's head out of the cesspool they were living in, stuck in like today in fact. He told them that they didn't have to live that way. They didn't need to be cruel to one another. It was so bad living in those times that they didn't even realize how bad until he came along and told them what they already knew but couldn't say. He was articulate and clever. He was a blast and they couldn't get enough of him. Plus he was strong and manly, not this wimp that the later Christians portrayed. He took a whip to the merchants in the temple which had become only a bank where the graven images of money was god. And it still is. People worship money and long for what it can do for them. That's why they play the lottery. They are trying to bribe god.

He told them to be like him and have faith in the real unknowable god. Today he might call it a higher power but I don't think so. He was up close and personal and people were already accustomed to thinking of the gods as super men. The Greeks the Romans all of them had a host of gods that looked like men and women and acted just as unreasonably as they did. As Schiller said, "When the gods were more like men, men were more divine."

For me, whatever you believe in is okay if it makes you less selfish and by implication happy. But this Jesus took it to an extreme and actually conspired in his own death, his own gory sacrifice, to make a point. He sacrificed himself for the poor. That's a fact. It was spectacular even for those times when death was sudden and awful. They say he was a carpenter and that he even constructed some of those crosses. Now, making a cross is not all that hard so he must have turned out a bunch of them. He must have had a lot of time to think about what he was doing, and after all he was poor himself and most everybody around him were too. I mean, imagine it, most Jews were poor as hell.

The rich ones they called Pharisees and the poor ones were publicans. The Pharisees lived high on the hog and the poor ones lived in the dirt, just like today. There was this class hatred thing going on then just as now. When Jesus had dinner with a Pharisee the publicans accused him of selling out. When he had dinner with the poor the Pharisees asked why he was hanging out with such low types. But Jesus was clever and crafty. He always had an answer and he would answer a question with a question just like Socrates. They couldn't trap him with words so they framed him for something that he didn't do and nailed him up. They murdered him in public to set an example about public protest. But it worked only for a little while because his followers were fanatics by then, always running and hiding from the Romans and their own people the Jews. He taught them how to do what he was doing but they weren't as good at it as he was. But still they spread the word, and in no time at all the subversion got to Rome and then all hell broke loose.

Of course the Jews weren't having any of it because their religion said no graven images. They expected a messiah to come along but they weren't in a hurry for it and still aren't. A messiah could upset the whole ball game and might even get in the temple-bank with a whip again. Waiting for a messiah, well that's where the pleasure is, especially if he (or she) never gets here. So it is the waiting and the vague hope that is important to the Jews. Meanwhile they are making money and getting it together and partying and building armies. If god himself came down and made himself fifty stories high and spat fire out of his mouth and melted the pyramids they'd just call it a miracle and shrug and go back to doing business. And the Jews are scholars, see? That is an endless business believe me. Once you get started on acquiring knowledge you have embarked on a ship that will never reach port. The pleasure is in the journey, and it will never end because there is always something else out there to be learned. That is how the Jews are, and that is how it is for anybody else who buys a ticket on that ship.

But all this stuff about Jesus being a god or the son of god, all that came later. Much later. The early Christians I don't know if they believed it or not. People have always had fancy ideas about gods, them actually being some kind of super humans who are nevertheless just as petty and mean as we are. It wasn't a stretch for them to believe that Jesus was a god. Or at least the son of god, sort of a gentle non-violent Hercules, who if you remember was a half-god that had been born out of the thigh of Zeus. So Jesus being a son, the only son of god was a half-god too. Not as powerful as his old man. And this stuff about Jesus being part of a trinity and actually a god, well the Romans made that up at a council somewhere about 500 years later. There is no evidence among the extant literature that the early Christians believed it.

But like I said Jesus was a teacher first and last. He always had a point to make and he didn't waste any time. He was hypnotic to those poor bastards who had never seen a show like him. They knew he was going to end up on a cross and they followed him like some people followed the Grateful Dead. But his main teaching I think was for people to be self-less, that is to be less selfish. He said if you really wanted to do something and be pure you had to drop everything, all your possessions and family too and be like him, and serve the poor. That was a pretty hard thing to grasp because most of his adorers were poor, and the only thing they had if they had anything at all were their jobs and their families.

So when they saw what happened to Jesus most of them just said fuck that and went back to what they were doing, that is, making a living and keeping their mouth shut just like they do today. Jesus said love one another. That's fine and they tried it for awhile. When they got too public and obnoxious about it the Romans stopped crucifying them and started feeding them to the lions. People paid to see this. What a show! A spectacle. There had never been anything like it. Everybody loved it except the Christians. Some of them put on a pretty good show. One fellow knelt and prayed so hard that even the lion was impressed and refused to tear him apart.

Word of this and other things got around and so many poor people became Christians that after awhile even the emperor got into it and became a Christian too. Then he started rewriting the book about Jesus and after awhile the emperor was having the last supper every Friday night with twelve disciples at the table. Many books were written about Jesus and the ones that got it right were burned. The important thing about Jesus was not so much what he said as what he did not say. He said for people to love but he did not say not to hate. Because hate is not the opposite of love. Indifference is the opposite of love. Hate is almost the same as love. It is passionate like love. Indifference is neutral and gray. It is blah who cares? But hate is tear your tongue out cut off your penis and stuff it in your throat. That is what hate is. Hate is victory or death. Love has nothing to do with it. If you win then you can love. I saw this in Nicaragua when the Sandinista Revolution was being consolidated, the Sandinista men and women, exhausted from fighting Somoza and still enduring the ongoing trouble of fighting Ronald Reagan, and pausing to get some loving between battles, lovers were everywhere deeply in love with the romance of it all, and the major song wafting from the windows was Stevie Wonder's, "I Just Called To Say I Love You." It was so obvious and symbolic for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Human beings hate. It is part of their nature to hate. Nobody hates better than the Christians because they hide it with a message of love. Nobody hates better than the Christians, Jews, and Muslims, I should say, because they all in their different ways hate anybody who disagrees with them, hate them like hell. The Muslims who do it right out in the open and preach hate, well they might as well be Jews and vice-versa, because their thing about no graven images and not eating pork and a lot of other things are the same. They even have the same grandfather, Abraham. Jews are much more subtle than Muslims though.

But the Christians are the best at hating because they hide it so well, and after all they have made war and conquered most of the world. Hiding your hate with love, well that is a good trick. It works on the poor especially because they are exhausted and most of them don't have time to think and are ready to grab at anything for a break. The poor are walking wrecks because most of them are the descendants of slaves. I mean, that's a fact. There have always been slaves going as far back in human history as you can go. And the slaves have never stopped breeding. That is why there are so many poor people. Most poor people are the direct descendants of slaves although some of them like to imagine that their ancestors were princes and even kings and philosophers and statesmen who got run out of town.

Even after the rich people supposedly set them free, slaves were encouraged or let go to breed more slaves. The rich always need workers to die in the mines, and even a surplus of slaves to keep the costs of labor down when the slaves start organizing and demanding higher pay. That besides the heavy lifting and other kinds of servitude was and is their main function. To breed more slaves hungry for work who are now called workers out of politeness. Now it is out of control of course and there are too many slaves. But slaves can identify with the underdog because that is what they are. Under the dogs.

Human beings hate. It is part of their nature to hate because fear is an instinct to survive and to fear is to hate and to hate is to fear. I know it sounds crazy but I believe that is how it really is. I can hear the great lovers and modern dancers and effete queers and educated spiritual hypocrites scoffing and snorting and pitying my ignorance already. Their problem is that they have too much money and too much time on their hands. Let them go out and stand in a Labor Ready line at 3 in the morning to wait with a bunch of drunken violent Indians for a smoky office  no bigger than a walk-in closet that opens at seven and then go out and dig a fourteen foot ditch eight feet deep and four feet wide through frozen dirt and tangled roots in 22 degree weather with no gloves and no lunch and then get paid $35 at the end of the day with a check that they have to cash with torn up cracked hands in the company store for a $5 fee and they will get my point. They will hate the son of a bitch who set it up.

Slaves hate their masters and love them too. It is a paradox that I can't figure out, but to me hate is a natural thing. It is almost unnatural not to hate, and I think maybe that is why Jesus fascinates people. Hate is fear and fear is hate. Of course the masters hate them back and fear that they will get out of control, as they sometimes do. But the slaves sometimes get the message of love and put their X on the dotted line. But still they hate and it confuses them. How can you love and hate at the same time? They can't help hating the son of a bitch who is keeping them down and beating them up. So they try to hide their hate. And ancient instinct tells them to go with the winner so they end up cooperating in their oppression, even voting if they vote at all for the very ones who are keeping them down. On the other hand they want to bust loose and kill their masters, rape their daughters and wives, and pillage their stores and banks. The rich people know this, and that and the necessity to keep the balance of power between slave owners is basically why we have hydrogen bombs and standing armies. The rich know what class they belong to, and they make entrance to the dinner party so expensive that no slave can ever hope to sit at the table unless they bring him in to be a clown or a jester for their own amusement.

I don't see how it can be any other way except to hate if you are going to fight a real war.  You cannot love the people that you set out to kill. Nobody proved this more than the Vietnamese. They instructed their people and their soldiers to hate their enemies. But that is another story altogether. I think that if Jesus were still around he probably would agree with me. He never said not to hate. At least there is no record of it. Sure he said love your enemies, but maybe he meant after you have done them in.

December 18, 2013


Aw, there I go again.
Sorry about that.
It's my combative personality.
I'm only a threat to myself.
You can call off the guards.
I'll put back the commas.
Don't take it personally.


I didn't mean to ruffle your ego.
Didn't mean to imply
that your words are worth less than mine.
I only wanted
an inter-library loan.
I wanted to read the last book
that Lee Harvey Oswald read:
The Shark & the Sardines.
I'm disqualified from reading that?
Sorry about that.
But why do I have to identify myself again?


Why can't I shut up?
Sidney warned me about it
many years ago.
"Mike, someday your big fat mouth
is going to get you
in a lot of trouble."
What insight.
He came back from war with Hitler
a mustang captain
of brave combat engineers,
with hardly a scratch
and never mentioned that
or the Silver Stars.
I have been such a disappointment to myself.
I'm glad he never saw
the accuracy
of his prognostication.
And now I have offended
another librarian.


The loneliness
of the long-distance scholar.
The necessity
to stanch
the bleeding of my wounded ego
where a narcissistic wound
made me arm myself with verbal spears.
I have a sharp tongue.
A razor.
I yam what I yam.
Not sorry about that.
I never shed the blood I might have.
It's good that you didn't hear
what I said to you
when I was alone as usual.
My spears would sink a thousand ships.
You should hear me
cracking up at my own wit.
But I laugh quietly,
so as not to disturb my neighbors.


I will die,
alone in a room,
leaving miles of words
that someone 
will toss in a garbage can.
All my obsessive work for nothing
except my own knowing
that I tried
and gave it my best.
The indexed notes arduously scribbled,
The books attracted like iron filings
to my curious magnet.
The piles of composition spiral notebooks.
The untouched gigabytes.
You have no idea.
I'm okay with that.
I guess.

December 15, 2013


I'm a writer against my will. I wanted to be a musician. A drummer. A jazz musician. A piano player. One thing or another worked against it. I tried the guitar. Three guitars. Then the piano. Two uprights and a $400 keyboard I had to hock and couldn't get out. I never got to the drums though I have perfect rhythm. The others are percussive too. Where I failed was not looking for instruction. I always believed I could learn things on my own because I had to most of the time. I finally found a composer in San Francisco who taught me something about the structure of the blues and to fundamentally read music. I had to let it slide because there was always the necessity of working for a living and I did not want to be bum.

I played the ironing board as a teenager. You never saw anybody play the ironing board? I was the first and probably the last. I sat on a bar stool in front of my dad's old console H.H. Scott radio with a pair of sticks and a mirror at the end to watch my style and drove my mother nuts. He'd been dead for months, run over by a car. I played along to jazz and early rock and roll of the fifties. Then I went in the Marine Corps at 17 and almost forgot that I wanted to be a musician. Having to express myself from surviving in a world of pain I became a writer instead. It took me years to become one. But I never tried to publish anything. Nothing seemed right. None of it matched what I thought was good writing. Hemingway. Camus. Sartre. Faulkner. Flannery O'Connor. Annie Dillard. Isak Dinesen. Simone de Beauvoir. Shakespeare. Joyce. Cormac McCarthy. Others. Maybe I set my standard too high. I published a lot of newspaper articles in the sixties and seventies but it was nothing like good writing. Materialistic and pretentious Establishment doofuses sucking up to politicians and editors. Half-truths inaccuracies shallow articles lacking anyalysis and reeking with false objectivity or strangling in pure subjectivity. Bah. Took me 20 years to purge my brain of Associated Press style.

Yet I kept at it. Why? It was compulsive and necessary and I had to do something to express myself that made me believe that I was not a loser. I'd made too many mistakes. I became grandiose and unreal. I was going to save the world while writing the world's best literature. I lived in confusion. Darkness. All the authorities contradicted each other. I became my own authority. I became an auto-didact. I still could not get a diploma from any university or any job that depended on a university education. No diploma I had not been socialized. All those formally educated people recognize each other speak the same lingo trade the same jargon and can recognize an outsider in a minute. But I read three hundred fifty thousand and forty eight and a half books. Disprove it.

But I wrote is no exaggeration at least a couple of million words. Nothing ever went anywhere. Nothing ever seemed to end. There was always something else to say. I worked on five things at a time. I still do. I stubbornly refuse to reach a conclusion. There is always more evidence out there and I could be wrong. I keep my options open until a gun is in my face All I can do is decide on a temporary resolution so I won't be paralyzed and kept from acting. I didn't want to publish because I did not want to add something mediocre to all the crap on the library shelves. I still don't. I don't want my name on it. All I have is my name and guess what it is not even mine.

Have you looked in the library recently? Five full shelves for Danielle Steele, three for that hack Robert Ludlum, and two for that pretentious Tom Clancy with diarrhea of the keyboard. And I thought this blog was bad.

Finally I learned to isolate myself from distractions. I had written in bars and bowling alleys for decades. Music was always blaring. Some dummy was always watching a football game and hooting and hollering. I was not concentrating and did not know it. Now I live in utter silence except for the refrigerator and heater. No music and certainly no television. Peace at last peace at last peace at last thank god almighty peace at last. It is addictive.

I know that I could have published and truthfully I could have used the money and still could but what the hell I am 72 years old now and used to being unknown. I wonder if I am afraid of failure or of success. I don't know. At least I learned to devise my own punctuation and to rid the page of cluttering commas. I don't care what the grammarians think. I even dump most quotation marks and other useless things like the semicolon and hyphen. Occasionally I let a comma in but not often. I want my stuff to read like a runaway train. Catch it if you can. I just write it now and let it fly. There's no time left to do it any other way. Get an editor? Don't make me laugh. No editor would touch this stuff.

Most of the time I didn't know how I felt or what to think. I griped a lot. Nobody listened and the ones who did just got pissed at me. It took me years to learn to hold it in. It almost gave me an ulcer. I still have trouble with that. Anyway I kept going. But I tossed most of it. All of the early stuff. All of the middle stuff. Now I am near the end and I still have 25 composition notebooks two unfinished novels and I forget how many plays and screenplays and 12 gigabytes of documents. I don't even know what's in there I have been without a computer for so long. If I live to a hundred and ever get another computer depending whether I can save more than fourteen cents a month maybe I will get it all together. Until then I am hiding the evidence.

One other thing and I suppose this is a gripe. Another dimwit trying to save or convert me said don't live in the past. I've heard it so much I went off on her. O for godsakes I said everybody's living in the past. This is the past. See that print blouse you're wearing? Where did you get it? In the past. But it's still on you isn't it? See that refrigerator? Hear it humming? Where is it? I snapped my fingers. In the past. But it's still here humming isn't it? Those ideas you have? Same place. The past is still here. It's in your brain when you cross the street and shows up in your dreams like a mirror in a fun house. The present is composed of the past. There is no future because it will never get here. You think you live in the present but you live in the past. What do you think memories are made of? How could you speak the English language unless you learned it in the past? Don't give me anymore of that stuff about living in the past. Anyway I like the past better. The fifties the sixties they are right here in my head. The past is never gone. It is your constant companion and you can't live without it. The only way you will ever lose it is to get a lobotomy. My head is full of Herodotus and Lee Harvey Oswald today. Yesterday it was full of Brian Haig who wrote those fine popular novels in the past. The past is here and all I have to do is breathe. I can't get away from it and neither can you.

December 14, 2013

A Bonus

I picked up the three in my taxi some time in the early eighties in Manhattan for a swift ride to La Guardia airport. Dressed in nice suits with conservative ties and as clean cut as a Hollywood lawn. They talked in low tones and I sensed an air of glumness and depression. I perceived in my helpful gregarious way that I could cheer them up. I can have that effect on total strangers and even now and then on the friends that I can count with one hand.

At about the Willis Avenue turnoff for the Triboro Bridge I started. So how are you guys today I asked with a cheerful air. I like talking with strangers especially when they are captives.

Okay fine fine they answered. And you?

O I'm fine too. You guys sound a little down. Not too happy back there.

Yes well we have a little problem said one.

Tell me about it I encouraged. Maybe I can help you out since I can be objective about it since it's not my problem. What sort of work do you do?

We are in public relations in Los Angeles said another. We deal with ideas.

I was in the public relations department of an advertising company in Rhode Island I offered. What's the problem? I have ideas.

A taxi driver with ideas they must have reasoned being nice. Why not?

We are trying to come up with a name for a new health insurance company that is starting up.

What is the name now I inquired.

Amalgamated Federated Health Insurance of North America (or something like that) he answered.

Let me think about it a minute. About ten seconds later I said I got it.

What is it?

Health First.

I like it. How about First Health said another.

People always say health first I said.

You're right. You ought to be doing what we're doing.

I know it I said suddenly feeling slightly depressed about my tiring and breakeven job.

Why aren't you?

Complicated question with a complicated answer I said. I have to think about it. They let me think until I got to the top of the long bridge and started the three-mile run to La Guardia.

Growing up in the Deep Fucking South I answered.

They chuckled like they knew what that meant but I knew they did not.

It is a good name one said. We'll run it by our boss.

If it flies send me a bonus. They chuckled and agreed but nobody was copying my name and hack number from the visible hack license up front.

I dropped them and unloaded their bags and they tipped me ten dollars for a twenty dollar ride, a good tip then.

I never saw the name but I never read advertisements unless I am looking for something. I still don't have health insurance. I have the VA because I served my country for four years in the Marine Corps and for another forty years in the antiwar movement.

My bonus. Unrepentant satisfaction. Ten seconds of thought and fifty years of frustration and disgust.

December 13, 2013

Crying in the Wind

I'm standing on the bus
groceries on a shelf
waiting at a light
looking out the window
at an obese old woman
sitting on a sandy knoll
bare legs exposed
to the cold Las Vegas wind
wool cap on her head
old black coat unbuttoned
talking to her ghosts
toothless abandoned and damned broke
she sees me looking
says something I can't hear
the bus pulls away
I blow her a kiss
she blows one back
with a rare toothless smile
infuriated I turn
but nobody saw
all are indifferent
guarded bored and damned;
selfish like me
I want to return
give her my groceries
but I'd be hungry soon
momentarily I earnestly
want to kill someone
bash in some heads
drown them in blood
whoever is responsible for this crime
but I know
it would do no good
I can't even weep
I want to inquire
My dear,
why are you out here
weeping in the cold wind?
did your husband beat you
are you paying for forgotten crime
why are you a prisoner
of this place and time?
a mere mile from here
thousands of losers pull levers
press buttons on rigged video poker machines
hypnotically building Las Vegas
losing millions every day
to a mob that never sleeps
in a city built by losers
that spreads like an underground fire
sprouting stuccoed palaces
over the exhausted desert
Nellis Air Force Base
launches jets night and every damned day
their fine-tuned engines
whispering multi-million-dollar warnings
between the regular roars of helicopters
doing who knows what
going who knows where
as regular as trucks
vibrating over this city of losers
vulgar is their sound
from highways of the sky
over this neon lit city
where few are in heaven
many are in hell
and most struggle upward
in purgatory paying
for barely-remembered errors and crimes
crying in the wind
crying in the cold wind
I walk home
heavy-hearted and grim
unpack my groceries
turn up the heat
considering my own complicated crimes
for which I have no more excuses
I must have done my time
for whatever crime
I'm not sitting near a curb
crying in the wind
but loving my silence
peacefully writing and reading and eating and hardly sleeping
roof over my head
refrigerator purring
like a cat full of food
no hypnotic mind-killing
television brainwashing me
plenty of coffee and sugar
72 and feeling fine
what did I do
to deserve this sudden happiness?
I spent decades my friend
crying in the wind
I feel no guilt
I feel no shame
I assign no blame
where it does not belong.

December 11, 2013

The War in Greece

What's going on in Greece is fascinating. To me it is a continuance of an ancient and noble struggle historically passionate and often violent but Grecian and necessary. No one has given more to the world than the Greeks. Today we witness an increasingly vicious struggle between fascists and anarchists. In that squalid but hallowed and nearly unrecognizable lump of modern Athens is a seething contest against robotic soldiers in modern armor cracking the heads and breaking the bones of men and women who believe they are fighting for democracy. But their war is the same for prosperity and power that the poor have waged against the rich unceasingly for uncountable centuries. It is heartbreaking but inspiring to serious students of history and manners and of governments and anarchism. Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism are only different economic systems and none will disappear as long as ideas remain but they are only subtexts in the great history being scribbled before the bewildered witness of the masses. The true story is invisible to the confused oracles of Media, who are mere modern Sophists concerned only with materialism. They are blinded by the smoke of disinformation and the evil of outright lies. Beneath the masks of their hidden masters there are indifferent monsters whose existence is undeniable and whose fate is anyone's guess. Where are the noble Euripides and Aristophanes who can stage this ongoing drama for our edification and amusement? Come forth! I have not the knowledge skill or time left to write it myself.

December 7, 2013

Not the Hokey Pokey

Of course she thinks of me. How can she not? They all do. Because I do. I know how it is. Not that she thinks of me as much as I think of her. Only now and then I am sure. She has her life. I can't imagine how it is with her, how she has changed, what she has done, what she has become. The same is true of her if she thinks of me at all. She can't imagine. I have changed. Maybe I have become what she wanted me to be. She can't know. Neither can I. I know how I have changed since knowing her, know how knowing her changed me. I have never stopped thinking of her. I know that she thinks of me too, even if she hates me. Especially if she hates me. We remember what we want to forget and forget what we want to remember. I remember so much and so many people that I have known. Especially the ones that I hate. Yes I hate. I surely do. Perhaps it is wrong. I don't know. It is human. A sure way to remember is to hate. Hitler has nearly gained immortality because so many hate him. I hate him. I hate everybody like him. I hate bullies. But I have been one too. I confess. I don't know how anyone not perverse could love Hitler, but I suppose there are some.

I wonder about Hitler's memories. He must have had a good memory because he evidently hated so much and so many. But I am not Hitler and don't want to be. Yet I hate. Is it a burden? Yes. But isn't nearly everything? Even love must be a burden. I wouldn't know. I love nature and that is about all. I cannot think of any people that I love though I used to think so. I was wrong. I didn't love any of them. I never loved myself either. It seemed vain and useless. I confess. What if Hitler's hate was a variety of love? What if he loved those Jews and communists that he murdered? Is it possible? Nearly everything is possible, I'm told, except invisibility and men bearing children. Perhaps even that is possible. I hope not. Invisibility would be nice though. What better security, what better power?

I lost a lot of people to death. Some of them were friends. Most were not. So probably have you. I don't know how it could be another way. I am here, they are gone. It happened. Afterward everything seems inevitable. It happened. They died. Nations vanished. Except from old documents and maps. They will disappear too. Everything does. We say it was inevitable. That such and such is no more and so and so was supposed to die. Who can argue with that? Nothing can change it. We can lie about it and take drugs and get drunk to forget but it happened. It was inevitable. But the future is not inevitable. There is no future, so how can it be inevitable? There is no evidence of it just as there is no evidence of life after death or of the existence of a soul or of angels or devils. We believe what we want to believe and hope there is a god that cares about us but there is no evidence of it. The future does not exist, it never arrives. Only the past leaves evidence and the present is composed of the past. The past is always here even though it is gone. We live in the past whether we admit it or not.

We want to believe in god and hope there is one. But there might be many gods. We don't know. We can claim that there is no god and rage against it and whatever but we believe deep down that there is one, or many. How else explain this mystery of existence? Perhaps there are many gods. Why not? I would like to believe that there are, but my conditioning has habituated me to believe that there is only one. Yet I wonder. I strain against my conditioning. Most of it was false instructions. My teachers were ignorant and I am ignorant too. We live in a fog of superstition. We struggle against it but it is there. Ignorance. Let us assume that there are many gods. Power mad. Struggling against one another for control of a portion of the vast universe. Controlling stars and planets and the beings upon them. I like to think that there are. It is more interesting than one unknowable god that refuses to tell us anything about what we are and why we are here and what we are supposed to do.

Our minds and conditioning tell us that there are universal laws. We can see that there are. Stars are born and burn billions of years then explode or implode. Planets circle them in regular order. Sometimes they get knocked about. Everything dies as far as we know. Rocks crumble to dust or become sand. Water washes it into finer particles. Things disappear and become something else. There must be laws to govern these processes so we strive to discover them. Often we are wrong and have to revise everything.We think we have it figured out but if we have why do we go on questing? Looking for more knowledge and more. Sending rockets to outer space with cameras and sensitive equipment to tell us what is out there. It is our nature to seek knowledge but what for? To know. Perhaps we enjoy the pain that knowledge brings. Maybe we are a masochistic species. Even pain we believe is better than death. Because non-existence is our worst fear.

If we believed in god and a heaven and a better afterlife it seems we would hasten toward death as the fanatic Muslims do. But we do not. According to the vast majority of unbelievers those Muslims are crazy to be blowing themselves up. But the religions of our forebears are false too. If we believed in their afterlife we would try to be moral and good so that we could get there but most people do not. We would have no fear of death but we do. Pain hurts but we prefer pain to death until the pain becomes so bad we long for it. Pain hurts but no fancy stone tomb can substitute for the wonder and even temporary joys of life or even its suffering.

The greatest joy is matched by an equal measure of despair. Only the Buddhists and Taoists seem to have an answer. Kill desire. Expect nothing. Live in the present and ignore praise and blame. You won't be disappointed if you expect nothing and are affected by nothing. Forget every minute. Make your mind a blank slate if you will have peace. Get rid of your ego. Don't do the hokey pokey. Don't even think of it. Think of nothing.

Aha! I caught you thinking. Is it a joke? Is life and universe a cosmic comedy to entertain the impossible god? Is it a fantastic dance of the gods? Then let us dance. Isn't it pleasant to think so? Isn't it better than the horror movie outside? Than the shame and degradation we see around and within us? It is.

What if she thinks of me as much or more than I think of her? If she really hates me she does but I don't hate any of them. I don't love them either.

Let us dance. Not the hokey pokey. That's a phony dance created to dull your mind. Let us dance a lovely waltz. A tango. The old soft shoe. Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it fine? A modernist waving of arms and legs and movement of hips. Sexy dance. A careless shaking and trembling of limbs, a frenetic rocking and rolling. Whatever. Let us dance and forget. Rock and roll. Alone if nothing else. In your room. Even without music. Let's dance until we die.

But for god's sake say something worth the listening. Don't yap ceaselessly. Think before you yap. It drives me crazy, your endless meaningless words. Your television addiction. Your football brain.

May 14, 2013

Two Dinosaurs

This guy in San Francisco got really pissed off at me once; he scared the hell out of me to tell the truth. He was a contractor I was working for briefly; about 20 years younger and in better shape, and one day in the garage of a building we were painting, he lost it. I have forgotten what set him off; maybe it was something about when he was going to pay me; but I think it started earlier than that, when he accidentally saw a pseudonym on a story I was writing.The pseudonym was "Lenin." I had been showing him some of my laptop writing while he drove the Embarcadero to work. Or maybe I back-talked him in the garage or something. I don't remember. 

We had finished the job in one day and thanks to my good, washed, and well-folded drop cloths we didn't have to move much around while doing some delicate oil painting on the decorative, galvanized filigree over carpeted halls and iron stairs: about five stories of them in a nice part of the city. It had been a fast and clean job, and he had corrected me only once when I raised a little dust. I thought we were getting along.

I have to go back to how I met this maniac. I had been working for another guy, and meanwhile living in my van in an fenced-but-open parking lot of the oldest and soon-to-be-bulldozed first supermarket of San Francisco; and I had been doing a bang-up job for him, because I learned a few tricks about painting fast and clean over the years. He had been overjoyed with me.

"Where have you been all my life!? " he had exclaimed when I thick-coated two 15-foot stone columns at the same time in less than 20 minutes. But the guy was an ex-convict, on parole from San Quentin Prison, with a thriving business; a real talker, and he looked like right tackle for the San Francisco Giants. "Macho" does not describe him. He must have snitched his way out of prison and into business.

"I am a dinosaur!" he would pronounce while lunging about moving 5-gallon buckets and setting up spray equipment. And he was, physically and mentally, like a tyrannosaurus on methamphetamine.

I don't remember why, it probably was over me getting my back up at his tone of voice sometimes, or  when he was going to pay me--it is expensive to live in a van--but one day he lost it too. We were beneath a three-story scaffold, partly shielded from the street, where a famous jazz club was nearby. It was a hot joint, one that I could not afford, full of big, black, well-dressed guys with white, petite girlfriends, but I got to hear the terrific music while lying in my sleeping bag about 50 feet away.

Anyway, for some reason he got in my face and put his brawny fist under my chin and said, "I will break you in half you you scrawny son-of-a-bitch, " in pure prison talk; and other painters were about, watching and listening.

I saw it all in a flash. Let the monster do his worst and put me in the hospital, and I would own him. I would own his company, his van, his sprayer, and anything else, because he was a felon on parole. Big Mouth had told me all about it twice. I could get rich from a good assault. I might even be able to sue the city or state for giving him a contractor's license. If I survived it that is.

I had looked him in the eye without a quiver and said, "Go ahead." There was no question that he could whip my butt or even kill me with his bare hands. I would not have stood a chance against this strong, white gorilla.

And then as luck would have it he had a flash of intelligence and backed off.

I cannot get a break.

He fired me of course. As I drove away, I told him, "I don't want to work for a dinosaur; I'd rather work for a human being." The next day I had to threaten to call the cops to make him pay up, so after the workday was over he had me follow him to a lonely road over an interstate to be paid, and I followed him there, and he paid me. That was the last I saw of the idiot; who must be dead by now or back in chains.

But that night I was fired up. I had stood him down. I had not even blinked. I had overcome fear and felt strong. I was in the Men's room of a bar on the Haight, an Irish bar, taking a leak, and this other guy had come in, and while washing up I had recounted the story to him, and he had laughed his ass off at my audacity and courage, and hired me on the spot for another painting job.

So things were clicking right along for a change. I had work. I had gas. I could eat in restaurants. The parking lot was safe for at least two more weeks before bulldozers showed up, and I could hear the music; hip modern jazz and blues. He was an intelligent person. He had good jobs from people with money. He had a nice van and good equipment, but a shortage of drop cloths. (I washed mine like laundry.) He lived alone in a well-kept home, and I liked him. Fortunately, I have forgotten his name.

He had a Catholic working class background, lived in the Sunset District near another cat I knew who was full-Irish (they knew one another), and things were looking cool. And then he had seen the pseudonym.

I had pseudo-named the piece because I was writing some angry, radical stuff. I mean, I felt the contempt of Lenin inspiring it. I forget now which war it was that I was so peeved about; it was one of those in the 90s. I don't even remember what year this happened.

But the use of "Lenin" as the author was meant to be ironic and temporary; because if I could work it into a publishable piece I would have put my own name on it; and because anybody who knows me knows that I despise the heartless Lenin for what he did, while recognizing the genius of his method.

God, don't get me started.

I'll let Lenin rest awhile, and assert that his secret formula (and revision of Marx) was only long division. It's not that hard to figure out, and it succeeds every time if you know how to apply and revise it for particular, cultural, and national conditions and customs. I hate--well not really--to tell you romantic and deluded new-age anarchist revolutionaries out there that there has only been one successful formula for revolution and it is called Marxism-Leninism. Your anarchist revolution is doomed; neither anarchist nor a revolution. Humanity will not be ready for you for another century or so.

The problem, once you understand it, is not so much how to make a revolution, but to control what happens after winning it.

Human beings of even the highest intelligence and sensibilities, it seems, have character flaws and personality defects. They mostly are greedy, fearful, selfish, vengeful, self-centered, petty, hypocritical, cowardly, and traitors nearly one and all. Which is why a real revolutionary leadership must be small, closer than kin, and as busy and disciplined as a hive of honeybees. And no matter how successful they are, they will establish another sort of tyranny--to someone.

Anyway, the second dude went off on me in the parking garage and threatened to beat the living shit out of me. He was so mad that he was throwing garbage cans and beating on stone walls and advancing on me like Hitler's army, calling me a "communist son-of-a-bitch!"

I saw that I could not match his fury or strength. So I did the only thing that made sense. I turned my back on him and put my hands against the stone wall as if I were to be frisked and handcuffed by a policeman. It was complete surrender. I did not even open my mouth.

He still came within a quarter-inch of slugging me in the jaw. But non-resistance cooled him.

Then the fucker took me back to the Sunset District, yelling at me so loudly that he injured my left eardrum. He even admitted that he knew he had lost it and had handled the situation very badly, but he kept yelling the whole way home.  I kept my mouth shut for the 20-minute ride, and when I got out, he paid me off from his window, and said to call him tomorrow.

"Sure," I said. You bet, I didn't say.

Never got my drop cloths back, though I left a message on his phone that I wanted them. Always wondered what he was paid for that expert job. I got about $100.

I hate to fight. It scares the shit out of me. The fear of having my only teeth broken (or in this case of having dentures punched down my throat), or bones broken, or having an eyeball busted open or pried out, or an ear torn off, or getting kicked in the balls, or knifed, has always terrified me. When I see a threat developing, I want to go out the bathroom window and drive away (and have.)

If someone actually attacks me, and this was not an uncommon occurrence as I look back, I can only fight defensively; warding off blows, even turning my back on the attacker and absorbing the blows, because I am more afraid than angry.

Once, as a 20-year old marine on Okinawa, I lost a fight to another drunken marine, because I could not bring myself to break his elbow--"easy as toast"--and I had let him up, thinking that he would see how merciful I had been, be grateful, and let it go; but he proceeded to stomp my butt. I could not see myself crippling a man for life; and he had no compunction.

The truth is that I cannot fight unless I am angry. The only thing that makes me angry is pain. (Even mental pain; I see now.) I get unreasonably angry even if I hit my finger with a badly-aimed hammer. But once that I am hurt, and I see that the guy really means to damage me; once you prove that you will cripple or kill me over nothing; I am coming for you motherfucker, and there ain't no rules in Marine Corps  hand-to-hand combat. You can hit me wherever you want, but I am coming for you. Fear is erased from the equation. You will get more than a scratch; unless you are some kind of gorilla.

Thank you, United States Marine Corps.

I have been knocked around plenty in my life. You have no idea. And I never wanted to hurt anyone.

April 1, 2013

The War We're Meant to Forget

And then the unfortunate marriage of Nixon and Kissinger occurred, and the war had dragged on for another five years. Everybody knew now that it was a shame but no one talked about it except the diehard antiwar activists that read too many books. There was nothing to be done except to keep demonstrating and organizing, as if you did not actually exist and your opinion was worth nothing, which is the truth actually. The war was lost and there was nothing to be done about that either.

Many were folding their tents and looking for work. The million or so veterans who had passed through Vietnam and circled back crippled only physically, psychologically, or spiritually, had raised prices for the pharmaceutical industry, had given doctors and psychologists more money and new theories and toys, and had heartened the fledgling illegal drug trade, spawning violent havoc in the cities and towns, and had employed thousands for studies so that our responsible leaders could properly understand the problems of crime and mental illness and make new laws.

But the problem, some thought wrongly, was only that particular war; but capitalist greed and dishonesty; imperialism, racism, religious fanaticism, fear, murder and drugs, the absence of any accounting for it, and government gone wrong, were irrelevant. 

No identity could be established of who was responsible for it all, so that Americans, accustomed to easy answers, unaccustomed to losing at war, and unaccustomed to prosecuting the guiltiest, blamed it on long-dead officials and especially dead Presidents, and on soldiers who could not fight, on traitorous antiwar protesters who would not fight, or the awake and responsible or simply cowardly ones who had fled to Canada or Sweden or Australia,  and on the ones who later forgave them, and on the blacks who had talked against the war, and the black “slackers” among servicemen who had fought half-heartedly, or, wised-up by ancient slavery, had secured duty in the rear, although they had suffered the highest casualty rates per capita to their numbers with whites in the war, because, as one southern white NCO had said, “Why should I send a white man to die when I can send a nigger?”

And beneath the bumbling bombast of mind-boggling conservative propaganda, “the American people”  had blamed it on liberals generally, and on half-hearted allies, or on Nixon's abandonment of the gold standard, (because Europe, turning against the war and its inevitable economic loss, was cashing in its chips and making a run on US gold reserves) and on Jack Kennedy, Robert McNamara, President Eisenhower, President Truman, President Roosevelt, the overrated CIA, the guilty Congress, and on a government with too much money and too little talent, and on McGeorge Bundy and Walter Rostow and General Westmoreland, and Admiral Abrams and LBJ and Nixon and even poor Henry Kissinger, who spent years wringing his hands behind the curtains because the goddamned communists just wouldn’t surrender, that’s all;  he was only trying to stop the war and not prolong it, and finally someone offered him the Nobel Peace Prize if he would sign the treaty, and he did; after offering membership to China in the Capitalist Club.

 And of course they blamed it on noble Daniel Ellsberg, the ex-marine RAND Corporation war analyst  who had blown the whistle at the NY Times on the whole stinking ball game (The Pentagon Papers), exposing the rottenness of the players and umpires,and how little we knew about the Vietnamese; showing how unreasonable it was, how irresponsible and unwise it was, how expensive and unproductive it was,  and  how stupid and crazy it was; but most of all they blamed it on that slick little bastard Ho Chi Minh, who was only another Hitler, and not even a Buddhist like most of his countrymen, but a goddamned atheistic communist who didn’t even believe in Jesus Christ, goddammit, and who had gone to school at the goddamned Lenin Institute in Moscow, and had disappeared from the goddamned grid for 30 goddamned years, with every goddamn secret agency and assassination team from France to Interpol to Britain and America hunting him down to kill him, the goddamned communist, because he had stolen some secret formula, and had more goddamned names than they would ever know. Not that it mattered anymore, because the goddamned bastard was deader than Alexander the Greek. Goddammit!

Even farmers went on like that.

Suddenly from all being innocent everyone was guilty of something, of some neglect, of some mistake, of some stupidity, or some crime. Many Americans with a 30-minute attention span turned to Archie Bunker on television to express their own feelings. Antiwar elements and counter-culturists kept the atrocity in front of their faces; however, small as their numbers had shrunk by then, and occasionally even got a spot on radio or television. The Press even interviewed a few of them now and then, but usually late at night after the parents had gone to bed; and with a true American conservative on the program too, to that the interview was fair and balanced.

And people mostly ignored the veterans who had returned from the war unheralded and quietly like pariahs; objects of pity and contempt. In Colorado, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) refused membership to Vietnam vets at first, until the VFW was busted by so many disgusted veterans that it finally acknowledged that the men had really fought a in a deadly foreign war, and that they had come home damaged like themselves from previous wars, and allowed them membership for small dues and proof of service, so that they could enjoy cheap beer, lazy cowboy music,  rock and roll, the companionship they had known as brothers under fire, and the stories, among the men who drank and said little or nothing, lost in thought or waking nightmares; and the joints shared in the backyard.

But occasionally an old vet from WW II would say something like, "We won our war; what happened to you guys?"

The beautiful thing was to see a woman there who loved and supported them all. She came with her husband or lover or alone and sat and talked and drank and made a fool of herself sometimes, just like them, but she softened their hardness and eased their pain somehow. Some were old women who had been coming to the bar and pool tables and jukeboxes and cafes of the VFW since the end of WW II, or Korea, and most of their old friends and husbands were long dead and gone, or en route to the boneyard. They gave their time to string streamers and banners and inflate balloons and set out small American flags and flowers and napkins and gave money and time and free food to the fighting men who had not wanted to fight in the first place. And some of the new vets had their women along too; though many relationships were plagued with exploitation, unaccountable rages, and domestic violence.

The dead veterans, many of them draftees, who remained permanently in Southeast Asia, their bones rotting in wet jungle heat and tender young flesh long since consumed by animals and insects, were no trouble to anybody anymore. Politicians made the most of it by lying that 3,000 were missing from the dead and wounded list, claiming like magpies that all were in squalid and hidden prison camps, tortured and starved by heartless communists every night and day; but few were perturbed besides the families and friends, and most people just did not, absolutely did not want to hear another word about the goddamned war anymore. Missing In Action flags sold like hotcakes.

They did not, absolutely did not want to even think about the goddamned thing.  Not another word more about the war that had crippled our country, while we were crippling Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, leaving 6.5 million dead and 20 million wounded, plus (maybe) 58,000 Americans (and rising); a crippling war that had swept decency and morality and the whole criminal enterprise under the rug.

Everybody lost the war, including the winners. But many people made carts of money from it, and the fattened middle class that had voted for the leaders had grown even fatter and become even more selfish and lazy minded than they were before the abomination. In fact despite for small clusters of counter-culturists and antiwar activists who kept little fires burning, they were worse and worse-off than before, information-wise. They didn’t want to think about the war, about the assassinations, about the stolen money, about the other wars breaking out, about justice, or shame, blame, mercy or contrition, or, God forbid, change.

When Nixon went to China and met Mao the old revolutionary had inquired how many soldiers the U.S. had lost in the war, Nixon gave him a number, and Mao said, “Only 55,000? Then you could not have been very serious.” China was prepared to lose that many every day in order to win a war. But Americans were not willing to fight a protracted war, and protracted war was what had won the day for the Vietnamese communists, with time on their side because Americans had no guts for that kind of war, and still don’t.

In retrospect it was obvious to everyone that leaders had underestimated their enemies’ will, determination, inventiveness, and especially their spirit. The strategy of the communists which the leaders had never understood was that they had planned for a hundred year war and the loss of 99% of their population, if that was required to drive out the interlopers. They were prepared for a hundred more years of war, which had begun a hundred years earlier, when the French had invaded North and South Vietnam and renamed it Tonkin and Annam, in 1862. The Vietnamese revolution had begun the day that the French thought they had won the exotic little country with the the army and its guillotine, a land of free rubber and other useful resources, and an inexhaustible reservoir of slaves to do the real work of robbing themselves; and an occupation army.

They said that 3,000 servicemen were still being held in Vietnam, but it was only another creaking boxcar of a long train of lies tooted for domestic political reasons, and, as the antiwar people had suspected, only three decades later did the Pentagon admit that the 3,000 missing were for some reason missing only from the casualty lists, because most or all of them were dead and the numbers had been hidden so as not to turn Americans against the war. Nearly half of the 25th (“Lightning”) Division had been wiped out.  They didn’t count the thousands of deserters who had fled in disgust to Sweden, Australia, Canada, and other places, where they didn’t have to kill anyone or listen to the Star Spangled Banner every morning.

Only one of the famous “whiz kids” of the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, Robert Strange McNamara, Defense Secretary, ever admitted that the war was crazy and unwinnable, and said in his autobiography that higher ups in the government had known since 1964 that the war was unwinnable. He was one of the first to know but had continued with his bad plans and bad advice and bad orders to support it until Nixon of the opposite party had become Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Services.

Many veterans died alcoholic, drug-addicted, in extreme pain from untreatable wounds, and homeless in various hovels and arroyos throughout the western hemisphere and Europe. There wasn’t much to be done about that either. Various veterans’ programs were designed to care for them after significant numbers had gone to prison, or had committed suicide or otherwise ruined their lives, and the lives of their families and friends, and some of the programs flew and others couldn’t get off the ground. But despite appearances to the contrary the American economy was on a down slope and gaining speed with every financial and political crime covered by disinformation programs and other stupid wars to divert attention and whip up a few more pounds of patriotism among the disheartened and disgusted American people, who nevertheless kept electing political puppets like Nixon, Reagan, and the two burning Bushes. 

The government expertly analyzed the growing disgust with war as "The Vietnam Syndrome," and that was that. Americans had to forget and get back in line to support war, no matter what its cost.

And rock and roll and other concerts were encouraged and advertised not only for the money but to divert the attention of rebellious youth to things less mind-consuming and effective than social questions and activism.

And then pornography hit the scene like a speeding train, sending young men and women into privacy for sex alone or together with pictures and full musical accompaniment, and expanding the prostitution racket, a trick that the French nobility had learned and imposed on the young male revolutionaries after the disastrous French Revolution; in effect, "bearding the lion." Sex became a popular topic on television and in print, and political awareness and activism suffered accordingly; just as it had worked before.

There was nothing to be done about that either; nothing except to wait and hope that an enlightened Administration would come along and fix things quickly as Americans had come to expect from government officials who had too much money, too much power, too much arrogance, and the support of people who had too many comforts, and television to keep them deluded and lazy.

The American people love to think that they are informed. “We’re not stupid down here!” an obese southern woman told me; “We watch television.”

They were to be greatly disappointed. The antiwar and counter cultural movements fragmented, aged, and many lost hope, suffering their own form of PTSD from the trauma of losing family and friends and jobs due to radical opposition to American imperialism. It was all very confusing, and there was nothing "heroic" about it. Participation in antiwar activities ruined many.

Later the cell phones and internet had come along, and people who hadn’t talked to each other much before conversed now even less, with their eyes looking down at little machines while they stumbled blindly off curbs into speeding taxis or off the ends of piers into the water while reading and texting.

In 1968, the last great hope of white liberals, including many who fancied themselves revolutionaries, was Bobby Kennedy, and when he was murdered most people simply gave up and tried to be obscure again, going back to regular jobs and wives and kids and regular jobs and the whole bourgeois ball game. The loss of Dr. Martin Luther King and Kennedy within months of one another devastated Democrats, quietened some wiser black people, and opened the way for the criminal-minded Nixon and Kissinger to win the White House.

Radical politics was out and disco was in. The murders at Kent State University by Ohio’s federalized National Guard persuaded many rebel students that there were better things to be done with their lives. At the same time college and university tuition increased dramatically, forcing out many of the lower classes, who were more prone to rebellion than the white middle class, who had joyfully joined what they had perceived as an easy revolution of peace, freedom, and free love; which was only a periodic, generational delusion, like swallowing live goldfish and "streaking," (running naked in public); and marijuana, which was not. The spirit simply went out of them and demonstrations got smaller and smaller, until they were only a sad parody of the real thing.

But persistence brought later rewards.

If there was a Che in the United States he probably was black and shot down in Chicago or somewhere else, with domestic and foreign assassinations orchestrated by various government agencies, not to be named, because nothing could be proved. The government’s brutality and insensibility to the wishes of most Americans, who had been repeatedly polled, shocked everyone into knowing that a solution, if one ever came, would be a long time arriving. As early as 1969 up to 70% of American citizens wanted to get out of Vietnam on the double.

Everybody who could went back to work or finished college and found work; or didn’t. Business majors became carpenters and philosophy majors were driving taxis or subways and painting apartments and houses. Newspaper reporters became freelance vagabonds living in trucks and writing incomprehensible tracts in noisy bars. Nobody seemed to be where he wanted to be, and everybody seemed sour and discouraged, because everything had changed from the moment that someone had arranged and paid to have John Fitzgerald Kennedy shot dead in Dallas.

Nothing, except the traditional rule of the rich, was ever afterward the same.

And everybody had a Theory. Most of them were adopted without proper investigation or evidence after heated barroom debates. If something even seemed likely—“The mafia did it to pay the Kennedys back for the investigation, and because Joe Kennedy was Mafiosi, and they considered him a traitor”, or, “LBJ did it because he wanted to be President and hated and envied the Kennedys"—or, “the military did it because JFK wanted to get out of Vietnam”; or, “the CIA did it with Cuban "exiles, because he wouldn’t allow air support at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba”—or, “the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in league with CIA renegades, the Mafia and the Hunt family of Texas did it, because he had overridden the military and would not invade Cuba during the nuclear standoff with Russia”; or, “Castro did it for revenge because the CIA was trying to assassinate him,” or "J. Edgar Hoover did it as a favor to his friend Jimmy Hoffa and because he hated Attorney General Robert Kennedy," and even, “Jackie had it done because Kennedy was a philanderer who had to have a different woman every day, and he had given her a venereal disease.”

Conspiracy theories need only one element of truth to make them believable. But the real test of a conspiracy theory is how logical it is; or is not. Nothing ever will be proved, so one theory seems as good as another, according to one’s prejudices. A perfect crime is unprovable.

My own theory is one I never heard from anyone:  the North Vietnamese communists paid the Corsican and French Mafia to knock him off, and they subcontracted the job to the US Mafia, which had contacts in and out of government from J. Edgar Hoover to Jack Ruby, and certain renegade CIA contractors not to be named because there is no documented proof.

I also believe that they were behind the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King; because his death caused riots all over the country and real, divisive mutinies among black servicemen in Vietnam and Cambodia, further hastening an end to the war. He was against the war, you protest? But he would have been only a pawn to the communists. 

If a test of a theory is its logic, and the proof is Charlie Chan’s famed dictum, that, “To find guilty party, one must determine who profited from crime”; It does not matter at all who pulled the triggers; any good mercenary marksman could have shot his head off. The only thing that matters is who paid for the job, because blowing off the head of the United States President is not the sort of work that one performs without good pay.

While the Mafia profited from his sudden demise and the end of investigations, and some secret operatives profited with satisfaction and perhaps money, and the Texas oil and nuclear gang profited from Lyndon Baines Johnson’s presidency, and LBJ profited from getting the job, and the military profited by the gain of that much more power, and even Jackie might have had her revenge, the ones who profited most were the Vietnamese communists, who won a country and the most valuable prize of all, freedom and national independence. Because the simple fact is that they took our Number One and replaced him with Number Two.

I am making no moral judgements here. War is war.

John Kennedy was a cold warrior from the moment he stepped back onto American soil after losing his PT boat to a Japanese destroyer in the South Pacific (some say because he and his crew were drifting and sleeping when they should have been patrolling). First he was a U.S. Representative and then, as a senator with Richard Milhous Nixon, the future disgraced president, had sponsored legislation and resolutions calling for the introduction of a half-million troops into Vietnam, in 1954.

When JFK was President he made it clear that he would accept nothing short of unconditional surrender from the Vietnamese communists. He wouldn't settle for another armistice and a partitioned country like Korea. Before he and President Eisenhower had departed the White House for JFK’s swearing-in, Ike reportedly had told him, “You will have to send troops to Vietnam,” and the new President had agreed. 

By 1963 the communists had determined that JFK was the sort of man who would adapt most successfully to their strategy and tactics, and would at least delay (but would never halt) what they knew was an inevitable victory. Kennedy was intelligent and witty, widely read and learned, and verbally proficient and persuasive, and better able to muster popular support for a war from an unsuspecting public. The Kennedy regime merely inherited the war from the Republicans, who had inherited it from the Democrats. Their only real difference was over tactics and the kinds of lies they told. But both major parties had set the stage for the Vietnam War.

The Republican Senator Barry Goldwater wanted “to bomb them back into the Stone Age,” and Kennedy would not abandon a Catholic regime. Kennedy’s Catholic family and JFK himself was tight with the Catholic President Diem, of South Vietnam, and the former chief aide of the emperor Bao Dai, who was a playboy in Paris while Ho Chi Minh and others over a 30-year period were assembling and training the crew and sailing the ship of revolution toward a distant port of freedom from foreign domination. Bao Dai formally handed over the reins of power to Ho soon after the latter had read the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence in Hanoi in August, 1945, and returned to Paris. Diem was set up to be President in an almost totally Buddhist country.

Johnson was a down-home ruthless country type power broker who lifted his beagles by their ears to make them yelp. (“They lak it. They lak it,” he told the shocked press.) Lyndon Johnson was not as smart or adaptable as Kennedy, although he was a superior politician and legislator, and everybody knew that too. It is unlikely that Kennedy would have gone to the Paris Peace Talks unprepared like LBJ, if he had gone at all. But there was nothing to be done about that; the deed was done, the man was dead, and the guard had changed. The intellectual who could learn was gone, and the anti-intellectual Texan who never learned took power and a year later buried Barry Goldwater in the biggest landslide since Roosevelt had whipped Hoover. But people were voting for Kennedy.

Lyndon Johnson lost the war and the next election to Walter Cronkite, the lovable old CBS anchorman, who tore the rationale for the war apart on the six o’clock news, and a few years later LBJ was cancelled by cancer. In a very few years the savvy old master himself was dead, and the Democrats had no one to talk their talk or walk their walk, except Harry Truman, old and dying in Missouri. Republicans swept into power in the South, where they had been shunned like the mention of Abraham Lincoln, and called “white niggers” for a hundred years.
Nixon and Kissinger came on like Gangbusters with their own western oil gangs and diseased Harvard brains. 

Even so, while bringing their own know-nothings into the game, they were stuck with the stilted protagonists and, overconfident, chewing gum-and-safety-wire planners of the war from previous administrations; so they prolonged the war by stalling the peace talks with trivialities (the shape of the conference table), and even more ferocious bombing, and killed more American soldiers and Asians than Johnson and Kennedy combined; continuing the unconscionable bombing of Laos, which CIA had done secretly for 10 years, depopulating the breadbasket Plain of Jars for the first time in 13,000 years, and eventually killing half of Laos’ population of two million; and invaded Cambodia in a hunt for Communist Headquarters; causing 2.5 million more deaths to be credited to their unblemished record of lawlessness and genocide;  and did other horrendous and dishonorable things, which produced verifiable misery for millions from Vietnam to Chile; from Guatemala to Uruguay and to all points east and west, while they simultaneously squashed the spirit of rebellion in universities and colleges by tightening the rules, raising tuition, spying on and sabotaging progressives of any party, and by  shooting down students and black activists, and by filling the prisons, that could not be built fast enough, mostly with drug offenders, who had committed the heinous crime of getting high.

And, admittedly, putting some very dangerous criminals behind bars too.

But Richard Nixon was a raving liberal compared to the simpleminded, expert teleprompter-reading “conservative” Ronald Reagan and his gang of Howdy Doodys.  Reagan had whipped the gentle but firm-minded Jimmy Carter with a one-liner that went, “Where’s the Beef?”; a famous slogan of a fast food chain, and another, “There you go again,” causing both crowds to erupt in laughter. It was a good show to the Silent Mediocrity.

Poor Jimmy Carter, who served more time in in the military than any President except Grant and Eisenhower (11 years) got a bad rap for long gas lines and for telling the truth to the American people. They were discouraged and suffering a crisis of spirit. The press called it “malaise,” and discredited him for saying it, when he never had.

Jimmy Carter was not responsible for the creation of the Organization of Oil Producing Countries (OPEC), newly-born and raising the ante for oil $20 a barrel; nor was he responsible for the Iranian Revolution or the Hostage Crisis, which were caused by the actions of other Presidents and their Administrations from Eisenhower to Nixon. When he gave the Shah of Iran hospital leave in the U.S., at the insistence of the dishonored President Nixon, it was the final straw for the Shia Muslim fundamentalists, who had driven the pompous Persian dictator from his plush lair, putting a price on his head; and to the Iranians that was Jimmy Carter’s crime: allowing the Shah to get medical treatment in a country that might even prolong his miserable life. For that, and for trying to rescue the hostages, President Carter was a hated man in Iran. And the voters of America supported this hatred; for failing to rescue the hostages.

Carter had negotiated the release of the hostages in a daily, persistent and tolerant yearlong effort to bring them all home alive, which he did. William Casey, Reagan’s campaign boss and later head of CIA, with others, had gone to Iran secretly to make a deal with the Iranians to hold the hostages until Reagan assumed office. Then the Republicans would buy illegal arms from Iran, on the list of “terrorist nations,” and as illegal as marijuana, and give the weapons to the “Contra” killers they were training to invade and conquer dangerous Nicaragua, where capitalist exploiters had suffered only a spanking.

The hostages were sitting for hours on the tarmac of an airport, waiting for the detested Jimmy Carter to exit the White House, so Reagan got the credit—people boasted that the Iranians were “afraid of Reagan.” But it was Jimmy Carter who was there to greet those hours later when they landed in Germany.

One soldier was killed on Jimmy Carter’s watch, when he flew his helicopter into the C-3 that had landed in a remote Iranian desert, causing the team to abort the rescue effort. On Reagan’s watch, 245 marines, without ammunition, were murdered by a single suicidal truck driver, who sailed past the main gate in Beirut, laughing his head off, because neither the guard nor the Officer of the Day had ammo in their pistols. Then Reagan turned tail and fled with the marines to invade and conquer little Grenada, an English-speaking country in the Caribbean that had staged a small but successful revolution, and was employing Cuban engineers to build an airport to handle tourists like the airports in Aruba, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and elsewhere. To prove what a tough guy he was with people who could not fight back, Reagan’s gang had murdered President Maurice Bishop and occupied the small island for months. But he had run like a coward, when the marines were slaughtered in their sleep.

Imagine Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, or even Nixon, Ford, or Carter turning tail like that. But the pompous Reagan had assumed that the mere showing of the grand old flag would be enough to send Muslims fleeing in terror to the hills. Why give the marines ammo? (They might accidentally shoot their officers.) Reagan and his team lived in a dream world, and he had Alzheimer’s disease during his first term. It was obvious to anyone with a working brain that there was something wrong with him. The movie star who knew nothing about education had already destroyed the best education system in the country, when as governor he slashed public funding for California’s fine universities and colleges, crippling every program meant to empower the poor or disadvantaged with learning.

And another thing: when Three Mile Island’s nuclear reactor was melting down, and the engineers were debating whether to simply get up and run for it, President Carter walked into the facility with a protesting Secret Service escort to find out what the trouble was. Carter, a nuclear engineer who had been Admiral Hyman Rickover’s chief deputy in the construction of the first nuclear submarines, and who had commanded some on their maiden test dives, took in the information, looked at the gauges and charts, told the engineers what to do about it, and departed. And a total meltdown was prevented; but was soon forgotten, except by Pennsylvanians, when radiation  was found in the milk of cows, who had eaten the cesium and plutonium along with the grass.

Imagine George W. Bush, who skipped from military base to military base during Nine-eleven, afraid to return to Washington, D.C.; imagine that know-nothing, that Yalie test-cheater and Vietnam War-avoider, walking onto the grounds of a nuclear meltdown. Got it? Jimmy Carter was noble, brave, and heroic by comparison.

The only real crime I can fault him with was cutting off medical aid to Nicaragua, after the Sandinistas had won a popular revolution that sent the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle scooting for safety, carrying his hated father’s bones with him. Somoza left more than 20,000 injured Nicaraguans behind, because one of his last acts was to hire Korean pilots to bomb the poor neighborhoods of Sandinista supporters in cities and towns all over the Wisconsin-sized nation.

Cuba filled the vacuum by sending 500 doctors, nurses and medical equipment to care for the wounded. This was one of Reagan’s complaints about the terrible Cubans, when he started his despicable Contra War, which the World Court of the United Nations found to be illegal,--especially the blowing-up of oil storage tanks in Corinto--levying a fine of $50 million on the US; yet to be paid. Reagan, despite the fact that the U.S. had helped create the World Court and had supported every decision, said that the judgment, “does not apply” to the United States. 

We are special. Laws are for others. Treaties are meant to be broken. Promises are assumed to be insincere, and there probably are plans on hard drives to exterminate even Britain and France, if they ever become a problem to the United States’ version of capitalism.

The great Olaf Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden, lover of the actor Shirley MacLaine, and staunch opponent of Reagan’s war, was mysteriously assassinated one night as he exited a movie theater with his wife, and the killer was never caught. Who could have pulled that off? Sweden, which has mostly avoided every war in the interval of 400 years since it whipped Peter the Great of Russia—Russia’s only recorded defeat—is a haven for political refugees from the dictatorial regimes of both Batista and Castro, and has political refugees from many countries; refugees from Somoza and Sandinistas alike, refugees from both Allende and Pinochet, who enjoy full rights and privileges of every Swedish citizen, including free medical care.

A Swedish doctor told me that any country in the world will give a Swede the best medical attention available in case of illness or accident, because they know that Sweden will pay the bill without argument. And American citizens think they have the best health care in the world.

They only have more money, but none of the spirit and fight of little Cuba, which gives free eye surgery to anyone in the world, even North Americans, or the simple far-sighted generosity of Sweden, which provides sanctuary for any legitimate refugee from anywhere who can make it to Sweden.

The American Medical Association has been quietly clamoring for years for an end to the Cuban Economic Embargo, so that it can see how Fidel has done it. How can mental patients be trusted with scissors, for example, without them stabbing someone or themselves?

Fidel Castro has made public health his personal crusade and his pet project. Cuba a few years back had 15,000 doctors and nurses treating the poorest people of Amazonia, people who had never seen doctors.  How many American doctors are in places like the humid, insect-plagued jungles of Brazil? Aren’t most of our doctors Christians? And aren’t Christians supposed to minister to the poor; to the poorest in fact? Do you see where I am going with this?

Countless towns and rural areas in the U.S. have been without doctors, clinics and hospitals for decades. And even if hospitals and well-manned clinics existed, like others, they would be mostly unaffordable or bank-breaking to common citizens, whose bank accounts have been decimated like crops devoured by seven-year locusts, as recession, unemployment and inflation, inflation, unemployment and recession, has perceptibly and irresistibly transferred their savings to the pockets of the rich, and raised the price of a multi-grained loaf of bread to nearly eight dollars; and rising.

And during all this trouble, the poor United States has had to suffer the sabotage of its industries and agriculture by Cuba, the deliberate burning of thousands of acres of farmland in the Midwest by Cuban terrorists trained by the KGB, the infiltration of every facet of our society by Cuban spies, the bombing of a national airline, killing off a whole professional football team, and the constant badmouthing to other nations from the upstart communists of Cuba. Our patience is nearly exhausted. The trustees in government who have argued that starvation of the Cuban people and the denial of consumer products was the kindest thing we could do for the poor Cubans suffering under Dr. Castro, the medical fanatic, are losing ground to those who finally want to do something back to Cuba for these offenses.

But like decent Christians we have withheld the stroke. Not for us, the bombing of airlines and burning of sugar cane crops. Not for us the dirty game of espionage and sabotage. Not for us the malicious falsehoods of governments or reckless armed invasions; not for us a 24/7 propaganda radio and television campaign to undermine a government; and not for us the pernicious effects of free health care and subsidized housing for the poor. It is unkind and inhuman to give free services and things to the poor, because it robs them of the initiative to go out and make a living like everyone else. Even Jesus the Dreamer implied as much in his address, when he said, “The poor will always be with you.” He only wanted people to get a job and work for a living, after all.

It is downright un-Christian to help the poor, when the propertied middle class is so in need.

And the middle class is threatened now, only decades after its establishment by way of Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” which put money into the hands of the poor so that they could spend it, and proprietors could expand inventories, putting factories back to work, and  buy new stores, employ more people, and by their own ingenuity improve everyone's lot with the sudden profits, providing the country with a middle class of managers and proprietors and educated children, who could make even more with their inheritances, most of which they did not have to work for at all.