In the same period of great adventure at the turn of the 20th century, two authors wrote of their travels to forbidden continents. Teddy Roosevelt, stepping down from the presidency, went to the foreboding Amazon and converted his journals into the book Travels through the Brazilian Wilderness, a few years after Mary F. Kingsley, a sheltered Victorian spinster suddenly freed from caring for her two sickly parents after they passed within six weeks of each other, went and wrote of the deepest, darkest Travels in West Africa.
In so many words, Roosevelt belly flops through the wilderness as Kingsley smashes through it.
Roosevelt writes soundly, and unfortunately, about what might have happened, did happen to others, and how dangerous it was to stand behind a rifle before a charging elephant, and hold a pen amongst whining mosquitos.
In the meantime, Miss Kinsley set out into uncharted regions and across treacherous swamps, going where few white men, let alone women, had ever been. She sometimes went in disguise, and preferred the uncovered cannibals to the cups of tea served by dignitaries. She learned the tracks, rivers, tribes, and tricks from the traders, and then vagabonded it. Once in a game trap set with spikes her voluminous skirts saved her from painful death. Alligators attempted to climb in her solo canoe, which she dealt with by crashing with a paddle. She got along well with practically every other living thing she met, drawn to life, and collecting specimens, and living to tell it in a lighthearted manner after sitting down with tired feet to a welcome pen and paper.
A coffee shop opened six months ago in Slab City called Starbucks that served coffee that the people swore rivaled the real thing. The shop was erected on a slab with wood pallet sides and comfortable couches built into a Palo Verde tree, and a drive-through under a branch where clients could pick up freshly brewed methamphetamine.
Today the sheriff picked up the manager for outstanding warrants. After he was escorted to jail, his 'grandmother' burned the store to the ground, including two 8-week old Cocker Spaniel pups named Caffeine and Free. Starbucks is still hot and black, with a new smell.
I had a pet Trader Rat that came to me in a strange trade. He grew strong and smart under my tutelage and lack of my own biological offspring. A Trader Rat looks like a sleek rat with a Mickey Mouse face. The close proximity of his eyes over a pointed nose molded the rodent's brain into the greatest trader in the animal kingdom.
His best trades were:
• A pile of coin wrappers for a stack of coins
• A scorpion claw for a radio transistor
• Cactus spines for a pair of gloves
• A pyramid of stones outside the refrigerator for a carton of soymilk
• Everything in my car glove box for hundreds of sticks and stones
I raised him like a kid with a baby book complete with fingerprints, a growth chart, and photos over time as he rode in my shirt pocket like a sidecar around the desert property. He looked forward to a workout in a gymnasium or school I had built, or to roam freely until I scratched a code on the ground, to differentiate me from the black day the nemesis rattlesnake would cock its scaly head.
He had come into my life on the greatest trade of all. The mother had abandoned her eye-closed infant on my trailer floor in exchange for a pair of reading glasses. I set a travel alarm and when it was taken by the mother followed the ring a few minutes later to her midden in the tool shed. I gave the baby back, and she returned it, hung in her mouth. That's how I became a father with a vasectomy.
One day, I received a terrible trade: my heartbreak for the desert diary scratched in the sand the night before of a rattlesnake's track winding up to my Trader Rat's prints. Now we are in each other's memories. My fondest is of him trading giggles for a good tickling on his belly.
Wherever I lay my hat is my home, as long as it's interesting. These are my 24 strangest dwellings chronologically from 1972 - 2017:
1. Attic that burned in East Lansing, MI - 1 year
2. Flooded basement in East Lansing, MI – 1 year
3. Closet in La Jolla, CA – 1 year
4. Garage with dogs in Lake Lansing, MI – 4 years
5. Chevy van with a 7' stuffed rabbit across America – 1 year
6. Boxcars across America – 3 years
7. Hostels around the world – 4 years
8. Storage unit in San Diego – 2 years
9. Home Depot backyard shed in Hillcrest, CA – 2 years
10. Hotel crawlspace in downtown San Diego – 1 year
11. Fishing boat in San Diego Harbor – 1 year
12. Laundry room in Encinitas, CA – 1 year
13. Attic in Solana Beach, CA – 1 year
14. Coffin in Michigan basement – 1 year
15. Stairwell in Weston, CT – 1 year
16. Barn in Laws, CA – 2 years
17. Ford Contour with all but driver's seat removed in Blythe, CA – 1 year
18. Truck container in the desert by Mexican border – 8 years
19. Underground burrow in the Sonora desert – 4 years
20. Flooded cellar in Iquitos, Peru – 1 year
21. Mattress in San Felipe, Baja dump – 1 year
22. Office rooftop in Miami – 1 year
23. Car camping in a Hertz rental in Slab City, CA – 1 year
24. Under a Mesquite tree in Slab City – 1 year
February 11, 2017 | 1 Comment
The 1989 box office smash Escape from New York is set in 1997 in Manhattan after the island has been designated a maximum-security prison.
Where a fifty-foot wall was erected around Manhattan to prevent escape, Slab City is geographically isolated from the rest of society and occupied primarily by criminals who cannot escape through the thick perimeter of blazing sand for lack of vehicles.
There are in both continual shouting, challenges, brandished weapons, gladiatorial fights, babbling men and methamphetamine zombies walking the littered streets, women screaming during drunken sex, biting dogs, gunshots, fires, and bombs rocking the lopsided shanties. Instead of the Trade Center there is Salvation Mountain, and in place of the sewers beneath NY there are catacombs including an underground bar under a cement Slab to cool off and forget the pandemonium above.
Both places are violent, scary, and weird.
There is great kindness in both too, and before you get trapped in Slab City you may want to get a preview by watching Escape from NY City.
The most important chart you ever look at may be your own. It's a simple 2-line graph that parallels your feelings with your thoughts.
Success is taking control of your moods. One of the most difficult yet doable means is to distance your feelings from your thoughts during important decisions. It is possible to completely divorce feelings, yet I suggest only a far distancing. Then you may act rationally … and arrive at success in anything.
The method of charting is each evening to recall your important thoughts and their accompanying feelings of that day. Plot them as dots on the X axis (time) of the building graph, as follows. The thoughts will be one color, and the feelings another. Chart as a dot the thought, and as another dot above or below it the associated feeling. The Y axis here is the importance of the thought and the intensity of the feeling during it.
Now you are looking at two somewhat parallel lines that connect the dots of your day's activities relative to their feelings. Over the week, some days may show only a couple dots in the lines, and other days several, as the graph extends horizontally for one month.
Most people cannot separate their feelings that accompany their thoughts and actions, and the graph reveals all. The more vertically volatile the feelings over the thoughts/actions, the less in control you are. A person in good control of his thoughts and mood swings will see two nearly parallel lines close to each other, and soon the feelings will even out below the thought line to show good control.
The graph after one month will become diagnostic, and inspirational to map your life of the interrelationship of thoughts and feelings relative to success.
The big test in Slab City is SOP in underworld cultures. A newcomer or resident seeking to advance among the population is taken to the edge of his capacity, and there teeters to be judged … Yea or Nay.
It's the rite of passage in practice in African tribes, and American gangs, and akin in sports to taking an opponent to the rubber game before asking him to be your doubles partner.
Slab city is one of these places where everyone needs, but is afraid to ask for fear of betrayal, a partner.
The permanent population is almost all underworld, and the rest are non-testifying spectators. There are drug smugglers, drug users, illegal alien smugglers, ex-cons, men and women on the lam, terrorists, mercenaries, snitches, car jacks, and common thieves.
Each is intelligent, and physically capable in a drunken or drug stupor, to commit a crime, defend himself, or come you your aid. Each resident knows that you cannot trust anyone but yourself … or someone who has proven himself by an illegal act, or a test, or is a 'made guy' through relationship.
I estimate about 70% of the Slab city residents have served time in prison, 50% can be considered dangerous, and I'm trying to spin a decent relationship with all of them. Since no one else can do it so far, I'm the mediator.
One hour in Slab City equals a day in a jungle or skid row for action. The reason is that each of the 200 residents is a Reader's Digest 'Unforgettable Character', the underworld alphas who use this outlaw town as a buffer between them and what they consider an anarchist USA.
Yesterday a twenty-year old Road Kid rolled up on a bicycle and asked for advice, knowing that I was one of the clearer heads in town not using drugs or alcohol. He wanted an I.D., saying his was damaged. So, I drove to next door Niland and put the word out on the street, and was rewarded in front of the grocery store an hour later when a young lady ambled up and asked, 'What does the Road Kid look like?'
I described him physically, and she focused a reply, 'Does he have an eagle tattoo on his right calf?' He did, and I told her so. 'He's a child molester,' she claimed, and a bounty hunter has offered us on the street, and in Slab City, $500 for information leading to his capture.'
I returned to the Road Kid's camp, and asked him to raise his cuff, where appeared an eagle, like the curtain rising on an American newsreel. I explained that if I provided a photo of him to the I.D. people, that they would incriminate, thinking he is a pedophile. Then his story unwound.
He had been caught in a massive sting by the FBI on a drug bust in a neighboring state, gone to jail, his first conviction, and jumped $50,000 bail. He rode Greyhound to Slab City, and was living as a hundred of other outlaws on the lam do, in a tent under a Mesquite tree, swimming in the canal, learning the trade of criminal activity from his peers, and hoping that his problem would go away.
However, a week ago, a burly Bounty Hunter came to his door with a badge in one hand and a drawn revolver in the other, hiding behind a bulletproof vest, and demanded to see the Road Kid's I.D. The kid replied that he didn't have one. The hunter told him to put his hands on his head, and as he did, the hunter pulled up his pant leg and spotted the tattoo. As the cuff fell, and he felt handcuffs slip around a wrist, the kid took flight, risking a bullet in the back. He sped across the desert like a rabbit and escaped the hunter.
When I told him about the child molestation charge, he cried, 'I love kids the right way. If I get out of this jam I'm going to raise a family.' I was convinced, and on checking around discovered that the Bounty Hunter had fabricate the charge to mount a vigilante hunt among the locals to capture the fugitive.
The Road Kid is on his way to Mexico, the Bounty Hunter will be stopped at the border, and he'll probably raise a Mexican family of unforgettable character children courtesy of Slab City.
Fights these days are not like in the Old West or even the Johnny Cash and Cool Hand Luke days when two guys duked, bit, spit, and brawled it out until one was beaten. Then, sometimes, he was helped to his feet and life went on.
The fights in Slab City are simultaneous physical and mental contests because the fighters, as they swing, observe the consequences of illegal slips that may be caught on a cell phone, videotaped, or witnessed and later brought up in court, where the fight winner could land in jail for years.
The informal law of brawl in the American streets and Slab City is that anything goes; but the bottom line of police law is that one may legally defend and retaliate in direct proportion to the assailant's tactics.
Yesterday's brawl on a concrete slab near Salvation Mountain demonstrates the ongoing spark and fire of a street fight on the two levels.
The concrete slab where the fight broke out is double the size of a boxing ring, where one tall man walked into the camp on the slab of another portly man. The escalation proceeded through the usual steps of: yelling, a mutual shove to the chest, and then the action began. The stout guy reached and hit the tall guy with the heel of his hand on his brow, and the tall man responded by picking up a 4' tree branch, and saying, 'You struck me in the face, and now I'm going to hit you with this stick!' He struck him in the chest with it. The shorter guy picked up a 6' steel pipe, and screamed, 'You hit me in the chest with a stick, and now I'm going to knock your head with this pipe.' He took a swing, missed, and at this pregnant moment I appeared, attracted by the yelling, on a bluff above the slab.
'Stop!' I yelled down, as they surged toward each other, and landed glancing blows. I used the tall man's name which got his attention, shouting, 'Jake, take one step back.' He did, somewhat mesmerized by my tone of voice. But then, unable to recall the short man's name, I stuttered, and felt foolish. My next thought was to swan dive off the bluff onto the concrete between the two, as an acquaintance had done off the second tier of a jail onto a card table to separate rival gangs coming to blows over a misplayed poker hand. However, the slab was too far down and my stomach grown too soft, so I started to rush down the bluff threatening to step between them if they didn't stop. That didn't work, so I bluffed, 'I called the cops and they'll be here in a minute.' That stopped them in their tracks, for each had legally covered himself in the melee, and neither wanted to face the other again but before a judge. They parted, and walked away.
One of my favorite pastimes is being able to stop fights. The usual technique is to ante up the intervention as the fight escalates, as follows:
1. Stay calm, and tell the fighters to stay calm.
2. Assess the situation quickly, to determine how serious it is and if I’m in danger.
3. Deduce in a heartbeat if either has a weapon or access to one.
4. Tell the fighters to each take one step back.
5. If they back up, you can step between the fighters.
6. Face the antagonist. Tell him to take a deep breath, and then the other to do the same.
7. If there are onlookers, tell them not to egg on the fighters, but to help separate them.
8. If the fight continues, either restrain the aggressor, or let them duke it out, stopping them only after one is grounded and can’t rise.
9. Most people do not want to fight, but to keep from losing face. Once the fighters are separated, tell each to be bigger than the situation, and take a walk in opposite directions to cool off.
10. If the fight goes on, call the cops, or pretend to do so.
11. As they walk away set the ground rules: they must not see or approach each other for one week.
In the Slab City brawl the two agreed to a one week mutual restraining order, but the next day came back to me asking that it be lifted because a night's sleep had left them with clearer heads for peace. But they had to be punished, and could not see each other for a week.
Picking a favorite campsite in Slab City is choosing a home. Eager arrivals drive, hitch, bike, or walk in daily, discover it's really true they may choose a slab or lot for free, park a trailer, pitch a tent, or erect a home without permission or zoning. They may put up a perimeter fence, though few do, because they like their neighbors in this, their first day at Slab City.
When I realized I could have a new home in 24 hours, I spent the first hour driving the dirt tracks on the fringe of town for the perfect spot: walking distance to the Internet Cafe, Library, Oasis bar, music Range, hot spring, bombing range for spare change recycling, hiking the arroyos, and a big shade tree.
One spot fit the criteria, a half-mile from the nearest resident on the south side, under a spreading Palo Verde tree. I cut a stencil with my jackknife, spray painted 'Occupied' in mirror letters on an old tire, per the requirement for establishing a claim for a lot, and improved the track to it by driving my car back-and-forth a dozen times to harden it.
A family of Kit Fox were the welcome wagon, liked the site, and ate dinner with me, often staying overnight. Weekend visitors and snowbirds from the west coast followed my track and stayed for a week or month, and often left some of their belongings they no longer wanted after a few breaths of fresh air in Slab City. I inherited their clothes, tents, sleeping gear, a bow-and-arrow, violin, piano, motorcycle, and even a titled car, without having met the owners.
Newcomers began to settle around me, mostly due to the road I had created, and proximity to the big shade tree, so I began to leave camp to sleep elsewhere. Once I returned and found a Minnesota millionaire organic farmer had pulled into my spot, set up camp, and was so determined to make an organic start on his own life that I let him take the camp. The BLM kicked him out on Christmas day, and a group of five desert rats in jalopies set up a meth lab under the Palo Verde, and the place reeked of brew for a month before they moved on. I found that packaged meth needles go for a buck a piece on the street, and they had left 200. Probably they had been moved along by a wizened warrior who, once I had reclaimed my spot, walked up and identified himself as Eagle One, displaying a lanyard braided from the South Vietnamese flag, and a necklace of human teeth. He told me he had cleared an airstrip the previous week, and landed a Drone with a 30' wingspan capable of carrying weapons and supplies; and that he had a buried a van 'out yonder', pointing, that I soon stumbled on while hiking, but didn't touch because Special Forces equals explosives.
The turning point a few days later was when I got a strange Facebook invitation to 'friend' from a Pennsylvania physicist who described the Z-Machine, 1000-times more powerful than a nuclear bomb, and the manufacturer, it's location on the adjacent military base, and how he would be arriving in a week to investigate it. There was no profile picture, except a Pitbull, and one week later I spotted the dog near my camp, and things started to be rearranged. Whenever I returned to camp, something was out of place. The 'occupied' tires were turned upside down, so it no longer looked like I was demented, to thwart squatters. But a stuffed bear did squat, in one of the tires, watching me with glassy eyes that I checked for cameras.
It was time to move on, as in life, because there are so many favorite spots suitable to call home.
An Alpha Female is the dominant female of a pack of people or animals, including the females and males. She is always self-assured and strong, mentally and physically, with a gypsy's cunning that adds to her allure.
Other traits of the alpha female are persistence, courage, purposeful, hard working, perceptive, individualistic, inspirational, a leader by example, and often a center of attention. She is manipulative without being sexual but employs a sense of humor. The real she-woman can laugh at herself, and having really lived has stories to tell that everyone wants to hear.
In business, the alpha females are clever, confident, and with a high IQ stand less of a chance of finding a mate. So, she succeeds financially.
In romance, she dates as many people as she wants. Research shows that high-IQ alpha women are less likely to get married than their peers with lower ones. Men tend to steer clear of alpha females for fear they will not be in control. Biologically, they have no time to raise a child while busy climbing vertically in a career, rather than hoping for someone who completes them.
Slab City, being an anarchist town, has a lion's share of alpha females. The top four in no particular order are the Librarian, a clever, beautiful blonde with half her head shaved, with a pegleg, and grace of movement when she turns book pages or plays hard rock on bass guitar. Next, the Mountain Manager is as large as her title but people-manages with a quick wit and quicker tongue from her corporate media background. Then, the Thief is truly dangerous and knocks off camps like dominoes, disappearing into the arroyos like a wily coyote where nobody really wants to follow her. Finally, the Hermaphrodite brings a little of both sexes to alpha feminism, having the hormones and understanding of both genders.
No one, male or female, toys with the alpha females. Each is so dominant that when they meet sparks fly, and sometimes fists, as each is a talented pugilist. This is the only way a male can arrange to dominate them.
The life of Ray the Pilot is a tragedy, perhaps except for this memory.
At nine his father, an Air Force pilot and crop duster, taught him to solo an airplane. At eleven years young Ray was crop dusting alone in a helicopter. He was an Eagle Boy Scout and, standing 6'9" with 300 pounds, was a high school football and basketball standout. He followed in the air steps of his father, a Lt. Colonel, and joined the Air Force. He flew jets and helicopters in three wars: Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Then he taught flying for 14 years to cadets.
In one incident he crash landed and the paramedics took a pulse, found none, and stuck him in a body bag. En route to the morgue he 'rose from the dead', and punched his way out of the bag, astonishing the medics who re-diagnosed a concussion, with a tiny piece of shrapnel lodged near the spine. A hump grew to encase it, so large that he looked like a snail.
He fathered thirteen sons and daughters who joined the armed forces, and never called him on Christmas.
He had seen and done it all ten years ago, except Slab City, where he moved. People shunned him because he made the Elephant Man look like a pretty boy, but I enjoyed his war tales lowered into a raspy voice at eye level bent over with the hump rising like a glacier to the clouds.
Last week, Ray asked me for some Peppermint Oil through his window. He said the hump was freezing. The next day I followed the coroner to his camp, and now his trailer is empty of the most important thing. The Slab City yellow tape raises in one week, and the human vultures will scavenge all that is left.
Our national pastime has three lessons of life.
I enjoyed the practice of the professional teams as they warmed up in Detroit, Yankee and other stadiums. The crack of the bat and the infield moving like ballerinas with gloves and balls around the dirt stage, with the machinelike execution of a Swiss clock. That's all I liked about the pros, but it was enough to inspire all walks of life.
I liked 'Workup' as a fledgling starting in right field and working the way, as the batters were thrown out, a half hour later through pitcher to catcher, and to lift a bat myself. Workup is a lesson in delayed gratification wherever you go.
My writing coach is Art Shay, whose 'Homerun' style is the model I adopted for my own writing of short adventure stories. He advised, "The story begins with the crack of the ball off the bat, the player rounds the bases in mounting anticipation, and returns where he began at home."
Other sports offer more, but these are the best lessons from baseball.
I took cues as a youth watching The Rifleman, Gunsmoke, Cisco, Zorro, and Texas Rangers ('one war, one Ranger') ride in and clean up a town of outlaws. I read the same in L'Amour, Max Brand, and Walter Van Tilburg Clark. Over the years, I've added a few tips of my own on how to infiltrate a lawless town, not necessarily to clean up, take over, or win the moll, but to just get along with everyone and learn.
I arrived in Slab City and in a glance knew it would be my laboratory. It was a matter of devising a way to penetrate. There were eight steps to the technique. The town is one-square mile of two hundred characters who seemed to have stepped out of a Shakespeare tragedy, so everything could be done by foot.
• Identify the ten most influential individuals
• Institute a method to win each over
• Bump randomly into each
• Tell each a different adventure story for rapport
• Provide unique help such as medical or legal advice
• Give matchless gifts, as others are forgotten
• Accept nothing in return
• Use the girls to get to their powerful guys, and vice versa
The targeted 16 included: the Mayor, Music Range proprietor, Salvation Mountain manager, the meth maker, drug dealer, his strong arm, leader of the bombing range recyclers, best thief, top arsonist, leading prostitute, ringleader of illegal alien smugglers, the hostel, library, and junkyard owners, primary crooked cop, and military chief of security.
The adventure stories circulated, and the recommendations by these powerful people trickled down through the population. Now, at the close of the second year at Slab City, the fruit of my labors are being harvested.
I'm having the time of my life. That signals the time to leave, as I did with jobs, sports, and teaching, at the pinnacle of success, to go on to the next laboratory.
In memory, Alba spoke French to her cats, Spanish to the dogs, and English to me. She spoke to me out at her remote property because I was educated and had seen a hundred dollar bill, unlike our desert rat peers.
Alba was born in Managua, Nicaragua tremendously premature. She was a cherub in dancing tights at age 7, pictures showing a resemblance and charm to Shirley Temple. Her father before she was ten took her frequently to the city skid row with coins, and later she went alone, to give them to the needy. Dad was a multi-millionaire hardware man with businesses around the world including Europe. Alba wanted to become a nun, but dad ordered her to University of Pennsylvania to study accounting in order to control the family business. She graduated with honors and, at 4' 11" in the college yearbook is the star of the basketball team. She then handled the hardware business records, got a CPA in Nicaragua, and I saw pictures of her in mink stoles in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and other exotic places on business or pleasure. Then tragedy struck when her beloved father was murdered in Europe. Alba took over the business, but was actually freed to pursue the nunnery, if she could find one to accept her. She gave the business away, and moved to San Francisco, where she was a popular character on the wharf fishing for sailors. She was involved in a head-on collision and would let you stick your fingers in the in the depressions in her head, where she was laid up in bed, comatose for a while, then immobile, and then recovered to become the old Alba again. Raring to go at the nunnery, one after another turned her away, until she threw up her hands to one sister in the archway, and said, 'The hell with you!' She bought a battered blue Ford van and plied the back roads of southern California until she found remote Sand Valley in about 1995, at the age of about 60 - eight miles down the road from my Rancho Scorpion.
Alba was a good neighbor in that we visited bi-annually when we happened to bump into each other on supply runs to town. She fretted over me, often dowsing me with holy water from the Lourdes. She kept her toenails and teeth as they fell out in an accountant file, and a daily record of the temperature for years and years, as the 1' outdoor thermometer in her front yard spun an extra revolution in the summer to register 180F. She chased rattlesnakes with a broomstick, and used no solar, propane or firewood. Her cooking was setting a Cup-of-Soup or the like in the sun to warm. She had no bad habits, except an underground crypt filled with her deceased pets - hundreds of dogs and cats over the years - that were desiccated to remain as if petrified. It was like Twilight Zone going down there and petting them. Alba had a Dog Street of a dozen mongrels, and a 40' trailer full of cats. I would walk down the Street and practically get licked to death, but entering the Cat House was like going into the jungle. Feral cats perched on the cupboards, shelves, bookcases, and under the table and bed.
Once a month, Alba tied garlic around her ankles and walked eight miles through rattlesnake country to a county road to hitch to Blythe, CA for supplies. The snakes do not like garlic. One day Alba did not return, the dogs were set free, the cats escaped, I sealed up the crypt, emptied her toenails and teeth into my pocket, and as the wind now blows through her ramshackle camper I can still see her dancing and singing in the dirt track when the US Marines drove tanks past to practice war games, 'Thank you, Marines. Thank you for saving Managua!'
Getting The Make on someone means to identify him, his job, or role in life. My expertise comes from ten straight years standing an hour a night in bars across the country, without drinking. In seeing tens of thousands of people, I tried to figure them out. The other place was as a veterinarian at examination tables and kennel gates of small and large animals, because animals don't tell you who they are.
My three best makes and how over the years are:
1. A few years ago in Costa Rica, I was on a tour bus with a tall gentleman who spoke a sentence to his wife seated next to him, and I asked, 'Are you a dentist from Los Angeles?' The give-away was a slight hunch, delicate, smooth hands of exacting movements, other physical factors, and his wife had answered with a 'Valleyspeak' twang. He had good teeth himself, and I had a toothache, which is why I had asked.
2. Ten years ago in Times Square, I got particularly efficient service at a dinner. I said, 'You must be an electrical engineer from Delhi.' His skin flushed red, and his quick tracking pupils dilated, as he confirmed. He was obviously Indian, and nearly all who make it to America are newspapermen or electrical engineer, for which India is famous.
3. Yesterday at Slab City, I bumped into a grizzled newcomer and looked down, remarking, 'You got your shoes at Big 5 Sporting Goods and were in Special Forces.' That fueled an hour of stories of Vietnam, the CIA, and later how he became a mercenary and came to Slab City to wind down. I had bought the same pair of sneakers a month ago, and the feet of a Special Forces can go all directions at once, as opposed to a Marine who is gung ho ahead, and retired Navy who push off the sides of their feet as if aboard a ship.
Learning to get a make on people opens doors, closes ones that should be, and is good for business and sport.
An interesting point of hoboing is the ratio of hobos and their use of mobile devices such as Smartphones. When I rode quarterly from 1985-95 the mobile devices weren't around. However, many of the executives I took to the rails became hobo tech heads, bringing cell phones, GPS, scanners with preprogrammed RR yard frequencies, and night vision goggles. I was content with my working knowledge and the Rand McNally Handy RR Atlas, although at times the high tech proved valuable.
There were reportedly 4 million hobos during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and supposedly after that the hobo subculture became an intellectual property. It was revived in the Great Recession of 2008 that threw hundreds of thousands into homelessness. The worst of them became stew bums occupying your park benches, the more capable boxcar tourists and rubber tramps (in autos), and the most able became hobos riding the rails. I estimate these days that in good weather about one in every five trains you see west of the Mississippi River is carrying a hobo, and far fewer to the east.
Yesterday while hiking in the desert along a Union Pacific track between LA and Tucson, I watched one freight whiz past every 30 minutes for six hours, usually double stack container trains. I was too far from them to see hobos waving, but on returning to Slab city I noted about 200 new young arrivals with backpacks in the past month who will winter here, before moving on. Many talk of riding the rails. They are in their twenties, in dreadlocks, like drugs and the breeze in their hair, and often have female hoboettes in tow who are pretty as well as hard-bitten. They spend their free hours reading, playing guitars, and keying mobile devices.
One of them is named Hopper. He lost his right leg last year trying to catch a moving freight ladder outside of New Orleans. He is traveling with a parson who claims he has 'healed this cripple' by enabling his good leg to regenerate. They travel the nation three-legged, working the crowds, collecting food stamps, and panhandling in Walmart parking lots.
Of course, they have the latest Smartphones in this new hobo addition to the hobo subculture.
The key to survivals is mental rehearsal before the occasions occur. About twenty years ago, I listed the top twenty survival situations that I might encounter. Then I mentally (and often physically) rehearsed them, and these are the ones that have panned to save my limb or life:
1. Bear Attack
2. Rip Tide
3. Stuck Elevator
4. Dog Attack
5. Car crashes
7. Medical conditions
And so on.
The most interesting scenario I've been rehearsing lately is dog attacks, specifically by trained attack dogs. If you study the training films, the dogs are trained to go for the right arm, especially if it is raised to the side holding an object. The attack dogs, usually German Shepherds, run and launch off the ground and bite the wrist. In that full second after the animal leaves the ground it is in grave danger. I have been holding my right hand raised to shoulder level in a fist, the dog in my mind, (unaware that I'm ambidextrous) rockets at it, and in midair I pivot and stab it through the ribcage with a screwdriver, fork, or tire iron. If you have ever seen wild or even domestic cats fight, they first go for the jugular, and second to puncture the rib cage with a fang. The victim loses the powerful vacuum in the thoracic cavity to make the lungs expand out and instantly flounders. The only help in a survival situation is bubblegum or duct tape to seal the hole, which I've also rehearsed.
There are two outstanding breeds of dogs in Slab City: Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls.
The former number in the hundreds, nearly as many as the people, because the breed is a 'small world' dog. They thrive in barking clusters in the tiny prison-like shanties, tents and trailers. Their purpose is companionship and as burglar alarms. Owners know that to put a small world dog out into the 'big world' leads to disaster because their small brains on such little bodies would get them lost or under car tires.
Pit Bulls, on the other paw, with jaws as big as Tyrannosaurus Rexes, are the second most popular dog for protection. They are chained outdoors, often in protective circles, around peoples' camps. They are one of the few dogs that without training or warning bite before they bark. One put my knee in its mouth and dragged me to the owner, who ordered, 'Precious, drop!' and it released me.
Dogs are like people. The single idea leading humankind down the primrose path to destruction is the fallacy that each person is like everyone else. We are individuals within races that also differ in mental, physical, and social capacities. It's disastrous to think that all men have evolved to be alike, however it's free to establish an egalitarianism where the barriers are removed to anyone to strive to become equal or better than anyone else.
I believe that individuality is our only hope for the future.
December 22, 2016 | Leave a Comment
I became a sport legend in 1971 by standing with a small stick up to a giant they called 'Goliath'. Then the press clipping my mother saved labeled me 'The David Who Slew Three Goliaths' and it snowballed from there, including becoming a legend in racquetball and a five-page feature in Sports Illustrated ('He Found His Racquet', Nov. 19, 1979). But few have heard the story of how the little stick started the snowball.
In the quarterfinals my opponent was Paul 'Goliath' Lawrence, the tall National Champion who was my only nemesis. In the second game the face of my paddle broke and flew across the court smashing into the front wall, and I was left holding the handle that was the size of a six-inch ruler. My rival looked dazed, and I yelled at him, 'Continue playing!' So he made the return, and I hit the ball back with the stick. And once more. The game turned at that point, and I believe Lawrence threw it because I had the courage to stand and face him with a little stick. Plus his next opponent would have been National Champion Charles Brumfield.
I beat Brumfield with a replacement paddle, and in the finals another national champ Craig Finger, that led to racquetball, a date with Miss World, and the Sports Illustrated article.
In Utopia everything is perfect. The word was first used in the a book Utopia in 1516 by Sir Thomas More, and now on a cactus pocked square mile of desert in southern California 200 residents say they have the last word on the ultimate utopia, 121' below sea level teetered on the southern end of the San Andreas fault.
The features of utopias throughout the ages include:
Right to do whatever a person wants
Lack of religion
Equality among people
The people are the government
Information, independent thought, and freedom
Abundant supply of necessities
No forced work and available time to achieve anything
No fear of the outside world
Some argue that a utopian society has no social evils. This is where Slab City totters between utopia and dystopia. The eleven characteristics that distinguish Slab City from its predecessors are:
State ownership of land
Highest per capita arson in USA
Best metal scrapping on the Chocolate Mt. Bombing Range
Highest per capita methamphetamine use in the nation
Largest illegal alien smuggling rings
Hottest temperatures at 125F in the shade
Coachella Canal which runs uphill
Probably the highest number of warrants per capita
Most per capita bogus SSI claimants.
A walk through Slab City demonstrates these features. My day begins by rising with the sun and hiking three hours through the open desert in a no-man's land between Slab City and the Chocolate Mt. Bombing Range. The air is incredibly clear, fresh and cool. After the hot summer, you breathe it like drinking cool water. Creosote bushes pepper the desert floor reaching two stories and the highest I've seen in the world. In the early 1960s, a chemical company in Oakland hired 20 men to harvest creosote leaves near Niland, CA. Some workers moved closer to work by living in small trailers at the abandoned military Camp Dunlap. This was the start of what was called Niland Flats, then the Slabs, and now Slab City. I've planted sunflowers gardens at two secret springs that are beginning to bloom. There are also Broadcast flowers at a penny a seed that you cast near moisture and are rewarded a month later with many colorful faces.
A person coming out of wild country into town develops a righteousness of things. First I swim across the icy Coachella Canal. Entering Slab City is like hitting a brick wall. Suddenly you're in a green cloud of marijuana fumes. In H.G. Wells' In the Days of the Comet the collision of earth with a comet releases a mysterious green gas that transforms and purifies human nature and utopia follows. These are the highlights of today's walk:
First a stroll through the green cloud on the 18-hole golf course of total sand traps with ATV's in place of golf carts and hula-hoop holes. Then to the Anarchist Library to check for new Louis L'amour titles, and across the dirt track for an hour at the Internet Cafe. By this hour the adjacent Sunrise Coffee House is vacated of snowbirds, but the Skateboard Park is rolling. The park is General Patton's abandoned 50-meter swimming pool with slides of concrete culverts and jumps off burned cars. On to the hot springs to glance at the naked girls next to Salvation Mountain. Up on the hill, the cosmopolitan Slab City Hostel, Ponderosa Acoustic Guitar Circle, and a shantytown Air B&B are listed in tourist guides, alongside the Blue Church and East Jesus Sculpture Garden. Everything is run off the grid on solar, propane, a handful of generators, and firewood. This walk is through a shadow media that provides the truth about what's going on America.
I identify with many of the residents because in the last ten years I haven't known stability, moving one place to the next, slept outside, haven't worked nine to five from Monday to Friday, and have not counted on anything except surprise and unpredictability. There are scores of stories everywhere, and the faster and farther you walk the more you hear.
A rabbit hutch has just jumped off the back of a pickup and crashed on the road. Three got away, two are roasted to eat, and a youngster has picked up an injured one drawing itself forward with use of only the front legs. I advise him to give it to the Animal Rescue to attach a skateboard to replace the rear legs.
A man in a trench coat is coatless today and beseeches, ‘I lost my trench coat that was given to me by Sonny Barger. Please ask around!’ Within an hour, it’s located.
The town crier begs me to spread the word of a girl’s boyfriend, who left her three days ago, was just found dead in his car in Texas, and the girl must notify the next of kin.
I talk guy out of burning his neighbor's trailer for poisoning his barking dog.
A man shouts through his beard at me in shorts, 'I've got on five dresses and am shivering!' Aren’t you cold?’
A young Arkansas traveler went to a party last night, and was beaten up and thrown out the door for refusing to drink and smoke.
Wave goodbye to the beautiful peg leg librarian who has empathized with the pipeline protestor who lost her arm to a grenade, and is pulling out to join the clash in chilly North Dakota.
A new resident wants to ferry his second vehicle from LA, but the librarian with the only driver’s license and no warrants just left town.
I soothe a domestic quarrel between a guy who says that his girlfriend beat her head on the side of the trailer to build a 'portfolio' against him, while she claims he hit her.
A lady in a hurry to get her home box up hires me for three hours to erect a Slab style pre-fab home on her slab that used to quarter WWII soldiers. The materials costing $150 in a pile on her cement are: 12 4×8’ OSB sheets, twenty 2×4”s cut to 8’ length at Home Depot, four strap hinges, and a hundred screws. The completed shanty is an 8’ cube.
Orchestrate pulling a Georgia Dodge van out of a sand pit.
A new mother pushing a baby carriage asks to trade Oxytocin for diapers.
Stumble on a newly abandoned camp where someone left four bicycles, and ride them one-at-a-time to grateful recipients.
Diagnose and treat a Parvovirus dog.
Stroll through the local Walmart, ten acres of trash as organized as the real store with abandoned clothes, appliances, etc. that display one man’s trash is another’s treasures. I find a red bin with my backward writing label, empty, stolen from my property in Sand Valley two years ago, that caused me to migrate to this town.
My belongings – clothes, laptops, kitchenware, etc. – arrived before I did and keep turning up around town to contribute to the odd barter economy. The gold standard that was abandoned in the 1930s has been replaced in Slab City by marijuana. You may trade goods, secure a cash loan from 'Frank the Bank', or secure a meal on credit from the cafe, if you are known to have a marijuana stash. With virtually no cash, barter runs the market. Scrap metal from the nearby bombing range contributes, and illicit drugs and prescription pills, and sex. I've never seen barter succeed in a drug culture or den of thieves, and Slab City is both. Welfare supports most of the population with trumped disability claims - dyslexic, Parkinson's, asthma, etc. Many claimants cultivate their injuries for months like the beggars of India who maim themselves to have an income for life. The town is saturated with ex-cons on early parole who are snitches. If you don't imbibe or aren't on welfare, you are suspected of being a snitch. I must be a slave to good habits to keep from being swallowed by the dyspeptic community: walking, reading, good food, no alcohol or drugs, and doing good deeds.
Newcomers to the Slabs oasis claim they are escaping from the tyranny of outlying America. They could not afford the luxury of moving out of country, and so they hitched, drove a jalopy, van-pooled, or hoboed here on Union Pacific. Many arrive penniless, and are helped onto welfare by other residents. A younger group arrives in economy sedans with tents to learn how to live off the grid. Some seniors come in fancy rigs to stretch their retirement income. Plus there are runaways, seekers, hippies, mystics, and stopovers like the protagonist of the Sean Penn film Into the Wild who adventured across North America culminating in his death in the Alaskan wilderness. The barrier to most for staying to become full time Slabbers is the terrifying summer heat. One long-term resident explains that to become a true Slabber, you have to live here two years: the first you may succeed by being stoic or a genetic fluke, but in order to survive the second summer you have to be crazy.
The Slab City motto is 'No Rules' on the premise that every person is entitled to be as radically different from everyone else as he pleases. Most Slabbers are damaged, which has given rise to a blanket empathy. Everyone assumes everyone else has something to be private about, and are comfortable about it. My chief pleasure is to arbitrate. Once you have visited a camp you know the mind and habits of that person. In a little community that disallows laws and abhors police, there can be no living together without understanding, and understanding means compromise. Yet there will be disagreements and sometimes I'm called for. The method is to approach the disagreeing parties independently, and offer to be either the mediator or arbitrator. The latter involves responsibility and possible retribution which I try to avoid. As the mediator, I give each party about one minute to summarize his side of the argument, and then bring them together and in another minute paint the big picture and offer a compromise. It usually involves an assuaging phrase like 'Be bigger than the situation.'
Despite a few harsh consequences, the cement slabs offer individuals loosely glued by elbow room and their allowances for each other's freedom a fresh start on life. It's the only place I know of where there's no law against doing fun things. I canvass for the reasons they come to Slab City, and the universal appeal is for freedom and drugs. Each arrival seemed to have reached a turning point in his life – change or stagnate – and he has made a firm decision to live free or perish. And then at Slabs he learns to say, 'I will not run anyone's life – nor let anyone run mine.'
The females are strong, scruffy, pretty, sensuous and, for the most part, available. There is zero desire to hunker down and look up to man. It's normal to see them standing on a slab fist-to-fist in fights with lovers or detractors. Femininity means instant gratification of sex and being able to quickly hop into the next sleeping bag without grievance or permission. Slab City girls never call themselves ladies, and are comfortable with nudity, except among children, at the summer canal or winter hot spring.
Slab City displays many traits of a socialism Utopia. All of the land is owned by the State, except for a sliver I have a container on. The cash money is almost totally in the hands of a handful of individuals who run Salvation Mountain, the town gateway. Though the State owns the land care of General Patton via the California Teachers' Association who could not build a resort for employees due to unexploded ordnance, it may not seize it, and can hardly police it. There are no taxes and no building codes. There is no incentive to improve one's life; no one wants to improve his life, thinking this is as good as it gets. Anyone may arrive with a home on wheels, or paint 'occupied' on a plethora of used tires and plant them on a slab or perimeter as a 'quick deed'. Where else can you go and be free, with no restraints, and live cheaply? The town draws the most from December to February when the population swells from the hard-core year-round 200 to over 1000.
The alleged goals of Utopia have been the abolition of poverty, achievement of general prosperity, with the elimination of money, society is largely individualistic, communal living, citizens only do work which they enjoy leaving them ample time for hobbies and habits, peace, harmony, and a hippies' brotherhood. The historic results have been terrifying except in Slab City where the beat goes on.
One man's utopia is another's dystopia.
My place in Slab City seems to be a Henry Kissinger solving little disputes and moonlighting with veterinary, legal, and medical advice as I walk from tent to shanty. The winding walk through town ends again at the Coachella canal, the green cloud clears as I swim to the other side, and climb the 30-degree bank to the open desert.
Behind me, Slab City resembles an old Hooverville fallen on hard times. There's nothing you could offer me that I'd swap for one afternoon stroll through Slab City. Once a person has walked this town the newspapers, radio, TV and movies become meaningless. The goal was to learn, to see, to know, and to understand. Behind me in the city seconds count, and when I look up at the desert, I see the centuries pass like seasons.
For nearly fifty years, a shiny spot in the Chocolate Mountains of the Sonora desert has puzzled witnesses. I have been hearing about it for twenty years from metal scrappers of the nearby Gunnery Range who have theorized that it's a 'crashed 747', UFO, or the portal to a secret helicopter launch inside a mountain, like NORAD. The spot appears only in spring and fall between 1-3pm from the southwest, and vanishes when anyone approaches within a mile.
I've heard so many reports that I decided to try to solve the mystery. Standing alone in the desert, I waited until 1pm for the light to go on, walked ahead, and at about one mile distance the reflective object disappeared! The ensuing blind approach to the foothills took four hours, followed by another two hours of climbing. Unable to approach without a visual spot, I walked the front of the Chocolate Mountains looking for a clue.
Suddenly it reappeared, up in the dark heights, brighter than a sun. I ducked for cover, watched, and continued upward. Then I was above it and had to descend. Looking down, it became clear why the object had been seen only at certain times, and disappeared from sight for five decades. The object lay nestled on the side of a canyon offering a scope of view of 15-degrees spreading to the southwest, and it lay behind a rock outcrop so it disappeared whenever a traveler neared.
I walked down and touched it. The object was a bright obelisk lying on its side split in half vertically. It measured 20' long and the base was 6' that tapered at the far end to a point. The material was reflective aluminum, also called 'lightning sheet', as reflective as polished mirror. The aluminum skin harbored a 2"-thick cardboard honeycomb for support, with a one-foot thick cast aluminum male part bolted to the obelisk base that would fit into a female part had it been there. A stamp in the cast read 'PANCOA –Denver'.
I descended with no more than scrapes for my effort, and no explanation, until I went to the Internet. PANCOA (Panel Corporation of America) of Denver in 1974 manufacturer aerial tow targets for the Air Force that are pulled on cables up to thousands of feet long behind target tug aircraft. A target tug is a modified airplane or jet with a winch to play out on the tow target after takeoff and pull it in before landing. Towing targets was a hazardous job before the advent of drones, as live fire is typically employed and the people doing the shooting are skilled in training. They were made of reflective aluminum to be lightweight and visible for up to ten miles, and usually shaped like missiles. I had found one of four fins and judging from its size the missile was about 100' long. The missile body had been shot off, or dragged into the mountainside.
The shining spot in the desert was solved.
I've been studying and surviving for going on 60 years now, and the requirements for success have changed. These have been mainly in technology and as a result, often without realizing it, the people involved have changed.
For years as I was growing up, the people starting a trip, business, sports event, or even a romance used their brains. That has altered with the evolution of technology, as surely as machines have replaced working hobos. We were taught in those glorious know-how days to acquire a talent, usually through training in school or apprenticeship, and to follow it down the road to goals. This is changing, however, especially in my specialty of survival.
Where technology ends knowledge begins. Take last night in Slab City. Armies of tourists and foreigners had arrived to gawk at the misfits, listen to music, and drive home. Just before midnight, as I headed out to the desert, a set of red-and-blue lights flashed on the opposite side of a track, and a California Highway Patrolman waved me over.
'They're stuck!' he gestured over to a green sedan with Canadian plates mired in the sand. I stopped, got out, and asked the four young Canadians, 'Front or back wheel drive?' One responded, 'Front.' I replied, 'Have you out in a jiffy,' and we started digging out the tires, and in five minutes pushed the car out. The considerate cop had saved the visitors a $300 towing bill.
'Follow me,' said the officer. We continued south along the canal road for two mines and I stopped when he did. He shined his swivel light on two Chinese people shivering in a 20mph northerner that whipped up the girl's skirt a foot like the standing waves on the canal.
'We stuck,' said the young male. They were visiting economics professors from Guangzhou who had followed the Google Map in their SUV down a road that was actually a wash dotted only with the footprints of rabbits, rodents and coyotes. The officer explained that the true road was about .1 mile ahead but their GPS could not distinguish the difference.
We walked along the wash for 10 minutes where their heavy vehicle was sunken in the sand like an Ironwood. I diagnosed rapidly, 'I can get you out with 45 minutes of digging, sprinkle on canal water to firm the sand, deflate the tires to 20 lbs. to double the friction, and use my come-along. 'We hastened back to the CHP, where I recapped to the officer, and then turned to the Chinese.
'You want me to get you out for free, or pay $500 for a 4-wheel tow?'
'Free!' the couple agreed.
'Are you sure you want me to leave?' The CHP asked them, glancing at my bare feet.
'We get tow' the couple changed their minds.
'I'll wait,' I said, not relying on this technology either. I sat in my car and read Jack Reacher, an individualist who washes his hands of technology and hitchhikes around the country righting wrongs, until two hours later the tow truck arrived with a four- wheel winch truck piggybacked on its bed. The smaller truck backed off the bigger, skid down the wash, and got stuck up to its bumpers. Its tires had disappeared.
The tow driver spoke only Spanish, and the Chinese couple's Smart Phone translator was too slow, so I translated. We all hiked back to the CHP, where the tow driver left for two hours, returning with a monstrous Caterpillar tractor. As the moon rose over Slab City, he yanked first the tow truck and then the SUV free. Everyone was happy, and the economics professors paid $500.
New advances in technology, from the machines we ride, to the software we use to program them, have given the individual the ability to be more productive. Technology is taking care of us… almost. It pays to reciprocate by educating ourselves for the times the devices are not accurate or available. It should always be known how to reset a system manually.
In I, Robot Isaac Asimov addresses the morality and ethics of advanced technology. Odd questions are raised. I think it's immoral and dangerous to give up one's life to the devices around us. I, Robot agrees. Who should have the power?
The answer is that both technology and knowledge should be cultivated, in a system of personal checks and balances. Technology will continue to evolve, but let's not forget it is not a replacement for knowledge.
The first of the month rolled in and the monthly Slab City poker players gathered in a shantytown trailer and pulled $100 bills from their pockets.
They had just collected their first-of-the-month government checks making it the big night out on this outlaw town on sand in southern California. Each swallowed or shot methamphetamine, and anted one hundred.
The night after Halloween is when the real ghouls came out to trick and treat.
A kitchen timer in front of a kerosene lantern before a broken window was set for one hour, and began ticking.
Eight men circled the poker pot on a spool table, as their pupils enlarged to saucers. At Go! they wedged through the trailer door in a land rush sprint. The goal was each to work his way under the cloak of darkness undetected across the town of 300 souls stealing whatever they could get their hands on.
Whoever returned with the most loot before the timer rang would win the pot.
The strategies were to go light and carry everything in covering the most ground; most took backpacks, bags, or suitcases. But Irish Adam would return the winner with a shopping cart (at the sacrifice of speed and risk of detection) full of booty.
When the timer rang, the stolen items were tallied. Irish gathered the dough, and shouted, 'Meth on the house!'
Amarillo Slim said, 'Seldom do the lambs slaughter the butchers,' but a posse is forming to put an end to the first of the month poker games.
The cistern crouched beneath the creaking windmill in a slight breeze. It was a hot day out from Slab City, CA. An ancient lock prevented my refreshment.
An old desert lock is a cue to look for a 'dummy' latch because who keeps the key so long? The strap hinge on the cistern cover was bolted such that its nuts hand screwed loose!
The concrete cistern itself measured 10'x10' and who knows how deep it falls into the ground?
I lifted the 100-pound steel cover on its rusty hinge with a full body effort and peered down… The inside was a dripping cement cell, measuring 10'x10' and 6' deep with two feet of water at the bottom.
A pink stick – no, a 4.5' racer snake! had crawled in a crack of the cistern top and rested with its head on a protruding inch of rebar, while the rest of its slender body dangled underwater. The lifeless eyes were enlarged blue marbles like a Halloween mask. The thirsty serpent could have been there for weeks, as even October is a thirsty month.
I dropped a pebble and it sprang to life, swimming the perimeter of the cell again and again.
How to get it out, so I could go in for a drink and dunk? I talked to the snake bouncing my voice off the water for a few minutes, and as it calmed, reached and lowered a branch under its head and gently lifted it out onto the concrete top. Snakes don't have eyelids to blink; this one stared for a few seconds, and then slithered across the concrete top onto an overhanging limb, stretched out and air dried.
I jumped into the cement tank and splashed like a gleeful kid, and drank heartily.
In a few minutes, it was time to go and I peered up at the head high opening. Uh oh. I reached up but couldn't drag myself out the tank. So, I sat back down in the water and looked up through the 3' square at the snake on the branch.
We had traded positions. I yelled but received only echoes.
The significant thing at the moment that distinguished me from the snake was my shorts. I removed and stuffed them into a 3" opening in a side wall for a drain pipe that went off underground, and limited the water's rise.
In twenty minutes the water level climbed a half-inch. I could float to the ceiling in 32 hours, as long as the breeze kept up.
The water dripped from the hard-wearing windmill above into the cistern top.
The snake slithered off, and I was alone for the longest time. As the water rose, my eyes adapted to the dim and I spotted the rebar that had been the snake's hard pillow for so many days. I stood, and stuck one boot on it, and with the ceiling opening near its side wall, could boost myself up and out the watery crypt.
But the first step was to string an 8' length of abandoned hose in one corner of the cistern up from the water to the crack in the top that the snake had entered, and out into the sunlight.
Then with a big effort I leaped out.
Now I sip the memories of my escape from the cistern.
The thrill of coming home has never changed.
Homecoming is an annual tradition in the United States. People, towns, and particularly high schools come together, usually in early October, to welcome back alumni and former residents. It is built around a central event, such as a banquet, parade, and, most often, a game of football.
The field lights drew me from deep in the desert where I'd been hiking all day. I stared long and hard and was taken back to my last visit seven years ago at the Blythe, CA high school homecoming. I was a newly fired sub-teacher at the high school – the most treasured by the students and teachers echoed their evaluations – after dismissal for trying to stop a playground war. In California a teacher is expected to stand back and let kids clobber each other.
Why not? I drove toward the field lights. I was curious to discover how the rules of engagement had changed.
The last time, in about 2009, I had sat on the opposing side bleachers to avoid the embarrassment of the kids standing and cheering when I entered the barbed wire perimeter, way out by the cotton and cow pastures, onto the sidelines. It was 90 degrees at 7pm at the kickoff, and the opposing team bench warmers sat after the pledge of allegiance as the kicker teed up the ball. A hissing and chugging behind me drew my attention from the field, as the city insect fogging machine bumped along directly behind the rival team bleacher and fogged them with insecticide. Tackles and guards puked, a cheerleader fell to the ground in convulsions, and hot, dead bugs rained on the visiting families' hair like Briylcream.
By the time the visiting team recovered from the exterminator, they were down 13-0 and never recovered. The Blythe Yellow Jackets won the homecoming.
But now, seven years later, a new stadium had been built with a perimeter chain link fence that prevented the fogging truck from entering. Brawley high school, my new home, was the visiting team. Clear headed, the Wild Cats took the ball to the goal posts every time in the first quarter, holding the Yellow Jackets to zero yardage as the first quarter gun shot. Final score, as Brawley started substituting everyone but the water boy from the bench: Brawley 35 – Blythe 0.
Blythe had lost its cheating edge.
The student body had changed dramatically since I taught in every room on campus for almost ten years. They were overweight, listless, and lacked the usual spark in desert kids' eyes. They were soulless fans.
It was good to leave for my new home.
October 4, 2016 | Leave a Comment
My friend sent me this article on how to survive a rattlesnake attack.
It's disinformation, poorly and ignorantly written, but I appreciate the thought.
The best defense I used in rattlesnake territory was on the Pacific Crest Trail where they were coming out of the cracks in the desert hourly. 4' long fat rattlers. I had a pair of loose pants and passed an orange orchard. I filled the pants w/ oranges to the knees, tying shut the cuffs. Then I walked confidently, enjoying the orange juice until they were gone and I was out of the territory.
September 30, 2016 | Leave a Comment
The progression of winners in anything usually follows these steps:
1. In the beginning there are random advantages and accidental winners.
2. The neophytes then develop different body types and the superior becomes the victor.
3. Then among the better physically developed the brain determines the winner. This is the strategy stage.
4. Once the bodies and minds are on a par, the one who practices hardest to become the most graceful is victor.
5. The final champion develops an edge to lever out all the other qualities of body, mind, grace, and even spirit.
Knowing this, you may hone your skills stage by stage to reach the top.
September 19, 2016 | Leave a Comment
Centuries ago, sailors on long voyages would leave a pair of pigs on every deserted island. Or a pair of goats. Either way, on any future visit, each island would be a source of meat. These islands were home to breeds of birds with no natural predators that lived no place else on earth. The plants there, without enemies, evolved without thorns or poisons. Without predators and enemies, these islands were paradise. The sailors, the next time they visited these islands, found the only things still there would be herds of goats or pigs. Build your bridges slowly, and don't burn them.
Victor Niederhoffer writes:
I look around 3 times and wait for Dr. Jov to correct.
I was dragging my feet in the canal the other day, watching four young men prepare a fire for a common pot of what we used to call hobo stew. That is, they were talking about how delicious it was going to be, while a single girl gathered firewood. I asked her in private why she allowed it. She replied, "Does not the one who serves control them?" Then I enjoyed what unfolded. The girl prepared the stew of beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and cans of this and that. With full bellies, the men doled out what they had come for, methamphetamine for sex. Then, one by one, they fell asleep poisoned by the stew. The girl methodically fleeced their wallets and walked away singing like a bird.
Pitt T. Maner III writes:
Looks like SC has been taken over by modern art since I took the tour in 2014. At that time a German film crew was visiting and producing a short piece about Salvation Mountain and they generously provided free beer during their overnight stay.
A truly interesting collection of people reside in Slab City. A patient interviewer could easily write a book– "Slab City Stories". Bring a sand wedge though if you want to play golf at the homemade golf course– and to keep various things at bay.
SC has a MASH-like feel as community members (a fair number ex-military) gather around cocktail hour to watch Air Force jets take practice runs and drop bombs in a valley several miles to the east. The various metal parts and bomb guidance fins left are often salvaged for profit.
Small drone footage is now available on youtube also that captures some of the ambience.
Whatever your thing – speculation, athletics, or business – sit for ten minutes and graph your past to a better future. The horizontal axis is time and the vertical skill. The line assumedly rises.
Now to see where it is going, how fast, and why. You will note jumps in the line over time, and try to attribute them to a cause such as a new trick, data, or advisor. Put dots on the line and write tiny reasons for the jumps.
Now you have a graph of where you have been. Look off the invisible future end and imagine what old tricks to repeat and new lessons to add to reach future gains.
There you go on your way to profit in finance, sports, or anything that follows a performance due to ability streak.
In business, sports and pleasure making the weakest link of what you practice your strength lets you outperform the rest.
Take sunglasses. I see people walking in the desert on shiny 110F days squinting behind their $90 Foster Grants. They fall short while I keep on going for hours. The reason is not fitness, overheating or hydration. It is their weakest link of the sun in their eyes.
I took a free pair of 3D glasses after watching 'The Jungle Book' in 3D into the desert and customized them as follows. I put a strip of black tape across the top of the lens to allow light to enter the bottom two-thirds equal to a baseball cap shade brim. Then I put side tape like horse blinders to block that light. And I added a nose strip to prevent cancer.
I can walk all day in the sun with relaxed eyes and face which used to be the body part that broke down first.
A further profit is seeing rattlesnakes and cactus spines in 3D. The 3D glasses have one red and one blue filter lens that 'tricks' the brain into seeing a 3D image. There's nothing like it!
An old school suggestion:
I notice that the kidz today like to get to their destinations fast. They need a hotshot, and their routes all have to be high priority lines. Whether they need to get to a punx show, get a fix, get laid, get MD 20/20, get on tv, get a pokemon, who knows? I personally think they are missing a big part of being on the road.
Look, I understand that sometimes we all need to be in a hurry. But one of the beauties of the road is that it forces you to become patient. Some of the most interesting experiences I've had were by hitting the trails less traveled.
What most kidz do if they get ditched or pulled off a freight is to give up, head to the highway, and thumb it out, or call one of their pals/family members to come get them. (The conveniences of modern society, and quite a cop out if you ask me.)
Back in the day however, hoboes and tramps were much tougher. If they got ditched, they would drill it to the next station or jerk water town. They would follow the tracks the whole way. Once tramps came to a small town, they might jungle up there and wait for the next drag, or go into town and beg. The Boes would look for work. If no trains stopped there, they would keep moving. Always following the tracks.
What am I trying to say? I am not telling anyone how to live their life, but I will say there is a hell of a lot of opportunity and authenticity to follow the rails all the way, especially if there are no freights available.
If you look at the rail lines today, many of the little rail towns still survive, and are inhabited. They had to be spaced no more than 20-25 miles apart max, because the old steamers took on water. This is especially true from the central midwest to the east coast. I have found plenty of work opportunities, and kind people who have helped me on the way in those towns and villages. Of course, I've ran into a few nut balls, but you'll find them everywhere and in any situation if you are out there long enough. Out west, it can be a little dicier. Many of the old water tank towns have been pulled up completely, or are further apart. This is one reason why back in the old days, many of the eastern tramps and Boes did not need a bindle. Freights would stop more frequently in the east, which is still true today. In the west, you need a bindle, period! You can still get over the railroad drilling it, if you are prepared. It isn't easy. It can be rough and tiresome, but the trouble can be well worth it. You need to follow the code when you arrive in town at all times, or you will blow up the town!
Bottom line, if you want more hair on your chest, be more manly, (seems to be taboo today for some reason) have more adventure and experience, then make the rails your road all the way. Even if they are less traveled.
Bo Keely responds:
Good insights. For the readers, 'hotshot' is a fast priority freight. I'm afraid the old school of slow hoboing is as drained out as the water tanks. Steam Train Murray the hobo King once told me that if he had it all to do over again he would walk the rails rather than ride them.
EIN: Bo, thanks so much for taking time to talk to EIN. Before we discuss your new book, Elvis' Humor Girls, Guns & Guitars, I'd like to find out more about you as a person. You have led, and continue to lead, an incredibly interesting and eclectic life. Tell us a little about your life travels.
BK: If you follow Buck the dog in Jack London's Call of the Wild then you follow my life travels. A comfortable loving upbringing in suburban Idaho, into the freight boxcars across America, and on to 105 countries the hard way – under a backpack – until yielding to the Call of the Wild. A decade ago I dug a burrow in the Sonora, USA desert and pop out now and then to travel and write books. I've walked the lengths of Colorado, Florida, Vermont, California, Baja, and Death Valley seeking the Call.
EIN: Were you an adventurer from an early age?
BK: I was an adventurer from the get-go. I jumped down the clothes shoot into the family cellar for a phoenix birth into adventure. From there I climbed the steps into the neighboring woods, swinging from the Weeping Willow vines like Tarzan (whom I had read about), and pedaled on full day bicycle trips, and raft trips on creeks like Thor Heyerdahl aboard Kon-Tiki. These were a series of escapades to explore nature and the border pieces of the puzzles that is me.
EIN: What did you find?
BK: I found myself at age thirty in a garage called Nirvana on a remote lake in Michigan where I undertook a final series of 24-hour experiments designed to fill in the interior pieces of the puzzle. Slowly I began to take shape by bicycling 24 hours, walking 24 hours, not blinking 24 hours, sleep deprivation, and so on in an article I wrote called 'Bladder Cross-Training in a Michigan Garage'. The point, for example, of trying to jump up to hit my head on the ceiling was to explore my extremes.
BK: Here I am to answer your questions about Elvis from an adventurer's point of view.
EIN: What is your first memory of E?
BK: At seven years I was walking John Adams Parkway in Idaho Falls, Idaho to the rural market for a nickel hotdog. It was rare to have a nickel and I was carrying my only Christmas present that year, a little Sony transistor radio. A singer came on the radio crooning 'Hound Dog Man' and for a few seconds I forgot about the dog. The rich voice captured me and I liked the topic of animals. I was so naive that I thought Elvis was somewhere nearby singing live, and I wondered how the next singer, and the next would get to the microphone between songs.
I was not an early Elvis fan … until three decades passed. In 1975 racquetball boomed across America and Elvis built his own court at Graceland complete with gold swivel 360-degree showerheads. I knew the architect and builder of the court. Everyone in Presley's entourage, including the bodyguards, band, and many of his girlfriends, played racquetball. I was the #1 or 2 player in the world at the time and, though I didn't play at Graceland, many of my peers did including champions Davey Bledsoe, Mike Zeitman, the Smith brothers, Dr. Nichopoulous, Fred Lewerenz, and others in a special group of a couple dozen for whom I coined the name Elvis and the Memphis Racquetball Mafia. A 2013 article by that name was syndicated and became the basis for the 2015 ESPN documentary 'When the King Held Court'.
EIN: What did the King look like when he held court?
BK: Elvis struck the ball around the court like he was strumming a guitar for the fun of it. He looked like he was on stage except with a racquet. His moves incorporated karate, just like in concerts, and to work the audiences he would whack guys in the back of the head with the ball to keep them on their toes. When someone like Sonny or Red West whacked him back to the kidney with the ball, a free-for all would ensue. Elvis loved mixing it up, and though I would like to say that his favorite sport was racquetball, instead it was these in order: Football, martial arts, girls, and racquetball.
EIN: Elvis live hard, and so have you. What are some of the highlights for you over the years?
BK: They would include a handful of mental and physical feats. The first real tough thing I did was Veterinary School. Due to a post WWII pet boom Michigan State University devised a concentration program to cram six years into five, including summers and weekends. My next point of pride was winning a National Paddleball Championship while in Vet school. This parlayed on the West coast after vet school into multiple National titles in racquetball and paddleball. One of the most difficult things I did was learn to become ambidextrous, playing tournaments left and right handed. The goal was to go up one side of the bracket lefty, and the other side righty, and meet myself in the finals. Always a prosaic perfectionist, I learned to write opposite handed and to read and write backwards with the print flowing from right to left. I've read the last few hundred books upside down to balance the visual system and have greater stamina. Let's say you're traveling down the Red Sea with nothing to do but read – being able to turn the book every which way is like shifting arms in weight lifting to go longer. Let's say you're writing a book or a long interview and want to continue to make it enjoyable – you just turn the screen upside down and continue reading or writing to stay fresh.
I like what I've done in travel. I became a boxcar tourist riding the rails of North America and Mexico and ultimately developed a website and Executive Hobo Service as a sort of hobo Outward Bound. In world travel, so many near death experiences accumulated that I sat down and listed them all on index cards, stacked them into chronological order, gave the concept a working title of 'Catman Keeley' (The man with nine lives), created a website http://www.catmankeeley.com/, and wrote a two-volume autobiography titled the Book of Bo I & II.
I get press now and then and the most recent was a feature in Mother Jones with an improbable title of 'The Amazing and Possible True Adventures of Catman Keeley and his Corporate Hobos'.
EIN: Is there one accomplishment you value over all others?
BK: I've helped myself enough that my greatest thrills have become helping others. My first venture of altruism was pulling the oldest fraternity called Farmhouse out of the athletic cellar at Michigan State University. Ever since the college founded in 1865 Farmhouse had been at the bottom of the fraternity rank in athletics while #1 scholastically. I was able to coach the genius hayseeds to become #1 while attending vet school. Now I establish silent scholarships as a sub-teacher in California desert communities, help stray animals, and give a handout where a handout's due or earned.
EIN: What is involved in a typical Bo Keeley day in July 2016?
BK: I use a systematic approach for efficiency. Five days a week 12 hours a day for the past six months I've been at a library working on a new biography. After writing and publishing about 26 books, this may be the last and the best. It's about a telekinetic schizophrenic who got on 'That's Incredible', was Star Magazine's 'World's Greatest Psychic' cover story, a hillbilly martial artist who broke the Guinness record for the most linear feet of bricks broken in a single blow, and became the greatest escape artist in modern history from prisons and insane asylums. It's been a battle of wills finishing the biography, but it will get done.
EIN: Bo, apart from numerous physical endeavors, you have played chess with U.S. Open champion, Art Bisguier. In fact your bio suggests a strong balance between mind and physical pursuits. What is your philosophy on how you approach your life?
BK: Look. If I'm here I might as well do something. I've been bored and don't like it. I'd rather accomplish. Create value: make something out of little. I've always followed a Golden Line of progression in some little way every day of my life, thinking that will affect the soul.
I learned early on that there are two paths to excellence. You can do it the Jack Dempsey way and work the mines and forest, and tie your hands to the brake rods underneath boxcars to keep from falling under the steel wheels while hoboing to the next of hundreds of bar fights en route to becoming the World Heavyweight Champion. That is a rags to riches story, it is the American possibility and way, and I like it and have tried to emulate it.
On the other hand, there is what Napoleon Hill called the Master Mind Group in his book Think and Grow Rich. A Master Mind Group are highly qualified teachers in your area of mental or physical pursuit. In the 1980s, I identified those I wanted to learn from and 'drove to the mountain'. I outfitted a '74 Chevy van and cruised the USA with a 7' stuffed rabbit named Fillmore Hare riding shotgun. Not only did I visit intellectuals coast-to-coast, Fillmore would wave down smart looking hitchhikers for me to talk to via an invisible fishline attached to his thumb. In this way, I visited and vied against chess champion Art Bisguier, checker champ Tom Wiswell, ping pong's Marty Reisman, speculators Vic Niederhoffer and George Soros, and scientists like DNA's Jim Watson. What an honor!
EIN: How many close encounters have you had with rattlesnakes?
BK: You make it sound like meeting an alien. Rattlesnakes are individuals with distinct personalities including lowdown sidewinders and gentlemen like the Western Diamondback that is the doorkeeper at my burrow home. When I meet a new rattler I and it says howdy-do, I sit down six feet away if it is 4-feet long, and let it dissipate its nervousness through its tail, and then we study each other for a few minutes until one of us out of boredom walks away. I've encountered upward of 200 rattlesnakes in the course of hiking, and been struck at only once. That's more than I can say of uprights. I don't handle them but on occasion do handle scorpions and tarantulas.
I used to have a Tarantula Hotel with suites for Terry, Theodore, Thomas, and Tam. Tam was a rubber spider attached to a spring that would jump out and get stuck on peoples' shoulders or in their hair. It was a good screen to get proper dates. A girl in such terror looks like when she is very excited. I was also an amateur magician and used tricks to incite romance, including one that backfired when a fire flash jumped out my palm and burned off a sweetheart's eyebrows.
As I age, and the sleight of hand becomes less nimble, I have gravitated toward animals for simple companionship. I've been car camping in a Hertz rental in the Sonora desert for the past 16 months ever since thieves broke into my desert property and took everything of value. So I followed the Call of the Wild deeper into the desert and have made friends with various species including Kit Foxes who tug me by the hand to the dinner plate to share Ol Roy's sirloin strips.
EIN: Bo, please tell us about the time you and a friend, disguised as Mexicans, rode atop freight trains with Central American immigrants through Mexico, finally being apprehended by the US Border Patrol while swimming the Rio Grande with expired Mexican visas.
BK: One of the grandest migrations in modern history is thousands of Central Americans atop freights through Mexico to the Promised Land USA. I've ridden with them a dozen times, two hundred of us on the decks of a dozen freight cars playing cards, trading stories, and ducking branches. Why would I do that? All you have to do is read John Griffin's Black Like Me to know that to empathize with a group one must become one of them. I became a Mexico hobo, and still enjoy riding the rails south of the border without the worry of railroad bulls. The last one who picked me up was a Bull-ette who took me home and introduced me to her mother who entreated me to marry her daughter. Alas, I left her after that short ride, and took to the rails north to the Promised Land. I got nabbed by the Border Patrol wading across the Texas Rio Grande into USA. The Border Patrol was cordial after finding out I was writing Executive Hobo: Riding the American Dream.
EIN: And the time you were deputized in Namibia. What happened?
BK: That was a little affair in the southern Africa country of Namibia where I rolled into Windhoek fishing rides with a thumb. The equivalent of a sheriff stopped and asked if I'd masquerade as a tourist wishing to buy elephant Ivory from a desperado they had been trying to corral. I scorn Ivory poachers, so I found myself driving an unmarked car with a pistol under the driver's seat driving up to the perpetrator's doorstep. He was such a nice young fellow who claimed ignorance of the Ivory trade that I didn't know who to believe. I parked the car in an alley, and hitched out of town. Anything can happen in world travel, which is why I recommend it.
EIN: Bo, what is that drives you to lead such a varied and challenging life?
BK: I was the Elvis Presley of potato country growing up in Idaho as a kid. Elvis's mom dragged him between her legs in a gunny sack up and down the rows of picking cotton, and my mom took me during what was called Potato Vacation from grade school in the potato capital to pick spuds. Like Elvis, I didn't have a damned thing that couldn't be left out in the rain. Is it any wonder he became wild, or anyone who had an upbringing like that would strive out and away from it? At least that's what I think, in retrospect, as a certified Psych Technician.
EIN: Of the more than 20 books you have written do you have a favorite and why?
BK: My favorite book is last year's publication of Advanced Racquetball. It was written on the 40-year previous promise in the introduction of the best-selling Complete Book of Racquetball that in 1975 was the sport bible. I promised to write a sequel for advanced players, and though it took four decades I did it. It was written over the course of five months, 12 hours a day, seven days a week while recovering from an illness in Iquitos, Peru at the headwaters of the Amazon. I had contracted the worst case of Chronic Anemia from hookworms in the hospital history – with a hematocrit of 50% norm - and the doctor told me to stop moving or die. So, I sat at a buck-an-hour Internet and typed, and gathered pictures, and completed the 850 page tome. I had always admired the length, breadth and quality of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and created a sport work that also did not have a single edit going to press.
EIN: Bo, you and Elvis shared a love of racquetball with Elvis building a court at Graceland and you achieving status as US National Champion and one of the world's top three players throughout the 1970s. How proficient was Elvis as a racquetball player?
BK: Elvis was what I would call a Club Player, like Bobby Fisher was a genius in one thing but a Club Player in racquetball. E had a strong forehand as an extension of karate, a standard club backhand from never throwing a football backhanded, and hit the gamut of serves while preferring the hard drive. Racquetball was a workout and a release for him. He played in white tennis shoes, shorts, and Dr. Nick made him put on safety goggles to protect those eyes for the girls. His headband was white and he always wore a glove, and almost always a rubber suit around the midriff to lose weight. At the time, he was battling a watermelon gut and used racquetball to sweat off pounds to look good for his fans before going on tour.
Make no mistake, Elvis Presley was a great athlete. He played football, rode horses, waterskied, and Kenpo karate. The Memphis Racquetball Mafia told me that he was 'deadly' at martial arts, and I believe that after hooking up with grandmaster Ed Parker that Elvis could manage himself in any scrap. I saw him perform in a video with hands flashing as fast as Bruce Lees, and more rhythm, but Bruce didn't play the guitar.
As for racquetball, Presley's silent physician and my personal friend, Dr. Fred Lewerenz of Michigan stated it best. He told me that Elvis just loved to play. He liked the fast action and release of energy, along with shedding pounds. It made him feel good. Having the court in back of Graceland meant that Elvis could yell at the guys from the piano, 'Hey, everybody. Get dressed for racquetball!' And minutes later the bodyguards, musicians, girlfriends, and some of the pros on hand, would be on the court having a good time.
EIN: Elvis surrounded himself with several premier level racquetball stars. Please tell us about that.
BK: The first I heard of Presley in racquetball was from my competitor and chum, National Champion Davey Bledsoe in the mid-1970s. Bledsoe was supplying Leach Industries (also my sponsor) racquets and sweats to Elvis with one distinct difference: The equipment had Elvis's name engraved in gold on them. It's easier to refer you to the complete vicissitudes of Elvis and racquetball in 'Elvis and the Memphis Racquetball Mafia' that goes from his first racquet to his attempt to open Presley Center Courts that was squelched by Colonel Parker.
The members of the Racquetball Mafia from the pro racquetball tour were Bledsoe, Lewerenz, Dr. Nick and his son Dean, Mike Zeitman, Sarah Green, Stew and Steve Smith, Randy Stafford, and Dave Fleetwood.
EIN: EIN understands Dr. Nick was a more than handy player as well?
BK: Dr. George Nichopolous told me that he introduced Elvis to racquetball in 1968. Nick, who I had played once, gave me the whole spiel. Nick had been the game's pioneer promoter in Nashville, TN as early as 1955, sawing off the handle of a tennis racquet to hit a ball around a handball sport in wintertime. Racquetball was born! along with similar innovations at the same time across America. Nick showed Paddle Racquets, as it was called then, to young players with ambition and talent. Dr. Nick had begun treating Presley in 1967 for 'saddle sores' from so much horseback riding on the Hollywood sets and motorcycle riding back in Memphis, not to mention the girls. He suggested racquetball as an alternative to Elvis, who loved it. The Graceland Court was built, and a new era of Presley's life was underway.
The best player at Graceland after all the pros went home was bodyguard Red West who fell just short of Open play. Red was an accomplished all-around athlete who took those talents to the racquetball court. Still, my tournament nemesis Davey Bledsoe once challenged one-at-a-time all of E's security to one game to 21 for $100 per man. Bledsoe used an antifreeze bottle as a racquet against Red, Sonny, Dave Hebler, and the rest … and won each bet.
EIN: Why did racquetball take hold in the US while squash was prominent in other countries including Australia and Pakistan?
BK: Racquetball took America by storm in the 1970s because the nation psyche was suited to it, as opposed to Australia with its rugby and India with its squash. I know squash from having played a little and buddied with world champions Heather McKay and Vic Niederhoffer, and I knew rugby in preferring those rougher sports such as it, football and wrestling to the one that I happen to be better at, racquetball. But in USA in the 1970s the Americans' brains were pacing fast and furious. They demanded a bouncier ball and bigger and bigger racquets, until the game nova'd at the end of the decade and literally fell in on itself like a black hole. Elvis, racquetball, and I were simply a synchronicity.
My little part in it occurred on top the William B. Tanner Building in Memphis. A little backstory first. Memphis and San Diego were the warring racquetball capitals during the Golden Decade of the 70s. Even before Elvis built the Graceland court in 1975, there was another man about Memphis who was as moneyed as Presley and nearly as powerful. He was called 'the most prestigious man in Tennessee' by the press that he controlled. Bill Tanner and I crossed paths, shook hands, and locked horns a few times. Tanner owned the building named after him rising on Union Avenue above downtown Memphis where many of the racquetball pros whom I've mentioned worked for him. Elvis and the Racquetball Mafia played in a private court on the top floor before the Graceland one was built because Tanner would keep it open all night for them. On one swing through Memphis with Fillmore Hare in the Chevy Van, I stopped by the Tanner building, climbed the stairs, and was jogging laps around the rooftop 18-lap-to-a-mile track when President Tanner stepped out the sliding glass doors and blocked my progress. He gestured grandly over the rail over Memphis that he 'owned'. 'The key to the City is yours, Keeley, 'he said, 'if you join the Tanner team.' He wanted me to go to work for him, which included meeting Elvis. I explained that I had a previous sponsor whose contact I couldn't break, and thanked him for the offer. That was that.
EIN: You saw Elvis live in concert in 1976. What were your impressions of Elvis' performance?
BK: On April 24, I saw Elvis in concert at the San Diego Sports Arena. I had a close enough seat where I could smell his sweat and the pheromones of the gaggles at stage front. His voice was good, and I was impressed by a pro. A pro performs whatever his circumstances and his worst day is your best day. I liked what I saw. His voice was as rich as the day twenty years earlier I had heard him belt 'Hound Dog' on a transistor radio.
Then, on June 11, Davey Bledsoe shocked the racquetball world by plowing through first me and then Marty Hogan to win his first National Championship.
Two weeks later, on June 26, Elvis gave his last concert at Market Square in Indianapolis for a crowd of 18,000.
Back on the Graceland racquetball court, Elvis looked pale, weak and overweight, but there was nothing to suggest impending death.
About that time Bledsoe beat the three bodyguards with an anti-freeze bottle –Red and Sonny West, and Dave Hebler- who released Elvis: What Happened in a UK serial that was later published as a book in August, 1977.
On August 16, 1977, a few hours after leaving the racquetball court, Elvis succumbed. I wrote that Elvis had played racquetball to death.
EIN: Bo, Elvis' Humor Girls, Guns & Guitars. What gave you the idea for what is a unique book in the Elvis literary canon?
BK: Now we're talking Elvis! After the 'Elvis and the Memphis Racquetball Mafia' story I thought I had caught a tide. I would convert the article into a book Elvis and Sport. I don't go half-way on things and quickly identified and ordered from Amazon.com the top forty-five biographies by those who knew him: His bodyguards, step-brothers, musicians, girlfriends, housekeeper, doctors, neighbors, and kin - only firsthand information. I also had taped interviews from a dozen of the Memphis Racquetball Mafia. In each book and transcript I highlighted all the aspects of E in Sport.
EIN: How long did it take you to research it?
BK: A year later, in mid-2014, I had sufficient material for a lean book on Elvis in Sport. As I had read the biographies, early on I had noticed another strong theme in the Presley's life – humor. It never stopped. It was as prominent as girls, guns, and guitars in his life. I had also highlighted his humorous moments in the forty-five books. I liked the humor better than the sport. I methodically cut each of thousands of comic instants from the research, including EIN, and ordered them chronologically. Then clipped the same anecdotes told by different people – they matched, and there was little irregularity, making Elvis Presley truly a connoisseur's funny fellow. With this bunch jiggling like three pounds of carrots, I fashioned Elvis' Humor.
EIN: Apart from sourcing examples of Elvis' humor from published sources you also interviewed people who knew Elvis. Who were some of the most interesting people you talked with?
BK: The 'live' people provided the best visions into the comic life of Elvis, and when they started crying on the phone, whether from joy or sorrow at the loss of their joy, then it was interesting. Especially helpful were Stew and Steve Smith, Dr. Nick and son Dean, Randy Stafford and Dave Fleetwood, Dr. Lewerenz, and I'm sorry if I've forgotten others. To pick one would be to slight the others, which would not fare well for me next time on the racquetball court.
EIN: Bo, what are some of your favorite Elvis comic moments?
BK: I like all of the moments about Elvis and his pets – the chimp, dogs, horses, and menagerie in his swimming pool. The girls' ones get redundant like eating steak every meal. The appearances of Colonel Parker are stunning – and now we know who tickled E's funny bone. The money and gifting yarns show what Presley was really made of. The media ones portray a graceful leader among leaders. Hollywood is crazy and that's why E had to be funny. There are just too many anecdotes sitting on the smorgasbord to assimilate and dispense a favorite one or two. That's why the collection should be a one-a-day reminder like a calendar of proverbs rather than a one-sit read that kills you laughing.
Victor Niederhoffer writes:
And what would a comparable study of market stories show, and can we learn anything from literature.
Bo Keely comments:
If you can ascertain the personality of the market then you will know its emotions and therefore its shapes. Start with the personality of the market if that isn't too far a stretch of anthropomorphism. Likewise every story has a shape. I prefer the inverted pyramid from newspaper reporting, but my mentor Art shay taught the arc of the home run to shape a story.
I picked up a hitchhiker with a black Labrador in Slab City yesterday who got in the car and without preamble said, "This is the Ox-Bow Incident."
I asked what he meant and he said that when he arrived in this dusty western town a month ago a guy had just shot a girl, and the townspeople ran him off his place and burned it to the ground.
I reviewed the plot of the great western by Clark and found that indeed I'm living in the Ox-Bow Incident where right is defended with right and wrong is punished by the citizens.
Jack Dempsey ushered in the age of big-time sports. He rose from hobo to heavyweight champion to Hollywood celebrity to give boxing the stamp of legitimacy. He grew up in a poor family in Colorado and following his 8th birthday, the 'age of accountability' according to Mormon doctrine, he dropped out of elementary school to work and left home at the age of 16. Due to lack of money, he traveled on and underneath trains on brake rods and slept in hobo camps. Desperate for money, he frequently visited saloons where challenges for fights were common. If anyone accepted the challenge, bets would be made, drinks downed, and a ring cleared. Dempsey rarely lost these barroom brawls and fought under the pseudonym Kid Blackie. With a high-pitched voice under blue-black hair, the skinny kid would challenge anybody for a few bucks and bragging rights. He once walked thirty miles across the Nevada desert from Tonopah to Goldfield for a $20 purse. The use of judges to score these fights was often forbidden, so if a fight went the distance it was called a draw. Otherwise, there were only knockouts. He rode the rails to fights and odd jobs such as a miner, dishwasher, farm hand and cowboy, ditch digger, peach picker, timber cutter, and circus roustabout.
On July 4, 1919 Dempsey entered his first World Heavyweight fight against champion Jess Willard. At 6'1", 187 pounds Dempsey was dwarfed by the 6'61/2" and 245 pound 'Pottawattamie Giant'. Ultimately, Willard was knocked down seven times by Dempsey in the first round and suffered a broken jaw, broken ribs, and several broken teeth. He continued a career with a total of 83 fights, 65 wins, 51 wins by KO, 6 losses, and 12 draws. Dempsey became the prototype for every superstar athlete that followed, including Babe Ruth, by stepping from the canvas or playing field onto the silver screen. And it all started in a boxcar.
Everyone talks about the weather without defining 'warm' and 'hot' and applying a scientific plan to deal with it.
Yesterday Sunday was a 'warm' day in Slab City, CA. Warm by my definition means the ambient temperature is above the body temperature. One must move and breathe expertly to cool the body. Examples are volitional or subconscious control to move blood to and from the cool and warm body parts such as the skin, bone marrow and internal organs; and breathing in a manner to cool the air in route to the cool and warm lobes of the lung. A seasoned person who can do these things in outdoor activity is only 'warm'. My shirt left in the shade yesterday was too warm to handle comfortably, but shirts don't have the capacity to train themselves as the human body does. I've been out in the desert for fifteen years working up to the harsh summers by driving the car with the heater on full blast and the windows up, and by exercising gradually into the high temperatures. Yesterday it was 120F at 7pm in the shade of the town thermometer.
When it gets what I call 'hot' then I cannot brag so much. This is when even I can die on a leisurely walk without shade. Yesterday I was able to walk 4 hours with 10 lbs of ankle weights and no water. However, the 'hot' days are coming when it will be impossible for me, and I believe for anyone on a sustained basis. 'Hot' is another quantum leap that occurs when the body can no longer shunt blood and breath inside the body to cool itself. Outside resources are required to exist during exercise such as shade, water, and rest periods. Hot c occurs at about 120F or above depending on the breeze, alkalinity of air, elevation (we're 120' below sea level here in Slab City), and haze above a basin that acts as a magnifying glass of the sun's rays. The 'hot' days are coming in August and you may still be active outside using a baggy full of ice inside a hat that melts through a pinhole, drinking warm water (increases the rate of absorption), and resting ten minutes each hour in the shade.
There was a stream of bicyclers and walkers yesterday from Slab City along a 3 mile stretch to the little store that was sold out of water and nearly out of ice. The people thought they were suffering, but the hot weather is on the way.
Chris Tucker writes:
Stefan J. recommended Essentials of Sea Survival by Golden and Tipton recently and I cannot praise the book enough. It has a very thorough and scientific discussion on how the human body retains and sheds heat and the physical consequences of each.
Pitt T. Maner adds:
My worst experience as an environmental geologist was working in 95 degree South Florida heat, 80 percent humidity, in modified level C with a full-face respirator, fully enclosed in impermeable Saranex.
Young and not overly cognizant of proper heat stress avoidance procedures, my teammate and I would saw cut through cement and then twist and turn a hand auger to collect soil samples to about 4 feet while a nearby gear testing unit engineers went through throttle up and throttle down torture tests.
It was a taste of what the upper circle of hell might feel and sound like. A couple of red devils with pitchforks were all that was needed.
We soon figured out that we could get fully dressed in our PPE and survive in our suits for about 30 minutes at midday before our gloves pooled with sweat and the level of perspiration inside our masks reached our lower nostrils and began to fill our chemical resistant boots.
We tried hard to avoid the feeling of claustrophobia but a surge of panicky adrenaline paid a visit once or twice a day to both of us.
Getting smarter (by trial and error) on the second day we began working earlier in the morning and wore cheap ice vests with pockets for those cool containers you can freeze over and over in the fridge. Each morning session lasted about 3.5 hours and then we weighed in on a scale (usually I was 7 pounds lighter by then) and headed of to an early lunch and rehydration. After and hour or so we would head back for a quick session to get in another 2 hours in the afternoon.
My teammate and I did this for 5 straight days. On Friday we collected our last samples , filled out the chain of custody and lab task order sheets and shipped the samples coolers to the analytical laboratory. Off to 7-11 for water, Gatorade, and 2 cold beers (wasn't a good idea).
For the next week I felt like I was battling the flu. The accumulation of heat stress and environmental stress each day sapped energy–there was no real training effect–there was a breakdown and exhaustive effect on the body and mind.
Fortunately after about a month the symptoms went away.
So if you are doing heavy work outside in high heat conditions you need to not only be physically trained but also aware of the how insidious heat stress can be. Best to know what the health and safety guidelines are on the matter too and take the advice of experienced medical personnel. Hydration, sitting down and resting, getting out of the direct sun, etc. etc. And for the amateurs a buddy to come along or at least someone who knows where you are and when to expect you and/or radio or smartphone at hand.
Best regards to the desert dwellers.
I hope the topic of hobos remains fair game for the Specs, in the same manner as commodity pit hand signals and tip sheets and various other anachronistic and tenuous links to rudimentary communications of the past:
Phillips had uncovered a peculiar, almost extinct form of American hieroglyphics known as hobo graffiti, the treasure trove discovered under a nondescript, 103-year-old bridge spanning the Los Angeles River. At the time, she was researching her book, "Wallbangin': Graffiti and Gangs in LA."
"It was like opening a tomb that's been closed for 80 years," the Pitzer College professor of environmental analysis said of finding the writings and occasionally the drawings of people who once signed their names as Oakland Red, the Tucson Kid and A-No. 1.
"There's an A-No. 1, dated 8/13/14," she said, pointing to a scribbling during a recent visit to the bridge just around the bend from a modern-day homeless encampment.
Although all but forgotten now, A-No. 1 was the moniker used by a man once arguably America's most famous hobo, one of the many itinerant wanderers who traveled from town to town in the 19th and 20th centuries, often by freight train, in search of brief work and lasting adventure.
"Those little heart things are actually stylized arrows that are pointing up the river," Phillips said, pointing to markings next to the name. "Putting those arrows that way means 'I'm going upriver. I was here on this date and I'm going upriver.'"
Upriver would have been in the direction of the city's sprawling, wooded Griffith Park, in those days a popular jumping-off point for hobos looking for a safe, common gathering spot.
Bo Keely writes:
There are many groups having the adjectives you describe of subculture, anachronistic and tenuous, but hobos step out from the rest in learning to survive a harsh environment on the rails. Therefore they are also self-sufficient, hardened, and deal instantly with new bends in the road.
My hobo sign since 1985 has been the blue head of a mouse with a toothy smile and a teardrop in the corner of one eye. I got it at Tattoo Pete's in Denver. My mentor, Hobo Herb, suggested I slip myself a Mickey at a a local bar since I didn't drink, and to stagger into Tattoo Pete's for a discount and to cut the pain of the needle. However, I walked in sober and gladly selected a mouse head from a stencil album and had him add the smile and drop. The left shoulder tattoo became my symbol across America, where you may still find it written in chalk, charcoal or magic marker at the Denver BNSF yard on a then sapling, a wooden bridge strut at the Salt Lake DRG yard, a bridge pillar in the Roseville, CA RR yard, and some peoples' basements to form a colony of mice from coast to coast.
At sunrise this morning in the Sonora I slowed in my Chevy Spark to 1 mph to view an impressive old western diamondback. His eyes beady riveted on the sidewall of the tire, and having been struck at by rattlers I could see he was ready to strike. I felt a sense of dread because the current renal cars carry no spare nor donut replacement (to make you buy their roadside insurance). I felt this 3.5' old male's 3/4" fangs could penetrate any boot and the sidewall. That would have been a few hundred dollar tow, so I got out and sat six feet from him so he turned his attention toward me. Then he quit rattling and slithered away.
I've sat next to perhaps 50 rattlesnakes from 6' for a first class view and none has moved toward me. it's only when you step on or near them or molest them that they strike. People who don't have strong backbones are afraid of snakes, but they can be taught to accept them. One look at an amazon 10-meter snake cures all trepidation of american snakes.
I was thinking about the times I have been beaten up or fled from a hundred fights where I stood my ground on the remainder, and perhaps you've had the same sensation in playing the market. You may have wanted to challenge a bully into a thinking man's game, or a thinking market into physical contest.
There is a related sport called Chess Boxing that's hybridizes chess and boxing. The competitors fight in a ring in alternating rounds of the two activities. Chess Boxing is popular in Germany, Great Britain and, of course, Russia.
In 1992 Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh got the idea of fusing the two disciplines from the 1992 French comic book Froid Equateur that portrays a Chess Boxing World Championship. What was initially only thought to be an art performance by Rubingh developed a detailed set of rules and actual world championships since 2003. The first championship was held in Amsterdam in cooperation with the Dutch Boxing Association and the Dutch Chess Federation under the auspices of the World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO). Dutch middleweight fighter Iepe Rubingh and his opponent faced each other in the ring.
The YouTube video of the first world championships is the greatest event homogenizing the mental and physical that I've ever seen. For Round 1, the players sat across from each other with taped hands making the chess opening on a table set in the center of a boxing ring. A bell rang, a shapely brunette paraded around the ring with a Round 2 placard, as gloves were slipped on the boxers' hands and the table removed, and then they really punched each other. The bell rang, and they panted through the next chess moves, with a chess clock ticking away… through 11 mentally and physically grueling rounds (6 of chess and 5 of boxing). It resembled most dire survival situations where the longer the bout, the more physically fatigued the participants become with an increasing inability to make the proper moves.
My idea for Market Boxing is for each trader in the room to don a pair of gloves from next to his keyboard, and go at it for a minute round between trades. Whoever's left standing after each round continues to trade throughout the day, and the knocked out trader loses the remainder of his day's commissions to the victor. There is no reason someone shouldn't organize a Market Boxing Association to bring better physical fitness into commodities. Life is all about fusing the mental and physical, and trading punches.
Who can resister The Thinker?
The Thinker is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin of a nude male figure of over life size sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand in deep thought. Originally named The Poet, The Thinker was commissioned and began in 1880 for a doorway called The Gates of Hell.
In sports, there are such Thinkers and Non-Thinkers. This is a short course on thinking vs. non-thinking in sport.
Thinking or non-thinking in athletics depends on the sport & participant. Certain sports that require long practice of the same moves over and over require a non-thinking performance when the chips are down. These sports that rely on muscle memory rather than what's above the neck include gymnastics, diving, rowing, archery, bowling, long-distance running, and the javelin.
Other sports that require thinking in a constantly shifting situational environment are all racket sports, mountaineering, surfing, wrestling, billiards, ice hockey, tag, lacrosse, rugby, and Kabaddi, the national game of Bangladesh.
There are also some hybrids of thinking and non-thinking activities such as golf, croquet, and fencing, but curiously the majority of sports are one or the other.
A person may pick his sport by his aptitude, or vice versa the sport will quickly cast him into a thinker like the statue, or to someone who thinks like a put shot.
This is a biography of Elvis's top 290 comic moments. The King of rock and roll is for the first time revealed as the King of humor. Girls, guns, guitars, morgues, one-way mirrors, fleets of gifts, duping the U.S. President, chimpanzee sex, charade assassins, and water pistol fights are the deepest insights into the real Elvis. Presley had a thoughtful, comprehensive sense of humor, as detailed in the first chapter 'The Psychology of Elvis' Humor'. The best comic moments of his life follow.
It started three years ago as a syndicated story 'Elvis and the Memphis Racquetball Mafia' that turned into a May 2016 ESBN film release 'When the King Held Court'
The book is called Elvis' Humor: Girls, Guns, and Guitars
A 20mph northerner blew throughout my weekend hike in the Sonora near Slab City, CA, bringing the temperature down to 90F and creating a meteorological freak called a tornado belt. I found myself slaloming wind devils for eight straight hours. Every thirty minutes, like clockwork, a dark funnel formed about five miles away from the same NE source and direction, heaving a perfect dancing tornado directly at me.
Each was as if manufactured from an atmosphere stencil and was about 100 yards wide, one mile tall, brown with blowing sand, and a few flying branches, moved with the wind, and whirled clockwise. Seven twisted at me in all, holding ground in nearly a straight path. When they reared and started toward me, I had about three minutes to walk at right angles slightly uphill to the east, as it seemed the wind devils were so heavy they flowed downhill.
According to the American Meteorological Society, these dust devils range in width from about 10 to 100 feet, with an average height of about 650 feet. However, these expanded version today in the high temperature and squall were much larger. They formed as a swirling updraft under sunny conditions when hot air near the desert floor rose quickly through a small pocket of cooler, low-pressure air above, and if there was a ground or atmospheric 'solid' in the way, the twister shaped.
Two mile-high tornados came straight at me where there was barely time to sidestep. On these two occasions I walked briskly to the lee side of an Ironwood tree, clamped my sunglasses tight, covered my ears, and waited for the twister to roar up. The circular wind I estimated at 50mph, and the brown core passed within 20 yards of me ducked behind the tree where the wind whistled through the densest branches on earth at about 40mph. It didn't get a rise out of me with 20-pound ankle weights.
At midday I stepped up out of a wash and beheld an astonishing sight. A piano stood in the open desert by flowering ocotillo, creosote, and barrel cactus. The keys were perfect and wind was blowing nearly hard enough to play 'They Call the Wind Maria'. It shown regal and beautiful in the sunlight. Before it a wind-sand polished bench was pushed up to the piano at just the proper distance for a man to sit and play a spell. How long? An empty wine bottle rocked in the wind on the low note keys.
Then I examined the old instrument. 'Manufactured by Story Roberts Co. of Chicago' the name tag read, and another metal one, 'Established in 1837.' Fresh pickup tracks led out into the open desert, about five days old. Behind the piano lay a fire extinguisher. Nothing else.
Every picture tells a story. I believe a virtuoso had driven the piano into the desert, carefully unloaded it, and leveled it with a stick under the right rear corner. He lit a match, but glanced down at the keys and decided to play a tune before torching the bewitching instrument. He sat, uncorked the bottle, reached out, and tickled the ivories. He liked what he heard, and played until the wine was gone. There would be no fire for the extinguisher to save the surrounding desert because he could not bring himself to burn it any more than a person could shoot his beloved old pet.
The piano was perhaps 100 years old and the model name written in gold above the keyboard was 'F__K Fame'.
I rose from the bench, and walked to the next tornado.
I checked in on Shackleton this morning and his situation is dire. A 12' leopard seal just leaped onto the ice floe and is chasing one of his men to eat. The ice chunk is shrinking by the minute, down from a mile across to 100 yards. Killer whales are rearing their toothy heads all-around, but a 70mph southeastern gale blew their ice sheet 15 miles during the night to within twenty miles of the goal – Antarctica.
The ice cracks and quarters or halves periodically. The men jump to either side, toss across lines, and try to pull themselves back together. There is an unique sailor's condition called 'cross-seas' where the wind is strong opposite the current, causing angry waves to crash from opposite directions and crescendo. The 27 men have been eating dog persimmon, two biscuits apiece, a gob of blubber, and melted snow next to their bodies for five months on the thawing floe, banging into icebergs like a frozen pinball game.
The expedition started on the outbreak day of WWI, with permission to launch from England's Prime Minister H.H. Asquith. Bound for Antarctica, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton planned to cross on foot the last uncharted continent. After battling seas for six weeks through a thousand miles of ice, the Endurance became locked inside an island of ice, and was slowly crushed like a bug in a frozen vice. A skeleton crew escaped with dogs, and sleds, that were eaten and burned for fuel, and their ordeal had barely begun. They retreated to this largest ice flow with three 21-feet springy oak life boats – the James Caird, Dudley Docker, and Stancomb Wills - waiting for the ice to break up.
Shackleton was a true leader by example. He made instant unpopular decisions where all options were detested, and still the men followed. When the ice cracks under their tents during sleep, he heaves them in their sleeping bags out of the glacial water and walks them all night, with the ice cracking from their frozen garments and ice crystals tinkling and falling from them.
After five months on the cube, it began to shatter into open sea, and the fierce Antarctic predators, drawn by the warm currents, drew closer. Shackleton voice called above the beasts' howls, 'Launch the boats!' Will they survive to walk across Antarctica? I don't know, but three-quarters through this book, it's a page burner.
This is an astonishing tale of survival where heroes are born, and their diaries scrutinized by the apt author, Alfred Lansing, whose sea pen is a part Louis L'Amour and a bit Patrick O'Brien. This is considered the definitive, raw, and authentic account of Shackleton's fateful trip.
I watched a beautiful bunt sacrifice attempt last night at the local high school baseball field. A runner on first, the pitch, with the batter already squared with bat set to bunt, as the entire field moves poetically. The catcher rocked forward on his heels, the first and third basemen raced toward the batter, the second baseman covered first, center fielder moved in to cover second base, and the fastball sped toward the bat. The ball popped up to the first baseman who caught it on the fly ten feet from home plate, he wheeled and lobbed the ball to the second baseman covering first base, and the runner was out too, as the umpire in black jerked his thumb toward the stars and screamed, 'Double play!' The sacrifice had failed, but it often succeeds.
The bunt in baseball is a special type of offensive technique. The goal is to tap the ball into fair territory to advance the base runner in a sacrifice of the batter. It requires great physical dexterity, concentration, and a knowledge of the fielders' positions, and foresight of the pitcher's most likely pitches. One of the sport's most famous early figures, Dickey Pierce, used this 'tricky hit' to effect as the rules permitted it to roll foul and still be counted as a hit. The bunt did not become common until the 1880s, and it has been accepted as a baseball strategy, with periodic waves of acceptance and dominance, to this day. During the 'dead ball' era of the 1960s, bunting was an important offensive weapon. Conversely, and now in the 'fast ball' and 'money ball' era of staying ahead of the economic curve of the fan in the stands who demand big hits, the bunt is seldom seen. Nevertheless,the role of the sacrifice bunt in baseball strategy is one of the daily discussions for baseball fans.
It is an exciting moment in the game. It reminds me of chess where every move is as strategic, making chess more exciting than baseball with at least as much sweat. Some situations in the board game that parallel the bunt are any gambit, pin into a weak position, zugzwang, or piece sacrifice to lose the position but win the game.
Likewise,with upright humans, there are various sacrifices that parallel the bunt. In a true sacrifice, the officer will have to play with less soldiers to capture the objective. In a sham sacrifice, a fake flank attack gains leverage in a territory. In speculative sacrifices, the commander risks losing something that he believes will soon regain material of the same or greater value.
In survival, after many years of baseball and chess, but none at war, the bunt is a repeated metaphor. To live, you must be able to bunt, over and over. For example, in hoboing you board a 'dog' slow train, and hop off as it pulls away to climb aboard a 'hotshot' to evade the bull. In the Amazon jungle, you raise your arms on greeting a wild mammal to feign a taller profile, while risking balance and putting your hands in reach of an anaconda. In the mountains, you risk crossing a snowy pass to reach a village before starving. In the desert, you walk at night to avoid the heat at the risk of stepping on snakes. On skid row, you may 'chuck a dummy' by faking a fainting fit in order to get a sympathy coin. In a dark alley, you take one on the chest to put on on his chin.
Learn the strategy of the bunt and you're almost home in baseball, into the mid-game of a good chess match, gotten the upper hand in a fight, and are half way out of the woods in survival.
David Lillienfeld writes:
With all due respect, I cite Earl Weaver: All that you do with a bunt is give up an out. You've only got three in an inning. Why give one up? Some of the time (I've lost track of the stats on it), the sacrifice is a twofer, as in a double play.
As noted, bunts require much dexterity, they also require lots of speed if one is bunting for a base hit (I think even Weaver was supportive of such) if the infield was back far enough. Rod Carew was perhaps the most able bunter I've seen who could/would bunt for a hit. Ricky Henderson was pretty good it, too, though showing less control the bat than Carew (admittedly subjective assessment).
Pitching, three run homers, and great defense was the Weaver prescription. There were no sacrifice bunts in that formula. (Weaver wasn't a great lover of the sacrifice fly, either, but he figured the batter had had a shot at a hit and at least the runner(s) could advance, maybe even score (if on 3rd).)
If sacrifice bunting ever becomes part of the Orioles game plans at Camden Yards, don't be surprised if there's a rumble in the ground by home plate; the ghost of Weaver will have been awakened.
Information is facts provided or learned. Nowadays information has far reaching value.
For example, learn enough about your job and you profit financially. Learn enough about sex and you become the salmon who swims downstream to spawn. Play chess and you are already half-proficient at sports. Acquire computer programming and all walks of life come easier. Foster a lure for secret knowledge and you have an ace in the hole in any relationship.
I enjoy an information advantage and feel an incentive to exploit it. This is why my wallet is fat with notes.
Ann Landers was a pen name taken by an advice columnist that became a regular feature in most newspapers across the country for 56 years, and was a cultural icon as I was growing up. She offered practical advice on a broad range of topics, from marital problems to drug abuse to petty squabbles, to become one of the most trusted sources of advice in America.
It's funny how the past shows the way to solutions now.
I have become the Ann Landers of Slab City, CA by default, and with a veterinary and psych tech degree. My advice is usually dispensed verbally at the Music Range, Oasis Cafe, Salvation Mountain, hot spring, or on desert hikes in and about this city of 1000 nonconformists caught in a net of free choice without the anchors of solutions.
Some of the recent counsels have been to a new arrival from New York who had given birth and raised her baby for two years without papers among the human underground dwellers in the subway tunnels; a hostel proprietor who questioned his own morality of giving his clients free drugs to secretly video them having sex to sell around the world, a girl who wears bumble bee wings and wishes to keep her feet on the ground, a man who asks the decency of putting an artificial vagina on his favorite mannequin of the harem, and a husband who wants his wife to quit spraying herself with Raid before they have sex.
Yesterday's advice was to a gorgeous girl who asked me to a walk up a wash on a private matter, and soon we sat under a Palo Verde tree. She claimed to be a hermaphrodite. I told her that in biology a hermaphrodite is an organism that has reproductive organs associated with both male and female sexes. Wordlessly, she shed her clothes, and I gazed with great scientific interest at her dual parts. There was a 1" small vulva, one diminished testicle, and a 2" perfect penis. Most newborn babies are sexed by their gonads, but it had been impossible in this case and she was genetically gendered before female was written on the birth certificate. The obstetrician normally decides on how large the vulva opening is if it should be sutured shut, or how small a penis is if it should be clipped, and her doctor shirked the duty and so she displayed both.
She redressed, and admitted to being confused about her sexuality. I advised, 'This is an intellectual question. There are three answers: You can be a male, but that would be a lie. You can be a female, but that would be a lie. Or, you can be both and live with the truth. Most flowering plants, or angiosperms, are bisexual, and the invertebrates such as worms, snails, and barnacles are hermaphroditic. Humans are called intersex. Don't think of yourself as disadvantaged but privileged.'
'I will learn to love myself,' she smiled, and left me under the tree.
I think Ann Landers would agree that every problem can be solved with an open mind and large enough bank of knowledge.
There are two ways to learn before actually doing to increase the chances of winning when the chips are down in sport, survival, negotiation, or romance. The first practice is mental rehearsal which is also known as imagery or visualization. All of the senses are used to create an event or image in the mind in order to perform it at a future time. Mental rehearsal activates a network of neural responses that triggers physical responses.
The other kind of drill is physical rehearsal where a behavior or reaction is practiced over and over like dress rehearsal. It is a deeper practice than imaging because movement is involved to instill a muscle memory. This is important because the things you practice mentally may disappear in a blur of confusion in a crisis, but a muscle memory remains to react quickly, automatically.
For example, when Nolan Sackett in L'Amour's Mustang Man gets lost in Comanche territory and is ringed by Indians, the chief puts a lance to his heart as Sackett sings an Irish lullaby. He kept on singing, and escaped with this bravo. Remembering, once I was lost hiking in Mexico's Copper Canyon, so big you can drop ten Grand Canyons into it, when an hombre on horseback galloped up, stopped on a peso, and reared the kicking hooves at my chin. He pointed a pistol at my breastbone, as I recited the only poem recalled from high school Spanish, 'I like milk, I like tea, but most of all, I like your eyes'. The cowboy broke into a wide grin as the horse snickered, and they rode off.
Two nights ago, I rehearsed in my mind's eye Jack Reacher's technique in Lee Child's Killing Floor to disarm a man with a knife at your throat. You jam the knife aside with the heel of one hand, and push his wrist the opposite way with the other hand, and the knife drops. So, yesterday afternoon I walked along a gulch into a series of Ironwood branch points, and disarmed them in this manner, leaving a trail of broken branches behind me until the mental had become a physical memory.
As the wash widened, I knelt at a spring beneath a broken windmill. Shots rang, and zinged over my head. One, two … ten bullets zipped 5' overhead, as I went face down into the spring to finish drinking and create a flush profile. Two shooters continued firing semi-automatic rifles, who must not have known I was there, aiming at the windmill blades. I made the link that, two days earlier, a case of rifles was stolen from the nearby Chocolate Mt. Gunnery Range. I crept dripping along a 3' ridge between the spring and shooters, as I'd read in westerns, until I was out of the fire arc, and crawled up the rise, took off my hat and sunglasses, and peeked through a tumbleweed. It was just two guys target practicing, but now I had the physical rehearsal under my belt.
Read enough, and practice mental and physical rehearsals, and you ready yourself to do almost anything.
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.— keep looking »
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