Monthly Archives: September 2011

More Future Me: Bass-ackwards Letter to the Past

I was discussing  the Future Me post with Hydrox and his littermate, Naiad, a few days ago and they suggested some other letters to the guy I was would probably be in order.  Those two were there through those years wondering with me where the next bag of Purina cat food would be coming from after I gave us a Y2K [].

To be delivered January 1, 2002.

“Hi Guy,

“This is me, Hydrox and Niaid, talking to you from 2011.
You are in for a lot of strange experiences over the next few years, and some profoundly difficult times.  You’re going to do a lot of things you’ve never dreamed of doing, just to get by month-to-month.  You deliberately chose to give yourself a Y2K, whether anyone else had one or not.  Trust me, it’s the best decision you ever made.
 I can tell you now:
“Don’t waste your time trying to get teaching jobs, any job where you can take advantage of your education and job history.  Save yourself a lot of energy and discouragement.  [Hydrox suggests I mention it also won’t buy any cat food.]
“That part of you is gone.  They don’t want any white male in his late 50s, no matter what he might have done in the past.  You are going to have to become really good at some unconventional approaches to survival to just squeeze by without going to live under a bridge somewhere. [Naiad says to tell Niaid to stay the hell away from that pool of water running out of the pipe behind the motel next door and quit worrying about Mehitabel bullying.  She’s about to get hers.]

“All that Y2K credit history and the mistooken belief the IRS would collapse is catching up with you.

“You’ve always succeeded in everything you did.  Now you’re basing your decisions on that history, but you’re failing to comprehend that everything’s changed.  Don’t waste your life in all those months of self-doubt and guilt, judging yourself against a set of standards and assumptions you learned from Grand-dad and you’ve always tried to live by.   Those are dead.

“You are still you.  You’re still strong, and you still have a million things to be grateful for.  What those human resources departments believe is meaningless, doesn’t say a thing about whom and what you are because they reject you.

[Hydrox says to tell Hydrox he can save himself a lot of grief by staying out of that bucket of waste grease behind the Chinese restaurant in front of the apartment.  And if he gets it on him, tell him to just belly up to the bar and get it shampooed off in the bathtub.  Licking it will provide a lingering case of the Egyptian Ducksquirts.]

“You’ve always relied on yourself and you now have to start doing it again in ways you never thought possible.  You are about to have to become a person living in the shadows, off the government paperwork, inside the underground economy.  The sooner you understand there’s no place for you in the ordinary job market the better off you’ll be.

“Old Deano,  [A Strange Way of Thinking] over in Belen’s going to try to talk you into learning blackjack.  You’ll want to shrug and resist.  My advice to you, is ponder it.  Don’t resist so hard, but don’t believe anything he, nor anyone else tells you about the nuts and bolts of playing it until you study it all and think it through.  What’s said by the experts is largely BS.

[Hydrox and Naiad both want you to urgently inform their counterparts NOT to stay indoors when you go off working 11pm to 7am at that damned motel every night and to keep a sharp eye out for those damned cat-killing dogs.]

“Don’t let anything surprise you except by hindsight, as it surprises me, all these years later in 2011.

“These are just short-term morsels.  Deano’s been dead so long I barely remember him.

“You, my friend, are entering a brave new world.  Savor every minute of it.  Maybe I’ll send you an email occasionally to hint you along.

“Hang in there amigo.  You can do it.”

[Hydrox and Niaid in two-part harmony to Mehitabel:  “YOU ain’t here, BITCH!]

Yourself, 10,000 blackjack hands in the future, and after it’s a dim memory.

Helpful Advice

I don’t give advice, but I’m frequently interested in the viewpoints of people who do consider themselves wise enough to give it.

Well, I say I don’t give advice and I sincerely try not to, try to catch myself at it and chide myself when I discover I’ve backslid in a way I can’t squirm out of.  Well, most of the time.  If you’ve read the Survival Book  [ ]  you know I’m lying to myself and to you when I say it.

Some of you nitpickier readers might assert the ‘Ask Old Jules’  blurbs Jeanne posts on the Facebook page amounts to advice, but I can’t agree.  That’s just answers to questions with no attempt to be helpful, no wish to influence the choices other people make.

But I’ve digressed.

I read Ed Hurst’s blog, ‘The Oracles of Marriage’, and while I find myself not in total agreement with him in a lot of ways, I suspect people involved in relationships with other people might profit from reading and carefully considering what he says.

There’s also the Dear Coke Talk blog ruminating and giving advice I find amusing and might have found helpful when I indulged in relationships.

We’re living in a time of possibly the most profound social experiment in the history of mankind.  During the past century 10,000?  50,000? years of accumulated human wisdom and tradition has been discarded worldwide in favor of various packages groups believe they’ll like better.  I’m not, personally, certain anyone on the planet is qualified to give advice in times such as these.  The body of experience just isn’t sufficient to pull solutions out of a catch-as-catch-can gut feel cauldron of individual preferences and biases, and deliver them any meaningful where.

Seems to me it would be a good time for people involved in relationships to do a lot of pondering, reading, discussing with the party of the second part about boundaries, about ownership, about mutual dependencies, about verbalizing expectations, and about self-reliance.

But what the hell do I know?  I can show you how to start a fire with flint and steel.  I can elaborate at length on how you can make the best of almost any bad situation and come away from it a lot more confident and probably happier than you went into it.  But when things go into the arena of two people clinging to one another in a complex web of expectations neither has clearly defined, neither has ever agreed to, the only reasonable approach seems to me to be honest communications.

I was married 25 years and one of the conversational mantras during that time was, “What’s the matter?”


“Yes, something’s the matter.  What is it?”

“Nothing.  No, really.  Nothing.”

That interchange sums up what I’m talking about.  It’s a statement communicated by non-verbal methods that the party of the second part hasn’t satisfied the expectations of the party of the first part.

Why isn’t the answer a forthright statement?  Because the unsatisfied expectation isn’t one that has been brought out into the open, discussed, and agreed to.

“I’m angry and I want you to know I’m angry, but you’ll have to guess why, want me to not be angry.  I’ve chosen this method in hopes of getting you to modify your behavior to something more in tune with what I want from you, knowing you probably won’t agree to it unless I sulk it out of you.”

How the hell can anyone presume to give advice about how to do that better?  When the goal is ownership and control who’s better qualified than the party of the first part, whichever the gender?

Old Jules

Kenny Rogers & The 1st Edition – Something’s Burning

Eavesdropping on Homeland Security

One of the ways I keep up on world events and amuse myself when I’m alone in an eating establishment without a book involves eavesdropping.  I gaze at the food, a picture on the wall, something outdoors through the plate glass, and I listen to conversations at the nearby tables.

It’s curiosity, as much as anything else.  And mostly I lose interest quickly because so often the talk is about some sports event, concert, or a television show.  But sometimes it’s pay dirt.

A while before I left New Mexico I was doing the listening routine to the goings-on among several BDU and otherwise uniform clad people of both sexes, all toting large-bore automatic pistols in holsters hanging from their waists.

Turned out these folks were part of a conference between Federal and State Homeland Security forces (whatever that might be).  I’d never seen that particular uniform combination, nor the patches and medallions, so I listened as closely as I dared without drawing attention to myself.

The eating establishment is on San Felipe Tribal Lands.  Maybe that’s why the conversation drifted in that direction.

Fed:  “Do you have any issues dealing with any of the tribes?”

NM State:  “You wouldn’t believe it.  Everything’s an issue.”

And so on in detail involving a lot of ‘issues’ a person born in 1943 (me), would never have believed could ever be discussed by government employees as though they should be part of any reality here.  The attitude was clearly that the tribes were being irresponsible in reluctance and obstruction of the aims of Homeland Security.

The topic broadened in a while.

NM State:  “I think a lot of people just don’t understand what we’re doing.  They don’t realize how dangerous things are for them.”

Fed:  “That’s a problem all over the country.  I was in Phoenix a few weeks ago .  . ., etc”

That NM Homeland Security lady all dressed up with a gun and nowhere to go was wrong.

I believe most people understand perfectly well what they’re doing and have an inkling of why they’re doing it.  It isn’t a lack of understanding that makes me smile and cheer inside, knowing the tribes, at least, are dragging their feet.

I think people are beginning to ‘realize how dangerous things are for them’, to the extent that dangers actually exist in this hostile reality we’ve chosen for ourselves.   But at least a part of the ‘danger’  people feel involves a new kind of policeman who thinks the US Constitution is obstructionist.

They just don’t know what needs to be done about it.

Tom Russell–Claude Dallas

Cat houses and such

Three of these four worthless felines are getting a bit long in the tooth, two longer than the next in line.  It’s been a tough summer with the drought and heat wave, so I’ve had to take some measures to give them some relief I couldn’t provide for myself.

Shiva’s not one of the two oldest, but she had a health event a couple of winters ago that’s taken a long time to recover from, and she has a special job here if the cows ever come back.  She’s Shiva the Cow Cat.  Loved chasing cows back when they were bothersome. [ Artful Communications – White Trash Repairs 3 ]

I might add some other meanderings here today as other things come to mind, but what’s on my mind this morning is I need to start working on the front porch cat houses I put together last fall to give them all places to get out of the elements.  Now that the heat’s bending in the other direction I wouldn’t be shocked to see a winter rearing it’s head before I’m ready for it.

Old Jules


7:45 AM – Escape Route Possibilities – Fridge and trailer

Another issue that’s been on my mind a lot lately is creating myself a place to live if anything intervenes to insist I get the hell out of Dodge.  The whole thing’s complicated by the contract I have with these cats, all but one of them, to take care of them until they die off, or I die off.  I’ve talked with them about it, and they have some strong views about minimum living conditions, etc, which I’m obliged to consider.  A tent or under a bridge doesn’t meet their minimum criteria.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m looking around for an old travel trailer I can get for a price I can afford, and the new truck up there Gale’s going to help me pull to town to let an honest-to-goodness mechanic fix the wiring mess, inspect it to get it legal, and eventually pull whatever I come up with for it to pull.

While I’m scouting around looking for an old travel trailer I’ve also been looking at this, considering whether it mightn’t offer an alternative:

Of course, if I select this option I’ll be building it from salvaged recycled materials.

This trailer below has been sitting there with that load on it from the time Gale and Kay moved here from Pflugerville.  His shop building was full and he didn’t have anywhere to put all that stuff, so it’s stayed there, everything on it getting ruined by the weather and the tires going flat.

another view:

That lathe, left rear, is troubling to see.  But so’s a lot of the other once-useful items on there.

another view:

another view:

If I can think of somewhere to put that junk, protecting whatever’s left worth protecting, I just might be able to talk  him out of the trailer if I decide the building a house on a trailer option seems the best  after everything’s considered.

On the other hand, the fridge is now a sure thing.  I was talking with Gale while he was doing some jewelry work the other day and noticed this, down there bottom center:

Turns out it’s the gas/electric fridge out of an old travel trailer I gave him about 30 years ago.  He says it’s mine if I want it.

It’s going to be a job getting it out of there:

Behind and under a few important things

Old Jules

Jesse Winchester, Just Like New

Thinking on your Feet

A friend and I were chewing the fat outside a car wash business he owns next to a convenience store in Las Lunas, New Mexico a few years ago. A pregnant woman who worked at the convenience store came outside and plopped down out of sight of the front door, smoking a cigarette, sitting on the concrete and leaning against the building.

We’d discussed this woman before…. a nice young lady with a life a person wouldn’t wish on anyone…. last time I’d seen her she was sitting in the same spot crying, which is how I came to ask my bud about her story. Anyway, seeing her brought her into the conversation again.

Most recent weirdness in her life:

The lady was  20 years old. She’d gone into Isleta Casino a while back with a friend, began feeding her paycheck into the slot machines. Now, it was illegal for this woman and her friend to be playing the slots, minimum age being 21.

So what happens? She hits a $5000 jackpot on the machine she’s playing. It lights up like Times Square on New Years Eve, making all kinds of commotion, people coming from all directions to see. She knows she’s going to have to show an ID to get the money. So what does this poor lady do?

She and her friend beat feet out of there, leaving the jackpot.

I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is this: What the hell was she doing putting her money into a gambling machine if she couldn’t accept a payoff, supposing she hit?  Did she do some heavy thinking about this?

But, even so, she ought to have been able to get someone legal to accept the payoff and split it with her, thinks I.

But she knew she was breaking the law, and what do you do when you get caught red-handed? Why hell, you run if your knees are still good enough to allow it.

That’s what’s called thinking on your feet.  Thinking afterward what you done-already should have thought before-wards.

Old Jules

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie– Luck be a Lady

Crazy Lost Gold Mine-ism

This post requires some background to get to what it’s about.  The first part is background.  The actual subject of the post doesn’t start until ‘way on down toward the bottom.

Back before Y2K happened I spent a lot of years and energy researching and searching the mountains of SW New Mexico for a particular lost gold mine.

Doing a thing of that sort, the smart individual would keep his mouth shut about it.  But I don’t qualify in that regard.  I spent several years poring over records and winter nights poring over maps with a magnifying glass, almost always certain of knowing where it was, chawing at the bit to get out into the barrancas to file a claim on it.  But also putting my research into a form others searching for it might find helpful.  Insane.

Eventually I found a location where evidence on the ground fit the legend locations well enough to keep me working the west face of that mountain, climbing and unclimbing it with friends and associates, building up a lot of muscle, finding a lot of interesting rocks, and getting surprising assays, but no joy to speak of on gold.

“A burned out cabin ruin with an aspen tree growing out of the inside, bear claw marks 12 feet up, 3 hand forged nails, a longtom sluicebox axed out of a 3 foot diameter log, a spring 75 feet above the sluice, an arrastra below.  A mysterious map chiseled on the face of a 300 pound rock surface depicting the exact layout of the canyon, the cabin, the waterfall, all so accurately depicted the person had to have scrutinized the layout from the mountaintop, then scratched it on this stone 600 vertical feet below and half a mile away.  The rock was carefully placed on the canyon wall above eye-level so it was easily seen, but only by someone looking up.”

By 1998 I’d spent a lot more treasure, worn out vehicles, worn out relationships with lady friends and put a lot of friends to sleep going on about it and spending all my waking hours thinking, searching, or talking about it.  I decided it had taken up enough of my life and it was time to move on to other things after one final effort.

I took several weeks of vacation from work and spent it determined to get that gold mine out of my life, or into it in a way that didn’t include continued searching for it.  During part of it Gale and Dana, another old friend, joined me up there.

But that’s all another story.

During the 1990s I used to get several letters and phone calls a week from other people who were searching for the mine, asking questions about specifics of my research findings, asking questions about various terrain features, or just wanting me to go climb a mountain where they knew it was but didn’t feel like climbing themselves, willing to give me 10% of it if they were correct.  Of course they always knew they were correct.

But gradually that all tapered off.  In 2003, in the desperate throes of surviving the desperate financial aftermath of Y2K I published a book about my research, and the calls, emails and letters started coming in again for a while, but again gradually receded after a few years.  Those guys all got old and everything quieted down.

That lost gold mine slid spang out of my life.

But finally, here’s what this post is about.

Suddenly, beginning a couple of months ago, my old email address box began a new trickle, becoming a stream, of questions about all manner of details about those canyons and researches I elaborated on in the book.  Old guys, some older than I, were suddenly making noises about ideas, searches, evidently studying the book and maps, wanting refinements on what I’d described.

2011, every old worn-out has-been treasure hunter in Christendom  is suddenly wanting me to search my memory-banks about canyons I once stomped around in.  I’ve mostly answered the emails, tried to remember and flesh out what most of them were asking about, but a lot of it’s just too mixed in with too many other canyons, rocks and trails to recover with clarity.

But some of them are actually being subtle but provacative, wanting to argue with me about research findings, value judgements I made regarding 160 year old documents I dug up in the US Archives, military records, and a particular Apache I consider a key in the affair.

Heck, it ain’t as though I found the damned mine.  I don’t know where it is, though I spent a lot of years, treasure, sweat, and women thinking I did.  Now, suddenly I have people coming out of the woodwork wanting me to change my mind about where I thought it was because my reasons for thinking it weren’t the same as their reasons for thinking it’s somewhere I didn’t think it was.

Absolooooodle, incomprehensibly, insane.

Yeah.  It’s real important where I think it is.  If I don’t think it’s where it is, that old gold mine’s likely to switch places with where it thought it was.  Next thing you know it will be where I thought it was.  And that ain’t where these other guys now think it is, so I need to change my mind and think it’s where they think it is.  Otherwise it won’t be there.

I have no idea what the hell this is all about.  Maybe the price of gold combined with worrying about Social Security has the geezers going crazy thinking they’re 50 years old again.

Old Jules

Billy Vaughn And His Orchestra – The Shifting Whispering Sands ( 1956 )

A Few Noticings in Town

The sign and that line of people outside the building suggests the Christians in Washington mightn’t have anything in common with regular old actual Christians of the old actual Christianity faith.

I don’t know what they’re doing to help those people in there, being a non-Christian, but they must be doing something.  That line stretches all the way out into the parking lot.

I don’t need a gas grille, but if I did I’d have snapped this one up from the Salvation Army:

It’s missing the burners and regulator, cheap to add and retrofit, looks barely used, but the price is amazing:

Only thing I can figure is the Chinese have bought out Harley Davidson:

Damned thing is 200cc and has a pull starter like a lawn mower.  They charge extra for ape-hangers.

But it looks as though they’re also wanting to cash in on some of the automotive company bailouts:

Notice the suicide shift above the right fender.  You have to turn loose the steering wheel to shift gears.  Can’t imagine how they got that through Ralph Nader’s US Department of Transportation and Welfare.

Best for last, though.  Here’s a free crapper and exercycle from Habitat for Humanity:

Tempting, but I’ve already got the one, and I get my exercise just trying to stay alive.  Fact of life.

Old Jules

Loudon Wainwright– Glad To See You Got Religion

Upside Down Thrift Store Horse Trading

This 24/7 music to keep owls from killing my guineas at night  [ White Trash Repairs and Fixes – Owls and Rock ‘n Roll ] is hard on audio equipment.

A while back I was without music to confuse the owl-folk.  I’d spang worn out my Kerrville FreeCycle-donated 200 CD Sony player and was scouting around for whatever the Universe had in mind to replace it.  A couple of months had passed, to I figured the Universe was ripe.

Salvation Army Thrift Store in Kerrville was having a half-price off on electronics sale.  I nosed around among the 8 track tape players, the television sets, the wires with all kinds of connections pretending not to pay any mind to a Sony 300 CD player staring at me as though I was the abyss.  The door was open on it and it seemed a bit battered, but someone had taped, “WORKS” on it, along with a price of $65.  $32.50 with the half-price on electronics.

The guy I think must be the store manager was at the register, and we’ve done enough business over time for him to know my ways and for me to know his.   Between ringing up purchases he was watching me not lo0k at that CD player with a half-smile on his face.  I moseyed over to it scowling, making sure in the corner of my eye he was looking, and tried to mess with the door to get it closed.  Shook my head, then looked up and met his eye.

“If that thing has a door it doesn’t seem to close.”

“Bring it over here and we’ll talk about it.”

I put it on the counter and we both scowled at it.  “That’s a lot of money to have to risk for something might not work.  If I bought it could you write down something so I could bring it back if it doesn’t work?”

We both knew the answer to that one.  It’s sold as is.  “I can’t do that.  But I’d sure hate for someone to buy it and get stuck with it not working.  What do you think it’s worth risk-wise?”

He and I have been through this enough times before to know how we play the game.  “I couldn’t pay more than $20 for it.”

No,” shaking his head, “I’d rather give it to you free than let you pay that much.”

“I’m not taking that out of here free.  I’m not begging.  I’m just trying to find a price we can agree on.  How about $15?”

“How about a buck?”

$10?  I’m not sure I can go any lower than 10.  A man has to live with his conscience.”  I feigned away from the counter as though about to walk off.

“Noo, no, no!”  Him acting frantic.  “How about $5?  Could you go $5?”


He carried it across the counter to the register and started figuring the tax.  “It’s half-price for electronics today.  But you probably don’t want to use that, do you?”

“Naw.  Just ring it up at the full price we agreed to.  I’m not looking for any bargain.”

Old Jules

Steve Goodman- The Auctioneer

Fire Ants, Dishwashing and Drought

Having to haul water offers up a rare challenge insofar as cooking and cleaning up afterward.   Before the drought became so severe I’d mitigated the problem by putting my dirty dishes into potato or grapefruit bags and placing them on imported fireant beds.  A day later, voila!  Clean clean clean!

All I had to do is pull them out of the bags and wipe them down with a moist towel or cloth and they were ready to use.

But as the summer progressed and the soil dried the fire ant beds became more difficult to locate.  Without moisture in it the soil here has no structure.  The beds became invisible, and concurrently the ants seemed just to go underground.   Imported fire ants,  common name: red imported fire ant
scientific name: Solenopsis invicta Buren (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae) are eating machines.  They’ll eat anything.

“Mounds are built of soil and are seldom larger than 46 cm (18 in) in diameter. When a mound is disturbed, ants emerge aggressively to bite and sting the intruder. A white pustule usually appears the next day at the site of the sting (Cohen 1992).

I looked for other alternatives with other ant species, no joy.  What I discovered is that good American fire ants just don’t want to do that kind of work.  I tried it with every kind of ant bed I could find, dishes stacking up in the sink, me gradually being forced to use hauled water and scouring pads to clean up dishes and utensils.

If I couldn’t find some good American fireants willing to work or some way to locate illegal imported fireants for the job I was going to be reduced to hauling water a lot more, or get a dog to lick that stuff off the eatingware.

Luckily that 24/7 September 13, moonbows and canned thunder outdoor canned thunder brought in the first measurable rainfall in 100+ days here, just as you thought it would.  There’s enough moisture in the soil now to let the fire ant mounds get some altitude so’s I’ll be able to locate them for my dishwashing.

On the other hand, the rain proved my chimney-fix didn’t entirely accomplish what was intended.

Water was hitting the chimney outside, intruding and running down the stovepipe as far as the elbow, then dripping in.

Hard to think of a good quote to sum up all this.  “It’s an ill wind that blows no good?”

But it’s all good.  I just have to cut that oversized chimney-pipe and put it on there as a sleeve over the old chimney soon.  Better knowing it now than discovering it when Mr. Bullgoose Daddy-Longlegs storm comes in.

Old Jules

The Horror of Discovering You Love Opera

A performance of Don Giovanni with the great Italian baritone Antonio Scotti (as Don Giovanni). Scotti sang the role of Don Giovanni at Covent Garden, London, in 1899 and again at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in December of the same year.

It never dawned on me I was proud I didn’t like opera.  I’d never heard any opera except brief snatches or in spoofs.  I’d never given any conscious thought at all to the fact I thought people who went to operas did it to show off to other people who went to operas, or were snooty and just wanted to impress someone, or were sissies.  Never gave it a single thought.

To my mind a person who went to operas was just naturally, naturally, naturally someone I had no respect for, had no time for, would never take seriously.  I didn’t need to think about it.  I knew.  I don’t recall anyone ever trying to change my thinking about it, either.  I imagine they all knew same as I did those opera goers were phonies and sissies.

So, sometime in the late-1980s when my ex-wife got a couple of opera tickets for a performance on the University of Texas campus I wasn’t overjoyed.  I suited up and traveled down there under duress, grumbled behind her to our seats, scowled when the lights went down and battened down the hatches for hard weather.

Over the next couple of hours a pair of blinders was removed from my eyes, plugs removed from my ears.  A war went on inside me as the realization dawned that I loved this stuff.  The next time an opera came to Austin it was me insisting we get tickets.

That would be bad enough if it had stopped there.  But when my marriage broke up in 1992, and I relocated to Santa Fe, mildly affluent, I discovered a Santa Fe Opera exists.  I attended a performance, and thereafter every year bought season tickets and used them as long as I could afford them.

I’ve attended a lot of concerts and live performances in my life and enjoyed many with Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Kinky Friedman, Leonard Cohen, Loudon Wainwright and others, including a few Broadway performances.  But I’d be lying if I claimed every opera I ever attended wasn’t as thrilling and uplifting as I walked out as any of those.

And naturally, I hate myself for it and hang my head in shame admitting it.

Florida Grand Opera-DON GIOVANNI, The Don’s final scene