The Mysterious Old Place

MRI of an old fogey’s brain. Mysterious looking old place, ain’t it?

When I was young my grandparents did many strange things. But they were much older than me. Their minds lived in a mysterious old place, packed with esoteric wisdom gathered from decades of experience.

To be old was a mystery that I could not question. I would see them engage in unusual behavior and conclude, “They must know things that I cannot know, because I am so young.”

I remember asking my grandfather why he put his pants on backward. He looked down, then sputtered a bit as if at a loss for words. He began by explaining all the things arthritis does to you, and tried to convince me that wearing backward pants was therapeutic to the hip joints. But when he noticed my creased forehead he gave up and blurted, “Wait’ll you get to my age, then you’ll understand!”

That was all he needed to say. I was convinced he wore his pants that way for a very good reason that one day, many many years down the road, would become clear to me.

And now, here I am, many many years down that road. I now live in the mysterious old place my grandparents once occupied. And I notice how often young people defer to me. They seem to regard me as an oracle of occult knowledge. A possessor of gnosis and ancient arcana. A black box aerated by wafting unseeable winds of wisdom.

And I have come to the same ageless realization that I’m sure my forebears came to. And that is, my grandparents were full of bullshit. And more importantly, I realized that my youth made me blind to the ignorance of my elders.

“Wait‘ll you get to my age,” is a magic bullet explanation that has stood the test of time for countless generations.

Are your grandkids harassing you because you voted for Donald Trump? Just wink at them, give them a wise look, and say something like, “You know, when you’re my age you’ve learned some things that just can’t be explained to young folks like you. But you’ll understand one day, and be glad I voted for him.”

Maybe some youngsters in your family are getting on your case for gambling away your pension at the casino. It won’t work to tell them that you want to win a big pile of money so that just once in your life you can act like a bigshot and do lots of bigshot things before you up and croak. They’ll just tell you that you’re old and going to die soon, and you don’t need anything more than that pension check to carry you creaking along until it’s time for that final ride in the coffin.

Instead you have to play the mystery card. You have to give them a whiff of your black box. Your bullshit box. So just say something like, “I’ve been going to casinos all my life. I don’t make the kind of gambling mistakes that young people make. At my age I’ve learned the right way to gamble. Just wait and see. I’m going to win a big jackpot one day, and you’ll inherit it.”

That should suffice. Young folks are in constant awe of our mysterious old place. We can parlay it into excuses for all kinds of outrageous and foolish behavior. But we do have to be careful. We do have our kryptonite. We have one weakness that can get us into a world of trouble.

And that is when young people suspect us of being senile. Be on the alert when they ask you questions like, “Hi Grandpa, do you remember me?” Or, “Grandpa, what year is it?” Or, “Grandpa, why do you wear velcro shoes?”

They’re trying to gauge your memory skills. So carry crib notes on you at all times. Learn how to fake it. There might even be a book for sale on Amazon on how to cover up dementia. Hell, if there isn’t, write one. If you can remember how to write.

The last thing you need is to be dragged away from the comfort of your own house, to spend the rest of your life in some pissy, stinky nursing home. There’s too many old people at those places, and you might even have to share a room with one of them.

Never forget: It’s far better to live in the mysterious old place, than the crappy old place. So be wise, and keep the mystery alive!

Dick’s Place

My wife and I took a trip to the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Or as I like to call it, Dick’s Place.

My wife has an interest in Dick. Her grandmother was a friend of his mother. They were next-door neighbors who visited over the fence and talked about their hobby. Which was, raising exotic roses. And which no doubt involved some one upsmanship. This was when the Nixons lived in Whittier, California.

Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin that he helped his father build. Similarly, President Nixon was born in this farmhouse in 1913. His father built it in 1912, with young Dick’s assistance.

Impressed? I thought not. Okay, enough with the name-dropping. But maybe I can impress you with some research. As part of our visit to this academic oasis, I did a little research on our ex-prez. Here’s the real story on the rise and fall of Dick:

Our 37th President was actually born in Yorba Linda, California, and this is where his library is located. The Nixons had a citrus ranch and raised lemons. But they were squeezed out of business when Dick was nine. His family moved to Whittier, where they bought a gas station and small grocery store. They took Dick with them.

I suppose this is how Dick learned how to turn lemons into lemonade. His beginnings were humble and hardscrabble. His family struggled. When Dick was 14 his older brother fell ill with tuberculosis, leaving him to step up to the plate and assist with the family business. He worked hard to help out, and no doubt learned a few of the dirty tricks for survival that all struggling people must learn.

While touring Dick’s Place, I turned down a shadowy hallway and got lost. Suddenly I happened upon a ghostly apparition of our former president, napping on a chaise lounge while pretending to work. He startled me, and my reaction startled him awake. He explained that as one gets older, one has a right to take naps more and more often, to make up for all the hard work they did when young. I heartily concurred and found my opinion of this man doing a complete about-face. Dick’s ghost won me over in that precious moment.

Dick was no dickhead. He was sharp as the juice of pure lemon and got good grades in school. He impressed his rich grandmother, who fortunately died and left him a bequest to attend Whittier College. That served as a stepping stone to a full scholarship to Duke University School of Law.

Dick graduated Duke in 1937 and tried to get a job with the FBI. But he couldn’t pass the fortune-telling test, which predicted he would one day get into serious trouble with the federal law. So he had to settle for a position with a legal firm, as a practicing attorney.

A full-sized replica of the Oval Office, as it appeared when Dick was lodged in it. This is the selfsame desk that Dick used during his five-and-a-half years in office. LBJ allowed Kennedy’s famous Resolute desk to go on a traveling exhibition, and then be put on display at the Smithsonian. Jimmy Carter brought it back in 1977. This irresolution about the placement of the Resolute desk left Dick with the need to scavenge a replacement from another room in the White House.

World War II found Dick bored, flaccid, and craving action. He joined the Navy as a Lieutenant Junior Grade, and was soon immersed in the South Pacific Theater, heroically preparing manifests and flight plans, and supervising the loading and unloading of cargo from aircraft. He nearly received a Purple Heart from several paper cuts incurred on an especially busy day.

In 1946 a committee of frustrated Republicans wanted someone who could defeat incumbent Democratic Congressman Jerry Voorhis. One of the committee members knew Dick. Dick rose to the occasion and thoroughly fucked Voorhis, by painting him as a communist. Red-baiting was one of the first dirty tricks up Nixon’s sleeve, and it got him elected.

In 1948 Dick pulled out another of his dirty tricks by taking advantage of a crazy California election rule. He ran for, and won the DEMOCRATIC congressional primary. Under this crazy rule he also ran, and of course won the Republican primary. This allowed this incumbent to run unopposed for reelection. “None of the above” was not on the ballot, so naturally he won the general.

In 1950 Dick ran against Helen Gahagan Douglas for the U.S. Senate. He again relied upon red-baiting, and described her as “pink, right down to her underwear.” She riposted by calling him “Tricky Dick.” This epithet stuck with Nixon for the rest of his political career. But sadly, she and her pink panties lost anyway, and Tricky Dick became a Senator.

In 1952 a smoke-filled room of Republican bigwigs selected Dick as the running mate for presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower. They liked him for all his hard work fighting harmless American scapegoats dangerous suspected communists, while on the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Plus they thought he could help carry California.

Soon a huge scandal blew up, where Dick was accused of accepting bribes in the form of a slush fund from his supporters. Pressure mounted for him to resign from the campaign. But on September 23rd, 1952, Dick gave his famous televised Checkers speech, and won widespread sympathy and popularity.

In this speech he proclaimed that he would not resign, because was “no quitter”. And he lamented that he was just a man of modest means, and that the only gift from his supporters that he had accepted was a pet cocker spaniel that his daughter named “Checkers”.

Why it brought the populace to tears, and everyone suddenly loved Dick and liked Ike. They beat Adlai Stevenson and easily won reelection against the same Adlai in 1956. But then Dick’s long string of victories was torpedoed by a former PT boat commander.

Dick Nixon ran for President in 1960 and lost to John F. Kennedy by 84 votes. Electoral votes, that is. I won’t tell you the popular vote margin, because that doesn’t count in America.

In 1962 Dick ran against Pat Brown (Jerry Brown’s father) for governor of California. He was trounced, and after the election he announced his retirement from politics. He quipped that we wouldn’t have his dick to kick around anymore, or something in that vein.

Turns out, Dick really was a quitter.

But not for long. Good fortune once again smiled on this lemon picker from Yorba Linda, in the form of the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. Dick rose again, and stood for election in 1968. He beat Hubert Humphrey by 110 votes and became President of the United States.

Bumper stickers from Dick’s presidential campaign of 1968. I wonder what happened to the “Honk If You Love Dick” sticker?

Dick ran under the promise of getting us out of the Vietnam War. Which he did, four years and 21,000 American lives later. He accomplished many other things also, and could have been considered one of America’s greatest Presidents–if it only hadn’t been for that other thing he did.

A short-timer’s combat helmet, in the Vietnam War. Apparently this soldier loved Vietnam so much he was counting the days until he could go home and tell his friends all about it. Photo of a photo from Picturing Nam: U.S. Military Photography of the Vietnam War, an exhibit organized by the National Archives and Records Administration, currently on display at Dick’s Place from 9/2/17 – 1/7/18.

He was the last progressive Republican president. Under today’s standards I think he’d be a screaming liberal. Here are some of the things we can thank our Dick for:

  • Reformed the Post Office Department by converting it into the modern day Postal Service. This included allowing postal unions to negotiate with the federal government for decent wages and benefits.
  • Implemented the desegregation of public schools.
  • Supported the Clean Air Act of 1970.
  • Formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
  • Presided over the first landing of human beings upon the moon.

This is the actual phone Dick used when he called Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who at the time were taking a stroll on the moon. That’s space food in the middle, and a moon rock on the right.

On the left is the actual spacesuit used by Neil Armstrong when he walked on the moon for the first time. Depicted here, Neil and Buzz are on the verge of a great discovery when suddenly their phone rang.

  • Restored diplomatic relations with China.
  • Negotiated the SALT I treaty with the Soviet Union, limiting the deployment of nuclear weapons.
  • Prevented global thermonuclear war by helping Israel avert defeat in the Yom Kippur War.

So he was a man of many accomplishments, even when beset by scandal in his office.

In 1972 he won reelection by defeating George McGovern by 503 votes. But in that same year he used one of his dirty tricks to burglarize the Democratic Party’s headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. This was the dirty trick that broke Dick.

He spectacularly accomplished reelection, but spectacularly lost popular and political support. On August 8, 1974, Tricky Dick quit again, by resigning from the presidency.

Marine One. Dick flew a total of 125 times in this helicopter. This includes his final trip from the south lawn of the White House, where he famously waved goodbye from the door after resigning, while millions of Americans famously flipped birdies at their television sets.

He went from hero to zero in the last 18 months of his presidency, and transmogrified into the most reviled personage of our country. Everybody hated Dick. That was the popular thing to do.

These masks became popular on Halloween after Dick resigned. To this day they sell well every October, for reasons that confound all Halloween mask experts.

But in the 1980s and 90s Tricky Dick rehabilitated his image. He served as an ad hoc advisor and diplomat to Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. By 1986, a Gallup poll ranked Dick as one of the ten most admired men in the world. Suddenly, everybody loved Dick again.

On April 22, 1994, Dick Nixon died from a stroke. He was buried beside his wife, Patricia, at his presidential library in Yorba Linda, California. Dick’s Place.

Pat and Dick enjoyed a lifelong romance. Dick felt devastated after she passed away and he followed her, with his broken heart, ten months later. Strange presidential trivia: She was ten months older than him, so their lifespans were almost identical in length, with Dick living only five days longer.

Whatever you think of Dick now, don’t forget that we are all a basket of contradictions. There was much good in the man, in spite of the deplorable.

We can take comfort from his humble origins, in knowing that anyone in America is capable of great success. You don’t have to be the child of a millionaire tycoon.

We can also take comfort from his downfall. We see that when someone in America abuses their authority, and cheats, lies, and covers up, they can be held accountable, no matter how rich or powerful they are. (Okay, somewhat accountable. After all, he was pardoned.)

Let’s hope we continue taking comfort in knowing these things.

Death with honor.

Samuel Wilson

[Note: this is a cheap rewrite of a post from last year. If you remember it, you become eligible for a drawing to win a prize. The prize will be a chance to enter a drawing for a drawing to win the drawing of the prize that was first drawn.]

Samuel Wilson was a middle child, born the seventh of thirteen children. He came to this world near Boston, Massachusetts, on September 13th, 1766. So today is his 251st birthday. Happy birthday, Samuel Wilson!

Samuel Wilson, 1766-1854

But just who was Samuel Wilson? And why the hell would we want to give a damn about his birthday?

Well, to start off with, he was a solid American, and the descendent of one of the oldest families of Boston.

When he was a boy his family did what many American families have done. They moved, searching for greener pastures. And so they left Massachusetts and resettled in New Hampshire.

Around the same time our nation was born, and war came to the colonies. There are many things that can kill children before they reach adulthood, and war is one of them. Samuel took the risk. He joined the Revolutionary Army at age 14. But seven months later the war ended and he returned home alive, a war veteran at age 15.

Adventure has also been known to kill people at a young age. But Samuel was willing to take that risk, also. At age 22 he caught the traveling spirit, and he and his brother, Ebeneezer, headed west on foot. They settled in the pioneer town of Troy, New York.

Samuel and Ebeneezer teamed up in Troy and started a family business. At first they invested their sweat and energy into making bricks. The hard work didn’t kill them, and after this success they moved on to the laborious trade of meatpacking.

Then the brothers made a risky business decision. They leased some land along the Hudson River and built a dock. Now they were able to ship meat to buyers downriver, and throughout the country. And the risk paid off. The two men prospered. Soon their business grew so large it employed about 200 people.

Samuel Wilson got rich, living the American dream.

Many men wait until they’ve proven themselves before they start a family. At age 31, Samuel’s new fortune emboldened this rich bachelor to travel back to New Hampshire and marry Betsey Mann. She was the daughter of Captain Benjamin Mann, a Revolutionary War hero who fought at Bunker Hill. Samuel brought Betsey back to Troy, and they began adding new little Wilson citizens to the town’s population.

Prosperous family members tend to attract other family members (quite a few being leaches). And so it happened with the Wilsons and the Manns. Many of their numerous extended family members relocated, so that before long the town of Troy was abustle with brothers, sisters, cousins, in-laws, nephews, and nieces of Samuel and Ebeneezer. Samuel didn’t mind. In fact, he liked it when his little nephews and nieces saw him on the street and called out to their uncle. He was an affable man, and very family-oriented.

In fact, his avuncular ways were popular even with those who were not related to him. Samuel Wilson had become a beloved pillar of his community.

And then war broke out again. In 1812, the new United States declared hostilities against their old enemy, Great Britain. Britain was testing the muscles of our stripling nation.

Our military began recruiting, and the ranks of our army and navy swelled. And with all these new recruits came a new need. Food. The U.S. Government had to feed its growing military forces.

We often associate prosperity with peace. But it’s also quite available with war, at least for those who are strategically positioned. And Samuel and Ebeneezer were in just such a position. They subcontracted with a man named Elbert Anderson, from New York City, to provide meat from their meatpacking operation for troops in New York and New Jersey.

They stamped each barrel of meat with the initials “E.A.–U.S”. “E.A.” stood for “Elbert Anderson”. But what did the “U.S.” stand for? Nowadays it’s easy to assume it stood for the United States. But this was 1812. Our country was still very young, and so the initials “U.S.” were not quite so obvious to the average citizen.

One day a visitor to Troy asked a dockworker about the meaning of the “U.S.” initials. This dockworker was very familiar with the popular and avuncular Samuel Wilson, so he jokingly replied, “Why, Uncle Sam Wilson! It is he who is feeding the army.” Several bystanders overheard him, and they repeated the joke.

There was no internet in those days, but the phenomenon of things going viral is nothing new. It happened even back in 1812. And so it occured with the Uncle Sam joke. It went viral and spread all the way up and down the eastern seaboard. Before long, anything owned by the government and bearing the initials “U.S.” came to be called “Uncle Sam’s”.

And that is how Uncle Sam became the symbol of the United States.

Samuel Wilson died in 1854, at age 87. But Uncle Sam as a symbol continues to live on. His life is a fitting symbol of our country, because it represents the fortune that any American can achieve, with a willingness to take a risk, hard work, and some luck.

In 1961 the U.S. Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as the origin of Uncle Sam. And in 1989, Samuel Wilson’s birthday, September 13th, was designated by Congress as “Uncle Sam Day”.

So happy Uncle Sam Day! And happy birthday, Uncle Sam.

“Girls Don’t Fart”

“It must have been the dog. Girls don’t fart,” she stated as a matter of fact.

I scowled at the dog. He lowered his head and ears and wagged his tail at me. He suspected that for some reason he was in trouble.

“I don’t even like to say the word ‘fart’,” she added. “Farting is what boys do, and I’m not a boy. Don’t ever accuse me of farting, again!”

I averted my eyes from her outraged glare. I kicked the dog out and hung my head. I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I would have the nerve to accuse a girl of farting.

Girls are delicate little things who would never do something like that.

Of course girls don’t fart. Girls are like delicate flowers. They’re too dainty and feminine to do something as crude as that.

But a few minutes later I smelled it again. And the dog was outside. And I knew it wasn’t me.

That was the first secret I ever figured out about girls.

Funny Signs

When you want someone to take you seriously, put up a sign. Signs have all the authority of a deadpan official with zero sense of humor. So I always enjoy the irony when I find a sign that cracks me up. The following are a few such discoveries my camera and I have made over the years:

That’s okay, I’ve got some new clothes and shoes. Look out below!

It creates a safety hazard, you see. Makes the floors slippery.

But how else can anyone have fun riding in an elevator?

You may have guessed that I did not discover this sign in Utah.

So even if you’re too short to deface this sign, you must report your injuries.

I always get a little laugh out of this sign.

This sign appeals to rebels like me. Why, I could stare at it all day long.

The Death and Burial of Cactus Ed

Cactus Ed vomited blood, then sat at his typewriter in Fort Llatikcuf. Fort Llatikcuf (to be read backwards) was the name he gave his home in southern Arizona. Cactus Ed knew he was dying, and wished to express his wishes for his final arrangements.

As a farewell message to all the people who loved and hated him, he typed, “No comments.”

Cactus Ed had authored several bestselling books during his lifetime. These books were very influential, and helped in the passage of laws for preservation of our wilderness lands. The next time you get distracted by the scenery and step off a cliff while hiking in some heart-stopping, untouched landscape, say a silent “thank you” to Cactus Ed.

Southern Utah was Cactus Ed’s favorite spot on earth. He fought hard to protect broken-up wildlands like this, found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Cactus Ed was a controversial figure. He wasn’t just a man of words. He believed in direct action. His books promoted civil disobedience, and he was the original standard-bearer for the radical environmental movement. His work inspired the birth of anarchist environmental organizations such as Earth First! In fact, he was revered by Earth Firsters and often spoke at early gatherings of this organization.

His failing fingers managed to type that he wanted his body transported in the bed of a pickup truck.

Did you ever take a college course in literature? If so you may have been assigned to read the book, Desert Solitaire. The literary world considers it a classic of the American West. It’s Cactus Ed’s autobiography about several summers he spent as a seasonal ranger at Arches National Monument (now a national park), in Utah.

In many ways, Cactus Ed fought a losing war, as evidenced by this overlay of civilization (high voltage power lines), against orange sandstone formations in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Continuing with his dying instructions, he requested that he be buried as soon as possible, with no undertakers, and “no embalming, for Godsake.”

Before Desert Solitaire, Cactus Ed had written a novel entitled The Brave Cowboy. In 1962 it became the movie Lonely Are the Brave, starring Kirk Douglas and Walter Matthau, with screenplay by Dalton Trumbo (who had been blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s, for being a communist). Kirk Douglas played Jack Burns, a roaming ranch hand who refused to join modern society and who rejected such things as driver’s licenses and draft cards.

Cactus Ed didn’t like draft cards. He was a World War II vet who got a college education in the late-1940s, funded by the G.I. Bill. In 1947 he publicly urged fellow students to rid themselves of their draft cards. That prompted the FBI to put him on their watch list. They kept him there the rest of his life. Many years later Cactus Ed learned about being on this watch list and commented, “I’d be insulted if they weren’t watching me.”

Capitol Reef National Park, from the mountains of Dixie National Forest. One could easily stumble off a cliff while enjoying this view. Thank you for such dangers, Cactus Ed!

He typed away. He requested that he have no coffin, just an old sleeping bag, and that all state laws should be disregarded concerning his burial. In his words, “I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree.”

In spite of Desert Solitaire, The Brave Cowboy, or the TV movie Fire On the Mountain, after his novel of the same name, he is best known by environmental activists for his novels, The Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke Lives!

These novels read like bibles and manuals for anarchists. They are fictional non-fictionals, because they are based upon true events. The true events were the ecotage, or ecology-motivated sabotage, surreptitiously committed by Cactus Ed and a band of his close friends.

Cactus Ed hated billboards. And he despised heavy earth-moving equipment, especially the bulldozer, that rips, tears, and levels the earth, allowing for the “progress” of “civilization” into wilderness areas.

He and his merry band of saboteurs stalked the desert night with monkey wrenches and a variety of other tools. They sawed billboards down, poured sugar into the gas tanks of bulldozers, and dismantled parts off of any and all earth-moving equipment they could find. On one occasion they discovered ignition keys foolishly left inside a huge bulldozer. They started that dozer up, put it in gear, and pointed it toward the nearest steep cliff. It crashed and burned 500 feet below.

It was a cliff like this that saw the demise of that monstrous bulldozer.

The old war veteran typed a little more with his dying fingers. He prescribed his funeral. He wanted gunfire and a little music. He stipulated, “No formal speeches desired, though the deceased will not interfere if someone feels the urge. But keep it all simple and brief.”

After that he wanted a big happy raucous wake. He wanted more music, including bagpipes, and it all should be gay and lively. He asked for “a flood of beer and booze! Lots of singing, dancing, talking, hollering, laughing, and lovemaking.” He also wanted meat, beans, chilis, and corn on the cob to be served.

He had suffered for a long time from esophageal varices, which are veins deep in the throat that can bleed easily. They are caused by cirrhosis of the liver. A few days earlier he had undergone surgery for these varices, but Cactus Ed sensed the operation was unsuccessful. He was right.

Just ten days before he left this world, on March 4, 1989, all was going well. Cactus Ed had entertained a gathering of fans by reading to them passages from the first draft of his book, Hayduke Lives!, a sequel to The Monkey Wrench Gang.

About a week later he had the surgery, and on March 14, 1989, Cactus Ed bled to death from his throat.

He died at Fort Llatikcuf among family and friends. Before the rigors of mortis set in, these friends dutifully wrapped his corpse in a sleeping bag and loaded it into the back of a pickup truck. They drove him into the Cabeza Prieta desert, to one of Cactus Ed’s favorite secret spots. They buried him there, in an unmarked grave. The only hint they’ve given as to the exact location of this tomb are the words, “you’ll never find it.”

But his friends say they did carve a marker on a nearby stone that reads:

EDWARD PAUL ABBEY
January 29, 1927-March 14, 1989
NO COMMENT

Later that month about 200 of Cactus Ed’s friends gathered near Saguaro National Monument near Tucson, Arizona, and held the wake he requested. A second, much larger wake was held in May of that year, just outside his beloved Arches National Park, and several notables spoke at that wake.

Cactus Ed left behind a wife, several ex-wives, and five children from different marriages. And as for the afterlife, he left us this message from his book, Desert Solitaire:

“If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture – that is immortality enough for me. And as much as anyone deserves.”

The Dirty Devil river, near Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Cactus Ed hated the Glen Canyon Dam, and often railed against it. He bemoaned the loss of scenic Glen Canyon and its tributaries, such as the Dirty Devil river, which were swamped by the dam(n)’s Lake Powell. This photo was taken after a long drought that caused Lake Powell to recede and that resurrected the Dirty Devil to it’s prior magnificence.

Retirement For Kids

“A Boy and a Girl With a Cat and an Eel,” by Judith Leyster, circa 1635.

You’re 12 years old. Puberty has just begun, or it’s just around the corner. Now is the time to start planning your retirement.

Kids, if you plan well you may retire by age 30 or 40. And then you won’t have to work all your life, like your poor dumb parents.

Here are some things you can do right now to plan your retirement:

GET STERILIZED

That’s right, get a vasectomy, or get your tubes tied, just as early in life as possible. Children can cost more than new cars or houses, and this can make it difficult or impossible to save for your retirement.

Besides, these days children are a luxury, unlike a few hundred years ago. Back then they were an effective retirement plan for parents. Parents put them to work on their farms and used their labor for support so that they could kick back in their old age and take it easy.

But nowadays we have Social Security. Parents must rely upon that because it’s very rare for a child to support their aging parents, in these modern times. Hell, it’s almost as rare for their ungrateful offspring to make a phone call, or send them a card.

Children also contribute to global warming. Every human being tramples the earth with a large carbon footprint over the course of their lifetime. So there is no more effective way to reduce your carbon footprint than to refrain from producing human beings. So if not for your retirement, then at least for the purpose of saving the Earth, get yourself sterilized.

QUIT SCHOOL

School’s a drag anyway, so why do you keep attending? You’ll be better off if you stay at home and educate yourself. You can get about six years of public education in one year of self-study, as long as you stay away from video games, smartphones, and the opposite sex.

If you study hard, you’ll be able to test out and get your high school diploma or GED by the time you’re 13. Then you can get a job and begin making some real money. This will give you a big head start on your retirement as you’ll be working while you’re still young and strong, and can easily handle lots of overtime.

STUDY FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

Pick up some good books on financial management and investing, and spend a few hours studying them. None of the many hours of hard work you do from age 13 and beyond will amount to a hill of beans if you don’t know how to save and invest the money you make. A tiny investment in self-study time will save you from fribbling away many thousands of hours of your future labor.

AVOID MARRIAGE

At least 90% of the population likes to spend, spend, spend money. So if you get married there’s a very good chance you’ll end up with a spendthrift for a spouse. Stay single, or at least get a pre-nup, so that you can enjoy the financial security that comes from spending sensibly.

AVOID POLITICS, CAUSES AND CHARITIES

You’ll never change the world, in spite of what you hear all the time in school. But after you retire and have plenty of money, you can always try.

Until then, be your own cause and charity. Avoid controversy. Get all the free stuff you can. Work hard and save harder. And take every opportunity the world offers, for making and saving more and more money.

And then, maybe then, you will be able to retire before the first gray hair appears upon your head.

A Spontaneous Chemical Reaction in the Midst of a Desert


It was high noon at the High Moon Pizza Cafe. The desert sun outside desiccated the rocks, cacti, and Joshua trees. But inside a swamp cooler purred away, refreshing each new customer who staggered through the front door.

It was 98 outside and 88 inside. The swamp cooler only took about 10 degrees off the heat. But it felt like the Antarctic for those seeking refuge from the flaming overhead sun.

This refuge was her place of employ. While El Sol baked brains outside, she baked pizza pies inside. And she waited on zombies. The zombies were her customers. They were the desert rats who staggered through the front door in a state of brain-baked dyscrasia, and as delusional as the heat haze on the horizon.

She was practically a zombie herself, from the effect of the pizza ovens. This heat on the brain plays tricks on people. It boils the cerebral hemispheres, fries the neurons, and sizzles the synapses. And it makes possible a phenomenon between two encephalons that is known as a spontaneous chemical reaction.

Her 22-year-old face and figure were not beautiful, just pretty. Plainly pretty. And then only under cooler circumstances. But today all shreds of prettiness washed away from her.

Her face was enwreathed with sweat. It dripped in beads down her forehead and stung her eyes, burning them red. It formed droplets under her nose, lips, and chin. And it ran rivers down her bare neck, shoulders and meaty arms.

She wore a thin, green, cotton tank top, soaked in moisture. The decolletage of this bodice exposed a hint of sweaty cleavage. Below this beaded valley rolled sweat-stained green hills, and below each of these hills, trapped heat unleashed runnels of perspiration that streaked the fabric of her top from her bosoms to her waistline.

He poked his head through the cafe door, attracted by the 20% discount he’d heard about, for first responders. Then he wiped the sweat off his brow with the palm of his hand, and staggered inside to join the zombies waiting in the queue. He stood behind two other customers and slowly shook his head a bit, trying to clear and orient his heat-hazed mind.

She glanced over their heads and caught sight of the face of this man who was last in line. It struck her like a shot of adrenalin. Her heart flip-flopped. A mysterious, volatile element surged through her internal chemistry.

One millisecond later: Flashpoint!

Then: Explosion!

And suddenly she knew she had glimpsed the face of her future husband.

He was 24 years old, of towering stature, and in peak physical condition. He sported upside-down sunglasses perched atop sweat-soaked auburn hair, which was neatly trimmed around salty wet ears.

He was an EMT, dressed in a close-fitting blue shirt, mottled with blotches of moisture. A black web belt cinctured the narrow waistline of his pants, which stunk of perspiration. A 2-way radio clipped to this belt could quickly drag him back outside into the smoldering heat, to assist at the next car wreck, heat stroke, or other emergency. He prayed to all the gods that this wouldn’t happen until he’d had at least 30 minutes of respite in this cool refuge.

He was a handsome man, at other times, when his sudoriferous skin did not pour waterfalls all over his body. He was for sure much better looking than she. And his income as an EMT was far higher than her fast-food slave wage.

He was cool, magnetic, and possessed of savoir-faire in other seasons. But not so much during the withering heat of the desert summer. However during the fall, winter, and spring, this young man had much more going for him than that young woman.

His zombie eyes were transfixed on the hot pizzas in a glass display, and failed to notice the overheated young lady standing behind them. She finished with a customer. He moved up a step in line, and as he stepped he directed his bleary eyes over the head of the zombie before him, and focused on her perspiration-pocked face.

An electric frisson traveled up his back. He suddenly felt a little queasy and faint. His knees buckled, and the upside-down sunglasses dropped off of his head. He caught them with clammy hands, and fumbled nervously with them, almost jabbing out an eye, until he finally gave up and stuffed the shades in his pocket.

He was plunging into love. He knew it. But he couldn’t explain why. And he couldn’t stop it. His heart practically pounded out of his chest. He couldn’t pry his eyes off of this woman swimming in the product of her own sweat glands.

EMTs are expected to be calm and unflappable in the face of any situation. He wondered what was happening to him. How could such a plain-looking, sweat-drenched woman unhinge such a powerful response in him? Was it the heat?

Of course it was the heat. Heat that induces spontaneous chemical reactions.

He’d managed to remain single up until now, but this happened too quickly to put up any defenses. Besides he felt too weak from the heat to resist. Nature, in her enigmatic, ruthless ways for ensuring reproduction of the human animal, was winning.

She finished with the customer then caught his eye. She smiled with a twinkle of excitement, as beads of moisture dripped from her chin.

“Sir, may I take your order?”

Black Book of Satan (book review)

Are you into chaos? Wanna learn black magick, or take part in orgies? Willing to catch a few STDs? If so then Satan worship may be just the thing for you.

I’m familiar with the Bible. I grew up with it. But I’ve never seen the Book of Satan until just recently. No, my eyes did not turn into cinders of smoldering coal and drop out of my skull the moment I opened this book. Nor have I been haunted by cacodemons in the middle of the night. Nor does my head spin around 360 degrees.

I’m not superstitious, so maybe that’s what has saved me. But I am curious. Any book purporting to come from Satan is enough to give most people the collywobbles, wambles, and chilly willies. And that just piques my curiosity more. You know, forbidden fruit and all.

But I always thought such a book was a myth. So imagine my delight when I discovered I could download this sinister text from the internet, in pdf format. You too, can download it, at this website: http://www.o9a.org/wp-content/uploads/Black-Book-of-Satan.pdf.

This particular book of Satan portrays Satanism as a practical philosophy, where individuals can enhance their lives through the use of “magick”, to achieve their desires. By the way, that’s the archaic spelling of “magic”, perhaps intending to reflect the age of this philosophy. Or perhaps reflecting that Satan doesn’t know how to spell.

21 Satanic Points

Early in the book you will find “The 21 Satanic Points”. These are sort of like the 10 Commandments, except they come from the devil, and there are 21 of them.

Point #1 reads: “Respect not pity or weakness, for they are a disease which makes sick the strong.” This kind of gives you an idea of how the remaining 20 read, so I won’t go through them all. However, I found it interesting that some of the maxims are cliches I’ve heard before, outside the circles of Satan.

For instance, Point #7 reads, “Build not upon sand, but upon rock. And build not for today or yesterday but for all time.” This kind of echoes Matthew 7:24-27 of the Bible, where Jesus advises to build your house on rock and not sand. Was Jesus in league with the devil?

And then there’s Point #21, which reads, “What does not kill, makes stronger.” Hmm, I think I heard this one in basic military training. Which confirms to me that basic training is one of the levels of Hell.

Two Books of Satan

Apparently there are at least two books of Satan. One book contains practices that individuals can engage in, in order to take advantage of magick and get the things they want. The other book (this “Black Book”) explains how to practice in a group. It mainly contains rituals performed in a temple or outdoor setting, to draw on the dark powers of the devil.

The Black Book of Satan instructs how to set up a temple, what sort of incense and candles to use, and so forth, so that you can do everything properly, the Satanic way. Then it gets into the liturgy of the rituals themselves.

Rituals

Rituals include: The Black Mass, The Pledging (Satanic wedding ceremony), The Ceremony of Birth (for mothers named Rosemary, I suppose), and the Rite of Initiation.

Nearly every ritual in this book involves some sort of sexual activity. The descriptions rival any book of erotica. The Priest or Priestess often lies naked on an altar. Someone designated as a “Master” or “Mistress” also take part in the ceremony, while the congregation, naked beneath black robes, observes and chants.

Often the officiates of the ceremony perform sex acts on each other, in front of the congregation. Then when they are finished, the members of the congregation lose their black robes and dance around naked, in a counterclockwise rotation. After a bit, these naked worshipers abandon all form and engage in chaotic, orgiastic sex, while feasting on a banquet of food.

That’s typically how a ceremony goes, although the details differ somewhat with each ritual.

The Death Rite

I’ll give you an example by describing “The Death Rite”. The Death Rite is a ritual for wishing death upon someone, whom the book names “N.N.” for the nonce. You can fill in the blank with any name, because the actual name used is one that a member of the congregation has submitted. This is a person, any person, whom that particular Satan worshiper hates and would like to see dead. Or who knows, maybe they just want to collect on life insurance, end a marriage, or win an election.

In this ritual the Priest dresses in black robes, while the Priestess lies naked on the altar. The Mistress dresses in sexually alluring crimson robes. The congregation dresses in black robes with crimson cords.

Black candles are placed on the altar, a musky incense is burned, and a small wooden coffin is placed near the altar with a handful of graveyard earth piled upon it. No kidding. These kooks really dig up dirt from a cemetery for this ceremony.

A small wax effigy made in the likeness of N.N. is placed on the womb of the naked Priestess. This effigy is made to a size that will fit into the wooden coffin.

The Mistress rings a silver bell 13 times to start the ritual.

The Priest chants, “I will go down to the altars in Hell.”

The congregation chants back, “To Satan, the giver of life.”

The Priest then begins reciting a parody of the Lord’s Prayer, beginning with, “Our Father which wert in heaven …” (“Father” being Satan, who fell from heaven).

The Priest turns and fondles the Priestess, then he and the Mistress begin a series of chants with the congregation, including: “Agios o Satanas!” (meaning “Saint the Satan”.) “Satanas – venire!” And “Ave Satanas”.

Then the Priest gets into the meat of the ceremony by making the sign of the inverted pentagram over the congregation, and declaring, “We, the spawn of Chaos, curse N.N.”

All: “We curse N.N.”

Priest: “N.N. will writhe and die!”

All: “N.N. will writhe and die!”

And futher chants back and forth, such as:

“By our will, destroyed.”

“Kill and laugh and then dance to our Prince!”

“N.N. is dying!”

“N.N. is dead!”

“We have killed and now glory in the killing!”

“The Earth rejects N.N.”

At this point the naked Priestess places the wax effigy of N.N. into the coffin. The congregation begins dancing “counter sunwise” (counterclockwise) in a circle, chanting the Diabolus.

Then the Priest has sexual intercourse on the altar with the Priestess while the congregation clap their hands in approval, chanting ‘Ave Satanas!’ After the climax, the Priest withdraws, and the Mistress kisses the Priestess on the lips. The Mistress then kisses each member of the congregation.

The Priest, after this, makes the sign of the inverted pentagram over the coffin, declaring loudly: ”N.N. is dead and we all have shared in this death. N.N. is dead and we rejoice!” This is a cue for the Priest and the congregation to laugh.

The Mistress then takes the Priest’s penis in her mouth until he is erect again. Then she shouts: “I who bring life, also take!”

Soon after, the Priest declares: “Feast now, and rejoice, for we have killed, doing the work of our Prince!”

An orgy of lust then ensues, concluding the ritual.

The next morning everyone wakes up with itchy crotches and a burning sensation when they pee. But that’s my conclusion. The book makes no mention of STDs.

Recruitment

Toward the end of the Black Book of Satan, suggestions are given on how to recruit new members, and how to become a Satan worshiper yourself.

New members are recruited by luring them to rituals. Sex is often used as a lure, by inviting them to an orgy. Or they can be promised a lesson in magick. I can understand falling for the first lure, but you’d have to be a real nerd to fall for the second one.

But it isn’t easy to join the ranks of chaos and evil.

Initiates into Satanism must undergo a probationary period of several years, under the guidance of the Master or Mistress. During this time the Master or Mistress teaches Satanism to them, and tests their knowledge. It’s just like being back in school. Which figures, because school was another level of Hell, in my opinion.

Initiates may also be required to put themselves into dangerous or illegal circumstances. The book warns that some will die or be imprisoned.

Gulp!

But those who manage to survive or evade arrest may eventually become full-fledged members. Lucky bastards. I hope they’re grateful.

Instructions are also given for how to establish a Satanic group. And there is instruction on how to self-initiate, just in case someone has a hard time finding a Satanic group in their area. Gee, you’d think you could find all kinds of them in the Yellow Pages.

When someone joins the legions of the devil, they must adopt a new temple name. The very last pages of the book contain suggestions for names.

Examples for men: Oger, Hacon, Serell, Noctulius, Athor, Engar, Aulwynd, Algar, Suevis, Angar, Wulsin, Gord, Ranulf.

Examples for women: Sirida, Eulalia, Lianna, Aesoth, Richenda, Edonia, Annia, Liben, Estrild, Selann.

Take note of these names, in case you frequent online dating sites.

My Conclusions

The Black Book of Satan purports to help members fulfill their potential through the dark powers of magick. But I believe it actually weakens their potential.

Apart from catching some sort of hideous venereal disease, initiates run the risk of dying or being jailed, due to the diablerie required of them. But even if they make it through that gauntlet, they can fall under the blackmailing control of a Priest or Priestess.

They’ve committed crimes and can now be induced to go deeper into lawbreaking. They can be drawn into a criminal syndicate. Their criminal actions make them vulnerable to being manipulated into causing more and more harm to others for the benefit of the Priest or Priestess.

This is the same pattern found in other kinds of criminal gangs. You rob, steal, and kill to benefit the gang leaders. In return you get to live the life of a fugitive, while feasting on any crumbs of pleasure rewarded to you from your boss.

In my view, Satanism is a tragic, suicidal path that has little chance of leading to self-fulfillment. It deprives followers of safety and security. It steals away their liberty. And ultimately, it leads worshipers on a dark path toward their own self-destruction.

Maybe that is why the book is black.

Symbols found within the Black Book of Satan. They are somewhat similar to the doodles of Donald Trump.

Pet Heaven

Harry Hertzer donned his construction helmet and strolled nonchalantly toward the building. He stopped and routinely waved a signal to the crane operater. The heavy extensile arm slowly swung toward the building Harry stood beside, while dangling a large air-conditioning unit fastened by ropes.

Harry was lazy and failed to follow the safety rule that required him to stand outside the arc path of the crane’s payload. As the a/c unit passed directly above, the ropes snapped and a ton of metal crashed down upon Harry’s head, smashing him like a corn chip.

He was looking up when he saw it speeding down toward his face. Then the scene quickly changed to a dark vortex, like a tunnel, and he felt himself being pulled up through this tunnel. Suddenly a bright light appeared in the distance. It was whiter than white, and it grew bigger and bigger as he drew closer and closer to this refulgent orb.

Finally he found himself next to it, bathed in celestial light. It seemed he was able to communicate with this being of light, mind-to-mind, without words. I will attempt to translate this superlunary dialogue, so that you, the sublunary reader, can comprehend as best as possible.

“Who or what are you?” Harry asked the being of light.

“I am Lassie!” proclaimed the being. “I’m the dog you owned when you were a kid.”

“Lassie? Really? Is that you, Lassie?!”

The being gave Harry a familiar bark that helped him recognize this incorporeal canine.

“Lassie, it really is you! Huh, I never thought animals could go to heaven.”

“Oh yes,” Lassie yipped. “All living creatures go to heaven after they die. There is no difference between you and me, Harry. No one soul is superior to another. This is where we all live most of the time, as equals, while only occasionally going to places like Earth where some beings are able to dominate other beings.”

That concept of dominating stimulated something distant in Harry’s memory. “What happened to you, Lassie?” he asked. “The last time I saw you was right before you disappeared.”

Lassie gave a deep, almost imperceptible growl. “Don’t you remember? You kicked me. It was the last time I allowed you to kick me. After about a thousand kicks, even a dog grows tired. So I ran away from home. The next day I was crossing a highway when a big truck ran me over.”

“Oh.” gulped Harry, and he hung his head.

Suddenly a panoramic vision of his life unfolded before his eyes, and Harry viewed every instance where he kicked his dog.

“G-Gee, L-Lassie, I am s-so s-so sorry I did that to you.” Harry stammered.

“Not good enough!” Lassie barked and howled.

Suddenly he felt a violent kick to his midsection, and experienced the sensation of flying way up through the air a great distance, then smacking the ground with a flesh-bruising thud. Then he felt as if he was being run over by a large truck tire, and heard the crepitation of his own bones as they crumbled beneath the weight of the wheel.

The pain was so intense it overwhelmed him, and it took a good long time for Harry to pick himself off the hard surface he lay upon, and stand upright again. But then, as soon as he stood up, it was WHAM! He was kicked yet again, and experienced the same sensation of flying through the air and then being run over by a truck tire, just like before.

Over and over a thousand times this pattern of kicking, crushing, and terrible pain repeated itself, until it finally sank in to Harry, and he understood what he had put poor Lassie through during his puppy’s brief sojourn on earth. Harry felt horrified about his past actions.

As soon as this epiphany infiltrated his mind, Harry found himself hurtling through a dark tunnel again. Up ahead a being of light awaited. Then he stood next to it, bathed in its radiant-white rays.

“Wh-Who or what are you,” a wary Harry asked.

“Don’t you remember me, Harry?” the being of light responded. “I’m Dolly, one of your cats. You know, the one you set on fire when you were 20 years old?”

The moral to this story is that nothing separates us humans from other living creatures, other than the fact that we have different physical forms, and supposedly more advanced brains.

So treat your pets well. Give them a good life. Because you never know. After you leave your human form, you may just end up in pet heaven.