I had an appointment with my primary care health provider at the dot of 9 AM Wednesday morning, down at the primary care clinic at Fort Sam Houston. Some years and months ago, they moved that function from the mountainous brick pile that is the Brooke Army Medical Center, into a free-standing clinic facility on Fort Sam Houston itself. I would guess, in the manner of things, that this clinic facility will undergo some kind of mitosis in about ten years, and split into another several facilities … but in the meantime, this is where I get seen for my routine medical issues … mainly high blood pressure. So; minor, mostly – immediately after retiring, I went for years without ever laying eyes on my so-called primary care provider. A good few of them came and went without ever laying eyes or a stethoscope on me, as well. But this last-but-one moved on, just at the point where he and I recognized each other by sight and remembered each other from one yearly appointment to the next. But once yearly, I must go in and see my care provider, and get the prescriptions renewed, and Wednesday was the day …

Fort Sam Houston – what to say about that place? Historically, it was the new and shiny and built-to-purpose military establishment after the presidio of the Alamo became too cramped, run-down and overwhelmed by the urban sprawl of San Antonio in the late 1870s. I have read in several places, that if the place is ever de-accessioned and turned back to civil authority as the Presidio in San Francisco was, that the inventory of city-owned historic buildings in San Antonio would instantly double. Yes – San Antonio is and was that important. It was the US Army HQ for the Southwest from the time that Texas became a state, the main supply hub for all those forts scattered across New Mexico Territory (which was most of the Southwest, after the war with Mexico), the home of the commander and admin staff for that administrative area. Every notable Army officer from both world wars put in serious time at Fort Sam during their formative military years, and the very first aircraft bought by the Army Signal Corps did demo flights from the parade ground. (I put a description of this in the final chapter of The Quivera Trail.)

But Wednesday morning, I was interested to know if the clinic administration had changed out the pictures of the personnel in the chain of command yet. (Military custom – someplace in the foyer of many units are a set of pictures; President, SecDef, and so on, down to the unit commander and the First Shirt. Part of the materiel which has to be learned in basic training are the names of the various authorities on it. The pictures are for the edification of those of lowly rank who often go for years without ever seeing the higher-ups of their chain of command in person. I went for a year once, without ever seeing my squadron commander, although I think I might have spoken to him on the phone once.) Anyhow, there was a link going around among some of the mil- and veteran blogs to the effect that a number of units had not yet received their official photographs of President Trump and General Mattis – and had filled in with print-outs of some of the more viral meme-portraits of them: President Trump standing on a tank, rolling through a battlefield, and Saint Mattis of Quantico, patron saint of Chaos with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch in one hand. I was looking forward in any case to seeing the new pictures, and yes, they did have the new one of President Trump on the wall, but only a sign with the name on it where General Mattis’ picture should be. Ah well – the Army is notoriously humorless and Fort Sam/BAMC is the showplace of Army medicine, but as I walked past the display, I started thinking about how bizarre it all was. I think I first read about Donald Trump in the Village Voice, in the mid-1980s, or perhaps in some other publications in the late 1980s when he and Marla Maples were huuuge tabloid and gossip-column fodder: an almost richer-than-god and bigger than-life real estate developer, flamboyant, combative, crude, even – a hound for publicity even more than for pussy.

And now he is the commander in chief. It’s been like seeing Paris Hilton, or (god save us) one of the Kardashians with a heretofore unheard of skill set, suddenly developing political ambitions, going for it … and getting there. Who on earth would have foreseen that, twenty-five years ago? It’s weirder than anything made up by an author of political novels.
Discuss.

We spent the weekend after Thanksgiving in Johnson City, Texas, where they established the tradition of firing up for the Christmas holidays by covering the Blanco County courthouse with god-knows-how-many hundreds-of-thousands of lights, hanging in strands from the roof edge to the ground and noting the start of the holiday season in the Hill Country with a bang … a round of fireworks at about 7 PM Friday, as soon as it was well-dark. The firework show was lavish – and the three rows of vendor pavilions and the spectators in courthouse square were so close to it that little bits of spent ash from the fireworks sifted down on us. I hadn’t seen anything so splendid, or been so close – practically underneath it all – since a Fourth of July celebration at the Rio Cibolo Ranch in 2009.

The Blanco Courhouse - all lit up.

The Blanco Courhouse – all lit up.

The trunks of the pecan and oak trees star-scattered on the lawn around the courthouse were strung with lights, and the facades of many establishments around the courthouse square were also lavishly lit up. This whole ‘lighting for Christmas’ kicked off similar displays in other small communities and towns, but Johnson City is still the lead event. The crowds on Friday and Saturday evenings were substantial and in the proper mood for buying. My daughter and I made our expenses Friday evening, so sales on Saturday and Sunday were gravy. Our expenses were more than just the quite reasonable table/booth fee, since Johnson City is slightly more than an hour drive from home. We considered the drive to and from for three days running; two such trips at ten o’clock at night on a relatively unlighted country highway, with drunk drivers, speeding trucks, suicidal deer … and said, ‘oh, hell no.’

The nearest available affordable lodgings turned out to be at the Miller Creek RV Resort, which has three little cabins with a bathroom and functional kitchenette for rent. We booked one for two nights; the cabin porch presented a lovely view of the creek, which we were never to relish, as we were there only to sleep – long and deeply, following ten or twelve hours of active selling. The Miller’s Creek RV Park is a lovely little place, by the way; immaculately groomed and landscaped. It’s not one of those luxury destination RV resorts by any means, but a modest comfortable place, beautifully arranged – they even have a minuscule dog park, in addition to the usual facilities.

I think that the most reassuring part of our experience this last weekend wasn’t entirely due to the satisfactory sales – it was the experience itself. The people in this smallish Hill Country town came together to put on their yearly extravaganza. Volunteers from various local organizations giving it their all; families with children and polite teenagers, lined up in front of the cotton-candy vendor, right next to us. That vendor had the brilliant inspiration to sell his cotton-candy spun around a lighted plastic wand, which made the wad of candy look like clouds with a varicolored lightening-storm going on behind it. (Purchase the wand – get unlimited refills of cotton-candy!)

A look down the Market area.

A look down the Market area.

Any number of those polite teenagers came and bought origami earrings from my daughter, or inveigled their parents to buy them – indeed, there was one particularly engaging teenager who admired the earrings so much that my daughter sighed and gave her the particular pair that she favored, asking only that when Engaging Teenager had the money, to come back and pay for them. The very next night, Engaging Teenager returned with four crumpled dollar bills and four quarters. She confessed to wanting to be a writer and talked at length about what she liked in the way of books, how she kept being distracted by new ideas when writing, and how she was bound and determined to finish a story of hers for her grandmother’s Christmas present – because Gran had asked for just that thing. Engaging Teenager has the very same problem that I did, way back in the early days of my scribbling career; to whit – never being able to finish anything. We talked for a bit about that; reassuring and encouraging Engaging Teenager as an aspiring writer, though I suppose that we will never know if we did her any good. I did give her a copy of Lone Star Sons (autographed with a personal message, of course!), assuring Engaging Teenager that my one YA book venture might be a help in demonstrating the art of short adventure-writing. Such a nice kid – we hope that later teenagery won’t spoil her charm and spirit.

There was the procession of lighted automobiles, trucks, and tractors, some of them towing floats for the lighted parade on Saturday, the marching band and the senior citizen synchronized marching team with their lighted lawn-chairs … it was all very reassuring to me. Small-town America is still here, still confident, still ably conducting their own affairs, neighbor to neighbor – even when the neighbor is only a member of the peripatetic small-business gypsy-market. (I took pictures, using the ‘night’ function on the camera. Alas – none of those pictures came out very well at all.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

Speaking of gypsy marketing; I bought my Christmas present indulgence for myself; a pair of vintage earrings from one of the other vendors. His family business specialized in vintage and estate jewelry, mostly silver and a large part reclaimed from a smelter in San Antonio. You know – those businesses who buy old silver and gold jewelry; it goes to be melted down. This enterprise has an agreement with the local smelter to let them come in, look over the takings and purchase at cost those items with artistic merit. But my Christmas present for myself wasn’t one of those so rescued; they were from an estate sale. Described as silver – I thought they had a gold wash – and reddish-brown jasper stones; this was a pair of acorn-shaped earrings. I liked them very much, especially as they go with the brown tweed Edwardian walking suit outfit. So – my present for myself.
Oh, and I wore a different vintage outfit every one of the three days. They worked very well for merchandising purposes – and yes, I will do this again. Many times.

Texas Sized Rain GaugeThis being the first of the month, my daughter and I did our monthly major shopping today – beginning somewhat earlier in the day than we normally do. We had a heck of a thunderstorm blow in at about three yesterday afternoon; rain so heavy that it was blowing sideways and wind-gusts that were twirling the tree branches every which way. Our neighbor as a particularly large oak tree in her back yard, with two very long, heavy branches that reach over the roof of the back of her house. My daughter was so worried, watching the tree limbs bend, that she called the neighbor to advise her to stay out of the two back bedrooms until the storm finished blowing through. This morning, there were small branches down all over the neighborhood, and a family on the other side of Spring Creek Forest lost a fairly good-sized tree. It split in half, at the height of the storm, but apparently in a rather gradual manner. One half slumped onto the next-door neighbor’s garage roof without causing any damage to the roof that anyone could see, and the other half onto the driveway. This morning, the tree was well on the way to being sliced, diced and stacked. It looked like the main trunk was diseased and rotted out. We’re afraid that residents may lose more trees, as the ground is so saturated that a stiff wind could topple them over from the roots.

It may storm again this afternoon, so we wanted to be home well before it does. Hence – the early start; to Granzins’ for meats, to Tractor Supply for dog and chicken food, to Costco for laundry soap, cheese, and certain other sundries, Sam’s Club for certain others, and finally the big HEB over at Blanco Road for all the rest. Yes, we have worked out where to get the best for the least. We start out with a big ice chest in the back of the Montero, and stack up the bags of pet food evenly. Tomorrow I’ll get out the vacuum seal bags and process everything for the freezer out in the garage.

We had a very nice sales month for books in May; the Second Chronicle of Luna City did very well, and a fair number of readers also bought the first Chronicle as well. And there are some nice new reviews up on Amazon for both, and a reader in England who discovered both by accident left a very nice comment on the website page for the Chronicles – so yay! However, there has been a curious occurrence, in that there is another writer named Celia Hayes, who has written a single ebook comic romance … the reader in England who loved the Chronicles also loved the other Celia’s book, and found them in searching by name. I am not sure what, if anything, I ought to do about this. I understand that the writer Elizabeth Taylor had somewhat of the same problem, in that her name was also being used by another woman … who was rather more notorious than a simple scribbler of literary fiction.

As far as other book matters go, I have maybe three more chapters to go in winding up The Golden Road – which adventure has been a long time in development, what with being distracted by other writing projects, and then by the requirement to broaden my research field a little more, to encompass California in 1856-58. There were a lot of later important and/or interesting people there at that very time, including William Tecumseh Sherman, Edwin Booth and Lola Montez. Because the Luna City Chronicles are proving to be so popular, and let’s face it – my daughter and I are having a giddy and humorous time in writing them – I’ll have ago at doing the Third Chronicle over the summer, side by side with another set of Lone Star Sons stories. We’ll see how it works out.

Schedule-wise, we seem to have a book event every month for the next few; the Wimberley Book Festival on the 11th of this month, then the San Antonio Indy Book Festival in July – and this very day we received our invitation to the Giddings Word Wrangler bash in September! That community book bash is an absolute blast to participate in. No, we didn’t really sell all that much last time – but the community involvement made it all terrifically special; a gala the evening before, classes of school children being bussed to the library to meet the authors, and a wonderful luncheon the following day, as well as a ton of regional authors to meet and socialize with! Oh, yes! We’ll be there with bells on. (And me in my period costume, but that’s another story, entirely.)

With so many other bad and dangerous things hanging over us like a Damocles sword – an Ebola epidemic in the US, ISIS setting up a new and brutal caliphate in the middle east, the final two lame duck years of the Obama administration, and the anointing of a minimally-talented yet well-connected legacy child like Lena Dunham as the media voice of a generation – and the upcoming marathon of holiday markets and book events in front of me like so many hurdles to be gotten over in a frantic two-month-long dash – where was I?

Crazy Texas BootsOh, yes – amidst all the impending gloom, doom, and Bakersfield (that’s a California joke, son) my daughter and I are coping with the rather minor tragedy of a friend of ours loosing her job. Minor to us, of course – but not to our friend, a vivaciously charming English lady of certain years whom I shall call Kay, whom we met when she managed a thrift shop to benefit a certain well-established local charity, in a preposterously wealthy outlaying town within driving distance from San Antonio. When we first met her, the thrift shop was on the main drag in the historic part of town, and benefited from an enormous amount of walk-in traffic because it was on the main drag – although in a cramped three rooms and a teeny bathroom which doubled as an overflow storage room. But Kay was a pro when it came to management, coordinating unpaid volunteer workers, in attracting wonderful donations, and she used social media like a champ … I swear, many of the most enticing donations which came into the shop were pre-sold almost at once. Yes, a charity thrift-shop, of which there are are already a few in the town of which we speak, but this particular one stood head and shoulders above the competition. The goods on display were often of an amazingly-superior quality and the pricing was reasonable. It’s a truism familiar to those of us relatively-poor people with high-end tastes; the very best pickings are to be had in charity thrift-shops in upscale locations. When my parents went to re-fit their own retirement house—burnt to the ground in the 2003 Paradise Mountain Fire—my mother often preferred shopping in such thrift stores. They could pick out things roughly similar to what they had lost; of superior quality and lightly used, at a reasonable price. Such things fitted their lifestyle and pocketbook; where is it written that those on a budget must settle for cheap cr*p, anyway?

So we loved the little shop which Kay ran, and brought home many fine things for a mere pittance – items like my vintage Ariat cowgirl boots, and a set of unused quality bedding – matching bed-skirt, quilted coverlet, pillow shams and boudoir pillows that originally retailed for nearly $1,000 all told. Alas, after five years of operation, the shop had to close around mid-summer. The historic building which housed it was being renovated – and the three rooms which housed the shop were no longer available to the charitable organization, nor was any equivalent premise available at a price which said organization was willing to pay. Still, we rejoiced with Kay was hired to run another charity shop in the same town, benefiting yet another and somewhat similar charity. Superficially, all was as it had ever been and at first seemed like even better; the shop was now in a larger space, a quaint Victorian cottage where there was now more room to suitably display the wide range of items which Kay attracted from the same kind of donors. Alas, there were two flies in the new pot of ointment; the cottage was a little off the beaten track when it came to walk-in traffic – and never underestimate how miserably hot it can be in a Texas summer, even in the Hill Country. But Kay’s regulars and volunteers loyally followed her to the new place, and when the monthly open market was held – there was a good turn-out. With the coming winter, and a number of special events in the town where the shop is located, there was a hope of business returning to something like the same level as in the old location.

The other fly was the peskier one; Kay now answered to a manager – an absentee manager in another state, who had very definite ideas on what the shop should accept and market – ideas which turned out to be a radical change. The take-in from the shop was unacceptable, said the absentee manager. It was simply not enough. So, henceforward, the absentee manager dictated, the shop would only carry collectables, high-quality jewelry (costume and otherwise) and original art. Everything else – shoes and clothing, household items, knickknacks and sports equipment had to go, immediately. Items should be labeled with a little price tag on a string, and be priced competitively – and none of this accepting just any old donation. Only quality stuff in a few limited categories, even if it had to be obtained from estate sales and auctions … no word on how this kind of activity would be funded, or who would be doing it, or researching the market-value of the select inventory. And the town of which I speak is thick with antique shops, collectable shops, and art galleries, most of which seem to be run by either entrepreneurs and paid professionals. At this juncture, Kay handed in her two-week notice. They let her go after a single week – and now, apparently, the shop will be run entirely by volunteers.

So, without knowing any of the economics – how much was the lease on the shop, how much it actually cost to run vis-à-vis the intake, and how much Kay’s personal connections with the donating and volunteering community contributed to the shop – I can only look at it from the outside, and what it all looks like to me as a consumer. Essentially, this one shop dominated the retail niche it occupied. It was open every day but Mondays – which put it ahead of the other shops, and Kay’s on-line marketing through social media made out-of-town shoppers well-aware of what was available. The goods were attractively and tastefully arranged by a professional. Oh, sure, some of them were the usual sort of junk which gravitates to Goodwill and the Salvation Army, but taken overall – it was a far superior shopping experience, in quality and aesthetics. And now, under the dictates of the absentee manager, it will be just another boutique in a town full of them. My daughter and I agreed – we likely won’t be able to afford anything in it, and it will only last about six months before the charitable concern running it pulls the plug.

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees! – R. Kipling

I started my first stretch in the military as Jimmy Carter was elected and sworn into office. I did not think anything of him, particularly – either pro or con, although being a bit of a snob, I did think it was distinctly juvenile of him to be known as Jimmy, rather than James. Boys are called by the diminutive; men ought to go by their proper names. The one big issue that I did hold against him for most of my first hitch in the military was when he declined a military spending bill which would have provided for the rebuilding of the Misawa AB high school, which at the time of my assignment there was housed in three pre-WWII buildings which had once been Imperial Japanese Army stables. On hot days, those buildings still smelt faintly of horse, and the students had to use the base gym for their PE classes. I recollect that there was grumbling resentment among the senior NCO cohort (and likely among the officers , too) whose teenaged dependents attended the school, to the effect that that Amy Carter did not attend classes in 70+ old shacks that smelled of ancient horse-shit. The Iran hostage situation and his limp-wristed response to it didn’t develop until later. And Carter – that bundle of mind-numbing sanctimony and anti-Semitism – was gone by the time I was done with that first tour, having pretty much disappointed everyone who assumed that having been a wartime Naval Academy graduate and serving USN officer would have been good for something when it came to being a commander in chief.

There was Ronald Reagan. Whom, I must confess, I did not at the time totally appreciate. The massacre of Marines in Lebanon weighed on us all, and the whole Hollywood-B-movie actor thing was a bit of am embarrassment. Not as much as the election of a dilettante Chicago community organizer would be, but then I am getting ahead of myself. So– save for that one incident – RR pretty much left the military community unscathed, if I recall correctly. He made all the right gestures and speeches, and a fair number of what we only later came to recognize as smart moves. He appreciated the military, in a rather understated way. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 – that unforeseen miracle was in a large part his doing. The cold war menace seemed to dissolve, like mist in the morning, and everyone in the military heaved a sigh of relief. I’d guess there were at least two generations, maybe three, who had expected to see the Russian Army come through the Fulda Gap, and had standing arrangements to see their dependents evacuated from Western Europe in that event. I was one of them.

And so we came to Bush One; a comrade that I served with in Korea had come straight off the White House/Presidential protection element. He adored the senor Bushes, especially Barbara, and to hear him tell it, the senior Mrs. Bush was a fond grandmotherly figure to the agents. She even called him “Timmy” – rather rich, considering that he was one of those six-foot tall built-like-a-concrete-traffic-bollard guys. It turned out that peace did not descend at once, although bases in Western Europe closed right and left. Bush One – he struck us generally as a decent old stick, a for-real combat veteran. I guess that we could say that he did well by the military, as my friend Timmy could attest.

So – on to the Clintons; Timmy good a good look at the whole clan early on, thought they were trashy, and applied for a reassignment. There were stories in print and through the grapevine that Hilary was snotty beyond belief towards the uniformed military. The original Sgt. Stryker – who worked as maintenance crew on the presidential flights during the Clinton administration – allowed on one occasion long afterwards that the only two people associated with it who appeared capable of gracious courtesy towards the Air Force-2 staff were Tipper Gore and Louis Freeh. I myself never had the privilege or pleasure of coming anywhere near Washington DC, or the Pentagon during my time in active service. I had retired the year that the Lewinsky scandal broke, but I was still in touch with friends who still were on active duty. Most of those friends –mid-to-senior NCO ranks, and a handful commissioned officers – were all disgusted; more than disgusted – embarrassed and simmeringly angry. I recollect reading a story in the Air Force Times regarding a number of senior officers being reprimanded for commenting on Bill Clinton’s sexual morals – or lack of same – at a dining-in. A person of senior rank having a sexual relationship with a very-much-younger subordinate would and has gotten a good few military members disciplined or sacked. Seeing the commander in chief get away with it … well, nothing more calculated to drive home the lesson that there is one set of standards for the ruling class, another for the ruled. And in this present time, the military of whatever rank are the ruled.

(to be continued with Bush 2 and the current C-in-C. Also – crossposted at chicagoboyz.net)

It actually hasn’t been exactly half a year since I bought out the founder of the company, contract signed and witnessed and the major down-payment made, but it has been about six months since she – her favorite niece and executor rather forcefully backing her up – suggested that the time had definitely arrived for me to step up and formally and officially buy her out, website, client files, and all. Alice had always intended that I would take over, eventually. We were both cranky and independent spirits, and tired of working for other people or enterprises. Since I had been carrying just about everything to do with the firm for more than a year at that point, I didn’t have any argument. A nice chunk of the savings that I had from sale of the California property went to buy the Bidness – which we are pretty certain will be earned back – I have three projects working at present, two of them with repeat projects … plus a number of other repeat clients who may come up with re-orders at random intervals. The Bidness is a going concern, with nice local word-of-mouth among authors who would prefer to go independent, and a some profitable repeat clients.

Alice, who founded the company some three decades since, had spent some weeks in the hospital last year, eventually being diagnosed with cancer in the upper lobe of one lung, and being successfully operated on for it … but alas, it seemed that it had begun to spread, insidiously. She tried out chemo, lasted two rounds and then essentially said, “Sc**w that and the horse it rode in on.” They had given her six months with chemo, which made her miserable and even sicker… but even with giving up chemo and feeling temporarily much better, she was not up to much. Her insurance plan paid for home hospice care (not for nothing had she worked in the days when she worked for other people, at an insurance company!) and the regular nurses came every couple of days since she bagged chemo. We accepted this – so did her family. Blondie went to her house two and three days a week, to keep house, run errands and drive Alice to required appointments. Alice herself plodded on, much as she had always done, plagued by fits of exhaustion, forgetfulness, and inability to navigate anywhere without a walker. She told Blondie several times that she wouldn’t in the least mind if Blondie appeared one mid-day, walked into the house and found her dead in her chair with a book in her lap. What better way to go? She hated hospitals – another thing we had in common.

Any kind of work at editing gradually became hopeless, and what was the worst part – she knew and was exasperated at how her steel-trap mind was painfully rusting shut. She was, in her seventies, an early adopter of computers and the internet, but that went by the wayside. Over the years when we were in partnership, I would get up in the morning and find a half a dozen emails or forwarded, from her in my yahoo.com account – but not in the last few months, when she spent most of her waking hours in an easy chair in the living room, reading. She was one of the very few people I know in real life who possessed more books than I do – with the added fillip of having edited and published a good few of them, or at least had been acquaintances of the author. In mid-May she urged me to take any of the reference books that I wanted and would need – I came away with two bags full of books. I think that was the last time that I saw her, still fairly fit and able to go into her home office.

The final spiral came two weeks ago, and in one terrible rush. I went to see her again, when she was not able to get out of the hospital bed they had brought in; her one old-friend client, whom she had held back upon sale of the company, had a book that she was working on, in fits and starts. She handed the project on to me, I searched out the files and went home with a couple of letters from her friend. I’ve basically had to start the project paperwork all over, Excel worksheet, contract and all. A week ago, Memorial Day weekend, her sister called to say – not going well. We hurried over, dodging rain all the way, which only seemed suitable. She was not conscious – I don’t think ever became really conscious again. She passed away about mid-day last Saturday.

So, that’s what I have been up to, for the last couple of weeks. Real life, and all that.

I guess that the over-under bets are already being taken that Hillary Clinton, AKA Her Inevitableness, the former Secretary of State, Mrs. Bill, or Wonder-Cankles will sweep in and scoop the Dem party nomination in 2016. Meh – and I’ve always been ‘meh’ about the former First Lady; even more ‘meh’ since she didn’t kick her conniving horn-dog of a hubby to the curb upon exiting the White House … or even before. I am sorry – but in my judgement, a woman of worth does not tamely swallow the humiliation of hubby being a serial sexual adventurer several times over, capped by several rounds of widely publicized Dirty Games With Interns. No. Just … ick. I prefer to respect women who will not put up with humiliation, although I will not go as far as lauding Lorena Bobbit’s method for responding to serial marital humiliation. I would respect Her Inevitableness rather more if she had at least deposited him adjacent to said curb and gone out and done something on her own. But that’s not the way it goes in this nepotistic new America. The American version of Evita is all the rage in the corridors of power, and the spouses and spawn of the wealthy, well-placed and political are well-positioned to scoop up gold rings galore. Tell me again how Americans rejected patents of nobility, back in the day. Obviously that is one of those racist things, an invention of old white men who didn’t have the advantage of 21st century intellectual sensitivities.

It has been long-established that being the son or cousin of a former president or senator is a gateway drug to nomination for presidential office; now it appears that being the spouse of one is no bar, either – even if the resume is a bit thin on the accomplishment side of the ledger. That doesn’t seem to have hampered the career of the current presidential incumbent … but moving on. Benghazi; going on two years this fall and still considerable of a mystery, how a US ambassador and three others got themselves killed by a violent mob and what they were even doing there in the first place. The explanations offered by the Obama administration at the time and ever since have been unconvincing, to say the least, and as the Secretary of State at the time, Her Inevitableness must bear at least some responsibility, and afford us all a more convincing explanation for what went on in Benghazi, and a rationale for delaying any kind of rescue until too late.

As a veteran myself of several tours overseas, I can just about guarantee that any American serving overseas as a member of the military or the State Department now is looking around and wondering now exactly what their lives are worth to this administration. It used to be that you could be certain that if you were asked to risk it, than the mission must have been considered worthwhile. Now, it’s a certainty that being caught up an event that might be embarrassing or inconvenient for the administration to respond to … well, then, suck it up, hard-charger. They will write off your life and the lives of your comrades without another moment’s thought, if doing anything substantial will have the effect of being misinterpreted, or potentially disastrous. Loyalty is a one-way street to our would-be aristocracy; ours is owed to them, they owe less than nothing to us peons, and this has been demonstrated often enough in the last six years to make it pretty plain.

Finally, over and above everything else, the thing that I do resent most about Her Inevitableness is the casual assumption that just because I am a woman of certain age that of course I will support her, just because … woman! Which is infuriating in the extreme, especially when it comes from the same people who joyously took part in trashing Sarah Palin.

Ah, yes – The News and The Truth, although in the bitter Soviet-era saying; there was no news in one, and no truth in the other. Our own very dear mainstream news establishments have not quite descended to that naked degree of lack of news and truth, but bless their hearts, they are trying, and at the current rate of progress, may achieve the ultimate goal of being a slavish organ of the state sometime around the end of this year, or possibly in time for the next presidential election. That Piers Morgan was bounced from whichever one of the alphabet networks that was misguided enough to assume that just because he had a British accent that he was intelligent and perceptive is cause enough to hope that a sense of reality might be in the cards – but that Great Britain won’t take his supercilious Limey ass back again doesn’t give cause for hope. (Note to the egregious Mr. Morgan – yes, in Texas we like big guns and we cannot lie… and we can even use them, in defense of our home and hearth.)

Now and again there are heartwarming stories of little old ladies who – upon being threatened by some scum-bag low-life attempting forcible entry into their humble abode – have given fair warning, and drilled the miscreant through the front door, dropping him on the doormat, dead as a doornail. This does not excite any more comment among law officials than subdued congratulations for having taken out the trash – unlike England, that blessed green jewel, set in a silver sea, where lately this kind of citizen resistance to criminal depredation draws frowns and prison sentences upon the good citizen. The larcenous scumbags are apparently a protected species, to be coddled and cherished; and anyone objecting forcefully to being depredated upon by them is landed upon with the full force of the law and the shrill disapproval of the intellectual and the ruling classes. Let it be here noted that I am so very glad that three of my four grandparents decamped from the Isle of the Blessed early in the 20th century, and that the Air Force fortuitously deposited me in Texas, which seems at the beginning of the 21st century to be emerging as the last, best hope for a middle class-based, free market economy and constitutional democracy … which is kind of ironic, considering the degree of free-wheeling political corruption in certain Texas counties back in the day. But I digress…

Back to truth and news, then; from a couple of different sources, the appearance of Ms. Valerie Jarrett, the President’s closest and most trusted advisor – his office wife, as it were – on a certain television program oriented towards women, not just urging the audience to sign up for Obama-care, but asking the producers of TV shows to include an Obama-care friendly plot-line … Damn. Well, at least they are being out in the open about it. Time was, when the Hollywood Reds had the decency to be subtle, and not advertise their allegiance to the Party line … although when called upon it, they did kick and scream mightily.

So, here we are – the current administration is nakedly, openly calling upon the purveyors of the entertainment to flack for Obamacare via popular entertainment. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this will work out; everything from a throw-away line of dialog to a whole Very Special Episode dedicated to a government initiative that is shaping up to be an even bigger and more unpopular disaster than Prohibition. Because this is how it is going to work out at my house – given that we’ve bagged cable and now to to Hulu, Amazon Prime and Acorn for our television watching – we’ll immediately drop any consideration of watching any scripted programs that comply with the desires of the current administration in this regard. Last week, it seems that Rachael Ray went all sobby and ostentatiously grateful for Obamacare, which moved me quietly to not only never, ever buy any of her cookbooks, pet food or kitchen implements again, but also to skip any of her recipes available through internet searches. There will be a cost paid, for any highly-visible flacking with regard to Obamacare – a cost which will, I hope, become painful very, very soon.

All during late November and December of last year, I began seeing internet discussions of the looming disaster that is Obamacare – and yes, I will hang that name on the so-called Affordable Care Act, also known as the un-Affordable Care Act. The man behind the desk in the Oval Office pursued this as his singular achievement; his legislative allies rammed it through over protest, and his media allies have viciously abused those who advised caution. So it is only fitting and fair that his name get attached to it at every opportunity, especially if it brings down his whole political machine in a spectacular fashion, rather like a slow-motion Hindenberg collapsing.

Just before the disastrous roll-out of the Obamacare sign-up websites, I began note, among all the chaff, some sober speculations here and there; commenters speculating that once people began having to write substantial checks for healthcare insurance, out of their own pocket – that’s when the beautiful theory of quality healthcare insurance for all would run into the jagged rocks of reality. Exactly those people who had bought into it as a lovely idea, because it was fair and all – they would be disillusioned in large numbers.

Which is what we see coming to pass; first in blog discussion threads, then the major media organizations begin dipping a cautious toe into reporting the actual impact of Obamacare on real people, I discussed it privately with certain friends who share somewhat of the same beliefs, and just this week, I overheard a vociferous discussion in a public place, among people who were strangers to me. My daughter and I were in a retail store, a defiantly old-fashioned five and dime – and up at the front, the three cashiers were discussing their insurance options under Obamacare. They were all three at a guess, about ten or fifteen years older than me, and the town where this establishment is located is a pretty well-to-do place. No, the three ladies were baffled, upset and venting freely – being of the age when chronic health problems begin to bite.

Increasingly, the internet ‘chatter’ is speculation that the disastrous roll-out of the Obamacare website, the paltry numbers who have actually been able to sign up for health care insurance through it, and the wide-spread unhappiness with it as evidenced by the overheard discussion, all have another purpose. Yes, the Obama administration had a cunning plan all along – and all this was intended to pave the way to so-called ‘single-payer’ once those pesky private health insurance providers are sidelined. Never mind that this has and will continue to cause disruption of every sort; from employers cutting back on hiring and the number of employee hours worked, to people with serious health issues who will be affected, and those who had health insurance but don’t any more. People will suffer and some – very likely some will die because of it – but apparently the ends justify the means, if the end is a noble goal such as a national health service like Canada, or England.

Which is apparently what all the civilized nations have, as a commenter on Open Salon had it, some months ago; one nationalized health care service coming up, for which everyone pays in taxes – or at least, those of us who do pay taxes pay for it – and everyone receives what they need in health care services. Just like … the Veterans Administration medical care, or military medical care, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs medical care, only spread nation wide and to all citizens. Yum, yum; the appetizing prospect of having your doctor not work for you, with your best interests and health at heart as a primary goal because if you are unhappy with the result, you will go elsewhere seeking a better result. Instead your medical care provider is working for an impenetrable, unanswerable bureaucracy, a bureaucracy which – no matter what it’s failing might be in your particular instance, is somehow never found at fault in a meaningful way, especially of you or one of your loved ones suffers or dies from that bureaucratic failing. And the worst insult of all is knowing that those elected officials who are preparing this particular s**t sandwich for us, have and will exempt themselves from ever having to take a bite of it.
Interesting times. Discuss.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

Santa Onna Longhorn #1
That’s pretty much what it turned out to be over Friday evening in South Texas. When my daughter returned from briskly walking the dogs before dawn Saturday morning, she told me that the grass crackled underfoot. We set out for Goliad just after sunrise, expecting to spend a chilly day selling books in the open-air. Well, the pavilions set up around the edge of Courthouse Square in Goliad were all essentially in the open-air too. We took along our heaviest coats, extra blankets, bundled Nemo in a doggy overcoat, and I made a vain search for my gloves.
Courthouse Square
To our good fortune and relief, Estelle Zermeno, who has set up Miss Ruby’s Author Corral ever since I’ve been coming to Goliad for the Christmas event, had located an last-minute indoor venue for us – the premises of a closed restaurant, right on the square; a restored historic building with a bathroom, parking around in back and heat. Alas, that was about the last good bit of news about the day. Two scheduled authors had called off appearing, due to the cold and potentially dangerous drive, so it was down to four authors and a handful of friends.
Random Streetcorner
We had shelter at least, but the other vendors were out in the miserable cold – and to add to the misery, there were very few people come out to shop or cheer for Santa. On the good side of that, I got a very good picture of Santa-onna-longhorn, and his military escort, but there seemed to be only about two dozen children and their parents, where ordinarily there would have been hundreds. No posse of cowboys escorting Santa, hardly anyone with a Christmas-dressed dog for the afternoon dog costume contest. I believe I only had four or five potential customers come and look at my books all day.
Garlanded Cow and Urns
We packed it up by 1:30, when a light drizzle began falling, and it was so cold that we were afraid it would turn to ice, somewhere along the road back to San Antonio. I am certain that if we had been outside as well, we wouldn’t have stood it for even that long. There were just no customers at all; this marks the very first time that I came away from an event like this without having made a single sale – and I don’t think I was the only one, not by a long shot.

This was something we actually managed to do for a whole 24 hours straight, more or less, although I swear – next time that we do it, the two small doggies are going straight the Rob Cary Pet Resort for the duration. I had an invitation to do another book club meeting in Fredericksburg – this one extended by Karen V. whose old Houston book club had read the Trilogy and come to Fredericksburg for the fun, the gemutlichkeit, and the wiener schnitzel. Karen had us and all of her visiting friends parceled out among hers and other guest-houses, and a nice conference room at the school district offices for the meeting itself – and a nice sized audience, as well. Blondie and I lugged in two heavy tubs of books, and the little Paypal credit-card processing gadget which attaches to her cellphone, so that we could take payments in all forms …

And then I answered questions for nearly and hour and forty minutes – the books and how I came to write them, if I had found out anything about certain specific people and organizations, why the Adelsverein fell flat on their collective princely faces … all that and more. Which is strangely exhausting to do, standing in front of an audience and keeping engaged; I had to pull up a chair and sit down for the last twenty minutes or so … since I have finally managed to put on the jazzy vintage and unworn Ariat boots that I bought at my daughter’s very favorite charity gift shop a couple of months ago. (I had to have her help in pulling them off, at the end of the evening, though.) Afterwards – sell a few books with Blondie’s neat little gadget which lets us run credit and debit cards attached to her cellphone. She processed the sales, I signed the books and talked some more … and then it was off to Friedhelm’s Bavarian Inn Restaurant which seems to specialize in wiener-schnitzel in a great many forms and additions, include one which Blondie ordered – a cheese schnitzel, thinking that it would be breaded and fried cheese, but was actually the usual pork cutlet, pounded, breaded and fried – but with a generous topping of melted cheese.

Altogether a lovely, sparking evening with Karen and her friends – all ladies of a certain age, some of them her former co-workers in the school district in Houston, some of whom had traveled far, but none being military veterans. I enjoyed it so much – really, I ought to get out more. But we called it a night and headed back to her house and the little guest-house about nine o’clock. Time was when we first began coming to Fredericksburg, the entire town rolled up the sidewalks at 5 PM sharp, save for a handful of restaurants. Now there are a good few more restaurants open, Main Street is lively and lit, with people still walking up and down – but all the strictly retail establishments still fold up relatively early in the evening. There was a movie theater, Karen told us – she being used to a livelier evening scene in Houston – but the local scandal is that the owner or manager skipped with his inamorata and all the takings, so the theater is closed and under renovation to be a kind of local small-scale Alamo Drafthouse, with dinner, drinks and a movie all at once … which has the virtue of efficiency, always one of those Germanic things. We all gathered in the morning at Karen’s for a Sunday morning breakfast and another one of those sparkling good times. Yes, I really ought to get out more. And to get her recipe for cinnamon bread strata with bourbon sauce …

Back home, to a houseful of rather worried but relieved animals, and a dinner of sliced brisket from the Riverside Meat Market in Boerne. We have another weekend to work on stuff – and then we will be tied up for two days running at the Boerne Market Days, where Blondie will launch her Paper Blossom Productions origami art, and I will have a table of my books … and, curiously enough, a bag of doll costumes left over from doing a Christmas Bazaar at the Zaragoza O’club a good few years ago. I guess I can say that the doll costumes are even more vintage as my boots. And that was my weekend …

1. Unhappy cat who gets bullied by other cats and looses bladder control when frightened by other cats is frightened by another cat while I am out running … and pisses on bedding. While out walking the dog – having put unhappy cat in locked bathroom, another cat pisses on bedding in another place.

2. Car does not start. Have to borrow Blondie’s Montero to pick up prescription at Fort Sam Primary Care Clinic.

3. Get speeding ticket from SAPD for doing 54 in 45 MPH stretch of road in the Montero. Didn’t notice that I was going faster than anyone else. Suspect this stretch of road is now a speed trap.

Any questions?

Well, that’s it – the escrow on the hillside acreage near Julian, California, that I bought and about 1986 with an eye towards eventually building the retirement house on – the escrow on the sale of it closes today, and I should have a large part of the payment hitting my bank account very soon. I’ve just about broken even on it – which considering a number of factors – is passing miraculous. There was no electrical power on it, and the purchaser will have to have a well dug, the real estate market in California continues sort of rocky, the pine bark beetle in the 1990s killed the pine trees on it, and the fire that raged through in 2003 burnt the oaks to a charcoal crisp … I talked to a friend of Mom and Dad’s who went up to the place shortly afterwards and said that it looked not just like Hell, but the seventh circle under the Pit. There were deep holes all over, where the oak roots had burned out and the whole hillside looked as if it had been basically scalped.

But the fire did clear away a lot of undergrowth, and the buyer and the realtor say it looks rather pleasant now; the brush and young oak trees are coming back, and the view is astonishing – you can see all the way to Oceanside, practically. That’s the bit that I do regret now … the view. But I’d never be able to afford to build anything on it bigger than a garden shed. The buyer is really keen, serious and can afford it – and besides, it was the first solid offer to come along in the three years since I put it on the market. Save for the family, that’s the last tie holding me to California. If I read the news right, getting out and breaking even is a damn fortunate thing, considering.

And I’ve only visited the place once. Better to sink funds from the sale into an acre or so of the Hill Country. And into fixing some of the things on this present house … which to be honest, I sorely need to do; replacing the craptacular contractor-grade HVAC system for one and the equally craptacular contractor-grade windows for another. The business that I am a partner in is here, and it is picking up even as my partner’s health deteriorates. She’s in her eighties, after all – and deliberately brought me in to train me up in small subsidy-press publishing and editing. I’ve written six books set in Texas, and am about to write one more, I have friends and associations here … so why not declare absolutely for the Lone Star once and for all?

Still, a bit of a wrench, this last bit of letting go. As much as it was selling the VEV – although, paperwork wise, a hell of a lot more complex. Which is one more reason to be at least a little relieved at seeing the end of it.

…the wide wide world of sports is going on here? The IRS trolling for specific information on members of individual American Legion posts, requiring proof of the individual member’s veteran status as a way of pinning local American Legion posts to the wall, for some kind of purpose besides vulgar curiosity … hmm, that’s just what they did to various Tea Party organizations applying for certain exemptions. Asked for terribly specific information … my, who doesn’t think that isn’t going into some enormous database somewhere? Military veterans and retirees, in my humble opinion and experience tend to be rather more to the libertarian-conservative side of the political scale, for a number of reasons, chief of them being that we spent a certain number of years living in a fairly conformist and regimented life …in which most of us (save those initially drafted before the advent of the all-volunteer force) freely volunteered for. But the military experience doesn’t necessarily leave us with a lifetime fondness for living under the watchful eye of a higher authority and having every teeny little jot and tittle of personal lives and conduct scrutinized and counseled over… oh, no, my chickadees. It does not.

Quite often, it inculcates a dislike of all-encompassing chicken-sh*t authority exercised over the minutiae of daily living and a wide streak of defiant independence. Looking back on my service life, I suppose that for me the breaking point came when one of my troops – blessed with living in base housing at a base which shall be unnamed – was called at about mid-morning of an extremely busy work-day by a representative of the base housing office. He had inadvertently left his back door porch light on. Nothing would content the minions who ruled base accommodations but that he drop everything that he was doing, rush home, and turn off the back porch light. Apparently, the housing office felt that a 20-or-so watt bulb burning for another five hours was an insupportable burden. And yes – it is true that the power bill for such did come to the base housing office – but still. I took away from the experience that I would never want to live in base housing, ever. And if I chose to leave a damned 20 watt bulb burning, I would, as long as I was paying for it myself.
The other things that the military experience leaves indelibly imprinted on those who have served is a sense of responsibility, a sense of obligation which runs both ways – what you are obligated to society for, and what, if anything, society owes you – and of possibility. The military veteran’s interpretation of responsibility, obligation and possibility are all, I suspect, anathema to the current administration; I also suspect that their world-view inclines them to believe that getting something changed consists merely of making a great and stinking fuss about that which does not please them – rather like test animals working out the right way to pull the right lever. Eventually the powers that be grumble and randomly or purposefully disgorge a meager pellet of solution.

Veterans are used to getting things done and seeing things through. They are often accustomed to working together in coordinated fashion, able to see the possibilities and to work toward a viable solution, who bring solid experience in real-world planning and coping with unexpected contingencies … well, such people are not much inclined to waste time randomly pulling a lever, but are more interested in direct action … and not playing games of the sort that Thomas Wolfe described as ‘mau-mauing the flack-catchers.’ It must appear to the current administration that organizations formed around veterans – the Legion and the VFW, not to mention any number of smaller and informal groups, or even just groups with a large veteran component, like local Tea Parties, or even the post-WWII Battle of Athens, where a number of veterans coordinated a political response to a viciously corrupt local machine. The DHS appears to consider military veterans as possible potential future terrorist, too – so, one might be forgiven for assuming that this current administration entertains lively fears regarding veterans as a group in opposition, or in at least, potential opposition.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

Period log and stone farmhouse at Becker Vinyards

Period log and stone farmhouse at Becker Vinyards

Old Officer Quarters - Ft. Martin Scott

Now and again, I dream of what I would like for my very own bespoke retirement property … only that it wouldn’t be retirement, actually; I’ll be working until the day that the medical examiner’s van carts me away. Being retired just means that you do the work you want to do, not the work you have to do … but I would like to have a place done up to my own specifications. To start with – the land itself; an acre would do, maybe an acre and a half. I’d like a slightly rolling property, oriented towards the west to catch the sunset.. I’d like the land to be scattered with a few oak trees – craggy, with gnarled branches, but I’m not particular about what kind. Just oaks; post oaks, live oaks, red oaks, all for the shade, and to hang a wooden swing from a thick branch that parallels the ground. I don’t need a spectacular view, but I would like it to be mostly of countryside: perhaps a glimpse of a distant creek or river.

Victorian Greenhouse
I’d want a good-sized vegetable and herb garden; expanded from what I have now. Raised beds would be ideal; filled with good soil and the proper nutrients. A good-sized kitchen garden would have to be surrounded with a stout wire fence. It is exasperating to have a good crop of tomatoes or squash coming in, only to discover that hungry rodents and deer – those enormous rats with hooves and antlers – have helped themselves. I’d have a good variety of kitchen herbs hanging from baskets. Herbs seem to do incredibly well in coconut-fiber lined baskets; this year I have one with a thyme plant spilling over the side and hanging halfway to the ground. Perhaps my garden and dream-house plan would include an arbor of unpeeled cedar poles, from which to hang the baskets of herbs. I’d have to have a place to shelter tender plants during those cold winter snaps when it gets down to or below freezing. Plants that scrape through a cold snap in San Antonio would not do as well during the winter in the Hills … so I likely I would need a permanent small greenhouse.View - Rooster Springs

In addition to the existing trees, I would also plant more; at least a couple of almond verbenas, which start as shrubs and with any encouragement at all turn into medium-sized ornamentals. They aren’t much to look at, but the clusters of tiny flowers have the most amazing sweet almond smell. I’d also have some redbud trees for the look, and a couple of bearing fruit trees. My choice would fall on peaches, plums, and a good pecan tree. The trees would bridge the gap between the practical vegetable garden, and my dream ornamental garden; heavily tilted towards native and native-adapted plants which look after themselves. There would be roses, though – the hardy varieties which would be picked out more for their scent than their appearance. There would also be shrubs to attract birds, butterflies and bees, and a tangle of jasmine somewhere, which would bring their scent in through the windows on those spring days before the summer heat sets in.

And that leads to the house; and that is where I go off, into the the non-standard. I wouldn’t want a single big house, but an eccentric collection of cottages, set in the landscape described. I would like a little house for myself, and two or three others, one for my daughter, and another one or two which would serve as guest quarters when I had company, just enough set apart that we all would have privacy. I’d love to have a well, with one of those old windmill pumps, to bring the water to an above-ground concrete or wooden cistern on legs … just as I have seen on some old properties around the Hill Country.
As for the little houses on the property … I would prefer Craftsman-style bungalows or small Texas farmhouses, maybe even a one or two of them might be repurposed log cabins. The cabins would be the kind with a main room and a loft bedroom over, a kitchen lean-to on the back and a deep porch across the front. One or two of those would suit just fine, but even just a couple of those kit houses from Home Depot would work well, assuming that I could adorn them with vintage architectural surplus.

The final element would be a separate entertainment kitchen – just one large room set up to do brewing and cheese-making, an industrial-sized stove and a deep sink, and outside of it, another deep porch with a barbeque grill and enough space to throw a good party. I’d have an area nearby this all paved in brick or stone; and where the main garden ornament would be. That would be a fountain; a good-sized tall stone one, rather like the ones that adorn the private courtyards in the old houses I used to see in Spain, with a wide enough ledge to sit on surrounding the lower pool. And when I had a party, the guests could enjoy the sound of trickling water, the scent of almond verbena, and look at the late afternoon sun setting in the distance. I love what I have seen in the Sisterdale area; the hills, the creeks, the view to the west, with rolling hills. Ah – I might dream. It is my profession, of sorts; that dreaming thing.

(Crossposted at my book blog)

Well, damn … so they were. They were written up in the media this morning, which was nice, I suppose. I skimmed the list of winners and noted that I had not gone to see any of them at all. This has been happening more and more often, of late. Curiously, those movies are being released on DVD almost as soon as they have premiered, so that ones’ chances of actually catching them in a theater are, shall we say, diminished. The only movie that we actually made an effort to go see was “The Hobbit” and we went all out to see it at the local Alamo Drafthouse, where we could get dinner and a drink in the theater along with the movie. If going to the theater to see a movie is the expense that it has become these days, might as well go all out. Getting back to the Oscars, I also skimmed the pics of the various personalities arriving, and didn’t see any outrageous get-ups, not like Bjorks’ infamous swan dress. The only big tizzy is that Michelle Obama appeared via remote feed to help present the best picture award. Sigh. There, too, oh Lord? Like Chicken Man, she’s everywhere, she’s everywhere! Just another reason not to watch self-reverential award shows for an increasingly incestuous industry. I might also get away with throwing in the observation that the old canard about Washington being show business for ugly people is in danger of being invalidated…

Sigh … where was I? Oh, yes, Hollywood and showbiz in general, and the fact that most of Hollywood’s shining stars seem perfectly willing to jump into bed, metaphorically speaking, with the Obama Administration. The thought of being a repeat guest at the White House must be a tempting prospect to the many Hollywood A-listers, and those who only dream of it … but still, there is a large chunk of the country who is not absolutely enamored of Barry O and M’Shell. I count myself among them, naturally – and I am given to wonder, if the Hollywood elite who are inclined to worship at the shrine of Obama won’t eventually pay a price for it, in popularity with the general public. I do know that my own household is maintaining an ever-growing list of personalities whose movies and shows we will no longer patronize, precisely because of this unfortunate tendency. As the cost of producing mainstream movies goes up, and as the general public picks and chooses more carefully, won’t this eventually begin to bite? Something to think about, anyway.

I was a teenager when the Manson murders went down, in the autumn of 1969 – of course, the cruel and inexplicable murder of a movie star and several of her friends made all the headlines, and had lots of law-abiding citizens looking over their shoulders and being very careful about locking the doors and windows of their homes at night. It wasn’t until some time later that the associated murders of an elderly retired couple also hit the headlines of the LA Times, and other national newspapers. A blood-drenched, hippy cult with a weirdly charismatic leader had committed those murders in order – so they claimed – to trigger a devastating racial war, which they termed ‘helter-skelter’ from a Beatles song moderately popular at the time. Well, it was the late 1960ies; after assassinations, race riots and anti-war protests, ordinary citizens were pretty shell-shocked. A lot of extremely deranged people held equally deranged beliefs back then, and continued to do so for a good few years – cults and communes like Jim Jones’ Peoples’ Temple, for instance. My parents often resignedly repeated the truism about the US having been tilted at a steep angle, and all the unmoored nutcases, nonconformists and grifters sliding west and ending up in California. Having both been born there, and with recollections of how it used to be, they would grumble about how they wished such people would slide the hell back to where they came from, and stop embarrassing hard-working and relatively conservative citizens of the Golden State.

Helter-skelter didn’t happen – well, not then, anyway. Reading this week about Christopher Dorner, the ex-LAPD cop and former Navy reserve officer, with a chip on his shoulder the size of an an aircraft carrier and a string of revenge murders on his slate … now, I could see helter-skelter happening now, forty years later. A lot of things have happened over in Los Angeles, not many of them for the better. One of them is that the LAPD are nowhere near as respected now as they were formerly. It might very well be that they were no more or less competent or corrupt then than they are now, but it is the public perception of them now that sets the bitter tone. Corruption scandals like the slow train-wreck of Rampart division, the beating of Rodney King, the perception of racism among police officers which allowed OJ Simpson’s legal team to plead for acquittal on those grounds … all of those incidents and accidents have blotted the LAPD’s reputation in the eyes of ordinary citizens of all races.

So, is Christopher Dorner a good and moral man driven mad by the system, or a race-card pulling manipulator with a very hot temper? Big boastful talker or a cold and calculating planner of a campaign of murder? The various stories in the news about the matter have it both ways and every gradation in between. One can take away anything that one wishes to see in his posted manifesto; in any case, the man has gone Rambo, and gone to ground, leaving at least fifty families under police protection, and three people – who looked nothing at all like him, but merely had the misfortune to be driving pickup trucks with a likeness to his vehicle – injured by panicky LAPD officers opening fire. Where is he now? Lost and dying of exposure in the woods at Big Bear, or blending into the background in a comfortable hide-out in Compton. Heading into Canada, or into Mexico, or just laying low until the row dies down? When and if he emerges again, and encounters the LAPD – or any other law enforcement body – the chances of it ending quietly with an uncontested arrest are pretty small. And should it end quietly or not – what are the chances of riots breaking out, regardless?

(crossposted at chicagoboyz.net)

This brought on by a series of color pictures of women working in factories in WWII.

(Through Chicagoboyz.net, who also found the link to the Carbon Leaf song.)

Another one of those interesting weeks, where I have been so busy and the headlines so full of various incidents which I might comment upon … that I am actually so spoiled for choice that I can’t make up my mind on which to deal with first.
Like – Jodie Foster coming out as gay. Ok, I am sure there are some cloistered religious under a vow of silence somewhere up a mountain to whom that comes as a surprise. And possibly a few others who might even care.
According to this story, the troops won’t get paid, and the whole US economy will go crash if the GOP doesn’t go along quietly and raise the debt ceiling. Sigh. Always with the ‘gonna close the Washington Monument!’ threat, if the budget for the Park Service is cut. Sigh. That ploy has got a longer beard on it than a seventy-year old Grateful Dead fan. Like President Kardashian gives a rip about the troops anyway, except when he needs his a** hauled to Hawaii on AF-1, or a nice uniformed dial-a-crowd for a photo op and doesn’t want to risk any booing or thrown rotten vegetables.

Sigh – on the the personal stuff; I finally had to make an appointment about the bronchial cough that had me sounding like I was hacking up portions of lung on a regular basis. Brooke Army Medical Center, where I have chosen to be seen since my retirement – on the basis of making it easier not to have to go round and round with a civilian medical provider – has expanded exponentially in the last three or four years. Much of the pocket of land just off IH-35 which once had just the main three-part brick tower, a circular apron of parking lot around and a good few acres of crusty mown meadow, is now entirely filled in with a huge annex, other support buildings and a multi-tier parking garage. I was not looking forward to threading my way through the newly-complicated maze, but now BAMC outpatients will seen on an appointment basis in a lavish new clinic building on Fort Sam itself. I think back on the troop clinic at Yongsan – sick call for the troops in a ratty old Korean-war era barrack building, where pretty much everyone under the rank of E-6 had to come to mass sick-call four times a week and be brutally treated like malingerers by the staff when they did so – and I smile. The cough seems to be better, by the way, under the onslaught of several different prescriptions. The doctor was a sweetie, by the way. Retired AF medico; also unhesitatingly put me on something for high blood pressure. Apparently, that is to be my chronic complaint for the remainder of life.

I am working on stuff for two different book clients and an editing job – so for a basically unemployed person, I am pretty darned busy. And that’s my week – yours?

You know, I am purely surprised that the CNN television studio didn’t completely implode when Alex Jones guested on Piers Morgan Tonight. Two competing champions of paranoid idiocy meeting in the same space-time continuum must have been something like the collision of matter and anti-matter. In a just universe, there should have been nothing left but smoking rubble and a small pool of molten glass. I suppose to Mr. Morgan, Alex Jones represents the typical conservative 2nd Amendment fan … just as the Westburo Baptist freaks are typical Christian fundamentalists, instead of being a clan of legal shakedown artists.
Ah well – I haven’t watched CNN in years, and the presence of an ignorant blowhard with a British accent is certainly not a good reason to reverse the habit. Good lord, didn’t we have enough condescending pseudo-intellectuals of our own that we had to go importing them from Britain. As a matter of fact, my required daily ration of condescending British twits is now adequately filled for the nonce, now that Downton Abbey is back for another season.

So, it looks like Senator Chuck Hagel is being put forward as prospective Secretary of Defense. Well, an improvement on John Kerry, anyway. (Pause for a brief and appropriate one liner; So John Kerry walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “Why the long face?” Thank you, I’m here all week. Try the veal and don’t forget to tip your waitperson…) So … any bets on the national Republican Party lasting past the next year … or even the next mid-term elections? Should they cave on defending the 2nd Amendment as they have so far appeared to cave on everything else, than I would guess ‘no.’ I actually did get a fundraising call, long in about August 2012 from some fund-raising functionary pleading for donations to the national GOP. The poor woman’s ears are likely still ringing, although I swear – cross my heart – that I didn’t use any bad language, and I was perfectly polite, when I told her that I certainly would NOT be sending in any such contribution to the national GOP, and that I would make any donation that I could directly to the campaigns of those Tea Party Constitutionalist-Fiscally Responsible-Free Market candidates who swam across my ken.

Which brings me around to the topic of the Tea Party, and how brutally efficient the establishment media has been in painting them – anent any actual concrete and verifiable evidence – as violent and racist fanatics. It’s been an education, seeing the Big Lie demonstrated and deployed in this 21st century … and do not think for a moment that I shall forget the names of those journalistic and media personalities who have most notoriously assisted in its perpetuation. No, I have a little list, and they will hardly be missed in my household.

On the cheerful side – as bad as the national situation seems to be getting, Blondie and I are doing OK, really. I have paid off a number of outstanding debts in the last year, and sales of books – digital and print are quite satisfactory, if not as yet up to Amanda Hocking standards. Sales seem to have begun being made in Germany, with the entry drug being the German edition of Book One: The Gathering. Hah! Once you read the first book, you have to come back for the second and third! Even if they are in English … Watercress Press has a number of new clients, I am shouldering a lot of the business aspects to it, being very well acquainted with the POD/indy author aspects of it all.

The occasional employer – the ranchland real estate specialist – had a couple of good sales, and so he can afford me to come to work for him. Well, as he had his skilled mechanic friend fix the GG’s most recent problem which rendered my car undriveable – I owe him some hours. Which, as he forgets how to do some of the most simple tasks, like printing up a sheet of mailing labels or attaching a PDF to an email, I am rapidly repaying, especially when he calls me frantically, asking me to sort it out, either over the phone or in person.

And that’s my January – so far. Yours?

Cynic that I am, I am deriving a great deal of amusement from some of the media-political-general public storms whipped up in the wake of the horribly tragic Newtown shootings, and the deaths of two firefighters in an ambush set by an ex-convict in upstate New York. As if the shootings weren’t horrible and tragic enough in themselves, we get to enjoy the reflexive Kabuki dance of ‘we must ban those horrid gun-things!’ being played out – especially since some of the very loudest voices in this chorus are politicians and celebrities who live with a very high degree of security at their workplaces and homes, and whose children attend rather well-protected schools. Such choruses appear to be completely oblivious to the fact that for many of the ordinary rest of us, poor and middle-class alike, the forces of law and order are not johnny-on-the-spot in the event of an attempted robbery, rape, break-in or home invasion. To rely on the oft-used cliché, when moments count, the police are minutes away. In the case of rural areas in the thinly-populated flyover states law enforcement aid and assistance might be closer to being hours away.
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I’m still fighting the remnants of the Cold From Hell (possibly complicated by an allergy to blowing cedar pollen which hits a lot of people around here) but at least I am starting to feel a little more in the Christmas spirit. Not much more, but at least I am enjoying the Christmas music on the radio, and just last Monday I was inspired to go ahead and sort out the last of the Christmas presents that I wanted to give to some people I am fond of. So, all that is sorted. Our Christmas dinner is sorted also. Blondie will be out doing deliveries for Edible Arrangements until the last minute, so practically everything to do with Christmas was done in the last day or so.

Which leaves me looking out at next year, and considering what I will do, and what I can do, as the fiscal cliff approaches; no matter how you slice it, 2013 is going to be a bumpy ride. So, in no particular order of importance, I am resolved to – More »

I don’t think I ever actually watched Red Dawn, the move – not the original, and probably not the remake, either. I haven’t been in the mood much for movie going lately, and I view remakes of successful old movies to be proof absolute that the creativity of mainstream Hollywood is a well pretty much run dry.

And the whole notion of Russia, China or North Korea having enough transport capability to bring over sufficient troops to overrun and overwhelm the continental United States is one which boggles my mind over into disbelief. Sure, Germany and Russia both did a fair amount of that military overrunning of adjacent nation in WWII, and Japan certainly managed to do all that and solve the transport issue well enough to do the same in Asia … but schlep a huge number of soldiers and necessary support the whole width of an ocean away, and then completely subdue a large portion of a continent? Nope, not with a block and tackle could I suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy the popcorn.

And besides … as it turns out, maybe the dedicated socialists didn’t have to militarily invade at all. They’re already here, and plenty of them, ready to set aside the Constitution, to govern by decree and by thousands and thousands of dictates and rules touching upon everything from what kind of light bulbs we may buy, to what kind of healthcare we might have, what we pack in the kid’s school lunch and a thousand other matters large and small. And all of it decreed by the best and brightest for the very, very best of reasons and our own good, of course. Just call them the new Ruling Class. Some are political, some are academics or in business, or even entertainment – but all wish to cement their place at the apex of authority as quasi-aristocrats.

So what is a dedicated, small-government Constitutionalist to do but go Wolverine … but not by moving into the country and living out fantasies of the WWII-era resistance. No, the new Wolverinity is to stay in place and doggedly, sullenly resist. Resist by supporting small local businesses, independent authors, artists and fellow resistants. Use the power of the pocketbook as much as you can to starve the Ruling Class and it’s supporters. Ridicule and mock them, demonstrate your contempt – and never let a chance pass to remind certain of your fellow citizens (the ones who put Obama/Biden signs on their lawns) that the current administration is one that they voted for – especially when those unintended consequences begin turning up. Gas at $6 a gallon? You voted for that. Rolling brownouts in cities? Voted for that. Now you’re working part-time, or as an independent contractor because your employer can’t afford to implement Obamacare and remain solvent? Hey, you voted for that. As an old and wise NCO who was my mentor once observed, “Hey, sometimes you just got to let them fall on their sword.”

Go, Wolverines.

It looks really weird to me, this last Veteran’s Day weekend … not even a week after the election results came in. A couple of days after General Petreus put in his resignation as head of the CIA – conveniently for the American news cycle – on a Friday before a three-day weekend. So, kind of astonished over that – a mere several days before he was to testify about whatever was going on with regard to our quasi-official establishment in Benghazi on the 11th of September last. Of course, the second most astonishing aspect to me is that the head of the CIA can’t keep an affair secret, and the third most astonishing is that someone so politically wily as to be able to pin on four stars would still be stupidly reckless enough to engage on such a very public affair. What, were they doing the horizontal mambo in the middle of the parade ground at reveille at whatever base they were at in Afghanistan? Ok, never undervalue the comfort of situational friendships between persons of the opposite sex in a far country, double if in a war zone. Been there and … err, backed off from doing that, in the physical sense. But the friendship was enormously satisfactory; a way of getting through a hard tour in a distant and unforgivingly difficult place, and a lot of people there with us and who noted that we were a quasi-official couple also probably assumed that our relationship included an ongoing sexual aspect. Which it did not; part of the friendship involved an understanding between us that carrying it that far would inflict unacceptable damage on each other, emotionally and professionally. I thought the world of him, and he loved his family, back in the World; that’s the way that responsible and caring adults manage that kind of situation. It’s in the field, and it ends in the field.

But the way that the Petreus mess is expanding is enough to cause me to raise an eyebrow – and now it turns out that the second woman involved – is she the South Beach Mata Hari or what? – also had a good friend of the multi-star adorned command-rank level, as well as the somewhat dogged interest of the investigating FBI agent, who sent her a pic of him shirtless… dear god, people – this is not high school. Or at least, I assumed it was not. As it is, I could swear I watched a story line like this on General Hospital in the late 1970s, only with doctors, nurses and consultants, instead of commanders, reporters and socialites.

It is curious though – the sudden retirements, resignations, and reassignments of high-ranking and notable officers lately. It’s almost like there is something going on: earlier there was that kerfuffle about General Carter Ham being relieved of duty, with dark hints that it was because of events in Benghazi. On the bright side, though – since General Petreus was deeply involved in the events of 9/11/2012 in Benghazi, it just might be that there might be a little more interest in what happened there than has been displayed so far by our mighty mainstream press.
Or not.

I own to being vaguely disappointed with our man Mittens’ performance in last night’s debate, as I had cherished fond hopes that Mitt Romney would mop the floor with the Obamster, and then clean up those little spills and smudges remaining with the hapless moderator, but then I am a writer and frustrated dramatist. I want the spectacular scene, dammit … but perhaps as other commenters have pointed out, Mittens was playing the long, cool game, and just letting the Obamster have enough rope to hang himself with. Lord knows, his crack about bayonets and horses, and about ships that have aircraft land on them and other ships that go below the surface of the ocean may have just finally and ultimately annoyed veterans and service members. As has been commented in other place, submarines are called boats … ships that go below the surface of the ocean are called ‘sunk’… anyway, my daughter very well recalls being issued a bayonet as a member of the Marine Corps. And milblogger Donald Sensing ran the historical numbers, comparing the present military and that of 1916 vis a vis bayonet possession. Oopsy – the US military does in fact have more bayonets now, than in 1916. As for horses … well, we probably do have fewer horses in inventory now than in 1916. Two out of three ain’t bad.

It’s a moot point as far as Blondie and I are concerned, as we went to vote at the early-voting polling place around midday on Monday, which was the first day of early voting in Texas. Any sort of malevolent October Surprise intended to depress voter turnout and Republican Party spirits on November 6th had better be uncorked real soon if it is to have any effect. The parking lot of the library was jammed, and the line to get into the room set up as the polling place wound halfway through the main library. It moved fast, though. The volunteers were on-point and very, very busy. It had been so, all morning long. Blondie said, “If it’s this way now, how bad is it going to be on Election Day?”

Two weeks today … fourteen more days. I would hate to be proved embarrassingly wrong about all this, especially if I were being paid big bucks to be a mainstream media prognosticator – but I am not. I will go far enough to venture that I do sense a turning of the tide, in favor of Romney/Ryan, and the Tea Party Libertarian/Conservatives generally. I don’t think I am being deluded by wishful thinking, or through being generally in a libertarian/conservative information bubble … or in Texas, which constitutes pretty much the same thing. In the whole of my neighborhood, there are only five or six Obama-Biden yard signs, another seven or eight signs for a Lloyd Doggett, a long-time Democrat Party senatorial candidate who apparently had to go district-shopping after being re-districted. Against that – twenty or more Romney-Ryan signs, and one or two more spotted every day. My gut-feeling is that Obama now has the stink of fear and desperation on him, now that he has a real-life record, rather than just soaring oratory and the slavish devotion of the mainstream media and the Hollywood establishment. There’s only so much that can be covered up, plastered over and excused when voters have their own experience to consult.

Really – who are you going to believe; Chris Matthews, and Eva Longoria, or the evidence of your lying eyes?

It’s been another one of those weeks, blog-fans … now, I do want you all (all both of you) to put your hands together and welcome back Radar, a contributor from away back, who has decided to get back into long-form blogging again. Yay, Radar! Welcome home!

As for the rest of it … well, welcome to interesting times. Now it is something like six weeks, give or take a handful of days until Election Day, and honestly, it cannot come too soon for me. Every week and every day there’s some new bit o’drama inflated by the lapdog mainstream media into something that spells Certain Doom for Romney/Ryan, and Glorious Victory for the Dear Leader. A sooper secrit recording of Romney talking to fundraisers and being bluntly honest that a certain percentage of potential voters probably wouldn’t vote for him and upset their entitlement applecart … oooh! Gaffe of the week, according to all the talking and editorial heads. That a good number of the conservative-libertarian blogger types taking note of all this would not have disagreed with this insight – although the exact percentage might be open for discussion – appears to be something that the usual media lapdogs have chosen to ignore. Also – that the tape was edited, and Jimmy Carter’s hapless grandson chose to do his bit for the Dems … jeese, doesn’t he have a real job to go to? Apparently many of these Millennial’s don’t. The Daughter Unit, better known as Blondie does – having several different jobs to go to, none of which offer health care benefits. Not a shock, considering that some of them are part-time, and for the rest, she is an independent contractor – and is qualified to go to the VA.

OK – back to election matters – wish I may, wish I might – know why Mittens Romney is the party of the clueless, disconnected rich, Thurston Howell-type … whereas, a candidate who has a fund-raising event at a venue owned by a fabulously wealthy rap music* entrepreneur and his performer wife featuring a tower made of $800 bottles of champagne and charging $40,000 a plate for the privilege is a defender of the downtrodden middle- and working-class. This is probably one of those mysteries, like that of Hollywood blockbusters which never turn a profit to pay off the hapless actors and writers who signed contracts for a percentage of the net profits.

But $800 bottles of champagne, all in gold – Talk about ghetto fabulous. I’ll shudder over the gross vulgarity of that and move on, while noting that if the stuff tastes any better than Crystal, I’ll be mildly surprised. And Blondie has sampled Crystal – through the offices of a date with a surfer dude she met in Ocean Beach, once upon a time. She tells me it didn’t taste any better than the $6 supermarket champagne that we buy for celebrating the New Year.

It does look as if the O-Man did, in his rounds of entertainment and talk shows, actually stumble into some real reporters, prepared to ask hard questions instead of the usually softly thrown Nerf ball. Just a hint, big guy – the local Hispanic community does care very much about what has been happening south of the US border for quite a while. Fast and Furious has managed to kill hundreds of Mexican citizens, many of them innocent bystanders to the drug gang wars. Meanwhile, the rest of us look at the Middle East going up in flames, and wonder if a brand-new Obama campaign motto and a logo featuring a re-imagining of the US flag with stripes bearing a curious resemblance to the dragging finger-marks made in blood on the doorway of the US consulate in Benghazi was all that good an idea. Your mileage may vary, however.

Let’s see … is Twitter a means for hapless celebrities to reveal themselves once and for all as utter morons and/or bigots? I guess so; the evidence is compiled at Twitchy. Alas, it looks like Bette Midler joins my steadily lengthening list of stars and personalities who have so pissed me off that I will never pay money for anything they are in. Bette, Bette, Bette … we do not, in fact, have a blasphemy law in this country. Citizens may not be arrested for saying things that embarrass the government or an established religion … and if they were, then Andres Serrano and the producer of The Book of Mormon would be in big, big trouble.

And that was my week – yours?

(* insert viciously skeptica quote marks around that word)

I’ve been thinking for a while – based on my own use of the service – that the good old US Post Office is something well past its best-if-used-by date. Oh, no – not that it should be done away with as a government service entirely. But I can contemplate delivery of the mail only two or three times a week with perfect equanimity … which is at least a little tragic for there were times when the daily arrival of the mail was a much-looked-forward-to thing. When I was overseas, or in a remote location – like Greenland (and in military outposts today I am certain) the arrival of the mail (three times a week) was anticipated with keen interest, since it was our lifeline to the outside world. There were letters from family, loved ones, magazines, catalogues and packages with goodies in them – sometimes gifts, sometimes items ordered … the whole world, crammed into a tiny box with a locking door in the central post office; the magical envelopes, the catalogues and magazines in a tight-packed roll, the little pink slips that meant a package … and then, between one or two decades, it all changed.

Now, the packages come mostly through UPS or Fed-Ex. The various utility bills arrive as emails and are paid on-line. My pension and my daughters’ VA disability are paid by automatic deposit to bank accounts. Magazines? I dropped a lot of my various subscriptions through lack of interest (I am looking at you, Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly) or through the magazines or the publications themselves going under. My news and intellectual-contact jones is fed on-line. Email works for just about everything else save for birthday cards to Luddites like my mother. My various businesses as a freelance are conducted thru Paypal, or through email with my business partner. I realize that not everyone has this kind of luxury – and in the case of the zombie apocalypse or some sort of solar event that crashes the internet I will be SO screwed … but then I am not advocating abolition of the post office. Just that in those metropolitan areas in the continental US that are well-served by internet services and by the various rival delivery services, the Postal Service can probably dial it back, quite a bit. Nothing much comes in the daily mail any more, save the print equivalent of the stuff that I empty out of my spam email box. Really – I am never going to respond to the Capitol One offers for a credit card, so do they need to have their weekly c**p underwritten with tax dollars? My way back into the house from the group mailbox leads past my trash and recycle cans; convenient, as that is where the bulk of it winds up.

I’ll shed a nostalgic tear for the USPS, when they cut back services. I really will – as there are (or were) the occasional business that would send a payment check by mail, instead of an automatic transfer. And the businesses which depend upon cheap bulk mail deliveries will be set back a peg or two. I do dispatch my own books when bought by readers through media mail, and the workers at the post offices where I do and have done business are wonderful, competent and cheerful people (Yeah, I know that is SO much against the usual stereotype) … but otherwise I fear that the USPS is a zombie corpse, being kept alive out of habit. To enable it to keep shambling around in those places where it does truly provide a neccessary service, I’d be willing to give up delivery service on Saturdays and at least two weekdays.

I’d also be able to avoid encountering my slightly-deranged and very chatty neighbor, who haunts the group mailbox; another win-win, as I count it.

(Cross-posted at www.chicagoboyz.net, and my book blog)