The criminal justice system
Jailed ‘em where nobody missed ‘em
Growth industry smudges
Cops lawyers and judges
And private jails sure should have kissed ‘em.
The criminal justice system
Jailed ‘em where nobody missed ‘em
Growth industry smudges
Cops lawyers and judges
And private jails sure should have kissed ‘em.
Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.
I overslept, which almost never happens to me. Thoroughly pissed-off the chickens [their protests finally woke me] and the felines. Appropriate enough, I suppose, because I came out of sleep seething with anger. An anger that’s been simmering inside me for a few days, but I somehow was ignoring.
One of my favorite authors, Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Pratchett], Jeanne told me, has himself a case of Alzheimer’s. Hell, evidently he announced it to the public in 2007 and everyone in the world but my humble self knew it. Not that my knowing of it would have made any difference, except maybe if I’d been digesting the fact I’d have reacted in a more rational way than I did having it come as a surprise.
Found, I did, that I’d almost been thinking of Pratchett almost as a family member or close friend gradually over the years, which also caught me by surprise. The guy has a mind works so similarly to my own that when I read his books I sometimes found myself sort of juxtaposed, me creating his character, his dialogue, his plot, laughing as I did it.
So, time to go root hog or die back into my anger management rituals, I reckons. Time to bring discipline and routine back into the gratitude and forgiveness affirmations.
Forgiving old Terry for maybe dying before I do. Forgiving myself for being the flawed bastard I am, falling off the wagon, letting anger seep into my head. Forgiving the Universe for tossing a challenge of the sort Alzheimer’s brings into our lives which seem plenty challenging enough already, everything else being equal.
I’m surely going to miss knowing Terry Pratchett’s out there doing what I ain’t doing better than I could have done it.
By the time I arrived at adulthood the state of the limerick as a masterpiece of the literary foil was in alarming decline. Playboy Magazine attempted to inject new life into the medium during the 1960s and 1970s by paying $500 for limerick submissions accepted for publication. The selection process was tough and they accepted only true masterpieces.
During those years I submitted no fewer than ten  limericks per month and never had one accepted. Hundreds of limericks. There was no place in Playboy for second-rate hacks.
While the artform requires a particular meter, the truly well-constructed one needs more. Internal rhyming. Puns. Lilting beat to simulate waves on a beach. A joy to the tongue and ear.
To illustrate my point, here is perhaps the best limerick ever written, once published in Playboy:
The new cineramic emporium
Is not just a super-sensorium
But a highly effectual
Every time I run those timeless words through my mind, I’m humbled.
I don’t know whether the image at the top of the page depicts a man who once wrote limericks and submitted them to Playboy. He almost certainly could have. Possibly should have.
He might have been a contender.
The trailer-parks listens and smiles
Echo his simplistic beguiles.
While those up on Wall Street
Applauded his drumbeat
Koch Brothers just sponsored his wiles.
Time was, ages 15, 25, 35, 45, 55, an inordinate time without hearing from a friend, he’d pick up the phone. If nothing came of it, wondering whether he pissed the person off, whether something’s wrong. Does a bit of memory searching about the last meeting, conversation, communication trying to recall anything sour.
Decades roll by and a person goes through a lot of friends, discovers a lot who’d been thought of as friends weren’t, discovers there was no bottom to it, or the bottom was too soft to hold an anchor. Realizes people need to have elbow-room and it might as well include a lack of interest in continuing communication with whomever they wish. Just bugs on the windshield of the time machine.
“Wonder what ever became of old Jimbo Watkins,” a person muses. “Best man at his wedding. Can’t recall seeing him much after his 25th Anniversary party. Hmm. Most likely dead, I reckons.”
“Wonder what ever became of old David McCreary. Stayed in touch and visited all those years. God-Father to his kids, watched them grow up. Last I heard he was teaching English in China somewhere. Had a Chinese wife.
“Hmm. Most likely dead, I reckons.”
As late as the 1990s I must have seen things this way, because I wrote it:
To Stanley, Hank, and Others
Eyesight blurs with years;
Silty pond of vision clears
Legion days march past,
Blend the timbre, tones;
Common denominator of sound
Stirs a rich musical soup
Of drum, of trumpet,
Crash of boot on pavement,
Of human voice, human words,
Singing murmur of human
Cacophony in a foreign tongue
But hearing deepens.
“What’s that you say?
Cupped hand behind ear;
Study in vain his moving lips
Behind the roar;
Puzzle the melting printed word,
Dawns the underlying truth,
River of comprehension
Beneath the racing chaos
Of the spoken word,
The printed page.
With failing sight;
As hearing dies.
Oh, dear life.
Dear muted daze
Of lost unknowing.
Poor, desolate ghosts
Lost in forgotten trails
Take heart in your despair
Mute the silent horror;
Calm the wild
And rest in peace.
From Poems of the New Old West
All that damned drama. Sheeze. Seems completely foreign to me today. Words someone else wrote.
“Most likely just dead,” works a hell of a lot better. Or if I’m feeling verbose, a limerick.
Several years ago during that pesky time when the publishing house had accepted Desert Emergency Survival Basics for publication, but I hadn’t yet seen the contract they were proposing, the editor was asking for re-writes and a number of changes in the final draft. We discussed it on the phone a number of times and I was pecking away at it, but holding back until I’d seen what they were bringing to the table.
But before I got too far along I got a call from him because of a news event. A family in Oregon, or Washington had taken a back road in the National Forest, gotten snowed in, and died because they didn’t apply some of the basics suggested in the Survival Book.
Him: The scope of the book is broader than the name suggests. It shouldn’t require a lot of work to make it a general survival manual.
Me: A lot of work’s already gone into it. And I’ve already re-written it the way you suggest earlier. You’ve got it in front of you. Before I do any more work on it you and I need to talk about money. Every time I’ve asked about what you’re offering as an advance you’ve hedged. Said you needed to discuss it with the boss.
Him: We don’t usually offer much in the way of advances. We’re not that big, even though we offer a lot of titles.
Me: Then you and I probably don’t have much to talk about. You know and I know I’m never going to see a penny beyond the advance. I have a fair idea what’s contained in your standard contract. I’m not going to lift another finger on this book until I see an advance, and if it’s not enough to pay for my time already, hearing you’re going to be flexible about changing the contract details.
Him: I’ll talk to the boss. But that book needs to be published. That family might have survived if they’d read it.
Me: I’ve got some survival issues of my own here. Hypothetical people who might die won’t pay my rent. I’ve already done the work. But if you’re proposing to print that book and give it away so neither of us makes anything on it what you’re saying might make sense. Appeal to my better nature.
Him: I can’t do that. We’re in business.
Ultimately they sent me the standard contract and offered a token advance. The willingness to alter the details of the contract didn’t include changes that would have allowed me to eventually get paid for my labor by eliminating provisions for them to squirm out of paying.
I’ve thought about that a lot over the years and eventually concluded the entire concept of survival and survival books qualifies as a cruel hoax. An ironic illusion. Because human beings are going to experience death inevitably as a means of exiting the vehicle. Some are going to die getting lost in the woods. If they survive getting lost it’s almost certainly going to be luck, instinct, or common sense.
As an example, somewhere earlier on this blog I described a snowstorm Keith and I got caught in on Santa Rita mesa, and how the GPS seemed to be lying about where the truck was. How we believed the GPS instead of what we knew to be true, and more-or-less quickly found the truck.
That same snowstorm, not too far away, a kid was lost. The news was full of it, Search and Rescue eventually was ready to give him up for dead. But the kid, clothed in a light jacket, used his brain, sheltered under a rock ledge, and made it out after five unlikely days.
Which isn’t at all the same as saying the kid survived. He won’t. Neither will anyone else.
Today and tomorrow’s post (part two) is a short story that was written many years ago. We had decided it was too long for the blog, even in two parts, but since many of our readers are also writers, I think you won’t mind the length. ~Jeanne
Blue on blue, I tunneled through tints and shades of airy void from the New Mexico desert to arrive in San Francisco several hours ahead of my outbound rendezvous. The old DC3 clubbed the air dizzy and crawled over the unconscious body getting me to the coast; hammered the molecules of blue air into something solid as ice to hold man and machine aloft and skim across the bumpy surface.
In some other reality pilots and navigators of the heavens probably do spectra-soundings of color and hue, the way old mariners sounded the nighttime and foggy channel bottoms sampling with buckets to fix their positions by mud color, or sand, or shells. These sky mariners in the elsewhere examine the debris in the buckets and ponder; arid Southwest: almost turquoise. Inland California: grey blue. Coastal: yellow hazy blue. But that was 1964. Perhaps the atmosphere has grayed these intervening years, the way my own mustache, eyebrows, and hair has shifted to bare metal silver.
But we were young in that country. The November 9, 1964, San Francisco airport terminal teemed with us. We milled around the gate that Sunday awaiting our flight to Hawaii. Ten more days and I’d be a full 21, a legal man. Full of mature, critical appraisal I skulked the waiting area; studied the rosy cheeks and sunny attitudes; the strapping young adults I knew I’d spend the next piece of my life among. Though some carried more years, I thought to myself they were mostly kids.
I watched those youngsters straight-on for a while, until they noticed. Then I shifted and gazed covertly at the reflections from the plate glass window/wall shielding us from the din of steel-gray planes and scorching ash-gray runways cut by yellow stripes threading the distant taxiways to vanish in the heatwaves and hazy yellowblue skies. I pretended to read my book and scrutinized my soon to be companions out of the corners of my eyes; strained to hear the dribble of their conversations which each seemed to say, “I’m a neat person. I’m worthy of this.” Some, I could surmise, tacitly agreed to allow certain others to be as neat as themselves.
We were an elite, the acceptance letter implied. Only one of every forty applicants, the letter whispered, were accepted for the intensive preparation to save the poor in hungry backward lands. We were all riding on the bobsled thrill of those flattering words. As a result the fast pulsebeat of waiting in the terminal became a political caucus. Probably most of us figured those others were likely to be awfully special, but secretly believed they made a mistake in letting our particular selves in.
The candidates talked films; of Viradiana, of Antonioni, of Fellini and of a swede who made foreign films in those days. Of existentialism. Talked about the beatnik poets. All so serious. What’s your major? Where did you get your degree? I pondered the words, scowling to myself.
I could see these mostly weren’t my kind of folks. I’d scraped and cheated to get a high school diploma several years earlier, did three years in the army. Hitch-hiked across the country several times, been in jail more than once. Sweated under a blazing sky in dozens of hellish jobs that didn’t carry any prestige in these circles of toy-people, I thought, who were going off to India to teach the native how to raise chickens. Bouncing off through rainbow skies bearing the weight of the white man’s burden to teach a culture older than our God how to raise poultry. But we were young in that country.
I felt uncomfortable in my snazzy dark suit with narrow lapels. My only suit. It had been the leading edge of fashion when I bought it for $20 a couple of years earlier in Boston. The pencil thin blue tie with gold flecks felt awful on my neck, and worse as I became conscious of the width of ties the others were wearing.
Trainees impressing one another
As the morning wore into early afternoon more of the India X peace corps trainees filtered in the waiting area from incoming flights, draining the rest of the country of heroes…..I hung around alone and tried to guess which were trainees, and which were just transients. I gazed at the women who were obvious volunteers, wondering whether any peace corps taboos would stand between me and female companionship during the next few months. I idly checked out the prospects, most of whom didn’t bear up under a lot of scrutiny. Rules of training could make for a long dry spell, and the fraternity boys were already busy staking out their campsites among the curly haired goldiloxes of the crew.
Eventually, I noticed a lean, freckle-faced red-headed Irish looking chap hanging around watching, same as I was……he wasn’t mingling with the other selectees much, and he appeared gangling and awkward. I smiled to myself, musing, probably feeling superior, just as I felt somehow superior to all these fresh-scrubbed college folks, off to slum among the huddled masses. McCreary, I learned, was his name. David McCreary. At that moment I watched, listened to, studied a future friend for life for the first time.
Strangely vacant blue-eyed, lanky, ruddy faced and scarlet haired, a lady schoolmarm from Virginia caught my focus. I heard her tell someone she was an English teacher. Lillie Rogers. Lillie Belle Rogers, I learned later. No raving beauty, but a touch of class, presence, bearing. Straight and tall. I sensed an underlying tinge of bitterness in her manner. Sometime later it came to mind, and in some ways, a female counterpart to McCreary. There among all the others, I didn’t sense that Lillie would be the lady of this group I’d come to know best. I’d have rejected that notion, then. Lillie Belle Rogers. A long, sensuous neck ahead of Nancy Philson and Priscilla Thomas in a dead heat. Women I wouldn’t have picked for myself that day in the San Francisco airport, but in a few weeks, the training gave everyone a chance to show their mettle. Or their fluff. For those three and a few others, it was bare, polished metal.
The flight to Oahu was long…..I was seated next to a tough blonde named Georgia Grover…..nice humor, vaguely pretty, and I began laying what I hoped was groundwork for later. Foundations for things to come which never came.
Arrival in Honolulu
When eventually we arrived on the islands the alienation I felt was already rising. I didn’t like a lot of folks in those days, and I could tell I mostly wasn’t going to like these. The chaos leaving the main terminal created visible stress among the chosen. We had half a mile or so to walk to the Hawaiian Airlines Terminal and the next jump to the big island. No transportation for the bags. An early test.
The husky young college gentlemen struggled with their own bags and staggered in macho competition to help the attractive ladies. Mr. and Mrs. Eebie, the elderly retired couple of the group shuffled along behind with the jaded males and less attractive females while the girly girls and ex-twirlers chattered across the tarmac admiring the white man and his burden. Georgia Grover shrugged away the offers of help and shouldered her own bags. Most likely, Lillie Rogers, Priscilla Thomas, and Nancy Philson never had the offer.
Hilo Training Center
During the next weeks the time passed quickly;…..language lessons, chicken house made from lava rock passed down hand to hand, chopping sugarcane in the fields for the thatched roof, a walking bridge made from downed palm trees, formal exercise, poultry disease classes, inoculations against the diseases of the distant east. I gradually came to know the other trainees, and they, me. I gradually found a few worthy of respect.
Somehow we found time to frolic in bluegreen waters under the bluewhite waterfall. We climbed the nearby cliffs and gazed into the swift discharge.
And late one afternoon I found myself with Lillie whispering from a cradle of limbs in a huge banyan tree near the falls; lips brushing ear and neck to be heard above the cascading clamor of falling water. Forms and futures swirled in clouds studied through a break in the green umbrella.
One afternoon in a distance run, I began jogging beside the redhead, David. We outdistanced the whole crowd on a ten mile run, came in long before the rest. Found we weren’t appreciated for our efforts. Evidently it was intended to be something of a fellowship, team thing. The whole affair on the big island was a distance run, and David and I were already far behind.
That night, David and I went into Hilo and had a few beers, exchanging a few dreams, disappointments, and observations about the place and the people. We were young in that country.
Hi everyone, Jeanne here. Please bear with me while I make a few comments on the status of things here at So Far From Heaven.
First of all, the blog site isn’t going away. I’m sure Jules will post from time to time, but he’s also relieved to have made the decision to post only when he feels the urge without any dedication to a schedule. So, less stress, fewer posts, but not going away. If you’re not already signed up for email notifications, you might consider it. I’ve certainly found it helpful on other blog sites that I follow.
I have permission to post some other things that Jules has written in the past, some items from previous blogs, poetry, some pieces from other projects. I would appreciate your feedback about this idea. I suspect I am biased about his writing and don’t have enough distance from the situation to really know whether our followers want to see anything “old” or just wait for something current.
For anyone who wants a daily dose of Old Jules’ writing, please visit Ask Old Jules, where you are still welcome to ask questions there through the comments. Although I only post one question and answer per day, there is a lot of variety and randomness from day to day that you might enjoy. The Facebook page So Far From Heaven: Ask Old Jules will also continue with shorter q/a posts more appropriate to the Facebook format.
We’re very gratified that at this point we’ve got a nice solid core of dedicated readers. I’m also following a lot of nice people that I never knew existed, and intend to keep doing so. We appreciate all the responses we’ve had so far and look forward to continuing in the same vein although not with the same frequency.
Until next time,
Jeanne’s migrating the Ask Old Jules feature from Facebook to a blog to be linked to this one. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Facebook thing, here’s what it’s all about.
Several years ago I used to amuse myself between doing other things by answering questions on a Question/Answer site. Over the years I somehow managed to build up 13,000 answers to every sort of question imaginable, many of which were inappropriate or off-the-wall enough to forever have them banning me from the site.
I’d send them an apology promising never to do it again, they’d restore my membership, and in no time at all some pencil-necked stuffed-up questioner would report me again and get me banned. But while all this was going on, Jeanne was religiously copying and pasting the stuff, saving it for her own incomprehensible reasons.
When this blog came to being and nobody was reading it Jeanne decided to use some of the more inane Q/As in her files on Facebook to point people towards the blog. But a lot of the Q/As were too long to post on Facebook, so eventually the choice was to drop them entirely, or to continue them on a blog.
She’s been working like an illegal alien or some foreigner setting it up, putting some of her art work as headers, generally creating a pleasant blog site. Her thought is that people reading it might wish to participate by asking questions there. I welcome any avenue providing me more opportunities along the lifelong journey of discovery to discover what I think. Especially in an environment where I’m less likely to be banned than was the case in that other Q/A thing.
So beginning February 1st the Ask Old Jules blog will be up and running. A link will show up in the blogroll. All the old archives from the whatchacallit, Facebook one, will also be stored there if you want to have a look-see to get an idea what she was doing.
Note from Jeanne: Posts here on So Far From Heaven will continue as usual when Old Jules and WordPress are cooperating with each other.
At this time posts are scheduled on Ask Old Jules for Wednesdays and Sundays. That might change depending on participation. Comments are welcome as usual, but if you ask a question, it might be used (without your name) as a new blog entry with an answer.
Shorter Ask Old Jules entries will still show up on Facebook from time to time.
And here’s some Leonard Cohen that I’m fond of, even if he’s not singing: