Slab City, C A is more riddled with intrigue than an Ellery Queen novel. It is ridiculous to set a detective story here. Slab City itself is a detective story.
At sunrise, a camouflage pickup with roll bars careened past my campsite on a remote creosote flat a mile south of the The Last Free Place. I picked this detached spot on its fringe nine months ago because isolation is my definition of freedom. No one has passed here until this speeding pickup. It bounced up-and-down on springs along a virgin track past an Ironwood tree, and disappeared.
I lay pondering for five minutes, and rose. The tracks led until the road petered into open pathless desert. Intent on the tracks, head down, I felt as much as heard someone brush behind me. I twisted to see a person in a mid-calf dress over red longjohns and curly blonde locks tucked under a sweeping white sunhat that hid the face marching with intent at a diagonal just behind me, who did not respond to my cheery 'Good Morning'. I followed the truck treads rather than the masculine stride of the hiker across the sand that stretched wide around, as flat as a killing floor.
I lost the track on a stretch of desert pavement and had to circle for thirty minutes to pick it up again. It entered a concentrated arena of sand dunes where I hoped it was a four-wheel drive, but 30 minutes later I heard the low-gear grind and shouts of a stuck vehicle. I topped a dune and spied two stuck vehicles: the pickup and a battered rose sedan. The pickup had sunk to the hubs in sugar sand trying to pull out the sedan that had nose-dived by intent into a dune.
Without a word, I joined a braless broomstick girl pushing the pickup, and noticed it was filled with scrap, some of it from my camp including my water. Nonetheless, we shrugged after failing to extract either vehicle from their sandpits, and shook calloused hands. The pickup driver stepped out blinking, and somehow looked familiar. The same size as the hiker who had been walking the opposite direction.
'It took me an hour to find this yahoo!' he exclaimed. 'She borrowed my car and got it stuck. Then she borrowed my truck and got it stuck!'
'Is there a second lady in your party?' I asked. Two dual blank faces. Soon they hollered at each other like a couple of rattlers about the predicament, heat, and fighting over the last drops of water in my purloined jug. I rose like Dune and yelled, 'Let's get help from Salvation Mountain.' She stayed with the vehicles, and the white haired owner who had just joined her now accompanied me.
As we walked he droned about an enlightened city on earth, how he should spank the girl for getting his vehicles stuck, and how he spliced love scenes of porno movies into John Wayne movies.
In thirty minutes, we rapped on the door of the Salvation Mountain painter and begged a tow from his 1950s tractor splashed with sunflowers. The white haired man vanished as we loaded the tractor scoop with a 50' towline, rusty shovel, high jack, and gallon of water. I climbed in the scoop, and we began the mile slog through sugar sand, until the painter decided he could go no farther. He cut the engine, hooked a knee around the saddle, built himself a smoke, and as I jumped from the scoop, offered, 'Did you hear about the double murder last night?' 'No,' I replied. 'About midnight, it was a girl's last free moments who was stabbed in the stomach and her throat cut.'
'That's terrible, and the second?' He replied, 'The Youth think they got the right guy.' The Imperial County Sheriffs are so despised by Slab City residents, and vice versa, that two vigilante groups formed long ago: Oldsters, who are a handful of ex-military and bikers, and the Youth, who step in when something goes amiss within their peers. The painter sparked the tractor, and I walked the short distance over sugar sand to the bogged vehicles to deliver the bad news.
The thin girl with dragon tattoos in leather pants and halter top blurted, 'Where is the freak?' 'Who?' I enquired. She answered, 'The owner.' 'Disappeared.' Her upper lip trembled until the nose ring nearly dislodged, and then she firmed it, and muttered, 'Go with me back to our camp, and I'll show you something you won't believe is possible anywhere but in Slab City.'
We slogged through the sand like tortoises to the encampment of the odd girl and stranger guy. He wasn't there. She opened the trailer door and we peeked in: There was a mannequin that looked like her, sitting on the toilet with limbs that she claimed had been dislodged one-by-one over the past three days since she had been hired as a housekeeper. There were hundreds of VHS tapes of westerns and porn, a pile of wigs, and she led me to a 4' high pile of clothes she said she had cleaned from the trailer that included blouses and dresses matted with blood. I pawed through them, and at the bottom of the stack was a stick cross that she had fashioned from creosote and tied with twine. She said that she put it there to ward off the negative energy of the blood.
One doesn't go to the police in these parts or he'll get thrown in jail. I've made about 100 complaints over the past months about their misconduct, and been harassed for it. Wary as I was, I was also curious. So I removed my sunglasses, accepted a 2' kitchen knife from the girl who had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines for agoraphobia, and checked the rest of the trailer – under the bed and closets - before she would enter the trailer with me.
This wasn't a time to discuss another man's moral outlook. I'm known for equanimity in pickles, an accord with all the factions, and chess-like problem solving abilities in hobo bloomers with rope suspenders like a barrel, and 20 pounds of ankle weights – one hollowed out like a Batman Utility Belt to hold a compass, rope, paperback, and lighter, and duct tape tapering off on my nose like an inquisitive insect. After I finished consoling the girl, I pulled a cell phone out of my Batman ankle belt and called the San Francisco FBI. Within an hour the place was swarming with sheriffs.
I had left, because a really good detective never gets married to the plot.
The appearance of the stock ticker machine in 1867 removed the need for traders to be physically present on the floor of a stock exchange. Speculation underwent dramatic expansion, and with the connection of the internet boundless expansion occurred. Basically, speculation to me means higher risk investment that turns over rapidly. The coin is not in the air long. Another characteristic of speculation is that it's a judicious process of learning which makes it an intellectual competition. The market is like a gigantic chess tournament.
Traders then are a set type with traits, or they generally fail. They are usually competitive, individualistic, romantic, capable of bearing risk, athletic, of an addictive nature, scholarly, analytical, and good with numbers.
As a kid perhaps you recognized patterns in your stamp collection or on the baseball field, and sat alone in trees in independent thought analyzing them for the outcomes. You were passionate but rational, and one day went out on a limb to the idea of trading in the markets. Perhaps you had a mentor, or came up the harder way via books and trial and error which fosters patience. You were smart to start out small, and parlayed a stake into larger trades that afforded an augmentative income with dreams of diving full time into the market.
As a fish, to amphibian, to reptile in the market you've done what everyone else has – studied the books, surfed the websites, made some trades, attended a couple of seminars; and then one day it hits you like a ton of bricks - knowledge is power. The more knowledge the more power. However, infinite knowledge is limited by the time to learn it, so you map a plan to first study the central ideas to your trades, and expand from that nucleus outward. And you win.
As the information snowballs and interconnects a second paradigm arrives – I'm not thinking about a hunch or gut feeling. It's not about a trend or percentage game. You will predict the future by thinking. Think, think, think accurately. It gets to be a habit wherever you go. If you think fast you will be first.
One evening you look in the mirror and see a thinking guy or gal who has it all. There are facial creases of frowns and joy, but mostly the latter. That's when the third epitome shatters the glass – it's all about decisions. You keep right on making them even when you don't need to. You get into a what if thing, and start speculating about what you would do if some problem was yours instead of somebody else's.
Trading is a dual major in liberal arts and math. The former provides overview, but math is where you are measured and the ruler of your percentage success. The poetry of math, statistics, govern your choices.
The idea of going up against huge funds on an immense board finding ways to beat them is a real high. The rolls and swells at home become secondary to the lows and highs at the market. Little David vs. an illuminated Goliath and getting rich off the battle.
What you do next is decide to trade full time or not. The general guidance is to try anything new without burning bridges. As a full time trader, you're information is vast, thinking habit is hard, decisiveness is always near, and it doesn't matter how fast the market moves and changes, you're on top of it with a select few.
They are squeezed through the rollers of pressure. Ultimately you must have in your nature the trigger to pull under stress situations. The brighter they burn, the hotter you get.
There are many good analysts in the markets, but because of two Achilles heels few of them are able to translate their analytical prowess into profitable speculation: They must learn to walk away from a bad trade, and to avoid financial greed. There's nothing wrong with breaking Ft. Knox after Ft. Knox, but one day you will make substantial money to discover there are other challenges that speculation may support.
There is not time for romance and coffee now; this isn't a Louis L'Amour novel.
The summit of speculation is scantily populated by those who became high rollers from meager beginnings who play the market hard to win and learn rather than create surplus cash. The real thrill is working the game itself, like a kid on a perpetual peak experience. Turning the math into money, watching the bank grow without breaking character.
If you are original and creative but also a rational thinker, you may have what it takes to get on the road to speculation. Remember that experience counts for more in this profession than most, and paper trade at first, then graduate to trading with minimal funds, and scale up as your training, experience and resolve heighten like a professional athlete.
Success in speculation is a metaphor for achievement of self.
January 12, 2016 | 4 Comments
If you want to see individualism at its best go watch mountain man Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s battle a grizzly, scalped by Indians, swim frozen rivers, fall off a steep cliff onto a tall pine, gunshot, stabbed, and on to the campfire warmth of his own hunting team.
The story is inspired by a real life, though likely enlarged as the frontiersmen biographies I've read. However the acting is decent, especially by the animals, and the photography is exquisite.
It's hard to sit still during the movie and not head for an exit out to the wilds.
Lord of the Flies takes place on an otherwise uninhabited island among a group of boys who try to govern themselves. Some of the marooned characters are ordinary students, others of a musical choir, and the main castaways. Ralph quickly becomes the leader, not by physical force, but by being elected as having genuine qualities of leadership. Piggy is overweight with asthma and poor eyesight. He is the most physically vulnerable albeit the most intelligent of all the boys. Jack epitomizes the worst aspects of human nature when not under the thumb of society. Roger emerges as the sadist who kicks sand in the little guys' eyes. He will kill Piggy with a boulder that was not aimed to miss. And Simon represents peace and tranquility and positivity, often wandering off in a dreamy state by himself. When the Conch is blown, it calls the children to an assembly, where they agree that only the boy holding the Conch may speak at the meetings to forestall arguments and chaos, and is passed around to those who wish to speak their piece.
Slab City is a one square mile toenail of stark Sonoran desert on the edge of the New River that carries waste from Mexico to irrigate the surrounding crops of Imperial Valley, CA. As a World War II training center, Slabs has no jurisdiction, laced with spiderwebs of buckled concrete, and dead ends, where everyone looks you in the eye. Some of the main characters are the Alpha, a former banker and Special Forces, Ellie the Dog Lady who is the earth mother among the 200 residents, Buzz the caretaker of Salvation Mt., my old acquaintance the Mayor who acts as the hanging judge, BamBam the drug dealer, Sarah who plants flowers and kisses on everyone's faces, Builder Bob who runs the Music Range, and I'm tagged as the veterinary spiritualist. Mostly it's a ragtag collection of overintelligent rebellious kids. Everything is a joke to them. They exist entirely in the present, without responsibilities, conscience, or consequence. Each Saturday the Music Range blares free rock and roll with ten live bands that is also a call to stage of anyone who wishes to express his opinion in a rap or short speech.
The Beast in both the novel and Slabs represents the latent savagery lurking within all human beings. I think this is a product of evolution, nothing to be ashamed of, but simply a recapitulation of our remote ancestors. It stances on the controversial subjects of human nature, and individual welfare versus the common good. The theme in both places is a collection of young humans in conflict with the impulses toward civilization – living in harmony by rules – and toward the will to power. You must read the book or visit the Slabs to discover which way the balance teeters.
Lord of the Flies in my childhood set a mainsail in world travel to visit Utopias. I characterize Slab City as the last free place on earth (the others are uninhabited) where good and evil collide. But the study is exhausted.
I'm alone, 24 hours from Utopia, wherever that is.
January 11, 2016 | Leave a Comment
One can hardly deny that making money runs the world today. There are the specialists in making easy money. These are broadly characterized as speculators and gamblers.
Speculation and gambling have several differences.
Speculation involves increasing one’s chances to profit by various means such as news study, pondering, technical analysis, margin trading, hedging, options, and some have used psychics all with the aim of gaming profit from short or medium term market value fluctuations.
Gambling is wagering by means of an uncertain event with the aim of gaining additional assets. It requires consideration, chance, and a prize. The striking feature is that a small fee or amount is required with a chancy large return within a short time.
Bringing Down the House is the true story of how six MIT students turned gambling into speculation to fleece Las Vegas for millions. The best and brightest students are recruited by an eccentric former teacher with teeth like a picket fence of spades, diamonds, clubs and hearts to practice in a college backroom as the MIT Blackjack Team before invading the strip.
The nice thing about the book is that the secrets of card counting, shuffle study, ace cutting, hi-low counting, group spotters, third base coaches, card count code words, statistic indexes, and other tips the students used and the casinos don’t want you to know are revealed. Of course, one wonders the secret they did not reveal to win.
MIT proved blackjack is beatable and Ben Mezrich tells it with a suitable degree of suspense.
Speculation and gambling are similar in the manner in which they can acquire profit in a short time. Both methods involve risk but a speculator may learn more skills than a gambler’s plain luck to lower his risk. One may invest his hard earned money in intelligence such as Bringing Down the House.
I've seen them all on the silver screen from Lone Ranger through Unforgiven and the best movie to my eyes is The Hateful Eight (in theaters now). Eight strangers seek refuge from a blizzard in a stagecoach stopover sometime after the civil war, and the mystery winds from there.
A Korean restaurant opened a few months ago in southern California that is otherwise smothered by Mexican eateries. The food is excellent, the staff on task, and the owner pleasant. I decided to give them a tip.
I'd observed in other communities around the USA that about fifty percent of the income is lunch delivery to local businesses that were repeat orders. And yet, this Korean place only sent to about six establishments. I offered the owner this, hoping down the line to be tossed a bone.
Step One is to pamphlet your menu to the fifty or so businesses with three or more workers within a five mile radius. Step Two is to assign your delivery guys to follow the other food vendors–Domino's, Quiznos, Dunkin Donuts, Chinese, etc.– from 11am to 1pm daily, noting the addressees. Then, return the next day and pamphlet them, with free delivery on orders of $20 or more. You'll double your business overnight! I predicted.
Today, after two weeks, I stopped by the Korean restaurant for an update, and was greeted by the owner with a great smile, and the best meal on the house.
Most of us were gently pushed from the nest into the 'real world' via college or a job. That's soft release. The people I've been running into lately in southern California were hard released and hold PhD's in the 'hard knocks of life'.
Soft vs. hard release is taken from animal world where it's an exhaustive, ongoing study. We may take some lessons from there.
Hard release describes letting go into the wild without further support or feeding. It's often employed when an animal came into care as an independent juvenile or adult returning into its home territory. It's also necessary when a captive-raised young animal requires a particular habitat. The crux for this technique seems to be is the animal completely able to function independently after hard release.
Soft release is a means of gradually accustoming wild animals to a new environment before releasing them. It may entail providing food after the release, or into a group or flock, or release inside a cage.
From kangaroos to falcons to Born Free's orphaned lion cub Elsa, release strategy also enters the business world. Business people use the terms 'soft launch' and 'hard launch' to describe two marketing methods when bringing a product to the public. Soft launch is subtle, while the other is brazen. The technique a businessman chooses depends on things such as how much money you want to spend, the condition of your product, and the amount of attention you want to attract. You may want to try soft, hard, soft, hard… with a family of products.
That brings us back to our species of animals called humans. If I had kids instead of a vasectomy I'd choose soft release, and then make sure the door was shut except for Christmas and holidays. In other parts of the world, especially third world countries, the children often are never released but stay on as a unit family until death do them part.
You may also give your offspring the choice of soft or hard by opening the door… If he is in excellent physical condition and can demonstrate the wiles to survive wherever he's bound, then maybe it's time to let him choose which way to go. I had soft release from a comfortable Idaho home, into a college veterinarian experimental program riddled by suicides, and it was all for the best. When I took off from vet school onto the boxcars and world travel, and returned home with exotic stories to the door my parents had opened, everyone was full of cheer.
We are so resilient that both soft and hard release work, yielding slightly different outcomes per the nature vs. nurture argument. With strong genes, a proper upbringing, and a good knowledge of environment, you may release your kids anywhere, and enjoy the result.
My fight a few days ago was probably the result of a book of photos of me in various martial arts fighting stances. In the old west, a faster gun drew faster guns, and as a reputation spread the challengers tried. The good got better, and fewer over time. The same is true in incarceration at Coalinga, CA.
On that morning, in front of the chapel, the 24-hour 'sheriff' had mysteriously vanished. Four cameras trained on the attack spot were strategically shorted.
Three toughs came at me with Rock-em Sock-em's. A Rockem Sock-em is a sock full of batteries. Man A swung, and I ducked so the Rockem Sock-em broke Man B's jaw. On his follow through, I jabbed Man A in his solar plexus. Man C fled, as I shouted, 'Tell them next time to send a man to do the job.'
Six witnesses applauded, and I passed the chapel.
The only way to pick heroes is with large numbers. The two sources are the very poor – skid rows, scratch farms and housing projects – and the very rich – Beverly Hills, Manhattan, and so on.
A hero is a person who is admired or idealized for outstanding achievements, courage or noble qualities.
Large numbers are numerical digits which are considered to have higher values and significance than those used in everyday life, counting mathematics, finance and populations.
Our populations from which heroes are usually drawn boil down to the very poor and the very rich. Any other path out is easy going, and heroes don't rise from milquetoast. Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness vanishes.
Once you identify a hero who does things which we recognize, with regret, and sometimes with a sliver of shame, that we cannot do, be inspired that you can too.
If large numbers of people knew where to look for heroes, and believed in them, the world would become a special place.
On Christmas Eve, father M. promised his three children a special gift. 'Pile in the car, boys, we're going for a ride to get it,' he declared. They were near my hometown, outside Landing, Michigan. Onto the snow blown road he wheeled the old Ford, and onto a rural lane with snow on the shoulders up to the windows. He rolled down the windows, and large snowflakes poured in.
Father M. cut the engine in the middle of nowhere, and announced, 'Merry Christmas!' Then he proceeded to rip all the wires from the ignition, heater, and steering column. He handed them a wrapped present, and the kids tore into it, forgetting the mounting chill for a moment.
It was a Greenlee Electrical Tool Set.
He climbed into the back seat and, before going to sleep, told them, 'It's going to be a long, cold night unless…' and began snoring like Santa. The boys worked three hours as the temperature fell to -5F degrees. Then they sparked the ignition, the headlights worked too, and Dad woke up.
'A hard lesson learned is long remembered, boys!' And they drove home to the Christmas tree.
I read of an experiment run by the army psychological unit that was interested in nature vs. nature in response time. The anecdotal evidence had come from a children's movie being shown on service bases. It was a cheap sci-fi flick. Rubber puppets were filmed in extreme up-close. The creature's first appearance was a cinematic masterpiece. It popped out of a lagoon. Shock was total – children in the audience screamed and recoiled in their seats. The reason seemed to be worldwide.
The psychologists agreed that the reaction to extreme danger was a rational response derived from evolution. But they knew about nurture, and maybe even mutation. So, they wondered if children were born with or without the recoil reflex. It would be counterproductive in terms of survival of the species, but possibly useful to the military, and, I thought, to individual survival.
They sent the movie to remote bases in the Pacific at Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines for a largest possible test sample. The Pacific because they wanted kids not yet exposed to even rumors of the movie. Inconspicuous cameras were set above the screens focusing on the first row. When the monster reared its head, the cameras were timed to snap to capture the stills of thousands of four-to-nine year old children. They all showed the same thing: small children, mouths open, eyes wide, jerking back against their seats, and some bolting for the exit. Except, in one still of a front row, one boy was jumping forward with his hands raised aggressively.
About the same time as the Pacific experiment, I was in the front row, a crewcut nine year old, at an Idaho Falls movie house. 'Old Yeller' is a 1957 Walt Disney family tragedy about a boy and his stray dog in post-Civil War Texas. In a memorable scene where the yellow Labrador mix encounters a western diamondback rattler, the snake coils, rattles, and… But I was out of my seat flung into the screen grasping the viper by its ugly neck to save Old Yeller. As a kid, at my first movie, I thought it was real for a split second. Everyone else in the theater had recoiled in their seats. But I had the snake by the neck.
The monster movie petered out, and the boy probably got labeled by long words, and recruited by the military. But 'Old Yeller' launched me into a life of survivals, by nature and by nurture.
The true test of trust with a wild animal is sharing it's supper. Last night, after being followed back to camp by a kit fox, I placed a dinner dish on the desert floor and popped open a can of Ol' Roy Top Sirloin dog food, and dumped it on the plate. Getting down on all fours, I took a bite from one corner of the plate, the fox took a bite… and we continued to share. It was a delight, and then the fox jumped on my bed, but didn't stay overnight.
Slab City, CA is the last free place in America, with the recent BLM closing of old hippie villages in Arizona and New Mexico, where good and evil have decided to duke it out. I landed here chasing robbers, and like it.
Today, the winter Solstice, I bought the southwest 20' x 30' corner of the cement slab of General George Patton's warehouse, including a trailer, for $500. There is no electric, water or sewage, but the new place is walking distance to a hot spring, cold canal, general store, and 900 interesting citizens. If Jessie James and Billy the Kid were alive, this is where they'd be.
In the movie 'Down and Out in Beverly Hills' we find a drifter who pretends to drown himself in a trouble family's swimming pool, only to alter their destiny. Likewise, I've become the town's informal physician, veterinarian for vicious pit bulls, legal advocate, and surrogate to girlfriends of mates who have been hauled to jail. I'm down and out in Slab City.
Life has a balance: one is of being and the other is of doing. Your being is your nature that is with you always. You were born with it and didn't have to do anything to get it. You are it.
Doing is an achievement. Whatever you do happens; if you do it, it happens. If you do not do it, it doesn't happen.
Of these two sides of life I prefer action. Action is a choice. You may choose; or you may not choose. This isn't the case with being. You may become a saint or a thief, a CEO or a bum. You can choose, you can change. A saint can become a thief, or viceversa.
There's an odd interplay after many seasons of action. You change your being. Then even greater things are possible. As Mahatma Gandhi said, 'Be the change that you wish to see in the world.'
Rattlesnakes in December are not rare here in the southern California desert, and I spotted a large sidewinder yesterday. Then today I was strolling a dirt road into town and passed a hovel where Snakey, the local snake charmer, had a western diamondback and sidewinder on top of each other in an army helmet trying to get them to wrestle. He had just taken off the helmet, and the well-fanged snakes rattled but didn't strike. Snakey is the only citizen the police stay away from, and he is fearless having been bitten 32 times by his pet rattlesnakes. He loves attention.
Within minutes, two cars of tourists had paused and my friend Snakey picked up the rattlers by their bellies and shook them, hoping to extract tips. Then he milked the larger snake of venom into the helmet, mixed it with some chocolate pudding, and drank it. Being allergic to anti-venom, he claims the solid food boosts his immune system at the expense of diarrhea.
He buys rattlers for $10-$20 from townspeople, and is the most requested house sitter around because he brings his pets to roam the homes. No one breaks and enters a house full of rattling snakes.
He brought out Lovey from his freezer, a frozen sidewinder, and stroked it as if trying to warm back to life. He had slept with this one for years. When the snake didn't respond, he put it under his helmet, donned it, and walked away holding the two other snakes and a crowd of astonished onlookers.
In this age, a mere example of nonconformity, the refusal to bend the knee to custom, can shake some sense into all of us.
I was asked, as a retired veterinarian, to investigate the rape of a Pitt Bull. The median-size female with white chest markings had an irritated vulva and minor tears with fingernail marks. On a follow-up call last night, I arrived at the owner's military bunker home to find her, a pretty blonde, loaded for bear with a flare gun and in tears. The dog had vanished, 'Eloped!' she expected. I tracked the pair along a dirt to a paved county road near Salvation Mountain, CA before losing them.
California leads the nation by enacting the strictest laws punishing sexual abuse of animals under Penal Code 286.5PC. Violators are subject to a maximum fine of $1000 and six months in the county jail. Rape to settle desert scores is not uncommon. A resident of my own Sand Valley was kicked out for getting a Black Labrador drunk on whiskey before coitus. This is not something we covered in animal husbandry at vet school.
A man living near Salvation Mountain was reported last seen with the victim, but there had been no witnesses of abuse. When the blonde's husband discovered the pet's elopement, he raced to the suspect's trailer door and kicked it in, screaming. A sheriff carted him to the Imperial County jail for felony B&E, where I just put $20 on his book to enable computer time to try to solve the mystery.
I've treated in 105 countries, but this is the strangest case to date.
The best three minute episodes of my life have been at speed chess and survival. Chess is obvious, with the clock ticking, and in survival the elements are similar. A stranger meets a stranger on a bridge, narrow trail, or alley. They size each other up in the first couple seconds. There is an exchange of intent a la the Tactical Wheel of fencing. Then one person makes the first move that may be friendly or aggressive. In chess, you can always punch the clock, and start over again; however, recovering in survival may take longer unless your moves have been accurate.
Nigel Davies writes:
There's a very good chapter on defending difficult positions in The Art of the Middle Game by Paul Keres and Alexander Kotov. Basically you have to do all you can to stay calm and keep your position afloat, never lash out in desperation. It could be that you'll lose anyway but your chances are better if you're calm and tough minded. Choose the move where you can't see an immediate win for your opponent and try to eliminate the greatest danger, sometimes the most dangerous enemy piece.
There's some good advice too in Mihai Suba's Dynamic Chess Strategy in that you can use a kind of psychological blackmail in that if your opponent has been attacking you present him with the chance for a won endgame. Very often they'll reject the lengthy but certain win because they think they should have more or have become too attuned to playing for mate.
Finally Emanuel Lasker in Lasker's Manual of Chess said that you should try to make every point in your position equally weak so as not to present a clear target. Make your opponent lunge and make the running, going forward is always harder and riskier.
Not knowing how to get to the Cattle Call Rodeo in Brawley, CA, at 120’ below sea level, I stopped and asked a marching Afghanistan War veteran for directions. "I’m the one they left behind!" he told me. He had a shot leg, and was withering in the 90F weekend heat in the last of the eight mile march behind 120 others to the Rodeo. I paid his admission.
Unlike most rodeos, where the cowboys, cowgirls and animals are known in advance, the Cattle Call roster is a last minute affair. We entered the stadium in a gully, jam packed with yelling fans, at the first gunshot. My companion instantly ducked, grabbed for a gun in a nonexistent holster, drew a phantom pistol, and began scanning the bleachers for the enemy.
We watched the breakaway roping, bronco riders, barrel racing, mutton busters, and others, but by far the most appealing was the Cattle Cull. A group of twenty cattle waited in nervous anticipation at one end of the arena, while a team of three cowboys (or cowgirls) shot from a chute to cull one cow at a time into a pen.
With each gunshot, out the gate, my companion rose off the bleacher, crouched, pulled an invisible revolver, and scanned the crowd for adversary. Finding none, I gently reminded him we were at the rodeo, and he sat down, until the next shot.
I was enjoying the event because it brings into play, under the duress of a clock, elements of picking a target, culling it, while keeping the rest of the group intact, and then selecting the next, until three are corralled. It is a metaphor for sport, romance, business, and the market. Henry Ford said, "Put all of your eggs in one basket, and watch closely that basket," but in this event there is a succession of three things, one at a time, that must be taken and watched to win.
When the veteran next to me shot up again, and people started scooting to the far ends of the bleacher, I thought we’d get the bum’s rush, but came up with a solution from the event. I told the veteran, "There are going to be an unknown number of shots before this event is over, and, like the cowboys, you can choose only three times to react, or we’re goners."
He not only got it, he waited patiently through the remaining seven teams, thinking there would be more. Yep, the Cattle Call Rodeo cured him of shell shock.
Kit foxes wear black masks on silver fir, that made them stand out on Halloween.
I had just walked six hours and lost my way, stumbling in circles.
I sat hard on the desert floor to gather my wits, and threw my feet to the stars.
In a minute, the first black mast appeared and nudged my boots once, then twice, to the west.
In another minute, the second fox grabbed my right index finger in its mouth, and began tugging me in the same direction toward camp.
I followed them a half-mile to my camp, and we shared supper.
I found myself doing a new book.
Tan and lovely, when she smiles I don't know what will emerge.
'Carpenter ants are flat, but red ants are tasty and sting.' Her tongue and lips swelled, and she rubbed her tummy in satisfaction.
On another hiking trip to Yosemite someone slipped her a marijuana brownie, and she stripped to a tank top and tore redwoods apart looking for termites.
She carries duct tape to pull spines out her tongue after eating prickly pear cactus.
Spiders are snacks, while she cooks road kill.
While searching for bee larvae, if honeybees sting her, she snatches them, pulls the stingers, and ties them to strands of her lovely dark hair that they fly around like Medusa so I can no longer kiss her.
When I was young I wanted to be a policeman. My father never hoped for more than a job to support us, and mom was busy stocking the basement bomb shelter with canned goods. It was instilled in us kids to get an education, and to obey the law. I wondered how it would feel to have a buck in my jeans and the spring of adventure in my shoes simultaneously, and that's why, before I found an abandoned dog and choose veterinary medicine, I decided to become an officer.
After recent encounters with the police, I'm glad I found the lost dog. In over two hundred fairly amicable encounters with the law, the three latest ones come to mind.
1. After last bell of teaching at Blythe, CA high school, I walked across the street at a corner without a cross-walk and was stopped by a policeman I recognized as a former student in a class that had thrown spitballs. He said that I had jaywalked, and doubled the fine because it was near a fires station. California had just passed a new law that one cannot go to court to appeal a ticket without paying the fine first. I complained to district attorney in the nearest city – never do it in the same town where the ticket is issued – and, after paying the $256 jaywalking fee, got the satisfaction of reading a letter from the Riverside DA ordering the officer to stay away from me.
In instance 2., also in Blythe, I was tailgated at 55 mph on a rural road for a mile by a semi-truck sunk on its springs with gravel. I tapped my brakes, causing the truck to brake sharply and swerve onto the shoulder. He caught up in another mile, in the school zone, and ran me off the road with his rig into the parking lot. I found an on duty officer and gave him the license # and name of the construction company, suggesting to advise the boss to warn his driver, probably another former student, to be more careful. A week later, the speed limit sign where I had been tailgated was raised to 60 mph, and that's the last I heard of it.
3. My most recent encounter has been with a string of eight Imperial Valley, CA sheriffs sparked by a robbery at my Sand Valley property. By tracking the thieves for days, culminating in a high speed chase across a bombing range, weaving in and out of house-sized craters and undetonated 6' bombs stuck nose first in the earth, to their doorstep, I solved the case. I provided pictures, names and addresses to the police while amassing a collection of their business cards. Finally, I convinced a detective to accompany me to the thieves' den, but mandated that he do it in his unmarked car. He agreed, but en route radioed a marked unit to join the queue, that was seen by the burglars. After the police left, they surrounded me on dirt bikes, revving them kicking up dust while their girlfriends thrust their middle digits. After this white knuckler, I went to Internal Affairs (the department that polices the police) and taped a one minute account that was transcribed and handed out to every deputy in the region.
Now I don't want to become a cop any more. In the old west, the sheriff's duties were to tame the wild west without nitpicking. His methods were direct without a legal tangle, and he was a spurred bedrock of American values. So, I think the officers in my recent meetings should be given a second chance. After all, though Wild Bill Hickok would later go on to hold other law enforcement positions in the west, his first attempt at being a sheriff lasted only three months.
On Sunday, I walked into a Slab City, CA camp as the new guy in town for an introduction to the informal Mayor. Slab City is a popular winter haven for nomadic misfits set on the concrete slabs of General George Patton's training center for the WWII African invasion. In the early 1940s, Patton flew over where I met the Mayor and declared, "This is Hell! My boys are going to train here for the African campaign." Hence, the Chocolate Mt. Bombing Range, second largest in the world, sits spitting distance from where the Mayor, bearded and strumming a guitar, chatted. Helicopters fired machine guns at 300 rounds a minute, and 10000-pound bombs rocked the ground beneath us.
The Mayor suddenly eyed me carefully, and shouted, "Steve Keeley! I've been searching for you for decades!" He recounted how his father, a genius three-time loser, once loaned me his VW van while the dad installed a cruise control in my Leach van. The VW brakes failed at a MI RR crossing, and scooped up on the cowcatcher of a moving freight train! The van folded in half, and I sailed down the track clutching the steering wheel to keep from falling out the window under the locomotive 3' cookie-cutter wheels…another near death. The Mayor grabbed my hand and shook it, and now I'm a made guy in Hell.
I'm a strong believer in the Baby Bull theory where one adds a little at a time to become big and strong. A backpack filled with a pebble more a day makes an undefeatable hiker. Few think to apply the Baby Bull to their minds.
If you wish your child to become prodigiously wise before your eyes, feed his mind daily like a baby bull throughout his childhood. The two books I recommend reading a passage at each supper sitting are Ayn Rand's Lexicon, and Louis L'Amour's Trail of Memories. Each contains hundreds of short excerpts from their works that instruct as aphorisms.
The term Baby Bull derives from a theoretical baby who is introduced to a calf, and lifts it daily. As the calf grows, so does the child.
September 30, 2015 | Leave a Comment
There is no such thing as a bear market. Nor is a 10% decline more likely to be followed by declines than rises. The limited number of such moves in past makes it completely non-predictive even if there were some conditional moves following it that were different from the first. However, the moves at the close yesterday before the 23 pt rise today have the semblances of death throes.
if we have any experts on such besides the hobo vet, it would be good to hear their insights.
Bo Keely writes:
The pressed dinosaur image in the death throes article you linked to has a more probable explanation. I disagree with the paleontologists about the cause of death being agonizing and with the vet who diagnoses the cause as opisthotonus. It makes more sense that nearly every dinosaur skeleton, whatever the cause of death, is slowly weighted by accumulating layers of dirt, which press it into that position.
1. The common definition of a bear market is a 20% decline from its most recent high price. The common definition of the Loch Ness Monster is a cryptid that reputedly inhabits Loch Ness, a lake in the Scottish Highlands. Some will say that neither exist. I have the photos of both.
2. The necessary condition for a 20% decline is a 10% decline. Hence the probability of a 20% is infinitely higher after a 10% decline than before a 10% decline. Based on what I've read, the pundits are obsessing whether this is "2011 all over again" (whatever that means). I am trading with the view that the answer is more likely "no" than "yes". Whatever that means.
The movie Everest is riveting with displays of market risk. Without spoiling the summit, the history of Everest passes from 1953, when Edmund Hillary became the first up, to the present as four groups daily attempt the top.
Everest is the archetype on thousands of similar, though smaller, expeditions that set out daily around the world to reach natural wonders. I've been on a hundred of these: to waterfalls, peaks, wildlife fields, and elephant boneyards. Everywhere capitalism has invaded the guide business.
In the first hour of the movie it's difficult to hold still in the seat and not crawl into the plot to boost someone up a ladder, across a crevice, or hold the breath as oxygen dwindles near the summit. The competing agencies recruit, outbid, and sabotage each other to get clients up there first.
And then there's the celebration of cashing in at the top, and saying, I did it. Everest has brought market risk to the silver screen.
So you've decided to go vagabonding.
What you're doing is courageous, logical, and not that unusual these days.
The bottom line is you've decided to jump the fence of your backyard to explore what's beyond. I did this metaphorically and physically as an Idaho spud, and haven't turned an eye back.
For you, good things are ahead. In the 1990s it was just becoming popular for citizens to step outside their country or second nation borders to live. We travelers called their areas 'pockets of ex-pats' and they were small but established in a town or site in nearly every third & second world country.
Now, however, the movement is grander, with hundreds of these pockets around the world, and up to tens of thousands in each. Some I've visited or heard about first hand in the past few years are Saigon, large cities of India, Seoul, Bangkok, a number of Chinese cities, and many more.
The nuts and bolts of finding and selecting one is simple. Get a Lonely Planet guidebook (at any Barnes & Noble) for the country or region you wish to penetrate. Use the guide in plotting a rough itinerary & picking a places to stay–immediately you'll be hooked into the travelers' grapevine. This is because almost every travelers use Lonely Planet, thus end up using the same facilities. You'll be sitting in a hotel, hostel, cafe or bar with dozens of other travelers and tourists from a dozen countries speaking four languages (English dominates) and you simply listen or ask what you want to know– where should i go for this or that.
Nearly every traveler I meet these days is a 'digital nomad', except me with my muddy boots.
If you are targeting India, Bangkok or Buenos Aires, I can provide contacts.
Your exploratory trip should connect the dots of possibilities, staying only a couple days at each, and allowing for side trips to nearby pockets of ex-pats doing the same thing you want to do. It's a scouting trip for overview. In one month, with diligence, you can have composed, and visited, twenty strong potential sites. The next step is to pick the top three, and live at each for one month to get the feet wet. Then jump in.
if you decide not to jump in, you will have had a wonderful time.
Pitt T. Maner III writes:
In Central America, Nicaragua, is an interesting and beautiful country I have visited and lived where one can find the finest coffee, good cigars, and excellent rum, or live healthily and eat many exotic and delicious fruits (dragonfruit, nispero, papaya, nancite) and hike through the amazing cloud forests and waterfalls of dormant volcanos. The people are friendly and generally happy and positive.
I started playing board games about the same age I began a diary, at five, and so was dually pleased to review a new Web-based board game that lets aspiring writers trace their trajectory of what might happen out there if you try to become an author.
You roll the online die to start, and land on a progression of squares on an upward spiraling toward a best seller. I just landed on 'First book tour' that actually occurred forty years ago with The Complete Book of Racquetball. In looking ahead, after 25 published books, tomorrow I'll publish Hobo Moments: 30 Years in Pictures. With it, I'll roll the die for the 26th time and see what happens.
You may create and publish your own board game on whatever topic you wish. I created one once on Jogging, where the participants were required to run once around the block for each square advanced, and another on World Travel. The premise for nearly every board game is advancing around a string of squares, the number of jumps which is determined by the luck of the die or drawn card. If of a mathematical mind, you may calculate the odds and lay out the board from scratch; however, the underlying current usually uses the general formula of the classic game Sorry to determine the odds of advancement and time spent on the succession of spots.
There is no better way to advance in life than to play it like a board game.
September 23, 2015 | Leave a Comment
Proprioception is one's capacity to grasp the relative positions of neighboring parts of the body, and the strength and effort being employed in the movement.
I used monkey bars, then horsehair mats, a physical board game called Twister, and finally sports.
You may also employ musical instruments.
You may foretell your career by the childhood instrument. Piano players make better tennis players, drummers step automatically into a helicopter's pilot seat, guitar players make the best martial artists (viz. Elvis), and the most interesting is the vertical space of the saxophone as in reading Chinese.
Close your eyes as you play for greater awareness into proprioception. Shift your body weight, and multi-task with another instrument such as a mouth harp.
Once, as an experiment, I spent a week where every waking moment was in motion, even while reading and eating.
Practicing proprioception improves balance, coordination, strength, weight transfer, quickness, and rhythm. As skill improves, more stimuli are added to continue improvement. As you type a letter, you may multi-task by lifting one foot at a time, and nodding your head.
Proprioception is movement intelligence, and should be started at the youngest possible age to improve one's lot in life.
The strangest mating ritual furnished from the animal kingdom must be the octopus Argonaut with a detachable penis. It reminds me of how not to play the market, putting all your eggs in one basket and investing it in one place. The market will bear it, but it may be your last venture.
The male octopus has one arm longer than the others, known as a hectocotylus, which is used to transfer sperm to the female. The arm stores up the sperm, and when the male finds a mate, he inserts and detaches it while mating. The female will store the hectocotylus in her cavity, but unfortunately for the sea-faring investor, the male is only able to mate once. The female, however, is capable of mating several times over her lifespan. In fact, females have been found that have several hectocotylus in their cavity at the same time.
A thousand tomorrows may soon pass without you once having tried dog food. Pet food has come a long way since I cleaned kennels in Michigan and sneaked every of the six types I dished out to the dogs and cats. I see that in 2001 Ralston, Purina, and Alpo merged to produce a line of food that surpasses in flavor and nutrition anything that I've sampled previously. Honestly, it's better than most fast food and some cafes. The Filet Mignon cooked in savory juices is great on spaghetti. The Chicken Rotisserie beats Colonel Sanders because it's not too spicy. It's one thing to enjoy a hearty Roast Beef for dinner, but something in the gravy takes it to a whole new level. The Lamb and Rice may be preferred by those who fear carcinogens in beef and chicken. Like dogs, cats, and most people, my two kit foxes that I feed nightly would rather have gravy on their food. Budget shoppers will find the food affordable in 13-ounce cans selling for about $.70.
My first train ride from the Golden Spike in Ogden, UT to San Francisco made a pivot in my life. In the Feather River Canyon, CA, I jumped blindly into a boxcar with the two bad actors with short trousers on the outer borders of the photo. They glared at me like wolves for an hour, and began to move in. Suddenly, the train stopped, and the other two men in the center of the photo climbed in. The initial two were yegs [sometimes spelled "yeggs"], or outlaws of the road, apparently newly released from prison. The other two were bona fide hobos, and became my mentors, teaching me to survive on the rails by using a RR spike for protection, and catching pigeons to eat under bridges in a wicker basket. I jumped out in San Francisco, the first of about 300 freight rides.
Of the myriad kinds of risk, many people graduate to the coffin never having sampled any until the last breath. This is a shame because risk is inherent in our being as evolutionary products of the original thought.
There is financial risk, credit risk, survival risk with which I'm more familiar, market risk, business risk, sport risk, political risk, romantic risk, health risk, and any other event where the outcome has a value and a penalty with choices involved.
My rules for handling risk are:
· Gather as much information as possible before entering any risk.
· Get a toe wet first, if possible, before the final plunge.
· Risks alone are more valuable than when shoaled with others.
· During the peak moments of risk constantly evaluate and reevaluate.
· Always have a backup plan.
· Always have an exit.
· When in doubt, be bold.
Whatever your brand of risk, these guidelines will keep you afloat to take another, and another, through the discovery of self.
September 10, 2015 | Leave a Comment
Think Like a Grandmaster also applies to survival. My shingle as Catman Keeley is having lived nine lives. Nearly every disastrous event that I've experienced has three mathematical elements: Danger closing, fewer escape options as the clock ticks, and less time to consider them as the flag starts to drop.
Some personal examples are approaching men with knives, a ring of snapping dogs closing, a freight train accelerating with one hand hooked on a ladder, heatstroke under a desert sun while hiking toward water, hypothermia while stumbling toward a distant campfire, swimming fatigue in a rip tide, an approaching head-on collision, cerebral malaria knocking at the brain, encased in a swarm of stinging bees, altitude sickness on a peak, flames licking on a roof, lost on the Pantanal as the moon sets, human stampede as gunshots near, runaway raft filling with holes, sinking in quicksand, cannibals on a slippery riverbank, musical trees in a herd of rhinos, ax chopping through a hotel door, 13' alligators on a one-lane levee, and rising tide on a cliff sided Baja beach.
These makes me want to go out and test myself again.
Effective ways to train for survival in the wilds are board games for children, sports for teens, and business negotiation as adults. Therefore, everyone has a background to adventure.
One of the goals of a person's life, after the work day and reproduction are done, is to discover 'Who am I'?
Today I had a discussion with a computer science professor on the definition of self. My thesis is that we are walking computers housed in sentient bodies due to evolution. The sensations of the five senses, plus a few that probably haven't been discovered, are evolved to support the central nervous system computer. There is no other way, or we would not be here.
I supported the thesis as one of the oldest living persons to start studying computers. Fifty years ago, I won a science fair blue ribbon for a shoebox full of erector set parts and rolling marbles that solved equations as quickly as an abacus or slide ruler. A perk was a twice weekly class with three other ribbon winners, to a Jackson, MI IBM office full of refrigerator size computers that calculated data using a language called FORTRAN. That evolved into the other programs, and so did I.
It's hard to swallow that we are evolved machines encased in flesh in order to become better machines, but defining oneself is where self-improvement starts.
My life has consisted of plans, deadlines and goals and not quite enough time to reach them. From so many times with the head on the chopping block, I've learned to deal with stress. You get up in the morning and choose to be active. You do the things you can and give no thought to the things you can't help. Raise the bar. You pick action that covers stress like a blanket. If your mental stress takes physical symptoms such as twitches, seek a quieter environment and exercise. Nothing is quite as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Just stay active and make the right choices.
Today I hiked in the Sonoran desert sand for four waterless hours at 120F in dry air east of the Salton Sea with ten pound ankle weights around each foot.
I became overheated and dizzily jumped into a canal to revel in the cool blast. The forgotten ankle weights dragged me to the bottom as my life flashed before me. There were stabbings, illnesses, freight escapes, and lost times in the wilderness in a series that convinced me that the mind remembers quicker than awareness perceives.
I couldn’t crawl up the steep canal sides, and so powerfully frog kicked a minute to a rope for bathers, and pulled myself out to live another day.
If you pick a fight with a professional or an alpha everything moves in slow motion for him. After he defeats you, he can afford to be magnanimous and get you up, brush you off, and offer pointers for your next fight. I was an alpha in racquetball and paddleball for years and did the same thing. I made many friends by beating people and then giving them tips so they could do better against me next time to improve my game.
I recently reacquainted with a guy I used to spar with in wrestling named James Hydrick who was an alpha on the martial arts circuit and held a Guinness Record for breaking the most concrete with a single blow. His ring, street and prison fights are legend, numbering in the hundreds, and he lost twice on flukes. Many involved weapons and being outnumbered six to one. He would always get his opponent up after beating them, dust them off, offer tips, and become their friend.
In the same way, fighting in nature among animals is to establish a pecking order, particularly in choosing an alpha. If you pick a fight with an alpha, be prepared to fight to the death, or be brushed off and become a member of the pack.
July 28, 2015 | 1 Comment
Forever Stamps are used for currency in prisons and psychiatric hospitals where inmates and patients aren't allowed to have money. Not only is it a medium of exchange, it is a good store of value as stamps appreciate with the US Postal rates which historically have never declined.
The days of prisoners and patients being allowed to have two packs of cigarettes a week are long gone. In California and most other states there is a full ban on tobacco. Regardless, smokers get them and, per supply and demand, the price of tobacco in the facilities has risen astronomically, and can be even more expensive than dope.
When you think of prison economics the second thing that should come to mind after cigarettes is ‘mack' – small tins or pouches of preserved mackerel or tuna. Since 2004, mack has replaced ciggies for trading goods and services because they are small with a inestimable shelf life. Inmates and patients have built an entire economic structure around the oily fish.
Then, in 2007, Forever Stamps became the staple currency because they are smaller and last as long as cigarettes and mack, and they appreciate in value over time. They are non-denominational first class postage which means they can be used to mail first class letters no matter what the future postal rate. For example, in 2013 a Forever Stamp cost $.46 to mail a first class one-ounce letter, but today it costs $.49, which is an appreciation of about 7%.
One pack for a microwaved Mexican cuisine. Two macks for a haircut. Two books of Forever Stamps for a jug of bootleg wine. Forever Stamps are so popular that improvised black markets spontaneously emerge around them with inmates offering everything from handcrafts to clothes and televisions. There are 20 stamps per booklet which has a value of $10.00, and the booklets are generally not broken. That is, starched laundry is a book but never a book-and-half, and a bodyguard for a day may cost five books but stamps are never pulled.
Inmates and patients can procure postage stamps easily and legally by mail or in in-house exchanges for goods and services making them a de facto form of payment. In fact, postage stamps are considered legal tender in the United States. You should be able to go into Wal-Mart or any store and purchase any of these items offered in prisons and hospitals.
However, bill collection in the underworld is more grisly. If inmates don't get paid for goods, services or loans then criminal acts are going to follow. Contract hits over owing Forever Stamps occur daily.
There is an odd wrinkle called 'upping the value' of a booklet by offering a $7.00 item for two books of stamps that are worth $10.00. Yes, it cost the buyer $3.00 more but the thing was in demand with stamps in great supply. The seller may then turn around and put the stamps as money on his prison or hospital commissary account, or send the booklets home to be used as full value to send him more goods or stamps.
All of which means the prison or ward economy runs much like a commodities market: Money in a commissary account can’t be traded, but goods sold at the commissary can be. And since the amounts in circulation are tightly regulated, their value can far surpass their price in dollars. Store men — prison or psych businessmen who have amassed a fortune of stamps — often mail stamps to loved ones outside effectively converting their fortune into cash, reducing the number of stamps in play and thereby inflating the value of individual stamps.
In the corrections and hospital system, enterprising businessmen amass vast fortunes of strange juju. These eccentric fortunes cannot be deposited into traditional banks nor can their value be added on machines. Instead, they are hoarded in secret piggy banks like seat cushions and hollowed bedposts. One never knows when he will need an uncommon item not sold by the commissary such as clean urine (stored in condoms) for a drug test, and has to go to the bank to pay for it. In the joint, everything has a value and ingenuity is priceless.
And with that, we must study the improvised, underground economies of America’s vast prison and psychiatric systems. In traditional economies, money has three primary functions: as a medium of exchange, as a unit of account, and as a store of value. Forever Stamps are the underworld gold standard that citizens outside the walls might envy in some ways.
Discouragement is between you and your dreams. Imagine the ways you deal with it in life, business, sports, board games and romance, and then take a tip from deep in the desert. I've discovered after living here for two decades that desert rats, as they fondly call themselves, deal with the hardships or heat, privation, and loneliness in eight ways.
1. Books: This is a lifelong plunge.
2. Booze: So is this, so try the other seven first.
3. Exercise: This was my adaptation many years ago; the washes are my sidewalks.
4. Refrigerator People: Live with one hand on the door.
5. Hobby: For most, it's fixin' cars.
6. Estivation: Not found in some dictionaries, this is the desert form of hibernation.
7. TV: Hours of it.
8. Sex: Beats watching the cactus grow, or does it?
One of the first questions to ask a person to know them better is: "What do you do in your spare time?" The answer in the desert is always one of the above. And from that you will be discouraged or encouraged. Think of encouragement as a cheerleader that says, "Do it!, Don't give up!" until you reach your dreams.
With copper selling at $2.50 a pound, wire thefts have become increasingly popular. Last month in fashionable Chesapeake, VA my brother chased down two midnight strippers on his bicycle. Little desert towns around me now in southern California look like war zones with every fourth shanty or mobile home broken into, and stripped. At my own Sand Valley property wire robbers stripped the extension cords, dug up underground wires, and burned them to the precious 'green gold' in my backyard barbeque. The other day in Niland, CA I was house hunting and paused at the sheriff station to inquire about neighborhood safety. The radio blurted, 'Copper stripper in the act in the chartreuse house on Fifth Street.' The sheriff piped, 'Will you stand by?' and I replied, 'Yes'. But secretly I tailed him, turning into an alley behind the chartreuse home. I got out and looked for people or prints, as the officer yelled, 'Police' and banged through door after door inside. He exited, pistol in hand, and yelled, 'Freeze!.' 'I'm the house hunter!' I shouted. We trailed the robber down the alley, and because of the price of copper I've decided to buy a house elsewhere.
Pitt T. Maner III writes:
There is a nice reward for those helping to catch Cu thieves:
"With the theft of copper communications cable increasing in Southern California, Verizon is offering up to $10,000 to anyone who can provide the company with information that leads to the arrest of the perpetrators."
Strange events since the price of copper appears to be near a multi-year low…perhaps the cables are easier targets or the thieves have become more sophisticated in finding and exploiting them.
The metal scrappers at the largest bombing range in USA, the Chocolate Mt. Gunnery range adjacent to my property, keep a close watch on the London Metal Market, Dow, and Brass/Copper relationship in order to know when to hold or sell their precious metals. This week they're been especially vigilant while scavenging under the full moon on the bomb range.
Yesterday at sunset five quads forayed independently but in radio contact in case of breakdown, running out of gas, or pursuit by the military police or Border Patrol. There had been constant bombing for twelve hours that shook the ground we stood on and a perpetual rat-a-tats from jets and copters ejecting brass shells at over 60 per second at targets on the range. The range was littered with four-inch long shells worth a quarter. Each scrapper made two or three runs after sundown and returning with the last load before sunset with hundreds of shells per load. They pool the metal, and if the market price is right one pickup truck drives it to a San Diego recycle center that accepts military scrap. Each scrapper nets about $500 for a night's work.
They carried ice water, backpacks and milk crates for brass on their medium-size ATV's. They sleep all day, and are rising again this hour before sunset to run the range again, and again until the moon wanes later this week. The current price of brass is $1.60 a pound, so some of the men are holding, and others who need money are selling.
The metal market relationships are: When the Dow is up the price of metals is usually down. The London Metal Index is the primary guide to know when to hold or sell. When there's a war somewhere around the world, the price of aluminum jumps, and the scrappers start unscrewing the two-foot bomb fins from six-foot long 1000-lb. bombs that leave craters big enough to sit a small home into.
The first business book I read was Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich in which I learned to establish a master mind group to learn from. I always hired people who were smarter than me, and tried to keep control of the business. The second business book that shook me up was Ross Perot's In His Own Words during a 7.2 Richter earthquake in San Felipe, Baja Mexico that flung me off the earth as rocks tumbled down the arroyo walls and the nearby tide on Cortez receded 12 feet in three seconds. The third book I just finished is Perot's autobiography My Life: The Principles for Success.
In my life, as well as my life, the principles involved are really principles of life. Businesses need not be big to practice these standards. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy that began fossilizing about twenty years ago with stricter government regulations. I urge you to beat the odds and establish your own business to get you to the heart of yourself.
My first capitalistic venture was a nickel-a-glass Kool Aid stand on the summer streets of Idaho Falls. I learned that a seasonal business is better than none at all. The second major business was Service Press Inc. out of a Michigan garage that came about when I published two books in one day. The lesson from that was don't overextend your budget based on your dreams. The third business in swap meets went surprisingly well. I had returned bone broke from two years of travel and, on walking into my old racquetball sponsor's warehouse, noticed a hill of racquets gathering dust. They were seconds, blems, demos and returns that the company boss let me have for a song to sell at the flea markets. The first weekend I took ten racquets to the San Diego Sports Arena swap meet and sold out in an hour to pay my hotel bill. The next week I took 100 racquetball, tennis and squash racquets that sold out the first day enabling me to buy a motorcycle with a sidecar to carry more. The third weekend in the first five minutes my competitor bought me out, and I had enough money to travel again. The fourth business was a slum landlord, which is a misnomer. My partner and I bought fixer-upper houses in well-groomed sections of Lansing, MI and fixed them up in learning the golden rule of real estate is location. I earned enough to buy more books, and travel. A few years ago, I established an executive hobo service that combined riding the rails with show business. Semi-annually I get a call from out of the blue from someone or the media wanting to ride the rails to gain perspective a la the prince and the pauper. When the kings of the offices meet the kings of the road, warm sparks fly and a good time is had.
Here are some of the principles of what I've learned in business and life:
· Save your money, and when you can afford what you want, buy it.
· Don't disappoint the scruples of your parents or peers, or you will break their hearts.
· It may seem unthinkable that a six-year old can work, but you cannot start too early.
· Grow your business as you probably grew, a little at a time without overextending it.
· Conduct your business in the center field of ethical behavior.
· The incentive of working for yourself is the more seeds you sow the more crops you reap.
· Don't give up. In the past six months I've been attacked dozens of times by dogs and thugs in the Amazon, lost everything in a Miami office robbery, was defaulted on a large loan to a friend, lost my family, and lost most of what I owned in a desert home robbery. But I've written ten books in that time, and that paints a rosy picture.
With a lot of hard work, a master mind group, the good sense of persistence, and maybe a little luck, your potential for success is practically unlimited. Please don't limit my success by not letting me work harder than the next guy. Some people don't think they have much chance because they weren't born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but using these principles you may succeed in small business and your life.
Here's one of the most useful things i tell my students: once an old man told me to pull out a sheet of paper and order the five things in life that are most important to me. Most people choose: money, family, job, security, sex. for me (Keeley) the list i made at age 25 yrs was: knowledge, experiences, health, travel. and helping others. I've reordered those throughout the years, but the list remains the same.
A patient walks into a doctor’s office for a diagnosis of whatever ails him. A time-consuming, costly battery of tests follows that comes up with a targeted diagnosis many hundreds of dollars and days later. However, in Latin America the doctor examines the patient, asks a few questions, and 15 minutes later has a short list of differential diagnoses. This is the two or three candidates for the cause. Then, one-by-one, corrections are made until the right one is found. It’s almost always the first or the second educated guess. This is Latin medicine, on-the-spot diagnosis and treatment that prevents costly, time consuming lab tests. I’ve been through it a hundred times for my zoology of past and healed problems. One doctor in Mexicali told me that he could practice in the USA, but prefers Mexico because of this protocol.
In 1978, I published in one day It's a Racquet and The Kill and Rekill Gang out of an unheated garage on a Michigan lake where the keys of an IBM Selectric froze when I breathed on them. Here however, the two books come from a Miami high-speed internet office where I've worked a month of daily double 7-hour shifts with a miner's lamp over the keyboard and sleep on the roof in the sun.
With these publications, I'll hit the trail to exercise something other than the fingers, and probably stumble on new adventures.
February 13, 2015 | 1 Comment
1949 Born a common man in Schenectady, NY.
1972 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from MSU.
1973 First of seven Paddleball National Singles Titles.
1972-8 Top touring racquetball professional … Canadian National Champion … First clinic tour of Central and South America.
1974 Bicycled San Diego to Detroit, and Canada to Mexico.
1974-7 Featured in Sports Illustrated 'He Found His Racquet' and other publications.
1978 Owner of Service Press, small publisher of It's a Racquet and The Kill & Rekill Gang in one day.
1975-85 Author of six books and over 100 magazine articles on sports and travel.
1985 Taught sociology class 'Hobo Life in America' at Lansing community College, MI … Psych Technician Certificate from LCC … Worked in psych wards and old folks homes … Lived three months with 'psychic' James Hydrick.
1985-98 Traveled 95 countries of the world under a backpack.
1998 Commodities advisor on a solo 13-country tour made CNN News, Barron's, Wall Street Journal.
1995-9 Hiked the lengths of Florida, Colorado, Vermont and Baja.
1999-2006 Sub school teacher and college tutor in Blythe, CA … Conduct Executive Hobo trips throughout America.
2000-06 Homestead and living as a desert recluse in the Sonora while working on the One-Ton Autobiography of Catman Keeley. 2007-09 Adventure guide in southwest USA and Baja.
2007 First California substitute teacher fired for stopping a playground war … Hit the rails, and foreign travel.
2008-12 Become an itinerant expatriate writing from select Shangri-las including Iquitos, Peru, San Felipe, Baja and Lake Toba, Sumatra.
2008 Three month bus tour of Central America … Caught up in an armed Mexican marijuana smuggling mule train through Copper Canyon. 2009 Buy a seasonal retirement home in the Peruvian Amazon … Continued adventure posts at Daily Speculations, International Man, and Swans Commentary.
2010 Write a biography Kill Richard of an FBI agent who fled murdering CIA agents to San Felipe, Baja … Publish Keeley's Kures while detained by a Sumatra immigration mixup.
2011 Tour Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia … Hobo ride-along with London Times reporter Joe Wobey from Sacramento toward Britt National Hobo Convention written up in 'Twilight on the Rails' … Freight with Central American immigrants from Guatemala through Mexico to USA … Publish Executive Hobo: Riding the American Dream.
2012 Read my obituary, articles, embassy report, memorial service and Art Shay's 'The Legend of Bo Keeley Grows' … Faceoff with bear in scratch contest in NM mountains … Complete a two-month walking and dirt bike reconnoiter of Baja for the Baja 1000 Hiking Trail … Wikipedia 'Steven Bo Keeley' is top rated.
2013 Gilbert Keeley, father dies, and scrap the Chocolate Mt. Gunnery Range for fare to attend his funeral … Fourth attempt through the Darien Gap is foiled by Colombian rebels … 'Last Sail of El Gato' near death sailing from Panama to Cartagena … Three months hoboing Peru rivers in banana boats … Launch the first bilingual tourist newspaper The Amazon Times of Iquitos … Publish five books from Miami including Charlie Brumfield: King of Racquetball, Women Racquetball Pioneers, Basic English One-Page, The Longest Walk, and The Longest Walk Companion… 'Elvis and the Memphis Racquetball Mafia' is syndicated … Founder and curator of Facebook US Racquetball Museum with 5000 friends.
2014 Hobo ride-along with Mother Jones journalist Tim Murphy from Los Angeles via Texas to Chicago and profiled in Jan.
2015 'The Amazing, Possibly True Adventures of Catman Keeley' … Worst case of anemia with 50% normal hemoglobin in the history of Iquitos … Seven months in Peru publishing Stories from Iquitos, Greatest Photos Around the World, Chess and Sport, and Racquetball's Best: Pros Speak from the Box … Asked to a hold rare set of CIA medals by a Miami agent who commits suicide… Inducted into the NPA Paddleball Hall of Fame … Decline induction for the 15th straight year into the USAR Racquetball Hall of Fame.
2015 Publish from Miami Elvis's Humor: Girls, Guns & Guitars, Bill Schultz: Ringmaster of Sport, Book of Bo: Gems of My Life … scuttle a 825 page, 40-year in the making Advanced Racquetball from amazon.com and the public for 'inappropriate conduct' and quoting Atlas Shrugged … Consultant for documentary 'James Hydrick: Fifteen Minute Messiah' … Read stories to Runes 'Dusting and Sweeping' audio series for the William Buchanan Spoken Word Project … Return to the life of a wandering hermit.
More dynamic than Water for Elephants, more picturesque than Dr. Zhivago, and more accurate than My Left Foot, Emperor of the North gets my vote for the best movie of the 20th century.
Shack in railroad terms has evolved various meanings. The RR term is for switchmen, the guys who traveled trains to throw switches at the track junctions, or more broadly applied to any RR yardmen who work out of a 'shack' that you see at either end of every yard. This is where the workers get out of the weather, smoke cigarettes, and play cards and checkers. Sitting in a shack too long without getting out for fresh air is called shack fever.
I've been invited by itchy feet shackmen into their friendly shacks dozens of times on cross country runs. Typically, they're cramped shanties from coast to coast constructed of clapboard or concrete a little larger than a phone booth with a pot belly stove and wallpaper of manifests, Playboy centerfolds, and hangman. You shoot the breeze with the men, sometimes a woman, and they help you get on the next freight.
In the movie Emperor of the North Shack is the character of Ernest Borgnine who was born for the roll. He rides the locomotive or caboose as the conductor, who in the old days doubled as the RR bull, or security. He is challenged by A#1, aka Lee Marvin, who has an historical character and I've read a dozen of his autobiographies, such as The Snare of the Road.
Emperor of the North takes place in the Great Depression of the U.S., and the country is full of people who are unemployed and homeless. Shack apparently hates the hordes that try to ride his trains, and swears that no hobo will ride his train for free. Along comes A#1, cool and tall, and smoking cigarettes like a smokestack, and puts his life at stake to ride Shack's freight.
A-#1 is locked into a cattle car and sets fire to the hay in order to burn his way through the wooden slats. He succeeds and hurls himself off the car to make his getaway, as the train pulls into the yard with smoke curling up the lip of an infuriated Shack. Shack meets A-#1 in a bloody fight with chains, 2×4 boards, and an axe. A#1 uncouples the cars from the tender, the other bo's run interference for him, he throws switches, and employs all the other tricks of the trade still used today to get through on the fast mail train to its final destination in Portland. Portland, I know, is a rustic yard with shade pines on both sides, where you can cross under and catch a city bus for a quarter downtown to the Hobo District.
Driven to desperation by the economic depression of 1930s, the hundreds of hobos who cheer A#1 on, formed an American subculture hopping freights to get from place to place in search of jobs, handouts, or even to take it easy sometimes, as is still done today. Emperor of the North depicts a microcosm of this subculture set in Oregon, and actually used the Oregon, Pacific & Eastern RR which was taken up in the mid-1990s, like so many other tracks around the country, to recycle the steel road and make walking and bicycle paths.
In the world today, a half-century after the movie's making (1973), there are still shacks where the shackmen - brakemen, switchmen, and conductors - hang out, but no cabooses since the 1990's when they were were replaced at the end of the freights by FRED, that we hobos call the F__ing Rear End Device. It's a 12''-square red-blinking box that is an essential electronic caboose. If there's no FRED, that freight isn't going anywhere.
Now the companies have cut back the bulls to a skeleton crew, if any at all, in most yards in a financial strategy that makes it easier than ever to catch fast freights along the American gridiron. You have to see the movie to know the classic encounter between the railroad hobo and bull.
February 1, 2015 | Leave a Comment
In my hoboing days, when the Los Angeles cops knocked on my door at the Rainbow hotel down from the library, and barged in, cuffed and hauled me to the nut hatch… I thought to ask them in route, 'Why?'
The reason is I had paid a week in advance at the hotel and not left the room, having returned from world travel with a need to hole up. The manager had called the police, I believe, because the hotel was full and he wanted the room to collect double rent.
On skid row there are all sorts of tricks like this to generate income, and off skid row.
The hatch they stuck me in is considered LA's finest. After checking in, while refusing to sign the registry, I was labeled dangerous as a former professional athlete. The nurse gave me a Thorazine pill to swallow that I used sleight of hand to stick it in an apple. Otherwise I could have been stuck in that place for a decade of mandatory doping doing the 'Thorazine shuffle' up and down the halls like a bear in a zoo.
The California law requires that a new patient be observed during a '72 Hour Hold', and then is evaluated by a psychiatrist to see if the patient should be held for a further period of observation, or released. Fortunately, the evaluating shrink was a compassionate, intelligent zookeeper. He knew that, as in County Jails, the government pays a stipend for the initial three days an inmate is held, and after that it's his duty to shoo the client out to make room for the next money maker.
The evaluating psychiatrist asked me to prove my wild claim that I was a veterinarian, and I told him his wife's poodle's gestation period was 63 days. Then he said, 'If you were me, would you let yourself out?' I answered by requesting a couple of dollar bills from his wallet, and quickly memorized the serial numbers, returned the bills, and rattled off the 20 digits. He signed the release, and pointed me to the checkout counter.
Now it was another double rent situation, because the clerk tried to get me to pay for three days lodging, that couldn't be enforced because I hadn't signed their register.
I escaped on a technicality, and, instead of returning to settle the score with the Rainbow Hotel manager, I got out of town on a freight train and slept in the woods.
So-called psychic James Hydrick was different from your run-of-mill overnight swindlers. He was born poor in the Deep South, chained to a tree as a child, fed dog food, but a spark kept him striving to find his real self. As a teen, he was shuttled from orphanages to foster homes, only to run away again and again, chased by the hounds. He escaped to Hollywood, in search of a cinematic dream, where tryouts for parts didn't develop. He modeled, took part time jobs, and earned a black belt in karate. By his early twenties, his timing was exquisite and body like an oak when he ran afoul of the law.
He robbed a van, fenced the merchandise, got caught, and thrown in the LA county Jail that is the bowels of hell with 2000 screaming inmates. (I know because I once landed there myself on a trumped up jaywalking ticket.) He became, according to the County Jail shrink I talked to, the King of the inmates. He decked the Black Gorillas gang leader in the shower room for soliciting homosexual favors and, with a bounty on his head, was thrown into a 15' cube solitary cell on the lowest level. The LA County Jail is normally a transit facility, however he was a special protective case, and spent two years there in solitary, where he spent thousands of hours working out and learning how to move objects without touching them.
On trips to the Big House shrink he stole and stuck pins and paperclips under his skin as lock picks, that eventually were found on x-rays but not surgically removed because of the cost to the County. He developed a close relationship with the Catholic monk while in solitary who, upon Hydrick's release, understood that the ex-con needed to be sent far away, and chose Salt Lake as his new home during probation. He was quartered with a hulking retired marine officer and staunch Mormon business executive and his family to live with under control.
I met Hydrick one day in 1980 in Salt Lake where I was doing a racquetball camp. I noticed a lone figure in the gym taking five running steps, jumping, inverting in mid-air, and touching a basketball rim 10' off the floor with one foot. We adjourned to a desk where, without touching, he moved pencils, papers and other small objects from a distance of up to 5'. I smelled a story. We became apartment mates for six months, as he started a dojo and local tour of his stunts, and I wrote and photographed them. (Some of my photos would appear uncredited in martial art and online magazines.) Soon sport and psychic apprentices from around the country arrived at the dojo doorsteps to learn Hydrick's 'powers'.
From 1980-1 he appeared on That's Incredible, What's My Line, and the Danny Korem Show. Then I was in the wind, and he was reported moving pyramids in Egypt with a new host of devotees. The next thing I knew he was picked up on an outstanding warrant when a policeman recognized him on a 1989 Sally Jessy Raphael episode. He has been incarcerated to this day, except for one short respite last year, at the Coalinga State Hospital Maximum Security Hospital for the violent mentally disturbed that opened its door for the first time, as if for Hydrick, in 2005. James is not mentally disturbed, just misunderstood from the aforementioned childhood trauma. He used to take knives and swords and strike within an inch of my body, without touching the skin, when we sparred.
My family was worried about my getting taken into the Hydrick cult and sent a deprogrammer to Salt Lake to rescue. After a short discussion, I was convinced he was off his rocker, but acquiesced out of respect to my family, and ducked out of Hydrick's life.
To pick up on details, I went to LA and traded racquetball lessons with four turnkeys at the County Jail for an introduction to the psychiatric staff. They vouched that Hydrick had been the King of the LA County Jail and showed me radiographs of a half-dozen metal objects under his skin. I met and buddied with the Catholic Chaplin to a dozen monasteries throughout the Southwest.
According to Hydrick's transcript, the deputies in the County Jail were frightened of him, thought him possessed. The Chaplin taught him to read and write, and gave him a Bible. To pass time in a timeless place, Hydrick proselytized, converting up to twenty inmates a day like a prophet. He opened the Bible and commanded, 'Hold the Bible. Father, in the name of Jesus Christ make these pages move. And the pages would flutter and turn.'
Hydrick's telekinetic powers were common magician tricks mastered to a high art in solitaire, plus one that was never discussed. I believe he could blow out the tear ducts on the medial side of each eye, small openings that drain tears into the nasal passage. I found in a 1950s Ripley's Believe it or Not a reference to a 19th century Englishman who blew out candles 'through his eyes' from 6' away.
He was released from Coalinga on probation for a few months in 2014, and was reported as having taken a day-to-day room in the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. No address was given, but there is only one, where I used to stay while doing the Sports Arena Swap Meet. I visited the Golden West hotel on 4th Avenue where they told me he had left, and is reported back in Coalinga.
The lesson is to keep your eyes open when you dabble in the esoteric.
Atlas Shrugged was the biggest, most beautiful book and for ten years has been my standard. That's how long it took to write Advanced Racquetball, the sequel to my best selling Complete Book of Racquetball that promised, forty years ago, this sequel. It's 825 pages and covers every aspect of the game from sneaker to frontal lobes for Open to Pro players.
It was a labor of love for 1000 hours in an Amazon sweat box cyber for 11 hours a day, seven days a week for the last three months, on top of a previous thousand or so hours writing earlier sections. There are over 400 photos including sequential strokes and serves. Personal interviews with 90% of the 30 most recent world champions. A full appendectomy.
I decided to scuttle the title, and shrug like Atlas, due to the incompetence of the undeserving racquetball community. They are also a verbal rather than print page readers. My goal was accomplished in writing the book and listing it at Amazon.com. One other set of Miami eyes who has read the single copy in existence said, 'It's very good, but too long for the racquetball mentality.' I'll give the single copy, like Diogenes, to the first deserving player I meet. I withhold it from the public and if you want to know why read Atlas Shrugged.
January 30, 2015 | 1 Comment
'Mr. Keeley, rush to the to the SED room! The students are throwing chairs at the teacher!'
Weekly, at Blythe, CA High School through the 2000s, a frantic version of this blast over the school intercom for all to hear summoning me to put out another fire in the Severely Emotionally Disturbed classroom at the back of the campus between the 4-H pens of pigs, goats and cows and the broad irrigation canal.
Once there, in the spartan SED room, the small group of eight edgy youngsters told how they had browbeat or attacked the sub fleeing the doorway at that second. I would answer, 'Everyone in Sand Valley where I live, and everyone throughout my travels, flies off the handle once in a while. The trick is to identify the cause and correct it. It's the same process as fixing a racquet stroke, where I was a champion.'
Fortunately, as in racquetball where I flung my cover onto the court and was ahead 3-0 before the first serve, my reputation preceded me into this classroom. Sometimes I think the students rioted to summon me, as prison inmates stage food fights to break routine. The kids brightened to reveal the bizarre reasons for their misbehavior that had caused their banishment to this awkward class.
First, I told them, 'We aren't going to use the term SED around here. Labels create identities. You guys are as normal as me and my neighbors in Sand Valley. Next, the goal is to mainstream you back into the normal classes. Third, if you're in here at your parent's order to create a portfolio of being whacky in order to get on welfare for the rest of your lives, think again. There's a long line of students wishing to replace you in this class. Fourth, my methods are unorthodox but effective. I'm not a schooled psychologist, but if you do your work, I'll reward each daily lesson with a related story from the road.'
Their excuses were miserably true. Some were rising with the roosters at 5 am without breakfast to ride a bus for an hour from an outlying farm to the school, and arrived irritated. Or, their parents drank and hit them the night before. A couple were worried about being accosted after school, and showed secreted 10" drill bits slid into their book spines. One albino had unrecognized photophobia. Another was dyslexic. Another painted his fingernails purple and talked with a lisp for attention. These were the campus hard luck cases lumped into one classroom, their last chance before expulsion, and I was their last hope.
When you have someone over a barrel like this, life is actually pretty easy. I dimmed the harsh fluorescent lights, and we did jumping jacks, sit-ups and pushups for twenty minutes. Then I turned down the thermostat to cool the room, a la public airplanes to calm the passengers. I opened the day's assignment from the permanent SED teacher, the gorgeous lady I'll call Ms. Libda, who often was away at business meetings, and so her duty fell on me. She was talented, caring, a former Navy medic, cop, and prison turnkey.
After their work was done, and the adventure story reward, I wrote up a detailed report on what had taken place and the progress of each student in mirror writing. Mirror writing reads from right to left, and early on in my subbing career the principal had called me into his office to explain why many of the students, especially the athletes, were seen reading their texts upside down. He had a boxing picture of himself on the wall from his youth, and I threw a mock left hook at his jaw, while justifying that if he had read print flowing right-to-left then his eyes would be quicker to have caught the jab, as well as the next butterfly, car or ball. My after class reports to the Ms. Libda were a hit, and one day she addressed me, 'The students like you, and so do I. I see you as a male version of myself.' We commenced dating and she, in a mothering way, often slept in late after calling the school for a sub, so I could get a call on the same phone to report for work.
The goals were met with success, the students stopped clawing wallpaper off the walls, were cordial to the visiting sheriff, no more suicide attempts, and the primary object to mainstream the students back into their ordinary classrooms.
The most valuable lesson I imparted to my xenophobic students was on Small Town, America. 'That's normal as she goes in Small Town, America'. Their explanation for everything is, 'We been here a hundred years, and we been doing things this way a hundred years.' Hence the state motto, 'Be part of a group, take and give orders, obey.' The solution, students, is to proceed with patience through your youth, and then strike out to new horizons. You can always take the beaten path back to Blythe.
Ms. Libda finally took a job elsewhere, and I was hired by Riverside County to replace her full time. There was a huge boost in salary to $40,000 with full medical. I began anonymously donating 15% of my salary back to student lunches, good books, pupil doctor bills, and chessboards for the library.
I had a great idea from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in which the patient McMurray masquerading as a psychiatrist takes the other patients on outings from the hospital. Securing permission from the principal, who was now my pal from the boxing lesson, I took the SED classes on educational outings to the city library, prison, bowling alley, and for nature walks along the irrigation ditch that blocked their graduation into the real world.
In the coming months, my classroom door was revolving like a barroom on a Saturday night with new students arriving as soon as the former were mainstreamed. Soon the backlist ran out, and the class dwindled to three students.
One day, after being the full-time SED teacher for about six months, I was called during class by the Riverside school administration. The director politely informed, 'I see you have mainstreamed nearly all of your students back into their regular classrooms. Congratulations. We are letting you go.'
I laughed, cleaning the desk. I had worked myself out of a job!
The lesson is don't be a square peg in a round hole without expecting consequence. Heed your inner calling, but be prepared to move on. I hit the trail to world adventure to have more stories to tell to a succeeding class.
January 14, 2015 | 1 Comment
You may read a guidebook, or just as well judge a people in a new land by their dogs. In rainforest Iquitos, five years ago, all the dogs were friendly, and so were all of the 700,000 citizens I encountered during multiple visits from 1999 through five years ago, 2010. As the new decade swung in computers arrived, and provided a model for thought that was non-existent 'PC'. Affluence followed the ability to think starting about four years ago, in 2011, and now the dogs, people and their wallets are fat.
I was never once barked at nor accosted in the pre-computer era, but tomorrow I return to the US as if from a war. My legs are riddled with dog bites from virtually daily attacks for seven months, and the human assaults have been bi-weekly. Why not go to the police, you ask? Before 2010, there were effectively no police in Iquitos except for a handful of pretty señoritas in white uniforms who stood like marble statues in the plazas. Now there are thousands of police on motorcycles, in the first cars to arrive in the city, and walking the beats. The police step in when someone asks, and the case is decided on the street according to which arguer bribes the highest. Law enforcement is an auction, and because I am wealthier than most it has saved many hard times and my passport once. However, a dozen other times the police have stood chuckling while snapping dogs ringed me, without stepping in because the sport is greater pleasure.
The children offer to kill them, and the going rate is $2 for a small dog or $4 for a large one. I have only put a bounty on two dogs: a rotten Rottweiler and a nasty large golden lab that attack me daily. The canines' method is to ring and wait for an opening, or to lay in wait and bite from behind. If one stands up to one or a band of two or four legged attackers, they wilt. However, this has left my one set of clothes (on a rainforest island of small, strong people like the dwarves in the Hobbit and nothing fits my American frame) in tatters after multiple repairs, and the socks have lost their toes, and the shoes are a laugh.
The faculty to think and an ability to buy nice things came too fast for the Peruvians. Nearly overnight, they became as cartoonish as a Bugs Bunny film, as indulgent as Golding's Lord of the Flies, and their seemingly rabid bands of dogs are the leading indicator.
However, there are still dogs that follow me like the Pied Piper for kibble I let drop from a hole in my knapsack, two señoritas have named their newborns after me, and I didn't even sleep with them, and kids dangle 5' rattlesnakes from 12' cane poles they have used to kill the serpents to keep my path safe.
"The Amazing, Possibly True Adventures of Catman Keeley and his Corporate Hoboes: on the road with the former veterinarian, ex raquetball champ, and freight hopping adventurer who shows adventurers how the other half lives"
Do you have any thoughts on sports streaks? The article below I ghost wrote. My feeling on streaks must be mathematical that they almost always occur in 1. a small field of players/teams, and 2. in a weak field of player/teams. A large field of talented players is stable and produces a frequent change of champions. Therefore, when one sees sports streaks it's usually in minor sports or when it's bear times for that game.
Top 10 Streaks
By Brett Elkins and Jim Spittle
They call them the Streaks!
These are the ten players with the Greatest Streaks in Racquetball History.
#10 Robert Sostre and partner Freddy Ramirez team up for 12 consecutive undefeated years in all Pro/Open 1-Wall New York tournaments from 1997-2009 which includes the events that are considered by most to be the Pro Championships of One-Wall.
#9 Lynn Adams ranks the World #1 or #2 every pro season between 1980 and 1991. With six women's Pro National Singles titles (1982, 1983, 1985-1988) and Player of the Year eight times (1982–88, 1990).
#8 Paola Longoria whose consecutive LPRT pro tour win streak ended after 142 consecutive pro singles LPRT match wins over 3 and 1/2 years. During this time, she lost only 18 games in those matches (best of five games). And her international streak still remains intact where she hasn't lost in any major world competition since the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
#7 Peggy Steding goes undefeated for almost two years in 1973 and 1974 winning the IRA National Singles and Doubles Championships both years, as well as every other tournament she entered. Rarely did an opponent score ten points in a twenty-one point games against this enduring Texan Racquetball Pioneer.
#6 Charlie Brumfield and Steve Serot go undefeated in doubles from 1973 to 1978. Brum and Serot won the 1973 IRA National Doubles, the 1974 National Invitational Doubles, the 1976 NRC Pro National Doubles, the 1977 IRA/IPRO National Doubles, and the 1978 IRA/IPRO National Doubles titles without dropping a match.
#5 Charlie Brumfield wins twenty consecutive tournaments in 1972 and 1973 including the 1972 IRA National Singles, the 1972 National Invitational Doubles with Dr. Bud Muehleisen, the 1973 IRA Nationals Singles, the 1973 IRA National Doubles with Steve Serot, and the 1973 National Invitational Doubles with Dr. Bud Muehleisen.
#4 Cliff Swain is at the top echelon of the pro game for twenty years … winning his first two pro stops in 1985 and his last two in 2004. In between, Swain won another seventy events and finished six seasons ranked #1 in the World, and five seasons at #2.
#3 Brian Hawkes rules the Outdoor courts winning twenty National Singles Titles over three decades in truly dominant fashion.
#2 Marty Hogan goes undefeated for over a year from October 1978 to December 1979 while playing three versions of the game. Hogan wins the Pro Nationals, The Outdoor Nationals, and The Paddleball Nationals in one year for the sports only Triple Crown during the most competitive and deepest draws in pro racquetball history.
#1 Kane goes undefeated for almost three years winning 137 consecutive matches and rarely losing a game. King Kane dominated the sport at the highest level like no other.
Richard Owen writes:
Great list and analysis from Bo. On a slightly different tack there's also people like Usain Bolt, who runs in a very deep and talented field. Same with Pete Sampras, Gary Kasparov, Lance Armstrong, etc. I guess "weak" could be defined in a relative sense, but that would makes me wonder if the only reason they have a streak is because they are the only ones good enough to have a streak. So technological advantage? Usain's height, the Finns' invention of interval training, Armstrong's doping. But wait, most of Armstrong's competitors were probably doping in that era too… How to explain? There seems to be an aspect of ever changing cycles in sport too. Everyone does endurance, so you do HIIT, you win. Everyone copies, etc.
December 24, 2014 | Leave a Comment
I was sitting this morning with my back against a vine lined wall eating rice and a hard-boiled egg, and looking around the streets of Iquitos thinking what a cartoon it has turned into in five years. Five years ago, a computer revolution created the first consciousness in this river locked rainforest port. The prior citizens had no inkling of space or time and existed in the present. The computers provided a model for thinking, which everyone quickly absorbed, so now the people can think and to a degree analyze.
Concurrently – and who's to say if the egg or chicken came first – an economic boom from gold, ayahuasca tourism, and improved conditions, has changed the city landscape. Five years ago, there were no motorcycles, and now there are tens of thousands. Now the citizens wear western clothes instead of rags. Tourists find the girls don't chase them as far for favors.
The origin of consciousness and the tide of money has come too fast and turned the town into a cartoon. The citizens have ballooned in weight, without stop signs there are continual motorbike crashes at intersections, the money has bought plastic junk for Christmas presents, and aguardiente, which is the local cane alcohol, flows in the streets like the adjacent Rio Amazon.
It's like living in a bubble, and the closest sensation is a psych ward. When i got certified as a psych tech and began working the bins, i found the psychology/psychiatry industry is the saddest, most perilous form of capitalism on earth. It's the only place where one's consciousness may be obliterated by idiots overnight. Keep those pills close to your gums and don't swallow.
A dwarfish man walked up full of aguardiente and holiday cheer. I smiled back, but he continued to stand with his large feet nearly on mine. After a minute, I waved him along with a spoon and he reached out to grab and shake my hand. This is custom: a friendly local grasps and pumps a tourist's hand…and won't let go. The grasp of a jungle born and bred Amazonian is stronger than the Olympic champion wrestlers I've known. Then this man started waving his oversize palm in my face. I replied casually, 'If you don't continue down the sidewalk, I am going to rise and push you.' He edged in, hovered his hand over my plate and the hard-boiled egg rolled down the sidewalk instead.
I grabbed his wrist rising simultaneously and twisted his arm behind his back. It requires two hands to pin it against his spine because their muscles are so strong the arm springs back. I wrapped him up like a Noel gift and marched him down the sidewalk toward a police substation. We ducked under a street vendor tarp knocking our heads on pots and pans before the man twisted his face around to mine and pleaded, 'Anything but the police!' for they would beat him. His body tautened in fear and the pinned arm popped out flinging me into the vine wall, as four swat team policemen hemmed us in.
'I was eating breakfast,' I explained, pointing to the squashed egg under my right shoe, 'and he wouldn't leave me alone. But it's Christmas, and everything is peaceful now.' They pushed him down the sidewalk, and that was his Christmas present.
As a vet, I saw many animals who appeared to be healthy and suddenly 'kicked the bucket', and could only think that they were unaware of their illnesses which abetted the immune response… until it was too late. Having put dozens of animals down by injection, and held them caringly through the last gasp, the thought in their eyes isn't death but happiness and trust. I believe animals, especially younger ones and ones that haven't witnessed the death of peers, have no inkling of death. The animals died in my arms, and in the zoo or the wilds, thinking they were going to sleep. The same with disease, as they are dying until the illness reaches a point to incapacitate them physically, they will carry themselves well with a smile on their faces. We're all animals, some smarter than others, and in my case I can acknowledge complete death but decades ago chose to turn a blind eye to the misinformed conventions of treatment of illnesses.
Most maladies are best treated by exercise rather than lounging in bed watching wide screen and texting until they pass. This approach has saved me thousands of hours in recovery from hundreds of times being down but not out, however it has worked the other way in at least three cases. I passed out once with malaria at the feet of a roaring lion. I collapsed while running on a San Diego beach with the second worst case of mononucleosis in the county history. And six months ago, I had the worst case of chronic anemia with half the normal hematocrit in the history of Iquitos, Peru.
Music blared from a deserted French cantina on the Iquitos wharf as a handful of dogs surrounded me. They were like emaciated wolves smelling the chicken-to-go in my knapsack. A big white lunged for my waist that I socked in the jaw with a left hook. He alighted on his feet yelping and the rest bolted. But this was no ordinary pack. As the mongrels fled, an opportunist thug smashed the crown of my head from behind. Amazon wood is softer and the plank glanced off a round spot, as I wheeled. The little man was dumbstruck, as I grabbed his thick wrist in a wrestling hold, and twisted. A Peruvian in pain speaks the truth. This one snapped, 'Don't molest the dogs, my friends.' His intent was to rob me because there is no free wood and his cudgel was in hand. I twisted again, tugging him along, exclaiming, 'We're going to the police; drop the club.' It hit the street with a thud and he cried, 'My mother will spank me!' I yoked him into the lamplight and saw he was only a ragged urchin. 'Do you like dogs?' I asked. 'I live like one,' he replied. It is hard to find a dog lover these days, and so I let him go, knowing the next night he would protect me.
Strategy: A Smorgasbord
The right strategy must come to mind in the worst scenario – losing, tired, hometown ref, and nowhere else to turn but inside.
1. Always change a losing game; never change a winning game.
2. Always have a plan going into a match, and a backup plan.
3. Always have a surprise to pull out all the stops.
4. Reconnoiter your opponent before the match for his strengths and weaknesses.
5. Have a general strategy against all power players, and another against all control players.
6. Analyze every match – how would you play it differently next time.
7. Keep a log of your strategies, and of the opponents.
8. Always have a customized strategy against each opponent, if possible.
9. Call a timeout whenever you skip two straight shots, or the opponent runs three straight points.
10. Keep a coach in the crowd for a second opinion.
11. Have an offensive second serve, such as the jam or Z.
12. Save your upset serve, for example a crack ace, for game winning points.
13. Have a no-fail strategy that kicks in in the worst case scenario.
14. Define your strengths and weaknesses between tournaments, and drill the latter.
15. Set a goal, and time increments to achieve it.
16. Resist the norm – The way to the top is almost always a way no one else has tried.
17. Don't share your personal original strategies during your competitive career.
18. Find one edge against an opponent, or the field, and repeat it over and over.
19. Make your backhand as strong as your forehand.
20. Know the counters to all your strategies.
21. If an opponent throws something at you during a match that you can't handle, hit the same at him next point to know how to respond.
22. Use a slow game pace against a rabbit, and a fast pace against a sloth.
23. Always volley the ball when possible.
24. Always take the most aggressive shot possible during a rally.
25. Be able to hit five perfect consecutive ceiling balls as a fallback.
26. Match your physical attributes with your strategies, for example condition, age, grace. Elephant tusks cannot grow out of a dog's mouth.
27. Pick an overall strategy that is fun to play.
28. Strategy evolves on the sweaty hardwood, not in ivory towers, so think as you play practice matches.
29. Agree with your practice partner to pause after each game to dissect each other's play.
30. Ask every instructor or pro you meet for his best secret strategy.
31. Ask better players to critique your strategies.
32. The best place to glean strategic tidbits is by watching good players, or at a pro stop.
33. Unclutter the Clutter. Stop the mechanism. Have a sure-fire mantra or method to calm down instantly.
34. Develop a 'Muehleisen's Rheostat' at will of being able to crank up or down your intensity of play by 10%.
35. Fight first and save thoughts of victory for later.
36. The highest form of generalship is to conquer the gamesman by a stratagem.
37. At the beginner level a defensive strategy wins, but at an advanced level the most offensive strategy always wins.
38. Have one strategy for a slow ball and another for a fast ball.
39. The best general strategy is serve and shoot.
40. Go to the ceiling if the rival runs a string of points.
41. Go for the jugular with aces and cracks when you have momentum.
42. The shot to practice the most is the kill, because it's the only stepping stone.
43. The serve to practice the most is the drive, as it's the most forceful in an aggressive game.
44. Save your best strategy for the ripest time - pick the flower when it is ready to be picked.
45. When you go up to the mountain often, you will eventually encounter the tiger, so be ready.
46. During a reconnoiter find a tiny edge. A tiny is the best soldier that quickly becomes an army.
47. Strategy is about setting yourself apart from the competition: it's a matter of being different at what you do.
48. Always have a backup service strategy.
49. The greatest tactic is to be able to execute at the worst times.
50. To win by strategy is no less the role of a general.
51. Practice the weakest link in the chain of each of your last performances.
52. Have a short term goal and a long term goal at all times.
53. Use glass to your advantage with serves and shot selection.
54. Shot selection is the most common trait of a win, and flaw of a lose.
55. Have pre-designed strategies for every game style.
56. The greatest strategy is to commit no mental or physical errors in a match.
57. If you're losing a match, is it because your strategy is failing or because of faulty execution of strategy?
58. Use a new strategy a hundred times in practice before taking it to a tournament.
59. When in doubt grab the bull by the horns.
60. Nothing is more beautiful in sport than a well-conceived plan that's executed flawlessly against a superior opponent for a win.
61. Study strategy over the years to achieve the spirit of the warrior.
Victor Niederhoffer writes:
Good for any activity one thinks.
1. The first rule is always practice against someone your equal or better. Try never to break it.
2. The second rule is to handicap yourself if there is no equal. Some methods are:
a) A point spot, or the opponent having to reach 15 before you get 100 points.
b) Time odds, as in chess, where you may never stop moving even between points and receiving service.
c) An implement disadvantage such as using a wood paddle against the racquet which automatically lowers the player one division.
3. For stamina, play simultaneous where one of a string of players enters the court after each point. If there are five players on the opposing 'team' you will get one-fifth their rest.
4. Play opposite handed - It's surprising what you'll learn about your correct hand game, and the handicap opens a new league of competitor until you are their champion.
5. Resistance training is the best method for any racquet, where resistance is weight. Add a few ounces of speaker wire braided around the frame, or wear ankle weights, or a weight vest with increasing increments of 5-40 pounds.
Perhaps my greater contributions to racquetball were off the court during the golden era: blonde afro, customized van, beach running, headphones, Doberman pinchers, reading paperbacks, 10-speed bikes, and scuba.
Once I started it lit a light in the Leach racquetball stable. Charlie Drake's beach garage was full of scuba gear for players to borrow. He, Steve Serot and I took scuba lessons together from a guy named Froggy. In our first lesson in the deep end of a swimming pool we were required to wear weight belts and tread water for 5 minutes, and then allow ourselves to sink to the bottom of the 12' pool where only a single tank of air was waiting.
Serot and I were buddies for this drill, and he being a land mammal was in oxygen debt. I let him take the first grab of oxygen, but he was purple even in the water, and wouldn't give up the mouthpiece. Had I surfaced for air I would have failed the test and certification. Finally, I wrestled the mouthpiece from him and got a gulp of air.
In the second lesson the next day we were required to clear a swim mask full of water. The technique is to tilt the head back and lift the mask a quarter-inch from the face and expel through the nose to displace the water. This is done underwater. Serot kept lifting the mask 6 inches from his face and trying to expel the entire swimming pool. All's well that ends well, and we all got certified and went on a diving trip to Catalina Island where I was confronted 60' underwater by a black bullet that I thought was an attacking shark, and pulled my 6'' diving knife. But when it stopped and peered in my facemask it was a sea lion that let me pet its nose. It did a summersault, wiggled its whiskers, and zoomed off.
While walking through 25' tall grass in the jungle, I was put in mind of Sisyphus. I prefer a dry definition of work such as physics offers of a change in vertical distance, however Greek mythology offers an artful description. Sisyphus was punished for deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action.
There are four types of Sisyphus work that I am familiar with, despite never having deceived anyone.
1. Digging a hole and filling it in. This was popular in poorly planned Michigan construction. Another example is the vet school instruction to spay Toms, and after the abdominal incision finding nothing to pull out. This type of activity is characterized by your work creating more.
2. Raking leaves in autumn. This is activity with immediate replacement of what was removed. It's worthless except for the workout.
3. Weeding a garden. The replacement item returns at a constant rate over time.
4. Shoveling snow. It is difficult to forecast when the work will be available again.
As for the jungle grass, the best is coming out again into the sunshine.
One beauty of chess is that it crosses all barriers. Financier George Soros called me Hobo one sunny afternoon at his Southampton home where we split chess games, each winning with white. I discovered he had studied philosophy, and that philosophers quickly adjourn to hermetic strategies across the board.
Chess engraved on the brain doesn't seem to leave. This is especially true after one practices chess in sports during motion. The only flaw of the greatest board game in history is that the board doesn't have feet.
My jogging partner Bob Baldori and I invented aerobic chess on a Michigan track one day with a point man running a few steps ahead wearing a T-shirt magic-marked on the back with a chessboard and pieces in the starting position. This made it easier to visualize the moves as we ran four miles, and the FIDE should silkscreen these shirts for physical fitness.
However, the grandmasters might require silk screened tuxedos for befitting parties. The last one I played against in a speculator's Connecticut home was Arthur Bisguier who with white gave rook odds and gazed between speed moves out the window as if reading a comic book while telling me his life story.
He defeated a young Bobby Fischer and later served as second to Fischer at many international events. He won three US Open Chess Championships (1950, 1956, 1959), and played multiple-game blindfold exhibitions. He was taught chess at the age of four by his father, a mathematician, and kindly never practiced multiplication tables during our match. He thought it terrible, and was pleasantly merciless, that I had disgraced my father while reading funny books in beating him at chess.
After the match, Arthur dropped me off at an Appalachian trailhead near his home, and I took chess onto the trail in hiking the 500-mile Vermont trail, 500-mile Florida trail, 500-mile Colorado trail through the Rockies, the Pacific Crest trail for 1000 miles along the Sierras, the 1000-mile length of Baja, 1000 miles through the Amazon rainforest, and the length of Death Valley. I never would have survived without the lessons from chess.
I started paddleball at Michigan State University, switched to handball, and then when rumors of a professional tour and the first racquet arrived in 1970 at MSU, racquetball was the only game.
I had never hit a single anything before enrolling at Michigan State. The first time I walked into the Intramural Building a pivotal mentor swayed me. I heard the crack of ball on wood and looked down into those concrete pits and saw a purple ball– my specialty– any kind of ball, really. They had zoomed at me in the past in all sizes and shapes on house lawns, corner lots, the streets or parks.
The player down on the Challenge Court wore sunglasses under the bright ceiling lights. He carried a dozen purple balls around and around the court in a motorcycle helmet. Leaning in and watching, someone in the gallery complimented that he was Al Moradian, blinded by his own brilliance, the perennial campus champion. After watching him drop-and-hit, drop-and-hit for a few months, and with quite a bit of practice, one year later I stepped into his tennis shoes as the perennial paddleball champion.
The reason is I earned a backhand that Al didn't own. After watching him on the challenge court, I rented from the sports cage a flimsy plastic paddle that flexed like a flyswatter… and practiced. Paddleball suited me because one could sequester in a downstairs court for hours and hit balls, and the shots came back without chasing them off the four walls. Moreover, I discovered that the amount of initial practice directly related to improvement, and flattened out but was effectual. My theory of sports is to practice the weakness, not the strength, and to let the field try to secret their imperfections with various strategies.
Beside practice, the backhand arrived for two other reasons. I took class notes in longhand, as computers were nonexistent, and the flow of the pen across the page from left to right was cross-training. And, I became arm strong and ambidextrous from rectal palpations of hundreds of cows to determine their states of estrus.
I became the Intramural champion at paddleball, racquetball and handball, and in doubles in all three sports. They gave an official green MSU windbreaker for every championship, and in a couple of years I had a closetful. The year after racquetball arrived, the house I was living in burned down and the jackets melted. This was fortunate because studies in Veterinary school were getting tough, and because I never wore jackets even in winter, but bartered them for dates with the Michigan farm girls. Now with a backhand, books, and no girls, my grades and game improved.
After graduation, I took a west turn out of university for the west coast and became one of the first pro players, and the first with racquet and apparel contracts. I simultaneously entered and won satellite pro events right-handed and open division left-handed.
The primary reason was a backhand that became the Golden Era of Racquetball's best, according to the fans and magazines. It enabled me, whereas it was the flaw of nearly every player at universities and YMCA's across the country, and, because of racquetball, at private clubs in the court club boom.
From a lifetime in various sports, there have always been four stages to test any new act for the proven repertoire.
1. Does the new thing work in solo drill?
2. Does it weather practice games?
3. Does it withstand great fatigue?
4. Does it carry through tournament stress?
Thus, any new thing to be added to your sports show is not proven until it wins a tournament. At that point, you may relax and continue to use it to success.
Only about 1 in 10 of my early new tricks withstood the rigors to become a sweet spot of my game. Sweet, because any simple new thing added to a standard act usually makes a dramatic change in performance.
Most of my survival techniques are self-taught on the spot. Once while hiking at 12k' in the Sierra Nevadas with winter coming on, I had to find a way to sleep at night without a sleeping pad. The frozen ground conducted my body heat into the earth and I couldn't fall asleep. After a few hours of trying various positions, I fell into a sleeping tripod in which the knees and right elbow were the only contact points, and of course the toes. Nearly all of the body weight was on the former three, and since the knees and elbow are calloused, little heat was lost and I slept comfortably for many nights before coming out to civilization. I later learned that tripod sleeping is standard among nomad Tibetans who also use the right elbow as one may turn the head away from the heart.
I remembered that today in the hot Amazon on a vast crisp-dried floodplain carpeted with one species of dark green leafed one foot plants that absorbs heat. I was sleepy from earlier drinking river water, and there was no shade. The ground was so hot it burnt my skin through the clothes. The solution was the tripod sleeping and I awoke an hour later able to continue to shade and the river.
The photo of the ice cream salesman has a story behind it. When I took the pic I thought the universal 'hands up' gesture odd until reflection on where I had just come from. Tinga Maria, Peru, on the Amazon River far from civilization doesn't see many gringos, so when I arrived it was as though I was a king. The steamer would have a couple hour layover, so I asked a three-wheel taxi to take me to meet a girl. Any girl, for it had been a long journey. He dropped me at the entrance of a 10' concrete walled enclosure. The door was closed, but the ice cream salesman was near. He explained that since the sun was only half past noon to sundown, the bordello didn't open for a few hours, however the inner guard knew his knock. He tapped a code on the large wooden door, the guard opened, the salesman explained the situation, and I was ushered in. Few working girls had arrived, but a handful were sleeping in their individual rooms lining the inner perimeter of the compound. The salesman pounded on one door, it cracked open, and a girl strong armed me through into a small cubical lit by a single candle. There was romance and conversation as I discovered she was a good student in business at the university and was doing this to pay for her tuition. Later, I paid her $4, and before leaving reached to shake her hand. She giggled shyly and held up a stub in the candlelight amputated at the elbow. She, like many others, had been a farmer and bitten on the hand by a venomous snake, and choose to cut off the arm in the field rather than die. The ice cream salesman was waiting outside the compound, and I thanked him and paid a dollar for this photo, and hence the hands up.
I first heard it at an LAX airport strike that had thousands of asking passengers scurrying desk to desk to escape the hive. The strike was an honorable test, not the horror everyone thought. Among them, an athletic man in a tailored suit patiently glided, to avoid the long lines, from employee to employee, to inquire of the carriers to NYC. At first, I thought he was following me until he asked, 'Are you following me?' Whenever I encounter a person who of my habit steps out from the crowd, I am surely charmed.
He was a Wall Street trader with a sports car, doll wife, spoke Japanese… and was about to pivot in life. We ended up traveling together on one of the last flights from the airport and, on arrival at Kennedy, he agreed to accompany me to a friend's trading room. He bowed at the neck only on introduction to the president, and murmured, 'Charmed, I'm sure.' Then he went on to prove his capacity for trading and Japanese in conversation, and that indeed he had had a tryout as halfback for the NY Jets on the traders' field.
He had returned to his NY glory to pull the plug – quit the job, divorce the wife, sold the car, and gave up football in order to return to the west coast to write his version of the great American novel. A month later, he was caught and imprisoned for bank robbery of the San Diego Wells Fargo when the police followed a trail of witness fingers out the bank door, checked the trash bins en route, and pulled out his discarded sailor disguise and, of course, traced the DNA from the false beard to nab him. The charmer spent the next few years in prison playing football and writing.
Charmed, I'm sure is used in either formal or street introductions with nearly opposite meanings. Among the well-heeled it's a warm greeting used in ceremonial introductions. Among the down-at-the-heels by one individual to another the meaning is that they don't trust you entirely yet, and if you screw up once, there's no chance of getting anything out of the deal.
As the years rolled by, and I jumped from fashionable sidewalks to the gutter, and back again, I've tuned into occasions that deserve the term. In sparring with a karate instructor for policemen, he suddenly stopped after what I thought was a missed kick and asked, 'Would you like to see that again?' I laughed thinking the kick had missed, but on looking down his toe marks over my heart covered my white T-shirt. Charmed, I'm sure, he slapped my face while my chin was down.
My first girlfriend stopped after the first five minutes of my first sex to explain, 'No, it goes there. Charmed, I'm sure.
In racquetball at a St. Louis pro stop, I wound up to take a backhand off the back wall and hit a killshot 40' away on the front wall. As I executed the shot, my opponent Ben Colton stood hands on hips in front court without attempting to cover the ball. 'This is for the money,' I scolded, 'Play ball!' He replied that it was his only opportunity to study my famous backup up close, and that it was worth losing the point because the ball would roll off anyhow. He was better than he thought, and lost the game by one point.
Yesterday, an Australian nipper dog bit me in midstride on the shoe instep from behind. It was such an expert move that I stood for moments in awe, and then understood it had dry gulched me, and would do it again. So I squirt mace in its teeth. In the same manner, once hiking the Pacific Crest Trail I nearly picked up a 10-inch long baby green Mojave rattlesnake because it was so perfectly colored and buzzed its tail pleasantly. And then was jolted to realize I was charmed, I'm sure.
In daily encounters you will see the foam head on a glass of beer, and take that instant to ask, am I charmed, I'm sure?
I’m not a fighter or a lover but these happen to be two of the four methods used in handling at least 100 street fights over the years. 90% of them have occurred in third world countries, but the techniques are as effective on the Bombay waterfront as NY Harlem. These are the four primary reactions available to normal citizens who go about their days and are suddenly confronted.
FIGHT – The general reaction to fight requires knowing how to or, at least, facing a weaker opponent (unlikely). The first rule of street fights is to grab an equalizer, a stick, bottle or rock. Don’t bluff a fight without expecting to be called on it.
To illustrate, a month ago after a night snack a man stepped under a lamplight and began screaming obscenities at me. Normally I would walk away from this, especially since there was no robbery attempt, however there were children nearby and it would have set a poor example. So, I handed my ankle weights and backpack to the kids, and stalked the man out the light who backpedaled and stumbled into a heap. It was as if a wind blew. Two weeks later, I was assaulted with a ring-neck tackle by a stevedore and had to fight on the street of Iquitos. Luckily, he fell into a familiar wrestling move and was beaten.
FLEE – The best practice is to have the fleetest feet around the world, assuming no guns are involved. It doesn’t matter how many thugs there are, if you can sidestep or outrun them it’s usually the best practice.The other afternoon on exiting a house of soiled doves, I was then surrounded by four young men with theft on their mind. I pulled off the end of my thumb with sleight of hand, and walked out the astonished circle. A few nights ago on exiting the cinema, two dirty men popped out an alcove as if from a movie in heavy jackets with hands in their pockets on a 95F evening. I sidestepped them into the street where they didn’t follow. It’s always a good idea at night to walk away from sidewalk alcoves and into streetlights.
TALK – 80% of my confrontations end after a few words. Most solo thugs dread conversation with a grammatician.
Yesterday I was attacked by three youths brandishing sticks on the Rio Amazon beach, and simply growled at them, ‘You don’t want to do that,’ and they left. The night before, a man with a butterknife closed in as I entered my hostel, and I stuck my hand in my pocket and stood steadily at arm´s length and replied, ‘Are you ready?’ It was a gamble he didn’t risk knowing what, if anything, was in my pocket. (In this case, Mace.) A single question had prevailed.
HOPE – Most victims stand mute and shocked when accosted by a thug. This is what every mugger bets on, so if you can have mentally rehearsed and kick into one of the foregoing three methods –Fight, Flee, or Talk - your chances of escaping unscathed with your wallet are high.
I’ve acquiesced a few times when ‘outgunned and outnumbered’. In one instance in Venezuela two men thrust warning jabs with machetes in my ribs and legs, and I just asked them to leave me bus fare. Another time, in a boxcar I let two tattooed men rob me of little as they motioned toward the open boxcar door of the 40mph train that the option was to jump. After they took my billfold, I gave them cucumber & tomato sandwiches and we became more friendly. They gave back my shoes that had my bankroll under the insoles.
My personal methods in fights are the same as animal surgery, to begin with the most conservative and escalate to the most extreme. One knows in a sentence if talking is going to work, probably not. I never use hope. I flee 2 of 3 times even if I think I can overwhelm the opponent because fighting is dangerous in high numbers. However, on every third situation I hold ground and fend off or attack in order to maintain a mental and muscle memory for the struggle.
You don’t have to be Captain America to have a straight backbone. One of the best things you or your youngster can do is to take a martial art class to gain confidence. The best are wrestling and Aikido. In any case, the four fighting methods of Fight, Flee, Talk, or Hope are the same. And, as my old wrestling coach used to say, mentally rehearse the move a hundred times before you try it on the mat, and then a thousand times on the mat before you take it to a tournament. A fight is just another day at a tournament.
The Shipibo are an indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest who live in the 21st century while keeping one foot in the past millennia. Many traditions are still practiced such as ayahuasca shamanism, and the females in their colorful decorative clothing singing old songs are popular shamans at the Iquitos lodges.
Your body is a planet. So where is the ego?
90% of the cells within us are not ours but microbes. Likely in the Amazon the figure is closer to 99%. The rest of the lives in you are seen with a light microscope: the human skin is not a desert but covered with microbes, many others thrive within our mouth, dental streptococcus, the nose is a rainforest, the intestines an oases, mites nestle in the eyelashes, a few of the fleet host athlete's feet fungus, viruses loiter inside nerves, the lawn you mow on your head is enjoyed by flea or lice, and the strangest are the hoboesque pieces of DNA that infected ancient humans and still make up about 8 percent of our genome.
Even the body cells such as leucocytes, sperm, eggs, heart muscle, autonomic neurons, and photoreceptor cone cells of the eye may be classified as harmonious bugs.
Do microbes have consciousnesses? Certainly, though they are rudimentary, more like what we evolved from before stepping out of the trees onto solid earth.
The human eye without a microscope can only see objects larger than one-tenth of a millimeter long. Given the right conditions, you might be able to see a human egg. Gazing down at those tiny objects, you stand on the edge of a world of creatures invisible to the naked eye. Inside this strange land microbes live their tiny day to day lives – wake up, eat, communicate, move, and respond.
Over the billions of years on this planet these microbes have adapted to fit their environments. They are remarkably diverse organisms living in fresh and salt water, on land, in the air, and on or inside other organisms. As you read the microbes march, there are mutualisms, parasitisms, battle lines are being drawn, and help is on the way from every direction.
No wonder we have collective unconsciousness.
Living with all these microbes in people is easy if you maintain health, a positive attitude, keep busy, strive a little each day, and opt to be kind.
The last census shows about 100 trillion inside you. We are composed of multiple individuals many of whom alertly believe they are selves. This is why I could never understand conceit. It's nice to stick in the pocket the theory that each is an individual, however my definition of self includes the legions I'm made of.
Is so hard to grasp that you are the ringmaster of a circus?
The self is especially as distinct from the world and other selves. It is the conscious that most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality. However, I believe myself is composed of micro-selves that must be dealt with by logic, whip, barter and trial-and-error.
This flies in the face of the psychological definition of self, religious and political views, however if you invest in a microscope and look, it must be admitted that…
The next time you pull on your shoes realize you are a walking ecosystem.
Capitalism lessons are costing me a quarter a day.
One week ago, a little boy with a hangdog expression sat next to his father lemonade vendor wishing he had something to do. He was sorting leaves on his knees to sizes to pass time. I bought a lemonade, and asked the child the cost for a leaf. 'A quarter,' he countered brightly, as his father looked on amused.
The following day he was waiting, though the time of my walk varies by three hours. He had created a vendor's table from a 3' plank on the ground with a wider assortment of leaves. I bought another for 25 cents.
This is out on a jungle path where pigs wallow, hens with 27 chicks cluck, everyone has bare feet, sleeping dogs lie, no electric, ice or running water, a body eats on six-bits a day, fingernails and lawns are cut by machete, a piece of material has value, and there are no beggars.
The third day, three vendors with three boards offering new varieties. I bought one shaped like a maple leaf from a new kid, claiming I couldn't afford more.
The fourth day a strange thing happened. There were five venders between the age of 6-9 years, and one was a girl who was scrubbing her leaves with a brush and water. I bought a clean one.
The fifth day, the vendors had learned to balance the planks like trays on their palms and carry them aside me until I bought one. The sixth day repeated, as the market seemed saturated with kids and innovations.
Today, after I bought a freshly scrubbed mango leaf, a señora rushed up and whispered in my ear, 'You know the leaves are worthless. It's just a child's game.'
'Nonsense,' I answered. The child's game is capitalism. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? They may become the most successful vendors in the village with the capitalistic habits that work is rewarded, the best product sells, wait patiently and the customer arrives, curiosity, innovation, a healthy balance of intellectual and emotional quotient, an even-keeled mind, split-second decision making, the ability to handle uncertainty, loss and success, adaptability, and there are no prerequisites.
I find surprising things unbelievable until I can find a mechanism to explain them. In this case, my idea is that people who must be surrounded by noise to think are always above a steady state. They must run their thinking mechanism 24/7 (including dreaming at night) or lose consciousness. Hence their minds have 'forgotten' how to return to silence, and I fear this carries into death. The proof in chess is Bobby Fischer who hated to play noisy chess, while most of his opponents played better with it, as he beat them.
The metaphor in nature is the strangling fig tree that supports the host tree until the former dies and falls, leaving just the fig. Many studies also show that people, at least in the US, are unable to be alone with their thoughts. They freak out without their phones, tvs, radios, computers, etc to constantly distract themselves. So they never have the time to process what they already know about stuff and happiness. All the while being bombarded by the opposite message, that stuff does bring happiness, from the media that they can't turn off.
While the Dow climbed 16 points today, an old man pulled out a wood stool, as he has at 9am for thirty years, hoisted a handcrafted umbrella, stuck a two-foot plank on his lap, and gestured to the first customer. I stepped forward with a pair of jogging shoes to resole, and as he worked explained that in USA it's cheaper to buy a new pair than to get these underhauled. A barefoot señora holding a pair of sandals clicked her tongue, and stuck a finger in a rip in my shirt as I read today's news. The cobbler finished my repair in thirty minutes, and offered the shirt off his back – my size – which was a bargain since it saved me a trip down to crime infested Belen for a used one. The señora quickly sewed the rip in my shirt, as the man fixed her sandals. Then she conjured a shirt out her purse like a rabbit, and handed it to the cobbler for the repaired sandals. I paid $3 for the shoe repair, $2 for the shirt, and the señora offered a massage at her room across the street. It cost $4, and I walked out lightly on new shoes with a newspaper under my arm that the cobbler had thrown in to sweeten the one stop shopping.— keep looking »
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