Happy Birthday Amanda!
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN CALIFORNIA:
As I recuperate and struggle with the irritating complexities of the American medical system, I find myself not really doing too much other than that. Boredom is becoming a problem. I have begun reading several books at once to pass the time. Most of them sent to me through Kindle by Stevie and by my daughter Jessica.
Recently one evening while I was sitting at the table doing little more that staring at the wall I noticed Hayden writing away in a notebook. This was a very unusual occupation for him. He typically spends the evenings watching television, building Lego Cities, running around the house screaming for no discernible reason and, just before bedtime, completing his homework. I asked him what he was doing. He said it was a secret. When he finished he came over and showed me the notebook.
A few nights previously, I had promised him that we would write a short comic book together entitled “Hayden Without a Hat.” Each evening thereafter he asked me if I was ready to write the story with him and each night I gave some excuse or other.
The notebook contained the following (everything is as he wrote it including the punctuation, except for the quotation marks which I added). I promised him I would “publish” it. So here it is:
“Story for little boys, girls!
Hayden Without a Hat
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Hayden Without a Hat.
“Oh, no!” says Grandpa Pooky. “Oh no!!!” Grandpa Pooky says “You need a hat.”
“A hat…” says Hayden, “a hat.” “Let me think. Hmmmm, ok” Hayden says. “I do need a hat!!!!
“Hey, we can go to the hat store.”
So Hayden picked out his favorite hat. It was just like Grandpa Pooky’s hat.
Remember kids always have a hat!!! And mom’s and dad’s.”
I told him that I also sent a copy to his mom because it would make her so proud of him. He said I should not have because she would make him do it again and again until he got bored.
“The tax is being implemented by 11 countries, including most importantly Germany and France, and it’s going to be levied at two levels: 0.1% on securities trades, and 0.01% on derivatives trades…. even the UK, which is implacably opposed to the European tax and which won’t ever join such a scheme, levies a surprisingly large 0.5% tax whenever anybody — anywhere in the world — trades a UK stock. And yet, somehow, London remains the first choice for international companies looking for a place to list their shares. The European tax, which is much smaller than UK stamp duty, will similarly have little effect on how and where financial markets operate. The “if you tax me, I’ll just move elsewhere” threat is a pretty empty one, in practice, especially if you have a carefully-drafted law which makes tax avoidance difficult, and if you’re talking about established financial institutions rather than individuals…. I think that the financial transactions tax will actually be very good at raising money…. On the other hand, I doubt that speculators will find this tax particularly off-putting. Europe doesn’t suffer from the high-frequency trading that has overtaken the U.S. stock market, and these taxes are low enough that any remotely sensible financial transaction will remain sensible on a post-tax basis. It’s possible that total trading volume might decline a little bit in some markets, and that would be fine.”
JOEY’S NEW MYSTERY NOVEL:
ENTER THE DRAGON
“A good detective should be afraid…always.”
I turned the doorknob and pushed the door open slowly. I only had opened it a few inches before it was wrenched from my hand. A big guy stood there holding the door and filling all the space between the door and the door jamb. He was not too much taller than I am, but he was big, with a body poised somewhere between muscle and fat.
“What do you want?” he growled.
I stepped back. Said, “I’m looking for Mark Holland.”
Thought this might be a good time for a clever story. Could not think of one. Went with the truth. “I have been asked to find him.”
Still lacking clever responses, repeated, “I’ve been hired to find him.” Took a business card from my pocket handed it to him. He looked at it for a long time. Said, “A Detective eh. Why don’t you come in and we’ll talk.”
I said, “If it is all the same to you, I feel better standing out here in the hall.”
The door opened a little wider. Another fat guy appeared. He had a phone pressed against his ear with one hand. In his other hand he had a gun that was pointed at me. “Get in here,” fat guy number one ordered.
In that moment I noted a strange phenomena. My clothing went instantly from dry to wet. At the same time I felt like I shit my pants. Said, “I think my chances of being shot are greater in there than standing out here in the hall.”
I flashed on how stupid that sounded. The embarrassment of shitting in my pants began to leak into my consciousness. Did not get far with either thought as they were interrupted by an explosion to the side of my face. As I toppled toward the floor, my first thought was to protect my computer. The second was that I might be dead.
Thought I was shot. Actually Fat Guy One suddenly had reached out with his ham sized hand and slapped me aside my head as they say. His heavy ring raked across my jaw.
Before landing on the floor, I was grabbed and dragged into the room. I looked down the hall in the vain hope that Ann had seen what happened and would call the cops. No such chance.
I was thrown onto a bean bag chair on the floor. Thought “Who the fuck still has a bean bag chair?” Said “Who the fuck has a bean bag chair any more?” But did not get it all out as the pain had finally hit and I realized that I had bitten my tongue and was dribbling blood down my chin. Got out “Woo fla bee or?” before giving up and grabbing my jaw. I was bleeding there too from the ring. Said, “Shiss!” Added “Blon.” My tongue was swelling up.
Fat guy one threw me a dirty dish rag. Thought I would probably die of sepsis if it touched my open wound. Spit the blood from my mouth into the rag folded it, and pressed it against the side of my face anyway.
Fats Two was talking on the phone. Whispered to Fats One. Fats One said, “Who sent you?”
Replied something that sounded like, “that’s confidential.”
Fats one raised his fist.
I quickly responded, “Gul fren.”
“Fucking Mavis,” said SF fats.
“No, na yeh” I commented. I thought I was being clever. They ignored me
Fats Two whispered to Porky One again.
Porky asked,“Find anything yet?”
“Hired hour ago. This first stop.”
More talking on the phone and whispering. Fats Prime asked, “What did Mavis tell you?”
What I answered sounded a lot like, “Not much. He’s missing. She’s worried.”
More talking on the phone and whispering.
I said more or less, “We could save a lot of time if I just talked directly to whomever is on the phone.” Although it did not come out quite like that, I actually was getting used to speaking through my swollen tongue and frozen jaw.
They ignored me. Fats One said, “What’s she paying you — tattoos or blow jobs?” Thrilled with his cleverness he let out a surprisingly high pitched giggle.
I did not answer as I struggled with a clever comeback and failed mostly out of fear of retaliation.
He said more forcefully, “What do you charge?”
“Two hundred dollars a day. One week minimum. One half paid in advance.”
Some more whisperings into the phone. There seemed to be some disagreement.
Fats Prime finally turned to me and said, “We’d like to hire you to help us find him.”
I was gobsmacked. Wanted to say, “fuck you” or “What the fuck,” even. Said instead, “Can’t, conflict of interest.”
Prime Cut One turned red-faced and advanced on me. I quickly said, “on second thought I can probably figure a way around it.”
He stopped, smiled reached into his pocket and pulled out a wallet. From it he extracted 10 one hundred dollar bills and placed them in my hand not holding the towel. “You will get another thousand if you find him.”
Pocketed the money. Said,“Whose my client?”
Again with the whispering. “Me,” said First Lard Brother.
Asked, “What’s your name?”
“No name.” He scribbled on a piece of paper. Handed it to me. “My phone number. Call every evening at about five o’clock.”
“What can you tell me about Holland to help me along?”
Again the phone. The Fats One then said, “Ask Mavis. She knows more than she is telling you.”
They then both picked me up out of the bean bag and guided me toward the door.
“How do you know I won’t go to the police?”
“If you do we will have to kill you.” They both giggled in falsetto.
I knew that was bullshit but I was still scared shitless, literally and figuratively and I knew involvement of the cops was futile.
Once back in the hall, I ran to Ann’s door pounded on it and rang the awful buzzer. I do not know what I expected if she answered; to cry in her arms. No response anyway. Pictured her standing in the middle of the room staring blank eyed at the door.
Turned, grabbing the computer in one hand and the bloody rag in another, ran out of the building and back down the hill to Pino’s place.
When Pino saw me he said, “what the fuck happened?”
I ran by him and into the restaurant. Said as I passed. “Bathroom. Ice in a napkin quick.”
In the toilet I threw the rag into the waste basket. The bleeding had mostly stopped. Dropped my pants and drawers and sat. Saw that I really had shit my pants, a little not much but enough to make me groan. My hands were shaking as was the rest of me.
When I left the toilet Pino was there with the ice in a napkin. Repeated, “What the fuck happened?”
Took the napkin with the ice, pressed it to my face, said, “Later, I need a taxi right now.” Pino went into the street flagged down a cab. I got in. Gave the driver the address of my condo on Fourth Street, waved to Pino and slunk into my seat as far down as I could go.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Fun in the labyrinth or giggles in the heart of darkness (Chapter Six: Return to the Immigration office):
The next day I got up early and returned to the Immigration Office at the Government Center, hopeful but not optimistic.
When I arrived I marched up to the same woman who I started with yesterday. She seemed not to recognize me. I gave her my passports. She leafed through them, smiled and pointed me through the door on her right.
I went through that door to the counter behind which sat the same uniformed and braided man who had sent be to the uniformed man with more braid who humorlessly sent me on yesterday’s odyssey.
Today he simply looked at my passport, grunted and gave me a slip of paper on which was printed the section I was to go to and a number. He pointed to the offices that made up that section.
I took a seat outside of the offices. Seven hours later my number was called. I went into the cubicle where another uniformed man with braids on one shoulder sat. I gave him my passports. He looked through them, took a stamp out of a drawer, slammed in on a page of my new passport, wrote something and handed them back to me with a smile.
Taken aback by this sudden display of simplicity, I asked, “How much do I have to pay in fees for my new retirement visa?”
“Nothing,” he responded. “Just extended your existing visa to the original date it would have been had your US passport not expired.”
“You mean I have to do this again in five months not a year?”
“Well can I get re-entry permit so I can leave and return to Thailand without losing my retirement visa?”
He said, “you have to go to another section.” He gave me another slip of paper with a section letter and a number on it.
I went to that section. Two hours later I walked out of the building with both my retirement visa and reëntry permit, $100 poorer for the permit.
As with the completion of any journey or quest my feelings were equivocal as I thought about the last two days. It was good that I achieved what I had set out to accomplish, more or less, but I did not feel especially good about it.
Life is little more than a series of side trips along a longer journey. And like all journeys no matter how pedestrian or mundane contain the same elements, hope, disappointment, determination, surprise, boredom and just about every other human emotion that one can conger up. That is why all literature is about a journey of some sort.
14th Century: Buying Power of Money: “In the second half of the 14th century, a pound sterling would: (i) Support the lifestyle of a single peasant laborer for half a year, or that of a knight for a week. Or buy: (ii)( Three changes of clothing for a teenage page (underclothes not included) or (iii) Twelve pounds of sugar or (iv) A carthorse or (v) Two cows or (vi) An inexpensive bible or (vii) ten ordinary books or (viii) Rent a craftsman’s townhouse for a year or (ix) Hire a servant for six months…. It should be obvious from the above list that the conversion rate depends a great deal on what you buy…”
A Commonplace Book
A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:
This is more liberal socialist “bullshit” aimed at destroying capitalism and freedom. In fact these expenditure of tax dollars are “good” public expenditures because it provides jobs and protects us from becoming overrun by screaming Communist Muslim hordes. Without this, we will be forced to fire our Second Amendment guns at a real enemy instead of at each other or black people.
This is contrasted with “bad” expenditures, like fixing our roads and bridges and other public works that only provide jobs to people who would otherwise be on welfare. It is also a better use of tax revenues than social security or medicare for old people or aid for children or even schools, because they are “welfare” expenditures that only go to people unwilling to work such as illegal aliens or black people.
Besides, since they are “private” companies, they are inherently more efficient than government can ever be. $400 hammers are obviously the best products for the money.
B. Gun Myths:
Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer.
Fact-check: Owning a gun has been linked to higher risk of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by gun.
• For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
• 43% of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm.
• In one experiment, one-third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.
C. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:
I have been asked by one or two of you about the current state of my health. Other than being released from the hospital and feeling vigorous enough to attend a few movies, I really do not know. The doctors are reticent to tell me much more than to urge I take my medicine precisely as directed. So I apologize for not telling you more, but I really do not know.
A. Congressman Vito Marcantonio (R-NY).
“It has become the most convenient method by which you wrap yourselves in the American flag in order to cover up some of the greasy stains on the legislative toga. You can vote against the unemployed, you can vote against the W.P.A. workers, and you can emasculate the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; you can try to destroy the National Labor Relations Law, the Magna Carta of American labor; you can vote against the farmer; and you can do all that with a great deal of impunity, because after you have done so you do not have to explain your vote.”
B. Raymond Chandler
“A good detective never marries.”
What this chart means is that births in the US may fall below replacement population rates. Increased immigration appears all that will forestall a massive economic crisis 30 years from now. However with avoiding dealing with he climate crisis and the disaster caused by institutionalization of austerian economic policies, it probably is the least of our worries.
(Graphic unavalable at thisn time)
Python caught during a hunt for invasive species in Florida’s Everglades. It was caught not too far from Frank’s house. One good thing, however, apparently they eat the alligators… as well as just about anything else that moves…including small cars.