Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Drill it, mine it, melt it

The ongoing drama in the Arctic presages much in the battle to fight global warming. It includes, but goes beyond, the contradiction of President Obama using Alaska as an example of the horrors of climate change while at the same time calling for offshore oil drilling. Every country that has any history of Arctic exploration and usage is involved in a fight for access to Arctic resources. They want to drill and mine; they don't talk much about saving the wildlife. The United States will have its share of the pie regardless of consequences.
Someday, after the Arctic is ravaged, the battle will shift to Antarctica where that pristine landscape will truly show the devastation of resource gathering without proper clean-up and prudence. The Arctic has not been pure for over a century. Mining and oil detritus is common there. When we humans attack the Antarctic the contrast of before and after mining and drilling will be crystal clear to anyone who looks. Will enough people care?
Few of us go to the polar regions and out of sight is out of mind. When it comes to saving the earth versus government-fueled capitalism the die is cast. Big corporations can only be stopped by big government. In the words of that country song, "The race is on and here comes pride up the backstretch. Heartache is gaining on the inside."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The "Christians" who will devil us to Armageddon

            I grew up as a Southern Baptist and fell out as a teenager over the same issue that I see as the primary failure of most Christians – they do not follow the most simple advice of Jesus as found in the Sermon on the Mount. To me then and now, Jesus was advocating a humble, loving, merciful message. Jesus was a Pacifist. Jesus said to “resist not evil.” I can’t accept the current messengers who overlook the simple message of Jesus and replace it with complexity. I am still enough of a Christian to believe that the New Testament replaced the Old in matters of behavior. You can’t take and “eye for an eye” and claim to follow Jesus.
            This essay assumes some familiarity with the Bible. I won’t quote chapter and verse as if I were preaching. I want to share with you, or those of you not familiar with the subject, an introduction to Dominion Theology or Christian Reconstructionism. I’ll even point you right now to a Youtube video that can save you the reading of this blog. Here it is. This is only one of many videos on the subject on good old Youtube.
            If you don’t mind reading a highly intellectual article on the subject go here’s article on the subject. I had to take notes from that article to prepare myself to write this essay. Unfortunately, the Salon article as it exists this moment is poorly edited, but you can still get the facts from it. The article is based upon an interview with Julie Ingersoll and her book Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstructionism.
            Essentially, Christian Reconstructionism seeks to establish a society based upon Biblical Law with a huge emphasis upon the Old Testament dictates - even the most outrageous dictates such as stoning to death homosexuals and adulterers. They seek dominion over all of society, exactly as a fundamentalist Muslim would. Different Bible, same radical control. Rational Age-of-Enlightenment thinking, upon which US founding documents are based, is to be superseded by God’s Law as revealed in the Bible. Not however, the teachings of Jesus which touch upon mercy and empathy. I don’t know how these people dance around that, but believe me even Baptists do that kind of dance! The job of humans is to enact God’s will through the family, the church, and the government in order to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. The husband rules the family, the church rules all humans, and the government should do not much more than maintain a powerful military.
            These people believe that all knowledge arises from presuppositions. There is no such thing as fair, reasoned, scientific, humanistic thought. Reason is the enemy. The will of God as revealed in an inerrantly true Bible is the only true starting point for truth. You can’t arrive at truth any other way. Once again, I cannot tell how they dance around the Sermon on the Mount. I imagine they simply ignore it. Oklahoma’s famous Ten Commandment statue is right up the Dominion Theologian’s alley. Who needs all these laws based upon the Constitution and Democracy? We have God’s laws and lots of stones!
            The famous Left Behind series of books is right up the Christian Reconstructionist alley, too. They are post-millennialists – they believe that there will be an end of history, that the book of Revelations is among the biblical predictors of how it will end, and that it will end with the dominion of Jesus Christ and his believers over all else. It is the job of these believers to build that Kingdom of God. They can’t wait for God Himself to do the job. The Christian’s job is to bring about the prophesies of the Bible – including Armageddon. Speaking of Armageddon, the above Youtube link will explain to you how George W. Bush is linked to these people. In recent years there has been an interesting link between Christians and Jews. Why? Because Reconstructionist Christians believe Israel will play a major role in bringing about the End Times.
            These people are against the Constitutional precept of separation of church and state. They believe everything is religious – and not just to them. Non-believers must submit to their view of right and wrong. They are against birth control so you can’t have it.
            Understanding this stuff at it’s philosophical level is tedious, but essential because it seeps into our culture in dribbles and drabs. The recent reworking of the Advanced Placement History exam is an example of society caving in to these people. The idea of “a thousand points of light” replacing the social safety net is an example of their influence. Christian home schooling is a tool, but they want to destroy public education.
            Ultimately, I see no difference between ISIS or the Taliban and Christian Reconstructionists. They both favor barbaric punishments, the rule of preachers (Imams), male dominance, and the use of violence to achieve their ends. They are the greatest danger in the world today. They will devil us to Armageddon.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Demand public toilets or live in squalor

Buenos Aires and other thoughtful cities have sidewalk toilets. Mexico has many public toilets that cost about a dime to use. The United States has newspapers and TV stations that publicize and shame homeless people caught peeing in public.  In the US, one must go into a place of business and ask to use a toilet. I duck into fast food joints, but when I encounter the need to ask an employee for the key I'm usually ok even if the sign says "For customers only." I guess I get by because I am well dressed. And white. Homeless people are in a bind and what are they going to do? Not go?
As a society, Americans are edging toward trouble. Sooner or later I think we will begin to jail more and more homeless people for unavoidable crimes. The cost of toilets is much cheaper than jailing, but since there are privatized jails and prisons, the pressure on lawmakers will be to jail ever more people. Common sense is a tough sell.
If cities would provide many more public toilets and pay to clean them daily you would see that everybody would use them -  the middle class and the rich get "caught" in need, too. It would cost some money and we have an entire class of citizens who can afford to pay more taxes. No one gets rich without society because "No man is an island." The rich cannot always avoid the messy realities of life. What kind of a society do we want and how can we possibly have a decent society without facilities for the poorest of the poor?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sandra Bland and the curse of standing up for your rights.

It took seeing the first few minutes of the Sandra Bland ticket video for me to understand. The cop initiated a discussion about how she felt instead of simply issuing the traffic citation. Then he upped the ante by asking her to put her cigarette out. Then he simply bullied her. I don't think anything except complete humility on Ms. Bland's part could have protected her from this man. This kind of behavior can be expected more and more from the people in society who are elevated to "hero" status simply because they wear a uniform. In their minds they deserve not just obedience but also respect, not just respect but jovial politeness. Sandra Bland might have gotten away from her traffic stop if she had "yes sir" and "no-sired" the hell out of the man. Might. But her tone of voice could have become an issue, too. His attitude and her anger put them on a collision course right on the cutting edge of American racial politics.
I am reminded of a statement I read in an Eli Lilly worksheet on mental illness. According to the drug maker Lilly, "I know my rights and I will stand up for them" is a statement that indicates possible mental illness. I have already blogged about what a disgusting belief that is. It's anti-freedom; it's totalitarian, but, if you want to live on to fight another day it is an attitude you should control. Take your ticket, then go to court to fight it and make your statement there. Going one-on-one with cops is not the answer. Be polite. Then, if you must, be jovial and self-deprecating. It's wrong; it goes against your beliefs, yes. But that's how you get away to fight another day.
I've walked or driven away from police encounters with this jovial technique where I was detained and bullied for over 30 minutes, but then I'm white. The odds are with me from the start. I'm sorry to say it, but Sandra Bland would be alive today if she had "eaten crow." But then, Jim Crow is a bitter dish and poor Sandra Bland had had enough.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Fate of Dylann Roof's Roommate

By the day after Charleston's Emanuel AME church shooting I was seeing quotes from "Dylann Roof's Roommate." The poor fellow seems to have jumped right into his 15 minutes of fame - and, I think, the police. He admitted being aware of Roof's plan for 6 months. Should he have called police? Will he be contrasted to the woman who identified Roof in North Carolina and called police?
Is the Pope a socialist? (sorry) I believe the answer to all 3 is - yes.
The man should have called police at least after Roof actually had a gun in hand. But he won't get to be an "un-indicted co-conspirator." They'll paint him with guilt beyond what the man can comprehend. I'm not in that debate.
My thoughts are running, beyond the irony of his confession, to this - will the roommate be considered part of the hate crime or even terrorism? Does a terrorism charge both enhance punishment and lower standards of proof beyond a reasonable doubt? (If this blog gets hits I'll research that myself. Better- how about you leave a comment?) And let's be more clear in our culture about the laissez faire hate language of so much of the media. Father Coughlin ain't in it. If the roommate should have reported prior to Roof's possession of a gun, then there are over a hundred more haters out there broadcasting hate to untold numbers of Dylann Roof-types. They will not be indicted.
Nor will the politicians who ignore common-sense modern solutions to gun control such as mandatory insurance tied to each gun and gun locks that only respond to the owner. They will not be indicted.
The roommate will pay a price and he earned something, but just what? Will it have an impact on friends of violent people with guns to call police? Ha. I can just see the rash of folks crushed by local right-wing, freedom-loving cops.
Every mass shooting must continue to lead to rational people speaking out about solutions. Thanks to President Obama for pointing out that other leading countries in the world don't have so many of these massacres.
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..."
Let's insure each gun and require all new guns to be manufactured with personalized locks specific to the buyer. (The hand print technology is there.) Let's mandate police reports from whistleblower friends who hear of actual plans- and follow-up with suspects.
There will always be a million reasons why we can't do these things until - someday - we will do them and wonder what was wrong with us all along.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Were exchanges established by the states or by the State?

We The Poor of the United States await the ruling of our masters, the Supreme Court on the issue of federal subsidies for Obamacare. The line in the law that allowed the rabid nine to jump in talks about exchanges "established by the state." Thirty-four states did not establish the exchanges. Will the entire law be in jeopardy because of the lack of capitalization? To me, "the state" means individual states whereas "established by the State" could conceivably refer to the State meaning 'the government' in which case the Federal Government would meet the requirement. I think the entire mess can be laid at the feet of the Democratic Party. How could they have been so careless?! There is no room in law for careless mistakes. They will lose this decision and the culpable party will be lost in the translation. People will howl about the court and how it should not have accepted the case, but it's like giving a seven-foot-tall East European basketball player a set-up for a slam dunk. They just hang under the basket for this. They live for this. They'll cram the decision down our throats and all the yelling about subsidies for roads and disaster relief and big oil will be moot. The point is the Democrats blew it. Why? That will be the subject of many a book. How? That only takes this short blog by a long hair leaping unknown. Maybe it's the lower-case "s." Maybe it's just the use of the word "state" instead of "federal government."
I suspect that some lobbyist created this mess and the Democrats fell for it.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Four Burl Dunn songs with son Forest Arturo Dunn

My son Forest (1972-2008) and I did a lot of home recording together for a couple of years in the early century. Yeah, it was a special time for us. Forest played piano, keyboards, percussion (on whatever was at hand), and that excellent bass. Oh, he also sang his ass off in the background.
I've taken the digital recorder we used into studios to clean up the sound. Some of our work is on "Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs" and now I've a digital release called "Four With Forest." I went to the fine Elephonic Studios in Albuquerque and worked with Jesse Korman on these four songs. Hear the full songs here at CD Baby or here:
The EP opens with "Williwas," a song inspired by the famous Southeastern Alaska winds and crab fishing. Hey check it out below. I'd like the song to appear on The Deadliest Catch; that'd be nice. If it does I'll owe a lot to Forest's keyboard riffs. "Gale winds 40 knots, still pullin' crab pots. Captain calls all the shots; he's dry, we're not. Willie was."

The second song is "That's Why I'm So Shook" with Forest at his honky-tonk finest. "I don't need your thoughtlessness; I've grown cold to your hard caress."

I wrote "I Didn't See You" right after my first trip to Alaska on a state ferry, the Wickersham. Dig Forest's bass line and Hammond organ. "Maybe you were in a bar in New York City or loving Louisiana living with a Bourbon Street high. Maybe you were on that same boat with me, and I passed with a far-away look in my eye."
"In the End" resonates today in ways I wish it did not, but in the end, we lost Forest and all that good music he never got to play.
It's up on Spotify, CD Baby and all the usual suspects.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A beautiful law in France

I live in the country, Navajo land where people spread out and yet turn empty spaces into flea markets and sell food by the side of the road. There are two supermarkets near me, both part of large chain store operations. One of them stocks food items exactly as you would expect to see in Phoenix or Albuquerque. The other is more strictly Navajo oriented. A "traditional" Navajo meal would include mutton, fry bread cooked in lard, corn and squash. Spam is big here. Potatoes and chile peppers, too.
When I go to the other store I find these items, but there are also massive displays of mushrooms, bok choy, expensive steaks, and so many items that are unknown to many Navajos or are too expensive. I've often felt that that chain was sending items to the Rez (reservation) as a last step before dumping them and writing off the loss on their taxes. That's the American way, right, tax breaks for the large corporations?
But now France has a law in place to force food stores to give away old-but-edible foods to charity. Read about it here. Such a simple and elegant law. If such a law were to be proposed in the US we'd hear why it would ruin the supermarket economy, why the poor don't deserve free food, and on and on with the Greed and Hatred that, increasingly, is becoming the definition of American culture.
We hear that France is a rigidly secular society, that church attendance is down, wayyyy down. We hear that America is a Christian nation, that Christian charity is "a thousand points of light." Yet we have hungry children, homeless children, and precious little Christian charity. Things necessary for decent society do not spring forth, at least not in great numbers; they must become mandated by law. Perhaps some of our more forward-looking states will pass laws similar to this French law. Feeding the poor will not bring down the empire.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It's one thing to wish Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in hell; quite another to build that hell.

That Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers are using the conditions of America's supermax prison in Florence, Colorado as a plea to avoid the death penalty for their client interests me. What is done to men there is worse than death. I think that's the point and it speaks volumes about America.
Once upon a time death was the punishment for the unspeakable crime. Now, the punishment is hell. We do not assume the role of God only when we kill. No, we now claim the right to consign souls to hell. The hell of this facility, and other, American prisons is not only in the design of incarceration, it's also in the hell what prison guards, acting the role of minor devils, can get away with doing. Who is going to say the inmates don't deserve it? They are bad people. Well, except for the reality that innocent men are punished all the time. 
If the only goals of incarceration for the normal inmate were penitence and successful reintroduction to society then we would not laugh about prison rape and other prison violence. If the only goal of a supermax prison was to avoid escape it could be achieved without solitary confinement and mental torture. What is behind the desire to inflict pain and suffering to no good end? Isn't it rooted in these two extremes of human nature: barbarous tribalism and religion? The savage human wants revenge beyond what the law allows. The religious human wants to play God. 
We are not so different from a Kabul mob beating or stoning a woman to death for a crime we don't even know she committed. The inner barbarian is happy and the religious feel their bloody hands are closer to God.
The fact of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's guilt of a heinous crime does not change my argument. I am not at this moment editorializing against the death penalty. I'm asking why do we dream up fates worse than death? And why is it that mercy in America is not being preached by the Christians? I think the inexcusable death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police is directly tied to the very existence of a prison system which does not allow mercy to exist, even unto the least of these. "Whatsoever ye do unto the least of these ye have done unto me," said Jesus. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Buck It, Mr. President

Anyone who hasn't seen President Obama's 2015 White House Correspondents' Dinner speech, run don't walk to this link on youtube. What a riot! I love his "bucket list" segment. Buck It. Obama should add to this list. He's obviously in the mood.
Mr. President, release the political prisoners. You're immune to the criticism. Buck It.
Free the tortured prisoners in Guantanamo. No one else will have the political capital (nerve) for eight more years. Buck It.
Shut down all the "black" op prisons. Start with Chicago. Buck It.
Free the non-violent offenders whose only crime was marijuana possession. Buck It.
Mr. President, your legacy will not have legislative victories. You tried. We know. The media can pretend until the "End Times" that Democrats did not reach out, but I'm part of that camp that was frustrated by seeing you rebuffed and humiliated, yet still reaching out to Republicans. Buck It. Be yourself, have some fun. Buck It.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

We're out of TPP

The people who didn't want my grandson to have affordable health insurance, who want the open carry of guns, who want to sell infrastructure paid for with tax dollars to private interests, who live and breathe to give more and more breaks to the top 1%, who don't care if the Earth is despoiled by pollution -  these people, Republicans, now support Obama in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It's got to be a bad deal for the 99% and great for the 1%.

Monday, April 13, 2015

As homelessness grows - some help

Ever hear about the traveling toilet so ubiquitous in some African countries? A plastic bag. Tie the top and hurl it away. That's all most of us think of - get that stuff away from me. I am amazed that I have seen so few signs of outdoor defecation and urination. The homeless are actually doing something more than America's truck drivers. I've seen a lot of full bottles of urine tossed out by the roadside. Two solutions are appearing: portable toilets placed near areas where the homeless congregate (link here) and tiny public housing (link here).
Public Health is a concept that defies the capitalistic tendencies. In order to protect your family from disease you must provide some basic care to the needy. If you don't, their sickness can transfer to you. Is the United States going to bypass common sense until there is a public outcry? Then, are we going to take some kind of punitive action that costs far more than paying for simple human dignity?  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Meadow, a short story with streaming music

copyrights by Larry Burl Dunn

Some places, like some people, never get noticed.  No one thought of it as a little bit of country right in town.  No one thought of it at all.  The city had grown up all around it and left it behind- this bit of green grass surrounded by impenetrable bushes.  It took several twists of fate to isolate it.  The freeway came by on one side, and technically the city owned this little acre. The University bought up all the houses nearby, razed them, and built a huge new parking lot.  So here it was, a paradise for rabbits and birds.  The thorny bushes kept out dogs and even most cats. It simply was a meadow hidden in plain sight.  And so it thrived.  Downhill enough to collect
rainwater runoff in the center.  High enough for excess water to trickle away from the edges.  The ring of thorns gave way to Virginia Creeper, which shaded ferns and moss.  A rabbit breaking into this vegetation would be rewarded with sweet grasses and wildflowers flourishing in the middle of a blacktop and concrete monstrosity called a city.
Billy Bond had passed by this way often on his way from the Mission to Free Lunch. Once he relieved himself there and was gouged by the thorns. Today he needed considerably more room to hide in.  He knew he wouldn’t make it to Free Lunch’s toilets. Going back to the Mission meant dealing personally with the staff. Instead of being just another bum in the food line, he would be asking a favor and God knows what kind of extra sermon went with a favor. So Billy looked around, saw no one, and pushed his way back first into the tangle.  This didn’t get him too far so he lay down and squirmed underneath, an old beer can digging into his back.  The click of someone’s heels motivated him enough to push on out of sight in a hurry and still he was in the thorns. No way to stand up or squat or do anything that wouldn’t tear his  clothes and skin.
“Jesus,” muttered Billy, and then, on a whim he churned his legs and dug in with his feet and shoved deeper into the tangle. Now he was halfway in, but he didn’t know it.  All he knew was that he was on his way to an accident he couldn’t afford and going out wasn’t the answer.  So in he shoved.  Scrape, cut, dig, gouge went the bushes and, silently, push, push went Billy’s feet.
And then, he broke through.  “Jesus,” exclaimed Billy before he got down to business. The Virginia creeper was turning colors.  The blue and yellow wildflowers added dazzling accents in the morning sun.  “I found the Garden of Eden” thought Billy.
Billy spent that day lounging in the sun and shade, staring up at clouds and blue sky.  He was hungry, but he couldn’t tear himself away from his little Eden. He carried his pint of water in an old whiskey bottle.
 He had two rolls from last night’s Mission dinner. When it clouded up and a light rain began to fall, he put on his “poor man’s raincoat.”  This was something he’d learned bumming on the trains from an old Indian who called it a “sheepherders raincoat.”  “See,” the shameless old Indian said as he stripped down.  “You take off your clothes and put them in a grocery sack until the rain stops.”  Billy had laughed his ass off at the naked Indian, but when that rain stopped the old man dried in the sun, pulled his dry clothes back on, and laughed in turn at poor, cold Billy, soaked to the skin for the rest of the day.
It was while drying in the sun that Billy decided to live here forever.  He turned off the world and turned on his instincts. There would be no need to explain, no need to listen, no need to move on just to avoid trouble. Trouble was the ring around this little Eden. Inside there was peace and solitude.  The earth turned, the sun traveled the open space above his head, and Billy dozed and daydreamed.
There was work to be done and Billy’s daydreaming was about this work.  First, he needed a way in get in and out without tearing himself up. He needed shelter.
He needed food.  One thing about the bum’s life he’d been living was that people kept tabs on you. You can’t show up for food out of nowhere.  Only the first time.  From then on somebody knows where you were this morning, and where you slept last night. You can’t be gone all day without questions.  If you’re out of sight you must be drinking and if you’re drinking you can’t come to the Mission.  They’ll yank you right out of line and call the cops if they smell booze.  If they don’t smell it then you get a personal interview with that night’s preacher and he knows you’re a sneaking drunk and have you heard about the work camp outside town?  “We’ll meet your every need and keep you working hard.  You’ll eat well, sleep like the dead, and get strong.  No way you’ll drink or find drugs.  We’ll introduce you to Jesus.”  Sure, if Jesus is a shovel.
This was how Billy joined that next level of the homeless.  The homeless bum is still a part of society.  He sleeps in somebody’s shelter, eats somebody’s food; He goes from one place to another with a name somebody knows at each place.  He has conversations that stay on a certain level of normality or else he gets pegged as a whacko and there’s a whole ‘nother mission for THAT kind.  No, Billy was going to have to become independent, one of the invisible homeless people that disappear into the night- that materialize at times by day but have no corporeal presence to others. No more than a sheet of newspaper blowing down the street that no one stops to pick up and read or throw away. The trick is to be invisible in the midst of the city.

Billy began his first day of independence before sunrise.  He lay on his back and pushed out of paradise towards the noise of the freeway.  He washed up in the restroom of a fast food joint and then did something he never thought he’d do: He saw no one looking and jumped into the dumpster behind the joint.
 Here was breakfast.  Overcooked potatoes, still warm.
 Last nights lettuce and tomatoes, clean once you got into the middle of the mess.  Lunch. Billy wrapped everything up, listened for people, and, hearing no one, popped out of the dumpster, swung over the side, dropped to the ground and walked away a free man.  An unseen man. An independent man.
With that inhibition overcome, Billy turned his mind to shelter.  He needed a roof over his head and a bedroll. In the alley behind a strip mall was shelter - boxes, big and small from a shoe store.  The biggest boxes had held twenty or so pairs of shoes on the long trip from China. They were thick cardboard and he took four of them.  Back at Paradise there was quite a struggle awaiting him. If the brush kept out the unwanted it sure as hell could keep out four big boxes too.  It didn’t help that they were folded up.
Billy jammed them through, breaking some branches and bending others.  It took quite a while.  After lunching on lettuce and tomatoes he had an inspiration. The breaks he had made in the bushes became the start of a maze.  He broke only enough to enable him to twist and turn his way through until he was at the brink of exiting. From the outside there
was no change, still an impenetrable, prickly mass of tall bushes. But step in at just the right place and turn this way, sidestep here, twist there and a person
about six feet tall reached the inner sanctum unscathed. Billy had to memorize the route in and out it was so obscure.
And so began the drill: Don’t start outside without listening carefully; all the way out listen, look through the branches; detect any danger. If things seemed right then, poof, out sauntered Billy.  On day two he sauntered out determined to try a grocery store dumpster. In it he found a broken 25-pound bag of flour and inspiration.  That night he made a paste with flour and water and rubbed it on the cardboard. It hardened like glue.

If all you had to do was walk and sit and think about simple things you might find yourself coming up with all sorts of ideas, and so did Billy.  He learned that no dumpster was useless. Tape and broken scissors in this one, gallons of empty paint cans in another. Empty?  Billy poured and dribbled patiently and left
that dumpster with a gallon of beige paint.  Kind of a marbled beige. He got an old grocery cart and continued collecting household items. Curtains. He’d need to make a window. A doormat. He’d need to make a door.
One day while lying in the sun the police helicopter flew over. Billy lay still until it was out of sight and then just freaked out!  Shit, I have to hide this stuff, he realized.  That was the beginning of construction within the bushes. While always leaving
a thick upper layer, Billy broke lower branches and twigs.  He fit his growing house underneath. Everything fit underneath.  The meadow appeared as
usual, bird’s-eye view, but Billy’s bungalow was flourishing underneath the inner ring of bushes.  The house was about three feet high.  The exterior, hardened by flour glue and bracing, was painted that marbled beige. Additions were taped on.  Little drainage ditches were dug around the outside to carry rainwater
away. From an overflowing donation bin for Goodwill came sheets and blankets and towels. And a TV.  You never know thought Billy.
Indeed you never know. The TV was a twelve-volt model and Billy understood the red and black wires and a week later and five visits to the alley behind the auto shop, bingo!  ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS provided nightly entertainment for Billy in his garden of Eden.
So, you get the idea. Billy found his way through the detritus of modern America.  He took what he needed
from the garbage of the workaday class and enjoyed what most of them were working for- retirement.  A calm, unhurried, reflective existence. I guess some
skeptical reader can wonder about all the details, but don’t think that just because I don’t bother to relate them that Billy didn’t work through them. Dead batteries?  With luck, a battery lasted for several nights. He constantly shuttled batteries in and out. Food?  Obviously you’ve never gone dumpster diving.
Bathroom?  A series of holes dug deep and filled.
Billy stayed out of the meadow during daylight.  He could be on the edge and get warmth and some sun.  At night he could dance and tumble unseen in the grass.
And dance and tumble he did. No joyful noise escaped to draw attention.  The freeway took care of that.  No one to listen to, no questions to answer, no bedtime hour, no alarm clock.  Life was unimaginably good and
getting better.
Even a successful hobo needs some money now and again.

One day Billy passed a corner where several Hispanic men were gathered.  It was one of those home places that gets known as a place to find cheap labor for a day and Billy started hanging out,too. He got lucky just often enough to keep a bit of cash in his pocket. With the cash came a huge round of home improvement.
At the dollar store he bought a hatchet, a knife, a spoon, a fork, and some enamelware plates and bowels.
He also got some tin snips and one of those huge cans of peaches.  When the peaches were gone he cut into
the can and turned it into a stove. By burning twigs and dead leaves (at night, real hot, so the smoke wasn’t a problem) he could heat up a can of beans and make instant coffee.  One day he got ten packets of seeds for a dollar and planted a garden. Billy was getting
pretty comfortable until he noticed his little garden was getting eaten. Must be rabbits, thought Billy and he set up snares.  Sure enough, rabbits.  The first day he snared two.  One day he came home and there were three.  He set up four snares and got four.  Now what?  Turn them loose and hope they’d learned their
lesson?  Oh no, not Billy.  He learned to dispatch the rabbits into the afterlife with all the rapidity and skill of a kosher butcher.  Every night the little tin can stove was stoked and fired up for a couple of hours to boil rabbit.  When he had the money, which was usually, he added potatoes and tomatoes.  Now that
the rabbits were snared routinely, his little garden grew and squash and green beans and lettuce were available.
Billy was walking down the street with five dollars and change.  He was on top of the world.  Although not a smoker anymore, he picked up and finished a cigar someone had thrown down, still practically whole.  His head in a rush of nicotine, he looked down and saw, unbelievably, a joint. No way, thought Billy. Way. A joint.  It had been thrown down in disgust by a young man who wasn’t getting high from it.  No wonder It was mostly stems and seeds.

The joint had several seeds rolled up.  It was the young man’s last ditch attempt to get high from a bag that had been cleaned out long ago.  It was the disappointing remnant of some good stuff though, and Billy planted the seeds.
He’d started the seeds later than was ideal, but marijuana has a strong will to live.  The plants took off.
Billy soon developed a technique of training the plants to grow among the bushes.  He wove tender branches around the tough, thorny stems and carefully
kept the pot plant from ascending above the tops of the bushes surrounding his meadow.  When the buds came he pruned away most leaves.  He had pretty much nothing but buds growing and out of the three plants doing the best, only one was a male.
Can you imagine Billy’s late summer nights?  Full of rabbit stew, he watched TV.  Warm in his bedroll, he smoked a joint. Stoned out of his gourd, he danced
and rolled around his meadow, laughing and content.
In the morning he had coffee and watched the news. After a morning joint, he did what yoga he remembered, but his yoga was mostly intuitive stretching done lying down under the cover of the bushes, for Billy was never so stoned that he forgot to hide.
What is the essence of this life Billy had?  Is it criminal?  Since society defines criminality whether we accept it or not, yes, Billy’s life was criminal.
He was smoking pot.  Big time crime, that, huh?  He was living on a chunk of God’s green earth without buying it or paying rent. He wasn’t giving money to anyone for his right to exist on God’s earth.  Of
course, this too is a crime.  The crime the Indians committed for century after century until the Europeans cured them of that. The crime still committed by the homeless of the world less fortunate than Billy.
Society has tried so hard to arrest the pot smokers. Could being homeless be the next big crime? The homeless walk by every day and keep right on going. We choose not to see them I guess. God bless that. And that, of course, was why Billy thrived.
What is the essence of Billy’s life?  It is independence. He answers to no man. He meets his needs from the excess of this rich country. Like the Zen saying, he eats when hungry and sleeps when tired.
I know people who have it made and yet worry, worry, worry, all the time.  Billy does not worry.  Billy savors.  Most people would call him a loser, but he’s
got it made- made in the shade.

Perhaps feeling too confident that he was indeed a free and separate entity from the society around him, Billy unknowingly developed a routine. His routine of
morning instant coffee, TV, and a joint were harmless enough, at least as long as his fire was made in the dark and the smoke was unseen. He was always careful
to be mindful when exiting through his labyrinth that he emerged smoothly just like he had been walking along in plain sight all the time.  But, he didn’t think about using the same dumpsters every day,
passing by the same stores every day at about the same time of day.  He had a favorite bench in the park.
And it was there that his life suddenly changed.
“Hi, I’m Maggie Brown.”
“Oh, hello.”
“Well, what’s your name?”
“Oh, it’s Billy,” he answered with a raspy frog in his
“Yes, Billy.”
“So I see you every day.”
That sinking feeling.  That paranoid flash you try to
ignore and so hide.  “Really?”
“Yes, really.  Don’t worry, I just wanted to talk to
you, but hey, you smell goooood.”
“I smell good?”
“Oh come off it.  I smoke pot too, when I can get it.
I just wanted to ask you some stuff.  I didn’t know
you were a pothead.  I thought you were, like
homeless, like me.”
“You’re homeless?  You don’t look it.”
“Well, neither do you.  It takes some effort though,
huh?  I mean, I have to use public toilets and
sometimes get almost naked in there at the sink to
stay clean and stuff.  I mean I have a job, but I
can’t exactly take a sponge bath in the work toilet.
I didn’t mean to tell you all this.  I’m not coming on
to you or anything.”
“Well, I’m sorry.  I don’t have a joint on me or
anything.  I ran into a friend earlier.  He had it.”
“I didn’t come over for a joint either, but I’d …
well, anyway, listen… I don’t get enough to eat.  I
have to spend too much on clothes and gas.  I live in
my car.  How do you do it?  Can you tell me?  You
know, give me some tips?  I mean, are you homeless?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Oh, God, I’m so sorry.”
“No, it’s okay.  I mean, I sorta have a home, but I
dumpster dive.”
“So, I guess I need to do that.  I just haven’t had
the nerve.  Have you ever been caught?”
“No.  I’m pretty careful.  I look around.  I walk
around and when I think it’s cool I jump right up and
all the way in right away.  Don’t stand outside and
pick around in it or someone might see you.  Most
people don’t care though.”
“I shouldn’t care either, but I’m embarrassed.  I’m
“No, that’s okay.  I’m just over being embarrassed.
It’s nobody’s business.  It’s garbage.  If I don’t get
it it’s going to just rot. ”
“Isn’t it already rotten, sort of?”
“Nah.  You know like how they mark down milk when it’s
getting near the end date?  And then the end date gets
there and they throw it out, but it didn’t go bad just
because it’s tomorrow instead of yesterday.”
“I like that- ‘Tomorrow instead of yesterday.’ That sounds
like a song.”
“Yeah, huh?  Well, anyway, it will go bad right away
if it’s not refrigerated.  So, if you find milk you
just drink all you can.  I mean if you find it quick before it spoils in the dumpster.”
“I think I’d make cottage cheese from it and it’d probably stay good for a few days.”
“How do you make cottage cheese?”
“Well, you just heat the milk and add a little lemon juice and it curdles.  If you have cheesecloth you strain it. I used to give the whey to my dog, but now I’d drink it myself.”
“Get outta here.”
“Eating your curds and whey.  Now that sounds like a nursery rhyme.”
“Yeah, huh?”
“So the curds are the lumps?”
“What’s whey?”
“Whey do you mean?” she started.
“Oh, very punny,” continued Billy.
“Whey over ‘dere.”
“Whey over where?”
“Some whey over the rainbow.”
“Curds are blue.”
“No Kurds are brown, I think, like most Iraqis.”
Billy just lost it.  He didn’t stop laughing for a full minute, about a minute longer than he’d laughed in front of another person for years.
Whoa, Billy’s mind flashed to awareness.  Watch it.
Close up.  Dive, dive…. aooooooga.  “Seriously, what’s
“Oh.  It’s the liquid from the milk that didn’t turn into cheese.”
“Cool.  Next time I find milk I’m making curds and whey.”
“I wish I could cook.”
“Hey, you can.  So you live in your car, right?  You need a backpackers stove.  You know what, I need one too. Let’s go look at some.”
“Oh, yeah, there’s that camping store right over there.  I never thought of a backpacking stove.  I can’t believe it.”
“You just never went camping probably so you never thought of it.”
“No, I never went camping until I started living in my car.”

Maggie and Billy strolled together through the store. Billy started seriously thinking about making enough
money for a down sleeping bag. He had enough for a backpacker’s stove and, he too, couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to him before.  They discussed the merits of this one and that one and settled on a model that would burn anything- kerosene, gasoline, white gas- probably it’d run on used french fry oil too, thought Billy only half as a joke. He kept the joke
to himself, though. He’d almost let this woman in on his secret life, probably the most stupid thing he’d done since leaving the mission life behind.
Secretiveness came naturally to Billy, and he’d developed it highly since living amongst strangers in the missions. Anyway, Billy bought his stove, but Maggie needed to wait until payday.
“Well, I guess maybe I’ll see you around,” said Maggie
as they left the store.
“It was really fun.  I haven’t actually had fun like this in a while.”
“Me neither.”  Billy’s mind flashed again to awareness- you won’t see her again if you don’t speak up.  Jesus, what’s it gonna be, dude… mind?  Are you telling me to be careful or reckless? What should I
say?  But in this short pause, Maggie decided that any more hanging around would be forward and so, in that ancient rite of both sexes wanting to connect and yet
fearing to be rejected, they parted with no plan to meet up again.
It’s morning and Billy can sleep in. The new stove means no smoke to hide in the darkness. This new freedom means that Billy doesn’t have to wonder if the sky is growing a bit lighter or if it’s still just the all-night glow of the city.  He lies on his back looking at the hazy grayish hue of the sky. A crescent moon whispers to Billy that, yes,it is near
dawn.  It is getting a bit lighter. Venus and the moon.  The forgotten drone of the freeway.  A few little birds skitter in the bushes. The memory of Maggie’s laugh. Whey over dere. Billy smiles and for the first time his little paradise seems wanting. Billy is wanting, lacking.  The gray fades into blue.
The little brown birds have the most amazing fluffy red breasts. The leaves of the bushes are silver, then green and greener. Enough of this, Billy mutters
inwardly, meaning his thoughts, not the lovely dawning of a new world.
Billy turns on the morning news, fires up his new stove.  Today, after a couple cups he doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t want to get high.  Not really thinking what he wants, he heads out early. All day he looks around without consciously realizing he’s looking for Maggie.
He finds five gallons of milk in a dumpster and carries four home.  Then he’s back at the same store buying a little lemon juice in one of those plastic
Outside and guess who’s crawling out of the dumpster with that other gallon of milk?
“Hey, Maggie.”
“God, you scared me.”
“Sorry.  Pretty good technique there.  You got out
really fast.  Then you turned toward your car without acting funny.  That’s the way you do it.”
“Milk for nothin’ and the whey is free,” sings Maggie.
“I’d say the whey is clear for cottage cheese,” Billy punned holding up the plastic lemon.
“Everything but the cottage.  Oh, and a stove.”  She looked at him.  He knew what she was thinking.
“Listen.  Maggie.  You’ll keep a secret, right?”
“I don’t have anything else to keep.”
“Okay.  Listen.  I’ve got a place.”
“You told me.”
“No I mean I have a place that nobody knows about.  I
was homeless, then I found this place and I just live there and nobody knows.”
“You mean like an abandoned house?  That’s seems dangerous.”
“No. I mean like a little meadow near the freeway.
It’s hidden by bushes and nobody knows about it but me. I have a camp there. Like a hobo camp.”
Maggie’s eyes got big, then mirthful, then serious.
“So,” Billy hesitated, “You want to see it?  You want to make cottage cheese there?  I’ve got four gallons of milk.”
“I love a rich man.”
Billy smiled.  Somehow he felt full and hungry at the same time.  “Well, here’s the thing. Do you mind leaving your car here?”
“No, I’ll park over there and leave it.”
“Okay, then we’ll walk.  When we get there, no fooling, you follow me into the bushes right away. Just walk right in behind me.  Don’t look around or hesitate or anything.  Really.”
“Okay.  I get it.”
After you step in you have to turn like I do for your next step. Just follow me. Two steps in and it’s
like you disappeared. Then you can relax as we work the rest of the way in.  After two steps we’ll slow down. If you move like I do you won’t get scratched up because I’ve broken the twigs and branches that are in the way, but there’s only just enough room if you’re careful. I mean, I’ve got it memorized, but you go slow after those first two steps or you’ll
think you’re lost in the jungle.”
“This is so wild.  Are you kidding me?”
“This is sooo wild.”
“We can get high.”
“Oh my God.”
And so they walked off together.  A part of Maggie thought it all might turn out to be a joke, but as they walked up to a huge thicket she knew it was true.
She felt light-headed, like she was dreaming as she followed Billy into the thicket.  Their twisting and turning seemed like a dance, a perfect dance and he a perfect partner leading her into romantic twirls and dips that she instinctively followed. And then they
were at the edge of Billy’s house. She didn’t know what she was looking at. It was just over three feet high and over that the branches and twigs grew
undisturbed by the pruning that had been required.  By now it had expanded to two rooms though you couldn’t tell from looking down on it.
“That’s home,” said Billy.
Speechless, Maggie stepped in front of the place.  She went one step into the meadow before Billy took hold of her arm.
“Don’t go out there in the daylight.”
“Why not?”
“Planes, helicopters.”
“So we’d just look like ants and anyway why should anybody care or even think anything?”
“This is a place that has been forgotten. Nobody thinks about it and that’s why I can live here. No chance can be taken that people notice this spot. I don’t think it registers on people’s minds.  You know
how we go around with our eyes open all the time, but we don’t think about most things unless there’s a reason. This place is what’s called hidden in plain sight.”
“Yeah, I see.”
“I go out there at night.  We can go out later.”
“Okay, show me the inside of your place.”
They crawled in.  There wasn’t much to see besides the bedding, the stove and cooking stuff, the TV and the battery, but the TV really blew her away.  They listened and watched as they heated the milk and Maggie showed him how to make cottage cheese. Then they sat down on the bedding, yes I’m going to say it - like a tuffet- and they ate their curds and whey.
“See over there?” Billy asked.
“Do you see it?”
“What?  Oh, my God it’s pot!”
“Pretty well hidden, huh?”
“I’ll say.”
Billy twisted one up and they smoked.  Then it was
dark enough to go out. Maggie took Billy’s hand as they looked up at the few stars bright enough to be seen in the city. Then easily and naturally enough
 they kissed. They went inside. They made love.

For Billy it was nothing less than an apocalypse.  He had been a pretty shy boy and then a rather troubled man. He’d always tried to be invisible and that meant being alone.  I mean, even in his school days, without knowing it, he tried to be invisible.  And a kid who tries can do that in school.  To be invisible to a
teacher you just need to pass, never raise your hand, but listen and be able to answer most questions when she thinks to call on you. Don’t make trouble, don’t
talk, always have a book to read or do homework during free time.  To be invisible to other students you just
need to keep your head down, but if you catch someone’s eye just smile and move on. You need at least one friend and Billy usually had that one friend and just one.  They were always some boy who was
really glad to have a friend.  To other students Billy’s friends were losers, but Billy was more just a blank, an unknown.  Before the end of high school his silence and solitude began to intrigue some girls, and not just losers.  To them Billy had an aura of mystery that was cool and a couple of girls seduced him, but
that kind of thing doesn’t happen in the world of adults.  After high school, Billy really perfected invisibility.  He worked at this and that, always low-paying jobs that had strict foremen who had to
make most people work, but good old Billy just kept his head down and stayed busy.
Billy would have a hard time explaining how he got to the point of needing a rescue mission. How does it
happen to people? They lose jobs because of drink or drugs or other kinds of excess.  Some are crazy more or less. I mean people lose jobs through no fault of
their own, but it used to only be the troubled ones who found someday that there’s no place to turn, no one who’ll take them in.  Billy, he just got to where everything seemed pointless and one day he didn’t go home.  He stuck out his thumb.  One thing lead to another.
Maggie became homeless after guess what? A string of bad boyfriends.  Her first bad boyfriend she was going to save from his bad self. Her last bad boyfriend she figured was just about the only type she could get. She knew he was bad, but she hung on. One night he kicked her ass and while she was at work took everything worth anything and left her with a pile of
bills.  If the car had been around the day he decided to leave he would have taken that too.
The two didn’t talk much about their past at first. It didn’t matter.  They had this magical place to share. They had Maggie’s income. And they had each other.  It was all enough.

The Meadow, part 11
Before long Maggie opened a bank account.  Even with a minimum wage job money can accumulate if you have no
expenses.  Billy continued his daily routine of dumpster-diving.  It took him time to get used to the idea of always having money in his pocket. If he
found potatoes and wished he had ketchup he could go buy ketchup.  Weird.  The biggest change in his routine was to give up rabbit snaring. Maggie couldn’t stomach that.
They began “home improvement projects.”  They bought a solar panel and it worked even in the half-shade of the bushes so they bought a new battery and Billy gave up the difficult battery shuttle he had carried on.
They added “additions” to the house until it was four rooms, each about the size of three washing machine
boxes. They had a thin feather bed and down sleeping bags.  Often, they had wine with dinner.  Billy began to feel uncomfortable with the luxury. He felt it was too much to be carrying in bags of store-bought stuff every day, so they cut back.  This just made the bank
account grow faster.
Billy cut another entry path into the bushes.  They quit walking together up to the meadow.  Maggie signed the car over to a coworker for two hundred dollars and
started riding the bus. Some weekends they never left home at all.  All these things added up to more security. They felt no prying eyes, no threat to their lives together.
They say every story must have a conflict. I suppose some readers are waiting for something bad to happen, but you know what?  Nothing bad has happened since
Billy found the meadow. All the bad for Billy and Maggie happened yesterday.  And this is their tomorrow. Some people, like some places, never get noticed.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Compost, California.

I'd like to see California open the door to the wide use of composting toilets. Composting toilets could save more water than bans on green lawns. They could save more water than any other measure except agricultural reforms such as drip irrigation. Can you imagine ordering all California farmers to stop wasteful irrigation practices? Good luck. Those two measures would go a long way toward saving water, but hey, how about we pick one and go with it?
Even if you have no knowledge of composting toilets you should not be surprised to know that they are here and they work. It's the 21st century; we can do this.
I saw a demonstration of a homemade composting toilet made from heavy plastic garbage cans and by God it worked fine. The doctor who made it infused the first can in his system with a virus. (He had legal approval for his experiment). At the end of his simple three-can system the virus was dead and gone. Even a cheap composting toilet works! The end product, by the way, looked like dirt and did not smell.
Now this doctor built his own bathroom to house the cans and to have outside access to the works, but composting toilets can be easily made to fit into existing spaces and made to use existing vents. There could be services that deal with the dirt to reduce the "ick" factor, but if out of sight-out of mind means anything, composting is more aesthetic than flushing.
The money to fund the composting revolution could come from savings in city water projects and- get used to it- an increase in city water costs for heavy users - golf courses, private pools, not just Grandpa's patch of grass.

Hey California, legalize marijuana and put all the profits into contracting with state factories to make composting toilets to be installed in homes by certified workers in this new industry. Whoa! Jobs and water paid for by a pot tax.

Support your local gay-owned restaurant's ban on guns in the establishment.

I am a contrarian; I see the other side quite often. It's one thing to have a law forbidding discrimination in public spaces and by corporations who, after all, are on the public dole through the discrimination of the tax codes. It's one thing to regulate business whose services cross state lines. It's quite another thing, as I see it to regulate small-level free enterprises.

"No shirt, no shoes, no service." "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." These two phrases I've memorized because I have seen them all my life.
A sign that used to hang on the wall of Stubb's Bar-B-Q in Lubbock, Texas read, "There will be no bad talk or loud talk in this place." Who got to decide what was bad talk? Why Stubb did!
Now, I am thinking about small enterprises. There are precious few businesses I can think of that can remain immune to corporate take-overs. The Mom and Pop clothing stores? Gone. An independent grocery store? Not many. But restaurants? Bakeries? Oh, yeah, there will always be a place for creative folks in that realm.

Long story short?  I predict that small restaurants and other businesses - even if their owners are left-wing gay pacifists - will be forced to serve open-carrying gun-toting yahoos based upon blanket anti-discrimination laws. Gays and lesbians have a history of hanging out in places where they felt welcome and their enemies rarely wanted to intrude, but the gun-nut lobby is in-your-face. Why trade the right to force someone to bake you a cake for the right to have a nice gun-free restaurant?

And you know what? Why are we so afraid of letting these things play out within the realm of existing laws? Boycotts are legal. If gays and their supporters were to boycott the businesses who discriminate and support those who openly do not, might we not win that way?

Pregnant? We've got our eyes on you.

I've spent a lot of time in my life feeling that other people knew what I was doing or thinking. Yes, paranoia struck deep. The feeling didn't often change my behavior or thoughts, but it made me feel creepy when I smoked up. Yeah, most of my paranoia came because I've been a pot smoker for so much of my life and there were so many cops, so many types of cops even.
Now that I have a cell phone and computers and, thanks to Edward Snowden I know that other people can know what I am doing and thinking, I am mostly in a state of denial. I don't want to think that people actually are monitoring me. But they could and that's creepy.
Thank God I am not a woman. The arrest of Purvi Patel for neglect of a dependent and feticide puts woman in a new set of crosshairs. The crosshairs are going national. Pregnant women you are at risk. You are at risk because of what you might possibly do ... what you could do ... what you might be thinking of doing. You are a suspect because you are pregnant, just as I was a suspect because I might somewhere, somehow smoke a joint. You might somewhere, somehow offend a religious cultist who happens to be a cop or a prosecutor. You might have a miscarriage and that will open the door to investigation just as surely as if your breath smells like pot.
You are as guilty as the raped woman who was alone in a bar in a little black dress with high heels. You are asking for it. You asked for it by getting pregnant and America's Taliban are watching. That fetus belongs to America now. Sweet dreams.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Hidden Cave on Route 66, continued, with music streams from "Contrary - An Outlaw Tale

copyright by Burl Dunn

People don’t credit the American Southwest and that’s just how I hope it stays. I can drive on state and county roads for over an hour and not pass another car. I can pull into a “natural attraction” and be the only person there. I mean, like ones with lined parking lots and those functional national park toilets. I hate the current bullshit that says the United States of America will not pay to have, say a once a week inspection and, if necessary, cleaning of these simple, but essential constructions. We’re probably paying Halliburton a million dollars a shot to throw them up all over Iraq or Afghanistan. Hum, on second thought, we’re probably paying Haliburton a BILLION dollars a shot to throw up anything - but something half as useful.
I’ve seen some locked toilets on federal highways where folks just must say “F*U*” and the ground is disgusting. You may say, “Oh these disgusting people,” but I think they’re, like, “I pay my taxes and I can’t even find a place to take a s***!”
“This is America?” says James out loud to his dog Ely pronounced (LE). They hike up the trail whose parking lot this is and do the natural in more discreet locations, in holes James digs with the heel of his boot.
James learned the distance/people ratio years ago when he hiked the Grand Canyon several times a year. The further one walks away from pavement, the fewer people there are. I mean, like, even in a huge international tourist attraction like the Grand Canyon. Less than a mile down the Bright Angel Trail (the two-lane highway of Grand Canyon Trails) you leave behind about 90% of the people who set foot on the trail at the rim. A full mile down and you’re in the elite 1%. Keep going past the Indian Gardens campsite (about halfway to the bottom) and you are one of the few, the proud, the Intrepid Travelers. In fact, if you are an American who is sick of your fellow Americans - the ones that are on TV and news, you know ... just take a hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and you can meet a delightful bunch of young Europeans and Asians. The few Americans in the mix are most likely the cool ones.
James was sick of his fellow Americans.
One album (over and over) and four hours later, James and Ely pull off an exit of I-40. The next right-turn and they’re on old Route 66! But then, Jim sees a real old Route 66 sign out his passenger side window. The old Route 66, the sign actually says, “Prehistoric Route 66,” twisted in a different way. There is a little blockade, easily driven around, and the two are on the Mother Road!  It’s pockmarked and twisty. I mean 15 mph twisty. They descend. There’s some lava rocks, some big, but hidden by the lush growth of bushes. There’s some stream-bed-smooth rock. Then a big hole and it’s time to turn around. Or get out. James and Ely get out. Ely bounds around like a pup as James heads down the smooth stone stream bed.
It was once a riverbed. You can see the signs of a high-water event and imagine… Off to the sides you are surrounded by lava tubes and lava rocks. It is the El Malpais of New Mexico – but outside the Park Service and BLM jurisdictions. Once among the lava there had been some ancient limestone. And now there were some ancient limestone caves. James cavorted in and out of shallow cave after cave, but it was when Ely disappeared that the wonder had been rediscovered.
The wonder of one kid in the 1800s they later called Billy… Damn it, it’s New Mexico. I don’t have to make this shit up… This cave had a bunch of air holes over about 80 acres. The land on top was bad as bad can be. But if you happened to find yourself way out here you might just collapse from heat exhaustion right by an old cactus. And hidden by that cactus is a golf-ball size hole and from that hole you feel a cool breeze. Ely started with that, except she was nowhere near doggie heat exhaustion. Her massive tongue was a sight to see and it was only half out as she lithely bounded around.
Then she found the opening. Before Billy there had been a young Dine boy … a Navajo ashkii who later spent his last years chanting and praying in that wondrous cave with the tiny opening. Before that there must have been some Anasazi. Pot shards were there, the treasures of the Four Corners that must always remain where they are found. Ely went in and barked. James heard the muffled echo and freaked. “Ely! Ely!” Ely emerged and licked his hand. And James had seen from whence she had emerged like some ancient story of a creation myth, like some baby emerging from Mama. 
Only in this story one is reborn by crawling back INTO Mama!
James crawled in.

You could stand up within three feet, but nothing larger than a back pack or a guitar would fit the entrance. Inside were many rooms. And a well. At high water  there was a pond over the well. At very high water would the entire cave fill? James was already thinking along these lines.
While wandering the rooms in the cavern looking for high spots and signs of safety from flooding, James began to notice that there were light sources from the ventilation shafts. Some had a bright light for a short time. Most had at least a filtered light  all day. Finally, James came to another well only this one was more of a pit. It seemed that high flowing water might drop down and out at this point. Maybe there was a lot of drinking water here. So James decided to chance it.
He began weekly trips stashing the cave with baking soda, pinto beans, lard, and flour  – all the simple old pioneer basics. He could have been getting ready for a wagon train trek in 1800. On a whim he bought some catfish fry and put them in the pond. He sprinkled the top with cheap dry cat food to feed the fish. He bought some cheap water filters to make his drinking water totally safe. Under one of the ventilation holes he set up a small cook stove. Cooking would be a night time activity. He would carefully make hot fires that put out the least smoke.
As he stocked the cave he didn’t think about living there, but rather having a hideout in which to escape the world from time to time. Some people spend a million dollars on a vacation home. James wasn’t even close to spending a few thousand yet and he was already running out of things he might need down there. His kitchen and larder were set. He was adding grains like Buckwheat groats and rice. Coffee, sugar, canned milk -  all his food was in  tight containers and would keep well. His sleeping area was high and dry.
He was learning the network of “windows” as he called them and had a routine of moving from room to room to enjoy the light as the day progressed.
Ely, of course had her stash of food and a little bed. After almost 6 months of establishing his underground bunker James began to wonder about the logistics of living there. When he had the place fully stocked what could he reasonably expect? To live there a year? Then what? He didn’t know, but he put a thousand dollars in a safety deposit box. “Coming out money,” he called it. To get a motel room, clean up, get a haircut and look for a job.
Who am I kidding? Who will hire me? What do I say about the missing year? Pretty hit or miss. And it’d be a hard thing to leave the cave and then become a homeless street bum in Albuquerque.
There needed to be a grubstake. One thousand dollars is not a grubstake. One Hundred Thousand sounded better. But how to get it?
James never had a criminal mind before, but he was starting to think about victimless crimes. He couldn’t  imagine getting away with robbing a convenience store. They have cameras. Hell, you have to assume that there are cameras everywhere these days. Some put up by cops, some by business and homeowners, and then there were the digital legions who could shoot the vid and have it posted on facebook in ten minutes. All the great crimes are over. It’s all inside jobs now. Big business, big lobbying, Wall Street rigging. Shit you go into Congress a mere millionaire and if you don’t come out a billionaire you’re either  a putz or one of the few men left for Diogenes to find. I’ll bet Diogenes’ lantern is getting pretty dim.
He spent a lot of time dreaming about coming up on single vehicle Brinks armored car rollovers with no one alive to save and money, money, money lying around for the taking. An overturned marijuana or cocaine shipment might work. 
James needed some rest.
James was nursing a beer one night in a pretty dicey joint when some asshole started beating up on the stripper. Some in the audience cheered at first thinking it was a new twist in the act. Then the place started to clear out fast. No one was helping the stripper except other strippers. Billy picked up a full bottle of liquor from the bar and walloped the jerk above the ear.
The chicken-shit manager was out in the street calling 911 on his cell. Only 5 strippers witnessed the end. The asshole was clearly dead. Machine Gun Kelly was the oldest, wisest stripper from the bunch. She was way old style, her main skill being the twirling of her nipple tassles in opposite directions, but she only did it as she was “firing” her “tommy gun” wearing the sexiest imaginable pin stripped suit cut down to - not much. She was also the financial advisor to any girl who would listen. “Listen, kid, most of you girls live high, blow your money on drugs and lousy boyfriends and you leave the life with nothing but damaged minds, fake tits, and wrinkles. If you ever want to know how to make some money and keep it, talk to me.”
Machine Gun Kelly had over two hundred thousand dollars in the bank. When she left the club every day she looked like she was headed for mass – and she was. She lived in the same cheap apartment for years; she NEVER gave out the address, but she would accompany a date to a motel when her instincts told her it was safe. “Date money” had always gone into savings. She lived on her tiny wages and decent tips. She gave a lap dance that left men panting and searching for the nearest bathroom. That money she invested in a string of tattoo parlors.
Needless to say, Kelly took charge. “First of all, this man saved Shelia and we’re getting him out of here. Nobody got a good look. It all happened too quick. He was just another average size man in blue jeans with a cap pulled low over his head. Now, you, mister go out the back. My friend Lola just pulled up for her shift, but is not coming in and is going to leave because of the confusion. I’ve already called her. I’ve got you covered.She’ll take you wherever you say. And you lay low. Then, we’re out of it, see? You were never here and we never saw you before. Thanks, but don’t come back here ever. Got it? Now get.”
Lola was a bit surprised at how little James picked up from his apartment – just a backpack and a dog. “Head down I-40 West. There’s a place you’ll set me out and then drive on. I’ll be all right from there.” Lola couldn’t imagine how he was going to be all right. From the side of the road in all directions there were no houses – nothing but cactus and lava. That’s where James got out. She drove off and when she was out of sight, Ely and Jim sauntered off the highway, down into a gulley, and then over to the cave. “This is it, girl. We’ve got maybe a year in here and then I just don’t know.”
In they went, Ely went straight to the pond and caught a 12 inch catfish in her jaws. “Well, thought James, maybe we’ll last longer than a year. Good dog.”

James started nocturnal excursions to bring back dirt. He planted mostly greens in likely places near the light. He planted pot in 5 gallon buckets and hauled them from bright light to bright light as the day progressed. He played guitar. He had a decent library. And God bless playful dogs. For some of us they provide the most human companionship of our lives.
Still, feeling lonely led him to take a chance. He tied Ely up by the pool one day, leaving food and after a loving talk,  hitchhiked to Albuquerque where he hoped to find some weed to tide him over until his crop was ready. Lola recognized him on the street. “Hey, you still alive?” “Yeah”, he answered. “Thanks for what you did for me. How’s Kelly?” “She’s pretty scared. She thinks the IRS is on to her money. She’s thinking of taking it to Mexico and hoping to live quietly.” “Tell her I’ve got a better idea. She can live cheaper than Mexico. Tell her I’ll meet her tomorrow for lunch at that restaurant right there if she wants to hear my plan. I owe her.”
Well Kelly could hardly believe it. “A cave? With a catfish pond? You’re growing pot there? Really, how can I not believe this? It’s too good for a crazy person to make up. And listen, I’m a day or so away from losing it all. I just feel it. So, if you’re offering me a chance, I’ll take it.’
“Just bring a few things. A nice outfit that will stay in a suitcase for when it’s needed. Some rugged clothes. Good shoes. Your money all wrapped up so it can’t get ruined by moisture. Lola can drive us at night to where we just walk off into the wilds.”
“Jesus. Okay. Let’s do this.’
And they did.

Wan is on his way back from climbing at Yosemite. He is a 40 year old Chinese native. His company sent him to America to climb famous sites using the gear manufactured by his company, China Rocks. He hadn’t wanted to come, but he was the most qualified to represent his company both as a climber and with public relations. Wan had appeared on television in California, Alaska, and Colorado extolling the quality of China Rocks climbing ropes, carabineers, and other gear. Of course, in addition to demonstrating the quality of ropes he praised the close working relationships of his government with the United States. It was all an act. I mean the China Rocks equipment was as good as anyone’s, but the act was all about praising U.S. /China relations. Wan couldn’t love either country.You see, Wan’s brother had taken him to Tienamin square in 1989. He pointed to Lady Liberty and said, “America will see that we, too, want freedom. That we, too, are created equal and that we need help to gain our inalienable rights. Nixon came to China to open Mao’s Communist regime to the world and that is impossible unless we have democracy, just like in the United States.” Wan had seen the lone man standing in front of a huge tank. He had believed – right up until the night the troops cleared the square. Right up until his brother never came home.
Wan believed his brother was dead right up until he learned about Guantanemo. Then it hit him – his brother was just as likely to be alive in some rendition-style prison, in some Chinese Guantanemo, a gulag where men are forever tortured and locked away because their government deems them to be irredeemable. He had always believed his country did such things; and now he knew that even the God Almighty United States of America did them, too.
Sure, it hit him like a ton of bricks at first, but then he thought that, logically, his brother was dead. Why would he be kept alive? It was comforting in a sick kind of way to think that his brother might have been killed instantly or, at least did not suffer too long. The other ton of bricks – that the United States did not give a fuck for the words they used: “equality,” “freedom,” “inalienable rights” – you don’t get more blatant than the betrayal of Tienamin Square. The whole world knows that behind the freedom-loving lies put forth by the American government is a system of kidnapping, murder, and torture worthy of any Communist or other totalitarian state. With every passing day the United States and China were becoming more alike. It’s no accident that China and the U.S. lock up a higher percentage of their citizens than other countries.
As Wan drove down a segment of old Route 66 he was thinking about the crazy irony that every poor country on earth knew how to keep the United States from getting what it wants. Oh, it’s brutal. It can’t be done unless your government is either on your side or else uninvolved. But Viet Nam, Afghanistan, and Iraq have proven it. The United States cannot win a war. They can kill and ruin everything, but they can’t win unless you surrender. They will stay until the corporations have made enough money from selling weapons of war and then they will leave. The hue and cry will arise from the U.S. to stay and “Kill them all.” But, you see, some peoples have been down for so long that they don’t give a fuck. “Kill me. Go ahead. You killed my children, my parents, my wife. I will fight you until I die. I expect to die. But I will not surrender.” And therein lies the secret. The poor expect to die, and the Americans still think they can win.
Wan needed some rest.
Wan read the email again. He was to return home to China in one month. He thought he had as much as another year in front of him before this email. A phone call verified the order, but he still didn’t know why. He was in despair.
I’m not going back, he thought. I don’t know how I can get away with it, but I’m going to try. Wan was so upset he decided to pull off Interstate 40 and think. He took the next exit and pulled over to the side of a county road. There was some pavement, a remnant of another road, off to the right. It was blocked by a boulder, but not completely blocked. He walked towards that road and saw the faded sign. “Route 66.”  Wow, neat. I’m going to take a stroll down the Mother Road, he decided.
Wan found some peace of mind as his legs stretched out and his breathing picked up. No solutions, but a little peace. I might as well think about how to stay here in America, he decided. There’s no point in trying some country I’ve never been to. I’m legal here for now. I’ve heard of people getting fake IDs. It’s not impossible. But how the hell can I find the right people, the right contact to buy the papers I’ll need? God, but I’m tired.
Wan walked off the pavement a ways and laid down. He almost drifted off to sleep when he smelled food. He was on his right side. When he turned onto his left side the smell went away. Just for the hell of it he turned back to his right – and there it was again! Like bacon, he thought. There was no one around so Wan started wiggling on his stomach to explore the smell.  Just a little in most directions and he smelled only the sagebrush. But, there was one direction where the smell was stronger. He got on his knees and crawled until he actually felt a little breeze on his face and the smell was strongest. A breeze from the ground? What the hell? It was just too dark to see the hole from which the cave was exhaling, but Wan knew a thing or two about geography and he wasn’t a superstitious type. As he lay there he pretty much figured it out. There’s a cave down there! And, by god, someone is down there cooking bacon! That’s wild! I’m going to come back tomorrow and look around some more.
Now distracted from his immediate problems, Wan walked back to his car and drove on to the next town, one of those sweet little spots that once flourished before I-40 bypassed them. But these great towns are dust jewels in the American West. The old motels with their great neon signs still hung on, many of them purchased and run by families from India. Often, too, there was an old diner or hamburger joint from the 1940s or 50s. Wan settled in at the End of the Trail Motel with a giant cheeseburger and a real vanilla malt. Afterwards, he lay on the bed and looked out the open window at the exhausted Indian and his exhausted horse, both of them hanging forward, about to drop to the ground, but no, just down a little ways were the teepees -  hope at the end of the trail.
Iconic, wan yawned and fell asleep. 

Next morning, Wan walked to the classic old diner with the fat man serving burgers painted all over the building, copying the diner’s neon sign. The motif continued on the cover of the menu.
Iconic, thought Wan and ordered chile rellenos (with red) with hash browns, and one egg over easy. With the first bite he thought, if I hadn’t eaten a chile relleno dinner at Jerry’s in Gallup I would think this was fantastic, but it’s just ok.
Back up the road, Wan exited, parked at the boulder, and walked down the old, abandoned stretch of Route 66. Down below James and Kelly were firing up.
“This is really good. We need to conserve it.” James managed to convey this sentence without exhaling from his lungs, but Kelly understood.
“Have you ever played a didgeridoo?”
“No. Think I’d be good?”
“You’re a natural,” Kelly replied.
“Like you and your tassels.”
“Hey, be nice.”
“Anyways…. Yeah, I know what you mean – about the weed. It’s too good to smoke like we’ve been doing. Two or three hits do it.”
“Oh yeah. One more each then.” James picked up a Colorado bud bigger than his thumb.
“Oh, James, don’t put that whole bud in the pipe or we will smoke it up,” Kelly chastised.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going, my Dear.”
“You just said we were going to take it easy.”
“Did I? Crazy.”
“Yeah you’re crazy, all right. Our crop is three months away from harvest. We’re going to have to go to Colorado again. Actually, I’d like to get out for a while.”
“The idea is to survive and thrive down here.”
“I know. But, I need some books. Some big long novels.”
“And we’re going to need some more bud,” James conceded. “We didn’t exactly plan how to get around, though. I thought we were set for a year at least.”
“Well, if I dress right we could go into town and I could tell Lola what we’re doing. She can keep a secret.”
“She knows something’s up because she dropped me off at the side of the road.”
“Yeah. Let’s arrange a rendezvous like every three months or so. We can pay Lola. Then we can stock up on stuff. Lola can drive us places.”
“Yeah,” James hissed out after a big hit. “Stock up on “stuff.” But not during the winter. We can’t go out of here during snow season or during the monsoon. Tracks.”
“Okay. Don’t bogart that pipe.”

Up top Wan was crawling around near the spot where he’s smelled the bacon last night. He smelled nothing, but he did hear a muffled bark.
Ely had smelled Wan.
What the hell, Wan thought and burst out laughing. Someone’s living with a dog down there. He moved over a few yards and smelled the pot. Wan, of course, had smelled pot around climbers in the States. He’d never tried it though. But he was very interested in this mystery, however, and intended to dig deeper, so to speak.

The strip club clientele looked almost the same as the last time James was there except for the Chinese guy. But there was only one dancer left from Kelly’s days. “Where’s the old crowd?” James asked.
“There’s just me and Sherrie left. High turnover.”     
“Gosh, I guess. Where’s Lola?”
“Oh dear, you don’t know?”
“Know what?”
“Her wreck.”
“No. Where is she?”
“Albuquerque; rehab.”
“What happened?”
“She drove off the bridge. On purpose.”
“No. No.”
“Here’s the weird part. She didn’t get burned. No explosion.”            “So she drove off that bridge … and hit dirt I imagine?”
“Yeah, no water in the wash as usual. And now she’s in rehab.”
“I want to see her.”
“I have a paper in back. I copied directions and stuff to where she is, but James, she’ll never walk again and she’s depressed. I mean, that’s why she drove over the bridge in the first place. She’d had it. And now she just can’t believe she fucked up suicide. She’s on some heavy drugs. For pain and for her head, you know.”
“I guess so. She’s still in pain then.”
“I think not so much because she’s got that doc wrapped around her little finger and she’s faked him out. The thing is really…”
“I don’t think she feels anything. Anywhere.”
“What the hell. Can she move at all?”
“From the waist up. She’s in a harness-like thing. She can lift herself up working this remote control and swing herself into a wheelchair to get to the bathroom. Then she lifts herself onto the seat, you know. The hoist-thing could lift her there, too, but she’s so strong. Her arms and stuff. I think soon they’ll take her off the pain pills and see how she gets around on her own. But, you know, if she falls she’s stuck. She has to have something strong enough to take her weight. She tried to use the bed once, but it just rolled around. She crawled over to the dresser and pulled it down on her head. Man, they were pissed.”
“Well, what’s she supposed to do?”
“Push a button. Call for help. But she doesn’t want help. I’m not sure but what she’s just going to OD or something when she gets out. She can’t stand help and she’ll never be able to live again without it. You know how it is: she’ll probably have to live in a nursing home, some run-down shit-hole since she has no real insurance.”
“I’ve got to see her. Damn, I wish I had a car.”
“I’ve got one.”
Wan had strolled nearby with his drink. He stepped up. “I’m sorry. I have good hearing. I didn’t even try to hear, but I did. I’m sorry. But really, I’ll drive you to Albuquerque. I’m Wan.” And Wan held out his hand to James.
James squinted in the sunshine as they walked to the car.           
In Wan’s car, James said, “Pull over to the gas station and I’ll buy gas.”
“It’s full.”
“Well, I need a pair of sunglasses and they’ll have those I think. When we get back I’ll top off your tank.”
Wan told James his life story. It took up the whole time of the drive to Albuquerque which was good because James did not know what to talk about. He didn’t know any news; hell he couldn’t even talk about what the weather had been like.
“So you’re, like, almost AOL? China will come looking for you?”
“To some extent. I don’t know how hard, but I’ve got to disappear. Like maybe get fake IDs and live in, say, San Francisco.”
“And work as what? Sales at REI?”
“No. That’s too close to the real me. I’d have to do something else. I have no idea. I do have some money. I’ve hardly spent a dime. I’ve lived totally within my company budget. I could buy into something.” Wan looked at James and James got a queasy feeling.
James said, “You could try to buy into some hard-scrabble ranch and hardly ever go to town.”
“Yeah, those guys would love to have a Chinese cowboy.”
“So you can tie ropes? All that fancy stuff I guess. Have you ever slept on the side of a cliff?”
“Oh yeah. I could take one rope and make a sling in it and go rapelling down the Empire State Building if the rope was long enough.”
“Anything more practical?”
“Yeah, I could design a series of ropes, ladders, and slings for Lola. I could turn her life into an exciting ropes course. I could make a zip line from her bed to the coffee pot if I had the room.
“Hmmm,” James was thinking.
Lola was pretty much the mess James had expected her to be.
“I can’t believe I’m alive,” she said. “I don’t want to die anymore, but I can’t live like this. I’m going to do heroin, I think. I’ll just blitz out until I OD.”
“No, you’re not,” James said.
“Oh, Mr. Take-Charge, huh? No one can stop me. I’ll do just that if I damn well want to.”
“Oh, Lola.”
“Look, you saved Shelia from that asshole…oh shit.” Lola
realized she’d said too much.
“Lola, I’ll chalk that up to the pain pills. This guy over there I came in with? His name is Wan.” James waved Wan over. “Wan is over here from China. He gave me a ride.”
Lola managed to chat with Wan. ‘Lot’s of skill talking with men,’ thought James. ‘She perked up a lot.’ James looked around at the depressing room and all the broken people.
“Lola, can we see your room and the hoist thing?” James asked.
“You know about that? Well, that’s embarrassing. But why?”
“Come on, humor me.”
“What do you think of that Wan?” James asked as they entered the room?
“Oh, it’s good for what it does, but you see how limited the range of motion is? I guess that’s due to the fact that it’s designed to do just one thing – get someone out of bed – and it’s made so that a person can work the controls herself so it’s very, very slow, I’ll bet.”
“It is that,” said Lola. If they’d get me a rope I could pull myself up in a heartbeat.”
“Why won’t they get you a rope and tie it up there?” Wan wondered.
“Maybe afraid I’d hang myself.”
Wan replied, “You could do that with the control wires.”
“Oh, thanks man,” said James.
Lola defended Wan, “You think I don’t know that? Anyway, I said I want to live and I mean it. I mean, I don’t think life will be worth living, but for some reason, now that I have it back, I think I’ll keep it for a while.”
On the ride back, James took a chance. “Wan?”
“I live in a cave.”
“I know.”
“What? I’m not philosophizing here. I mean I found a cave near here and I live in it and nobody knows.”
“I know.”
“What the fuck, you can’t know.”
“You wouldn’t believe it, I mean how, but I know.”
“Right. I’ve seen the medicine-man-who-sees-the-future thing, okay?”
“I took an exit off I-40. I got on old Route 66 until it ended in a mess of upturned pavement.”
“Oh my God,” James blurted out. “Then what?”
“I smelled bacon coming up from underneath a bush.”
“Oh my God.”
Wan paused. “Then I came back and I heard a dog bark and I smelled pot.”
“Oh, Jesus.”
“Yeah. Don’t worry. We both know each other’s secret don’t we? If I tell, you tell and we’re both in jail.”
“I guess you have that right.”
“Can I see it?”
“Well hell …”
James crawled in first to tell Kelly what was up with Wan. Kelly was pretty upset, but Wan, hearing an argument over himself, decided to go on in.

“Well, here he is James. It’s a done deal now.”
“My name is Wan. I’m here to help Lola.”
“How?” asked Kelly.
“ I have built ropes courses and done a lot of climbing. I can make this place something she can move around in just by pulling on ropes and using gravity.”
“Oh, you can, huh?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Don’t you ma’am me. I’m only old enough to be … your big sister.”
“Yes ma’am,” Wan responded.
So James took Wan around. He was mightily impressed with the catfish pond and the well. Wan also liked the twilight. “I can’t see the ceiling well enough, but even in a worst case scenario I could drive enough metal into the rock to hold my ropes.”
“See that light over there?” James asked. “That’s where we cook, near that window.”
“Yeah, I call the spots where light filters in windows.”
“Well, now you know that is a weak spot.”
“Yes, answered James. And you’ll need to show me exactly where you were up top when you smelled the bacon and the pot.”
“Yes, and heard your dog. Hey where is she?”
“She’s hiding from you, but she’s watching. She’ll have to get to know you.”
“Ok. So I’ll show you where I was. Then what?”
“Then I’ll pick a window far away from that one.”
“And you’ll cook there?”
“Yeah. What else can we do?”
“We need to find a lower level that has air and light.”
“Hey, there’s a pit over here. We just avoid that corner.”
“I can rapel down there and look around.”
Kelly and James gave each other a knowing look after Wan had worked for a few minutes. They could see he was an expert ropes man and fast – Jeeze in no time Wan was hollering up, “Wow, you’ll have to see this to believe it. I want to get a lantern down here to get the whole picture, but so far, so good.”
“What do you see?” asked James.
“I’m in a big room. There’s a level floor. Some big stalagmites. It looks like there are rooms off of it. Whoa.”
“A breeze. A breeze going into this room here.”
The group would never know the true story of this room, but they guessed the basics. There was another exit somewhere up top and it drew air from the cave up to it like a chimney flue. That exit, unbeknownst to them, was up in the sunken crater of one of the calderas in the area. There were a series of these old remnants of volcanic cones and the vent from “Wan’s room” as it came to be known traveled about a mile uphill until it exited in a mass of rock and brush at the top of a sunken crater. “Wan’s room” was never easily accessible except by rope, but for Wan, and Lola later, it was a simple rappel over the edge and down. Wan and Lola would become the cooks and their kitchen was just outside the entrance to the mile-long flue.
So the couple became a quartet. James and Kelly played the low end while Wan and Lola capered about the heights. It was nothing to be reading a book when suddenly an upside down head lowered slowly downward into your field of view. Lola’s style was necessarily an arm thing and so more apelike, which is to say, pretty damn agile. She could work her lower back above the hips and bring her legs and feet up when coming to a wall – a braking technique and, at best, she’d get some rebound, but Lola could not push off.
She could, however, lower herself elegantly down beside Kelly ending in a sweet Lotus position -  back straight, chin up, gravity for a bra.
“Ola, Lola.”
“Ola Kelly. Como esta?”
“Muey Bien, usted?”
“Vivo, mi amigo . Vamos a quemar uno .”
“Not here dearie. Wan can rig me up and we’ll go below to the Keep.”“The Keep?”
“Like in Lord of the Rings.”“Too apocalyptic.”“I know,” Kelly said, “But that breeze Wan found? I think it goes a long way and I don’t think anybody can smell it once it gets up there.”
“We’re safe Kelly, and we’re most safe smoking pot down in the Keep.”
James is lying on his back gazing through a perfectly clear shaft of light above. Occasionally Wan flies by. Don’t get the wrong idea. Wan and Lola are more like an aerial ballet than a rapelling team, but there is a zip line or two in order not to always be hauling oneself up. Wan plays at poses – Superman, angels, once, and once only, a Screech Owl.
‘No, it’s a peaceable kingdom down here’, thinks James. He’s thinking of dinner, a typical one. Catfish from the pond dipped in an egg batter and fried whole. A carrot salad.
“And tatters,” says James aloud.
“Po-ta-toes,” Kelly responds without a pause.
“And bisquits.”
“Yum. Wan,” Kelly yells, “The fish are gutted.”
Wan: “I can take a hint.”
Ely perks up.