Failsafe Felony



Melvin is a savvy burglar. He watches plenty of TV. So when he stepped onto the porch of Mrs. Wifty’s home, he instantly recognized the Ding doorbell. He knew it like instinct, from all the TV ads that had been saturating his subconscious.

“Ding!” he rang the doorbell.

“Hello? How may I help you?” a lady’s voice crackled on the dinky speaker.

Wait a second, wasn’t that an engine revving in the background? “Hi, I’m going around trimming trees. Wanna free estimate?” Melvin inquired.

“No, I’m sorry. I’m bathing my children right now.” the slightly desperate-sounding voice came back. A car honked its horn.

“Okay,” said Melvin. He walked around to the backyard, wondering if she was lying, or bathing her children in the middle of a traffic jam.

No, he knew. She was lying. Melvin was no idiot, and neither are you. He got away with a really cool haul from Mrs. Wifty’s house. He even took the Ding doorbell.

Now this tip may be obvious to you, but there’s much more to successful burglary than putting two-and-two together after watching hundreds of TV ads concerning a popular anti-burglary product.

And now we make this exclusive knowledge available to you, for just $20.00. That’s right, for only $20.00 you can enter almost any home in your neighborhood, armed with knowledge culled from the minds of America’s most experienced burglars.

Breaking and entering has never been more fun and profitable with the release of our latest book, Failsafe Felony. The low price of $20.00 will seem like a steal to you, when you break open the cover. You’ll pick the minds of San Quentin’s best, and learn valuable lessons such as the following:

Body-Grease for Chimneys
Risk-Free Rappelling
Tamping Tintinnabulation Without Cuts
Casing Tips for Contractors
Exercises to Improve Your Ducking, Leaping, and Sprinting Skills
Stockings, Paper Bags, and Other Clever Disguises
How Far to Punt a Yapping Chihuahua
And much, much more

To receive your must-have copy, just enclose a twenty-dollar bill, or your credit card, in an envelope, and mail it to the following address:

Dean Sneed, #G985139725033-a
Yard 12, Block 17, Suite #36
San Quentin Educational Facility
San Quentin, California

We’ll mail you a copy of Failsafe Felony, immediately after receiving your Andy Jackson. Yes, we really will. Don’t worry.

Caterpillars in a Tent

What the hell are those webs?

What the hell are those webs?

I roll out of bed at 4:30. Sun’s gonna rise in less than two hours. Gotta get to it. But I’m not safe in a hurry. I knock my middle toe against the spade foot of our antique table. Goddamn! I splatter toothpaste into my eye. I bang my head on an open cupboard door. Curse, curse, curse.

There's something moving around, inside those webby tents.

There’s something moving around, inside those webby tents.

I hustle my backpack and camera into the car and slam my fingers in the door. Some rock-and-roll dancing, and swearing works the pain off. Gotta get to the national park before the hoards of hikers start swarming all over it, as they do this time of year. I prefer my trails unpeopled.

Western Tent Caterpillars

Tent caterpillars. There are 6 species of these in North America. This is the Western Tent Caterpillar.

Five minutes before sunup I hit the trail. It’s fucking cold! I’m tired and in pain. I stumble over rocks and damn near turn an ankle. Tromp, tromp, drompf. Whoa! I nearly lose my balance cutting down an embankment. I jut my arm out for ballast and my hand gets punctured by the rapier blade of a yucca. Shit that hurts!

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute? Tent caterpillars are among the most social of all caterpillars. I caught them during their morning kaffeeklatch.

I drop my pack in a little rocky cove and set my camera up. I pinch my finger in the tripod. Fuck!

A few landscape shots and then, what the hell is that over there? Cobwebs in a bush? On close inspection I find a mass of caterpillars in the webs. What the hell are these anyways, some sort of desert silkworm? Yes, they are. They are Western Tent Caterpillars, and they are spinning a silky-web home.

Busy as spiders.

They hatch in late winter, and quickly build their tents, like good little scouts. They locate their tents where they’ll catch the morning sun.

I snap lots of pictures of these fuzzy fusiforms. My tired, clumsy hand brushes the twigs of the bush, sending vibrations into their tents. They freeze instantly. This reaction probably saves their lives whenever a bird, lizard or other predator comes near.

They poop a lot, too.

They need the sun to raise their body temperature, so they can digest food. Various compartments in their tent will trap heat, raising temperatures as much as 30 Celsius.

I’m hiking back to the car and spy a solitary hiker coming toward me in the distance. It’s official, the trail has now become too crowded.

The forenoon heat makes me wish to God I had changed into shorts before beginning my exodus. This motherfucking desert is brutal. I’ve hurt myself, frozen, and roasted just to do what I’ve done this morning. Was it worth it?

Of course. I saw caterpillars in a tent.

Bird food.

The tiny flecks in the web are caterpillar poop. Tent caterpillars are inefficient digesters, and poop a lot. After about 8 weeks of eating and pooping, they spin their cocoons. 2 weeks later they emerge as moths. The moths often mate and lay eggs the same day they emerge, with the female dying soon after laying her eggs. Female moths may live less than 24 hours, while male moths may live a week or more. It’s nice to know that somewhere in the animal kingdom, males live longer than females.

Age-Old Defiance

Child survivors of Auschwitz. From the Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography.

Child survivors of Auschwitz. From the Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography.

We’ve learned how police have systematically suppressed African-Americans in communities such as Ferguson, Missouri. And we’ve been shocked at the genocidal bigotry of ISIS, in Syria and Iraq.

In the middle of all this, I feel gladdened to see a big middle-finger stuck in the face of the most infamous bigot of all time, Adolf Hitler. Israel Kristal is that figurative middle-finger. On Friday, Guinness World Records awarded him an official certificate for being the world’s oldest man.

Israel Kristal is also a survivor of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz concentration camp.

Hitler couldn’t stamp him out. In fact, Hitler died at the age of 56 years and 10 days. On Friday, Kristal was 112 years and 178 days. He has more than doubled the age of the man who tried to kill him for his ethnic and religious background.

I know that many people died at young ages in Auschwitz. But Kristal symbolizes to me the enduring power of diversity. This world can never become homogeneous. There will always be people who look, think, and live differently from each other. Thank heavens for that! Consider how boring our planet would be if it weren’t for this enduring power of diversity.

You may be feeling disheartened over the rise of ISIS, and other bigotry. Consider the Polish-born Jew, Israel Kristal. He embodies the age-old defiance of bigotry that will never cease as long as humans remain. Maybe his long life can give you something to smile about. 🙂

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