Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Little Green Men

"Little Green Men," is the wonderful book by the political satirist, Christopher Buckley. In it, John O. Banion, a Sunday morning talk show host, similar to David Gregory who now hosts "Meet The Press," believes he's been abducted by aliens and probed. Twice.
What he doesn't find out until much later is that it was a secret U.S. government agency and normal human beings that had taken him, and in fact had been responsible for all UFO related phenomena within the country since the 1940s. The agency's main purpose being to keep funding from Congress flowing smoothly throughout the years for military and science projects.
Buckley is right. There are no little green men flying throughout our atmosphere in flying saucers. Despite all the stories, reports, photographs, videos, and other so-called evidence that vehicles originating from another planet are routinely buzzing around like hornets, abducting people and sexually molesting them, none has ever been credible. And of all the stories, reports, photographs, and videos, all can be explained as either natural phenomena misinterpreted, military related, or the result of delusion and deliberate fraud. Not one piece of credible, verifiable, or testable evidence has ever been revealed that substantiates the existence of extraterrestrial spacecraft visiting our planet. Not one! Many will say there is, or hope there is, as I do, but there isn't. If evidence is provided, it must be very compelling to be accepted. To paraphrase the late Dr. Carl Sagan, "When making an extraordinary claim, the evidence must be extraordinary."
There is a good reason why no evidence of extraterrestrial space travel to the Earth has ever been discovered. And its this... it costs too much.
As far as we currently know there is no other life in this solar system other than on this planet, certainly none that can make spaceships. Accordingly, if we were to be visited by extraterrestrial vehicles they would come from another star system.
The distance between the stars is enormous. Staggeringly so. Traveling at the speed of light (approximately 186,000 miles per second in a vacuum) it would take 4.37 years to reach our closest stellar neighbor, the binary system, Alpha Centauri. Einstein's special theory of relativity tells us that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light which began below it, despite the famous Warp Drive, of "Star Trek," fame (the physical plausibility of faster than light travel, such as the Alcubierre drive, or traversable wormholes remains uncertain). The fastest objects we have ever launched, the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft, would take thousands of years to reach Alpha Centauri, if they were pointed in that direction, which they are not. The energy required to approach relativist velocities, and then brake near the desired destination, is exceptionally prohibitive, and would require huge investments in resources, more than the total energy output of our planet.
In other words, it just costs too much to willy-nilly be traveling around the galaxy.
Slower than light interstellar travel has certainly been proposed. Interstellar ramjets, and whole worlds traversing the distance between the stars (like the rotating, 50 kilometer long boiler in "Rendezvous with Rama," by Arthur C. Clarke), but they still take thousands, and hundreds of thousands of years to reach their destinations, implying again, an immense investment in resources.
So, what are we to do if we wish to meet any little green men (or women) who may be out there?
The cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to navigate the distance between the stars is already taking place. Radio.
Man made radio waves have been propagating from the Earth for over a century. Radio waves (and other forms of electromagnetic radiation) travel at the speed of light (technically the term "speed of light," is incomplete. The cumbersome correct alternative "speed of electromagnetic radiation," is rather unwieldy). So if we ever hope to hear, or be heard, by our cosmic neighbors, if they exist, will be in the form of radio, or optical communication. It's the most economic, efficient, and logical way to convey information through the vast distances between the stars.
Why would we want to you may ask. To discover that life, intelligent life, possibly greatly advanced civilizations exist within the galaxy would in my opinion be the greatest discovery mankind shall ever make. Even if we discover a radio signal of extraterrestrial intelligence without decoding the message, that discovery alone would be of great importance. It would tell us that the possibility of civilizations existing beyond its own technological birth pangs is possible, which now, in this day of religious fanatism and nuclear weapons, remains very uncertain.
We have been searching for such signals for a relatively short amount of time, and have not been successful to date. Programs like Seti (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) still continue to search.
My computer, when I'm not using it, processes signals gathered from the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico. When finishing a particular batch of information, my computer sends it to U.C. Berkeley, where it is analyzed. U.C. Berkeley runs the Seti@Home program which allows owners of personal computers to help discover the existence of life in the cosmos. Over 5 million users are currently active in this project, and one day I belive we'll find it.
This program can be downloaded at the Seti@Home web-site.
I invite you, dear readers, to help discover the little green men (and women).

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dwarf Oranges

On March 26th, 2006, the Los Angeles Police Department estimated that half a million people marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles to protest proposed new laws that cracked down on illegal immigration. Similar protests took place in many other parts of the country.
It was stunning. I remember walking out of the Little Tokyo branch library in the afternoon and seeing hundreds of mostly Hispanic, men, women, and children walking the streets wearing white shirts headed to the march. I remember saying, "What the f--k," to myself, as I say often when perplexed. Sorry mom.
At that time Congress was still controlled by the Republicans, and the House had passed a law that would make it a felony to be illegally in the United States (as if they could find and lock up the 12 million estimated illegal immigrants already in the country), and harsher penalties for those who employed them.
It seemed a lot of people didn't like that (one of the many reasons the Republicans lost power later that year).
This issue gets a lot of attention, in the media and in Washington. My own view is that of all the problems this country is currently facing; economics, two foreign military occupations, dependence on oil, and global warming, to name a few, illegal immigration is one of the least pressing. One must remember this nation was founded by illegal immigrants, as the native Indian population certainly did not invite Europeans here. Everyone who is not an American Indian, is either an immigrant, or has an ancestor that once was.
Still the issue has languished in Congress too long and needs attention, and I believe President Obama's position on this issue is a step (finally) in the right direction. Three steps actually.
Obviously a nation that cannot control its own boarders is in an unfortunate position as far as national security is concerned. The President wishes to increase boarder security by adding personell, infrastructure, and advanced technology. He also wishes to fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy, increase the amount of legal immigrants, and develop a way for those undocumented aliens to become citizens.
That makes sense to me. We'll see what happens.
I believe we also need to help our southern neighbor, Mexico, improve the standard of living of its citizens, and defeat the raging drug cartels that have killed more than 6,000 people last year. This may require a persistent review of our domestic drug policy, something I have not heard the President propose.
And I think we're forgetting the great threat from the north. How many icebacks are are invading our country from Canada this very second, that's what I want to know. Are Jim Carrey, William Shatner, Kim Catrall, Seth Rogen, and Mike Myers really here legally? Prove it, I say.
Anyway, I brought up this subject because when I took an MTA bus to the downtown area last Saturday it had to depart from its normal route due to an anticipated Immigration Rights March on Broadway. It was supposed to have begun at 10 o'clock, and very well may have, but when I finally made it to Broadway near noon no marchers could be detected.
I hate it when my bus has to depart from its normal route.
I get a monthly bus pass that allows me to travel anywhere in Los Angeles County for about 94 cents a month. Why I could go to Santa Monica to see the Pacific Ocean right now if I so desired. I think I will. Please excuse me.
Okay, back now. Sorry about the delay. I got sidetracked by some itinerant weight lifters in Venice.
As to the title of this post. Today's Garden Club session consisted of myself, Hardy, and case manager Paul, driving to a Lowe's Home Improvement facility in Pico Rivera, of all places, to purchase garden things. It was fun.
We bought two big bags of garden dirt, four pepper plants (various varieties) in convenient bio-degradable pots, an asparagus fern, and a semi-dwarf Washington Navel Orange plant. They are sitting in the garden right now, and at nine tomorrow morning, a special session of the Garden Club will be convened with the express purpose of planting these living organisms which do not enjoy the power of locomotion.
Erin was very excited with our picks, as were we all.
Soon dwarf oranges will abound.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Walking With Ron 5

Ron and I exited the Grand Central Market on Broadway and walked south.
"Walk with me to my place, Richard, then I'll walk you home."
He calls me Richard, the only person who does.
I call him Ron, although he told me flat out once that his name is not Ron.
"My names not Ron," he told me. "It's either Ronald or Ronnie."
"Okay Ron."
We crossed Broadway, walked through a parking lot to Fourth Street, and continued east to Los Angeles Street. Ron's box was nearby.
We entered his box, much more cluttered than my own. It is dominated by his bed and a recliner, which at the time was filled with clothes and bags of various items.
"Sit on the bed," he told me. Ron then turned on his television and began playing a DVD of an Eagles farewell concert in Australia that I had made for him.
"This is the best DVD you ever made for me," he said.
"Thank you."
"Every note just like the studio version."
"Yes, you've told me that many times."
"The only live version I've ever heard like that."
"And I've told you before that "Yes Songs," is like that too."
"No it's not."
"Yes it is."
"No it's not."
"Yes it is."
"No it's not."
On and on.
"What's the matter? Don't you like The Eagles?"
"No. And I've told you that before too."
"I love The Eagles."
"Yes, I know Ron."
Ron forced me to listen to Eagle music as he put away his chicken and oysters, and broke out some tasty beverages. He offered me one.
"I'll just have a bottle of water. Thanks," I told him.
Ron's box is filled with food. Canned goods abound, stocked to the brim on plastic shelves, and piled high on the floor. He enjoys a rather expansive music system with multiple speakers. An oblong rug lies in the middle of his floor.
We didn't stay long. I have a natural tendency not to waste time, and I consider sitting in Ron's box and listening to him complain about what is happening at his work place to be a waste of time. He finished his business and we left.
We walked east, past San Pedro Street, back to Fourth.
As I've said, it is easy walking with Ron because you don't have to keep thinking of things to say. Ron will take care of that.
Ron will go on and on. His favorite subjects seem to be his work environment, his family, especially "the mother of my kids," and his children, how Baltimore is superior to Los Angeles, and anything that has ever happened to him. I tend to daydream while Ron talks, usually because I've heard the same story several times.
"You've told me that before, Ron."
"Well, there's nothing the matter with that."
Apparently not, as far as Ron is concerned.
Today I had him speak of something else.
"You said that you knew the guy who the police killed?"
"Yeah," he replied. "All of us at work knew him. A black guy. Worked at the cold storage company."
On March 12, just before six in the morning, this man got into an argument with his fellow workers, then left his place of employment, a large cold storage facility on Alameda and Fourth, with quite an attitude.
Driving a black sports utility vehicle he rammed a nearby Civic Honda where a couple were sleeping at the time. He rammed it several times, and the male occupant called 911 on his cell phone. Hearing police sirens coming his way the driver took off with the police following. The chase lasted a good ten minutes, with the driver of the SUV running into at least three police cars, tearing the door off one of them, and injuring several officers.
The chase ended at Fourth and San Pedro, when the driver made a wrong turn onto Fourth, and smashed into a police cruiser. He kept pushing the cruiser sideways, trying to injure the officer inside, when several police surrounded him, and shot him, resulting in his death.
"Man, that was definitely a bad day for that dude," I observed.
Ron and I continued, turning south on Central, headed for Sixth Street.
Ron invests a large amount of his personal worth on the work he does with the local homeless. He does not understand what I do. Whenever I mention my work he looks befuddled. "To what purpose," he'll ask me when I speak of my writing. And whatever answer I provide does not convince Ron that what I do is of any value.
That can be a tad exacerbating at times.
But Ron is Ron, and I except for who he is.
We ended this day's walk at Sixth and Central. We shook hands.
"I'll call you later," Ron always says at times like this.
I watched him walk away a few moments, then crossed Central to return to my box, and await the next time I go walking with Ron.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What I Do 3

At nine we must leave sweet Stephanie as her three hour program is now over and she is now free to go home, play with her dogs, and drink boxed wine.
Thom Hartmann (obviously an elitist, plain old Tom isn't good enough for him) now comes on the air, from Portland, Oregon. An author, entrepreneur, psychotherapist, Thom is considered the tenth most important talk show host in the country (Talkers Magazine), and the first most important liberal talk show host (the nine above him are all conservatives, proving the Republicans whining claims that the media is controlled by progressives). And he's a very nice and fair man. I've met him once too, at a screening here in L.A., of "The Eleventh Hour," the 2007 environmental documentary, produced and hosted by Leonardo DeCaprio, and in which Thom appears. He gave a brief talk after the film explaining how normal citizens could get their elected officials working to save our environment. Unfortunately, Bush was still the President.
Stephanie had Thom on her program once, where she forced him to say, "Stephanie Miller is the smartest woman ever."
I'll continue working, listening to Thom talk about politics and science, while watching the latest breaking news on MSNBC. At noon, when the Hartmann program is over, I'll turn off the radio altogether, and turn up the sound on the TV, and let Norah O'Donnell and Tamron Hall tell me what is going on in the world.
Depending on what day of the week it is, it is usually about this time I will run any errands that need to be done. Generally, on Mondays I'll attend the Garden Club at nine, out back behind my box. Last Monday all they did was replant the tomato plants I had planted the week before as they were too close together. I take it upon myself to make sure the plants are watered every, or every other day. Later in the day, at around two-thirty, I'll walk from my box, north on Alameda Street to Temple, where the Veteran's Administration Downtown Clinic is located. I attend a walk in Depression Group there at three, facilitated by the lovely Dr Kimberly. I'm very fortunate that this facility is so close by, and that it offers this particular service, for if it didn't, I'd have to go all the way to the Westwood Hospital to get depressed.
The Group lasts an hour, after which I'll reverse course and return to my box.
On Tuesdays we have Yoga Class behind the Produce Hotel on Central and Seventh, facilitated by the lovely Beth. Last Tuesday Yoga Class was canceled due to someone stealing Beth's car the night before. It is so sad when bad things happen to nice people.
Last Tuesday we held Support Group out in the garden where we played basketball, which is related elsewhere.
I'll also attend the weekly S.O.S. (Save Our Selves) meeting, at the Center for Inquiry-West, on Hollywood Boulevard, near Vermont. A sort of secular 12 Step meeting for recovering addicts who do not believe in ancient myths, or that onnipitent extraterrestrials take the time to save us from ourselves.
Thursdays we have Cooking Club at eleven-thirty at the Olympia Hotel (last week Peach and Apple Crisps! I made the oat and nut topping), and every Friday is Movie Day, where anyone who cares to can come and watch a movie, usually contemporary. Popcorn and sodas provided by Erin and Paul. I usually provide the movies because... well I just have a lot of movies, and get new ones all of the time.
I give Erin and Paul the weekends off so I can get some work done instead of attending all of these groups.
When not required elsewhere my evenings are spent editing what I have written that day, or previously. I have two manuscripts I'm currently editing, book length memoirs, or diarys, relating the events occurring during two years of my life. The first, when I came to the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center, in Pasadena, in 1990, where I eventually became an employee and Resident Manager. The second, the events surrounding my coming to my box five years ago. Hopefully, these will soon be available on this site.
I edit while watching Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. I can remember when Keith was a local sports newscaster here in Los Angeles. Now he spends his time pointing out the right wings hypocrisy and lies, especially, but not limited to Bill O'Rielly, who spends an inordinate amount of time at the head of Keith's Worst Person in the World list. Rachel gives it to the right in her own way, by being nice, articulate, and funny. And she's so cute! I say this because it mortifys her and makes her blush.
After Rachel, I'll fix some kind of dinner, and watch a movie.
Then the day is done. At around ten or eleven I'll lay my weary head down upon my nice pillow and enter the land of slumber.
And get up the next day and do it all over again.
And that is what I do.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Emails With Demitri

The following is a copy of an Email conversation I had last September with Demitri, a lovely young twenty something lady who was once a case manager where my box is located. She has since abandoned us and is currently case managing somewhere else.
And she and her cohort, the lovely Marisela, stole our DVD cables so we have to rely on Rodney to supply his for Movie Day.
Thanks a lot, Demitri and Marisela.
The conversation began after I forwarded an advocacy Email concerning women's issues to Demitri and Marisela:

From Demitri:
What's so special about women?

Dear Demitri,
I have great sympathy and affection for women. My own mother was a woman! Why do I have sympathy for women? They have to put up with men.
In any case, I send these Emails about women's issues, which are a very small percentage of the advocacy Emails that I receive on a daily basis, to Marisela because I know she is very concerned with women's issues, as am I. The more freedom that women have in the world, in every respect, the better the world is. I will stop sending them to you. What social or political issues do you care about? I can send you the latest news in the astronomical world if you wish. We've just recently discovered that the sun's solar wind output is at the lowest since we've been observing it, which could pave the way for interstellar cosmic rays to reach deep into our solar system. This is not a good thing.
Anyway, I must ask this, and please don't take this personally. Are you a secret republican spy?
God help this country if Barack Obama is not elected President.

Good Morning Rick,
I am registered as a Republican, but I’m not a spy and my conservative views are definitely not a secret. Please note however, that I’m liberal on some issues and conservative about others. My ideals don’t fit very neatly into a little Republic box; there are definitely some gray areas. I grew up in a very poor family and lived in an impoverished community for most of my life, so I’m able to identify with issues facing the poor. But I don’t believe that the middle and upper classes should bear the burden of making sure that the needs of the poor are met. Believe me Skid Row is the last place I’d be if I lacked compassion or was unsympathetic to this population’s needs. I’m one paycheck shy of living on Skid Row myself.

I don’t think my last email responded to all of your questions. I don’t give a rat’s ass about women’s issues, just fyi. I’m highly interested in the environment, the economy, immigration, and education. I can’t honestly say that I spend any time thinking about the sun’s solar wind output.

Dear Demitri,
It was a pleasure engaging in discourse with you today. You're a very smart lady, and I appreciate your stance.
For someone who is interested in immigration policy, though, you should be interested in solar wind output.
You don't want a whole bunch of foreign cosmic rays invading our solar system, do you?

Good morning Demitri,
I appreciate your reply, and am so glad you're not a spy. The NSA is everywhere.
How's this... why don't we change the socio-economic structure of this country so there are no poor?
There was virtually no homelessness in this country before Ronald Reagan became President. I'm sorry, but your republican friends have gamed the system, at the expense of the middle and lower class to benefit themselves, to the point that we are where we are today, with homelessness increasing at an exponential rate as families homes are foreclosed. What we need is not 700 billion to bail out Wall Street, we need that money to build infrastructure and green jobs in this country, to put the nation back to work. To actually decrease the amount of homelessness and poverty in this country, you know, like Franklin Roosevelt (Democrat) did in the 30s and 40s, pulling the country out of the Great Depression, despite World War II. And if the ultra rich have gamed the system to their advantage at the expense of everyone else (90% of the wealth of the country is controlled by 5% of the population, a situation that inspired the French Revolution) why shouldn't they be responsible? I don't get it. If someone steals from me, and is caught, it is usual that the courts order reparation. Why shouldn't that be the case now with the ultra rich? The Bush administration has used the United States Treasury as its own little piggy bank, doling out money, hand over fist, to their fat cat friends, as they're trying to do now with this bail out scheme. Why shouldn't the government be responsible, as they are the primary perpetrator? Put the government to work for the people, all the people, not just a privileged few. That's all I'm saying.
I'm sorry for the rant, but I asked you not to get me started.
You and I are both too young to remember the horrors of the Great Depression, which is where I believe the country is headed if McCain gains the Presidency (even if he doesn't, it may be too late now). I suggest you read "The Grapes of Wrath," by John Steinbeck, or watch the movie, to get a taste of what it was like.

I’m willing to concede that the Bush administration is corrupt and guilty of cronyism, if you’re willing to concede that much of the blame for the crisis that we’re in lies on the American public. Not only for re-electing Bush (duh), but for making poor choices in terms of money management, purchasing homes that they couldn’t afford, disregarding the warnings about the effects that our lifestyles have on the environment, the greed of business owners, and our obsession with celebrities. These are things that are not going away even if Obama is elected. The media will continue to report on Britney Spears rather than issues that really matter, Americans will still run out and buy designer clothing with their kids’ college fund, and business owners will continue to give American jobs to immigrants who are willing to work for prison wages.
If you think for one second that Obama being elected represents some kind of divine intervention that’s going to reshape American culture and fix all of the country’s problems, think again.
Please put “The Shock Doctrine” down…..it’s making you crazy.

Demitri continues:
You seem to assume that the homeowners had no idea that there was a possibility that their mortgages would skyrocket, which is utter crap. What kind of idiot agrees to an Adjustable Rate Mortgage, when they’re barely earning enough income to pay the mortgage at the lower interest rate? And what did the people making $250,000 a year do to deserve having their taxes raised? Why are Americans being punished for being successful? And your beloved Bill Clinton’s main priority was welfare reform, because apparently the people on welfare were making money hand over fist and needed to be tamed (what a crock).
I’m not opposed to programs that assist the poor. What I’m opposed to is everything being at the expense of people who decided to go to school, work hard, and are now earning a decent wage. When a person decides to go to school to become a plastic surgeon, I seriously doubt that their ultimate goal in life is to obtain this wonderful career in the medical field so that they’ll have enough money to support people who don’t want to go college and don’t have any aspirations.
In terms of the environment, I think people are pretty well-informed and are choosing not to do anything about the problems that we face (Democrats and Republicans alike). Republicans’ obsession with oil is absolutely to our detriment, but if Democrats have known of a solution to our dependence on foreign oil for some time, why in hell didn’t Clinton remedy the problem?
I just don’t see how we’re ever going to move forward as a country if everything boils down to one party blaming the other for our misfortunes. The American people need to start accepting some responsibility for this mess…..that includes mismanaging their money, being content with their own ignorance, and not participating in the voting process.

Good points! Let's examine them. People couldn't buy houses they couldn't afford if it were not for greedy loan providers allowing them to. That's why we're in the current housing mortgage crisis) Sometimes loans are provided to the working poor, with the anticipation that the consumer will default built into the loan (predatory lending)! If I'm working my ass off to make ends meet, need a car to get to work, and gets what looks like a good deal on a used car, I'm going to take it. Then I find out that my payments go up, at the lenders discretion, so I can't make the payments and have to return the car. The lender gets the car back, plus all the payments that have been made, and makes out like a bandit. This analogy can be applied to credit cards, and payday loans, to mortgages. I agree that people should live within their means, but the economic environment is such that the entire population is pressured into spending, and getting into debt. And real wages have not risen for the middle class (what's left of it), so things get more expensive, and people borrow just to maintain their standard of living.
Bush stole the election in 2004, and the supreme court gave it to him in 2000. Much of the populace did vote for him though in 2004, and these individuals are being lied to on a daily basis by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Rielly, and the candidates themselves. Look at the McCain campaign. They are currently running ads that blatantly lie, that Obama will raise everyone's taxes. Over and over again they say this. Obama will only raise taxes on those making over $250,000 a year, and lower taxes for 90% of the rest of the country. When confronted with this inconvenient fact, the campaign replies, "Well, you can't trust what Obama will actually do." By that criteria, you can't trust what McCain says he'll do either. I don't know about you, but I'll vote for the guy who at least says he'll lower my taxes, rather then the one who tells me he's going to continue the Bush tax cuts, and extend more tax breaks to big business.
Thomas Jefferson stated that a democracy can not exist without an informed populace. We have failed in that. In our school system, and in the media. The media is controlled by a very few companies and people. The republicans have allowed this to happen to their benefit. Reagan did away with the Fair Information act in the 80s, so that both sides did not have to heard, and what we got was the republican noise machine, Fox News, Limbaugh, etc, etc, etc. Only recently, with Bush's approval rating plummeting, has the media environment changed to allow Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Air America to voice an alternative view. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act needs to be enforced, and the media return to a neutral position.
I agree, we should not be overly concerned with celebrity. I'm not. I've not once seen "American Idol." And I've written on this subject extensively. But this stuff is shoved down the throats of average working people who are so tired by working to keep up their standard of living they aren't interested in anything else. The media is responsible as well. And the republicans benefit by keeping the populace uninformed and dazed.
People should be concerned, very concerned about the environment. But this goes back to having an informed populace that isn't constantly lied to and manipulated by republicans (and yes, Democrats lie too, but the degree of disparity is enormous). If the republican world view is so right, why do they always have to revert to lies and misinformation to get their point across and win elections. And your party certainly does not have a sterling record as far as the environment is concerned.
I don't think Obama is some kind of divine intersession. That's a republican talking point. No, he's going to be left with a hell of mess that the republicans have left to him, and it's going to take a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears to get this country in the right direction again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Walking With Ron 4

Ron handed the ring over. Gold, with a square face with one green stone embedded in the center, surrounded by 4 smaller white stones.
Ron doesn't like to come into the pawn shop with me, so he stayed out on the sidewalk while I went in.
I'm not sure why we use the Ace Pawn and Jewelery Company every time. It's certainly no different than the many other pawn shops in the immediate area. But once you begin a relationship with a certain business it's just easier to continue with them.
The jewelery department is on the ground floor of the establishment, so I walked downstairs to the pawn shop.
"Hi Rick."
"Hi Alberto, how's the wife and kids?"
"Good. Good. Hey everybody, Rick's here."
"Hey Rick!"
"Hi Rick."
"Hi Frances. Hi Maricela. How are you?"
"How's Cheryl and Keri?"
Alberto was referring to my dear sister and niece. "As well as can be expected," I replied
"And Erin and Paul?"
"They're both fine."
"And Rodney?"
"One never knows about Rodney."
"Yes, yes, so it would seem. Well, where is he."
I handed over Ron's ring with my California State I.D.
"Oh, we've missed him," Alberto said.
Alberto took the ring, fiddled with his computer looking up my account.
"Fifty again?"
"Yes," I said.
Alberto printed the claim form and I signed and initialed where required and provided a thumb print. He gave me a copy along with two twenties and a ten dollar bill.
And that was that.
I said goodbye to everyone and went upstairs.
Ron had come in the jewelery store and was looking at some gold necklaces. He wanted to buy one for "The mother of my kids," his long time female companion who had sired his son and daughter. They never married and do not currently live together.
Ron found one he liked for about $1500.00, and asked the nice Hispanic sales lady if she could write down the items serial number so when he came back he would be able to find the necklace again. He also asked about layaway payments.
I doubt very much if Ron will ever actually buy the necklace. He may buy it, but I doubt it. Ron's intentions are admirable, but money flows through Ron's fingers like water. Currently Ron has plans for buying that necklace, a moped, visiting his relatives in Baltimore, and for moving away from downtown, all of these require money, or to save money, a concept unheard of by Ron.
I've heard about the moped for the last year and a half. Going to Baltimore for about two years now, and about moving for over 5 years.
As I've earlier stated, Ron tends to procrastinate on some issues.
Our business now completed, we left Ace. I gave Ron his money and claim form.
"Thanks Man," he said. "Where you headed now?"
"Grand Central."
We crossed the Seventh Street to the bus stop and caught one headed north on Broadway. We took it to Third and got off. Across the street lay the Grand Central Public Market.
Wikipedia tells us: "The Grand Central Market is an open stall bazaar that extends along the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin Building from Broadway to Hill Street. Over 40 merchants can be found selling everything from produce to ice cream."
Opened in 1917, "The location was chosen because of its proximity to the Angel's Flight Railway allowing for easy access to the well to do citizens of Bunker Hill."
As far as food goes, you can buy almost anything at the Grand Central Market. Sawdust covering the cement floor (fifth building in the United States to have a cement floor), you can buy tacos, fish, meat, vegetables of all kinds, booze, pizza, ice cream, nachos, can openers, popcorn, and jewelry. They have a fake 99 cent store in the basement (fake meaning that it is not associated with the real 99 cent store chain, and charges pretty much anything it wants for it's merchandise. For instance I recently bought 12 rolls of toilet paper for $3.99 there. Some items are 99 cents, but not many), a check cashing facility, a bakery, you can even get a massage by some Asian people there. While returning from a field trip from the Huntington Gardens near Pasadena, Erin, Paul, Hardy, Patricia, and I had lunch there. Erin and Paul had never been at the Grand Central Market before, and were quite impressed. Paul and I had pizza. Erin had fish. The only thing they don't have at the Grand Central Market is a deli. They used to, but they don't anymore.
I miss that deli.
That day Ron bought some fried chicken and oysters (Ron's a big seafood fan), and I bought a Styrofoam box of rice, beans, cabbage, with two great big tacos on top, sold to me from some other Asian people, for $2.17 (one should always be suspious of Asian people selling Mexican food, but in this instance it turned out well), which I would use for two meals, making a total cost for each meal a mean $1.085. Not too shabby in these difficult economic times.
Ron and I took our respective purchases and continued on the final leg of our journey.
To be continued.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Computer and Basketball

I woke near midnight yesterday and all the people in my computer were green.
Now green happens to be my favorite color, but I mean really! My computer was taking things a bit too far.
For instance, the aforementioned picture of myself and my case manager, Erin, holding an apple pie. Now her hair really was green (instead of the lovely shoulder length, dark brown hair she usually has). My hair was green as well. And now it was a green apple pie.
All the people on the Internet were green as well. When one google's one can click on the "Images," icon and a whole bunch of pictures will magically appear. I did this and all the people in the pictures were green (or of a greenish tint).
This alarmed me. Something was amiss.
My computer and I battle daily. It's a cute little HP Slime-line, just a little bit bigger than your average shoe box. I use it primarily to do research on the net, and for word processing. Quite often my computer has it's unknown agenda though, and wants to do what it wants to do, rather than what I want it to do. Whenever it acts up I get very nervous, as doing research and word processing are very important to my daily rituals, and anything that jeopardizes these activities scares me. It doesn't help that for all practical purposes I am completely computer clueless. All I know about computers was what was taught to me by my two friends John and Mike, who both helped me buy and set up my current computer, and it wasn't much, and I was now a bit anxious about how to correct my green problem.
Said problem apparently occurred while I was attempting to burn a DVD of my favorite western film, "Will Penny," starring the great actor, Charlton Heston (who I saw in person once, at a tribute for the recently passed, Carl Sagan), for my neighbor, the notorious mongerer, Lester B. It must have been an infected movie file, as it was taking forever to burn, and now all my people were green (some very dear to me).
Well I could not let this stand, and I spent most of that morning and day trying to get things back to normal.
First I looked in my computer's control panel to see if I could easily fix the problem by making some small adjustment. No such luck. I then tried to restore the system to an earlier time when all my people weren't green, like the day before. That was done successfully, but the people were still green!
"God damn it," I said to myself.
Now more drastic actions were called for. Unfortunately I chose the wrong one.
I thought that if I reset my computer to it's original factory condition (one of the few things I do know how to do), surely the problem would be resolved.
I did this, and in the process lost all of my contact and calendar information.
And the people were still green. All of them.
"What the f--k," I exclaimed.
At this point I got busy trying just to get the computer back to some kind of normal operating condition.
But my computer didn't want to do that. It wanted to download all the Windows and HP updates it had just lost when I reset it back to it's original factory condition, 75 of them. This took about two hours. Then it wanted to download Norton security info. I'm into security, so I let it do that as well (the only good thing that came out of this pitiful situation is that I somehow got 60 more days of free Norton security), which didn't take that long.
I then had to install a codec pack (to watch movies), utorrent (to get movies), a Google shortcut for my desk top, my word processor (Abi-suite), and the Sage thesaurus program.
But my people were still green, and the computer wasn't doing things the way it had just a day ago. So I E-mailed Mike (who I don't know where he's currently living) and John (who now resides in Costa Rica), calling out for "Help!" Fortunately, they are used to this. I even E-mailed Hewlit Packard, thinking they would know how to solve this problem since they made the damn thing.
While waiting for a response it occurred to me that if my computer was indeed infected, maybe a Norton security scan would identify the problem. I ran the scan and after checking over 200,000 locations in the mysterious depths of the machines innards, it came across one lonely little tracking cookie which wasn't supposed to be there. I had Norton remove the offending piece of software, then checked my people.
Success! They were all back to normal. Now Erin's hair is back to it's lustrous dark brownness.
Mine too!
Enough about computers. Quite frankly I'm tired of the subject.
Today during support group we played basketball. Out back, behind my box, there is a small fenced in open area where we have our garden (The Garden Club has just recently resumed and all we are growing right now is a lavender plant, some shamrocks, six tomato plants, and a blue flowery plant that is not long for this world). There is also a small paved area surrounding a basketball hoop. Appropriately enough, this is where we played basketball, Erin, Paul, Rodney (another neighbor who is the only person I've ever met who knows all of the ancient Greek and Roman gods), myself, and an intern (case manager wanna be), also named Paul.
If I remember correctly the last time I have touched a basketball was way back when I was in high school. Too many years ago to mention. And I was clumsy at first, I'll admit that, handling the ball and shooting like a little girl.
But I got better and I smoked all of them.
We played the game thusly: we all took turns shooting from various locations, and those of us lucky enough (or in my case, skilled enough) to make the shot were allowed to ask any question of the others who were required to answer. I do believe I made the most shots, Paul (case manager Paul) second, and Erin third. Rodney may be great at mythology, but he sucks at basketball.
So I asked who their favorite television shows were, their favorite films, and books. I found out when Erin's birthday is (because my computer had delightedly deleted that information during it's last mishap).
Asking Erin questions like what her favorite things are is very amusing because she attempts to sincerely answer the question correctly, but she can't because she tends to shy away from "absolutes," like what the word "favorite," implies. She really worries over all her thoughtful answers, which I find quite fascinating. I don't know why.
She likes the contemporary comedian Demetri Martin, but will not state that he is her favorite.
I on the other hand have no problem with absolutes, and Jack Benny will always be my "favorite" funny man.
Favorite, favorite, favorite.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Walking With Ron 3

"Aaahhh! Aaaaaahhhh! Aaaaaahhhhhh!"
"One and a half hours they had me in that chair," Ron continued to Tall James. I had heard the story previously on the phone.
Three demons worked Ron over for one and a half hours to pull one tooth.
"They said I have good gums," Ron explained.
They had to break it to remove the affected molar. After forty five minutes they got half of the tooth out.
"Maybe we should quit now, and you can come back to take out the other half," one of the demons hopefully suggested.
Groggy with the oncoming pain as the anesthetic was beginning to ware off, Ron exclaimed, "Are you kidding?! I'm here now, don't stop until it's finished."
Disappointed, the demons continued.
"Man," Ron continued, "at one point the dentist (demon) slipped and the tool he was using jammed straight into the other side of my mouth."
"Damn," Tall James exclaimed. He's not much of a talker.
"And the pain killers was wearing off. Man by the time those jokers were finished I was F--KED UP!"
"Damn," both Tall James and I sympathized.
"It was weird. As I was leaving, all three of them said at the same time, kind of staring at me, 'Sorry for the inconvenience. See you next time.'"
"That is strange," I agreed, recognizing the demon possessed spawns of hell for what they were.
"They gave me a prescription for codeine, and I'm sitting downstairs in the pharmacy for over three hours waiting. My mouth is all swelled up, and I'm feeling it man. Ohh, I was hurting. I told the pharmacist, 'Man I just came from the dentist and I need something NOW!' Still they made me wait"
"Damn," Tall James and I sympathized again.
"I called my boss on the phone and told him what was happening, and he's laughing, telling me 'To man up.' Telling me to man up."
We all laughed at that, then with our conversation with Tall James completed, we began our walk.
Ron needed to make a purchase near Gladys Park and the Los Angeles Mission, so we walked from the Hippie Kitchen on Sixth Street, west to Crocker, north on Crocker to Fifth, then west again to Wall Street. Ron made his purchase, spoke briefly to some acquaintances, then we continued to the heart of downtown and the pawn shop.
From Wall to Los Angeles Street, where we turned south back to Sixth, continuing west to Broadway.
Broadway is one of the oldest streets in L.A., being laid out in 1849. "For more than 50 years, Broadway from First Street to Olympic Boulevard was the main commercial street of Los Angeles, and one of its premier theater districts as well. It contains a vast number of historic buildings and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places," Wikipedia tells me, and I have little reason not believe them. Broadway is a street in the technical term, but it is not called a street. It is not a boulevard, or an avenue, or a place, or way... it's just Broadway, the only thorough-fair I am aware of that does not have some type of designation. It is a busy street (except at night, when it's like, completely empty. It is usually a good idea to be indoors late at night around here) on any day, but on weekends, like that Saturday, it is exceptionably so. Literally thousands of people, mostly Hispanic, come out to walk, shop, and eat, at hundreds of establishments that offer goods for them to buy. Cheap. You can get anything downtown, to illegal drugs, to electronics, household goods, to clothing and food. Any kind of food.
Personally I buy prepared food and cheap cloths on Broadway, never electronic devices. Not any more. They are cheap, but of low quality, and soon stop working. I've been burnt a lot on VCR and fans. I bought one VCR from a shop on Broadway between Fifth and Sixth, took it home, hooked it up and it did not work. I took it back to the shop and they gave me another, which I brought home with the same result. I took that one back as well, they tried it and it worked fine. I took it back home, it wouldn't work. I threw it away.
And don't get me started on fans.Any fan you buy downtown will short out from anywhere from immediately, to one month, to a year if your very lucky, but it will burn out. Guaranteed.
So I spend a little more money for stuff like that and purchase them from Target, or Home Depot, someplace that will give you a warranty.
So from Sixth and Broadway we turned south to Seventh and Broadway, where the Ace Pawn and Jewelery Company does business.

To be continued.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Walking With Ron 2

Ron... how shall I put this... has a tendency to procrastinate on some issues.
For instance, the purpose of last Saturday's walk was for me to help him get a loan on his gold ring. The reason he needed me to help was because Ron continuously puts off going down to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get either a driver's license, or a state issued I.D. He says he's going to do it on Monday... always a Monday for some reason, and he's said that for three years. Now there happens to be many pawn shops here downtown, and they all require a driver's license or a state issued I.D. in order to get a loan. Ron has a Veteran's Administration I.D., as do I, but apparently that's not good enough for pawn shops.
Now I happen to have a state issued I.D. I would never consider walking around without one. So whenever Ron runs a little short on cash he needs me to pawn his ring for him. We do this on a monthly basis. I know all of the employees at Ace Pawn Company exceptionally well, and they know and welcome me, all because of Ron's gold ring.
So at eleven I walked over the short distance to the Hippie Kitchen, where the hippies were busy handing out beans and salad. And pre-buttered bread. I didn't see Ron when I first got there, so I grabbed a plate and began eating my breakfast. It wasn't long before I saw Ron's skinny ass goofy looking bald head above the crowd. He wasn't eating breakfast today. He walked up to me and said, "I'm going to get some peroxide. Wait a minute."
I continued eating. Ron walked over to the door where peroxide and vitamins were handed out to those who wanted them. He came back, saying "Let's get outta here."
Ron has a tendency to the authoritarian. He's always telling me which way to go when we're walking, as if I couldn't get around without his advice. His routes are invariably the most circuitous and round about that one could imagine. That is, I think, due to the simple fact that Ron likes to walk. I don't mind walking, and try to do so for thirty minutes a day, but I don't like to walk anywhere near as much as Ron does.
When I first moved into my box, which Ron helped me get, by the way, I walked with Ron every Saturday morning as he made "his rounds." Today was very much like those walks.
Ron works at a local community service organization, so he works closely with the people of Skid Row, and he lives within it's boundaries. So he knows like everyone around here. We can't walk a block without Ron passing by someone he knows, and says hello to. Today was no exception.
As soon as we turned the corner of the Hippie Kitchen we met Anne, who Ron has known for a very long time.
Anne must hold the record for being arrested for living in a camping tent on the sidewalk. She been arrested over 30 times, and may face some serious time for these infractions if she doesn't stop. But she doesn't stop. People get used to living a certain way and it's difficult for them to change. Ron has a friend named Frank, who likes to be called Terry, a fellow veteran, who has continuously lived on the streets of downtown Los Angeles for 30 years. Ron had him stay over at his place one night and Terry was so nervous and jittery that he could not sleep indoors and had to leave.
Ron said hello to Anne, and then we ran into Tall James, and Ron told him about how the demons attacked him (see the previous post "Demons").
Now I happen to know Tall James as well. Another veteran, who lives in a nearby SRO (Single Room Only) hotel. So I said hello to. Ron and I call him Tall James to distinguish him from Ron's boss, whose name happens to be James, and because... well, he's tall.
Ron had gone to the VA hospital in Westwood the previous Friday to see the dentists there. So the Veteran's Administration has been infiltrated by the demons. And Ron let them get to him.
"For one and a half hours they had me in that chair!" Ron was telling Tall James. "One and a half hours! Three of them working on me!"
Ron had had a tooth that was bothering him for a long time. The pain got to the point where he couldn't procrastinate about it any further, so he went to the demons. The VA demons will examine almost every veteran for free, but that's about all they'll do unless the veteran is rated with a 100% service connected disability.
So they got Ron in the chair, finally identified the correct tooth, and told him he needed a crown.
"Okay, put one in," Ron told them.
"Well let's check your record," the head demon told him. "Ah, you're only 40 percent connected. We can't put in a crown unless you're one hundred percent."
"What can you do?"
"W can pull it," the demon stated gleefully.
And this is when Ron made a great mistake.
He said, "Go ahead and do it."
Then they pounced.

To be continued.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cooking Club

First, let's take care of some current events.
I was shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic death of the 45 year old actress, Natasha Richardson. She passed away yesterday after sustaining a head injury during a skiing lesson in Canada on Monday. Although I am less familiar with her work than I am of her husband, Liam Neeson, her death at such a young age was exceptionally unfortunate. My heartfelt sympathy is extended to her family and friends.
I personally have never snow skied, nor do I intend to, for the simple fear of getting killed, or sustaining major bodily injury. I value life too much to put it in jeopardy for no good reason. Sliding down a steep and slippery mountain at high velocities seems to me to be a recipe for disaster. Every time I get the urge to ski I visualize Sonny Bono slamming into a tree and the urge goes away.
The same applies to going up a mountain. You won't find me climbing anything higher than a step ladder anytime soon.
Mountains are just dangerous things. I suggest avoiding them whenever possible.
I have skied on water, and may again. There are no trees in a lake.
One must be mindful of freshwater sharks, however.
And octopuses.
President Obama was here downtown about an hour and a half ago with our govenator for a town hall meeting.
Congress is in an uproar over bonuses paid out to executives of companies like AIG who have received bailout money. I am to. These are the very same people who got us into this mess to begin with, and their getting extra money for doing it? These companies maintain that they need to make the payments in order to retain these executives. I don't know about you, dear reader, but I was an exceptional employee for most of my life and the only bonus I ever received was a hearty, "Good job, Rick."
And Dick Cheney went on television and stated he thought Obama was making it easier for terrorists to attack us again even though he is not seeing intelligence reports anymore. I offer him the same thing John Stewart of The Daily Show did: "How would you like a nice hot cup of shut the f--k up!"
Okay, the Cooking Club. At eleven o'clock I walked over to the Olympia Hotel and was allowed to enter, being a Cooking Club regular. We get together on Thursdays to cook things. I'm not sure why, but we do. We cooked muffins last week, and in the past have cooked nice omelets, cupcakes, pizza, lasagna, and apple pies (I have an actual picture of Erin and I holding said apple pie, but will never post it because I look horrible in it, especially when compared to the lovely Erin). Anything that doesn't take too long or is overly complicated. This Club is the most popular currently offered by my case managers, Erin and Paul, for a very simple reason. Free food is provided.
Today sixteen people signed up to help make some enchilada pie. Fortunately, only about ten showed, except for Rodney, who came late after all the work was done, and was shooshed away by a stern disapproving look from the authoritarian Erin.
I cooked the hamburger, which I always like to do, just to keep busy, and I happen to be proficient at it. Besides others can't be trusted not to take repeated and unnecessary taste tests throughout the cooking process. So I cooked up about two pounds of meat in a skillet. Erin added salt and spices, and tomatoes. Someone else added chopped onions. Earl bought, and wanted to add some cilantro, but Erin would have none of it.
Apparently she had been abused by the herb in the past. She told a horrifying story about while visiting Ecuador (this girl has been everywhere! When I was her age I was lucky to visit Pomona) she was forced to eat a stew made out of potatoes, ostrich eggs, and hamsters, seasoned largely with cilantro, by a rampaging tribe of Ecuadorian Indians. This was particularly traumatic for Erin because at the time she kept a hamster as a pet (or was it a Guinea Pig, I can't remember). And since that time she has deeply relucent to consume cilantro, which reminds her of the fateful occasion.
By the way, Erin stated that she was not feeling very well today, was nauseous actually, but came to work anyway because so many had signed up for the Club today, and she didn't want to disappoint them. What a trooper!
I invite all of my dear readers to join me in wishing Erin a speedy and complete recovery.
By the way again, I can write anything I want to about my case managers Erin and Paul, without fear of retribution, because they never read any of my stuff. Like this:
Erin has a big funny looking nose and green hair.
See, nothing happened.
"Ouch! don't hit me again. Please stop."
That girl can really sneak up on you fast. I must improve my security.
Earl was in charge of assembling the pie, using tortillas, cheese, sauce, olives, and my nice meat. The pie was placed in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, and then consumed by all. Paul even had some and he tends toward vegetarianism. There was enough left over for us to take some home with us, which I did.
Now I know what's for dinner tonight!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saint Patrick's Day

I've been told that I am of Irish descent. One hundred percent.
My parents told me this because they were told I was of Irish descent by the adoption agency where they procured me. My sister and I were both adopted, me when I was three days old, my sister was a bit older when we picked her up. I am three years older than she, and I still remember the day we went to get Cheryl. I don't believe I was very happy about it at the time.
But I got used to her.
Saint Patrick's Day, or "Lá ’le Pádraig ," of course, is an annual feast day which celebrates the life of Saint Patrick, Ireland's best known patron saint. He was of Welsh birth and in the year 406 A.D. was captured by raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave for the next six years. He was just 16 years old. He escaped, returned home, and entered the church.
Then he came back to Ireland and chased away all of the snakes.
I made my way downtown rather early to see the Saint Patrick's Day Parade, which began at Main and Arcadia, and would end at Pershing Square, a city block large type of park, located smack in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. LA's version of Cental Park. Mark Twain once spoke there I'm told.
Anybody wearing green clothing was welcome to join the parade, and there were a lot of them (I was wearing green underware. They were white once). Fathers and mothers, all wearing green, brought their children, who were also wearing green, all joined in and had a merry time. All the local bars and restaurants were having Saint Patrick's Day celebrations and specials. My only complaint when these type of events take place downtown (which happens more that you would think, because when a particular group wants to protest something, they come downtown to do it), is that the regular MTA bus routes get all screwed up, more than they are usually.
I had an appointment at one o'clock, so I could not stay to see Fernando Lamas sing the National Anthem at the parade's end (I guess they couldn't find anybody who was Irish), or the Young Dubliners perform at Pershing Square.
Today was yoga day.
Or rather my case managers, the lovely Erin, and the lanky Paul, had arranged for a yoga instructor to come and teach those who wished to participate, some nice yoga. This was the second week of the class, and I wanted to make sure I was there, as at the first class, just me and my neighbor, Hardy, showed up, and I didn't want to have Beth, our beautiful teacher, come down from where ever it is she lives, and find nobody at her class. That would be a waste of time for Beth, and an embarrassment for Erin and Paul.
I do everything I can to support my case managers in their attempts to support me. They are both wonderful people, and I believe, totally without guile. And they really like interacting with their clients, and do so on a daily basis, as I will see them at the Garden Club on Mondays, Yoga on Tuesdays, Support Group is being moved to Wednesdays, Cooking Club on Thursdays, and Friday is Movie Day, where they both watch a movie with us at noon. I give them the weekend off.
So I see them almost everyday. Christ, its like being married.
But I enjoy interacting with them as well, because they are truly nice kids, who I have more in common with than I do anybody else who lives near Skid Row, including my good friend Ron. Erin, right now for instance, is reading, "East of Eden," written by my favorite author, John Steinbeck. I have yet to see any of my neighbors read a book, let alone quality fiction. I'm sure some do, but I never see them.
Erin is 24 years old, hails from New Jersey, has studied psychology, and may want to become a working actress. And her sister just turned 14.
Paul is of similar age, is an English major, comes from Detroit, lives in some kind of twisted "Three's Company," type arrangement, and I don't know how old his sister is, if he has one.
I'll find out though.
My worries about no one showing up were for naught. When the class began four people were there, along with Erin and Paul, so attendance had increased by a staggering 100%. After we began, two others came and joined us. Phenomenal! Then Geena came, sat on one of the mats, then took off. She does that a lot.
Yoga was grueling. I really broke out into a sweat during some of the exercises. Beth is a hard task master, telling us to bend our spines all of the time.
An hour after yoga we had our last Tuesday Support Group, in which Paul produced a kind of test, wherein the participants answered a whole bunch of very personal questions on a piece of paper, then we cut the answers out with scissors, compared them, which allowed us to discover our individual "Core Trait." I discovered mine was empathy/creativity.
Erin cheated by editing her answers in the final stages of the process. When I pointed this out to her she rationalized a pitiful excuse and punched me in the arm. Blatant client abuse.
My evening was busy as well. On Tuesdays I attend the local meeting of S.O.S. (Save Our Selves), a secular kind of twelve-step group. But more about that later.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Walking With Ron 1

I walked with my friend Ron last Saturday. He wanted my help with getting a loan on his gold ring so I told him I would meet him at the Hippie Kitchen at eleven o'clock.
I've known Ron for over fifteen years. We first met when I was working as the residence manager for the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in Pasadena, a one hundred and six bed facility available to men who require and desire rehabilitation. Ron came to the center after a regrettable relapse in the use of cocaine. What is even more regrettable is that this relapse occurred while he was the residence manager of the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, right here downtown, on Seventh Street and Towne, which has since been abandoned. Faced with the option of re-entering the program (starting over again as a beneficiary and enter a six month long drug and alcohol program), or joining the ranks of the homeless, Ron decided on the former. Having had a good measure of power over those current beneficiaries then in the program, Ron quite rightly decided he would enter a program other than in downtown Los Angeles.
So he came to Pasadena and we met. He being a past residence manager, and me being a current residence manager at the time, we had a good deal in common, and thus became friends. We couldn't be more different, however. I'm a five foot eleven, one hundred and eighty pound white guy with thinning hair. Ron is a six foot four, one hundred and eighty pound black guy, who is bald, or at least he shaves his head to maintain his nice radiant, hairless head. I've lived in L.A. for all but eight years of my life. Ron came here in the early 1980's, having left his home and family in Baltimore, which he thinks is the country. He keeps referring to himself as a country person, as opposed to a city slicker, such as myself. He believes country people are superior to city people in general, I don't know why. Ron is a Vietnam War veteran. I am not. I am much to young and good looking to have been in the Vietnam War. I missed being drafted into that one by about two years. I am a veteran, having served in the navy for four years. But I chose a time to enlist when my country was not involved in a military engagement with another nation, which is the only time one should join the military in my opinion.
Once, while enduring a usual conversation with him at my place (where he likes to come and relax after work sometimes), which always involves a long, sometimes not completely coherent monologue (I often actually try to have a conversation with Ron, and attempt to provide some input. He will stop talking, looking sad at the interruption, wait until I stop speaking, and then continue at the point where he left off, as if I hadn't said a thing. This can at times be exceptionally annoying, but it does have its advantages, like not ever having to think of something to say), I asked him about his Vietnam experience. Apparently he was shot once, right in the ass. And he re-enlisted for a second tour of duty. He didn't at that time make it clear to me if he re-enlisted before or after he was shot in the ass, but I had to call him on this.
"Wait, wait, wait, a minute! You re-enlisted during a time of war! Having already spent a year risking your life, your life, you re-uped for another year?!
He laughed. "Man, I was having a blast. I was having the greatest time in my life." then he continued on with his narrative, not making it particularly clear why fighting in a war was so much good fun.
Ron enjoys talking... and arguing. He will consistently take the opposite position on whatever proposition I may propose. He'll even argue with me when I am agreeing with him. I think he likes me because I do not have the authority to shut him up, as do his coworkers at his place of work, where he tells me they often tell him, "Shut the f--k up, Ron!" I can tell him to shut the f--k up (which I never do for fear of being rude), but he'll just keep on talking anyway.
I can honestly say that he is the most hard-headed, stubborn individual that I have ever met, next to myself (but I'm usually right, so it's okay). It is often said that when people get older they get set in their ways. Ron takes this to the extreme. We have gotten into some serious arguments due to this inflexibility. Once we even went for several months without speaking, due to his rigidity. I've known that to get along with Ron is by taking him and cherishing him for what he is... my good friend. He is the only man I know that I can completely trust (in as much as one can trust anyone). He has consistently helped me whenever I've needed help, as I have done for him. He loans me money if I need it, as I do for him (he's the only person I'd ever loan money to around here, except my case manager, Erin, and she's not allowed to borrow money from me... and my sister, or niece), and we consistently pay each other back.
I was helping him last Saturday, as I was saying, which was the purpose of our walk.

To be continued.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Who's Ronald?

Who's Ronald? That's the eternal question, isn't it? This is the last story concerning our previous president.

“A further conflict of interest involving rational behavior arises when the interests of the decision making elite in power clash with the interests of the rest of society. Especially if the elite can insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions, they are likely to do things that profit themselves, regardless of whether those actions hurt everybody else. Such clashes, flagrantly personified by the dictator Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and the governing elite in Haiti, are becoming increasing frequent in the modern U.S., where rich people tend to live within their gated compounds and to drink bottled water.
-Jared Diamond, Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

During an awkward, low moment in a recent meeting of the Skid Row Garden Club, one of our members volunteered to show us pictures of his family reunion, taken from a vacation he had some two years previously. My usual enthusiasm to view photographs of people I don’t know, will probably never meet, and who themselves have no knowledge or interest in my existence, was somewhat lacking on this particular day. However, the unexpected lull in the conversation had caught me by surprise, and the five of us who were there, encouraged by the group’s nominal leader, agreed to wait for our fellow “gardener” to retrieve his photos from his room on the second floor of our hotel. I was trapped.
These meetings, I’m almost positive, are carefully designed by their creators to be therapeutic in some way, and are often vibrant and filled with the energy associated with the nurturing of new living organisms. Residents, such as myself, were given plants to look after and worry about. We were charged with the plants care and well-being. At our weekly get-togethers we discussed the issues and crisis’s our plants may be experiencing at any given moment, disseminated State-Of-The-Art, groundbreaking new developments in Plant Technology, and how best to implement said techniques and use them in an appropriate and timely manner. Sadly, we also had occasion to eulogize the flora which had left us for a better world in Plant Heaven.
As I’ve mentioned, on the day of the photos we had run out of things to talk about. The general health of the plants already allocated to us had previously been discussed, thorough plant inspections made and treatment strategies prescribed. No new members were there to initiate, haze, and give plants to, and during the previous week’s meeting, using paint pencils and little talent, we had decorated the pots our plants live in (with various degrees of success). So, when the aforementioned “Moment Of Awkward Silence” occurred, not one of us was brave enough, motivated enough, or had enough forward momentum to suggest the meeting end.
Accordantly, we waited patiently for our friend to return from upstairs with breathless anticipation. He soon made it back to the dining area, carrying with him several small plastic containers which held, what my imagination displayed to me, literally thousands and thousands of 4 by 5 glossy photographs, all of unknown people (to me), smiling benignly at the camera, and awaiting our cursory inspection. In actuality, the number of photos were only two hundred, or so. The presenter, rife with pride, dutifully began to share his treasures with the rest of us, the first photo being handed to one member for examination, then the next, in a circular arrangement, until, alas, it returned to its rightful owner to be reintegrated into his vast collection.
Oral descriptions of the the family link our friend had with the many subjects of the photographs were provided for each and every picture presented, and some type of comment, often laudatory, were expected from the rest of us. An example of this lively banter went something like this:
“This here is my Great Auntie Mabel, with her two cousin-in laws, Gladys and Justine. Gladys, she be retired now, and living in Minnesota.”
And we would respond with something like this:
“Oh, that’s nice,” or “She looks wonderful. Where does Justine live?” or, “They look very happy.”
Some of the subjects of the photographs were sitting. In other pictures, other people were standing. Sometimes, the people we had just seen sitting, in brand new photos, were now standing. The phenomena of locomotion was implied, but hardly commented upon, as far as I can remember. In almost all of the photographs the subjects were seen grinning, and smiling happily into the camera. Sometimes there was only one subject, in other photos there were many clustered together, or sitting next to each other, all smiling madly, as if they resided in some utopian, perfect world, free from war, pestilence, doubt, and worry. It of course had been explained to us that the event which had prompted the production of these pictures was one of a reunion of family members, so one could conclude from this virtually millions (if not billions) of possible combinations of aunties, uncles, cousins, moms and dads, nephews and nieces, step-fathers and brothers, on and on, sitting, kneeling, stooping, jumping, standing, or lying down taking a little nap. Our examination of these photos continued for perhaps 20 minutes, and just moments before I felt I would surely go insane, our friend discarded one photograph, stating he did not know who the person in the picture happened to be. He quickly moved on to the next photo of more familiar members of his large and ponderous kin.
Suddenly my interest was genuinely piqued. Of all the photographs our friend had thus far presented for inspection and appraisal he had provided some type of historical or biographical commentary and explanation, except this one! Why was this, I wondered. Being naturally inquisitive and suspicious concerning items and situations that were none of my business, I waited patiently for our friend to finish dolling out the remainder of the package of pictures he had been working through, then interrupted him before he could move on to the next.
“Wait a minute! Wait a minute,” I cried. I dug through the pile of pictures until reaching the one in question, and presented it to the group, imperiously demanding, “I want to know who this is!”
“I don’t know who he is,” our friend repeated. He picked up the picture, turning it over to read from the back. “Ronald,” he said, as if that answer were sufficient.
“Ronald? Who’s Ronald?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered again. I could tell he was anxious to move on to more familiar territory. “It’s Ronald.”
I could not let the matter rest.
“Ronald,” I muttered. I took the photograph from his grasp. “Who are you?”
The picture depicted an elderly, black gentleman, thin, almost gaunt. He was defined by handsome, distinguished features. Gray haired, and balding. He sported a short, white mustache, and was dressed in a simple brown suit that seemed a bit overly large on him, but not so much that it would draw attention. He sat quietly, it looked, at the extreme right end of a large, brown sofa, by himself, with what appeared to me a bemused, confident smile upon his face. No one else was in the picture with him, but it looked like “Ronald” was comfortable and having a good time, satisfied to observe the events transpiring around him. He was not looking at the camera at the time the picture was taken, but rather, upwards, and to the left. His eyes though were clearly discernable, hinting at hidden intelligence and a touch of delight.
I was strangely affected by the obsequious photograph, and could not stop myself from thinking about it. One had to assume that this man, Ronald, was known to the photographer well enough that the desire to preserve his image was evident. That only the use of his first name to identify him was further proof of this. The subject had been invited to a “family reunion” another proof that this gentleman was well known to said family, as well as the photographer, possibly an actual member of the family, but he was not known to my Garden Club friend.
Huuumm, I thought to myself. Very strange.
Then there was the matter of Ronald’s sitting alone in what must have been a fairly crowded room. Huuumm, I thought again. Was Ronald being avoided for some reason? Ostracized by the very family which had presumably invited him? A “Black Sheep” perhaps, currently out of favor for some ancient slight still held against him. Or was it that just at that particular moment chance had caught a solitary Ronald, to be locked for eternity in this picture, alone and friendless?
Clearly, too many questions were left unanswered. This issue had to be investigated, I thought, and since no one else in our group offered to do the job (quite sensibly, I grudgingly admit), the problem was left in my capable hands.
I sprang into action, asking our friend if I could borrow Ronald, or his picture at least, for a day or two. My friend was doubtful at first, but gave in after I had thoroughly explained my intentions and upon my sincere promise to return his property in mint condition.
After the Garden Club meeting adjourned (some, not me surely, might say “gratefully adjourned”) for yet another week, I carried the picture up to my own room, and placed on my desk for further examination later in the day.
After the successful conclusion of my normal Monday evening routine, consisting of: (1) Strenuous physical exercise (alternating sets of yoga positions, calisthenics, isometrics, crunches, sit ups, push ups, 32 count burpies) for almost an entire two minutes (almost), (2) Meditation (Tibetan), (3) A full and nourishing meal of Weenie-Tots and onion burritos, (4) Viewing of my favorite television programs (“Married With Children,” “Homework Hotline,” “The Charley Rose Show,” and “Huell Howser Visits California’s 5 Corners.” (Who knew we had five corners? Only Huell Howser, and he took us to each and every one of them!), (5) Reading a chapter or two from Eagle Hunting for Fools, by Antonin Scalia. Then I remembered Ronald, and picked up his picture, looking at it intently as I laid down on my nice, hard bed.
“I’ll find out who you are, my friend,” I softly vowed. “Don’t you worry. I’ll find out.”
I let the matter rest for the time being, placing the photograph on a chair conveniently located next to my bed for just such purposes, and then fell asleep.
Due to an unfortunate incident involving my electric stapler and some stale applesauce, I was unable to begin my investigation of Ronald’s photograph for two days. But what I lacked in immediacy I made up for in ferocious mendacity.
My first step, as always, was to utilize the enormous resources available to each and every citizen of this great nation, the local library. It so happens that the branch I most often frequent is the Los Angeles Central Library, the Big Daddy, if you will, of all the libraries within the county of Los Angeles, and from which all the other little libraries are born. Past and part-time home (and university) to such luminaries as Ray Bradbury and Charles Burkowski, I feel privileged to have such a distinguished institution so close at hand, with first-rate librarians just sitting around mumbling to themselves, and eager to do my bidding. For the type of project I had on my hands my best bet was to begin in the History Department, down in what I affectionately label “The Pit,” as the department is physically located on the very bottom floor, 4 levels below the street entrance. It is dark and murky down there, and legend has it that some patrons, wishing to penetrate the secrets of the past, have entered its cavernous interior only to disappear and never be seen again.
I began my search by looking through telephone books, electronic and print, for any reference to “Ronald” in and around the city and state my Garden Club friend claimed the photograph had originated, a small town in the large state of Florida. Granted, I did not have a great amount of data to go on. A first name and a picture. This could be, I reasoned, the main cause of my lack of success in finding any useful information which furthered my cause. The name “Ronald,” although unsightly, is a fairly common one, and I was soon to discover literally thousands and thousands of Ronald’s apportioned all over the place, especially in Florida. I was not deterred, however. Oh no. I continued my search diligently. Weeks turned into months. I noticed the change of seasons outside the libraries windows. The world turned and continued its elliptical orbit around its progenitor star. Events transpired around me and in the rest of the world. I took no notice. I used the libraries computers to illegally hack into government, and social aid agencies located in the south-eastern, hurricane prone states, in what seemed an endless supply of files, pictures, and printed information, each day hoping that this would be the day I came across some inkling, hint, or clue as to Ronald’s identity, but to no avail. I posted his picture on the World Wide Web; along with an ardent plea for the least scrap of information that could lead me to the fruitful conclusion of my “quest,” for my search could surely be called that by this time. A quest I continued to pursue for the next three and three-quarter years. I offered rewards. I made trips to Florida and its neighboring states on several occasions, with no success. I found Ronald’s everywhere. Fat Ronald’s, little Ronald’s, Ronald’s without hair. I found old Ronald’s, young baby Ronald’s. These were of no use to me. I found Asian Ronald’s, Samoan Ronald’s, southern, northern, and French Ronald’s, Ronald’s apparently without end. I even found 3 women named Ronald, 47 dogs, 28 cats, 2 lizards, and 1 chicken named Ronald (technically a rooster), but never, not in one instance, did I come across the right Ronald, the Ronald that would bring an end to all my labors and allow me to return to the promising life I had once enjoyed. A quiet life of self-reflection, characterized by an abiding search for truth and beauty. It seemed though this was not to be.
After the seventh year of my search it occurred to me that I may fail. I was tired, sick actually, at looking at Ronald’s. I’d had trouble sleeping, waking in the dark hours of the night with that infernal name issuing from my parched lips, my once strong and lithe body covered in cold sweat. I could not eat. I took no satisfaction from once pleasurable activities. I had no social life, no romantic interests and little hope of finding any. The librarians hated me, talking to each other in soft whispers whenever I came near. My caseworker at the Los Americas Hotel was beginning to suspect that something might be amiss.
Finally, after the eleventh year of constant searching, I came to the decision that it might not be worth the trouble to continue. Who cared who Ronald was, I asked myself. What was he to me that I should waste my life in such a manner? Nothing. Even if I should find Ronald one day, what would I do then? I had no idea. It dawned on me that I may have a spent a large fraction of my life in a useless pursuit. I became despondent, depressed. I was economically ruined.
I decided to end my search. I would from this point forward devote what remaining years I had left to the promotion of “goodness” throughout the world. I would go to medical school and become a cosmetic surgeon, and learn how to play the harpsichord. One thing I knew for sure, I would never willing become a lawyer. I had sunk low enough already, and there was only one direction left to me, and that was upward. I would thrust myself out of the gloom and into the the light of reason and prosperity.
I got up from my seat at the computer terminal and placed the now old, and dog-eared picture of my nemesis in my vest pocket, ready now to finally return it to its rightful owner who by this time had forgotten all about it.
If only I could do so, I lamented. If only I might still have a chance to live.
I said my goodbyes to the History Department’s faithful staff, informing them of my intention of never returning. It was the first time I had seen them smile in years. They actually spoke to me, saying goodbye, advising me to take care.
Before leaving I needed to use the restroom one last time. Its porcelain contours were well know to me. After all of these years I knew every corner, every stall, every sink and faucet intimately. There was nothing in this room I was not aware of, or that would cause me harm. So while washing my hands and noticing in the mirror a large man dressed in a new and shiny trench coat, it came as a complete surprise to register a curious pain near the rear portion of my shaggy head and suddenly lose consciousness. All I remember was a sense of falling, endlessly falling, toward whatever doom awaited me.

I have no idea how long I was out. When I came to, I felt my body lying in the horizontal, my swollen face pressed against cold, hard stone. I slowly opened my eyes to look upon a dimly lit room and thought briefly that I had simply fainted in the restroom at the very moment the libraries lights had failed. Instead, I sat up to find myself sitting on a cement bench, which protruded from a wall, which itself was made of the very same, cold, hard, material. My head ached, and my body was sore, with little stinging pains shooting throughout my back and arms.
Upon further examination I found myself in a cell-like enclosure, the bench I was sitting on the only apparent accommodation to human occupancy. No toilet. No window. A faint light rang down from a thin fluorescent strip embedded in the ceiling some ten feet above my throbbing head. A steel door faced me, about three feet from where I sat. I shook my head and ran my fingers through my hair, attempting to clear my blurry vision.
“Oh great,” I moaned to the listening silent walls. “The Library Cops got me.”
Damn! Library Cops! The worst kind. You don’t want to screw around with those bastards. They’re reputation for tenacity and ruthless violence while hunting down and prosecuting patrons with overdue library materials was legendary. They were more horrible than IRS agents and telemarketers. I tried hard to remember if I had any videos or books checked out, let alone overdue. I couldn’t think of any. Maybe they found me passed out in the restroom, thought I was drunk, and threw me in the Library Dungeon until I sobered up.
I stood, or tried to. I was pretty shaky, my legs weak and uncertain. I must have hit the floor hard in the restroom, I thought. Great, just what I needed to begin my “Ronald Free” life- a bright and sparkling major concussion. I took the two steps necessary to reach the door and pounded on it, hoping to alert my capturers that I was now awake. Nothing came of it though, and I sat back down, exhausted from the meager effort. I felt depressed and weepy, my head hanging down between my legs.
It was a few moments later that I heard the footsteps approaching from outside. A small window in the door slid open and I could see a pair of cold, hard eyes checking me out. I smiled lamely.
“Hi,” I said.
“You awake?” a male voice inquired.
The window closed, and I heard the sound of bolts being slid open. The thick door opened with a loud creak. It was dark out beyond and I could not make out any movement from the open doorway.
“I’m not drunk,” I said. “I must have fainted, or…”
A large pail-full of ice-cold water hit me hard, right between the eyes! I gasped, a pain like four inch steal spikes rammed into my eyeballs reverberated from the bottom of my spine, to the last strand of hair on my head, then back down again. I felt like I’d been hit by a ten-ton truck!
“I said I was awake!” I sputtered, trying unsuccessfully to catch my breath.
A man and woman walked in and stood before me, looking down at my gasping, soaking wet visage. Both were dressed in long, black trench coats. The man, darkly handsome. The female, cool, redheaded, and beautiful.
“Just making sure, Mr. Joyce,” the man said.
“Who are you guys!?” I rasped.
Both pulled from their coats small black billfolds, which they flipped open for me to inspect. Badges.
“Mr. Joyce,” the woman said, “we’re from the F.B.I..” She leaned forward to get a better look at me. “We’d like to have a little chat.”

I was taken down a short hallway and into a small dark interrogation room, and asked to sit down behind a long wooden table. Soft lights hung from the ceiling, illuminating the table, myself, and the pair of supposed F.B.I. agents, but not much else. The corners of the room were shrouded in shadow. My captures declined to sit, preferring to stand before me, looking down. The man poured water from a pitcher into a glass and placed it near me, then spoke.
“Mr. Joyce, I’m Agent Boulder, and this is Agent Tully. We’d like to ask you some questions.”
“Where am I? Am I under arrest? What’s this all about? I don’t have any videos overdue.”
“You’re in a safe place,” Boulder answered, “and no, you’re not under arrest.”
“Yet,” Tully enjoined.
“We’re going to tell you right now what this is about, and we have no interest in your videos, overdue or not.”
“You don’t care?”
“You don’t work with the Library Cops?”
“No. We stopped working with them in ninety-nine.”
“Whew, for a minute there I thought I was in trouble.”
Getting to the point, Tully asked, “Mr. Joyce, do you know this man?” She placed a photograph from a manila envelope she had been holding before me.
“Ronald!” I exclaimed. Indeed, it was Ronald, but not the picture I had come to know, the picture which had tormented me throughout the years. In this photo, the only other I had ever seen of Ronald, he was wearing along with the same brown suit, a Mexican sombrero and serape, and seemed to be engaged in some strange type of ceremony. A Hat Dance I recognized after a moment. He was arm in arm with several attractive Hispanic men and women. It looked like quite a party, all those in the photo enjoying a wild, exuberant celebration. “It’s Ronald,” I continued. “Where did you get this?”
“So you do know him?” She didn’t seem surprised.
“Know him? I know of him. I’ve been searching for him for over 11 years now. But I haven’t been successful,” I added, sadly. “I failed. I’ve been looking, and looking, and looking, but nothing! Nothing, until you showed me this. Please, tell me who he is and where you got this! You’ve got to tell me!”
“Why have you been searching for him, Mr. Joyce,” Tully asked. “Why is it so important to you?”
“Well, I… I don’t really know,” I admitted.
“You’ve been looking for this man for 11 years and you don’t know why? Do you really expect us to believe that?” Boulder asked.
Now that he had put it into words, I felt kind of stupid.
“It’s true,” I said defensively. “At first, I was just kind of curious, then it grew into an obsession, I guess you could call it that. I couldn’t stop.”
“But you know nothing else about him other than his name is Ronald?”
“That’s right, I don’t. Who the hell is he?”
The two agents briefly looked at each other. Tully sighed, and nodded her head, as if giving her partner permission to continue. Now, for the first time, I noticed the presence of another person in the room with us. I could just make him out, tucked away in the dark shadows, a darker silhouette of a man, seated in a small alcove, silent, looking on, and smoking a cigarette. As he quietly sat watching the proceedings I noticed the soft, red glow of its burning embers each time he brought it to his lips to inhale. The smoke emptied from the room via a small vent in the ceiling overhead.
I drew my attention away from the dark man as Boulder continued.
“Mr. Joyce, we’ve been able to match by retina scan the man in the photograph that was in your possession, to the man you see before you…”
“That makes sense. They look exactly alike. Of course they’re the same guy. It’s Ronald for sure.”
“It doesn’t matter what he looks like, Mr. Joyce. We can’t even be positive with the scan!”
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is, this is not a man.”
“Then it’s the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen,” I exclaimed. “Of course it’s a man. His name’s Ronald, for God’s sake!”
“I’m saying this is not a human being.”
I looked at them both thoughtfully, then busted out laughing.
“Is this some kind of joke?” I managed through fits of laughter. “Where’s it hidden? I must be on Candid Camera. Who put you up to this? My hotel manager, Phil? He’s such a joker. Or was it the history librarians?”
“We are perfectly serious, Mr. Joyce,” Said Tully.
“Perfectly, deadly serious,” added Boulder.
They both looked serious. There wasn’t a hint of smile, or a wrinkle of jovial mirth between them. I slowly settled down and caught my breath.
“What… what the hell’s going on,” I asked.
“Mr. Joyce. What we are about to tell you is classified information. Top Secret! Do you understand? This cannot be revealed to anybody.”
“Even my caseworker?”
“’Anybody,’ would include your caseworker, yes.”
“Gee, alright… yeah, I guess.”
“Mr. Joyce,” Boulder stressed, “if you do tell this to anyone you would be placing them and yourself into the utmost danger. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
“Yes, yes. I understand… I think.”
“Mr. Joyce…”
“Please… call me Rick.”
“Mr. Joyce, the entity you’ve been pursuing for all these years is someone we’ve been looking for as well.”
“Yes, really. It goes by many names, but for the sake of our conversation today, we’ll stick to Ronald. Actually, Ronald J. Bosworth McCreedy, as he’s known in many circles.”
“J. Bosworth McCreedy?”
“Yes, but his name is unimportant. It’s probably best if we start from the beginning.”
“Some of us at the Bureau became suspicious when plans to invade Iraq were seriously being contemplated by the present administration in 2001, and 2002. A campaign to sell the idea to the American public, the United Nations, and the rest of the world, based on the assumption that Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, had strong ties to the Islamic fundamentalist splinter group which was responsible for the attacks upon the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, in September of 2001, and also, that said regime had stockpiled biological, chemical, and the precursor equipment and supplies to manufacture nuclear weapons to be used against the United States, was vigorous and adamant, but didn’t make any sense. Then when we actually invaded that country in March of 2003, our suspicions were justified.”
“Wait a minute! Wait a minute! What are you saying? That we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq? How about the War on Terror, and bringing democracy to the Middle East? Are you saying we were wrong to do that? Can’t you see how happy the Iraqi’s are now? And what were you so sure of?”
Boulder stood silent for a moment, looking down at me, as was Tully. He turned to her, saying, “You better check him out.”
The agent named Tully walked around to my side of the table while fitting plastic surgical gloves onto her delicate hands. Taking a small penlight from the breast pocket of her trench coat, she asked me to relax.
“This won’t hurt a bit,” she said, then proceeded to hurt me by shinning the bright light directly into my eyes. My head was still throbbing, and my eyes began to tear.
“What? Are you some kind of doctor, too?”
“As a matter of fact… I am. Say aaahhhh.”
“Aaahhh,” I complied. She grabbed my poor, defenseless tongue and gave it a good, hard yank, checking out where my tonsils used to be.
“No sign of infection, Boulder.” She released my tongue and returned to the other side of the table, standing next to Boulder.
“Not infected?” I asked. “Infected with what?”
“A virus, Mr. Joyce,” Tully answered. “An alien virus. A particularly nasty one.”
“Alien virus? You mean like the Asian Bird Flu? I haven’t even been sick,” I assured them.
“No we do not mean like the Asian Bird Flu! We mean a virus of extraterrestrial origin,” Boulder stated, somewhat testily. “The Black Oil.”
“Extraterrestrial? You’re kidding, right?”
“The F.B.I. never kids, Mr. Joyce. We’re very serious. Very, very serious.”
They both looked very serious again. I looked at the man who had continued to sit silently in the shadows, his features indiscernible. He was lighting up a fresh cigarette, using the remnants of the one he’d just finished. I turned my attention back to the two agents before me.
“What the hell’s going on?” I asked. “I can’t believe there’s some alien virus epidemic, or how it could possibly have anything to do with the War on Terror. We rightfully invaded Iraq because we thought they had weapons of mass destruction that they were going to use against us, and… and because Saddam Hussein was a ruthless, power mad dictator, who tortured and killed thousands of his own people…”
The both looked down at me with sad, pitying expressions.
“You’ve been propagandized, Mr. Joyce,” Boulder explained. “Snap out of it! Wake up! Do you seriously believe that Iraq could possibly harm the United States in anyway? Do you? The United States had pulverized its army 12 years previously, and had placed the country under constant surveillance, with strict sanctions during those 12 years. Of Course it couldn’t, even if it wanted to, which it didn’t. At the same time the real perpetrators of the September attacks were and are still at large and free to operate, while countries like North Korea and Iran were virtually given license to pursue their own nuclear programs and manufacture real weapons of mass destruction. Further, do you believe that Saddam would do anything further to threaten the sweet deal he had going on in his own country, by associating himself with known organizations hostile to the very nation which had him constantly under its thumb? Do you honestly believe that, even for a minute?! No sane person would come to those conclusions, Mr. Joyce. No sane person… no sane president would put our soldiers in harms way based on the selective, inconclusive evidence advanced by Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to the United Nations, or by the National Security Advisor, Condaliza Rice, to Congress, and the American people, all at the direction of the president. This isn’t very complicated, Mr. Joyce. A five year old child with a learning disorder could figure out something strange was going on.”
I had his argument beat. “But Saddam had the intent to harm us.”
He looked at me as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “With what?! Be Be Guns and Pea Shooters! The sanctions had worked! Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction to turn over or inspect; which means, by the way, we basically invaded a helpless country which had no way to defend itself, as was readily apparent at the time of invasion.” Boulder took a deep breath before continuing. “Three quarters of the world probably has the intent to harm us and would like to see the United States taken down a notch or two. The only countries who like us just the way we are, are China and Japan, who continue to prop up our bankrupt economy with daily infusions of cash so we can keep on buying their cheaper goods. The rest of the world hates us. Should we go to war with every country that doesn’t love us unconditionally, or agree fundamentally with all of our policies, which are specifically designed to further our own interests, Mr. Joyce? Should we annihilate all who refuse to bow down to our every whim and command? Should we invade every country that doesn’t believe we’re the greatest gift to humanity since the Quarter Pounder, that doesn’t think we’re the best thing that’s happened since mom and apple pie!? Should we!?”
“Our president seems to think so.”
“Exactly my point, Mr. Joyce. Exactly my point.” Boulder straightened up, comporting himself.
“I think it’s time you told me exactly what’s going on, Agent Boulder,” I said, surprised at my own boldness. “What do you and Agent Tully believe is happening?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “An invasion, Mr. Joyce. The Earth has been quietly and systematically invaded by powerful and cunning beings from another world.”
“I can’t believe that,” I said. “What evidence do you have?”
“My own sister was abducted by these forces,” Boulder stated flatly, his voice low and somber. “My sister was taken.”
“Your sister! My God!”
“I hope your god can help us, Mr. Joyce. We’re going to need all the help we can get. The human species faces nothing less than total enslavement and subjugation if we are unable to counter this threat.”
“Okay, you’ve got my attention.” I thought a moment. “Where does Ronald come into all this?”
Boulder glanced in the direction of the man sitting in the shadows, who nodded his approval, and the agent turned his attention back to me.
“What I’ve just related is obvious and irrefutable. What is less so, and what alerted us to the possible infiltration at the highest levels of our government, was when we began to speculate on what the real reasons were for this war, and how it was so easy to manipulate the Congress, press, and American public, into believing the invasion was necessary. So, some of us in the Bureau began a covert review of all aspects of the current administration.”
“You mean, without the president’s knowledge?”
Boulder sighed. “’Covert,’ would mean ‘secret,’ which in turn would mean without the knowledge of the subject being investigated, yes.”
“Isn’t that unethical, or something?”
“Not in this case, Mr. Joyce,” Tully jumped in. “Not when we suspect the security of the nation is at stake.”
“We’ll never get anywhere if you keep interrupting. All of your questions will be answered, I assure you.”
I sat back and gave the Agents my full attention.
Boulder went on. “Our investigation soon bore fruit. We began to notice Ronald as a frequent guest to the White House and the Oval Office. Tully…”
Agent Tully took some glossy photographs from a folder in front of her and presented several to me. What I saw amazed me.
“Ronald,” I sighed.
“Yes… Ronald. Of course, at the time we had no idea who this man was, or who he worked for. The White House staff would provide no information, which further aroused our suspicions.”
The picture depicted a ‘photo op’ of the president and several senior advisors within the Oval Office. All were smiling and shaking hands, all happy about something. Then there was Ronald, my nemesis, my adversary, right in the middle of them all, jovial and effusive. One picture displayed him standing slightly behind the president himself, holding up two fingers behind our leaders head in what is commonly known as the ‘Devils Sign,’ while both beamed for the camera.
“The investigation focused on this person, but we could find nothing. Nothing! That, in and of itself was literally astounding. The Bureau’s records of personal information on America’s citizens are exceptionably complete. With just a fingerprint, or telephone number, we can tell what a person had for breakfast for the last two weeks, and if their bowels are moving regularly. But with this man we found nothing. So, we began a thorough review, backwards, to see what we could learn.”
Tully took over. “We found evidence of Bosworth’s… Ronald’s association with the Bush administration going back to when the president was still Governor of Texas.” She placed more photographs before me, all of them with Ronald in the periphery, trying not to be the focus of attention. There were pictures of Ronald dancing behind Condaliza Rice, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfield, in the Rose Garden, all wearing grass skirts, leis, and Hawaiian shirts. Photos of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Karen Hughes, mugging for the cameras, tooting on party favors and holding half empty champagne bottles, while a blithe Ronald looked on appreciatively in the background. One picture taken on what appeared to be the ranch in Crawford, depicted Ronald and the Bush twins, sharing a homemade cigarette of some sort, between them.
“Then our hidden cameras caught this.” She handed me three photographs of the president taken during a meeting with his Cabinet. The members were seated around the conference table as usual. What was unusual was the way they were holding each others hands in a full circle, as if participating in a séance, and their expressionless faces, slack and lifeless. The tongues sticking straight outwards from their open mouths was a bit disconcerting as well.
“Look at their eyes, Mr. Joyce. Look very closely.”
I looked, but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, my attention drawn to the stoic, dead looking faces, which made the president and cabinet members look like they were caught in some kind of trance, or coma. Then…
“They have no eyes,” I said.
Tully offered me a small magnifying glass. “Look closer.”
I did look closer. What had appeared at first as a total vacancy, was in fact a “blackness” engulfing the orbit and pupil. The entire eyeball was dark black, like obsidian stone.
“They’re infected,” Boulder explained.
“Infected? Infected with what?”
“A virus. The Black Oil we call it. An intelligent virus. An extraterrestrial virus. This virus…”
Boulder took from his jacket pocket an hermetically sealed test tube, and placed it before me on the table. Within was a liquid substance that looked like ordinary motor oil. 30 weight, I’d say. I reached out to examine it more closely.
“Don’t touch it!” Boulder admonished. “It gets excited when around those who are not immune.”
“And you’re immune?”
“Yes. Finally, painfully so.” He looked at Tully, as if they shared some horrid memory in the past.
As I watched, the dark viscous liquid did begin to get excited, moving around its container, undulating slowly at first, searching for a way out, reaching up and around the tubes perimeter in defiance of gravity. This was no ordinary motor oil!
“Good god!” I exclaimed.
“Yes.” He returned the tube to his pocket.
“Is this some kind of trick?”
“Unfortunately no, it is not. After these pictures were taken, we stepped up surveillance on the president and those around him. We began to accumulate and document more and more bizarre evidence, and noticed an alarming spread of the phenomenon. Connections to the media and its various outlets were noticed and scrutinized. We could not explain certain anomalies, and considering the illogical developments with regards to the administrations foreign policy initiatives, many, many, questions arose.”
“What anomalies? What questions?”
“We couldn’t explain, for example, how the administration was able to so successfully divert from itself responsibility for any number of obvious mistakes it had made. For instance, we couldn’t figure out how the president and his lackey’s got away with making FEMA overpayments to areas like Dade County, and Miami, highly Republican areas that were least affected by three recent hurricanes, when there were many other sections of the state much more deserving, all just before the last Presidential election. Or, obvious plants in the White House Press Corps, specifically placed there to divert attention from real issues and avoid tough questioning from the legitimate press, and VNRs, paid public relation spots promoting current administration policies, disguised as real news stories. Or Op/Ed journalists promoting these same policies without disclosing they were being paid by departments of the United States government. Constant manipulation of the English language itself, designed to further the president’s agenda, were left unchecked. Like, “The Clean Air Act,” which actually allowed industry to continue to pour pollutants into the atmosphere, or “The Patriot Act,” which subverted hard fought for freedoms and civil liberties. Oh, yes, and “personal accounts,” used to forward the dismantling of the nation’s Social Security system, and a sop to the investment industry. Cutting veteran’s benefits in a time of war. Selected leaking of information used to punish critics of the president and his polices, such as the illegal disclosure of the real name of certain CIA operatives to the press. Rigged, Bush friendly, “audiences” at the president’s public appearances, designed to feign mass support for his policies when none existed. Election abnormalities. Budget manipulation, such as leaving 84 billion for war costs out of it, requesting this money as a separate issue so Bush’s overall budget didn’t look so bad while still inflating the national deficit. Using federal taxpayer money to fund faith based initiatives, which are clearly violations of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, separating Church and State. Failure to assess the threat posed by terrorist organizations before the September eleventh attack, despite frequent and repeated warnings. The war itself. Nominating a blatant propagandist as Secretary of State, a Pro-torture advocate as Attorney General, a neoconservative who’s historically been hostile to the United Nations as our Ambassador to the U.N., a pathological liar as Under Secretary of Public Affairs and Diplomacy, and a complete incompetent, someone who’s been wrong on every count concerning the events leading to the war in Iraq, and directly responsible for the needless thousands of deaths of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens, along with Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, as President of The World Bank.”
“Then there’s Tom Delay,” Tully added helpfully.
“… I could go on and on. Everyday this administration gets caught trying to get away with one dirty trick after another, yet the public and press haven’t taken them to task. And they get away with it, each and everyday. George Bush makes the ‘Teflon Don’ look like a Brillo Pad.”
This was all too much. I had to interrupt.
“Wait a minute! So what are you saying? That every politician is infected with this Black Oil alien virus, and it makes them do things? Bad things? Stupid things? Things that are harming the nation?”
“Isn’t it obvious,” Boulder answered. “What other answer could there be, the abundant evidence not withstanding?”
“Not all are infected,” Tully interjected.
“That’s right,” Boulder continued. “A small percentage of humans seem to have a natural immunity to the virus.”
“Do you know who they are?”
“Some. We think Senator Joe Biden is infection free, despite his yea vote on the Personal Bankruptcy Bill. Ted Kennedy, Mario Cuomo. Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Sherrod Brown, and Henry Waxman. Senator Barbara Boxer and Reid. Al Frankin, David Brock, Jon Stewart, Mark Shields, Eleanor Clift, Ian Masters, Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, and Maureen Dowd, from the media. Senator Hillary Clinton…”
“We’re not too sure about Bill,” Tully flatly stated.
“All Democrats,” I observed.
“There are some Republicans. But it’s true, the virus does seem to have an affinity with, and taken root inside the GOP.”
“Which is now in power.”
“Which is now very much in power,” Boulder confirmed.
“And the public and press? They’re infected? And Ronald? Where does he come into this? And what’s this virus want? What’s its purpose? Where does it come from? And why are you telling me this?”
“One thing at a time,” Boulder admonished.
“We know this is a lot to take in,” Tully soothed. “Frankly, it took a long time for me to become convinced. Would you like some aspirin?”
“What I’d like are several shots of tequila in rapid succession,” I told her. “But unfortunately I quit drinking.”
Tully sort of smiled. Boulder did not. The smoking man remained silent and kept smoking.
“Alright,” Boulder continued, “first the public and press. As I’ve explained, the virus seems to have a propensity toward infecting victims who display a natural inclination for greed and self-interest, a tendency for maintaining the status-quo, a basic inability to employ innovation in problem solving, constant use of denial in accepting responsibility, a consistent shallowness in regard to self-expression, an inherent inability to empathize with those less fortunate than themselves, and a total disregard for morals and ethics…”
“Which brings us back to the Republicans…”
“Of course! However, we’re not certain if ‘effect’ precedes ‘cause,’ or vica versa. Now, as far as we can ascertain, the only attempts to spread the virus to the population at large, so far, have taken place in California and Ohio. We believe this was an attempt to influence the last presidential election. It appears the aliens had more success in Ohio, although they were able to infect certain sectors and one of the most influential power brokers within California’s entertainment industry.”
“Let me guess…”
“That’s right,” Boulder confirmed.
“Brittany Spears!” All three of us exclaimed.
“We’ve discovered a massive and long standing attempt by the infected media to manipulate public opinion, going back decades. Have you ever heard of Edith Efron?”
“She was a writer who began working for T.V. Guide back in the sixties. We checked through the records and first noticed signs of abnormalities when Efron began to make certain assertions regarding ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’”
“’The Andy Griffith Show?’”
“Yes. She claimed Andy Taylor was having an incestuous relationship with Aunt Bea, and that Opie was their love child.”
“Your Kidding!”
“Do you believe that, Mr. Joyce?”
“No, of course not… although I never did trust Barney…”
“Be that as it may, Ms. Efron soon became a columnist for the New York Post, and the author of several books that propounded odd, counter-productive positions regarding the media and ecological subjects. For instance, she wrote what her pundits have labeled as, I quote, ‘a devastating antithesis,’ unquote, to Rachel Carlson’s, Silent Spring.”
“Have you ever heard of Silent Spring, Mr. Joyce?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Have you ever heard of The Apocalyptics?”
“Enough said.”
“So this lady was infected?”
“Actually,” Tully explained, “we don’t believe so.”
“We think she was actually a real, live, true alien. An exterritorial being disguised as a human female. One of their covert agents, sent to Earth to further the alien’s objectives.”
“Unbelievable,” I gasped.
“This alien disguised as Efron was one of the first to purport that there existed a liberal conspiracy embedded within the mainstream media which supported disproportionate left-wing views. This of course was a fabrication. No concerted leftist bias in the media existed then, nor does it exist today, nor was there ever any empirical evidence that it ever had existed. Historically, liberal factions have always been too busy promoting their own parochial ideologies to mount a concerted propaganda movement of their own. The whole idea of control of television, radio, and the print news by a leftist-elite, was always a scare tactic used by the aliens to further their own interests.”
Tully picked up the conversation. “The aliens were able to infect and infiltrate substantial American business interests, some of the most prominent being Richard Mellon Scaife, of the banking and oil industry, The Coors family of the brewing empire, the Kock and Bradley family foundations, of the oil and natural gas, and the automotive parts industries, respectively. Collectively known as the “Four Sisters,” these interests either wittingly or unwittingly, helped finance the formation of a nation wide network of alien ‘think tanks,’ like the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, which were designed as front organizations to further legitimize the alien agenda.”
Boulder continued. “Lewis Powell, before ascending to the Supreme Court, helped organize these, and other business interests in the media. Infected authors like Robert and Linda Lichter, founders of The Center for Media and Public Affairs, kept alive the myth of liberal bias, labeling environmental issues, equal rights for minorities, rights for women, gays, and sexual liberty, as ‘un-American,’ and ‘non-mainstream.’ Alien promoter Phyllis Schlafly extolled the virtues of the German National Socialist Movement and the Ku Klux Klan, through news columns, radio programs, and CNN, while lauding anti-gay, anti-intellectual, and anti-feminist ideals. President Reagan appointed Mark Fowler as chairman of the FCC, infected in 1978, he worked tirelessly to de-regulate the broadcast industry, which infected Michael Powell has continued. Fowler also initiated a concerted effort to eliminate the ‘Fairness Doctrine,’ which was put into place to insure fair and equal viewing of opinions from both sides of the political spectrum. This effort succeeded in 1987. Do you know what you have when fairness is eliminated from broadcasting standards, Mr. Joyce?”
“Ah…,gee, let’s see…”
“You have a big bunch of alien unfairness, that’s what you have!”
“Deregulation continued,” Tully informed. “Today three companies own and control over half of the radio stations in the country…”
“In the publishing industry,” Boulder went on, “any crackpot, conservative, alien author who’s work would normally be considered unpublishable by any refutable publishing house, can find a home at the alien backed Regnery Publishing House, thereafter these ‘authors,’ are provided free access to hundreds of infiltrated radio programs and cable news shows. Speaking of which, Roger Ailes, the first head of the fledgling Fox News Channel, turned it into the first cable network entirely devoted to the alien cause, hypnotizing its vast audience with biased, alien misinformation and propaganda disguised as objective journalism. Right now alien control of a huge portion of the available media outlets allows infectees, like, Sean Hannity, Brit Hume, G. Gordon Liddy, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, Roy Masters, Tony Blankly, William Kristol, Grover Norquist, Armstrong Williams, Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak, Charles Krauthammer, Neil Cavuto, George Will, Lew Dobbs, Chris Mathews, Peggy Noonan, Joe Scarborough, and Frank Luntz, to name just a few, to spew alien ideologies, lies, and non-sensical commentary, claiming anti-union, anti-feminist, anti-civil rights, anti-welfare, anti-semantic, anti-European, anti-science, anti-environment, anti-United Nations, anti-AIDS research, pro-tobacco, pro-minimum wage, pro-excessive pay for management, pro-deficit spending, and creationism as standard American mainstream ideals, when no evidence for that supposition exists. Hell, Mr. Joyce, when they run out of actual news events they can spin and distort, they just make things up!”
“Good god!” I exclaimed. “My head is reeling! No wonder Bush got reelected and the country is so divided. How about Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Rielly? They’ve got to be involved in this.”
“Limbaugh? Actually no, he is not. Even the aliens didn’t want anything to do with the pudgy little pill-popper.”
“And O’Rielly?”
“Our sources informed us that Bill O’Rielly volunteered to be infected and was rejected. The aliens told him to go back to Belfast, or wherever it was he came from.”
“They can’t be that way on they’re own,” I protested.
“As hard as it is to believe, I’m afraid that’s the case. Oh, they’re also paid millions to spread their lies, which may be a motivating factor.”
“So is that the alien’s purpose? To divide the country, and, excuse the pun, alienate the United States from the rest of the world?”
Boulder took a deep breath and looked at Tully.
“That’s the problem, Mr. Joyce,” coming back to me. “We’re not absolutely, 100% certain what the true purpose of the alien invasion is.”
“A pattern of behavior does exist,” Tully pointed out, “yet no discernable or rational goal can be ascertained from the available evidence.”
“No,” Boulder said. “Other than the obvious furthering of the interests of Big Business at the expense of the national economy and global environment, and manipulative pandering to the religious right to retain power, the only observable conclusion for all these years of alien meddling in the Earth’s, and the United States affairs is to create a state of chaos and anarchy.”
“Wait a minute! You mean to tell me that an advanced alien civilization, capable of interstellar space flight, with the power, cunning, technical ability and resources to destroy our entire civilization at will, is… is what? Just toying with us? Watching to see what we’ll do when screw things up?”
“That’s what we want you to help us with, Mr. Joyce. That is why we’ve brought you here and told you this.”
“Me! What can I do? I’m just a lowly street urchin, harmless and pure. I don’t know anything about all this.”
“Your friend, Ronald,” Boulder said, “you know him.”
“I don’t know him, or anything about him! Who is he?”
“I should say, he knows you. And he is, we’re fairly certain, the real and true alien in charge of the whole alien conspiracy.”
“Ronald’s an alien!? The lead alien? The boss?”
“Yes, Mr. Joyce. The boss, as you put it. And he knows you’ve been searching for him.”
“He does?”
“Yes, he, or it rather, does. We told him! We made certain of it after we ourselves discovered your efforts to locate him.”
“How did you know I was looking for him? It was the history librarians, wasn’t it? Those sons-of…”
“The aliens own invention, the so-called ‘Patriot Act,’ allows us certain leeway in examining library records and uses. A small amount of irony presents itself, don’t you think?”
“You set me up!?”
“I wouldn’t put it so crudely. Let’s say we exposed you to a certain end, all in the interests of national security.”
“You set me up?”
“Our analysts estimate they are at least 37 more pressing domestic and foreign affair issues than Social Security reform that doesn’t even reform Social Security, that are not being acted upon at all, and which need to be acted upon immediately, in order to head off an imminent global economic, social, and environmental collapse. We need your help Mr. Joyce. The country needs your help… and fast!”
“You set me up!”
“If you insist.”
“How do you know Ronald’s the boss? What’s his purpose? What’s he going to do to me?”
“We believe he’s the ‘Big Alien,’ because of certain events that have occurred which were initiated at his request.”
“I don’t get it. What events?”
“The current war in Iraq is one example.”
“The war? What do you mean?”
“It was Ronald who started it, or steered the Bush administration into starting it. It all amounts to the same thing.”
“Ronald caused the war in Iraq? That’s incredible. What evidence do you have? Do you know why?”
Again, both agents looked at each other, seemingly slightly embarrassed.
“All these photographs we’ve shown you,” Tully said. “What do they have in common?”
I looked at them lying before me. “I don’t know. He likes brown, ill-fitting suits?”
“No. In each of these pictures, in fact in every photograph we have of McReedy, he is engaged in some type of celebratory activity.”
I thought about that for a moment.
“A party? He likes to go to parties? Is that what your getting at?”
“So what? Who doesn’t?”
“Ronald likes parties a lot.”
“Again, so what?”
“He likes them a whole, whole lot, Mr. Joyce. So much so, that while in Iraq in 2000, he tried to crash one at the palace of Saddam Hussein.”
“That’s his M.O. He always crashes the parties he attends,” Tully interjected. “As far as we know he’s never been invited to any of them.”
Boulder continued, “Only at this one, Saddam caught him before he could sneak in and infect everybody. Saddam booted him out of the country, and Ronald never forgave him.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You’re telling me that this alien being Ronald, head of a huge alien conspiracy, coming from an advanced civilization in another solar system, caused President Bush to invade a foreign, sovereign nation, thereby disrupting the entire Middle East and causing the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens and American soldiers, just because Hussein wouldn’t let him in to some party!?”
“Not just any party. It was Uday’s birthday.”
I stared at both agents. “This is insane! What advanced civilization would allow this?”
“An alien one,” Boulder said.
“Yes, but that’s not all. We suspect that because of similar circumstances transpiring right here in the U.S….”
“You mean getting thrown out of parties?”
“Yes, because of similar circumstances, Ronald has engineered the current effort undermine the Social Security system.”
“What? Did the AARP kick him out of their annual convention,” I joked.
“How did you know,” Boulder asked, looking very serious indeed.
I starred at both of them some more. I couldn’t believe all this.
“Next week,” Tully said, “the President is going to announce the rising of the retirement age to 93.”
“Oh, come on!” I shouted. “You’ve got to be putting me on!”
“No, Mr. Joyce. We are not. And that’s not all. Look at these…”
Boulder placed some more photographs of Ronald before me. In them Ronald was dancing with several young and very attractive girls, in what looked like an old-fashioned discotique or nightclub.
“Now look at these.” He placed more pictures before me. In these, all of the young nubile ladies had taken off their blouses, and were prancing around Ronald, and flashing for the camera. Questioningly, I returned my gaze to Tully and Boulder.
“These women are all infected. These photos were all taken, transposed from, a popular commercial video series. Have you ever heard of ‘Girls Gone Wild?’”
“Uh, no… of course not…” I don’t think Boulder believed me.
“In any case,” he continued, “the series focuses on drunken female college students during their Spring break vacations, who are induced to strip for a video compilation…” I looked back down at the pictures. “Certain information has come to our attention that would indicate that the aliens, that Ronald…”
“Hey, wait a second,” I said. “Isn’t that Ann Coulter, the insane T.V. commentator and hack?” I pointed to one topless blonde rubbing up against a very serene looking Ronald.
Boulder used the magnifying glass to examine the photo. “Why yes, I believe it is,” he said, while putting the picture in his jacket pocket. “This will require further investigation. As I was saying, we think Ronald is about to make a major move.”
“Such as?”
“Infecting the entire female population and having them all go completely and utterly WILD!”
“Absolutely bug nuts.”
“No! You’re kidding!?”
“I only wish I were. Can you imagine it? Millions… billions of women, suddenly and inexplicably going completely, irrevocably, totally wild, all at the same time? Imagine it, Mr. Joyce. Just try to imagine it.”
“Okay, I’m trying.”
“Are you trying hard?”
I closed my eyes and lost myself in the effort. “Yes, I’m trying hard.”
“I’ll try too,” Boulder said.
“We’ll both try.”
“Do you see it, Mr. Joyce?”
“Yeah. Wait a minute. Okay, yeah, I’ve got it. Have you got it?”
“Oh yes. I imagine it all the time. Millions and billions of beautiful, lush young girls, wild Mr. Joyce, without inhibitions of any kind… billions…”
“How awful,” I said. I was grinning.
Boulder had closed his eyes, and leaned toward me with his hands on the table. “Billions and billions, completely and utterly wild, throwing off their clothes, billions…”
“AHEM!” Tully coughed. “Alright you two, snap out of it! Some of those women would include your own mothers, Joan Rivers, and Karen Hughes.”
“Oh my God!” I cried. “That’s just wrong! Ronald’s got to be stopped! What can I do to help? I’ll do anything!”
They told me, and I agreed.
“One item bothers me a little bit, Agent Boulder,” I said.
“What’s that?”
“Your sister. You said she had been abducted. If you don’t mind my asking, what happened?” I was a twidge worried about being abducted myself.
"I don't mind you asking."
I waited a moment, "Okay, what happened?
“That, Mr. Joyce, is a long and involved story worthy of its own television show on Fox.”
“If Rupert Murdock weren’t an alien,” Tully pointed out.
“Rupert Murdock! Really? An Aussie alien. Amazing.”
“Are you ready to go, Mr.… are you ready Rick?”
I could tell Boulder was warming up to me.
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” I stood up.
“Alright, let’s do it.”
A dry cough emanated from the dark alcove. In all the excitement I had forgotten about the smoking man.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Boulder said. He took the few steps necessary to reach the alcove, and the dark man finally stood and stepped into the light. A thin, gaunt man, with hawkish features, in his late 50s, was revealed, sporting short, graying thin brown hair, and adorned in a crisp, expensive looking, conservative business suit. His gaze was intense and fell on me like a sledgehammer.
“Richard Joyce,” Boulder said, “I’d like to introduce you to…”
I swallowed heavily and took a deep breath. “Yes…”
“This is…”
“Yes, yes…”
“Uncle Waldo. He’s visiting for the weekend… from Cleveland.”
“Gosh,” Uncle Waldo said. “Glade to meet you, Rick.” The stylish older gentleman smiled and offered me his hand. Relieved, I shook it heartily. “Crazy about these aliens, huh?”
“Yeah, it sure is.”
“Thanks for helping out.” Waldo cut himself off due to a prolonged coughing fit, which doubled him over. Boulder stepped up and pounded him on the back until the man finally recovered.
“Are you alright, Uncle Waldo?” Tully asked, clearly concerned.
“Yeah… yes… oh my, I’ve really got to give these things up,” referring to the smoking cigarette he was still holding.
“Yes, you certainly do,” she admonished.
“We’ll drop you off on the way, Uncle,” Boulder said.
“Thanks Skunk. Gee it’s been good to see you.”
We all filed out of the room.
“Skunk!” I said. “Your name is Skunk?”
“Yes,” Boulder tiredly admitted. “It’s another long story, Mr. Joyce.”
"Who would name their child after a smelly rodent?
“Rick,” I reminded.
“You should hear his sister’s name,” Tully broke in.
“Please,” Boulder… Skunk, entreated. “Lets just get out of here and get to work. Okay!?”
And off we went. Finally, after all these years, Ronald was within my grasp.

Within 48 hours I found myself in a window seat of a 747 headed for Washington D.C. Agents Tully and Boulder sat directly to my right, Boulder absorbed in the in-flight movie, “Alien VS Predator.” Tully sitting next to me, recounted her own story of abduction and escape from the enemy now menacing our planet. Ronald’s forces.
“Did you meet him? Ronald? Was he involved?” I asked her.
“I don’t know,” she answered. “I don’t remember much about the experience, except that I was terrified.”
“They didn’t do anything, ah… weird, to you did they?”
“Other than having a microchip implanted in the back of my neck that later caused me cancer, no… no, I wouldn’t say they did anything you could call weird, exactly.” She thought a moment. “Of course, I’m not right handed anymore… Oh, and I wasn’t pregnant before they kidnapped me…”
This did nothing to ease my anxiety, although I had been assured I would be under constant surveillance during my hoped for confrontation with Ronald at a White House press conference where he had been spotted lately, posing as a reporter from Playboy. Previous attempts to capture the leader of the alien invasion had failed miserably, his miraculous escapes constantly aided by Scott McClellan and the Secret Service.
“I guess I don’t have to worry about that,” I told Tully.
“I certainly hope not, although these are extraterrestrials… but of course we’ll be there watching you every minute,” she was quick to re-assure. “This time we’re hoping Ronald will sense your presence. He should…”
Tully had stopped speaking in mid-sentence.
“What’s the matter, Janna,” I asked her. She did not reply. She didn’t even move. I looked more closely and noticed she wasn’t even breathing.
That’s decidedly odd, I thought to myself.
“Agent Boulder, Skunk… Agent Tully seems to be frozen.”
He did not reply either. It didn’t take long for me to realize that he, and every other passenger and crewmember were frozen as well.
“What the…” I had no time to finish my exclamation, the main reason being that a large hole had explosively opened on the planes fuselage just to my left and I was sucked unceremoniously out of the jet.
“DAMN!” I shouted, but no one could hear me. I lost consciousness while wondering how much I could sue American Airlines for, and if I could still get Frequent Flyer Miles.

I couldn’t move, that’s the first thing I realized. Not a muscle. A blinding white light had woken me, and it took a moment for my vision to clear. I was lying prone in what looked like an operating room, but it was impossible to see beyond my peripheral vision, as I could neither turn my head to the left or right. I could not speak. I could open my eyes and move my eyeballs about, but that was all. Directly above my head, next to the large spotlight shinning onto my face, was an apparatus that resembled a machinery drill press, emanating from a white, translucent ceiling. This device was positioned directly above my face, and looked to have interchangeable parts that could rotate. I could see something that resembled pincers, a rotating saw, several long and sharp needles, and a clear plastic straw-like tube from which three hoses were connected. A sense of complete utter dread overwhelmed me, and I could feel my heart racing as if it were about to explode within my chest.
“Richard Joyce,” I heard someone say. “I’m told you’ve been looking for me.”
A male voice, deep and resonate, yet strangely filled with vigor, spoke to me. The speaker’s head suddenly came within my field of vision, as he looked down, examining me. Ronald, at last! Despite the passage of time he looked exactly as he had done in the first picture I had seen of him. He looked to be in his sixties, the whites of his eyes no longer white, but a sickly yellow. He smiled, no actually, he grinned down at me as I laid helpless and at his mercy. Oddly, he wore a child’s conical birthday party hat.
“Well…, here I am! What is it I can do for you I wonder? Come, come, don’t be shy. Not talking, huh? Cat got your tongue?” Ronald J. Bosworth McCreedy continued to look into my paralyzed face, and then his grin disappeared. I could make out in his yellow eyes nothing that was human. No compassion, no pity, no mercy.
“Well don’t you worry, my boy,” he continued. “If you don’t have any questions, I certainly do, and soon you’ll be answering all of them, and be glad to do it. Because I’d kind of like to know what those two nasty F.B.I. agents have been up to. Oh, I know what your thinking. Why don’t I simply ask them? I could do that, quite easily, as you can see. But it’s important to let them continue in a somewhat autonomous fashion, for the time being at least. Of course, your sudden disappearance will be a disappointment to their plans, whatever they are, but I’m sure they’ll soon get over it. So now, since you were kind enough to drop in, I’ll talk to you! Or rather,” his grin appeared once more, “You’ll talk to me.”
Then he laughed, laud and insane. A manic laugh filled with alien glee.
“’Okie Dokie,’ as your Hannibal Lector so ably put it. And as Pink once told me, ‘let’s get this party started!’”
The device above my face began to hum ominously, the instruments rotating until the clear glass tube was pointing down directly above my nose.
“Do you like movies, Rick?” Ronald asked. “You don’t mind if I call you Rick, do you? I thought not.” He starred at me, eyes overflowing with mirth, as the glass tube began to descend. “I like movies too. And here’s another quote, this time from a character once played by Al Pacino,” he winked, “a personal friend of mine.” Ronald looked at the tube, as did I. It began to fill with a black, throbbing liquid. The Black Oil! “Mr. Joyce! Rick! Please, ‘say hello to my little friend!’” And he laughed, and did not stop laughing as the oil, the alien virus began to pour from the tube’s end, spurting onto my immobilized face, and finding, crawling its way into my open mouth as I tried to scream, into my nose, eyes, and ears. I was unable to breath, choking helplessly, Ronald’s laughter drowned out now, replaced by a steady roar, like a jet engine. I knew certainly I was experiencing my last moments. My vision blurred, my body racked with spasms, then, then…

Then suddenly I was able to scream. And scream I did, which is what woke me up. It was either the screaming that did it, or the falling out of bed, I’m not quite sure. In any case I was awake, drenched in sweat and gasping, convulsing for breath. I picked my self up and flopped back down on my bed, my chest heaving, heart pounding, my whole being vibrating like a cheap guitar. When I finally caught my breath, I wiped my hands over my moist face to clear my head. “I’ve got to stop taking that Wilburton!”
A dream! It had all been a dream. Thank goodness, I thought, filled with relief. When I was physically able, after calming down a bit, I rose from my bed and staggered to the sink to wash my face. I looked deeply into the mirror.
“That was quite a dream you had there, big fellow,” I said to myself. “No more onion burritos, either.” I placed my hand to the back of my neck where I felt an odd, prickly sensation, then returned to my bed to rest.
“A dream,” I said. “No Boulder. No Tully. No aliens.” I looked over at the chair next to my bed. “No picture of Ronald.”
I sat up like a shot. “No picture of Ronald!” I got up and looked around my room, under the chair, under my bed. I looked everywhere the picture could have gotten to, but it was gone. Vanished. Adiosed.
“What the…” I laid back down, unable for the moment to cope with the development. My mind, however, could not leave it.
It had been there last night, I was sure of it. I got up again and checked my Odalys Garcia Calendaro. Yup, sure enough, it was just yesterday that Garden Club had met. A dream, it had to have been a dream.
But Ronald’s picture was gone.
I sat on my bed and thought, scratching my neck. Then I made a decision. I got up, showered and dressed, then started out for the library.
I’d get to the bottom of this, no matter how long it took.