September 12, 2009
Pete, you suggested I read Gold Coast, by Nelson DeMille. I just finished reading it. The book was very stimulating, entertaining, thoughtful, and well-written, and I plan to read the sequel. I thank you for the suggestion.
The main lesson I drew from reading it was not to get involved in a ménage à trois with a Mafia don and my wife, not a kink I am likely to pursue. (My wife has made it clear to me that if I am not faithful to her, I am not likely to live for a long time. I don’t think she would bother to hire someone from the Mafia to help her hit me.)
I presume you are adhering to the same sensible policy in regard to your lovely bride.
Pete, in turn I will suggest two possible books for you to read. They are not exactly like Gold Coast and I don’t know if you will like either book, so please don’t put out a contract on me if you read either and find you don’t like them.
One is called Vertical Run, by Joseph Garber.
The other is Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry.
David, on more than one occasion, you have suggested I read The Road to Wellville by T. Coraghessan Boyle. I just checked it out of the library and I have started reading it.
It does indeed seem to relate in a deep way to my family’s history. (My paternal grandfather was a big fan of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.) Although I have only started reading the book, I do already sense a connection and it does bring back moving memories.
July 6, 2009
Almost a year ago, David said:
I’m thinking that your aid campaign is what turned my life around. You’ve got a powerful tool there. Use it wisely.
I started what I called a “shareware” program where I sometimes send $5 to someone who is blogging and evincing some distress. David, Waxingstrange, and more recently a person on worldmagblog, the evangelical Christian web site, have all been recipients of my tiny postal mail donations.
In each case the recipient reported some benefit.
Here is my thinking.
1. All human beings are crazy. We are crazy because of our self-awareness of our mortality. (Becker) There is no cure for our condition. Religious belief is the most common method of alleviating it.
2. There are many sub categories to our craziness, such as the “I’m no good” syndrome (original sin).
3. Two common symptoms of the I’m no good syndrome are the “I am ugly,” and “Nobody loves me” feelings. David, for example, suffered severely from these symptoms, though he is not ugly and people do love him.
Here’s my theory. It is based on “cognitive dissonance” theory. This theory suggests that humans resist holding contradictory ideas in their minds. So if a person thinks, “I am ugly,” and a beautiful woman sleeps with him, he then thinks, “She is only doing this for my money.” This issue is complicated by the fact that in some cases the conjecture may be true. I don’t think like a woman, but the a woman may think, “He only loves me for my body.”
It may take a fairly strong and unexpected shock to break through this resistance. In Zen Buddhism, the master sometimes “slaps” the student to force him into a new awareness. Apparently, sometimes getting five dollars in the mail can sometimes have the same result. It’s only good for a few days, though.
May 26, 2009
My father served in the military during World War II as a sergeant in India. The United States feared that Japan would invade India. As Japan invaded other places than India, my father was not exposed to combat.
He once said to me, “I learned that there is the right way to do something; the wrong way to do something; and the Army way to do something. God help you if you are in the United States Army and do it some other way than the Army way.”
My youngest brother enlisted in the United States Navy, serving as a weatherman. He did not serve at a time where he would have been in danger of being exposed to combat. After he left the Navy, he did nothing in regard to the weather. A couple of years ago, he left home in the middle of the night and wandered the streets until picked up by the police. He was subsequently diagnosed as bi-polar. Perhaps he was under the weather.
During the Vietnam War, I was called up for the draft. I passed the physical exam. I passed the mental exam. [Why?] The birth of my daughter made me eligible for a deferment. I took the deferment but resisted the urge to name my daughter “Deferment.”
I don’t feel guilty for not serving in Vietnam For one thing, I would have been the wost soldier in the history of the United States military. However, I don’t feel great about it either when I think about the thousands of Americans who were drafted and who enlisted, many of whom were killed, many of whom were injured, and many of whom had their lives disrupted and damaged.
The only other relative I know of who served in the military was my mother’s stepfather, Alex, whom I remember as a dour, taciturn man who owned and drove an old school bus instead of a automobile as his personal vehicle when he and my grandmother retired to California after selling their farm in Indiana.
My mother said that Alex had served in the Russian army during World War I, where he spent most of his time as a soldier trying to stay as far away from combat as he could.
I always thought of him as a sort of Ukrainian Corporal Švejk, the leading character in the Catch-22 of the First World War, The Good Soldier Švejk.
May 13, 2009
I affectionately refer to my daughter’s partner (birth mother of the delightful Random Granddaughter) as her out of law partner because the two co-moms have chosen not to try to form a “gay marriage” or even a civil union, though they have taken careful steps to put their family on a solid legal basis. (For example, my daughter has changed her last name to her partner’s name and has legally adopted RG. Although dad [sperm donor] remains involved in RG’s life, he has given up his legal rights to claim “dadship.”)
Mark’s brother in law was legal in law but apparently a creep in the family, legal or not.
Unfortunately, Mark’s genetic younger brother was a brother-in-law but also an outlaw, as I shall relate in story #3.
I don’t know how much the mental illness of their mother contributed to the situation, but Mark’s brother grew up to be a career criminal. He already had two “strikes” (arrests and convictions for serious crimes in the state of Washington) at the time the story takes place, meaning that another conviction would have lead to life in prison.
One day Mark received a phone call from his criminal brother’s cell phone. His brother told him that he had been in an auto accident and he needed Mark to come to the location of the accident immediately. The call made no sense to Mark, but he followed instructions.
He found his brother’s car off the road, rolled over in a ditch. He brother was trapped inside and badly injured. Mark didn’t understand why his brother hadn’t called 911 on his cell phone, but the brother gasped out that he needed Mark to remove a gun hidden in the car and dispose of it before he called an AID unit. Mark followed the instructions and took the gun out of the car, called Rescue, and left the scene and disposed of the gun before the AID car, ambulance, and most crucial (to his brother) police arrived.
After being rescued, Mark’s brother wasn’t arrested for being a felon in possession of a gun (which would have been the third strike on his criminal record and led to a life sentence) but he was now a paraplegic. So he wasn’t a prisoner for life, in the legal system but now he’s a prisoner for life in the medical system.
December 5, 2008
My wife had an innocent childhood. This is strange to me because her family was full of conflict and turmoil. Apparently she created a bubble of innocence around herself as a child. As a child, she was fond of her family’s dog, George, and she loved her personal cat, Perry, quite dearly. Perhaps George and Perry helped create the bubble of innocence around my wife when she was a child.When she became a teenager, reality began to leak into her bubble of innocence. Some of the experiences that caused leaks in her bubble of innocence included:
1) She met me [in a ludicrous fashion I already related].
2) She demonstrated independence toward her mother, a person of many good qualities, but a very insecure and easily threatened person, who reacted very badly to her “innocent” daughter starting to grow up. For example, she wore black pants, which her mother interpreted as beatnik behavior and rebellion.
3) She moved out of her mother’s house and into her own apartment and got a job as a file clerk [story of 2 and 3 still to be told].
4) She discovered the world is rather a nasty place, in part by watching the news, and became depressed.
5) She married me.
In general, my wife avoids getting depressed most of the time. As far as I can figure out, she is too ornery to get depressed. If I figure out a way to get a few hundred dollars not needed for our survival, I will buy her a chainsaw and a pellet rifle, providing a couple of outlets for her orneriness.
Also, she is a very aesthetically sensitive and tidy person. She arranges her environment to her satisfaction. Seeing beautiful things in order helps keep the glooms away.
Finally, she is always trying to keep me in order. This is a never-ending project, something like rolling a stone up a hill, and keeps her quite occupied. For example, she frequently notices that I disordered something, and tells me to put it back in its proper place.
On our honeymoon, my wife and I engaged in an activity that occasionally produces children. I confess producing a child was the last thing on our mind at the time. We even took precautions. Who would have thought we would have been so lucky?
We thought that we would produce a child who would have a happy childhood. Probably my daughter’s childhood qualified as close to Not that bad, which is probably as good as it gets.
July 30, 2008
They had arranged a self-defense pact with the few remaining neighbors to keep an eye on each other’s properties if one group of homesteaders traveled to the mainland for additional supplies.
Besides depending on armed and watchful neighbors, the pod also relied on traps and mines to protect their territory. Yoshi, skilled with the use of surreptitious weapons, had booby trapped the land around the homestead with pitfalls, snares, and mines. They had decided to make a trip to the mainland to see what supplies they could bring back to help see them through the uncertain future. They had brought both cash—in the form of gold coins—and weapons, unsure which they would need.
Circumstances had proven they needed both. First they had gone to a large pharmacy on the mainland and purchased a variety of medical supplies. Then they had headed toward a large sporting goods store to stock up on additional weapons, ammunition, and other survival gear. Unfortunately, as they were in the store, they discovered others approaching with similar goals and little willingness to wait patiently in line for the rapidly diminishing supply of vital items.
Following Mia’s quick-thinking directions, they fired some shots in the air, told everyone else in the store to get down on the floor, and left quickly. As they left town and headed into the woods, they observed several armed people tracking them purposefully. They opened fire on the pursuers. Several fell; several fled. One of the fallen was still alive.
Chad, their interrogation expert, quickly persuaded him to tell how many were in the party. “It looks as if there are three more alive,” he warned the others.
When they reached the bluff down to the beach where RG waited in the boat, they avoided using the trail, instead using their machetes to cut through brambles and berries. Two of their pursuers, thinking to head them off, raced down the path, falling victim to some of Yoshi’s artfully hidden traps.
When they reached the ship, they found RG eagerly awaiting them, with the engine already running and ready to go. Although wind was the main source of propulsion in these gasoline-scarce times, the boat was also equipped with a motor for those times when speed was of the essence.
As they quickly loaded the supplies on to the ship and prepared to leave, Mia called out, “Watch out!” The last of their pursuers had approached underwater and was now climbing over the side of the boat to attack them on deck. RG whirled, kicked, and chopped. Mia fired once; just to be sure the idiot pursuer was really dead; they then tossed the body overboard. They quickly sailed from the inlet where RG had concealed the boat. As soon as they were safely away from the shore, they turned off the engine and used sail to head toward the island.
Chad grumbled, “We’ll have to eat berries and nuts and packaged food from our emergency supplies until our first grain crop is ready to harvest and we can hunt and slaughter some wild animals from the woods.”
“We can do worse than nuts and berries,” replied RG, as they sailed quietly through the night.
July 23, 2008
From an early age (3), Random Granddaughter has been considering her career options. In reverse order, she seems to lean toward becoming 3) a ferry captain, 2) a railroad engineer, or 1) a fire captain.
Now that she has reached the ripe old age of 4, she seems to be sticking with these career goals. However, I don’t want her to get “pigeonholed” by these fairly narrow and typecast possibilities, which might fall into the category of “feminist stereotypes.” Although she’s not much of a fashion-obsessed person yet, I do think she should consider careers where she might be able to wear pretty, feminine clothes. RG has been known to put on a dress now and then.
My wife and I will be providing daycare for our granddaughter during the last week of August because day camp is ending and her new pre-school (based in the home of one of her mommies’ friends) hasn’t started yet.
I thought I might read to her from Bedside Book of Bad Girls: Outlaw Women of the American West by Michael Rutter, a book I snatched up when I recently came across it in a library.
I was immediately struck by the picture on the cover, showing Anna Emmaline McDoulet and Jennie Stevens. Jennie, better known in her time (1890s) as “Little Britches,” showed a lamentable tendency to dress up in jeans. However, her partner in would-be crime, Anna Emmaline McDoulet, who became better known as “Cattle Annie” after she decided to take a whirl at cattle rustling, poses in the picture wearing a dress while holding a carbine by her side.
RG sometimes gets headed off before she can really get into an activity she would really like to pursue, much as Little Britches was frustrated when after the two desperadoes were pursued by a couple of lawmen, Marshall Bill Tilghman caught up with her after a long chase. Although Little Britches shot at him as he chased her, he was reluctant to shoot a woman, so he shot her horse dead instead.
She was said to have thrown dirt in his face and bit and scratched him, until he finally overpowered her and aggravated beyond all measure, gave her a spanking. (Although our family does not spank, I’m sure RG will identify with Little Britches’ frustration and humiliation.)
Although both young female desperadoes rode with the famous Dalton and Doolin gangs, they had trouble getting the male outlaws to fully accept them. The men had a tendency to let them mend their clothes and do the cooking. By the time they were sixteen, the law authorities were tired of two teenagers’ juvenile delinquency antics and both were sentenced to prison (sent from Kansas to Massachusetts).
Little Britches died of consumption a year after her release, but Cattle Annie settled down and “went straight.” In fact a descendent of her posted the following on a web page:
Cattle Annie was my aunt – she did not remain ‘back east’ after reform school. She returned to Oklahoma, married, had 2 sons (who were mainly raised by their father & paternal grandparents), divorced, traveled with the XIT Wild West Show, remarried, became a devout Christian, devoted wife & very respected member of the community. She remained very active right up to the end. She learned to water ski the summer she was 72 (after having had a broken hip), but had to give it up because it made her ‘too tired’. She went surfing with her great grandson at age 80, because according to her, her grandson was too big a ‘fuddy duddy’. She was truly a remarkable lady. She lived in Oklahoma City up to the time of her death & is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.
If the mommies don’t want me to read the Cat in the Hat to RG just yet, I suspect that the story of Little Britches and Cattle Annie would go over even less well. I will restrain myself.
June 24, 2008
We didn’t think much about different races of squirrels. But note that the squirrels in the city are gray.
When we moved to our country estate, consisting of five acres of mostly alder woods and had a house built for us, I asked the contractor, “Have you ever built such a small house before?”
Alders are to woods what dandelions are to lawns.
The contractor replied to my question, “Yes, but it was somebody’s weekend vacation home; not the home people live in year round.”
(The contractor was not being sarcastic; he is a very nice guy who did a good job; he was just answering my question in a factual way.)
I said to my wife, “My dear, we are now landed gentry.” She beamed proudly.
Squirrels and chipmunks are our nearest neighbors. The Friendly Neighbor shoots rabbits but feeds his squirrels. The squirrels have a lot of nerve. If he doesn’t feed them right away, they run up his pants leg and stick their heads into his pockets looking for nuts. He stores the supply of nuts in his workshop. One day he didn’t close the workshop door all the way. The next day, most of the nuts were gone. Guess where they went.
Mrs. Random doesn’t feed the squirrels. Our bird feeder has a baffle. Every day the squirrels run up the baffle hoping they can get through solid metal to the bird feeder. Squirrels are very smart, but often they are as stupid as people. The squirrels also scold us every day for being on their property and for not feeding them, even though they spend all day eating the seeds that fall out of bird feeder because the birds are sloppy eaters.
The squirrels that live near us and the neighbors are red. Even though they are pests, Mrs. Random considers them to be “OUR pests.”
One day, I heard my wife fussing and scolding with considerable forcefulness. I went downstairs and asked, “What’s the matter?”
She was looking out the window. She said, “I just saw two gray squirrels!”
It turns out that gray squirrels are sort of the starlings of the squirrel world. Just as starlings drive out other birds (even those that are pest birds, like English sparrows), gray squirrels drive out other squirrels. Apparently there are hierarchies of pests.
I asked, “Do you want me to shoot the gray squirrel?”
“Yes! Yes!” she said. “Don’t go out on the porch, you might scare them away. Here I removed the screen from the kitchen window. You can rest the rifle and aim better.” [This is more foreshadowing.]
One of the squirrels ran into the woods. The other, a piggy squirrel, too greedy to flee, continued eating fallen bird seed
I cocked the pellet rifle. I aimed. I have bad eyes and thick glasses; it is hard for me to see through the scope. I shot. I missed. The squirrel ran away. A few minutes later, it returned. For very smart animals, squirrels sure are dumb. I shot four times and missed. A few minutes later, my wife said, “It’s back.”
This was a REALLY dumb squirrel.
It was at the very back of the cleared area. A borderline distance for me, though six feet is borderline for me. I aimed carefully. The squirrel thrashed for a second and then lay still. I put on my shoes and went out, carrying the rifle, to examine it. Often I don’t kill my prey on the first shot. I don’t like to make the animals I shoot suffer, so I kill them as quickly as possible if I just wound them.
It’s hard to make a kill shot with a tiny pellet, so I usually have to finish them off.
On examination I could see that I had hit the squirrel in the head and it was very dead. I tossed the squirrel in the woods for the coyotes or crows. (Another terrible example of my not eating the animals I shoot, which in some people’s eyes might provide at least a little justification.)
I returned to my wife and told her the gray squirrel was now an “ex-Squirrel.” She uttered words of delight and praise.
The next day, the Friendly Neighbors were over on an errand. Mr. Friendly Neighbor said, “I heard you killed a gray squirrel with one shot. Pretty impressive.” My wife had apparently bragged about my shooting prowess to the friendly neighbors. Apparently she had provided information in a selective fashion.
I said, “Well, I completely missed the squirrel four times before I got it.” I thought, A stopped clock is correct twice a day; if Mr. Random shoots his pellet rifle enough times at a very dumb pest eventually he will look like a great white hunter.
June 21, 2008
Whenever I think of guns and hunting, John and Mary come to mind.
John and I worked for the same company for a few years, an enterprise that owns a chain of quick printing stores. At the time I worked for it, the chain was owned by a very intelligent, skilled, and troublesome married couple I will discuss in other posts.
John was a very gifted artist. His artistic talent expressed itself in two ways. For one thing, he was a talented cartoonist. I was writing some training manuals for customers just learning to use our computers; I used John’s cartoons for illustrations.
John was also a fine “fine artist” who painted quite well. He mostly painted wild life, especially ducks. He showed me a few of his paintings; they looked very good to my unsophisticated eye. Better judges than I also admired his work.
For example, in most years, John submitted an entry in the national duck stamp contest. Duck stamps are not postage stamps, but serve as licenses for duck hunters and collector’s items for some people who appreciate wildlife art. Sales of duck stamps raise money for wildlife preservation. John never won the national contest, but he had made the finals several times. As there are thousands of entries each year, making the finals is quite impressive.
John was such a good painters of ducks because he observed them very closely. He observed them very closely, because his favorite activity in life was shooting ducks.
John also had a lively sense of humor, fairly compatible with mine. For example, a stream ran along the rural street where we walked to the pizza parlor. One day we saw a few ducks paddling in the stream and John burst out laughing as he contemplated the ducks. I raised a quizzical eyebrow. John explained, “I figure if I end up in Hell, my eternal punishment will consist of thousands of ducks with guns shooting at me as I flee from them.”I met John’s wife, Mary, a few times as once in a while she picked him up at the end of the work day. Like John, she loved guns and hunting. They had two adult sons. One son was engaged in a military career; the other was a patrolman for the Oregon State Patrol. Like their parents, they also cherished guns and hunting.
They seemed like an affectionate, relaxed couple. Similar to her husband, Mary also seemed to have a lively sense of humor and a quick wit. One day John mentioned to me that when his wife had turned 40, he teased her by remarking, “I think I’ll trade you in for two 20-year old women.'”Very quick on the draw, Mary had instantly responded, “I’m sorry, John, that won’t work for you. You’re not wired for 220.”
John’s artistic talents and experience with marketing his art and hunting expeditions led him into a career in marketing and advertising. Mary’s experience with tracking and hunting had left her handy with guns, physically fit, and good at pursuing prey. She went into a career in law enforcement. When I met her she was working as a sheriff’s deputy.
They loved guns and shooting and hunting just as some people love driving fast cars, fast boats, or fast motorcycles, or flying or jumping out of airplanes, or diving in the ocean,, or pursuing other exciting toys and activities.
There is a lot of controversy about guns in our society; some people want guns mostly banned for safety issues. Other people decry hunting and shooting birds and animals. At the other extreme, there are people, such as many members of the National Rifle Association, who consider the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution as our greatest bulwark of freedom and vigorously oppose any restrictions on use and ownership of weapons.
John and Mary fell into neither extreme. They were just fairly ordinary people who loved guns and who loved to shoot birds and animals with them. Until my recent madness with my pellet rifle, I was not much of a gun person, but I’ve never been particularly perturbed by guns or gun owners. As with any other group, people who like and use guns should be evaluated as individuals and not as a group. John and Mary struck me as perfectly sensible and responsible in their handling of firearms.
I never saw John and Mary’s house. As John described it to me, it was filled with guns and memorabilia they had collected over the years. The walls held animals and birds they had shot (fine examples of the taxidermist’s art), John’s paintings, and many fine guns (carefully unloaded).
With my sarcastic sense of humor, I sometimes wondered (but never said out loud to John), about how safe their home decorating scheme was. Even happily married couples have arguments and fights and disputes. If your house is full of every variety of firearm, doesn’t that add an extra amount of risk during a marital spat?
Sometimes people I have known as friends toss out a revelation that startles and mystifies me. One day, as we walked and chatted, John suddenly burst out with the following statement. I don’t think I had said anything to stimulate the comment, nor had any event in our environment or work life provoked it.
John suddenly said to me with some forcefullness, “When I think how terribly I treated my wife a few years ago, I am filled with shame. I am amazed that we are still married.” He offered no further explanation.
This is not the only time in my life when an acquaintance has startled me with an unexpected revelation. When astonished in such a way, I tend to remain in respectful silence rather than asking probing questions, so I didn’t question John about his surprising remark.
Had he cheated on his wife with the wife of one of rich hunters they guided? Had he engaged in physical abuse? I really don’t know, but it struck me as very dangerous indeed if your wife loves guns and knows how to use them very well, to treat her badly. It made me think there was a Hemingway story in his past. As I have little talent for writing fiction, I will leave the tale that must have been behind his remark to your imagination.
August 29, 2007
Follow-up to exurban savagery.
Probably the main reason I have not used a .22 rifle is that I have been following the lead and guidance of The Friendly Neighbors, who use an air rifle.
Also, apparently rifle hunting is not legal on our island. I am not sure how this can be, and why the NRA has not thrown everybody not in support of unrestricted gun use off the island into the ocean.
In addition, at one time my daughter worked in a medical research lab and had to off rabbits as part of the research. As a conscientious person, she carried out this task as directed, but as a gentle, kindly person she was distressed by the responsibility. Now, as a mom of a three year old girl, she has apparently had a resurgence of her gentle, kindly, “fuzzy bunny” self and is not entirely enthusiastic about her dad’s emergence as a blood-thirsty rabbit killer, or so her mom tells me. I suspect she would not be all that much of a fan of dad increasing his firepower.
I have been a bit concerned that a rabbit I shot be really dead, as mentioned in several messages. I move them around a bit to make sure they seem clearly lifeless, but I have been drawing the line at trying to take a pulse or detect breath on a mirror.
Although the Friendly Neighbor is big on using a scope, I have mixed feelings about it. At times a rabbit is wandering around where I can focus on it with the scope and aim at it, but often the rabbits are bounding out from under my feet, and the only chance I would have to get one of them would be to fire off a quick shot.
As I think Pete indicated, a rifle with just a sight might be more useful for quick aiming and firing. For that matter, a pistol would probably be better for quick shots at a bunny that’s visible for a few seconds. Unfortunately, air pistols don’t pack enough punch to really damage the bunny. Mrs. Friendly Neighbor indicated that her air pistol mostly irritates the rabbits. Now while it’s obvious that irritating a bear by shooting it with a pistol is probably not a good idea, I am not sure how dangerous it is to irritate a bunny with a pistol, but why take a chance?
Besides the two rabbits I clearly shot, and I think were clearly dead, I had a pretty good shot at one rabbit the same day. It bounded into the thick underbrush of the woods, but a couple days later, my wife detected a bad smell coming from that part of the woods, which we thought a fairly clear indication of dead bunny.
So at the moment, the score stands at two clearly dead rabbits, one probably dead rabbit, and several frightened rabbits. We have not seen any rabbits for a few days.
Mrs. Friendly Neighbor said to us, “After you get a few rabbits, they seem to get the idea you don’t want them around, and stay away for a while. But they always come back eventually, and you have to start shooting them again.
However, in the meantime, the zucchini are clearly avoiding any sudden moves and watching me very carefully. However, their strategy is to double in size overnight, while staying in one place.
My strategy is to take the zucchini to work on the mainland and leave them in the staff room with written instructions to co-workers to take take them home quickly and eat them at once while we still have a chance to survive their onslaught. Seems to work so far, as all the zuchinni I left have disappeared, though they may only be lurking in the corridor waiting for a chance to jump me and bring me down as a pack.