June 14, 2014

Throwaway



I threw away my wedding suit in a parking lot dumpster in northern Virginia in 1979. It was white. I was trying to lighten the load in an old Chevy van I'd rebuilt and was living in and it just came up and I tossed it with only a twinge of regret. The marriage had ended in 1974, three years on. I'm sorry now that I dumped it. It would fit like a glove. When I'd worn it at our wedding someone had joked that he hadn't known who was the bride, because I had long hair too, I suppose.

People thought I was a hippie but I was a yippie. Still am. What's a yippie? A political hippie. Not content to hang out getting stoned and listening to music, I kept up with current events and tried to be effective in the antiwar movement, something I never quite accomplished. One reason I think is that I never had the desire or enough ego to promote myself.

I went to a lot of demonstrations from New York to Berkeley. I'd go to one today but there aren't any in Las Vegas that I ever heard about, except the one I helped some Serbians organize during the bombing of that country, one of our oldest allies. The first demonstration in this phony fiberglass town in twenty five years, someone told me. My uncle began to hate me when I told him about it. "You demonstrated for the Serbians?" He was astonished. Twenty two trips on convoy across the Atlantic. "I fought a world war to prevent that sort of thing!"

I'd done it because I don't trust the U.S. government to tell the truth about war. I figured it was only another way to continue the Cold War by weakening Russia. I didn't know then about the Bosnian and Coatian genocides. After I read up on it I realized I'd been wrong. It was a heavy blow. It undermined my confidence. Today I'm more cautious about that sort of thing. But my uncle still hates me. At least I think so.

I'm probably a romantic but I've tried to be a realist. In my heart I want a revolution but  today I know that reform is revolutionary. It should be self-evident but it isn't to romantic anarchists and libertarians, both fancying themselves as revolutionaries but not that different from one another, who now want to trash the whole system. I wanted that before I matured. Revolution is the headiest adventure. But without government and imperfect law there would be no civilization at all. Somebody has to sign the Social Security checks for the old and jail pedophiles, thieves, and murderers. You can't leave it to the goodhearted people because in the first place there aren't that many.

The world is complicated and complex but on the other hand as simple as a grain of sand. Everything is connected and action and inaction alike have endless consequences. This sounds paradoxical or simple minded depending on your viewpoint or world view. You throw away a nice, expensive white, wedding suit that is yellowing only a little around the cuffs and forty four years later you wish you had it back. You can never get the woman back or the kid either. Regret is a sour apple but somehow still nutritious even tasting bad. Sometimes it is all you have and you have to live with it and press on. Chew it up, rewrite a few times, and put it out there to see if anyone will bite.

Looking at the explosive war in Syria and Iraq puts me in a bad mood. This is bad shit. Cooperate with Iran for boots on the ground to find targets for drones, and eat some crow, or lose the whole Middle East, that's your choice.But as Richard A. Clarke said, the fight is between Sunnis and Shiites and is aimed ultimately at the Shiite government of Iran, and, "There is nothing we can do about it."

America in flames. I can see it coming. Suicide bombers, truck bombs, paramilitaries herding leftists and homosexuals into stadiums for public execution, torture schools, lynchings, gang wars, corrupt courts issuing summary execution orders, and the people fighting losing battles against foreign intruders, that's the future I see. You can call me a pessimist but I'm optimistic that sooner or later the killers will be exhausted and dying of the plague. Millions will be dead and in a hundred years forgotten. A new generation will come along and be horrified at what their ancestors had done. The world will settle down and humans will get it together or perish altogether.

I feel sorrier for the poor, innocent animals. Am I anti-social? A little. Some days all of humanity's greed and selfishness hovers over my mind like a dark, sultry cloud.

Meanwhile I wish I still had that white suit. I could wear it to casinos and people would say look at that sharp old man, I bet he was a player once. I'd sit at the bar sipping rum and staring into space as if I were remembering better days. And I would be. The better days when I didn't know anything and thought I knew not everything, but enough. You never know enough. Ignorance was bliss I see now. Everything they warned me about has come true: save your pennies, work hard, enjoy life and try to be happy, ignore the news, be positive, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse, or you'll be sorry. The good die young. When you're dead you are dead. This is it. Try to understand, and try to be nice.

You should have seen me in that suit. My wife looked good too.












June 3, 2014

Nada Ever After


It was waking from a funny dream and forgetting it when you tried to write it, regretting the loss of one of the best things, because one has few funny dreams. It was in your mind and you should have written it immediately but you washed your face and eyes and the shoulder muscle that seldom stops hurting, by applying a cloth soaked in very hot water, and then you made coffee before writing. The dream and the feeling it gave you that things were funny are gone by then, and you shrug because so many other valuable things are gone as well, and there is nothing that you can do about that either. It becomes easier to mentally shrug as you near the end of a long and surprisingly dreary life as if you were always prepping for departure. It is not as if you could not recall it if you tried hard. It simply is not worth it. The shoulder pain and the stimulation of the blood to the eyes and the coffee were more important. What does it matter about leaving anything unsaid, because nobody was reading anyway? Not even the funny stuff. The sleeping and the dreaming are more important in the end than any writing that no one is likely to read.

Whenever I dream about my former wife I am somehow always in jail. She is always free and talking quietly in her composed and delicate way with another woman who fully agrees with everything said. I can never make out what they are saying. Sometimes I am confined to a bed, sometimes in an actual jail cell. It is never quite a nightmare and I always wake feeling sad. I doubt that she has dreamed about me ever. But I don't know what others dream of course. If she had dreamed about me I would never know it because that is an intimacy and she does not share intimacies of any sort with me anymore and has not for years, not even the necessary ones.

In the end, and the end is always nearer than we think, nothing matters much anymore, especially not memory and certainly not things as ephemeral and unreliable as dreams. One wishes to forget. It is impossible to forget, especially those things which we wish to forget, just as it is impossible to remember all of the things that we wanted to remember, and in my case there are not many of those either. I wish now to forget everything, even my name because only the first part of it was ever mine anyway, but I suppose that we only forget things when we die. I cannot imagine how one could wish for a long life unless one has lived a happy and healthy one. It is one thing to be happy and another to be healthy and one can be happy without health but health without happiness is not only possible but common. I imagine that it would be pleasant to wake one morning in perfect adult health with no memory of anything, with a completely blank slate and new chalk.

One can live a terrible life and not even know it until it is almost finished. One can have gotten up each day with hope and even money for breakfast and a car that is not breaking down and never realize how badly things can turn out because one took a wrong turn or two so far back in the past that the memory of it has been buried for so long.

It does not matter that one was given good advice that one ignored, nor does it matter in the end that one took the wrong advice because by then things have already gone bad and there is no fixing it because no one cares anymore. So one sleeps as much as possible and wakes and does what one has always done; read some, write some, watch some television, visit a chat room, read the news, research the latest topic on the Internet, go shopping, and try to ignore the numbness of the feet, the pain of the shoulder, the weakness of the lungs, and the memories; sleep and dream. At least one has a roof, a bed, air conditioning, and uninteresting food.

Food becomes less important. There is food enough but it is tasteless and the only thing making it tolerable is sugar and coffee. Coffee is important. Medicine is also important and necessary but it seldom does what it was intended or reputed to do. Pain medicine is the best. There is little excuse for pain today in the civilized countries. Pain and the finality of death is the the fate of all life. Who knows what pain is for? It instills fear, tells us where things are wrong, and inspires notions of nobility for suffering bravely. Nobody gets through life without it to the best of my knowledge but only fools wish for pain.

Sometimes I think that I don't love anything. And then I see a great movie like Before Midnight, and I am full of love and weeping with joy. How can a human being create such loveliness? How can two people act out such a complicated love affair in the confusion of so much anger? How can it all fit together so perfectly and make me cry? Why can't my own love affairs have turned out so perfectly and completely? Why does it take a good film or book to make me feel?

But I don't love anyone; not anyone. I feel no love for another and have not felt it for many years, if ever I felt love at all that was not a romantic wish or self-delusion. It is said to be sad. It is true for now if there is any truth. Perhaps for need of stability one does not want to change, to make it other than it is, because as it is perhaps there is only a little dread of the pain of having to die and none of the painful results of broken hearts and all that. People say that they feel sorry for me to which I say don't get personal or waste your time. Not everyone needs what you call love and I call affection. They say that there is still time to change and I say why, it took my whole life to get to this peaceful island, which is neither happy nor sad.

It would be wonderful to be romantic and funny like it is in films but there is no one now to play the other part . There won't be either. I was not such a fool to think there ever would be. I am alive and unhappy. And nobody lives unhappily ever after.


















May 23, 2014

It Is What It Is, Somalia



I am in a soundless vacuum, beating on a wall that absorbs ruthless blows without resounding. I am climbing breathlessly up a hill without advancing, yelling at the top of my lungs at people standing within reach who cannot hear or see me. I cannot hear my own voice. I am invisible, anxious, frantic, and I am nothing; not really there. I exist but I am powerless. Impotent. My movement is sluggish and surreal, a suffocating nightmare. It is a silent, inescapable prison. I am a harmless lunatic lost in a limitless desert, prisoner of a bad dream with an urgent message that I can't deliver. I cannot awake.

I don't know why.

Perhaps psychologists have a definition but I don't know it.

Is this my life? This was part of my life in the best exaggeration I can write. Of course it is an exaggeration, because between nightmares I've not had so bad a time. I've known some wonderful people, some extraordinarily generous and unselfish activists in the cause of justice, some simple, goodhearted and honest persons too, and occasionally I enjoyed the company of exquisite women, and I have laughed myself into stitches now and then. I have also known a serial killer and some real stupid and mean scumbags. But now my journey is nearly finished. Death soon will foreclose my dream.

But death is not a nightmare to me. Some of the above reeks of dramatic dishonesty; hyperbolic. I don't fear death and only slightly dread the pain of passage into what I imagine is nothingness and erasure of the personality writing this, all memory and experience forever gone, and probably a relief from awareness of the nightmare born of too much consciousness, too much mental pain and the futility of not enough—of no success; I ain't had too much satisfaction. Between bouts of self pity and resentment, to be honest, perhaps I lacked ambition; or maybe I drank too much, took too many drugs, smoked too much grass, made the wrong choices, and was a selfish and terrible man, grandiose and unendurable, as my critics would imply if they had the courage to speak up. Whatever. My critics can go to hell. I was there, I put up with their crap, most of them are dead or dying, which makes me happy, and I am still here occasionally laughing my ass off. Some of them have no awareness of what I did for them.

To die I imagine is finally to connect, to resolve, and to conclude and surrender. It is what I wait for, what I prepare for, and evidently what I have lived for: to die. Death is the ultimate meaning of life. I believe that death is the end. I don't believe in an afterlife, reincarnation, or reward or punishment for how I lived. I lived the rewards and punishments already. They wafted past like butterflies and stung like wasps while I waited for something else. I suffered without much suffering, joyed without real pleasure, and dozed restlessly on lumpy beds beneath a blanket of prescribed drugs, and the best moments of my life were in dreams. I flew out of the window once and soared around the neighborhood beneath a full moon and woke up laughing my ass off.

There was always tomorrow. Yesterday was in storage. I attempted to create, to build, to change the cruel world, and to leave a non-material but a better inheritance than property for my progeny. My progeny, lazy, Yale-educated, and soon to inherit incredible wealth, living without working and ashamed of his impoverished father, is a heavy burden but not unbearable. 

It depresses me to think that the effort was meaningless, that it might have been all the same without effort. Our relatives if they can afford it place stone monuments over our bones, speak words of praise, establish trusts; or in my case have utterly disowned and abandoned. And then they also die and no one remembers. It doesn't matter. Our images fade in photographs in old albums, albums get tossed in garbage cans when we die alone in apartments of distant cities, our names scrawled on the back. Our records are digitized in gigabytes of algorithms that no one will interpret. Who cares if we served in the military, graduated from universities or were autodidacts, fell in love with improbable Swedish women, stood 30 feet from the greatest revolutionary of the Twentieth Century, wrote unpublishable novels, failed at everything, or murdered a cat on a bridge? After awhile, no one cares. No one cares now. Perhaps an iconoclastic historian will dig it up and write an obscure footnote to illustrate the rage of the age; another great lie.

Old people all over are hunkered down in bunkers of some sort waiting for the inevitable and glad not to be in the rain and cold. The young are running around like chickens thinking that they rule the chicken pen. Eagles and hawks watch from surrounding trees for a chance at a meal. It's hard to stay hopeful and positive when pain drags you down but people try anyway. Those who cannot try anymore take the easy way out, usually with a gunshot to the head. There's nothing wrong with that if you don't mind being cursed for a coward by those who have to clean it up. It's a crime to commit suicide but you can't be prosecuted if you succeed.  Shoot the heart and not the head if you want respect from paramedics. It's fascinating that men more than women shoot themselves in the head, splattering their brains and ruining their faces. Suicidal vanity I suppose. A heart-shot is cleaner and quicker.

Young kids killing themselves is heartbreaking. What sort of pain and desperation causes that? You want to beat their parents.

I have two real friends and they live far away. Occasionally we talk on the phone. I check in to Facebook for the latest Bob Dylan videos and drop a prescient comment now and then. Sometimes I spend hours in a chat room where my fast typing and quick wit wins friends and makes enemies. I don't take it seriously or personally. I try not to hurt anybody but sometimes my political stinger hurts. It's a way to pass the hours. It's all I need for a social life. I am not unhappy and never expected to be happy. I was born to be lonely and unhappy. I'm used to it. I regret that I could not do more for the world but the world does not need me to keep on keeping on. It is what it is, Somalia. It's not my problem anymore.

























May 13, 2014

No Going Back

You can't go back. You can try but you will fail. The place and circumstances and people you knew have changed and nothing is how you remember. Everything is different. Even your memory is deformed. Mutated. It changed when you did. The road is wider. The corner store is gone. They tore out the railroad tracks and paved the old clamshell road. Everything seems smaller. The people are older and fat. You have not gained a pound. They remember your face but not your name. Only the enormous German police dog remembers you. He jumps up at the gate and licks your face while a neighbor shouts: "He tore off a woman's face!" You lick him back. He remembers your scent and that you gave him snacks and once a chocolate covered cherry with a Valium in it to stop his all-day barking. He loves you. You love him. The people rent you the same room from five years before. The price has doubled.

But you passed out of their neighborhood and out of their lives and they changed like you did. But not like you. You kept moving. You may have mistaken mobility for freedom but by chance or odd design you found a different kind of freedom that no one understands. There's no use explaining. You barely understand. It took years of miserable loneliness for you to get it. It's the freedom to cut loose and leave stuff behind and keep moving and live like a traveling hermit, while walking among them appearing normal. They cannot comprehend because they are more social. They pity you but don't say it. They hate being alone. They need each other. They need someone to talk to. They talk all day and night and it seems very important to them. They start talking when they wake and stop when they sleep. You go days and weeks without talking to anyone except store clerks or people at bus stops. It's all you need because people talk such merde.

Old yippie that you are you still feel the same. You don't believe the hype. You saw the leaders with their masks stripped off and the monsters beneath. You saw the hypocrites and the dead soldiers. You saw the slaughtered people. You saw the whole damned country boozing it up 90 miles an hour down a dead end street without a care in the world. Your home in Louisiana where the flamingos and cranes lived in millions has become a green-scummed chemical cesspool. The birds won't return for a hundred years. Why should they? Birds are smart. They know poison when they see it.

It is disgusting. A gaudy casino occupies land where the old First Baptist Church was. The people are disgusting. The politics is disgusting. The politicians are disgusting. The million lookalike strip malls from coast-to-coast are disgusting. The interstates full of disgusting trucks tearing up the disgusting roads and hauling money from place to place are disgusting too. The shoddy chipboard furniture is disgusting. The porno industry is disgusting. Most of the films are disgusting. Prices and profits and wages are disgusting. The greedy capitalist billionaires are disgusting. The poor people with no morals or honor are disgusting. The fabulous fiberglass casinos shaped to resemble lavish palaces are disgusting. Gambling is disgusting. Churches are disgusting. Priests are disgusting. The list goes on and on. Lists of disgusting things that most people accept without question. You look in the mirror and that is also disgusting.

You don't let it get to you anymore. Now you are old. You watch your skin wrinkle with age and your muscles atrophy, and it is not lovely. Worrying is not worth it. You tried to make a difference and never made much of one. You helped people along the way but wasted most of your life trying to figure things out and to follow your grandmother's consul: always to do the right thing. You wish you had stayed in the Marine Corps. That was simple. Learn to kill and do a good job. Put your life on the line every time you go to work. You could be a general if you had known then what you know now. But many generals are disgusting too. Still you would not mind killing a whole bunch of bastards. And you call yourself a liberal. Finally you live with your own contradictions. Sometimes it cracks you up.

You wonder what it all was for, and finally you know that this is what it was for. It is not so bad. You tripped over half of the western hemisphere working and reading and writing and finally just wanted a place to rest. This is it. It's quiet and peaceful. The rent and utilities are paid and you have a fast computer. It is your social life. Nobody knocks on your door. You are happy in a way but happiness is a relative thing. Being happy is overrated. At least you don't have to go to a hateful job and listen to them jabber about nothing all day. Do you hate people? Are you a misanthrope? No. You are simply sick of hearing them yak all the time. They chose their paths. You chose yours. Live it and die when you die.










May 11, 2014

Morning Thoughts



We know we will die. Our minute of death approaches with the measurable swift movement of the moon. We live beneath a hatchet poised over our necks, and there is nothing we can do to stay its chop. We dine, drink, dance, work, play, write, and try to craft our lives around artistic, beautiful, and excellent themes, despite the looming hole in the ground that will hide our dead bodies. Trillions of germs lurk within our organic cadavers to finish the job inside hermetically-sealed coffins designed to keep out worms and confine stink; a manufacture to validate our illusions of deathless existence.

Death becomes unreal after the last shovelful of dirt. It doesn't even smell. As we decompose our bodies expel methane, benzine, ammonia, and other gases that we didn't know we harbored. The trillions of e-coli germs of our intestines, which have digested our food, now digest our remains. And they die.

It's ugly, isn't it? We try not to think about it. Death is impossible to conceive. In order to deny it we cause it. We kill everything in our path, especially one another, for various reasons making little sense. Cows, buffalo, passenger pigeons, chickens and ducks, mastodons, plants and dodos, whales and crawfish, frogs and birds; we eat them with gusto. We clothe ourselves with their skins and shells and adorn ourselves with their garments.The living capture the living and kill and eat it in order to live, and then dress in their remains. We are life thriving on the death and consumption of living things.

When I die I prefer to utterly vanish. I'd rather be cremated, denying germs their mission and speeding the process, releasing my atoms into the web of everything, than be buried; but I have no say, being poor. Wills are meaningless to officialdom. I cannot dictate with confidence my preferences. One day I hopefully will simply drop dead without very much pain, and whatever the City of Las Vegas decides for my corpse is a done deal. If I could I would erase all documentary evidence of my existence, but it is impossible. No one can do it. Only fear or extreme disappointment or unendurable pain can hasten us to suicide and make us wish to erase every trace.

A graveyard is a junkyard for bones. We make it as pretty as possible. Beneath manicured lawns and expensive, chiseled stones of granite, marble, and other polished rocks lie millions of bones of people who lived beautiful or vile stories. Most of the stories will never be known, and those remembered will be forgotten sooner or later. The vast universe remains incomprehensible despite persistent efforts of scientists--modern magicians--with elaborate instrumentation and encyclopedias of knowledge and theories.

This morning I heard a bird-call that I could not identify. It wasn't a member of the family of sparrows that thrives this Spring in the leafy branches outside the window. I know their chirps and whistles. Pained as usual and drugged, I reached for a slat in the venetian blinds to see, but the effort was painful so I went back to sleep. The song was different from any bird I have ever heard. It could have been anything, even a clever mockingbird, proved capable of a thousand sounds.

If it was a mockingbird I wonder what it imitated. All I know is that the song was meant for me because I heard it. I was meant to wonder. I was meant to write it. 

That's fate. No one can deny fate because death is fate, and everything is chance except dying. We cannot deny death. We can deny theories of global warming, the finales of films, accusations of the law, and and assertions of people who dislike us, and we can deny even that there is a god or a higher power ruling all; but no one can deny the death that will stop our heartbeats and deaden our electrochemical brains.

Why do we grieve? It seems absurd to bemoan the inevitable passing of life. Logically, we should celebrate, but we don't. We cry even for the passing of strangers who enriched us with skill or art or heroic deeds. And no matter what we say most fear non-existence. How can we understand or accept the complete end of lives that seemed so precious? Of egos we didn't even know we had? Even those whose lives have been unfulfilled, ruined, and miserable, who should welcome death, fear.  Much of our bravery is bravado; false courage.

Mine too. But I do not tremble yet. Perhaps I will. Maybe I won't. How can I know until the moment arrives? It is said that no soldier knows whether he is a coward until the bullets fly. 

Meanwhile, I will assume a brave face and write some more of things that seem important but really are not. Am I a cynic? Am I a fool? Am I only an extra in the dumbshow of the streets?

I don't know.

The bird is back but the blinds are drawn to keep out light and heat. I might rise from my chair and look again. On second thought, I won't. Mystery is important.

It keeps us interested.

But I am no longer curious about the bird. Anyway, it is gone now.







May 9, 2014

Too Late


I will never see Rome, never know Paris or London, never visit Berlin or Stockholm, and never enjoy the brothels of Prague. It is too late, I am old and poor, and there is no chance to win the big lottery because I don't play it. Why should my luck change now?

But I have seen the United States from end-to-end with the exception of Alaska, and I have worked my ass off from coast-to-coast for slave wages. I have dined with the FBI agent who went down with Nixon, Erlichman, and Haldeman, boldly asked Susan Sarandon for a date (she declined), and given John Lennon a free ride in my taxi. (He didn't need it.) I saw Fidel Castro twice in Managua, Nicaragua.

Bob Dylan asked me for a light once (I'd just quit smoking), I met John Nance Garner (FDR's first vice president) in an empty cafe at Uvalde, TX, at three in the morning, and I was under an atom bomb explosion in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when the bomb went off 200 miles above.

I have lived but there is no evidence of it. My life has been exciting and special and in that way only do I share in the common experience of humanity, and I will not be remembered a day past the moment when they shovel dirt over my cheap box.

It doesn't grieve or trouble me at all.

I accept everything that happened and everything that is yet to happen, perhaps with not the greatest of cheer or the grandest of grace but at least without whining or begging for forgiveness or understanding. I am a hard man with a soft heart.

I have opinions.

One is that most men are bad. Another is that many women are as bad as men. Another is that the human race is truly fucked, and it is too late to pull back from the brink. We are on the slippery slope to ignominious oblivion, and if the earth could rejoice it would. Good riddance to creation's worst pest. I fully agree with myself.

I wonder if I am a misanthrope. I think not because I have felt great love. That love and a dollar won't purchase a cup of coffee, and none of the objects of my earthbound affections and romantic inclinations believed in or cared for it a'tall. Oh well.

I don't know or care what human life is about. I have no answers and am no longer curious about the questions. I am tired, Egypt, tired. Let me sleep. Wake me when it is time for the funeral. On second thought, let me sleep through it.

It's been a long, hard road.



May 4, 2014

Reflections on Freedom and Death



It is a quiet Sunday morning, and I am reading History Will Absolve Me, my second reading in 20 years of Fidel Castro's speech to the court that sentenced him to 26 prison years for the attack of Cuban patriots on the Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago de Cuba in 1953 to overthrow the corrupt Batista dictatorship. The words reach out over the years to resound in my brain because many seem to apply to economic, cultural, and social conditions of the people of the United States today.

I un-muted the TV to see Meet the Press. Ho hum, Gov. Rick Perry again, sounding like G.W. Bush, stumbling over his prepared remarks, refusing to admit that Texas has enough poor people to sink the Titanic, refusing to admit that unemployment is down and the economy is better (I wonder how many oil profits he banked) and generally proving that he is prime presidential material (NOT).

And then comes a discussion of the Benghazi attack. Another yawn. Please have a discussion of building n stilts along the coasts and a massive construction of dikes (I almost wrote "dykes") in all coastal areas. We are sitting on our butts waiting for another Katrina to hit New Jersey. Dikes, please. Save Brooklyn. Save the East Coast.

Dykes for Dikes, please have a meeting.

The Benghazi Media Fanatics are nagging the wrong officials. Instead of questioning Democrats they should be asking CIA. Ha, ha, I'm joking.

Here's Fidel telling the court what would have happened if one of his units had been in the right place at the right time:

As soon as Santiago de Cuba was in our hands we would immediately have readied the people of Oriente for war. Bayamo was attacked precisely to locate our advance forces along the Cauto River. Never forget that this province, which has a million and a half inhabitants today, is the most rebellious and patriotic in Cuba. It was this province that sparked the fight for independence for thirty years and paid the highest price in blood, sacrifice and heroism. In Oriente you can still breathe the air of that glorious epic. At dawn, when the cocks crow as if they were bugles calling soldiers to reveille, and when the sun rises radiant over the rugged mountains, it seems that once again we will live the days of Yara or Baire!
I stated that the second consideration on which we based our chances for success was one of social order. Why were we sure of the people's support? When we speak of the people we are not talking about those who live in comfort, the conservative elements of the nation, who welcome any repressive regime, any dictatorship, any despotism, prostrating themselves before the masters of the moment until they grind their foreheads into the ground. When we speak of struggle and we mention the people we mean the vast unredeemed masses, those to whom everyone makes promises and who are deceived by all; we mean the people who yearn for a better, more dignified and more just nation; who are moved by ancestral aspirations to justice, for they have suffered injustice and mockery generation after generation; those who long for great and wise changes in all aspects of their life; people who, to attain those changes, are ready to give even the very last breath they have when they believe in something or in someone, especially when they believe in themselves. The first condition of sincerity and good faith in any endeavor is to do precisely what nobody else ever does, that is, to speak with absolute clarity, without fear. The demagogues and professional politicians who manage to perform the miracle of being right about everything and of pleasing everyone are, necessarily, deceiving everyone about everything. The revolutionaries must proclaim their ideas courageously, define their principles and express their intentions so that no one is deceived, neither friend nor foe.

In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we're talking about the six hundred thousand Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the five hundred thousand farm laborers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don't have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the four hundred thousand industrial workers and laborers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the one hundred thousand small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot love it, improve it, beautify it nor plant a cedar or an orange tree on it because they never know when a sheriff will come with the rural guard to evict them from it; the thirty thousand teachers and professors who are so devoted, dedicated and so necessary to the better destiny of future generations and who are so badly treated and paid; the twenty thousand small business men weighed down by debts, ruined by the crisis and harangued by a plague of grafting and venal officials; the ten thousand young professional people: doctors, engineers, lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers, dentists, pharmacists, newspapermen, painters, sculptors, etc., who finish school with their degrees anxious to work and full of hope, only to find themselves at a dead end, all doors closed to them, and where no ears hear their clamor or supplication. These are the people, the ones who know misfortune and, therefore, are capable of fighting with limitless courage! To these people whose desperate roads through life have been paved with the bricks of betrayal and false promises, we were not going to say: 'We will give you ...' but rather: 'Here it is, now fight for it with everything you have, so that liberty and happiness may be yours!"


And here is Fidel talking about soldiers:

It was never our intention to engage the soldiers of the regiment in combat. We wanted to seize control of them and their weapons in a surprise attack, arouse the people and call the soldiers to abandon the odious flag of the tyranny and to embrace the banner of freedom; to defend the supreme interests of the nation and not the petty interests of a small clique; to turn their guns around and fire on the people's enemies and not on the people, among whom are their own sons and fathers; to unite with the people as the brothers that they are instead of opposing the people as the enemies the government tries to make of them; to march behind the only beautiful ideal worthy of sacrificing one's life - the greatness and happiness of one's country. To those who doubt that many soldiers would have followed us, I ask: What Cuban does not cherish glory? What heart is not set aflame by the promise of freedom?

The Navy did not fight against us, and it would undoubtedly have come over to our side later on. It is well known that that branch of the Armed Forces is the least dominated by the Dictatorship and that there is a very intense civic conscience among its members. But, as to the rest of the national armed forces, would they have fought against a people in revolt? I declare that they would not! A soldier is made of flesh and blood; he thinks, observes, feels. He is susceptible to the opinions, beliefs, sympathies and antipathies of the people. If you ask his opinion, he may tell you he cannot express it; but that does not mean he has no opinion. He is affected by exactly the same problems that affect other citizens - subsistence, rent, the education of his children, their future, etc. Everything of this kind is an inevitable point of contact between him and the people and everything of this kind relates him to the present and future situation of the society in which he lives. It is foolish to imagine that the salary a soldier receives from the State - a modest enough salary at that - should resolve the vital problems imposed on him by his needs, duties and feelings as a member of his community.

Not much to say. My new life proceeds at an extraordinary library-sized table I bought for a mere 40 bucks, with a fine HP laptop I bought for $87 in a pawn shop and tweaked up to speed after a free laptop committed suicide by frying a motherboard video processor, enjoying high-speed cable broadband, bills paid for a month but broker than I have ever been since unable to work, lazily reading now and then, not much interested in writing any more than the million-plus words I've already written (and junked); my new life is relatively stress-free and pleasant. Old memories are fading or stored in the inactive file, and I am feeling no obligation to anyone or any ideology, doctrine, religion, philosophy, or current or past political correctness. Just sitting here with creeping spinal arthritis and taking my regular pain pills, sleeping whenever I feel like it, and waiting curiously to die, accepting it, even looking forward to it. Except for lifelong habit of waking thinking about something I must write, I have little ambition to write. I'd rather play with paint sample chips on the counter top. 






I wish I could work at manual labor like I did all my life but I can no longer jump over tall buildings or run faster than a speeding bullet.

Hot, hot baths in the morning, barefoot all day, shorts and no shirt, drinking coffee, eating yogurt and strawberry banana breakfasts, and cheese sandwiches &soup lunches, Dylan or Lennon or Clapton or Zappa or Mozart, all at my fingertips. I'm cruising on the boneyard express.

It occurs that I feel much like I did when, in a revulsion of mental pain, I embarked with my thumb and 20 bucks from my boyhood home in Louisiana in 1957, striking out for California at midnight, catching a ride in a tractor-trailer and bumping over old Highway 90 between Houston and San Antonio, with windy clouds sailing through the dark oceanic sky, driver imparting his life's learned wisdom, my feet on the metal dashboard, and thinking, I never have to go back there again.

I feel that free now so I assert that I have achieved what I set out to achieve--freedom--despite the trail of burnt bridges, $13.000 below the poverty level, and the encyclopedia of mistakes and misunderstandings in my wake. I have achieved nothing greater than this.

And my mind is free to think fantastical notions: Why can't we design and build airplanes with wings like eagles? Surely with new high-strength materials and the computational skills of modern physics we could. Build high-flying jets not polluting the atmosphere, sailboats of the sky; aerial clipper ships; and planes that fly like bats. And helicopters with double-dragonfly wings, and personal air cars propelled gently like butterflies, to collide harmlessly and alight in driveways or parking lots with the accuracy of migrating ducks.






March 29, 2014

Exasperation



COLD WAR TWO
EASTERN AMBITION MEETS WESTERN HYPOCRISY
 Everyone’s Prestige Is Imperiled!
Who Was Wrong First?

 
The dogs of war hear a distant trumpet.

Despite denials by the president and congress that a new cold war is the present agenda, the United States and Russia are re-engaged in the conflict that put the world on the edge of an atomic abyss for four decades.

A whole generation of Americans practiced cowering beneath school desks after the blinding, scorching flare of a nuclear blast. “Duck and cover” was a sick joke.

When the US and Soviet Union stood toe-to-toe with hydrogen bomb-tipped missiles over Cuba in 1962, many believed that we were converging on Armageddon.

We know now that the Soviet general in Cuba with 40,000 hidden troops had authority to nuke the U.S. Sixth Fleet if we marines had invaded. The world came that close to an all-out nuclear war.

Territory, military security, markets, status, and ideology were reasons for the standoff then, and the same factors apply to the new cold war; especially and most-importantly status.  The “international order” is at stake.

Isn’t this another way of saying that a US conception of international order is at stake? Status is at stake. Profits are at stake. Prestige is at stake. Military hardware and ordinance profits are at stake. “Leadership” is at stake.

Nearly unnoticed in this on-going drama is the documented fact that the oil industry has discovered 4 trillion cubic feet of shale gas beneath Ukraine and wants to export fracking technology there.

Environmentalists, please listen up.

To the players and Principals the world is at stake; and it is. Their conception and acceptance of the world is. But they play a dice game with the world, and countries like Ukraine, Kosovo, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Baltic States are mere chips in the great resource game; their inhabitants little more than demographic statistics.

How many millions of consumers are necessary to consume X barrels of crude oil? How many toilets and sewers will be needed and how many rent-able houses and apartments? How much electricity? Water? Thousands of analysts study these questions about the future of not only humanity but the world; the planet that does not in the end belong only to us. But the main aim of all these experts is how to best exploit every available resource, natural, human, or animal, for the greatest profit for certain individuals. 

President Obama in Brussels failed to justify America’s invasions of Kosovo and Iraq as answer to Vladimir Putin’s charge of hypocrisy about invading sovereign countries. Obama said that we have left Iraq and are exiting Afghanistan. (He said nothing truthful about the condition we have left poor Iraq in.)

Obama lied when he said that the U.S. did not profit from Iraq’s oil. American and British oil interests certainly benefited in some way; or why did they support invasion in the first place?

The primary reason for all the latest wars is energy. Everybody needs more and more of it. It is pricey. Selling it harvests huge profits for private individuals who are not like you and me. They are very well bloody rich. They walk on air or fly through it at amazing speeds. They own more than accountants can account for. They never seem to have enough. They are insatiable. 

Sometimes they slaughter millions to have their way with oil and water and any other kind of energy  resource that buys the latest in yachts and penthouses. They build dams and pipelines and own companies that supply them. They buy politicians and kings like Imelda Marcos bought shoes. They control stock markets and employ millions to juggle their basically unbalanced criminal enterprise: governments. They own mines and ships and dams and spaceports. They think that they own Earth.


But Earth grumbles under Los Angeles and spits fire in Indonesia.


The bad news is that they govern.


The good news is that they die like everyone else. Sooner or later we will be rid of them.


But in the meanwhile we need a Congressional investigation of who made a fortune from that stupid, tragic war, which set Iraqi development back decades, killing and wounding millions. 

Hospitals, bridges, electricity lines and transformers, public buildings, highways, water mains and pump stations, schools, markets, mosques, private homes, and whole neighborhoods were destroyed by the illegal and immoral Iraq War. The oil fields were protected though.


A whole generation of Iraqi youth now must endure lifelong physical and mental trauma from having been born into a world of bombs, murder, bullets, torture, and hatred that resulted from a US-taxpayer-funded war that killed more than a million and de-stabilized the whole Middle East. These youths have been denied adequate education and health care and as a result of injustice now are prime recruits for a war of terror, blood-for-blood, eye for eye. And Americans will be whining, "What did we do to deserve this?"

This is a fact that we should never forget: every war that the United States has warred against sovereign or revolutionary nations has intended to set back and impede modern and therefore human development: Vietnam, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, among others, prove this assertion. Iraq is no exception. 

U.S. capitalists do not want such countries to develop independence, not even and especially not democracy, and join the international competition, make more costly or deny US market-penetration. 

The primary impulse for the U.S. Constitution and codification of laws was to create stability in markets with lawful international and domestic guarantees for contracts; treaties with the force of law. Business is business and business is what America is all about. Even in the Mafia, "It's only business." (Don't be offended as I proceed to blow your head off.) 

Ours is a bullying capitalist imperialism as our economic foes have long maintained. (But they became gangsters too.) However, the American version of capitalism dominates the world. Our dollar is still the standard form of payment. Opposed to the American capitalist ideal is its opposite, communism. But American capitalist-imperialists are more afraid of nationalism than communism, and there are other variations of national-capitalism which do not seem as low and mean as our stingy version. In France, for example, every worker gets a paid one-month vacation every year. All other advanced nations have free or affordable health care for everyone. 


Nationalism itself is a bog of self-interested and contradictory entities, and in the end, as the Highlander said, "There can be only one!" Therefore all other nations must be less than one. Nationalism and capitalism together are fouling and wasting the earth and impoverishing the future. Air, water, space, and animal life recognize no man-made laws or boundaries, however strict and durable. Nations are like businesses with millions of underpaid workers, struggling against one another like crippled cyclops, wielding crude spears and axes of an economic system that benefits only the ruthless rich, leaving everybody else poor or just making the rent.


No wonder that in America "internationalism" is practically a capital crime. (It is a crime against Capital.)


What is Capital? I don't know, read the book. 


President Obama blithely ignored the fact that Iraq was stuck in a world of shit when US forces departed, and the president lied brazenly when he implied that he had opposed invading Iraq. As a senator he voted for it and reversed on the issue only when the war was plainly a debacle and his quest for the White House was steaming full-ahead. Popular opinion by then opposed the Iraq War . 

As much as I like President Barack Obama personally, I won't ignore these bold lies.

Americans clearly opposed the war from the start but the war-loving, sensationalist, and under-educated Media swayed them to tentative and temporary support, asserted in polls, which evaporated when the mists of memory cleared, the graves multiplied, and the simple logic of arithmetic re-asserted itself. We spent how much to kill how many for what now? Say that again? What did we get out of it? Duh!

Watching the present tragedy unfold is a tiring déjà vu. Here we go again. We have been here before. Each time it seems that scarce funds might be freed by a conclusion to the latest war, freed to pay for solutions to domestic problems, another war “breaks out,” diverting or preventing spending, preventing even discussion of important laws or regulations, putting them on the back burner. The problem of coastal flooding by rising sea levels gets low-priority, for example.

The situation becomes urgent and a 24-hour news cycle gears up with the same old, boring, talking-heads, so as to make the American public anxious and compliantly cheering the thrumming of the drums of war. But in the end it is only a spectator sport. A lot of know-nothing, dumb-ass Americans sitting in easy chairs before brainwashing televisions, gorging food, swigging beer, smoking dope, and pretending knowledge they don’t possess: The New Know-Nothings.



Welcome to this Season’s Feature:

THE NEW COLD WAR
CHAPTER ONE
Ukraine Crisis!
(Most popular show in Texas)






February 10, 2014

Pity the Bookless

My real life has been books. It has been the great pleasure of my life to read. I understand why good revolutionaries first seek to teach their people literacy. Without it how can they understand their own history or their place in it?


I went all over the place looking for relief from past miseries, worked at many jobs for money to just keep going, tried and failed a dozen relationships, nearly died of cancer I brought on myself by drinking too much, and generally felt like crap, a total loser. I tried like a mother to be a good writer and failed.The one thing that comforted me was books. My main brag is that I've had 46 library cards.

What a precious treasury of books in my head!

I began reading, I realized years later, partially dyslexic. I would read nearly to the end of a sentence and skip to the next  It took years to catch on. I was missing a lot. When I realized it, I started reading slower, sometimes aloud, to assure that I would get to the end of a line and consciously shift my eyes to the next. I still fall into the habit today.

I mostly overcame the disability. I never did understand where it came from. I thought that it was from bad teaching or inattentive learning. Now I think it has something to do with a brain malfunction, perhaps from trauma. I was whacked hard on the forehead about age 5 and knocked out.

Probably because I wanted to be seen as smarter than I was, I read over my head. In my twenties I bought and read the first pages of books that were for university. I'd put them aside and go back to them later. Some I never read. Others I completed. Years later I read some again with understanding. It's great to read something which was hard before that suddenly comes alive as a result of experience. Huckleberry Finn became not only a boyhood adventure but an anti-racist masterpiece. I read Tom Sawyer again when I was 50 and laughed my head off.

The more I read the easier it was. I can read fast but I don't. I read for comprehension. I make notes and have a special composition book for quotes. I have copies of vast bibliographies to peruse if I become immortal.

Years ago I stopped hanging onto books. Now I pass them on or contribute them to libraries. I carted so many books around that I finally got tired of lugging and packing and unpacking and the periodic search for boxes.

Bookshelves became my specialty. I can't remember how many pine 1 by 10s I bought and anchored to walls. Once I brought about 20 cartons of books to a living room in SoHo that I turned into a bedroom and office with a loft and two desks, and books covered three walls. It was a comfortable place with a great roommate. I lived in many single rooms. I have lived and slept alone for so long that I couldn't share a bed with Nicole Kidman for more than a week. I don't sleep well unless alone, and even then I need legal drugs.

"Michael doesn't want to go to bed because he doesn't want to miss anything," my mother used to say. It was true too. I've always been interested in what is going on. But it wasn't curiosity that drove me to books. It was the best way to shut people out. It was escape and withdrawal. But in the eighth grade in old Kenner High School in Louisiana I read a good anthropological book named The First Million Years of Humanity. My book report to the class drew interest from the teacher and other kids, encouraging  me to read more. Somewhere back there I became curious about the world and realized that if I read enough maybe I could understand it.

It hasn't happened yet.

I was bullied and didn't like it. Although I wasn't big enough to whip many guys and had no inclination to violence then, I had to fight anyway. I started reading more partly because I reasoned that if I couldn't outfight them at least I could be smarter. In the tenth grade at LaGrange High School in Lake Charles, I took a book to almost every class and buried myself in it. After numerous trips to the principal's office teachers gave up and left me alone.

I  quit before the year was out and joined the Marine Corps. Every base had a library. I used them. I lived in vans for years too, and sometimes especially in winter the library was the best place to read. Most have comfortable chairs and lamps. They are not as quiet as they were though. When I was coming up it was practically a crime to talk in anything above a whisper in a library, and librarians whispered to set the example. Today, people shout in libraries. Many librarians have given up on it and joined the chorus.

It has to be a quiet library or I won't read there. When I'm reading the quieter the better. When I write I sometimes listen to music. Now I am listening to Miles Davis' Do Wop and Jack Johnson albums. Just my speed for this piece.



Usually I write fast. I'm an accurate touch-typist with a little help from my eyes.

But I read for the deliciousness of it. I'm back in that classroom isolating myself, or I'm in my bedroom trying not to hear the riot in the living room. I get lost in other peoples' descriptions of themselves and the world. I'm a nut for autobiographies and biographies. I love good science fiction but there isn't much of it anymore, in my opinion.

I love good fiction, especially classical fiction and works by 20th Century authors and the present day. Cormac McCarthy blows me away like Hemingway and Faulkner did. Annie Dillard is better than Thoreau. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is intriguing, and I can't get enough of popular novelist Brian Haig, who surprisingly is Alexander's son. I just finished Adieu: A Farewell to Sartre, by Simone de Beauvoir, one of my favorite authors (read: The Mandarins), and it was great

I read a lot of non-fiction too. Now I'm reading for the second time in 15 years The History of Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell, my favorite philosopher. This is the best book to learn about philosophy for me. When he writes about Plato, I read Plato, and so on.

Last month I read two fantastic (and very big) books by H.P. Albarelli: A Secret Order, about Lee Harvey Oswald, and A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and CIA Cold War Experiments. I was floored.

I'm reading the latest book by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Duty, and it is good. Last month I read his earlier one, "From the Shadows,The Ultimate Insider's Story," about his time in CIA through four administrations. I recommend that leftists and liberals read it to see if they can hang onto their ideas and opinions about how things are done up there and the kind of people who do them.

Nobody has a monopoly on the truth. I learned that from books.

I'm tempted to end this piece with an incredible list of books I've read since returning to Vegas six months ago, but it would be too much. I try to keep my boasting at a minimum because I have little to brag about.

What got me on this kick, besides the necessity to blog something so that my two fans won't be disappointed, was that I was watching an interview about the Olympics, and the moderator mentioned the name, David Remnick, which some might recognize. I flashed back to a great book I read by him in the Ogden, Utah, library, when I was broke, had just begun a new job, and hadn't anywhere else to go.

It was "Lenin's Tomb," a big book about Stalin, Stalin-ism, Perestroika, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and post-Perestroika with interviews of former officials and citizens who had suffered much and had survived one of the greatest mass murderers in history. Then I thought, wow, I want to read that again.

I remembered that I had read everything Alexander Solzhenitsyn had published, and all of Gorky. Russian literature is the best, the deepest and most-profound I've found. But that's me.

I feel sorry for people who don't read books. They don't know what they're missing.







February 2, 2014

Whining Winners





Our American nation as an ideal is imperiled in a rapid race to Suicide Curve, en route to global domination. The appeal to believe is suspected except by dwindling numbers of romantics pledged in unblushing worship of an ideal that existed only on paper and in the minds of earlier Americans; an idolatry exposed. Europe and most of the world hangs on to our coattails only because American military and economic power is pervasive, and not because they believe in our oft-stated ideals of freedom and democracy. America has squashed the democratic aspirations of too many nations. Democracy itself is a misnomer for what amounts to a system of wage-slavery postured as freedom. Communication and technology advances have aroused numerous to the hypocrisy of our version of capitalism.

America's military strength is stretched to the breaking-point, even to the dreamed resort to "robot wars" (because manpower can no longer be relied-upon), and other nations like China and India are pulling abreast as newer weapons become available and their economic power increases exponentially. America, the trumpeter of “free enterprise” and “healthy competition” now accuses other nations, which have learned the lessons of capitalism too well, of being “unfair.” But this has been the complaint of every nation that the United States has invaded since 1776.

Hypocrisy is the mode of our materialistic world. American religion has become political theater. Our “melting pot” has become a community of hardened ethnic and religious enclaves of people who comport their business with the aim of staying away from intimate or personal contact with one another. On the other hand, our “freedom of religion” has for many become the right to be freely irreligious and insulting to others, who have religion as an anchor in a tumultuous world. America suffers from an anti- social personality disorder. The Indians and Pakistanis, the Jews and Palestinians, the Russians and Poles, the Muslims and Christians, all have immigrated here, bringing their ancient quarrels along, and, just as the Irish did not leave their hostility to the English in Ireland or vice-versa, neither did other immigrants forget their divisions. The New World became the Old World as it expanded.

The “modern world” is a pain in the ass. People long for simpler times that they neither experienced nor understand. To arrive at a knowledge of history and understanding of events and forces that produced our present mess requires study and leisure that is reserved for the richer classes; it has always been so. Simpler times would be a dedicated effort to expand and improve public education; but public education is being converted to private, profit-oriented businesses. Coke machines in the halls, advertisements everywhere, expensive school books, and what next? Pay toilets?

But to me the bright light in this blinding darkness is the Internet. At least people are reading again. Those who cannot read well play games. Access to knowledge or at least debatable “facts” has never been greater. The “Information Age” is present and overtaking the world faster than the Industrial Revolution did. The changes are enormous and long-lasting—unless the electricity goes off.

The poor are still with us. But they don't have to be.









January 29, 2014

Elrod and Me

I have this friend, who talks my head off, when I see him. He is the only one of my friends who does so, since I am usually the one doing most of the talking. But, as time plus experience has moderated some of my more egregious faults, I have learned to listen, by taking a temporary vow of silence, or holding my peace.

What a strange expression, "holding my peace," is. In my case, it should be "holding my war," because I, for one, have been living in a state of war, since December 7, 1941; I was four months old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

He and I each were reading the overpriced NY Times at a restaurant one morning, and commenting wryly and sarcastically on some of the incomplete and misleading "stories," it wrote.  It was a beautiful late-summer day, a Sunday, and we had chosen a quiet restaurant near the meat-packing district, a strange area for both of us to dine, because neither of us is rich. I hadn't seen him for months. We had gone to see Inception together the last time we'd met.

I carry a 3-inch magnifying glass with me usually, especially if I am looking over old books or trying to see faces and other details in the thousands of photos we see in the various Media. I want to see the faces up-close, trying to divine their character, their intent, their motives, age, condition, sex, and which ones might be leaders, or followers, provocateurs, police, and I examine the surrounding terrain. I especially do this in areas of conflict, where people are protesting and getting shot for it. I imagine myself in a military situation, like the one going on now in Yemen over the return of President Saleh, after being driven by an artillery shell from Yemen to a hospital in Africa. If I were the rebel army, I'd be in those mountains just above the city.

Well, they almost got him, Elrod said. That's not my friend's real name, because he doesn't want me to use it if I write about him; not that he's paranoid, but private. He doesn't want his name out there. It's the sensible way to be now, in a society where a name dropped on the internet suddenly is added to thousands of lists.

In a way, we are opposites, but I have known this guy for so long.We were marines together, and sometimes I think he is my only friend. Elrod's politics and opinions differ with mine, and we both are aware of it, but I never let  politics interfere with friendship--I mean unless the guy has become a raving nazi or KKK-er--because friendship is loyalty love and trust, and accepting one another.

For example, Elrod is a pretty tough guy; I wouldn't want him to whack me; but I know that nothing short of my direct violent assault would provoke him to do it. So we feel safe and comfortable together, as perhaps only old friends can, because we are no threat to each other.

Anyway, we were reading the Times and drinking coffee, and eating a fine omlette rather haphazardly--their portions are too big for my little stomach, and I never finish it. Elrod asked for my magnifying glass, and began scrutinizing pictures of the protesters in Yemen. About a hundred of them had died, according to the papers, and a defected military general was backing them, with troops and guns. They had the position, the capital was surrounded, but not the firepower and discipline that kept them from penetrating into the fortified government area.

These guys look fierce, and determined. You can see they are different tribes and all by their different head scarfs. They look lean and vigorous. This is the real thing, baby. These guys are going to win.  And look at those mountains beyond Sala. That must be where the rebel army is based, the high ground around the capital.

"That's the next place we are going to go to war," I said. "I mean, hell, we're already there. CIA and all kinds of skull-duggery and intelligence-gathering is going on. People are being bought and told what to do. If they want a war there, they have to stir things up. I'm sure it's a popular uprising, but all uprisings are directed by somebody, for some purpose. I don't see the military letting Yemen go to what they define as "al Qaida". It probably will start as a proxy war, with Saudi Arabia invading, with our money and backing and cruise missiles, if needed. We'll put boots on the ground, if necessary. It is a very vital point, with Somalia a boatride away, and the pirate thing. The US will put an aircraft carrier between them if it feels the necessity to save gas. But Yemen is a wild country, as wild as Afghanistan. You can't beat these people," I echoed.

This guy standing up on a pedestal has a lot of guts, or he is a government agent, and knows nobody is going to shoot him. If you look at the protesters in this picture, they are of different ages. There are more old men, middle-aged and older,  and younger ones. Here is a young guy in the shadows, doing something on a narrow wall, probably writing graffiti. And in the center of this one is a guy in a wheelchair with a leg gone, holding up two metal crutches like spears pointed directly at the camera. Maybe he lost his leg in a demonstration, and refuses to give up the fight. These guys are putting their lives on the line.

Incidentally, this is verbatim, word-for-word. I was recording our breakfast on my little Sony WMD-6. It is ancient but reliable. I have a lot of recordings of Elrod and me. He got used to it years ago, and isn't self-conscious about it. But in a way, we both know that what we say is on record, so to speak. You can't deny that the knowledge of a tape recorder makes you more careful of words. (Which is why I do it.)

You know what it is about those headdresses that Arabs wear? Well, if you are being followed or pursued, you change your headgear in flight. If you were wearing one of those red and white ones, you'd be easy to follow, and because they all know what the scarves represent, the changing of one could momentarily deceive pursuers.

Elrod has worked in all kinds of professions, but after our days in the Marine Corps five decades ago, he went to work as a printer for the NY Daily News, and after retiring from that, became a carpenter, who did pretty well for himself for awhile. Then his wife left him and took most of the money and the house, and he went nuts for awhile, and gradually got over it and went back to carpentry. He's retired now, because he managed to save enough, but his money is losing value just like everyone else's. I think that he is like me, sort of an armchair revolutionary tactician. He just calls himself a critic though. The difference is that he still goes to demonstrations.

Elrod handed me back the glass, and I examined the photos, as he had done, and saw what he had seen. These were different tribes united in a common purpose, and they looked serious and ready-to-die. "If you are not ready to die," I said," you don't have a chance to win. You're right. Look, here this one guy is wearing a soldier's uniform and a red beret, marching with the protesters."

You can't see any weapons, and there is not one woman in the pictures.

"The women are at home cooking up the food for these guys who are gonna be hungry when they come home. They're taking care of the kids and old folks. What's wrong with that? Women don't have to be on the battlefield to serve a just cause; if it is a just cause."

What if some of them want to be there, but can't, because they are females and considered inferior.

"What about it? That's their culture. It's ours too, if you think about it, though we are changing. Let them change at their own pace and in their own way. If they lived in peace, and had some prosperity and harmony, their relationships will change. It's a male society, like many, and it's the men who started the rebellion, not the women."

What do you mean by, 'if it is a just cause'?

"Well, how the hell do we know, man?  What do we really know for sure? Who are these guys? What are their motives and intentions? Sure it all sounds so altruistic, to rid themselves of tyranny. But how do we know that they won't replace it with a worse tyranny? We're getting this whole picture from the lying Media. They've told so many lies and done so much for the government for so long, that you can't believe your own eyes sometimes. You know that.

Yeah. Well. I think it is a just cause. This guy is a dictator. He is a son-of-a-bitch.

 I applied a well-known quote of State Secretary Cordell Hull to FDR about Somoza in Nicaragua: "Yes sir, he is. But he is our son-of-a-bitch."

That's the problem. We know the game. The Defense Department can't let power change hands in Yemen, if it means popular power, which will end Yemeni complicity in whatever the US has them doing for us.

"For 'us'?

For them, I know, I know. But sometimes you have to say 'we' and 'us' and 'ours', because it is; we own it.

"I don't own it," I said, finishing a cold coffee. "There is not a damned thing I can do about it, either. It is completely out of my control."

You really believe that? Man, you've changed if you...do.

"I accepted reality."

What reality? That the US can do whatever it please there, in order to guard shipping lanes? 

"No. They need a base close to the action. Bombing, troops, CIA, the whole shebang. But if guarding shipping lanes is what is about, good God, between us and Europe, we could put enough ships in the area to blast any number of so-called "pirates" out of the water. The American and British Navies, man? Give me a break. Anyway, I believe in letting it happen, whatever, there's nothing I can do about it here, and I can't afford to go over there, plus I'm too old to fight."

You could demonstrate. You used to.

"Demonstrations don't do much good anymore. They are less and less-effective. You know why? Because nobody is willing to die, that's why. If you're not willing to die for the cause, go home. I'm home. I don't believe in this cause anymore. Human beings are too corrupt. There will have to be a world catyclsm for anything to change, and that will be even worse."

Were you ever willing to die for the cause?

 "What cause?"

Come on man. Civil rights. Human rights. Justice. Peace. Antiwar.

"Right."

[Silence]

"Once," I said finally.

Nicaragua.

"Yeah, for awhile, because there was shooting going on, and I was in love with a communist."

Elrod laughed long and hard. I had to laugh too. Everything looks so ridiculous later.

"Remember when you met me at the bus station at midnight in Lake Charles, after I had come through Mexico on a bus, and I whispered for you to wait at the parking lot next door.

He laughed again. You scared the hell out of me. You didn't want me to be seen with you, because you thought you might be followed.

"A Customs agent destroyed my Brother typewriter after he saw my passport. Tore it apart, supposedly looking for drugs. I was reasonably suspicous that I might have been followed."

Ahh, the good old days, back when you cared.

I didn't reply.

You know what I hate about the NY Times?

"That it costs two dollars?"

That too of course. But what I really hate is that they know as well as we do what is going on, and they only hint at it. They have such an influence on public opinion, especially here, and what they say has a lot to do with what we think about a situation. They don't hve the guts to tell the truth.

"All the truth that's fit to lie about. So what is really going on? Is it that simple, that the people united want this guy out? What do they intend to do one is is gone?

Set up another government, kick the US out, stop the drone strikes, take over their own country. Change things.

"Ha ha," I said. "If they wait awhile and stop the killing, this guy will die a natural death. A general will kill him, or something. These days, there is no having a revolution without the help of the established military, at least a faction of it."

They have that. One general and his troops and weapons.

So, what else is new?

"Nothing much. I'm still living in Brooklyn, getting older. Back problems. Sold my van. Building a workbench. Trying to stop a leak on the roof. Reading a lot. Hey, I just read a pretty good novel  by this guy, oh shit, what's his name? Carlos Zafon. I didn't like it at first, and it was so long, 400 pages. War & Peace for Christ's sake. It's called Shadow of the Wind. But after having it a year, I finally picked it up and read it. It took me five days. It turned out to be a pretty original tale, a first novel, and some memorable characters. You want to read it?"

No thanks.

"Well, what's new with you?"

I'm moving to California in Spring.

At this point, the tape ran out. I didn't have a spare. We talked for a few more minutes. He said he was moving to California because the weather was better. I agreed with him, saying I might do the same. Who needs six months of bloody cold winter, when you're old? When I first met him, he was from Massachusetts and Nevada, growing up both places.

The waiter brought the check and I paid, and we gave him a pretty good tip, because we had occupied his station for so long. I had enough money because I had finally sold my van, and my government check had just hit the bank.

He asked if I wanted to meet him next Sunday. I said I'm not sure. He said he would call during the week. I said okay, and we shook hands. We always shake hands coming and going. He walked south, and I went east to catch the A train at Union Square.