Saturday, August 31, 2019

Tobacco Day In World War I

(No kidding, this was in the newspaper during WWI)
Part 31 of 31
They Found Another Body

World War I was a long time ago, and most of us probably don’t remember much about it. Even though I was briefly a history major and took coursework in college that included things about the war, I’ve forgotten most of what I didn’t really know very well at the time. Maybe if I'd heard they had a drive to get more cigarettes to the troops, I would've stuck with it.

The great thing about this public service ad is how much our fellow citizens on the home front — if you’re from America — wanted to support the troops overseas. And what better way to support them than to make sure they weren't lacking for something to smoke! That’s a little different from what our concerns for the troops would be these days. I can't think what we'd send. Bubble gum, adult magazines, what?

But take a look at the old movies, the '70s, '60s, and well before that, and you’ll see everyone was smoking. It was the national pastime. And especially dear to the south, Virginia, which was/is tobacco country, their best known crop. The boys in France were dying for a smoke, a taste of home, the old south, and it's to the south's credit that they came through.

How terrible it’d be for a bunch of them — a battalion — to have the enemy, the Huns at the very door (or on the run) and run out of smokes. What would they do? If they had guns and no smokes, of course they’d be able to do as much as they could with the guns. But how long could they just sit there with a noisy gun jumping all over the place, trying to put up a respectable fight, without smokes? They could only do what they could do and try to better their best, but the disappointment of not having smokes in a dire life or death situation might've been too much. 

Then it goes on like that for a while. They're just itching for a cigarette. "This foreign air tastes terrible without something to flavor it. And I was on edge as it was. That last volley of shots came in so close I don't need to shave for a week!" Plus, factor in they've only got a limited resolve and morale. Pretty soon, without smokes their will to live would surely dwindle to nothing. Buddies calling to each other, “Fight, man, fight!” And that rouses them for a while, until, finally, it's all in vain, like if you tried to slap mosquitoes with a limp noodle.

The Huns are coming in for the kill. And without the right tools at hand -- smokes -- that’s exactly what happens. Our guys, without smokes, go down for the final count.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Once Lost, Always Lost?

Part 30 of 31
They Found Another Body

Rivers really are great things, no matter how toxic they appear to those who come in contact with them in the course of being dumped by criminals, or those unlucky enough -- alcohol? -- to find themselves thrashing and dying apart from crime. It's a bitter thing that what was set before us as a great blessing — rivers, the channeling of water, water accumulated, a good home for fish, turtles, frogs, etc. — is so often a heartbreaker for people.

Naturally it didn’t have to be that way. Humanity could’ve found better ways of dealing with the river, going for safety and security. Huge fences. Guards posted every hundred yards, etc. Personally, I'm a big believer in the buddy system, which makes us responsible for one another. There's a big difference between that and going it alone. If you're bobbing and about to go down, at least there would be a witness.

But we as a species had a choice and blew it. The good news, the silver lining, being this: You can always do it differently starting whenever you like, now! We shouldn't be making the same old mistakes as if we haven’t learned a thing. Of course not everyone who goes to the river alone ends up dead. I actually like going to the river alone. Fishing, reading, whatever, and so far I’ve always come back alive. The real lesson might be as easy as be more like me.)

There are times though when bad things happen. You’re at the river and just happen to meet up with a murderer. He’s not doing anything so he murders you. And throws you in the river. I'm thankful that's never happened to me, knock on wood. Must not have happened to you either. We, apart from our brothers and sisters who’ve had bad luck, are the survivors. Could they have survived too? Yes, had they not been there, or had they been like me. Everything seems to come down to this: If you have no business being there, stay the hell away. Let your sad ending be a lesson for the future.

Now I live in the Big City. Back when I used to go to rivers I lived either in a small town or something other than the Big City. Which isn’t to say the Big City is crap. But there’s a lot more desperadoes in the Big City, each one looking to carve another notch on his belt in honor of you. He reasons it out like this, “I’m killing all the people I want and just hope my belts hold out." This is why I have not yet gone to the river in the Big City, and probably won't.

Let us turn now to our friend with the map, pointing his big stick to the rivers of the Big City — which is a very helpful map; I’ll take a photo of this with me next time I go to the river just in case I get turned around. This guy evidently has a nose for news, knowing about our various sons and daughters who’ve been lost in the river, and an interest in bringing them back. I think he deserves our thanks. Because whatever grief we're facing, it could've been worse without him happening along as he did.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Merman I Should Turn To Be


Part 29 of 31
They Found Another Body

“Tommy, you must stop chasing that minnow this very instant!” Takes me back, way back, to a time when my family tried an underwater lifestyle. It was popular a few decades ago, and was a kind of natural reaction — seems foolish now — after we first heard we are made up mostly of water. Of course we could never breathe under water, so we sucked breath from about $4,000 worth of air tanks. Think of Jimi Hendrix’s 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be), about living and breathing under water; that was the last edge of the movement. When a guy famously died trying it, but he was stupid and wanted to show his "faith" by wearing cement boots in the attempt.

By comparison my own family took only baby steps in the attempt. Because we were hyper-realists even then. Yes, we might be on the cutting edge in one sense, but we had enough reserve to let someone else give the cement boots a go. So instead we opened an aquarium store and sat there studying fish, memorizing all their moves and seeing if we could discern their secret in having water for air. It actually is beautiful, all the goings on in an aquarium. But there’s a few downers. Even fish die, so they obviously haven't perfected the breathing technique either. They were floating. And they get diseases just like we do. And occasionally jump out. You’d think a fish would be smart enough not to do that. Unless they were just doing the opposite of us, trying to live out here.

The whole thing went by the wayside when a few more people drowned. The breathing wasn't working out. But the basic problem was it was just the local river, a thick dirty quagmire. Whereas water runs free in its channel most of the time, other places have big concrete blocks and lots of mud. You dive into a muddy patch with a concrete block two feet from the surface, it’s going to hurt your head. We’d be gathering upstream for dinner, and suddenly there was an empty spot at the pier. “Swim upstream and see where your brother is.” I did that and didn't find him. “Swim downstream and see where your brother is.” Off I went downstream. Then I came back and there he was, hovering lifelessly behind the concrete block. Kind of ruined the meal. My dad pushed away from the table in outrage, “Those goddamned concrete blocks! They’re ruining my appetite!”

And you can’t disagree with that. The solution turned out to be as simple as this: Stay out of the dirty river and forget the concrete blocks. And if you’re going to live underwater, do it the smart way. Put plastic over the windows of your house, have everything vacuum-sealed to not let water in and not let water out. The water being clear as a bell, no one gets lost. The air spigots worked fine, and you get so much air in the water, the breathing’s great. And it’s pretty too, the wavy patterns you see. Man, the patterns! For instance, if you were looking at one of my Mom’s “Mona Lisa” paintings -- She collected Mona Lisa prints and had them in every room -- you really saw it's true: Mona Lisa’s smile is particularly lifelike in a house full of water!

Our happy family in today’s graphic shows the quality of life we can ultimately expect when someday at long last we’re finally out of the dirty filthy air that everyone else seems to think is so good. It's not good. It’s crap compared to water. To me water's the ticket, water. The whole scene. And along with that, immorality. The whole scene's my cup of tea.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019



Part 28 of 31
The Found Another Body

Let’s go back to where it started, with people getting sick and tired of it, fed up with bodies being found in the river. Then it so happened that a guy whose actual name was Jones was a victim. Whether it was by foul play or his own personal date with destiny or the Angel of Death, Jones’ body was found in the river.

One thing seems certain: Jones never had an enemy in his life, unless we’re talking about the normal scuffles and fights we get into in school when we’re very young. In this case they did go back and talk to all his playground enemies and most of them could barely remember him and the ones who could remember him had watertight alibis. "I live in the other hemisphere of the world" was one of the best alibis, but maybe a little too convenient, but they let him go since he's lived there since 1959.

Closer to home, friends and relatives said Jones was generally a happy man. Being average in every way, how could he not be? He had the standard wife, the standard 2.4 children, a house with a roof, a job that was good enough, cars, trucks, TVs, etc., basically everything you need to make life a decent thing to behold, and something you’re glad to get up everyday to face again. Most of us wake up hoping our life will be as good as it was yesterday or better. And whereas sometimes we wake up and it isn’t as good or better, we keep going. Jones’ story was like that, but according to the reports he hadn't seen a negative thing in years, not even ordinary potholes in the road. We've had hail and his shingles are fine.

There was literally no reason Jones shouldn’t be with us still. Could it have been a fishing accident? He didn’t fish. Did he owe someone money? No more so than the usual guy whose credit is impeccable. You pay your bills and it’s not fun, but if it’s too much you cut something, one of the streaming services, the grandkids’ ballet lessons, your wife’s towel budget. Think of the cuts we could all be making. I watched a movie on one of my streaming services that I didn’t enjoy. If that’s the kind of movies they’re putting out these days, bare bosoms and hanky-panky, to heck with it!

Well, how ever it happened, it happened. Jones was found in the river. No apparent foul play, the water wasn’t any higher that day than anywhere else and it’d been a dry summer. And we covered his childhood acquaintances; they all live in another hemisphere, another state, or are above suspicion.

Again, there isn’t a single legitimate reason for Jones to be dead in the river. And that’s why the outpouring of sentiment has been 100% in his favor. The crowds are having fits, they're outraged as well they should be. And something’s got to be done, short of diverting the river, because we need the water. The mayor threw up his hands. The police shrugged their shoulders, saying, “Don’t blame us!” No, no one’s blaming anyone. We just have to be more vigilant. And keep our eyes wide open. Because if someone throwing our citizens in the river for no reason, we consider it our business to find out why. And once we’ve found out why, we’ll put a stop to it. And do what it takes to bring justice to Jones.

Think about it, fellow citizen, if it was Jones this time, next time it could be any one of us. Perhaps even you.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Get A Check-Up Or Else

Part 27 of 31
The Found Another Body

If my blog ever gets a Nobel Prize — and it’s been nominated more times than I can count — it’ll very likely come from today's post. In which I seriously advise my readers to get regular checkups. I'm very afraid for them. I believe a liver checkup is directly warranted, if not on a daily basis at least once in a while. You'll be healthier for this reason alone, because once you open the door to necessary checkups, the sky’s the limit. There’s really nothing on your body — very few exclusions, maybe calluses are no problem unless cancerous — that can't be actively monitored by you and professional caregivers.

As for me, I get periodic checkups with my doctor. I pull down my pants and cough, that’s one of the ones I remember. Someone checks my blood pressure, my pulse, essentially all things pertaining to blood. And someone’s there to tap my knee to make sure my legs still bend. So far, so good! Every time they tap me, I react, nearly kicking the crap out of them. It’s painless for me. And something I recommend.

From today’s post, to reiterate, the essential point of it is to have regular liver checkups. That I didn’t know before recent study. When I heard of it I adopted it as one of my causes, right up there with the dangers of exposing yourself in public. But, really, it never occurred to me that looking into someone’s eyes could give you an insight into their liver! Which is no laughing matter, and just to be on the safe side I’m not even smiling. Just sitting here like someone with a distinct tendency toward an incipient turning-to-stone condition. Not cracking a smile.

Anyway, I was reading the comics one day, thinking, “This'll be good for a laugh,” when I was suddenly brought up short. It took my breath away. “Yes, you should always be looking for things wrong with people when you meet them.” Which is true, I believe. Even bad breath has medical terminology pertaining to it. It could be something in your mouth, your throat, or on down, your stomach, physically rotting away as we speak. Basically, brush your teeth or you could be dead this time tomorrow. (If you are dead this time tomorrow, that’s just an expression; don’t blame me; you should've brushed well before now.)

“Tell me what you see in my eyes … darling!” So far, so good. Maybe this was a first date. It’s been a while since I’ve had a first date, and I've never had a second date. He apparently didn’t know she was a doctor when she said she saw his incipient liver condition. He’s startled to hear the news. Then he fails to get it taken care of. Then, I hate to give his full fate. Even an anonymous comic strip character we’ve never heard of deserves his privacy, particular concerning his fate, and the awful death he ended up dying the next day. It was so soon they didn't have time for another date. He died a horny mess with a bad liver to boot.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Crushed By Longest Babylonian Idol

Part 26 of 31
The Found Another Body

Remember the stories of Babylon and idols from church? I sort of remember them, not the nitty-gritty details. Somehow the details have evaporated or there never were many. But I do remember the basics, that idols are bad and not having them is good.

It was even one of the basic commandments — out of 10 or 20 — having no idols. Then later you find out that the idols weren’t always just statues, but whatever you may have been giving your life over to. Too much bubble gum or roller skates or anything that kids happened to do. When you’re a kid, of course your sins are never too serious, although I shouldn’t say that because these days kids can go hog wild and take out half the school. Thankfully it's only a few times a week, a tolerable risk.

But the idols back then that everyone wanted to destroy would actually be worth quite a bit of money now, and not just because they were gold or had gold on them, but antiquities with historic value. I went to a museum years ago and saw some of this stuff, which if the Sunday School teacher had her way would’ve been immediately melted down and made into thimbles, or pretty pins for the ladies to wear on Sunday morning. Same gold.

I wish I would've known more about it back then so I could've spoken up for the antiquities market, history, and the value of other cultures. But my objections wouldn’t have been appreciated. They had us over a barrel because of our great ignorance, when not one of us uttered a peep that showed any intelligence. Just listen to the lesson, maybe get a sucker, then go home and watch cartoons.

I'd like to think we were all wrong. That these enormous golden cows really were the pipeline to heaven but we were too stupid to know it. If only we had our own golden cow -- and I did live in a place that had a lot of cows -- the whole world would know the cycles of life. A cow lives such and such long. People live this longer period of time. Therefore, yes, God loves people more than cows. But if you make people statues it's always going to look like someone. And you don't want worship to go to that guy's head. But if it's cattle, cattle don't care as long as they can graze in the grass.

So let's look at the specs, the longest golden cow stretched five blocks, about a quarter mile. The only thing greater than the cow itself was the wagon they needed to hold it. Try building a wagon that big, and all the wheels you need to support it. And if it makes you feel better — and I’m interested in this point as a student of weird events — say there was an earthquake, and everything was rumbling like crazy, tilting everything, the greatest confusion, when the earth literally split right down that street, toppling the golden cow, and fortunately or unfortunately crushing the Babylonians, wiping out 50,000 of them.

Yes, that’s a lot of people for one cow. But look at the cow, they made it themselves, it’s super huge, and it crushed them. Be careful for what you wish for. So it's kind of tragic, but no matter. It was a long time ago and they would've died of something else by now anyway.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Murder House, House of Horrors


Part 25 of 31
They Found Another Body

Now that I live in the Big City — quite a change for a small town boy — I realize there’s more Murder Houses and Houses of Horror than you can throw a machete at. A far cry from some of the other places I've lived, tiny towns and midsize cities, when occasionally someone dresses up their house in a scary way for Halloween. Very spooky! That was fun, but these guys are playing for keeps. If they're even in there. Sometimes you don't know.

It appears some of them are playing for keeps. They're in the news a few times a week. According to several victims — some of them with only mute testimony — they wish they hadn’t gone in or even become acquainted with the residents. I myself do NOT go in, not that I know where any really dangerous places are in particular. I ride my bike around about a six block radius and otherwise keep to myself. Would I like to go in? Sure, I have an exploring nature. But going in doesn't seem wise, and, anyway, there's nothing I need.

The way to do it, naturally, would be to stand outside behind a tree and listen. Keep your eyes and ears open for anything going on. And simply wait them out. If they’re in there, being as quiet as they can be, just hoping you come in, they can’t keep it up forever. Because everyone moves sometime. And you’re outside, watching and listening. There's going to be some noise.

But it could be a stalemate, if you don’t go in and they don’t make a noise. One way to flush them out would be to heave bricks toward the windows. The glass is usually broken anyway. A brick comes through the window, if someone’s in there, they’re going to react. As for you, you’re in the best spot, because as soon as they react -- the rat-a-tat of machine guns -- you’re going to fly!

OK, let’s advance a little bit. You're outside, and you're satisfied there’s no danger. Even though the visitor’s guide — or the picture in your head — has a gun-toting murderer at the front door, a veiny claw hand reaching for the world’s most dangerous wrench, and one story up there’s two gnarly boys either joined at the hip or hooked together in some other way, forever at odds. Then the front room upstairs, there's a gun pointing at you and a man rolling a boulder down a cliff. Even the attic isn’t safe. A man with a bandaged head, bleeding to death, a boy throwing a banana peel on the road, and the world’s biggest bagel or foot-long bun toted under someone’s arm. This could be a game like Mousetrap, with all the moving pieces!

And you're still out there. Finally you decide, No one’s made a peep. So you go to the front door and rattle the handle. That’ll flush ‘em out. Still not a peep. You try the door, everything’s fine as it opens. You walk in, it’s all OK. When suddenly the door slams, and the procession of people already described, one by one, attacks you! You’re virtually dead, when out steps the boy with the banana peel and stuffs it up your nose, cutting off your breath, and the arm with the bun finishes you off, pounding, pounding, rancorous pounding with a piece of bread so hard he could pound nails all day and it'd never soften!

Think I'll stay home at least today.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Raging Hormones, Then Inferno

Part 24 of 31
They Found Another Body

How could something that felt so right turn out to be so wrong? Who among us hasn’t asked that a million times, every time we get involved with someone? Then, inevitably, nonetheless, we're running through the conflicts, the potential suicides of other loves ones, and bringing the walls down because of our momentary lust for … wanting it all. When we probably should've heeded the warning and simply said, "I’m old, I’ve had my fill. It’s the same thing over and over, humpa humpa, big whoop, pay the hotel, let's go home."

Of course it's worse if you’re out in the wilds somewhere, where adventure lives. Then you’re up against the primal elements, not just the niceties of a motel, but the slouching matron at the front desk who could care less what you’re up to, just so you don’t drag it to the hall, and leave the light shades alone. I remember one particularly hot weekend — I’ve denied this episode in court several times, so please don’t report it — that one guy got his business stuck in the vacuum cleaner and that was painful for him. I’m only happy I wasn’t also drinking, because there might not have been anyone to get him out. As indeed it seemed painful, but thank God when I'm sober I can wield a crowbar with some precision.

In the wild, though, everyone’s wilder. And the things of primal lust lead to primal behavior, being macho, being outrageously feminine, or what have you. I know they weren’t using rubbers, so how much more primal can you get? That’s right in the open pure lust, hanging low, springing high, showing off, anchors away, not coming up for air, basically making a buffet out of things when you don't even know their expiration dates. My personal policy on that is a strict No, thank you!
But not everyone’s me. The world would be a better place if everyone had my adamantine self-control (patent pending). But since they don’t, they're at the mercy of animal lusts, which of course know no boundaries. They’re down the hall with their Tarzan yells. Their doors are wide open, there's various mobile adult bookstore devices hooked to them, and they’re even running up and down the hall. It’s rustic enough, of course they can get away with it. Until the matches and gasoline come into play. That's when I left.

Thank God this was other people and the rest of the story's secondhand. But in the end there was a fire, and (head bowed) none of the couples or extraneous horny singles involved made it out alive. Which way could they turn? There was fire down that hall, up that hall, fire going vertical through the elevators, then at an angle and down the stairway, and of course at another angle and up the other stairway. The only thing the fire didn't touch was a flower pot by the back door.

What a terrible disaster. So many charred bodies found, one for each victim. But they had put up a brave front, and I can only console myself with the thought that their last words -- reportedly shrieks -- comprised an earnest heartfelt prayer.

Friday, August 23, 2019

I'm Shutting This Party Down

Part 23 of 31
They Found Another Body

I hope I’m not coming across too moralistic in this series, a goody two shoes kind of guy. I’m trying to cut everyone a lot of slack, really. Engaging everyone’s proclivities, trying to see the good sides as well as the bad. And even though they always end in death, there’s still some degree of good in getting there. And whether death is the only outcome, I don’t think I’ve claimed that. For every 20 people who die, I have no doubt someone survives. Only to die another day, having built up so much false self-confidence by the apparent escape.

If you want self-confidence, and if you want to live, just don’t take part in anything dangerous. Exercise moderately, not to the point of working up a sweat. Drink a little if you want, just make sure you nurse the bottle along so you’ve drunk one whole bottle over a period of three or four years. Do everything with such discipline and reserve, and you could be like me, living till you’re old and gray, losing your memory, and wondering to yourself — with no survivors around to remind you — who am I and why am I here?

We’re looking today at a full scale bacchanalia. A long table and enough ugly ass characters lost in reverie and drunkenness to the point that they’re not going to make it. Yes, some will make it. For every party like that, there’s always survivors. Giving hope to other idiots that it can be done. Instead of what should happen, which is that the sky would open, a beam of light coming from as many directions as there are people that would lift each one up to the ceiling and give them a stern warning: “If you want to live, you need to settle down. Your place in life is to exercise moderation. Going whole hog is for hogs, not men. The things you are laughing at hysterically are not objectively funny. You see your mate drooling. Or passed out. That’s not humorous, but detracts from his worth in your estimation and makes you look bad. You need to shut the hell up, get back in line, and march it out of here single-file, one by one, or you'll be judged harshly and put in your place.

Then whoever’s left witnesses the spirit of Carrie Nation, well-known enemy of drinking and carousing, stepping in and breaking every one of those rotgut bottles against the sidewalk, overturning the tables, and airing the place out. With each of the merrymakers sat down in a stern place and given the talking to of their lives. If you want to live, here’s how it’s going to be done. 1, 2, 3. Any questions? Hearing none, you’re off to home. Do not stop anywhere for a nightcap. We will know about it and we will destroy you.

Well, you know this crowd. No self control. They’d rather die crooked than go straight. And that’s exactly what happened. A candle was overturned and burnt the place to the ground. Those who survived the longest, their eyes bulged out and it was a hideous sight for the poor guys who cleaned it up. In fact, those guys were so repulsed that they also went out for drinks, became alcoholics, and died later in the early morning hours. The funeral directors for those guys also became disillusioned, took up drinking, and a little bit of dancing. It was disgusting.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Buy Little Timmy A Hotrod

 Part 22 of 31
They Found Another Body

I’m civic-minded enough to say it and believe it, It’s in all of our interests that we somehow reduce juvenile delinquency. (The other juvenile thing we’re bitterly opposed to is juvenile diabetes. It’s well and good to oppose diseases, I suppose.) But it’s mainly well and good to oppose the disruptions to families and civic life that comes from kids stealing and whatnot, racing cars, setting fires to schools and places of worship, and whatever else they do.

It’s been a while since I was a juvenile but I know the temptations they have to cause trouble. Making trouble for others and themselves. The way they tried to tamp down those activities when I was young was with youth hangouts. Go there and they have a couple pinball machines and jukebox. You’re watching some guys play the pinball machine, and you put a quarter on it and wait your turn. I remember one time a guy with one arm was playing pinball and he got pissed off about tilting it and smashed his one hand through the glass. A good way to lose the other arm, but he came out of it OK.

Did I ever get in trouble as a juvenile? Not really. But those were good days. The only video cameras in existence were test models that TV stations had, each costing thousands of dollars. There was exactly ZERO video cameras in general circulation. So if you did something horrible, it was their word against yours. Naturally if the police swooped into the building from the skylight on a rope and caught you red-handed you had to answer for it. But they were usually at the cafe or sitting in the parking lot flirting with the girls, leaving the town wide open for rampant delinquency.

I have some pointers for juvenile delinquents. If you’re going to be a hardened badass, it still pays to have plausible deniability. It'll go better for you if you are kind, thoughtful, and clearheaded. Avoid drugs, drinking, and staying out late. If you want the perfect cover, don’t go with girls that eat crackers in bed. Why? Because if they’re dumb enough to do that they’ll also be careless in many other ways. As soon as the police put the clamps on them, they’ll have the scoop on you. So your cover's blown, thanks to one squealing stupid so-and-so and her crackers.

Juvenile delinquents have something else they’re prone to. Death. They get the sense that — being young and completely stupid — they’re immortal, “Nothing can touch me.” So they’re doing stuff like racing their cars toward one another and seeing who'll be the first to swerve. Not a great idea. The only reason I'm here today is because we couldn't afford a good car. And I'm grateful for my continued poverty, because it's allowed me to live a long pointless life. But survival is its own reward, I've heard.

The only payoff I can think of for dying early is how beautiful it'd be to have the gang gathered over your grave, smoking cigarettes and thinking about you, then tossing the butts over you. And accidentally melting the plastic flowers. But the huge downside is you're out of sight, out of mind, forgotten, all because you didn’t swerve. Still, statistically, some folks are going to die. It'd mean there was a terrible conspiracy if they didn't.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

His Last Day In The Desert

Wouldn't this be a drag?
Part 21 of 31
They Found Another Body

There’s something about the human mind, always thirsting for knowledge, always exploring, looking to see what’s beyond the next horizon. Which I discovered a long time ago when we were out horizon hunting; what’s over the next horizon is always the next horizon. Nature has ‘em lined up as far as the eye can see, then farther. Everywhere you go it’s the same old thing, underwater, cross country, interstellar space. In space it’s freaky, you get somewhere, take a couple pictures, then you’re off to the next place, 4 million years in the future. I can only imagine the deep depression of people spending multiple generations -- a thousand generations! -- in a spaceship. Heading light-years away, how horrible.

Crawling through the desert would be like that, and even though that's an earthly thing it's still beyond what I’d allow for myself. Daily life is bad enough, I don’t want it any worse, putting the pedal to the metal of desperation, crawling like a baby across the hot sands, watching like a hawk for the albatross or whatever's out there just waiting to pick the meat off your bones. The best thing you could do is get on one side of a big rock, then let the shadows give you some shade. Keep a rock between yourself and the sun, hopefully with a canteen to sip from every few minutes so you wouldn’t have to die till tomorrow. Then traveling at night. In this scene he seems to have collapsed on top of a rock, maybe the hottest spot there is. And perished. Just as well, unless he just missed civilization by a bit.

Death is an interesting thing. It’s always watching for us at the extremes of life, then it springs like a trap. This guy in the desert, he thought he was up for real adventure, something to tell his grandchildren about. Or it could’ve been he wanted to write an article for an outdoors magazine about how to survive the unsurvivable! I’ve listened to enough warnings about the sun and a summer day and hydration and sunscreen, and on and on and on … that I know the real purpose of life is this, hide somewhere where the weather’s perfect lest you die.

So I stay in a lot. We used to worry whether we had a tan, all that. No more. The house is shut up, the fans are on, sometimes the AC. If it weren’t for dogs not knowing how to use the bathroom we’d never leave. You can have your groceries delivered now, which they did 100 years ago but we got away from it until relatively recently. But we always want to go outside. I don’t know why entirely. Gives us a little break from the same four walls probably. Just like being in prison. If you were in prison, you’d say, “O to crawl across that field!” And that would indeed be a pleasant break. “Or that desert. How much better my crime would’ve been to make a heist on a plane, then parachuted into an endless hot desert!” Just the ticket.

Another thing I don’t know about life is how long it takes to die in the desert. We’ve seen so many cartoons of the guy crawling across the desert, but they never answer the questions we’re really interested in. We always see skeleton heads as one of the desert props, but we don’t know the timetable on death and becoming nothing more than a skeleton head. They could’ve covered that in school but they didn’t know either.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

On Ding-a-Ling Mountain

Part 20 of 31
They Found Another Body

The higher you go in mountains like that, the thicker the gravity gets. You start out at the bottom, everything’s perfectly fine. Each foot feels it’s usual weight, your shoes are comfortable. You feel you can survive, and if business is good at Acme Explosives, thrive.

An order came in for a standard explosive, about yea big, close to a breadbox but not quite, just perfect for offing underlings, hangers-on, aides-de-camp, ladies in waiting, and even your own mother if she gets lippy. This isn’t how I think. My mother never got lippy, but naturally had she the shopkeepers would've had something for me.

But this order had to go to the Hall of the Ding-a-Ling Mountain King, pretty high. Up there. You start walking those steep trails and anything can happen. One slip and you’re— I don’t even want to think of it. The trails are carved according to a standard, right? If the trail weren’t passable, could it even be called a trail? And yet in a mountain there’s going to be many incongruities at the tiny level and even bigger. Which is why they say if the mountain won’t come to Mohammad, Mohammad has to go to it, and that tradition’s continued uninterrupted since the last molehill formed by continental drift.

Acme Explosives. Acme’s had a pretty good safety record. It’s a Mom and Pop place that uses the skills of mountain dwarfs, townspeople, and delivery girls. They haven’t had 40 accidents in the last year. They've got it down to a decent science, where they can honestly claim, “If Acme doesn’t get you the bomb the first time, we try again.” That’s a great policy, and if you stick to it, [BOOM! A dwarf just lost his hand] you’ll be in business as long as life and limbs hold out.

OK, the Ding-a-Ling Mountain King, whose insanity has a little bit to do with this episode, put in his order, and then it was up to Acme to get it there. This was before drones were perfected, although, see that bird? That’s a prototype drone almost mocking the delivery girl (“Someday I’ll have your job!), but at that stage of development the drones could barely carry an explosion the size of a walnut without killing people.

So here she comes — Amber, in every way better than a drone but for the gift of flight — with a major explosive in her granny pack. Just a few more steps, then around this particular crest, then down the other side slightly, then back up, the craggiest most dangerous place, lots of loose gravel, loose rocks, places non-drone birds have pooped and made slick, etc. It's called Danger Pass.

She finally made it through Danger Pass and was just about to come to the Mountain King’s gate when the prototype drone went wacky and began diving at her, making things very uncomfortable. Three steps forward, ten steps back. The drone backed her up something fierce. You ever known someone who backs their work obsessively up on a computer? It was like that. She was so backed up even Metamucil wouldn’t help.

Finally — O God, turn back the hands of time that this might never have happened! — in desperation, Amber ran and her foot slipped, her shoe broke down, the heel went askew, a nail went in her heel and at the same time she tripped, landing full force on the granny pack. The gravity couldn’t have been thicker, Bigfoot-belly thick. She lay there sweating for a few seconds thinking, “I’m going to be all right—-“ when she was gone! The bomb went off and blew half the mountain to smithereens, the drone prototype to kingdom come, and Amber to memories pressed between the pages of my mind. There was nothing left. If you didn’t know her by then, you will never never never know her now.

But enough sadness, we’re looking on the bright side, a brand new job opening at Acme.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Dizzy The Park Ranger

Part 19 of 31
They Found Another Body

O the sad innocence of this poor idiot! Born without a single enemy. Everyone’s his bosom buddy, his best friend. Or so he thinks. Well, I’m not his friend,and I’m as nice a guy as you’ll ever find. But, c’mon man, sticking your arm down an alligator’s throat and expecting it to be your friend?

Sure, I know some people are like that, so merciful they can’t leave well enough alone. When all the time, our purpose is not to live forever, but to live through Life’s Day, then pass on to our reward — for some the fires of Hell, for others like me the Gravy Train of Glory on High. Oh yes, I haven’t been perfect, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve got the inside track: “I’m lookin’ over Jordan and what do I see, comin’ for to carry me home?” It ain’t an alligator comin’ for to eat me down, that much I can say, and that's absolutely doctrinally true. Although — even if it was — alligator or no alligator, the Gravy Train of Glory on High’s already punched my ticket.

So Dizzy here, the idiot friend of alligators everywhere, had his way, which was going forth to Do Good. When he got there that first day, obviously he didn’t know he was going to come across an alligator that had somehow gotten the (rusty) head of an ax, with some of the handle broke off too, wedged in its throat. Which is sad, very sad. I hate the thought of any child of nature — beyond flies, fruit flies, roaches, etc. — suffering a premature death. And certainly at the hand of man, which is what a broken ax represents. Yes, your first instinct would be to Do Good and help when reasonable.

With Dizzy, though, he put his own life on the line to save an alligator. Maybe a fair trade in Dizzy’s case, but not for most of us. Personally, I would’ve called a ranger, who could go and take care of the problem in a professional capacity. But the fact is, even though the ranger would’ve gone out, he would’ve also shot the alligator to put it out of its misery. He wouldn’t have risked his own arm. That’s the way it should be, either that or let the alligator die of natural causes. You’re not helping a bit by disrupting the cycle, although our first thought is how to make it more merciful.

All that isn't the dumbest part. That's another couple months or maybe three months, whatever it was, when Dizzy rushes out to the lake thinking he will have a grand homecoming, just him and the alligator. They’ll get together and frolic in the water, splashing, play-fighting, and will finally end up on a desert island cuddling until midnight, at which time the alligator makes its way back to the swamp, after having conveyed Dizzy across the swamp on its back.

Well, of course the alligator, assuming it was the same one, didn’t recognize Dizzy from Dopey, and … what can you say? … the other rangers had a couple hours paid leave for his funeral, and each got free counseling.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Bad Fortune, Not Surviving Cave-In

Part 18 of 31
They Found Another Body

FORTUNE: You will see the inside of a dark cave, never the light of day.

Some old friends of mine were once trapped in a cave. It was touch and go, a bad situation. But then -- thanks to it being an episode of The Adventures of Superman (George Reeves) -- Lois, Jimmy, and Clark were all saved. That may have been a happy ending, but I’ve heard of so many cave-ins in my life that I’m more afraid of caves than any other cause of death. And, yes, I know I don’t mention it that often but it's something I’m passionate about. That and the danger of choking on air pollution. Which actually goes along with cave-ins.

A lot of people have been very upset with me on this issue, even demanding that I "stand-down" and give up the microphone when I’ve tried to raise awareness of cave-ins. Which always leads to a lot of foolish mockery of me, mimicking me, the whole babbling thing that enemies do, to the point of them dressing like stereotypical cavemen and speaking in idiotic broken language, "Caves bad, no caves good." I never said that!

It’s good to get that off my chest, although I have no real reason that the anonymous readers I get on the blog will be any more sympathetic than the others. Some of my critics were even so mean as to put signs on my lawn “Caveman Lives Here,” etc., warning others that I might run out and club them to death. This is the biggest reason I don't give out contact information. In retirement I cant afford the security team I'd need to keep protestors from encroaching on my property. And maybe you as an individual are good. It's still a concern. But enough about me.

Can you imagine being in a cave-in? A lot of us don’t have much experience with caves period, so it’s probably not something we worry about. But there have been a lot of people who’ve been through it. My own experience with caves tells me it’s good to be wary, but none of them caved in while I was in them either. The more dangerous caves I've been in, I've kept a wary eye on the hole. And professional caves that are open to the public have to be safe enough for the public, mostly for insurance purposes.

Yet there are indeed caves that are dangerous. If you ever come across a cave, obviously there’s going to be signs that people know about it and that it’s not a new discovery by you. If it were 100% dangerous they’re going to have at least 20% of it tended enough to make it less dangerous, at least for their purposes. But that work may have happened a hundred years ago, meaning what was 20% then might be 2% now. You’d be better off not going into it. Then there’s the problem with turning corners, going in you turned left. Coming back out you might forget where to turn right and end up in a hole.

It’s only in cave stories where caves always collapse. And where there are evildoers trapping people in caves, etc., as is the case here today. To be killed in a cave it’s usually done two ways. 1) Being hit by debris; 2) Running out of air. The graphic portrays sabotage, an actual cave-in at a particular planned moment. Those are done by a person, since ordinary cave-ins never happen on a schedule or the exact time you want. I wouldn't want that as my fortune. Running out of air has to be one of the most terrifying ways to die. Unless you can fall asleep at will and not wake up. At least in drowning death is close to instant, depending how many times you come up for air.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

A Tricky Case To Decipher

No. 17 of 31
They Found Another Body

I see at a glance what we have here. A case where very few facts are clear. To the layman, the amateur viewer, it's inscrutable, indiscipherable, but also oddly compelling. Right away, you sense guilt, thinking there’s a victim, and guilt must be assigned and the aggrieved consoled. But who's who? You can't rush it. You'd like to see at the least signs of nervousness, shiftiness, straining to get away, etc. Is someone looking to give us the bum’s rush? What's the status of any weapons there may be? Fingerprints at this stage would be of only limited value. But you must preserve the scene.

I suppose, though, as I look at the graphics I can discern a few more clues. (I already know what happened so I can afford to take my time.) Certainly if you were with the police, under the gun with your career threatened, you’d give it your all. And then hope your all was good enough. But you might be so keyed up you'd rough up somebody to regain the edge, but that's against regs. Whereas I'm used to stepping into situations in life and not having the slightest clue what I’ve gotten myself into. But I take a breath, twist my head to really wake up, then open my eyes and go, “What have we here?” One big thing to know is it’s a six-year-old’s birthday.

Here then, yes, looking at it from every angle, surveying the scene, allowing my eyes to roam, and letting a little mind/mental action have its way, my tongue begins to tell the tale: “I see, let’s see, there is a particular story before us, at least the pieces.” Then I twist my head, move my arms and legs like the detective machine I am, even my lips are murmuring in a robotic gibberish, and I finally spit out a paper tape like a pharmacy receipt, 12-foot-long if it’s an inch.

We’ll start with the headlines: A. “Put Yourself In Her Place!” and B. “If Only.” There's two figures. One has the upper hand in a tumultuous encounter. The encounter has an end, with the single figure on the right the survivor, struggling with the implications and expressing regret, “If only.” That could be “If only” I hadn’t come, none of this would’ve happened. “If only” I’d been ready I could have killed her more handily. The inscrutability could keep you guessing.

Here's the actual truth: There's two sisters, the six-year-old's mother and her sister arguing over a plate of cookies. The mother in the party hat started the cookies, then stepped out for a minute. Which became more like 25 minutes, at which point the cookies were burning. Her sister went in to get them out and turn off the oven. The mother came in at that point and started some commotion with the hot pan. She tried to pull it away but pulled it into her own face, fell to the ground having a heart attack, a pacemaker implosion, something! She died. The sister called the ambulance and police and in the aftermath is lamenting, “If only I had done such and such.” Maybe made a cake myself and let her sister rest. Now her death has ruined the party for everyone.

Since receiving this piece, I fired the artist, but, interestingly, invited him over to bake cake with me sometime. And he said Yes! So that’s great, cake plus revenge. We’re gonna have a dead artist on our hands. And everyone knows dead artists’ works are more valuable than those of the living.

Friday, August 16, 2019

So Many Disgusting Hands

Part 16 of 31
They Found Another Body

We know deaths come in more stripes than drownings. Drownings (or being brutally murdered and tossed in the river where someone ultimately notices you) are just the theme of the month. Because it’s what we’re forever hearing on the news, “They found another body in the river today.” It’s literally never, “We found another accident victim on the interstate," because those are always obviously there, never needing to be found.

Have I ever gone to the river looking for bodies? Yes, I have. But only halfheartedly because I'm the world's worst pessimist. Not that I want to find anyone, but I figure I'm as good as anyone, why shouldn't I be Johnny on the spot when someone floats by? Then there's the quandary, What would I do then? By the time I go for help and return, it'll be way downstream and I'll look like a liar. Or, duh, I could use my phone. But under that kind of pressure, I'd be a basket case, potentially. "Uh, is this the sheriff's office? You're not going to believe this, I hardly believe it myself..." "Get to it," they interrupt, "State your business." I'm like, Wow, I wasn't expecting rudeness, and hang up and refuse to answer it when they call back.

Before everyone had phones I used to live in a town with a river just outside of town, and went there whenever I could. Thing is I never found anyone there either. But we used to go there once in a while when the water was high and throw bottles with notes in it in. Never heard back from anyone either, so my life hasn't exactly been charmed. That'd be another way to call the sheriff. If you throw someone in the river, there's no statute of limitations. And even it the note takes 50 years to reach them, the sheriff could still show up. But in 50 years I'll easily be dead, and they, stumbling along, could find my skeleton washed up in a beaver hole. No one I knew before.

In short, we never found a body.

Here, though, since I’ve pretty much become the spokesman for the dead washing up in rivers, keeping track of them and encouraging them to come forward, that’s what I’m known for now. I wasn’t so bold when I started this. And now this weird public mantle's been bestowed on me. I’m really not worthy. And when I say that, it’s not false modesty. Not only do I not deserve this, I’m pretty sure I don’t want it. I just want to write my corny articles and find my way back to obscurity.

And yet it’s come to this. Everyone who’s ever lost anyone, presumably now they have a real glimmer of hope, however small, that someone, anyone, I, might help bring their loved ones home. So they’re writing, calling, stopping me on the street, the police sometimes coming to pick me up, not because I’m in any trouble, but because an assembly is outside the station clamoring to hear from me. All because I wrote a few articles online. I hate it, yes, but you know, if they ever start bringing me pizzas, I might embrace it.

Still, germophobia betrays me. I don’t want to touch people. I don’t want people touching me. And yet they’re reaching out, like they really think I have a clue where their loved ones are buried or are floating. I don’t have any idea whatsoever! This is false hope! Which is better than no hope at all, although it’s that too. Still, I’m a living spokesman, so they keep reaching, one dirty hand, two dirty hands, three dirty hands, full of germs! Is there a beaver hole in the house? Asking for a friend.

But, really, that’s just what I need, one of these people reaching their dirty feet up here. Better not. Whoever reaches their dirty feet up here, I’ll purposely put your loved one’s name in the circular file and not look for him or her ever again! Even if I see them, I’ll let them float on by. All the way to Texas or Pakistan, wherever the river comes out first.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Final Verdict in Forensics

 Part 15 of 31
They Found Another Body

In these days of anonymity — most of us going by fake names, carrying false ID, never answering our phones — it’s good to know somewhere in society it matters who we are.

Of course it doesn’t usually matter. I blend in, there’s nothing especially extraordinary about me, positive or negative. I got two legs and the usual number of everything else. I’m not hobbling along with one leg which would make me special. If I try really hard I can present myself as a responsible individual, saluting the flag, picking up litter and carrying it to the garbage, etc. Because I'm in the Big City I've learned as well as anyone to step demurely over dead bodies. Then there's my wild side. I take a devil-may-care attitude as well, which lets people know, That guy’s nobody.

But just let yourself be a victim — in a moment of weakness, you’ve gotten comfortable and some guy’s on you with a lead pipe — and next thing your wallet’s gone and your body’s floating in the river. You were nobody before, but that's when society springs into action. Where’d this guy come from? Who is he? What happened to him? The sirens are going off, every police car in town is swerving around corners, the blue and red lights flashing. They get to the river and they’re scouring the surface with flood lights. "That over there, that's either a stump or him!" You’re somebody!

Pulled in with a hook, they look for signs of life. Are you breathing? Is there any twitching, any babbling? If the answer is no, no, no, they call in the coroner, who takes one look and pronounces you dead. He pushes his hat back with his gun, wipes his brow, and says, "It's getting hot out here, Danny." The sergeant nods. The only sign of life they might find is if they tap your knee with a rubber mallet, your reflexes still work. Which is the same as being dead, but it once was a functioning joint.

Then at the morgue they turn on the apparatus that hums and clicks in one last effort scanning for life. It’s a great invention, holding out hope if possible, or taking away all hope and doubt. Whatever the cause of death, it's confirmed. If drowned, it seals the deal, giving the utmost assurance that the verdict is true, you are no more. It’s terrible to die, I’ve heard, but it can be worse for the survivors. The sergeant gets home, cleans his hands meticulously and even takes a shower. He's playing with the kids, oblivious to his somber exterior. He thinks, "They deserve their innocence."

Now it’s up to the Missing Sersons' department to call around. What calls has Missing Persons received? If none, the investigation takes a whole different path, discovering what they haven’t known to this point. They scope out the final verdict, who you were and what steps (1-2-3) led to this tragic point in your life. Another day, another dollar.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Two Bears Vs. One Boy

No. 14 of 31
They Found Another Body

If you put these two head-to-head — bears vs. the boy — it’s hard to root for the bears. Because we have a certain nostalgic interest in the human being surviving. Part of it's our self-interest, not just sympathy for the boy. Because we feel that it could be us, in which case we’d want to escape.

But really what’s the use of “rooting” for someone? He’s going to get out alive or he’s not. Unless the laws of physics are overruled by hopes and wishes. Then we have to consider, he was there when we got here. It's all past tense. They either got him or they didn't. If I had to guess, I'd say it was easy to overpower him. Maybe the boy even had the advantage, because the brute beasts, two fighting over one might let him slip through their paws. He might've pitted one against the other, then escaped.

We really think we can outwit an opponent. Cause a distraction. Use trickery to divert the opponent’s attentions away from their position of power. Is it fair play with bears? In a sense, no, because the bear doesn't understand trickery. We’ve always been taught that we should “tell the truth,” and that’s not true if you’re creating a distraction. But pitting one thing against another, being able to escape rather than die, is good even if it hurts the bears' feelings.

Joey, the boy, was at a loss, distracted in his own mind. He had a sweet tooth and that did him in. With the kicker being his family had honey in the fridge. And there might’ve even been an unopened jar in the pantry. But he apparently thought, “Fresh from the comb is best." So he hazarded two natural enemies, the bees themselves in addition to the bears.

It’s understandable that he'd want to crawl into a honeycomb. We used to do it. Playing hide and seek, you dig in the side of the comb and get in as fast as you can before the honey drains out. Joey patched it up pretty well because the honey's still full to the top. But that fact cuts two ways, deprived of fresh air and trapped by bears without so much as a fire escape.

It’s sad, it’s regrettable, but they did get him that day. Even though he got out, he was so coated with honey that running was futile. Plus, boys are no match for bears. It all took place right there. And in Joey’s honor, next year we'll have warning signs.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Blind Men & The Elephant

Part 13 of 31
The Found Another Body

Someone came upon a cluster of lost blind Hindoos, and knowing that blind Hindoos are usually looking for an elephant to feel up, led them on, “His pen is this way and, believe me, this elephant, he means business!”

They thought it over, "He 'means business,' that can only mean personal relationships up the wazoo, unless the colloquialisms have changed since junior high PE. But blind as we are, we must feel our way through whatever challenges present themselves. And maybe we'll mitigate some of the bodily thrusting and live through the experience."

OK, so as not to make a short story any longer than it has to be, they made their way into the pen, reaching out, feeling here and there. The first said, “Wait, spread out! Let’s take it one at a time, and if there’s any survivors, long life to you.”

He approached the elephant and got right down to business but was a little too frisky, making him the first victim to get kicked to death, just like that. The elephant’s feet came up like a World Series outfielder running for the fence, with each blow landing harder than the last just to make his point. The blind man was dead.

The second felt around very gingerly, giving proper attention to the trunk, then made his way gradually toward the business. But he mistakenly thought he’d felt two different elephants’ business. The comparison did him in. “The first elephant was properly hung, this one’s a living embarrassment!’ There being but the one elephant, he showed he was one of a kind, a true stud, and kicked the blind man to death.

The third felt the elephant’s tiny tail and second his business. His mistaken assumption was the tail was the business and the business the trunk. “I’ve never felt a tinier trunk, and as for his business, it’s so small it’s an afterthought!” At which point the elephant’s sufficiently proportionate feet kicked him to death.

The fourth “blind man,” having feigned blindness for years for sympathy and free food, as well as the constant ability blind Hindoo men have to couple with well-hung elephants, knew which end was which and which label was appropriate to which organ. He stayed with the elephant through the long day, then the long night. Because it wasn't till morning that the townsmen came with the elephant's daily gift of peanuts. The “blind” man quickly reached out and ate the offering. The elephant immediately kicked the “blind” man to death, thinking, “You guys can feel up my dick all day long, but don’t mess with my nuts!”

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tiny, You're Huge In Pictures

Part 12 of 31
They Found Another Body

Every story of someone being found — in the river, in the park, their den, the alley behind a strip club — starts somewhere. We could go way back, way way back, when these happy souls were prancing off to school. I’ve heard of cases where kids don't do that anymore, so it’s good to know we’re making progress. Even back then, we would’ve been better off staying home and learning what we needed behind the barn. The teachers were psychos, the principal, the lunch-ladies, the gym teacher, and certainly the guidance counselor. As soon as they saw you they hung out to dry, and, what goes up someone must cut down.

I spent an entire month decrying the psychotic (in practice) profession of guidance counseling. Ground I’d rather not cover again. Since I wrote that I’ve been temperamental and antisocial. I went to a dance and didn’t want to dance. Then a psycho came in and shot the place up. It took everything we had to talk him down. To make a long story short, I danced three or four dances with him and he went home and was apparently redeemed. Surprisingly, they dropped all charges because of the promise he showed as a dancer.

He and I didn’t share any guidance counselor stories, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that he had the same problems. Although the big difference between me and him would've been, I didn’t deserve the problems and he no doubt did. Definitely, he presented himself as a guy with multiple deep problems, problems gnawing away at him over the years, chewing at him, gutting him, emptying him out, literally making him rotten to the core. And whatever there is beyond a person’s core, I’m sure it had several negative aspects as well, if I had to judge, off the charts rotten.

What I’m really thinking is, What would it have been like had I been his guidance counselor? Say I went into guidance counseling. It’s not impossible to imagine. I’m idealistic. I could've gotten in there, whatever the situation was, and done it right. I’ve seen it done wrong all my life, I could train guidance counselors single-handedly. But the first thing would be to throw away their books and diagnostic notecards. We’d grind them up and have them danced on by exorcists. Then start fresh. With great techniques, the best techniques that technicians have never even imagined, technically speaking.

For instance, I wish I could've helped this guy, the hapless subject of a rather large painting. A man of greater girth makes an innocent remark that insults him. "You’re tiny, your picture is big, that is to say, you’re a tiny shrimp of a man and don’t deserve such a big likeness. Or you’re a small man and having a big picture makes you look smaller yet. We could make the biggest picture of you in the world, a canvas stretching across the Grand Canyon, then when you see it, we’d know you were a speck of dust just waiting to blow away, to blow violently against something, like a bug hitting the windshield. In your case, you’d hit your own huge picture like a speck of dust against one of the painting’s county-wide nostrils. You're tiny, tiny, tiny, nothing.”

Not a good tact. And what happened next ... which was before I heard the case and could've helped … it's unfortunate, too tame a word for it ... but at least we still have the painting to remember him by.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

IF, One Of The Biggest Small Words

Part 11 of 31
They Found Another Body

I remember when we were kids they were always trying to teach us about words, then slip in life lessons in such a killer way that we’d never forget them. I don't know if you remember that. I’ve lectured about it in motels, mostly for focus groups that help struggling blog writers. Most of them had no clue what I was talking about. And yet I still finished the lecture.

It goes like this. The teacher writes on the board 10 words that are real jawbreakers. Big huge complicated bug-like words, lots of Ks and Js and Xs, like Polish, bigger, harder words than we've ever heard. I remember accommodation, wherewithal, purloined, recommended, xylophone, landfills, and stalactite. She said, “How ya like the looks of them jawbreakers, eh?” And everyone of us knew exactly what she was talking about: If I’m supposed to understand words like that and know how to spell them, let me out now, this is officially my last day of school...

But her educational wiles weren't quite over. It turned out what we thought was the main course — the bullseye of her strategy — was just the warm up act for something more challenging and devious. (A lot of kids dropped out that day, but my square parents wouldn’t allow me one little bit of personal freedom.) The teacher was just warming up for a mental jawbreaker to burden us with. “Well, listen to this, children, the biggest word in the English language (and this is possibly true for other language groups) is “IF.”

Oh! I remember having a cow when I heard that! It was like I was drowning in the river and couldn't catch my breath. I had a cow and I’m not even built with the female off-ramp. Despite that, I did give birth to a full grown cow, something from the magical powers of disbelief. We were in fact so beside ourselves, the fact that that schoolhouse and teacher weren’t burned to the ground or killed, respectively, were miracles as mighty as the feeding of the 5,000. And this was after lunch break.

The teacher's explanation was lame. “IF” is the longest word — her contention — because IF you have a plan, IF you have a purpose, IF you need to borrow $40 million to pay the taxes on a vacant mall site, your challenges have just begun. And so, thereby it is proven — by hook or crook — that IF is one of the biggest words...

Trying to keep bodies from popping up in the river requires a big IF too. IF you’re thrown into the river because you stiffed a guy on loans… IF you’re thrown in the river because they've shot you … that represents a failure along the way, a bad decision, or something. IF they simply took you because of a false identification, there’s a reason there too, but not as good. You shouldn’t have looked like everyone else. IF you’re that average, fluff up your hair, wear a turban, dress in purple, anything. Go nude jumping a rope. Do whatever you can to stay out of trouble (1), and (2) Make sure you have follow-through for your plans. Don’t end up in the river and you'll just wonder, What IF?

This goes for everyone, the guy from the Amazon River, Joe Average, Grizelda the Green Witch, and even the late Abraham Lincoln.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Poor House

Part 10 of 31
They Found Another Body

You know how I said my plumber also gives me legal advice he learned in night school? Well, the same guy rounds out his careers by sharing financial planning with me. I turned to him some years back when I was very embarrassed and, frankly, depressed. Down to several potatoes manifesting strange spots and softness and needing dog food, everything was so bad I had to take on a paper route. I seriously thought I'd reached the end of my rope. But whereas most people at that point let go the rope, I hung on for dear life and was able to cinch it up, a loop here, a loop there, and pretty soon I had a makeshift chair as I hung. My plumber, Dick, was pleased, and ever since has witnessed my turnaround with other potential clients. "If this guy did it, anyone can!"

To this day, Dick frequently gets handsome rewards from my survival. But, Dick or no Dick, I’ve always had a sense about me that life is worth living even if I should briefly descend to the absolute pits. Fortunately, my definition of “absolute pits” has never been set in stone or I surely would’ve been gone by now. But instead I’ve learned a certain tolerance for complete despair, although, to be frank, despair's never complete, just as it's never enjoyable. Still, I can honestly say I’ve never yet gone a full year without food or shelter. So things could be worse.

And that’s why every now and then I give a little something extra to Dick for his financial advice. A lot of his advice is right in the middle of the target, common sense: You never want to spend your money so much that you can't climb out of the morass. And you don't want to leave money lying around as a target for thieves. Instead, go for the median, a kind of common sense middle, not too much, not too little. If you can keep your bills tamped down, not adding unnecessary things — the common sense definition of that being something you’ve lived without till now — you’ll have more money for later. And if you’ve been stupid in the past (on this point I haven't), you pay off the sharks who continually circle.

Dick has some points about sharks that are worthwhile. Don’t get involved with them in the first place! And if you ever have, try to get out as soon as you can. Get smart. Try a disguise. Disguises aren’t just for Halloween, but can be a way of life. Next, remember, every road leads somewhere. If you don’t tell anyone where you’re going and if you just disappear, always have the discipline never to leave clues where you are; that's to your advantage. It's something to consider carefully though. Because at the very least you still have to deal with the government, welfare, Social Security, etc., which leaves tracks. My solution to you, a strictly amateur bit of advice, is pray that fairies exist, because any time you can sock away three wishes with very few strings -- giving up your firstborn, etc. -- it's good insurance.

But, on the other hand, say you've really screwed up. You're cornered and there's no moves left. Even then you have one final possible residence. And that's the Poor House. Which in my experience stands for the last place on earth when there's nothing left. Your life is one of total embarrassment, but you still hope to live. (It might not actually be the last place; monasteries still exist.) But the problem with the Poor House is it’s only a label that “stands" for the last ditch place, it doesn't seem to be a physical place.

And, unfortunately, when people tell you where it is, and you’re optimistic you might find it, the directions seem to always route you somewhere near the river. Definitely time for professional help. Or a monastery. There might be a divine plan, giving you the chance to disappear into the loving arms of a monastery where you are so good they literally beatify you and you're St. Loser, the guy who gave up everything and lost the rest. You have nearly nothing and you're super happy, and now ... you inspire others, sometimes in a positive way, sometimes -- how regretful! -- negatively.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Maelstrom: Uncle Dingy's Regrets

Part 9 of 31
They Found Another Body

This was a relative of mine, Uncle Clarence aka Uncle Dingy, who actually died before I was born. Once upon a time something happened and Dingy went a little rancid, wormy in the head. These days it might’ve been called a mental breakdown, because he was definitely under the weather where it counted. He had several close calls with death. He saw more than a man of his limited mental capabilities should see. Involving someone else's wife, likely from the neck down in full display. And he ended up dying of natural causes, some say murder. There was a prolonged vigil, rattling the cages and storming heaven's gate but it didn’t do any good.

I’m kind of glad it all went down before I was born. I have the space to stand back semi-detached and judge from a distance: “What happened to you, Dingy, that you couldn’t make it to old age like the rest of the brood? Did you forget every teaching they taught you, not to get involved in the affairs of people of such low character, with more on their mind than citizenship, patriotism, and doing good? You know the family, right, Dingy? We wisely stand back when the world’s going to hell in a hand-basket. Where others wilt in the face of temptation, we stand tall. So what happened to you? Was she that hot?

Ouch, that might burn, I got a little too close to the truth, which I wasn’t going to touch. But there was a jealous husband, jealous to the point of taking it out on Dingy, it being a firearm, a pistol to be precise, waving it about, about to fire it in that room of sin, with red wallpaper and nude paintings, the works, after backing Dingy to the headboard, who strained his neck something fierce when there was nowhere else to crawl. Bang!

His last word was “Maelstrom! Maelstrom!” I’ve heard of that, but I had to look it up to get a fuller understanding. The dictionary says, “A powerful whirlpool in the sea or a river.” And “a situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil.” My first thought is that Dingy was out of his mind and randomly remembering something maelstromesque. But I ran it by a friend and he said Dingy likely was likening his experience with the woman and her jilted lover/murderer to a maelstrom, something he wished would’ve never happened, and if he had it to do over, he wouldn’t have. Or would've taken her to a different town.

That’s pretty smart reflection. ‘I did something, I’m sorry I did, and if I could do it over again, I wouldn’t have, or would've gone farther.’ But then he was in a maelstrom, a whirlpool of consequences, sucked down, dragged inexorably toward a fitful though regrettable conclusion, death.

What could he have said to call off the dogs? If a word like maelstrom didn’t call them off, probably nothing would have. “I’m sorry, it was a one-time thing, nothing we’ll repeat, I’ll make it up to you somehow…” “Make it up to me, huh? There’s no unsullying her good name and honor!” Bang, bang!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Dizzy Dies In Pink Silk Bloomers

Part 8 of 31
They Found Another Body

We all know death is out there, but it seems like there's a definite point in our lives when we consciously realize that, yes, we are going to die. "This robe of flesh I'll drop and rise..." It doesn't mean you have to dwell on it. Maybe a nodding acquaintance is enough, with each day (thump, thump, thump) being a day closer. And we’ve certainly heard enough people having premonitions and suddenly, [throat-cutting noise]. Sometimes your doctor just hasn't got enough time to search for a spleen donor.

Another thing that comes into play is how we interact with our fate. So, realizing and interacting, that’s the ticket. But how do we interact? We have the classic (negative) interaction in the young whippersnapper above. We’ll call him Dizzy. Even Dizzy’s workmate allows himself a quick look of disbelief at his tone. Note to self: “Please allow me to be ‘umble. Being ‘umble is always better. ‘Cause if you’re not ‘umble you’re in for a t'mble!” And I’m not talking a t'umble in bed with Minnie La Aha or Chesty La Morgan, the two extremes of varying sizes. But in the old grave, Old Sunken Acres Cemetery down in the valley.

OK, Dizzy has a whole vibe of taking things for granted, being vain in his assumptions and surmises, and a self-image ripe for a fall, the opposite of humility, being entirely thoughtless as to the ways Life can put the clamp on your privates and make you scream “Bloody Sister,” who had problems of her own. In this regard, it would be fatal for me to say ‘I’ve got it going on’ in this regard. Surely the skies would immediately open and a battalion of battle angels similar to what they saw on D-Day would rush upon me. And I’d be dead before I finished this post. That’d be a tragedy! I’d rather live at least till this is posted. Then if everyone hears I was subsequently vain about it, OK, sure, bring on the angels! But I will remain ‘umble.

What is Dizzy saying? He’s unconsciously summing up his life as he sits there. He’s worked for the firm long enough to be a recognized success. He’s been at it and blessed enough to be able to look back on a long career of success and now he's in the position to sum it up. If I were the other guy I would’ve thrown my dress over my head like Scrooge's maid. This man’s batty! I must get out of here! Then I would’ve counseled him, look for a good family-owned funeral home…

“I can afford to lean back…” Right there you know Fate’s cause of death. … “and having leaned back, smoke a $90 cigar…” Waste not, want not… “and luxuriate in these expensive pink silk panties.” I have no objection to that, what else are silk panties for but comfort and kink? But when he does… [O! the mountains are tumbling! the ocean's seething! the rest of me's surging! Judgment's in the air, we have a new body to find, as foolish Dizzy leans back and rubs his thigh (the silk panties were actually bloomers), and falls back, breaking his neck and crushing his head, legitimately dying a horrible, terrible, not so good death, and at breakneck speed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Racers Meet Their Maker

Part 7 of 31
The Found Another Body

I heard one day that there hasn’t been a racing fatality in so long, years, that they're shaking their fist at heaven, daring the Almighty to "Bring it on, Big Fella!" A disgusting sentiment. But because the safety features are so great, all the latest designs, and have stood the test of time, nothing can possibly go wrong. I’m glad that's the case in a way although of course most of us know that a little real life danger puts the edge in things. If nothing can ever go wrong — as much as we hope for people’s survival — it’s too cut and dried.

That’s not how it used to be, back when a man was a man and the Future Corpses of America always had their rooting section at the races. I used to go to the races as a kid and we only got popcorn money if someone got killed. But to be fair to our parents, we also got money for nickel candy if there was a major pileup and no one perished. And there were other levels of reward, like if the winner suddenly fell dead of a non-race-related problem, aneurysm, bleeding hickey, or lung cancer. One guy died of all three once and I spent the next year on my own in Hawaii, meeting beach girls and getting plenty of leis.

Those were great days, like the wild west of family outings. We went with other folks, relatives, and had a blast. My uncle and dad made sure we got out of there fast, pretending to be traffic guys. We scooted right out. There might be a 10-car pileup behind us, and, yes, an occasional fatality (never involving bleeding hickeys), but we got home quicker. The answer to your question is NO, we didn’t get anything if other motorists died. Maybe our ass kicked if we didn’t warn dad that someone was stuck under the tires and messing up his gas mileage.

Anyway, back to the races. There were always some professional drivers, and professional wanna-bes, high school kids, their dads, uncles, etc., always guys, and most of them had something to prove about their masculinity. I know if I were a high school kid driving I wouldn’t want my friends at school dumping on me because I had a light foot on the gas. You have to put your foot on the gas and go for every advantage. If they have the flag out, “Well, I didn’t see it till a couple minutes after!”

I’m glad I survived. The races I’m talking about had a crew that patched up the stands nearly every week. One side, the north end, was constantly collapsed, since that was the hairpin turn and you weren’t anybody till you skidded out and wrecked there. We definitely vied for seats near that section, because it does give you some extra bragging rights if the cars sail over you. That happened one night and the guy was crossing himself religiously as he sailed over. And good thing he did too, because he took out the women’s outhouse. The ladies would’ve skinned him alive had he survived.

Even now as I remember all these things — I’m hungry — wishing I had some of the popcorn we used to get. And the satisfaction of earning it the old fashioned way, one crazy accident after another.