The Beam and the Stream

I stood calmly, minding my aim at the white porcelain target looming below. I listened to the sound of the flowing stream as it splashed into the pool of clear water. Then I noticed sparkling motion in the side of a clear bottle of liquid on a shelf facing me.

What could that be? As I looked around, I found the answer.

At that particular time, a ray of sunlight at exactly the right angle through the window illuminated the amber stream I was emitting, lending it a golden glow. The sparkling waterfall was being reflected by the clear liquid in the bottle, its image dancing remotely before me. I was fascinated. This could only happen at the precise time that a beam from the sun struck a stream from me and transformed it into a momentary work of art.

Cosmic Chronicles

Part 3


The Cosmic Cabdriver

Curiously Yellow

Yellow cabs are not simply yellow. There is a little green and a little red pigment in the paint; it’s a deeper, darker yellow. Even without the lettering and top-sign, it is recognizable as Yellow-Cab yellow.

Michael had worked inside Yellow Cab of Kansas City, learning a lot about the business, but actually driving one is a different experience entirely. Unlike in Kansas City, where about half the drivers were on commission, and the rest leased the cab, all the Phoenix drivers leased, considered independent contractors. The lease was for 12 or 24 hours. The driver made what was left over after paying lease and buying gas. It was possible to do well, break even, or lose money on a shift.

Taxicabs had been deregulated a few years before. Republican legislators like to do that. There was no limit on the number of cabs that could operate, so competition was at a maximum. Yellow, which also owned Checker, was the largest company, but smaller cheaper-rate companies like Ace, and independent owner-operators were in the mix.

Michael’s knowledge of the metropolitan area was limited, but he soon found that the best way to learn it was to drive a cab, carrying a map and a street-guide, a booklet that lists the hundred-block number for every street.

When not actually picking up and dropping off, a driver often has to park and wait for the next call. It’s a good opportunity to read a book. Michael also started drawing on his trip sheet, the blank paper used to write addresses, drop points, and keep track of fares collected. He had never been an artist, but with practice he learned to draw cartoons at the top of each sheet. Sometimes they were humorous, usually risque. Sometimes they just announced the date and cab number.

To begin with, Michael would go to Yellow Cab and lease one from the company, often a different car each shift, some better than others. There were also Yellow owner-operators, some of whom had several cars to lease to drivers. They were usually nicer and better maintained. Ed Weske was one of the owner operators, with an office in Glendale, on the west side of Phoenix. Soon after Michael started driving for him, he learned that Ed was a “graduate” of Brown Schools, where Michael had worked in Austin. Ed was easy to get along with, and the cars were nicer to drive. By November of 1983 he was driving 526, a full-sized Chrysler.

Before cellphones became common, cab drivers used voice or digital pagers for contact with personal customers. Here’s the message the customers heard:Like knights of old, the drivers of 267 charge through the valley in their shining yellow armor, rescuing weary travelers from de pain of de feet, and delighting the delicate derrieres of damsels with our soft sheepskin seats. Speak a message at the tone,

Thanks for beeping our beeper– for you, our rates are cheaper.

A Cab Story

A cab driver (not ‘cabbie’, please) is often told things that a priest, analyst, or friend would never hear. Most of the time the information is isolated; connected to nothing else the driver might know…but not always.

A plump girl of exactly 29 (it was her birthday) got in my cab at the Motel 6.

Nineteenth and Dunlap, please.”
I headed that way. “Do you know where Frankie’s is?” she asked.
Of all the bars in Phoenix, I know where Frankie’s is best; it’s the bar I go to. But I’d never seen her there. She asked me if I’d ever been there; I said “yes.”

She asked if I knew Lee, the owner, and I said I did. It was he who she was going there to see. She knew him years before, but he kicked her out, she said. Now he’d taken her to bed again, so they were back together. She said, “He asked me to put his penis in my mouth, but I wouldn’t.”
So I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the sex life of the owner of my favorite bar and a fat girl celebrating her birthday.
I dropped her in front of Frankie’s and drove on, ready for my next trip.

Michael, 1984

A few years later, Frankie’s closed, and the building it was in disappeared. Where it once stood became a parking lot for the Taco Bell next door.

Wednesday, May 23, 1984

‘I now lived within a fire of unsatisfied longing…I saw the beloved apparition of my dream…I called it my mother….I called it my beloved, and had a premonition of its ripe all-fulfilling kiss…’

-Herman Hesse, Abraxas

Re-reading Hesse, it occurred to Michael that he sought the same ideal, personified by Jill– a spiritual and sensual union with a woman who seemed more than just a woman. “Both angel and devil; pure light and searing fire; both mature and childlike, wise and foolish.”
was not a goddess, but it was easy to believe she was the next best thing.

May 31, 1984

A relationship with such a complicated woman can be difficult. The intensity of love can make determined effort to maintain it seem the only option. The difficulty itself only underscores the notion that it must be worthwhile.

Michael and Jill took a trip back to Los Angeles, a visit to scenes of a happier time. Living there hadn’t been easy, but it had been a challenge faced by the two of them together. Phoenix seemed to be full of distractions, including Jill’s parents.

The trip to L. A. was certainly a mixed bag, or a mixed blessing. A lot of good things and feelings came from it. Sleeping in Venice, walking on the beach together, seeing old friends…then, as could perhaps be expected, she pulled away.

A friend of Jill’s, Jackie, invited them both over one evening. Jackie, like Jill, was an attractive bisexual woman, and it promised to be an enjoyable experience for all three. But, for some reason Jill declined. Was she jealous, either of Michael or her friend, or both? She never said. To Michael, it seemed like a great opportunity, not just an exciting one for him, but a fulfillment of Jill’s bisexual desires, the best of both worlds at once. But it was not to be.

On November 15, 1984, Jill enlisted in the Army. This was devastating. It seemed a betrayal of everything both of them had believed in. She was trying to prove something to herself. It turned out badly. Jill had asthma, which in normal activity seldom gave her a problem, but the army’s basic training was far beyond normal. She was medically discharged.

Fate’s fickle finger writes, and, having written, moves past.
Only then do you know if it has goosed you in passing.

Every string which has one end also has another end.

Disappointed with herself at that predictable outcome in the Army, Jill returned to Phoenix, but she was restless, unsure what she wanted to do with her life. She was a talented graphic artist, and it occurred to her she could use her skills by becoming a tattoo artist. She was right, but the beginning wasn’t easy.

A local shop called Peter Tattoo, part of an operation with headquarters in Denver, agreed to make her an apprentice. Many artists are good and interesting people, but this one exploited their apprentices by demanding many hours of menial and unpaid work for the privilege of watching and learning.

He management of Peter Tattoo treated its artists as if it were a mafia-style organization. Though artists are not employees, they are subject to arbitrary rules. No tattooing homosexuals or blacks, even for practice. They tell them how to dress, who to associate with, Even after fully proficient, an artist can’t work in any other shop. They threaten to confiscate the artist’s equipment or even break their fingers.

Though Jill was not happy with the attitude and her treatment, she did learn fast and well. She was on her way to learning the career that would bring her joy and satisfaction throughout her life.

Meanwhile Michael was often angry at the way they exploited her, and confronted them on more than one occasion. His relationship with Jill had become uncertain, though.

They stayed in contact, and he did what he could to protect her from the exploitation by the tattoo shop, but they were apart most of the time.

He bought a used Plymouth Biscayne, a full-sized sedan missing the front passenger seat, providing a long empty space suitable for a bed. It was pointless to pay rent to live alone, so he used the car, parked in Ed Weske’s cab lot, as living quarters. For shower and bathroom facilities, he bought a membership in a nearby fitness gym.

This worked quite well. He was driving a cab at least 12 hours a day, and he missed Jill much more than he missed an apartment. For an occasional night off, there was a bar about a mile south of the cab lot. Unfortunately, the cab lot proved to be an insecure place to park the Minstrel Cycle, and one evening he returned to find it missing. What happened to it remains unknown.

Soon afterward, Michael spent a few days at a cheap motel on Grand Avenue, and frequented an adjacent bar on his evenings after work. There he met Catrina, a slightly plump but shapely short blonde. She was fun and playful, though ambivalent about any committed relationship.

Most of the time Jill was unavailable. He didn’t see her for several days at a time, and their future was uncertain. Michael was lonely. Catrina was helping alleviate that. One evening, though, Jill unexpectedly knocked on his door. Seeing Catrina there, she became furious. She even said, “I know I haven’t been there for you, but no one else can have you, either!” Finally, she stopped yelling and left.

The next day, though, he found that her jealous outburst didn’t mean she was ready to return to their marriage. She wasn’t sure what she wanted.

Michael found a small apartment at 24th Street and Thomas in Phoenix, and began saving every dollar he could spare for another bike. He stashed them in an empty Sportster gas tank. Catrina often spent the night with him, but she would come and go as she pleased.

Before long the gas-tank piggy bank had accumulated $1800, enough to buy a used 1979 Sportster. He began swapping parts, customizing it for utility, not appearance. An important addition was a “fat bob” gas tank, holding 5 gallons, rather than the 2-gallon standard Sportster tank. That was important for long-distance rides. He was not interested in chrome or fancy paint jobs. Those who take the “rat bike” approach say “Chrome won’t get you home.” He named it the Ratster.

A Motorcycle Trip

July, 1985

Michael wrote:

This entire chronicle was written in a tiny notebook that fit in the pocket of my leather jacket, while I was traveling. As I re-read it and transcribe it 19 years later, I am keenly aware of how much I needed that trip then. I like to think the universe needed me to take it, too.”


Beginning odometer: 32444
Michael had to stop in Mesa to replace a manifold clamp: $1 from Unauthorized Harley, plus 3 pennies to make it fit right. So far, so good. He thought, “I can tell my ass will be the tiredest part of me, or else it’ll get tough and I won’t feel it.”

The bola-bags worked fine for water, except they didn’t keep it cool. Perhaps wetting the outside would help.

Superior, AZ

Crossing the first mountains past the Highway 60-89 junction, ahead, sunlit from the west, was a rocky mountain that, from a distance, looked like a fantasy, set off beautifully among the surrounding hills. The highway ran almost to the mountain, then around it to the east, descending into a valley. Michael saw the rain ahead, smelled it, felt the humid gusts. He kept riding, down and into the valley of the rain, and the air grew darker, more restless. At the bottom of the valley, entering Superior, the rain hit. He looked for the nearest bar, and found it. It even had an overhanging roof to shelter the bike. A Mexican bar. People were friendly to the stranger stopping to get out of the rain.

Silly Mountain, which he passed a while back, made him smile. There must be a story behind it.

When the rain stopped, he rode on, but ran into sprinkles that made him cold enough to dig out his leather jacket, The droplets still smashed into his face at 50 mph, stinging. Soon the rain let up a little as he hit Miami and Globe, a pair of twin cities. Both owe their existence to copper mining. Half the businesses in them have ‘Copper’ in their names. The mountain scenery was pleasant.

He stopped at McDonald’s in Globe for a burger and coffee as it began to sprinkle. The sprinkling continued , so he resolved to find a bar and drink to dry weather. A teenager outside McDonald’s asked Michael to get him a 6-pack, so they met at circle-K where he procured some Michelob Dark for the boy and his 2 friends.

Then he went to a bar called Bronco’s, tended by the friendly owner, but frequented by almost nobody. Michael asked when the people came in; after all, it was Saturday night. He said it would be packed by 9:00. It wasn’t. An old trucker named Cowboy bought Michael a beer and said “Don’t be a trucker. There’s no future in it..” Would he do it again if he had it to do over again? He said, “Definitely. I love it. There’s good money in it, but no future.”

Michael tried the Drift Inn, which was supposed to be the biker bar of Globe. No bikers were there. There was a blonde. When Michael asked her how she was, she replied, ‘Fucked up.’ She probably was. There was a cute curly brunette, but she left. By this time, though the rain had stopped, it was dark. Michael thought he might allow himself to be seduced by some local lovely lass, who, he hoped, would have her own place. He tried the Shamrock, where, it was said, everyone was. Again he met the curly one, talked a bit, and just when things seemed promising, she said “Be right back”, and she wasn’t. So at closing time, he headed on up the road. Alas and alack, the lack of a lass…and a bed. But there was a sleeping spot, behind a tree just off the road.

6:00 am

Show Low, Arizona. Odometer 32,660. 3.4 gallons. 63 mpg.

Almost as soon as he started out, it started raining again. Cold and wet;, he made it to Show Low, and put on dry jeans and moccasins at the first coffee shop. He was still shivering half an hour later after several cups of coffee. The the sun came out, and his boots, jacket, and bandanas were drying in the sun, Soon he got back on the road.

It was a clear run from Show Low to Springersville, though a few drops hit at the Springersville city limits. He stopped a a coffee shop for coffee and food, where the waitress had beautiful eyes. He wanted to tell her so, but somehow couldn’t work it in. Sometimes we think about much more than we say or do, and regret it later. She wore a wedding ring, but he could have told her anyway. She had asked, “Is there only one of you?” That was an interesting question.

Michael bought some new vinyl gloves to replace his leaky wet ones, and stopped at a laundromat to dry his wet clothes. The rain wasn’t too serious, so he rode on, past majestic rocky peaks and breathtaking canyon views. He would have enjoyed Salt River Canyon a lot more without the rain.

An Apache ranger said the landscape changes colors as the sun moves. The rangers were looking for a family believed lost while hiking on the White Mountain Apache reservation.

The Landscape Turns Female

East of Springerville are some green rolling hills and smooth grassy mountains. They are the Earth at it’s most female. Their curves are feminine, sensuous; almost erotic. Riding amid such landscape is almost like letting one’s fingers search the lush curves of a woman’s body. He crossed into New Mexico and the Continental Divide; there were a few brief splashes of rain, but not enough to get him soaked.

Pie Town, New Mexico

There’s a cafe there that specializes in home made pies. It’s owned and run by an oriental lady, very cheerful and chirpy. He ordered coffee and peach cream pie. Ihe asked her if the pies were the ones that Pie Town was named after. She said, ‘No, those pies were eaten 80 years ago–these pies are fresh!’

It was delicious, and there was a great view of the sunset and western landscape out the window. The lady gave him two apples and a couple of plastic garbage bags in case he had to sleep in the rain. It was getting dark and cold, so he hoped the next town, Datil (pronounced as in ‘Dat’ll be 98 cents plus tax’), would have a motel. Sleeping in the possible rain didn’t appeal.

He entered Datil about 9:00 pm and almost missed the town–everything was dark. There was one dark building that said ‘motel’, but it was closed, and it was the only place in town. On to Magdalena.

June 29

Michael stopped under a tree on US 54 east of Vaugn New Mexico to see if it’s going to rain or not. These trees afford some protection, and he could camp there if it didn’t stop sprinkling. He stood back and looked at his bike parked between the trees, and thought “I’m just as picturesque as the rest of my travel environment. I look at the quaint little villages I pass through, and the quaint villagers look at me passing.

He imagined himself sitting still on the Ratster, while the Earth turned beneath him, bringing the land ahead closer as the road passed beneath his wheels. He knew the real Earth didn’t turn that direction, but the imaginary one did.

Magdalena should be ahead, and it was time to move on. He stopped to adjust the chain just outside Mesa, New Mexico, and discovered he wasn’t on US 54 at all, but US 285, heading toward Roswell. He’d taken the wrong turn in Vaugn, and there had been no highway signs the whole way. He took state highway 20 north. He was running low on gas, but made it to Ft. Sumner on reserve.

Ft. Sumner. Odometer 33,126 miles. $5.00 gas at $1.20. 4.2 gallons 66 mpg.

June 30

Taking US 60 east, Michael arrived in Clovis, New Mexico lthat evening, and decided to try a local bar. He stopped outside the Copper Penny, a C&W dance joint. A police car pulled up next to him. The cop said , “Just thought we’d warn ya– you’re fixin’ to go in a redneck place.” Michael asked him if this was a violent town. He said, “No, but…stereotypes, you know.” He wasn’t sure what stereotype he appeared to be, but he decided to take the hint. The cop suggested a place called Boot Hill, It was lso a country dance place, frequented by old couples, mainly. He had a beer and left.

The cop had also asked, “How many times you been run?” Michael looked at him questioningly,.

“You know– NCIC.” (National Criminal Information Center).

”None in New Mexico.’”

“You’re not going to Missouri, are you?’”


He said he’d heard there was a big ‘meet’ there. The stereotype was revealed. There was no point trying to explain that not all Harley riders with long hair and a leather jacket belonged to outlaw motorcycle clubs, nor that this particular one was a hippy who liked bikes. He just said, “No, I’m going to Kansas.”

Michael camped at a rest stop just west of Bovina, Texas. It wasn’t bad, except for the damp canvas sleeping bag. He woke up to a warm sunny morning. He had breakfast at Billy-Bob’s Drive-in in Bovina, They serve great french fries–leave the skins on, too. Delicious.

Alarming noises

Strange grinding, clattering noises. He pulled over. It was the generator trying to fall out. One of the bolts was too short. The other one, and some wire to support the weight, seemed to hold it, once it was re-tightened. He made a note to stop at the Harley dealer in Amarillo, to replace the bolt, and get some Harley oil. Good oil is hard to find. Some AMA group ought to look into ways of distributing Kendall 70-weight at 7-11’s.

Lunch at the Grand Burger, which consisted of some crumbly hamburger on top of a layer of salad on a bun. Not grand at all. Now to find I-35 north out of Amarillo and see a lake.

Amarillo, Texas. Odometer 33,311.4 miles. 2.4 gallons

Heading north toward Kansas, there was supposed to be a big lake, but it wasn’t visible from the road..

Liberal, Kansas

Ask most young people in a small town how they like it, and they’ll say ‘boring’. There ought to be a way to make life more interesting anywhere.

On the Oklahoma side, just before Liberal, there’s an establishment called the B and D Social Club. Kinda makes you wonder.

A girl in Liberal said Liberal isn’t very liberal. It’s conservative. You’d think the name would do something. Maybe it makes them react the opposite. A sign says this is the ‘Land of Aahs’, with a picture of Dorothy and her dog tripping down the yellow brick road. In Liberal you can visit the Wizard of Oz museum and tour Dorothy’s house. Probably not during a tornado warning, though.

Plains, Kansas. Odometer 33,519 miles. 2.9 gallons.

No More Rain

After getting soaked in Arizona, he missed major rain with uncanny accuracy. People would say you just missed a downpour or a storm. He woke up just east of Greensburg, Kansas, in a nice little rest stop. A sign pointed to Roxbury.

Breakfast in Haviland. Seems that some small-town cafes are becoming conscious of their own country image. Mason jars for water glasses– now, a real country attitude would be to buy glasses, which are cheaper, and use the Mason jars for their intended purpose. Breakfast was good in form, but lacked substance. The biscuits were big and fluffy-looking, but were too light and crumbly. They needed more shortening or something. At least the waitress, a cute, well-fed country girl, believed in keeping coffee cups full.

Found Kendall 70 weight for the first time in Pratt, Kansas

Hutchinson, Kansas. Odometer 33696 miles 2.5 gallons 1252 miles so far


Hutchinson was the home of Gypsy Claar. Michael was stopping for a few days to spend some time with her.

August 6, 1985

On the road again. Council Groves, Kansas. Odometer: 34,136. Rainy weather, but not heavy. Cheese and bananas at the IGA, paid for with food stamps from Gypsy. Food on the road had been on a budget, and perhaps not too nutritious.

As he rode eastward, he thought about the visit, and about Gypsy. At his next stop, he wrote to her, “I should have waited till morning to leave, but somehow I felt it was the time not to stretch the goodbye out any farther…I don’t know how long this goodbye will be for…I have a lot to think about concerning you and other parts of my life. I feel somewhat at loose ends. Neither person nor place ties me tightly. I am aware of being tempted to make an alliance with you. We would, after all, be of great help to one another. We have similar approaches to lifestyle. We’re very compatible in lots of ways. Yet I am not sure that is enough. Perhaps because I am more guarded in my feelings than I used to be, perhaps because I am not yet sure who I am to be, I am not sure if I could return your love as freely as it is given. It will take time for me to figure that out. I know at least that you’re a remarkable woman, and that I will always count you as a very good friend.”

It might have been more practical to be traveling in a pickup truck instead of a motorcycle. When it rained, he got wet, and he couldn’t carry anything extra. There were things in Hannibal and Austin that he’d like to collect. But that would have to be another time. This was an adventure; an experience; an impractical journey; a way to get in touch with people, not things; a way to learn about himself and others, not pick up scattered possessions. Perhaps he was testing himself. Was he as resourceful and independent as he thought? All things considered, he was glad he’d done it this way.

Just before Burlingame, Kansas, the wind started to blow so severely that he needed to seek shelter. Fortunately there was a tavern in the town, called the Swamp, frequented by pleasant, friendly types. If the town had any bikers, they might go there.

The storm was replete with sound and fury, so he sipped 3.2% beer until it abated. The road was wet and the air cool, but it was tolerable, and he made good time to Olathe, and a Denny’s, there to plan his next move. Olathe is 20 miles from Kansas City, Kansas, and it was 1:45 am. Should he look for a motel, or keep drinking coffee at Denny’s till early in the morning? He chose the coffee, so as to catch Kay before work in the morning.

Lee’s Summit, Missouri

August 7, 1985. Odometer 34136

He was there to visit his son, Geoffrey. They played computer games, catch, and later went out to eat and see a movie. Geoff seemed very aware and understanding of the situation. It felt good to get to know him.

Independence, Missouri. Odometer 34323 miles. 1 gallon, August 8, 1985

Michael and his son rode the 200 miles from Lee’s Summit to Hannibal. Geoff didn’t complain. Though his rear and legs were getting tired and sore, he didn’t mention it until he was asked. They stopped every 50 miles or so, once to eat in Moberly. Geoff reminded Michael of himself at his age.

He wasn’t sure how to entertain an estranged son, but decided he didn’t need entertaining, or impressing, or teaching. He should just be himself.

Michael hadn’t seen his old neighbors, Donnie and Mervin Sharkey for years. Mervin hadn’t changed a bit–same mannerisms, same posed, superior-intellectual look, which, compared to his brother seemed almost effeminate, but which was offset by his robust farmer side. He had become a counselor at Hannibal Junior High. Donnie had grown a beard and grey hair, but he looked good, healthy and happy.

They told him Sandra Bush and Deborah Reigel had both been divorced 3 or so times each. Michael thought “Too bad they missed out on me.” He thought of Carolyn, a pretty blonde with a dazzling smile he had dated for quite some time. And Phyllis, Yolanda, and Christine- he wondered what had happened to them.

The Step Mother

Michael’s stepmother, Sue, did not seem happy about his visit, though he tried to make it a pleasant one. He sensed some hostility, perhaps from not being able to control him. She ordered Geoff around, not grandmotherly at all.

Maybe she has a general feeling that life has given her a rotten deal. She’d always been a bit of a martyr, taking care of her mother till she was nearly 40. Finally she was able to be married, but Michael’s father died about a year later, leaving her with Michael and a pregnancy. That was bad luck indeed, but one can’t live as a tragic heroine indefinitely. That does not buy happiness.

You can’t pin your own happiness on your ability to control other people. She hadn’t realized that. It isn’t easy to learn that the behavior of those close to you might not follow your plan, and that should not to be taken as a personal affront. We must all learn that, and sometimes relearn it, or else live in constant frustration and resentment. The Hannibal sojourn had gone on long enough.

August 14, 1985

Sue’s behavior was unexpected. Michael felt unappreciated. He traveled hundreds of extra miles to spend a week visiting her, yet she accused him of “not caring.”

She seemed to judge him as she would a stranger, not the stepson she had known since age 5.. His hair is long, and he rides a motorcycle. He was divorced.

She had previously told a story about Brian Hayden, who had been like a grandfather to Pat, and had promised her his ring, but just before he died he changed his mind and gave it to his niece instead. Pat’s feelings were very hurt, not because of the monetary value, but the broken promise.

Sue had promised throughout his childhood, “I’ve divided everything equally between you two kids, because I love you both the same”. She had changed her mind about that. Michael didn’t begrudge Pat anything. After all, she was her natural child, and he was the adopted orphan that came as a package deal with his father. But she was the only mother he had known. He had respected her for her better qualities. Now, he thought, he would have to respect the memory of those qualities instead.

No child asks for his situation. He or she must just do as well as possible with the reality of it. Michael had to accept a lot that he didn’t like for 18 years, and tried, usually successfully, to believe the intent was loving and kind.

He thought, “When I live my own life, and build my own values, to find love and spirituality in my own way, then I am not accepted by my own parental figure. Well, who says life is fair?

He had planned, after returning to Phoenix, to save about $100 and send it to her so she could have something extra she wanted, and to have a nice 8 x 10 picture done of himself, framed to hang on her wall. But after this, she’d probably misinterpret the money, and she probably wouldn’t hang the picture.

On to Austin

It was obviously time to leave Hannibal. He felt restless; anxious to get on to the next part: Austin. . What could happen there? Can something be put back together there that couldn’t elsewhere? He was thinking of Jill.

When you’ve painted yourself into a corner, the only thing holding you there is your unwillingness to get footprints on the floor and paint on your shoes.

Jill was going to be in Austin, and had asked him to meet her there, and he was willing to try, knowing not to have any expectations. In the past, he had expected too much, making one woman all women. Making her a goddess. When love becomes too serious, fun suffers.

August 15, 1985

Monroe City, Missouri. Odometer 34551. 3.8 gallons

August 16

Lewisburg, Kansas. Odometer 34795. 3.8 gallons

Miami, Oklahoma. Odometer 34942. 2.0 gallons

He stopped to sleep at Rocky Point, north of Muskogee, Oklahoma. It cost $6.00 to get in the park, but the light show, the sky full of stars, was free.

The day was going slowly; he didn’t get started till 1:00 pm, and didn’t feel too well in the heat, perhaps from not eating enough. The bike seemed tired, too, but it kept going.

August 17

McAllister, Oklahoma. Odometer 35125. 2.7 gallons

The bike stopped with a series of backfires in the middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma. The battery was dead, too. He thought he had found the charging problem, but still couldn’t get it push-started. Night fell, so he slept just off the side of the road in a little clearing. He woke, cleaned the plugs, and started holding up a sign that said ‘Need Jump’.

A couple of people stopped who didn’t have cables. Finally a cowboy in a pickup truck stopped and tried to jump it. It turned over, but wouldn’t run. With considerable work, they got it in the back of his truck and took it to Atoka, about 15 miles down the road, to a truck stop. He ate there, and investigated further on the bike, opening the ignition module cover and found the electronic distributor had been trying to grind itself up. Broken bolt, shear pin, and springs. No Harley shop in Atoka. No auto parts store open on Sunday. Pizza Inn sold no beer on Sunday. He started walking. It was hot and humid. At a store along the way, he was told the bars weren’t open either on Sunday. He was, considering a motel; the clerk, with a worried look, said $18.00. Money was tight. He walked on..

Then he was rescued by a woman who drove by. She said he could crash at her place. She liked Harleys, and didn’t like to see anyone stranded in Atoka. Just a nice person, and more trusting than is probably good for her. Fixed him steak for dinner. Sometimes, it IS a friendly universe, When he leaned over the bike in the sun, his crystal pendant projected the rainbow on the tank. There are good people in all places, usually when you least expect them. Thank you, Vivian Layton.

August 19

On the Road Again? Off the road again.

Just outside Atoka his carefully improvised repair took a dump. He was sorting out the pieces, and an old pickup with a Harley sticker pulled up. Terry, a Harley rider from Durant, had the parts he needed. However, he had to wait while Terry fixed a couple of refrigerators, his line of work. Actually, he does anything that will make a buck, He charged $25 for the part, which was a fair price. By flashing the generator, they even got that to charge

It only made it 50 miles and quit again, this time for unknown reasons. No more charge, either. He got a jump from a guy who’d also jumped him in Atoka on the way out. He followed into Dennison, the bike running on one cylinder. At American Cycles in Sherman, they found it was only an oil-fouled plug that refused to start firing. Replaced by a new one, it ran fine. The generator stopped charging again. A new regulator is too expensive, so he got full charge and pressed on. The proprietor of American Cycles, like most Harley people, had been helpful and fair.

Across the street there was a shop called Blind Alley. It sold blinds.

Sherman, Texas. Odometer 35230. 2.5 gallons.

Waco, Texas. Odometer 35378. 1.6 gallons.

August 20

Finally, Austin. And Jill was waiting at Glenda’s like she did 6 years ago. This time she felt it was more serious, and more vital that she come here to stay for a while. Glenda was the “mother figure” for AA in Austin, a counselor and generally caring person.

Jill never really had an alcohol problem, but the underlying reasons for alcoholism and addiction, of not knowing one’s self and how to find happiness, were there. Since her childhood she had doubted that she deserved happiness or anything good. From outside, her appealing personality, her talents, intelligence, and attractiveness were clear to see.. But from within, she often didn’t believe her own qualities were real, and after a time, denied herself the rewards. Sometimes aspects of the AA “12 steps” can help. That was why Jill came to Austin.

Bob Wayman was still a friend, and a helpful one. He had left some things, most importantly old notebooks he had written in. He thought he’d like to get a truck, gather his belongings, and end up in Austin.

Things seemed to have improved for Bob, too. Julie, was far better for him than Robin, and the complication of his custody struggle over his daughter was resolved. He seemed more relaxed, more cheerful; more free. It was a pleasurable visit, seeing old friends–Bruce, David, Kelly, and Sue… Time to head for Phoenix. Back to work.

August 27

Austin, Texas. Odometer 35673. 3.7 gallons.

Sonora, Texas. Odometer 35878. 2.9 gallons.

Was this trip worth it? For all its troubles there were some real good times, some learning, and experiences not to forget.

Someone in a bar in Sonora offered to let him crash in a trailer later, if he wanted to stick around and have a few beers. It was too early, though. He continued to a rest stop just east of Fort Stockton, Texas, where he slept.

Ft. Stockton, Texas. Odometer 36035. 2.7 gallons.

He was questioned by a cashier on the food stamps, asking for an ID, and refused to accept his $10 stamp. He said “Well, I guess I can’t afford to eat, then.” The cashier GAVE him the food.

El Paso, Texas. Odometer 36283. 3.7 gallons. 66 mpg

August 28, 1985

Evening at the Texas-New Mexico border. Odometer 36312 miles. Nice view from this rest stop, up the side of a hill. You can probably see Mexico from there, as well as Texas and New Mexico. El Paso was like Phoenix, except more Mexican. Outside a Safeway two young girls were taking a picture of the bike. They asked Michael if it was his; they wanted to take his picture beside the bike.

He asked them how El Paso was. They said ‘Slow’. Too bad they were too young. He got the battery charged at a small Mexican garage. No charge for the charge– that was nice.

August 29, 1985

Wilcox, Arizona. Odometer 36548. 3.6 gallons.

The last day’s travel was about 460 miles. It’s 1094 miles from Austin to Phoenix. From Phoenix to Hutchinson, Kansas is 1253 miles. In 15 days actually on the road, he had averaged 288.2 miles per day, a total of 4323 miles altogether. He arrived home about 8:00 pm on August 29.

Riding a motorcycle is like living, only more so.

It doesn’t matter whether it rains, whether you have breakdowns, where you go, or why you’re going there. It’s what you do with the experience that counts. And that comes from inside you.”

Flash forward: October 30, 2005:

Twenty years later, Vivian of Atoka OK saw this story and emailed. Coincidences happen, it would seem.


The rapport we have with our machines is often such that, when our vehicle’s engine is straining under a heavy load, we feel that strain, project our strength into it and feel weary from the effort.

A good smooth power in our motors makes us feel personally strong, athletic; muscular. That a man and his mount might seem to read one another’s mind might be easily imagined. Riders of machines seem to share emotions with them; to trade egos.



The following are stories recorded by Michael from his experiences in driving his taxi.

Perhaps if Jesus had been a cab driver, he would have learned better how to get along with people, and they wouldn’t have nailed him.

October 24, 1986


She was pretty, but what I noticed most was her smile as she got in my cab at the bingo parlor. It was not that her smile was dazzling, almost luminous, although it was, but that it seemed permanent and real, not just a smile flashed at will for its effect on others.

She gave me her address, and we crept forward through the post-bingo traffic. She smiled on.

‘Did you win tonight?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I won a little.’ ‘I figured you didn’t lose, the way you’re smiling.’ We pulled into her driveway, and, still smiling broadly, she handed me a ten for a $3.00 fare. ‘Keep this’, she said. ‘I won $600 tonight.’

My next fare was at a bar, a father and son, both happily drunk. Pops, as he called himself, was a rugged-looking feisty old fellow with long white hair and a beard.

We stopped at a store for a 6-pack. When the son went in for the beer, Pops opened his shirt and showed me a scar on his belly.

‘They cut me open’, he said. ‘They say I’ve got cancer, and I’m gonna die before Christmas. Do you know how it feels to know when you’re gonna die?’

I shook my head.

‘Everybody knows they’re gonna die…but to know it’s coming that soon– that’s like being sentenced to the electric chair. I love livin’. I WANT TO KEEP LIVIN’…but they tell me I can’t.’

There was no sob nor whine in the old man’s voice. There was strength and courage along with sorrow.

His son came back with the beer. As he got in, he asked, ‘Did he tell you he was dyin’? My old man ain’t never gonna die! Not as long as he keeps partyin’ with me!’


I drove Misty to and from work frequently for several years. She was one of the least maladjusted topless dancers I ever met. She was still amused and delighted that men would spend money to watch her take off her clothes. She lacked the jaded disdain for her patrons that some dancers develop.

Misty once recalled noticing that the boys in the playground would stand in front of the swings, hoping for a peek at prepubescent panties when her skirt blew in the breeze. A reasonable girl even then, she would oblige them.

Strip tease shows, in their various forms, are only adult versions of that eternal childhood pastime.


We in public service, cabdrivers, waitpersons, dancers, and escorts among others, all occasionally get unique moments of insight into the mind and society. It is often these, not stories of extreme drama, that we remember and sometimes retell.

This one was told to me by an out-call escort as I drove her home from an assignment.

‘Shhh…we don’t want to wake Mother.’ The speaker might have been a grandfather himself, if he’d ever impregnated a woman. He wore thick glasses that made his eyes inhumanly large. Random wisps of wild hair sprouted from his otherwise bald head.

As he led her silently to his study, she could hear ‘mother’ snoring loudly behind a closed bedroom door.

He handed the pretty call-girl a hundred dollars. She counted the crisp twenties and put them away. ‘You’re not promiscuous, are you?’ he asked earnestly.


Some words are easier to rhyme than others. My second ex-wife Jill once challenged me to rhyme the word ‘diaphram’. The result follows:

The singing coach said, ‘Higher, Fran;

You need to sing from your diaphragm!’

So Fran took this advice to heart,

And released a melodious pussy fart.


‘My name’s Lisa Anne’, announced the pretty blonde with the low-cut halter-top and the fur jacket.

‘Sleazeanne?’ That’s what I thought she said. She blushed and giggled. ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘A call-girl with a sense of humor.’ I liked her immediately. I started my cab. ‘Where to?’

She told me. She also told me she was an escort, but I’d already guessed that. She’s from Hollywood, and she has a Hollywood concept of how a call-girl looks. She has a mischievous, sexy grin that shows she enjoys the theater of it all. She’ll flash her tits at convenience store clerks.

We stopped at a hotel to try to change a hundred. ‘Drive past these guards’, she said. ‘I want to flash them some tit.’

‘No, you’ll get me in trouble.’ She pulled down the halter-top as I drove.

‘Now, would that get anyone in trouble?’

I was looking at truly beautiful breasts. She had tweaked her nipples, and they were magnificently erect. Indeed, they could get someone in trouble very easily under some circumstances– the sort of trouble Helen of Troy or Cleopatra might cause. I would have risked that for some time to caress them, and explore the rest of her.

But Lisa Anne is not all glitter and tease. She’s a vulnerable woman who loves and needs and gets sad when she loses at love. As much as it may delight her to be worth $110 an hour, she does not mistake this for true respect and affection.

Perhaps those who are quick to stereotype would not see this, and would admit no feeling beyond lust. As usual, such people miss a lot.

Wisdom consists of avoiding stupidity most of the time.


March 1986

Michael and Jill went to the National Tattoo Convention in New Orleans. It was held at the Ramada hotel. As the artists and tattooed people wandered into the lobby, they were the objects of attention by the hotel staff, many or most of whom were Black. Some may have thought they were being invaded by motorcycle gangs. Others were just fascinated by the tattoos and wondered how it might look for dark skin to be tattooed. Many at the convention wore custom-cut clothing so as to show the best of their artwork. It was a fascinating few days. An artist from New Orleans, a light-brown woman, had a tattoo booth there. She was highly regarded, and Michael decided he would like something by her as a momento of the visit. He chose a portrait of a pirate-woman on the back of his left hand. It turned out excellent.

Both of them enjoyed the experience, though their relationship was not of the original romantic nature. They were still friends, as they would always be.


A rare warm wind

From Colorado blew in;

Took my tower like a storm

Weather she comes and

Whither she goes

She’s sure done me no harm

Mounting peaks

For weeks and weeks

Make a sensuous climate

And I would continue

Along this venue

If I could only rhyme it.

— June 1987

The first thing he noticed about Crickett was her legs: long, lush, smooth and brown below short cutoffs. She was sitting quietly at the corner of the bar, and he didn’t talk to her that time. The next time, when he did, it was an easy conversation, the kind you fall into when no one is trying to impress anyone.

She had silky long black hair, brown eyes, and an incredibly creamy tan complexion It didn’t occur to him at first that she was a Native American, but her features were classically that, with a slightly oriental flavor to her eyes. She was tall, with a strong healthy body. She told stories of Colorado, of Breckenridge and Telluride, of growing up adopted, of a mate, a child, money and bad habits she’d had and lost, and the stories and their telling showed her to be sensitive and caring, strong and resilient in spirit as she was in her body. There was something about her that made him want to be her friend as well as her lover. She had a good soul.

She had said she was headed on to California soon, so it was no surprise when she announced she was flying away June 25th. Michael would have liked her to stay longer, but she needed to go and find out what waited there. He hoped she’d be back.

And every day at 4:05

My wristwatch comes alive.

Peep-peep; peep-peep until

I stifle its electronic bell.

Time to pick up Crickett again

Though she’s been gone the last of June.

Monday, July 20, 1987

Amazing Grace

Alone again, he thought of Grace, who he hadn’t seen while Crickett was there. Then there had been a visit from Gypsy Claar from Kansas. He called Grace, they went out to eat, then back to her place.

Grace had a lot of class. She had every reason to be depressed, angry at the world, or simply to whine and complain…and she didn’t. Her health problems caused pain much of the time, and of that she had an old man who beats her up. Any man who hits a woman is a detestable coward; a poor excuse for a human being, but to beat on a woman like Grace is beyond the depths of depravity.

Yet she could smile, laugh, have a good time; be a sensuous lover. She has accepted her health problems. She does no drugs except pot, and hardly drinks at all. Michael felt privileged to know her; to have spent a wonderful night with her.

Tuesday, July 21, 1987

Michael met Jill and her new husband John at the Crazy Horse for some beers. He still loved Jill, but accepted that the romance was over. He wanted her to be happy. John seemed a decent guy, protective, and perhaps good for her.

Later Michael went to Frankie’s, and got seduced by Renee’, who used to dance at Grand Central Station with Jill. He was just filling in for her old man, who is in jail. He did his best. He never could resist a damsel in distress.

He almost didn’t want to leave Phoenix…but only almost. A road trip was overdue.

Essence of Love

Soft mountainous breasts

Dark pink proud nipples

Begging to be sucked

Creamy inner thighs

Yearn for tender kiss

Tongue tease behind knees

Fingers grasp her round

Behind; squeeze, massage.

Pause to nibble at

The shallow hollow

Where thigh meets pelvis

Then nose explores soft

Fragrant down. Tongue seeks

The sweet secret source

Tasting gods’ nectar.

Thighs part; reveal pink

Petals, lovely; moist.

Sip from the fountain

Of youth; give squirming

Timeless ecstasy.

At last, we kiss; tastes

Herself as hardness

And softness unite.



It was time to travel again, this time not on the Ratster, but on 4 wheels in a Mazda GLC, which had been a gift from Jill.

The Journey Begins. July 22, 1987 14:47: odometer 74509

He filled up at the Exxon at I-17 and Dunlap and headed south on I-17 to I-10, east toward Tucson.

The freeway could get monotonous. It was the most logical route, but rather dull. However, it’s unfair to compare a trip like this to the motorcycle trip of 2 years ago. It was a good deal more comfortable, if somewhat lacking in style and the sheer pleasure of riding. So far the Mazda was performing well. On to El Paso.


July 22, 20:30 Lordsburg, New Mexico mile 74793 8 gallons, $8.20, 35.3 mpg

He called Bob Wayman in Austin. Julie answered, and assured him they would be there.

By 20:50 he was in Las Cruces, NM: odometer 74912, having coffee and cookies at a Shell gas convenience store, the items passed through a teller bin from behind thick glass. They were taking no chances.

Las Cruces is beautiful when approached from the west at night. One descends on it, and its lights look like interlaced strands of silver and gold.

There was a rest stop at the Texas-New Mexico border ahead where he had stopped to sleep once before.

July 23, 07:00

The eastbound stop is on the Texas side; the westbound was in New Mexico. It was more modest, but adequate, and there’s still a nice long view to the southwest, clouded by a morning fog. He couldn’t sit on the ground; the little ants were active.


The French conquest under Maximillian would be interesting to read up on.

Billboard for radio station KFOX in El Paso: I FOX AROUND!

Van Horn, Texas, 10:23. mile 75079. 7.5 gallons; $8. 38.1 mpg

Those who think Texas is flat have probably experienced only the north part where US 66 goes through. From the west it is full of small mountains and valleys, then hills that look sculptured with a smooth regularity that makes one think of the ancient pyramids.

The interstate highway slices through the hills with a Texas-style refusal to let nature inconvenience people too much. The road does rise and fall with the land, but the steeper hills, though they could have been merely crossed, are sliced cleanly and neatly, leaving straight sides of naked earth on either side of the road.

The Hill Country itself is a tree-filled countryside, no longer rocky but lush and green rolling hills. Small towns tend to look picturesque without working too hard at it. Of course, one never knows to what extent a small town is self-conscious about its small-town look. If it didn’t know it was supposed to look like that, would it look like that anyway?

Suddenly he was confronted with a village whose name a sign proclaimed to be HYE. He waved at the sign and said ‘HI’ back. A second later, at 55 mph, it was time to say ‘BYE’.

July 23, 19:14 MST odometer 75540. Austin, Texas

It took 28 hours, including sleep, to cover the 1031 miles from Phoenix. He switched to central daylight time, which cost 2 hours. At 23:00 he was waiting outside for Bob and Julie to get home from work. Finally, they did. The next day he slept until 14:00, then watched movies on TV while Bob and Julie were at work.

Saturday, July 25

Michael and Bob went to see the Austin Lounge Lizards at the Waterloo Icehouse. They’re a very musically adept bluegrass band with well-written humorous songs. One is called “Saguaro”, about a man who has a gunfight with a cactus, and loses.

Sunday, July 26

They visited the Back Door off Riverside Drive, a big place with a game room side and a rock-band side. Michael had been there before with Jan Horne, the cute redhead that used to work at Brown School, with whom he had an affair after Jill left for L. A. Jan had later had an accident that disabled her for some time. She may have gone back to Arkansas, where she was from.

The place had gotten bigger since then. Then they checked out 6th Street, which seems to be the happening area. Maggie May’s had folk-type music– a Joni Mitchell soundalike. Draft Guiness for $3 a pint. Joe’s Generic Bar had blues and beer for $2 a bottle.

Monday, July 27

Michael went to see where Bob was working, a Brown-School type facility. It was a nice setup, way out in the country. The residents seemed feisty enough to be interesting, but manageable.

Tuesday, July 28

Michael checked out the Black Cat Saloon while Bob was working. Quite a scene, when you can buy a beer and stand on the sidewalk or sit on your bike and watch the women go by. The bar itself, like several of the 6th Street bars, is long and narrow, a divided section of the old buildings already there. Many of the Austin bars, like the Doll House (a topless bar), the Outhouse, and others have dress-code attitudes about Harley T-shirts, etc. The Hole in the Wall doesn’t, nor do the 6th Street bars. Phoenix has some of the same situation, yet one expects it less here. Austin should have a more enlightened attitude.

August 4, 1987 09:00 Austin. odometer: 75621. 7 gallons, $6.50. 31.43 mpg

Heading for Lee’s Summit. It was 200 miles to Dallas, and he arrived around noon. There was midday stop-and-go traffic. He missed 69 because he was supposed to look for 75, which leads to 69, but 380 would take him from Denton east to the right road.

Pet store: FISH N’ CHIRPS

The 380 route was a nice drive through some green wooded countryside north of Dallas and Denton.

Sherman, Texas 15:45, mile 75945 8.9 gallons $8.50. 36.4 mpg

He stopped in Sherman to find American V-twin, the shop that was so helpful last time through on the bike. It had moved, and was a bit hard to find. It took about an hour, but he wanted to tell the owner he appreciated his being there when needed.

The owner had his hassles with the Establishment in the interim. He actually got arrested IN his shop for wearing a FUCK JAP MOTORCYCLES T-shirt. When they want to hassle you, they’ll do anything. Too bad he didn’t have any of those T-shirts. Michael wanted to buy one.

In Oklahoma one crosses the Clear Boggy River, then the Muddy Boggy, and finally the North Boggy, which is presumably neither clear nor muddy, but still boggy. Then there’s a town called Tushka. A good place to sit for a spell?

19:30, Muscogee Oklahoma odometer 76116.

Everywhere is halfway to somewhere.

Muscogee was that place Merle Haggard sang about, but Michael had discovered last time through that they DID smoke marijuana there.

22:25 Joplin, Missouri. odometer: 76253. 7.6 gallons; $7.00 40.53 mpg

Michael arrived in Lee’s Summit at 01:15 August 5. It took a few minutes to pinpoint the house in the dark. Few addresses are visibly displayed. Since everyone was evidently asleep, he parked and went to sleep too. He awoke about 06:00 with feeling like he had a ringside seat at the Indy 500. It seems Douglas is quite a thoroughfare for those in a hurry to work.

He and his son Geoff went to Hannibal for 3 days, which was plenty long enough there. The next stop was Hutchinson, Kansas to see Gypsy. They only stayed one night, mainly because he wanted Geoff to enjoy himself, and there was little for him to do there. Michael had spent time with Gypsy before the trip when she visited in Phoenix, so the short stop wasn’t so bad; time enough for a one-night stand.

Loaded up as it was, the car was a bit uncomfortable to sleep in. They stopped once at a rest stop in Colorado.


Signs on the canyon trail warned about the strenuous climb and the heat, suggesting plenty of water be carried. As it was, water fell from the sky; as the sunny day turned to downpour from sudden rumbling clouds echoing thunder off the sheer rock walls.

Although the rain dampened the hike, Michael did have a chance to meet and talk to Pnina under a sheltering rock overhang. She had an open, friendly smile and her dark brown curls, almost Rastafarian in their tight zig-zag pattern, sun-lightened on top. She had shapely, firmly muscled short legs, and hiked as if she walked a lot.

Hers was a strong healthy body, neither fat nor thin, and her face, most especially when she smiled, had the kind of clean beauty that required no makeup, nor could I imagine her wearing any. She bore the attitude of an environment where fear and fakery are not social requirements.

She seemed to like Michael, staying nearby after the rain let up, to continue the conversation. Perhaps hoping that that he and Geoff were hiking all the way to the bottom, as she was, where she had a room reserved. She was not so much flirtatious as she was openly friendly.

She said that she was an Israeli Jew, though she was not religious. She had noticed the Star of David he wore. He told her he viewed Judaism in a similar way, as a culture, an identity; a way of relating to the universe, rather than a theology. Her English was accented but excellent. She remarked on the bigness of America, and the bigness of Grand Canyon. Israel, too, has its beautiful scenery, she said, but its beauty was on a smaller scale. You can travel through all of Israel in one day.

Less than an hour was not nearly enough time to get to know Pnina, but Michael found her enchanting and attractive. He gave her his address, telling her if she ever made it to Phoenix he would like to see her. She said she likes to ride on motorcycles.

He and Geoff turned back about halfway to the bottom. The hike back up, of course, was harder work than descending.

Geoffrey reminded Michael of himself at times. Quiet, understating his reactions. One gets the impression he is reflecting on things to himself rather than conveying them to the outside world. He may venture an opinion much later, when he has thought about it.

Back in Phoenix,

after 3876 miles, $104.95 in gasoline, averaging 36.45 mpg. Not bad.

Sunday, September 6, 1987


Crickett called, saying that she was being abused in Newbury Park, a Ventura County suburb of Los Angeles, Michael promised to come pick her up in about 24 hours. He ended his shift around 16:30 and headed west by 20:00. He tried to stop to see Terry in Santa Monica, but he was not home at 02:00, so he went to Newbury Park and parked to sleep on Ventura Park Road near Pepper. He woke up around 07:45 and found the house. The abuser wasn’t there, so no confrontation was needed.

September 16, 1987

Suddenly he found himself living with a woman after having gone without even a one-nighter for weeks…and a GOOD woman at that. Crickett has a pleasing, easygoing personality, land was very sexually compatible. He felt like the proverbial kid in the candy store with a credit card.

He didn’t want to come on too strong and scare her away. He couldn’t be sure she would stay, but he hoped she would. . She was fun, intelligent, sensual, and willing to contribute her share to the household. She had wonderfully soft, smooth skin of a beautiful golden tone, a firm, strong feminine body, long black hair, and the prettiest pubes he had ever seen, with the overall effect of serene natural beauty, not unlike a clear mountain stream shaded by green trees, where one yearns to lie down on its grassy bank and drink deeply while breathing the fragrant air.


One logical problem plagues the concept of time travel into the past: that being, if it can be done, given enough time for research and technical advance, why haven’t future time travelers come back to our present?

Surely, if it can be done, mankind will do it and use it, unless we are destroyed first. We don’t know if such destruction (or loss of our techno-civilization) would be a man-made or natural disaster.

Perhaps interactive past time travel is somehow impossible. Maybe one could go into the past and view it, but not interact, being separated by a time-fold.

This problem might not apply to future time-travel. It would be more interesting, anyway, since nothing is known about the future, while the past has already been done. (Actually, we probably think we know more about the past than we actually do.) But if we can travel to the future (faster than we already naturally do) and not to the past, it would be a one-way trip, since we could not return to the present.

Travel into the past would be most interesting to discover whether and how the paradoxes actually work. Could one actually meet oneself? If you seduce your mother before she meets your father, could you become your own father, or would you cease to exist? Would this happen instantly, or when you return to the present? Preplanned messages from the past would be easy enough, so time travelers could usually communicate what went wrong even if they were unable to return to their present.

Could UFO’s actually be time machines, and the reason they are so elusive could be the need to avoid interaction? Time travel, of course, also requires space travel, since nothing stays in the same place for long. If you could not compute where you need to be at the time you want to be, and if you cannot accurately travel to the right place, then you would have to be extremely lucky to survive. You could end up in space far from Earth, or embedded in solid matter, either of which could be quite uncomfortable.

To A Sleeping Beauty


Yes, I love to watch you move,

and to feel you move next to me;

beneath me as we express our passion,

your smooth skin under my caressing fingertips.

But, as for a moment I watched you sleep tonight,

your silver necklace gleaming in the soft red light,

and you lay still, unaware of my gaze,

I enjoyed the natural quiet beauty of you.

October 20, 1987

Do you see the beauty in life?

If you look for it, you will.

Look at yourself

Not just the outside,

which happens to be beautiful to others,

but inside, where every vein,

every bone, every organ plays

in the orchestra of you, plays

the symphony of life

She Dreams of Nuclear Wars

She dreams of nuclear wars, and she’s a survivor. The bombs made the world go away; now she’s on her own, strong and ready because she planned for this– she knew it was coming, always traveled light, learned to be alone; loved the quiet land. Now it’s all quiet land. The echos of the bombs have faded away. The echos of other voices have faded too; the millions of other faces have gone with the nuclear wind, and she faces her future with no one else.

Dreams may be our fears or our fantasies. Our fears may be our fantasies. Turn over the dragon-headed coin and you’ve got dragon tails. Use it to buy a ticket to fly and you’ve got dragon wings.

We may all face the nuclear winter. I want to survive. Some don’t. But I’m betting on a level of sanity of those in control just high enough to stop short of bringing it on. If I really expected it I’d find a way to live in the wilderness out of the target zones.

Yet there is an appeal to the fantasy of being a survivor when civilization is gone– no longer doing city jobs for paper pay to buy market food and shelter made by others, but to grab and hold the real: building by hand, killing my own food, living from day to day, ready for anything; feeling satisfied with only the basic needs. We are not so far from our age of stone that, however much we dream of luxury and ease, we don’t dream of this also: the simpler times.

But the world won’t go away; it will change some but not much all at once, and we need to deal with it, as it deals with us. This is a kind of survival too, a bit more complex and subtle, but as necessary to our age as hunting skills were once.

That dream had been Crickett’s. It may have been because she is a Native American, and though she doesn’t express it, she has an unconscious natural desire to see civilization pay for the destruction of her people, a people who may still be better equipped to survive a nuclear war than anyone else; who may once again flourish, given the space and freedom to do so.

Though she spoke little about it, perhaps she suffers for her people, none the less so because she was partly robbed of her heritage by adoption, which was only another symbol of the oppression.

She responds with scorn to the white songwriter’s attempt to sing of injustice to Indians. She thinks they don’t care– perhaps that they only do it for the money. Many do care, but she has a point, and it is this:

America, self-righteous democratic nation that it is, committed genocide on the Native Americans. It was done on a larger scale, over a longer period of time than the German genocide on the Jews and other minorities.

The Germans, by circumstances of war, were defeated and punished, and they are still being punished– not just the Nazis who actually committed the crimes, but all Germans, by association. Germany is a nation living in guilt for the sins of its fathers. Germans who were not even alive then are still apologizing, or at least doing much to show the world that they are no longer a nation of murderers.

America has never been punished for its crime. Indeed, as a whole, it has never even apologized. Attempts at reparations have been pathetic and completely inadequate; the effect has been a continuation of genocide under the guise of benevolent paternalism.

America even misnamed its natives and never bothered to correct it. We have known for over 400 years that they were not Indians. Even Native Americans is wrong; there was no America until the land was stolen by the European invaders.

At least the Jews and the Gypsies were still called by their names when they were being starved and shot and gassed to death. And at least the Jews, partly through their own effort and with the help of other nations, finally achieved a homeland, though they have had to fight long and hard to keep it.

Where is the Native Americans’ homeland? The reservations: tiny scraps of a vast continent–land that no one else wanted, scattered and surrounded, almost like concentration camps, an insult to the once-proud tribes who roamed all the land, using it rightly?

The tribes are said to be sovereign nations, which sounds good on paper, but they have little if any more power than any landowner. If any positive change is to come from the revelations of BIA corruption, it should be that of a long-overdue restoration of land and real sovereignty to the tribes on a scale that will insure economic self-sufficiency. Land must be added to present reservation land of a type that can be used agriculturally or otherwise productively, not the water-poor wasteland that is often the case. Native land should no longer be called reservations, but should be considered in every way the national land of the tribes occupying it. Thereafter the tribes must be dealt with as foreign powers, as we would deal with Canada or Mexico

We can never undo the great wrongs done by our ancestors to their ancestors, but we could try much harder to set things right in the present. And we must stop whitewashing our history to ignore past crimes. It is easier to avoid mistakes in the future if we fully recognize the mistakes of our past.


It’s too late to make spaghetti. If we did, it would be pasta time.


A Cosmic Cab beeper greeting: The friendly drivers of luxurious Yellow Cab 267 remind you that it is too hot to walk, but it’s cool to roll. If you need a ride, and we think you do, say your name, location, and phone at the tone. Tell us when you need the ride– call ahead if you can, in case we have to finish another trip first. Michael or Pat will call or come as soon as we can. We deeply appreciate your patronage.



One night at Frankie’s Michael saw her at the end of the bar. She looked directly back at him and smiled as if she meant it. Clearly, they needed to meet. Not long into the conversation, she said, “You turn me on.” That was not something he was used to hearing, at least not until much later. She was slim and pretty. He wanted her. She was officially Trader Steve’s ol’ lady, she freely admitted, but he thought she might be worth the risk. For awhile this never went beyond surreptitious smiles and winks across the bar and an occasional few words when proximity permitted. Then, one evening she announced she was moving to Utah. Life with a dealer was getting too hectic for her and her son.

He asked her to call before she left, but he didn’t hear from her or see her again for awhile. He thought she’d gone. A few weeks later she showed up at Frankie’s without Trader. He was out of town, she was leaving him anyway, and she gave Michael her number. She said “Call me”, so next day he did. They stopped at Chester’s Bar, then rode to his place. There were no coy games about it– they wanted one another. Even dressed she was a natural beauty, but when she was unclothed he was still amazed by her flawless body, small and slim but perfectly shaped. The passion was electric. There was sweat; their movements removed the fitted sheet from the mattress and denuded a pillow of its case. Heedless, they sought only one another’s pleasure, stopping for nothing, every nibble, caress, and thrust sending them to new heights.


Their chance had come when Trader the dealer was out of town, reportedly aiding a club snitch to escape from Phoenix. Trader returned, and though it was her intention to leave him, he didn’t know if she actually would.


Happy endings are for fairy tales. Michael saw Barb just before she was to be married to Trader. She did not seem to be overjoyed at the prospect, and said it was for practical reasons– concern for her son. Was fear a factor too? There was something between Michael and Barb besides intense lust. Lust and love are not separate, but only semantically divided parts of the same emotion. Conventional thinking, influenced by the dark ages, tries to divide the whole.

A String Theory: On the computer you cannot put quotation marks inside a string, because the string itself must be in quotes, and the second quote it comes to, fools it into thinking the string has ended. Perhaps this will be resolved by the creation of a more complex string theory in time.

Is a sarcastic telegram a barbed wire?


Peekers was a video arcade that featured live nude dancers, who performed in a glass cage for tips. Gypsy Jill danced there for some time, then ended up marrying the owner, John. Michael occasionally visited her there. Once Jill used the place to work on his tattoos.

Nancy Alvarez, originally from Douglas, Arizona, was a dancer at Peekers. Her stage name was Kitty. Michael met her at Frankie’s one night and danced with her twice, and saw her later at a party, briefly. As Jill was tattooing him, Nancy appeared. Jill endeavored to play matchmaker; Nancy was agreeable, though reserved at first. Eventually, there was a spontaneous experience in her car in his parking lot. She was pretty, lushly exotic, intelligent, and appealing. He hoped for an extended relationship, but she was also going to college and didn’t have a lot of free time. He didn’t see her again until December, when she showed up at Frankie’s along with a woman named Shawn, who Michael also had known intimately in the past, but had moved to Wisconsin.

He took Nancy home and made love to her, but afterward she told him of her plans to go to Ohio and continue her college courses there.


On a quiet Tuesday night at Frankie’s, Jody walked in, announced she was waiting for someone, and asked for a glass of water. She was freckled, cute, nicely shaped, and, it turned out, lots of fun in bed. She talked about traveling a bit– originally from New York, she had spent time in Southern California, Houston, and Phoenix. She had a 6-year-old kid, but was staying with her mother and was supposed to be home by 2:00; this night she didn’t get there until around 3:00.

In time he learned the rest of the story. Her real name was Cindy; Jody was her dancing stage name. Michael went to the Velvet Touch to watch her dance and take her home afterward. They stopped at TJ’s and she revealed that she had and old man, due to get out of jail soon. So much for extended romance.

* * *

A letter to Gypsy of Kansas, 8812.01

Glad to see you’re getting along with computers so well. I’ve grown rather fond of them myself. This is done on the Atariwriter program with a dot-matrix printer. It’s not as crisp-looking as yours, but it’s useful. It’s unfortunate that all computers and peripherals aren’t compatible. For that matter, it’s too bad all people aren’t compatible.

At least “yuppies” serve one purpose– they’re a perfect negative example of what to avoid in our own lives, just in case we need reminding. Sometimes people say “I used to have hair as long as yours.” That seems sadder to me than the younger people who have never done anything but conform. I want to ask, “Didn’t it mean something to you then? If so, what happened to your values?” But I usually don’t ask. Perhaps that’s not as bad as those who pretend to be into freedom and brotherhood, but are as selfish and greedy as the yuppies.

I have a Hannibal High School reunion in June. The Mazda quit on me a couple of months ago. A little module in the electronic ignition distributor seems to be the problem. This tiny part goes for $164. I’m trying to find a way to convert it to regular points, but no one has been very helpful. I’ll try to sell it, and buy a good old pickup truck.

A synchronistic fact

Hadrons are subatomic particles that exist in an excited state.

Inverting one pair of letters results in “hardons” which also exist in an excited state.

Snow Wandering

It was 3:00 AM in Phoenix on Xmas night, 1988. Michael was driving his cab. The man he picked up was giving his wife a divorce for Christmas, and wanted to go to Flagstaff to catch a train.

It was dark at night, as it often is, and the foothills were socked in a dense white mist. They drove onward through the fog. About 30 miles from Flagstaff a strange white crystaline substance began to cover the ground and highway. Michael had seen it before, in the cold and distant past. The view ahead wasn’t clear, like a TV screen with snow. Snow! He remembered he used to play in it as a child, but then, children will play in anything.

The radio was announcing zero degrees, and they didn’t mean college diplomas. Zero is only a number, but when he got out of the cab to refuel, he was aghast at the chill. His mind had mercifully suppressed memories of Missouri winter misery, but there it was again.

The passenger bought breakfast at Denny’s while they waited for the railroad station to open. It was getting light out; a good time to light out for Phoenix, with the traffic still light and the scenery lit. The snowy slopes looked pretty in the rising sun, seen from within the cozy cab.

It was snowman’s land. Michael drove south, taxiing down the peaks, peeking out of the taxi. On the edge of night, there would soon be a brighter day as the world turned. Washing the cab afterward would be a real soap operation. In the rearview mirror, he I could see by the dawn’s early light that Flagstaff was there.

February 1989

Michael had known Janet, though only casually, since the early days in Phoenix at the Oregon Pines trailer park. Then she was married to Peacock, the park’s manager. Michael and Jill had an issue with him over the furniture provided in their cabin apartment at the trailer park. His attitude had been annoying, and they had moved to another apartment at 24th Street and Monroe over that issue.

Janet was a much nicer person, and was no longer Peacock’s wife. She was tall and slim, with perfect sized perky tits, and nice all over. She loved to fuck, and showed it with Michael, literally all night. This was quite enough for a start, but he also learned that Janet was a very together woman, worthy of respect as well as lust. She rode and worked on her own Harley, had built VW trikes, worked construction as well as dancing, and was a licensed and experienced truck driver. She had a 9-year old daughter. Not a helpless female, and robustly feminine and sensuous.

In a twist of synchronicity, Janet and Michael were at the same concert featuring Foghat in 1977 in Kansas City. She was in the 8th grade then. She nicknamed herself “Tigger” (with a short I, from a cartoon character). A remarkable woman of 25, She was evidently quite a female “outlaw” from an early age.


To Janet

Just in case I don’t see you for a while

(Perhaps you’ll think of me and smile)

Or just in case you’d like to know

(If, by chance, it doesn’t show)

I think you’re special, and not just slightly.

(Which is not a thing that I say lightly)

I’ve come to like you for your mind

(Not just your breasts or your behind)

But perhaps I shouldn’t fail to mention

That your body does get my attention.

To give you pleasure rings my bell

You give it back so very well.

I’ve learned I shouldn’t care too much

Too soon, for love can be a crutch

And then I fall; it spoils my day

When the crutch is yanked away

But it’s right and good a friend to be

(Another thing I’ve learned, you see)

‘Cause friends can last a long long while

Being happy just to see you smile

No matter with whom else we stick

Let’s be friends through thin and thick

And whenever it’s the thing to do

I’ll gladly be your lover too


“Don’t play with your words”, the mother said. “Just eat them.”

“But, words are pun to flay with.”

“I say you can’t, so don’t.”

“You’re going into contractions again. They’re close together, too.”

“There you go again. You’re becoming a punster. Your palms will grow hair.”

He looked out the window at the palm tree he had planted. It did look a little hairy.


June 23,1989

Poppy was a charming little bloom, all 98 pounds of her, with a style all her own. She was in her early 20’s, yet had been married twice, both of which husbands died in car accidents. Evidently she had a lot of money– insurance or inheritance– plus a talent for business management. She seemed intelligent and well-read, perhaps also well-educated.

Michael gave her a back rub, which led to some very nice lovemaking. She likes to be bitten and have her hair pulled at times, and likes to be held down. She said she likes to be tied, but we didn’t try that. She was quite sensual. Alas, she lived elsewhere, and was just visiting.

June 24

From a flower to a spice: Ginger was a pleasing blonde with tattoos met while playing pool at the Crazy Horse.

To GraceBoth of us have loved before,
And lost, or tied, or got rained out.
Perhaps we’ve learned a thing or four;
We’re experienced without a doubt.

Whether we’re the worse for wear,
Or better, like fine wine or cheese,
Well, that is neither here nor there.
(But I’ll pick the latter, if you please)

I like you better when you’re near,
On that there’s no confusion
What that portends or means my dear
I’ll not leap to conclusion,

For we have time, and it is true
That we find each other tasty.
We’ll explore the world of me and you;
There’s no need to be hasty.

–cosmic rat

Anthropic Principle
If it wasn’t like this, it wouldn’t be like this.
(Or, it’s like this because it had to be like this to result in us,

so if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be here to see how it was)

MONDAY, JUNE 26, 1989

Motorcycle Trip II: The Reunion

Written in Michael’s own words, from his notes on the trip.

It had been 4 years since my last cross-country trip on the Ratster, and I was ready for another one. The occasion was my 25-year high school reunion, though I also wanted to visit Gypsy Claar in Kansas again, spend time with my son in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and see my stepmother and my boyhood home.

On the Road

I finally left Phoenix around noon. The odometer read 46,420 miles at the start. I stopped at the Sunset Point rest stop. The white Ford that seemed to be following me went on by. All seems well so far. Riding is a lot more comfortable this time with a softer seat. It’s a nice sunny day.


The drain plug in the transmission fell out. I improvised a rubber plug from a piece of oil hose stopped with a bicycle tube air valve, screwed in and wired to the frame. It should stay.

Gasoline: $3.50 at $1.11 a gallon. 46,568 miles; 47 mpg.

Holbrook, Arizona, 6:45 pm

The termperature has been cooler since before Flagstaff. It’s warm and sunny, but you can wear leather comfortably on the highway. I’ll gas up here just in case: 46,673 miles, $2.00 for 1.7 gallons.

Gallup, New Mexico, 9:30 pm

When it got dark approaching Gallup, it got rather chilly. I added a wool shirt under the leather and was still cold riding. The rest stop outside of Gallup was closed, so I rode into town, got food and coffee, and considered a motel. I stopped at one advertising $13, but of course there were no rooms of that price left. It would be $18, which wasn’t bad, but I didn’t like that tactic and preferred not to spend the money anyway. Gallup is quite old-fashioned looking. I was looking for a convenience store, and it was a while before I found the generic equivalent of one to get a cup of coffee, some vitamins, and information.

The clerk directed me to a small park just outside of town. Camping conditions were not ideal, but I found a spot where I could sleep slightly secluded next to the bike. There were some interesting signs in the park: one said No Alcohol or Drugs, featuring the circle/slash symbol over a marijuana leaf. Another said No Unloading Livestock, with a sign below it reading Use Trash Bins

One can picture a semi load of cattle being let off the truck so they could graze and shit in the park. How the trash bins provide an alternative, I’m not sure.

Sleeping was a bit chilly; it would have been good to have a sleeping bag, but I managed it, waking several times at nearby noises. No one actually bothered me, though.

June 27, 7:00 am

It’s still cool with the sun up. I went to a nearby restaurant for coffee and breakfast.

Gasoline: $2.00 for 1.7 gallons at 46,778 miles

Grant’s, New Mexico; 9:30 am;

The odometer has stopped odometing, at 46,833 miles, so there’ll be no more mileage figures.

In Albuquerque I filled up with $3.50 at $1.04 a gallon. I discovered I left behind my adjustable wrench for the rear axle nut, so I had to buy a pair of slip-joint pliers for $8 at K-Mart. The girl I asked for directions to the K-Mart was a real fox.

I found that I needed to use sunscreen. The sun is intense, despite the cooler air.

Moriarty, New Mexico, 2:00 pm

Their sign promises a McDonald’s that wasn’t built yet, but the Burger Queen had a chili dog with real good chili. I got gas in Milato, New Mexico: $2.35. In Tucumcari I gassed up again: $2.50, and briefly met the most beautiful girl I’d seen yet near the convenience store at First St and Business I-40. If I had lots of time and money…

June 28, 1989, 4:42 am: the Quack of Dawn

I awake by a lake in a secluded weeded clearing just outside Dalhart, Texas, to a chorus of quackers. It was a much better campsite than the last, despite the Texas mosquitoes and the nonresemblance of the ground to a mattress. It’s a small placid lake. I heard fish playing last night; this morning it’s a duck dawn.

I was going to stop at a bar last night for a beer, but they close at midnight in this Texas county, and it was about that time. As I was unlocking the bike to leave, one of the departing Texans with a pickup truck offerred me a cold beer. It was a Coors Light, but that didn’t matter– friendly is friendly. Probably a lot of Texans deal with their patchwork liquor laws with big coolers built into the back of their pickups, so there’s always a cold beer.

It was warm enough sleeping last night, and the view of the stars was great. I counted 18 billion and some, but toward the end I got confused by a UFO that kept moving. It might have been a firefly.

It was a bit chilly at dawn, but the sun was beginning to illuminate the earth and warm it. If I’d brought my sawed-off 12-guage, I probably could have gotten 4 or 5 ducks in one shot, but I didn’t have time for a big breakfast. Better just to duck into a cafe on the way. I found a use for the helmet: it keeps the kickstand from sinking into the soft dirt.

Dalhart, Texas, 8:00 am

Gas: $2.85 at $1.14.

About 320 miles to Hutchinson, Kansas. The atlas says it’s 1040 miles from Phoenix to Wichita, 1238 to Kansas City.

I rode through Hooker, Oklahoma, where, the signs say, the Hooker Lions welcome you, and you’re invited to the Hooker Pig Sale. To raise funds, the Lions Club could sell their own brand of lead weights for fishermen. They could call it the Hooker Lions’ Sinker

Liberal, Kansas, 10:00 am

I added $2.25 in gas at $1.13, and the first 1/2 quart of oil. No time to tour Dorothy’s house. Maybe next time.

11:30 am: Meade, Kansas

Home of the Dalton Gang Hideout….That makes me wonder: do Americans still love outlaws like they used to? At one time, outlaws (bank and train robbers, fast guns, etc.) were the symbol of freedom for the common man. They were what one might be if only one dared, and they usually struck blows against the established greed-heads who were becoming rich by making the people poorer. Most people knew how the system worked, so they secretly or openly applauded the outlaw who took some of it back. Perhaps there were few Robin Hoods; the outlaws usually kept the money, but in the eyes of the people they did it for those who didn’t dare to do it themselves.

In simpler times people understood these things. Freedom was still the most important concept when there was still a frontier. When absolute freedom was just over the horizon, fewer people were willing to be oppressed, either legally or economically.

Media now voice the concern of the established greed-heads and portray would-be outlaw heroes as Public Enemies. We live perceiving the world through glass eyes and paper ears, and many of us believe their distortions. Now we accept curtailments of our own freedom in the name of safety. Will we ever see through our own eyes again?

Greensburg, Kansas, 1:24 pm

Gas: $2.50 at $1.11.

It’s about 100 miles to Hutchinson. I’ll be stopping to see Gypsy there, but just staying one night because I need to be at the high school reunion when it occurs. I’ll stop longer on the way back.

I arrived in Hutchinson around 4:00 pm. I changed my watch to CDT, making it 6:00. I had a little trouble finding Gypsy’s house because I thought it was B Street, not B Avenue (to B, or to B?) Gypsy said I should avoid South Hutchinson next time. I didn’t know the town was big enough to have two sides. The water tower marks the corner. It has cost about $23.00 in gas to get this far.

July 29, 6:30 pm

I left Hutchinson, heading to Lee’s Summit, Missouri, after buying $2.50 gas at $0.99. I got on the wrong highway at Newton; I-135 instead of US-50, due to a poorly marked intersection, which took me 8 miles out of the way. After stopping for gas in Emporia ($2.50), I arrived in Lee’s Summit around midnight.

June 30, 12:30 pm

Headed for Hannibal, Missouri, boyhood home of Mark Twain and I, via US-24, the most direct route. I’ve always preferred non-freeway highways anyway, especially on the bike. I arrived around 5:00 pm.

Hannibal High School, Class of 1964, 25-year Reunion

Although I knew very few of them then, it seems that as a whole the class of ’64 are not a bad bunch, and some of them are actually interesting.

Carole Coats was one of the girls who looks better now than she did then, and from a brief conversation I was impressed with her searching mind and original thinking, as well as her vital, healthy body and radiant smile.

There was Brad Brice and his French wife. They gave me a Bible. That was nice, I suppose, but pushing religion is not what I consider friendly. One of the things I respect most about Judiasm is that it doesn’t seek converts. Lou Jaworsky still has a great attitude and sense of humor. I recall many years ago he introduced me to the first Mothers of Invention album.

Carolyn Lugering wasn’t there, but someone told me she still looks good, as I would have imagined she would.

Carol Mann was, overall, the best-looking woman attending. She lives in San Antonio now. Nancy Williams was another pretty one. Frank Maddox was the only other Harley rider there. He rides with the Vietnam Vets MC. My old friend Charles Janosz was supposed to be there, but he wasn’t.

Reunions aren’t so much about nostalgia as about satisfying curiosity. And interacting with people for any reason can be good. I tried to get together with Carole Coats, but our schedules didn’t mesh before I had to head back West. She tried to call me in Hannibal just after I had left. Too bad; who knows what might have been?

Westward Ho

I headed back to Lee’s Summit, then back to Hutchinson, Kansas, now that I have time to spend several days to spend with Gypsy. Visiting Gypsy is always relaxing and peaceful and pleasureable. We think and feel the same in lots of ways. But we have separate lives in separate places. I’m not sure either of us could join the other’s. Still, I enjoy being with her when I can. She suggested my route back to Phoenix, through Taos, New Mexico.

July 12, 1989, 2:30 pm

Leaving Hutchinson, I rode into Dodge city around 5:00 and stopped for gas. About 30 miles west of Dodge, the sky began to look dark ahead. A damp chill tinged the wind. I knew I was about to meet the bane of motorcyclists. I was headed for rain. I pulled over at my next opportunity and unpacked my leather jacket. Then, deciding to be really prepared, I dug out my waterproof pants and pulled them on I wanted to be ready for the rain. I restarted the Ratster and rode on toward the dark horizon. The wind picked up and got colder. Lightening flashed. Then it hit. A shotgun blast of hail struck my head and face. Eighty mph winds lashed horizontal rain into my right ear. There was no getting ready for this except being indoors. I stopped on a side road and parked the bike high side toward the wind. It sheltered me somewhat from the blast. I peeked periodically at the sky for funnel clouds. The wind went on and on with the horizontal rain. When it finally slowed, I began to get wetter, so I got out my tarp and made a tent with myself as the center pole. I’m not Polish, but it worked anyway. Finally, with difficulty, I could roll a cigarette. The lighter failed in the wetness, but the waterproof matches worked. Another eternity later the rain slowed to a trickle. I packed up and rode into the face-peppering sprinkle, 30 miles to Ulysses, my Oddysey nearly over for the day, to the Wagonbed Motel. The pretty desk clerk charged me $23 for a room with a tiny frog on the floor and Electroglide in Blue on TV.

Thursday, July 13

It shows promise of a Brighter Day, though there are still Dark Shadows of clouds. We’ll see how the story unfolds As the World Turns. Perhaps I’ll have dry weather when I reach the Edge of Night.

What else but soap operas while at the laundromat? Actually, the dryers are performing a Soap Ballet, drying what got rained on yesterday. Nothing much dried hanging in the motel room overnight. I had to replace the 20-year-old rope that held my mailbag closed.

Once dry I followed US-160 to Trinidad, Colorado, then I-25 south to Raton, and US-64 west to Taos, New Mexico. Though clouds periodically behaved in a threatening manner, I avoided rain on the road to Trinidad. Eastern Colorado looked a lot like Western Kansas: flat plains. There’s even a National Grasslands, since they couldn’t call it a forest without trees. Well, they could, but everyone would laugh.

After a while hills began rising in the landscape and it looked more interesting. By the time I got to Trinidad the scenery was definitely improved; medium and small mountains, partly covered with trees except for their rocky tops.

Trinidad is a picturesque town, having retained its original buildings and character. I decided to stop for food at La Fiesta, a small family-operated Mexican cafe. It proved quite tasty. Next door to La Fiesta was a bar called the Other Place. I went in for a beer. I noticed the bartender immediately. She was a slim brunette in a black skirt and tube top, a pretty smile and dancing eyes. She had a nicely done tattoo braceletting her left wrist. She also looked strangely familiar. As we talked between her errands to fetch drinks, she said I looked familiar to her, too. We established that we had been in Phoenix more or less the same time, but it wasn’t till I asked if she’d ever danced there that we saw the connection. She said she’d danced at the Blue…something. Blue Moon! I said. I asked if she knew Gypsy Jill. Then she remembered it all: she was Patty; had been with Steve who rode the dresser, lived at Oregon Pines, along with Pan Billy, Pegleg, Peacock, Janet, and Jill and I. It had been back in 1983. This unlikely coincidental encounter got me a place to stay the night in her trailer just outside of town, which was extremely fortunate because shortly after we got there it rained prodigiously. We spent a pleasant evening watching videos and talking about old times. She hadn’t had a ride for awhile, so I took her for one in the morning before I left. She lived amid some beautiful scenery, Fisher’s Peak just outside her door, and other nice hills, valleys, streams, and lakes around.

July 14,1989

Leaving Trinidad, I rode down I-25, which winds up and down Raton Pass to Raton; pretty countryside all the way. It’s 7800 feet at the top of the pass. Cool weather under blue skies and white clouds. In Cimarron I stopped at an outdoor tool and misc. sale, and noticed it was threatening to rain. I almost decided to try the 56 miles to Taos, but then I stopped at the edge of town and decided the small cafe looked better.

The rain stopped, and the sky turned blue again, so, on to Taos.

The road from Raton to Taos is indescribably beautiful. It descends into a forested canyon, with towering spired cliffs and a creek running beside the curvy road. Then, Eagles Nest: suddenly a lake appears, surrounded by mountains in a valley plain. It started sprinkling there, so I stopped at the Laguna Vista saloon, a very nice place in the little town there– and had a beer while waiting for the rain to stop. The bartender was a very attractive lady who moved there two years before from Newport Beach. She likes it. I liked her. But, the rain quit, so I rode on. There was forest all the way to Taos.


It is indeed a cool place, but like many cool places it has become highly comercialized, so it’s not quite as cool anymore. Still, it was interesting, and I spent some time checking it out to see if anything might happen. It didn’t. I talked to one Harley rider from Georgia who got there 2 weeks ago and is now managing the Harley shop, which is owned by a local parole officer. Hmmm. He said there are some fun women in town, but I didn’t find any.

After finally finding my way out of town on US-64 west, I rode a few miles into the setting sun and found what looks like a good campsite: a rest stop by the Rio Grande Gorge, with covered picnic tables.

July 15, 1989

I awake at the Crack of Dawn. I heard it: it sounds like a nice gentle pussy-fart. I don’t often wake early enough to see the sun rise, but this morning it was like waking with my head between the spread thighs of a horny woman. There is no prettier color of reddish pink. It made me want to reach out and lick the crotch of the horizon. Pun intended.

Actually, that sound I heard was coming from a couple of hot-air balloons getting ready for flight nearby.

I got gas in Tres Piedres, and breakfast in Chama. Semi-desert plains alternate with forestland. I stopped in Farmington for gas and talked to a girl in a jeep heading for the Telluride Jazz Festival, then had a beer at Zia’s west of town. On to Gallup, Holbrook, and US-666, The Beast Highway. I don’t know if the number affects the driving, but twice on the two-lane road on a long straight portion, oncoming cars passing forced me to the shoulder rather than getting back in their own lane. Not nice.

I took the Beeline to Phoenix: home at 1:30 am on July 16.

Unified Field Theory Paradox
A true unified field theory would determine all our actions, including our search for the theory itself, and its outcome. –Hawkings

A black hole has no hair.


Cosmic Chronicles

Part 2


It was the fall of 1976, and Michael was watching Los Angeles crumble down around him. There was no earthquake, and the city’s light-dotted monoliths and freeways, seemingly sculpted by the hand of a giant, stood firm as ever. But his personal L. A. was disintegrating.

His ex-wife had moved, with his help, back to her home town of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. The Corinne affair had dwindled gradually to a memory. Andrea, the young sexy blonde who had brightened up his life for a time, suddenly split back to Erie, Pennsylvania, leaving only a note and a phone call from down the road.

Financially, things were nearly as bleak. A real-estate con-man named Bill Reilly had disappeared, leaving Michael holding a bag full of loans and two lost mortgages. He still had his job at the adult bookstore on Hollywood and Wilton, a Datsun pickup that the bank wanted to repossess, and a 1969 Honda 350. He needed a place to live. He could have rented a small apartment, but he needed to save all the money he could.

So, when John, one of his best friends, offered him a room in the 2-bedroom house that John and his girlfriend Terri rented in Santa Monica, he gladly accepted. John’s personality was quite different from Michael’s. John was a tall, muscular Texan whose voice filled any room with his drawl. He was outgoing and usually became the center of attention. He loved to drink beer, shoot pool, darts, and pinball and chase women– a great guy to go to a bar with. John was sure of himself; the kind of a guy you assume that women would prefer. John did get some good women. He had been living with Terri, a pretty, intelligent Jewish girl with nice breasts and a mischievous smile, for several months. She seemed to adore him.

John was a cook. He was good at it, and fast, as he would not hesitate to tell you. He had just landed a better job with a restaurant chain that had a branch in the Bay Area. He had been assigned to work there for a few months before returning to work in L. A. It was convenient, then, that Michael would be there to watch out for Terri while he was away. Michael saw no problem with that. He had no inkling that, even if he wanted to bed his best friend’s girlfriend, he’d even have the slightest chance with her.

For a few days after John left there was no problem. Terri, aware that Michael had no current woman, offered to introduce him to a friend of hers. Diane turned out to be a short, cute very Jewish girl who seemed like fun. He made a date with her for the next weekend.

Meanwhile, one evening Michael and Terri went out for dinner as they did occasionally because Terri was a vegetarian and a reluctant cook. Over her vegetables, his meat, and a couple of beers she said, “Michael, I’m in love with you.”

He may have choked on his beer, or dropped his fork, or both. He said what any intelligent person would say in that situation: “Huh?? Say WHAT??” He was totally surprised. After a moment of thought he managed to say, “Terri, you’re a very attractive woman, and I’m highly complimented that you could feel that way about me…but I thought you loved John, and he’s my friend.”

She said, “Yes, I know, and I thought you’d be loyal to him, but I just had to tell you.” And she smiled, not exactly the sad smile of an unrequited lover, but almost a mischievous smile that said, “This story isn’t over yet.”

Michael felt uneasy. It was rare enough for a woman to love him out of the blue, but for that woman to be, by his standards of friendship, one he must refuse, was an entirely new experience, and not a pleasant one. There was a boost to his confidence, but it was outweighed by the frustration of having to say “no” to a desirable woman who wanted him. He resolved to do the right thing by his friend, and hoped that Diane would turn out to make it easier to stand the strain.

At first the matter seemed to be settled. Terri talked no more of love, and Michael’s date with Diane was only a few days away. Besides, John was coming back for a weekend soon. In casual, joking conversations, Terri would mention that Michael hadn’t been laid in weeks, which was already foremost in his mind. As he sat and watched television she would occasionally touch him– nothing overt, just a brief brush on the arm; a fingernail on the ear. Perhaps her long brown hair would tickle his shoulder in passing. She would sit near him, usually on the floor by his feet. At unexpected touches he would jump as if stung. If he saw one coming, he’d still have to take a deep breath. She knew intuitively that his whole body had become an erogenous zone. He was a loaded sexual cannon with a hair trigger.

At first he endured this exquisite torture, because to mention it would be to openly acknowledge his pent-up desire. Finally he said softly, “You’re going to have to stop doing that.”

She grinned mischievously, and a bit triumphantly. “You ARE hot, aren’t you?” She sat in front of him on a footstool, gazing at him while he tried to concentrate on the TV program. Then, without a word she took his hand, pulled it gently toward her, and sucked sensuously on his middle finger. The effect was intense, though she did it only for a moment. His resistance was down to zero, but she did nothing more then. When he stood up to go to his room he was shaking slightly, and sweating despite the cool evening breeze. He needed desperately to get in bed and take the situation in hand. He undressed and slid between the cool sheets. Just as he began to try to relax, the door handle turned. He turned over on his stomach and propped himself on his elbows. As she walked into the room she said something like “Do you need an extra blanket?” She sat down on the bed, and before he knew it she was touching him with her hand, then with her lips, and almost before he knew it, he was coming and she was swallowing.

They looked at one another for some moments, both recovering from the sudden intensity of the experience. They had crossed the invisible barrier into the forbidden zone, and there was no going back; no more resisting. Finally he said, “Well, now that we’re here…” leaving the sentence unfinished as he slipped off her panties, kissed her soft inner thighs, and began returning the pleasure with interest.

After that night they enjoyed each other often, but resolved to do nothing to hurt John. He was not to know, and she would not leave him to be with Michael. When John returned to Santa Monica, things would go back to normal. Michael’s date with Diane was coming up, as was John’s visit. Terri no longer wanted Michael to see Diane; she wanted him all to herself, but she agreed that if Michael did go out with her it would keep John from being suspicious. (In such situations, the guilty do imagine being suspected, even if they give no reason to be). “But, don’t fuck her” Terri said.

But Michael and Diane hit it off nicely, and they made love in his Datsun pickup; a bit cramped of course, but fun. One night they tried the roof of the apartment building where she lived with her parents, but it was too chilly and uncomfortable. John came and went, and Michael and Terri were again alone in the house. One night Michael went out with Diane, while Terri was working at her waitress job. He took Diane to his room at the house for some enthusiastic sex, took her home, picked up Terri at work, brought her home, and made love to her on the same spot. It was quite a satisfying night; it was the closest he had ever come to having two women at once, and each was equally exciting.

Michael felt no guilt about “cheating” on Terri. The notion was absurd– he had already committed the ultimate betrayal of his friend for her, so the least she could do was share Michael with her best friend. Michael would like to have believed he had no hand in his own seduction, considering the passive role he played until it happened. But there are no victims of love; only volunteers. And as the ancient Romans knew: Penis erectus non compos mentis.

Although he was not one to make himself miserable with remorse, he knew that to remain in the house with Terri was only asking for trouble. It was December, not the best time to leave sunny Southern California, but there was nothing for him there but creditors he couldn’t begin to pay. Besides, he thought, eight years was long enough to live anywhere. He traded his untitleable pickup and the Honda for a camper trailer, bought Jim’s faithful 1967 Falcon, and headed for Kansas City.

Terri later found out about the night he’d had both her and Diane, and she was furious. He hadn’t meant to hurt her. He liked her, and hoped she’d understand. But the relationship, begun as it was, was probably best ended as it was.

Kansas City

September 1977

With his experience at Le Sex Shoppe, Michael got a job at an adult bookstore and arcade in downtown Kansas City. For a while he stayed with Kay in Lee’s Summit, spending some pleasant time with her. They had stayed friends despite the divorce, and enjoyed one another. Neither of them, though, were quite inclined to simply resume the relationship they had in 8 years of marriage.

He had heard from his friends Jim Beckner and John George; they were both living in Charlottesville, Virginia and working as chefs. It sounded like an interesting place to live. Soon Michael loaded up the blue Falcon and headed east. It did seem pleasant there; it’s a college town, a feature which usually raises the average level of intelligence, and not just any college, but the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson himself, who firmly believed that a government of the people needed an educated electorate.

The first available job was in an insulation factory, where bales of old newspaper were ground up, mixed with fire retardant, and turned into a substance that could be blown into attics. The building was extremely hot, and the air was filled with newspaper dust. It was not pleasant, nor did it pay well.

The city was appealing, though. There were several casual taverns catering to college students, frequently featuring live music. The best one was called the West Virginian, located in a basement. At the time, Virginia prohibited bars from giving away salty snacks, considered an enticement to drink more, so this one provided unsalted peanuts in the shell. It was traditional there to drop the empty shells on the floor. By the end of the night it was covered in broken shells

The university was quite interesting. The old part was a red brick quadrangle. It contained a long row of tiny dormitory rooms, each with a narrow bed and a wooden desk and chair. They were barely big enough for one person. One of them was cordoned off and designated with a plaque: it was once assigned to Edgar Allen Poe. One might imagine poor Mr. Poe sitting on the wooden chair in the cramped austere room, writing his strange tales and poems, on a stark and dormy night.

Michael soon found better work as a cashier at the Lucky 7 convenience store, a friendly and cheerful place. In addition to the usual groceries and sundries, it sold hand-scooped ice cream.

The West Virginian was a good place to meet women. There was Cindy Land, and a small slim blonde named Michelle who called herself “Mike”. They were casual relationships. But it was at the Lucky 7 that he met Susan Boze. She came in one evening, and Michael overheard her telling her friend that some treat was “tempting”. He commented humorously, “We don’t sell temptation in here.” He didn’t realize Susan was religious, and she thought that was very funny. She was very cute and shapely, and the two became friends, but not intimate. Though she was afflicted with religious belief, her rationality and her passion were struggling to be free. He was patient with her, but to no avail.

It was a surprise and disappointment to find that John had decided to go back to Texas, and that Susan had gone with him. Neither had said “goodbye”.

A Damsel to Rescue

But a week or two later, Susan called to say they had parted ways and she was stranded in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Michael could seldom resist a damsel in need of rescue, so he fueled up the Falcon and headed southwest.

It was his first trip into the South, down through the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and finally Louisiana. It was nearly 1200 miles to Lake Charles. The trip was unremarkable except for one rest stop/tourist center in Alabama. Michael stopped to use the restroom, looking like he’d been driving all day with the window down in a car with no air conditioning. He wasn’t expecting greeters in “southern belle” costumes, drawling “Welcome to Alabama” and handing out Pepsi and snacks. He marveled that the hospitality was unabated even by his scruffiness. It didn’t occur to him then, but he had the benefit of white privilege.

He pulled into Lake Charles and called Susan. She was staying with a plump guy who drove around town in a 3-wheeled cart formerly owned by the Post Office, and lived with his mother. Susan had no definite preference for where to go next, but she had westward in mind, not back to Charlottesville. She had befriended a young man who wanted a ride to Denver to re-unite with a girlfriend there, so that would be the next stop.

In a day or two the three piled in the blue Falcon and set out, driving through miles and miles of Texas until turning north for Denver.

The girlfriend of the third passenger was Kyle, a young lady who danced at a nearby topless beer bar. She was pleasant and friendly, slim and cute, not the glamorous type that some dancers try to be. She shared the apartment with Steve, and it was never entirely clear whether they were sleeping together before the boyfriend came back. Both men seemed attracted to her, but they evidently formed a truce. Michael and Susan were invited to stay

Life in Denver was entertaining. Kyle’s apartment was rather like a soap opera. Guest stars included a not-quite-serious motorcycle club called the Deadmen. They hung out at the topless bar that Kyle danced in, drinking 3.2% beer. Steve and Michael got jobs at a shop that made wooden furniture for children. Winter came to Denver, but the city is quite efficient at clearing snow from the streets. Denver isn’t a bad place.

One night music from the Airplane soared into the room with its message to lovers:

If only you believed as I believe, we’d get by

If only you believed in miracles, so would I

Michael turned it up. ‘I like that song”, he said. “It means something to me.”

Susan looked surprised. She was thinking, “Atheists don’t believe in miracles. Only Christians do.”

Miracles are not supernatural. Miracles are not wrought by deified ghosts, but by individuals who dare to believe in themselves and their own abilities. The realm of the possible has not yet been fully explored. The Great Pyramid, great works of art throughout the ages, incredible discoveries of science– these are the true miracles, man-made by people unwilling to settle for the ordinary, and unafraid to strive for the ultimate.

Some of us are artists, and some are scientists, but we are all capable of creating the miracle of love, a love between two human beings, overcoming emotional and physical obstacles, ripping down barriers and coming together.

It is a work of art more than science, and though it exists only for the ecstasy of two, one miracle of love makes the universe a better place.

Michael was hoping for progress with Susan, but it didn’t seem to be happening. She was sometimes affectionate, but only up to a point. Patience was wearing thin. One night in December in a snowstorm, Michael pointed the Falcon east on I-70. Alone on the road, alone in the car, he floated, fast and friction-free, to Kansas City.

To flee from danger is no vice.
A change of scene is sometimes nice.
But one can’t leave oneself behind;
To run won’t cure a troubled mind.

Look behind you as you run.
Have you left a thing undone?
Do you fear a face? A name?
Or will your new fears be the same?

As you go, you may look back,
And think of what you’re going to lack.
Sometimes that golden road ahead
When trod upon, will turn to lead.

It is within, from which you flee.
In darkness it is clear to see:
Running will not make you blind;
You cannot leave yourself behind.
–Michael, June 22, 1978

Kansas City Again

4037 Warwick Blvd., Kansas City, MO

Not long after returning to Kansas City Michael met Robin Massey She was tall and shapely and enjoyed sex. They saw each other frequently, and enjoyed one another. It was not exactly a romantic relationship, though it didn’t occur to Michael at the time to notice whether it was or not.

“Making love” might be a misnomer. Love is given, may be accepted, and may be returned. But love is not MADE that way. It is shown and felt in warm caresses, if it is there, but it is made elsewhere; created somewhere in the mind. When a relationship is fun, affectionate, and pleasurable, it isn’t always necessary to define it.

Not long before they met, Robin’s brother was killed. There was a conflict between mafia organizations, and he was evidently an involved victim.
It was one in a series of several murders in the feud between families. Here is the background:

May 4, 1978 — Local hood, thief and Bonadonna-loyalist Michael (Minuteman Mike) Massey, Mancuso’s partner-in-crime and an informant that got Kansas City mobster Anthony (Tiger) Cardarella busted for racketeering, is shot to death behind the wheel of his car.

The Kansas City mafia erupted into war in the late 1970s related to an internal dispute over control of the city’s River Quay neighborhood, its then trendy nightlife and entertainment center. The unrest set off a near decade of violence and instability in the Civella crime family. On one side of the feud was ambitious and bloodthirsty Civella clan capo and street boss William (Willie the Rat) Cammisano, intent on turning the neighborhood into a red-light district. On the other, K. C. mob soldier David Bonadonna, his businessman son Freddy, who had spearheaded the real estate development and economic resurgence in the area, and their main muscle, the independent Spero brothers (Carl, Joe & Mike), upset with the Civellas for killing their older brother and underworld mentor Nick in 1973. The Bonadonna faction resisted the crusty Cammisano and his crew’s move into the neighborhood and their desire to rebrand and tax local establishments for fear that it would drive consumers away, which it wound up doing.
Key Of Death: The Kansas City Mob’s Raucous River Quay War Murder Timeline

Michael never met any of Robin’s family. She didn’t talk about them, other than a mention of her brother’s assassination. She also didn’t speak much about how she felt about it all. No doubt it was family business, not to be shared outside.
Oddly enough, the little bit he did know ended up costing him his job at the adult bookstore on Troost. He had been working there for several months, doing well and enjoying the job. The area manager seemed to be a nice guy, and they had friendly conversations when he came around. Mentioning Robin and her brother once was a mistake. Though he did not comment at the time, the owners in Atlanta were likely connected to a different family and did not tolerate even a casual connection to what might be a rival group. The manager didn’t give a plausible reason for the termination, but it wasn’t hard to figure out.

That turned into an opportunity– he got a better job working for Yellow Cab of Kansas City, checking drivers in and out for their shifts and accounting for them. It paid more.

Susan suddenly appeared in Kansas City with a virtual jar of peanut butter and a new point of view. She was deliciously perfect, but her timing was flawed. Had she come before Robin, or after Robin flew, they might have had many more nights.

Some weeks later, Michael and Robin broke up.


My gaze pierces the night,

searching for the face.

Searching for the mind.

Searching for the future.

My eyes find only games to be played,

night-long games

programmed To end at sunrise.

So I rise, and go

where aloneness is what I expect.

Resign for the night from the race,

Only to hover near the track again tomorrow:

The beaten track. The well-worn rut.

Pit fear against desire;

see who wins and who loses.

Hang out like a bell clapper,

hoping to be tolled: ‘Yes!’

–Michael, June 12, 1978

Michael would occasionally visit a tavern or two on weekend evenings When, as was often the case, he was heading home alone, he stopped for coffee. One night an IHOP, open 24 hours, was convenient. He wasn’t expecting that it would change his life for many years to come. His waitress was Jill Greenberg.


She was 18, cute, and energetic, but it didn’t take too much conversation to reveal there was much more to her than that. Her sense of humor and quick wit were a match for Michael’s. He was soon delighted by her. He drank coffee until she was done with her shift, and they went to his apartment. A relationship began that night that would last through several years and several cities. His attraction to her fun and sensual nature likely turned to romantic love the first time she played her guitar and sang for him. “Nights in White Satin”. There was a certain strong emotional power to her voice and the way she used it.

It quickly became a nightly affair. Though younger, she had seen more of the world than he had. Born in Tom’s River, New Jersey to parents who staffed American schools for the State Department in places like Tegucigalpa, Honduras and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, she had grown up a world traveler. Her father had then settled in North Kansas City and started an import business, wholesaling cheap handmade trinkets he had found while traveling. Perhaps Barry Greenberg once had ideals as an educator, but he had turned to cynical commercialism.

Jill, however, had developed an appealing personality and talent for both graphic and musical art. She quit the restaurant for a job with Western Onion, which specialized in singing telegrams delivered along with bunches of balloons on a stick. It suited her much better, a chance to perform, delight, and entertain people and get paid for it. In prior times she had once written and performed an entire musical production celebrating the story of Moses for the Pesach Jewish holiday.

Not all of Jill’s traveling had been with her parents. She had once set out on her own, ending up in Austin, Texas, making several lasting friends there. Austin, home of the university, has long been (and still may be) an island of intelligence, progressive attitudes, musicians, artists, and hippie culture, relative to the harsh conservatism found in most of the state. The city’s ambition was to avoid being like Houston, the huge urban sprawl driven without restraint by commercialism and oil wealth. Austin has a wide variety of music-hosting taverns and night clubs, artists and handcrafters, a head shop called Oat Willie’s, whose motto is “Onward Through the Fog”, and Hippie Hollow, the only legal nude beach in Texas.

All things considered, Austin was a much more interesting place than bland Kansas City, and Jill had a hankering to go back there. She didn’t press for Michael to move with her, knowing that he had a good steady job with Yellow Cab of Kansas City, but certainly he was welcome to follow her there if he chose. By that time he was sure that she should be in his future. Her name was actually on his right arm.

One day Jill had observed that Michael, despite his counter-cultural identity, did not have his left ear pierced. His thought on that was that it may be conforming to nonconformity, a self-contradictory act. He told her he’d rather get a tattoo. There was an artist nearby, so they made an appointment. A seagull flying through clouds over the ocean resulted, beneath which, at Michael’s request, was inscribed “Jill”. Whether or not that assured her of the permanence of his affection, it stimulated the direction of her art talent, which was later to become her destiny.

Of Her Guitar, she wrote:

When I bought her in the beginning, she was just a thing, not even a pet to be broken in. Just 6 strings, just a red wood thing. I was sad and bored with nothing to do. So, I decided to take up the guitar– just something to do. So, I taught myself, don’tcha know.



Americans are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier.~~Kurt Vonnegut

Verus amicus est tamquam alter idem.

A true friend is like another me.

To Jill

Smooth as ice cream

Warm as the sun

Soft as clover

All in one

Perfect form

Round where you should be

Arms around me

Loving as you could be

Good as a goddess

I marvel at you

Offer you hot love

And tenderness too

Love when you feel me

Love when you come

Love when you tell me

I am the one.

The love’s in our bodies

The love’s in our souls

The oneness of us

Will never grow cold

The oneness in closeness

Grows more every day

But it hums like a wire

From miles away.

—July 28, 1979

Not long after Jill traveled to Austin, Michael resigned his taxi company job, gathered his belongings, and moved there too. Jill’s friends in Austin were mostly involved with Alcoholics Anonymous. Though her status as an alcoholic was mostly a pretense, she found the group a source of emotional and psychological support, less formal than a therapist but more generally caring. They were good people in various stages of trying to be better ones.

Michael learned a great deal about the program, which seems to have helped a great many individuals. Its use of a generic “higher power” concept allows it to be useful to the religiously inclined, while open to loose interpretations of the term acceptable to nonbelievers as well.

Soon Michael found a job at a Christmas tree warehouse, which stored and shipped artificial trees of aluminum and plastic. It was repetitive work, unloading trucks, shelving cartons, unshelving them later to load them on different trucks. The boxes were light, but the work was not enjoyable nor well paid. They found a trailer for rent on the outskirts of town. The rent was reasonable, though when winter came, they discovered that the drain pipes would freeze up, a considerable annoyance.

There was a job opening for a projectionist at the State Theater. And Michael had experience with 16 millimeter projectors at the adult bookstore. He applied, and got the job. The 35 millimeter equipment was not only much larger, but very old. The twin machines dated back to the early 1940’s. Built of sold cast iron and steel, firmly mounted on the concrete floor, they had functioned for decades, displaying thousands of films time and time again.

They were carbon-arc machines, illuminating the film and the screen beyond with the intense glow produced between two carbon rods connected to high voltage. Secured to the mechanism inside a chamber, they were started with momentary contact, then backed off to a narrow gap. As the film ran, the gap was maintained by the mechanism as the carbon slowly burned away. Between reels, fresh rods could be installed, ready to re-ignite when the time came.

There was a lot to learn about the operation and maintenance, but Michael quickly acquired the knowledge and skills necessary. He began to enjoy the work, and free movies to watch were an added perk. The State Theater, on Congress Avenue not far from the state capitol, had once been as fine a place as any presenter of Hollywood movies, but time, and the new multi-cinemas had eclipsed it. Now it specialized in cheap tickets and third-run movies– kung-fu action flicks, monster movies. Some of them were pretty good. They just had to have a budget rental price.

Michael and Jill found a better trailer. It was smaller, actually, but its plumbing was much better. Jill got a job too, at a place called the Brown School. It was a private institution that cared for and taught mostly pre-teens and adolescents with various levels of mental and/or emotional problems. Some of them were deaf, and Jill learned sign language to work with them. She was enthusiastic about having a meaningful job helping young people.

Here, wind whistles and whishes when it blows as it has for all time.

It makes the tree branches scratch itches on the skin of our home.

Here, the power and beauty of creation surrounds us more than the sterile erections of man.

May it bring us peace.

It was in Austin that Jill got her first tattoo, a tiny moon and stars on her wrist. And, Michael bought a Triumph 650, the third motorcycle he had owned. It was a step above the Honda 350, and the Honda 90 he had back in L. A. It was a used bike, but it ran and handled nicely. He called it the Lunar Cycle, inspired by Jill’s affinity for the moon, and a song she wrote called “Lunar Woman”.

Michael enjoyed working as a projectionist, but the State Theater, being a budget operation, couldn’t afford to pay what union projectionists were making in the newer theaters. He applied at the Brown School for a mental health worker position, and was hired. It didn’t require a formal degree or training, just a willingness to help and the intelligence to learn on the job. The staff there were all good, friendly people, remarkably easy and enjoyable to work with.

One of them was Bob Wayman, originally from Binghamton, New York. He lived with his girlfriend Robin and his young daughter. His ex-wife was back in New York. Bob’s sense of humor and New York accent made him fun to be around. He was also an owner of a British motorcycle, a 3-cylinder BSA, made by the same company as Triumph.

Michael and Jill moved to an apartment, a nicer dwelling than the trailer, and in town, closer to everything. One evening, outside one of the many music venues, a young girl wearing what looked like a girl scout uniform, walking by, stopped and smiled at them. She offered to sell them hits of LSD, quite cheaply. It was the first time for both of them.

Jill was very good at playing guitar, singing, and writing songs. Michael encouraged her to try to perform on some of the “open mic” nights, and she did a few times. Though she enjoyed it, she did not seem so ambitious about going further, playing professionally.

Once Jill’s father Barry was attending a trade show in Dallas. She and Michael rode the Lunar Cycle there. They arrived the evening before, and rode around town late at night, having done some LSD. The somewhat surreal experience was enjoyable. The next day at the trade show, her father introduced them to his girlfriend– not announcing her as such, but Jill knew. A couple of months later, Jill felt the need to go to Kansas City to spend time with her parents. They may have pressured her, not approving of her life in Austin. She stayed several weeks. Michael was not quite sure she would return.


Weeks passed. Michael was having a beer at a pleasant South Austin bar that had frequent live music. Some musicians that played with Willie Nelson often did gigs there. He’d ridden the bike that night, and as he often did, he wore a spiked leather wristband. It was just a style thing. As he casually sipped his beer, the young lady next to him smiled and asked, “Do you hurt people?” He looked at her and grinned. “No…not physically, anyway.”

She liked that answer. She laughed. She was slim and cute. They chatted for a few minutes, and she asked, “Your place or mine?” His was closer. Vicki was fun, limber, and liked sex in a variety of positions, which she assumed. She helped alleviate Michael’s loneliness while Jill was away.

The Brown Schools

The Brown Schools were an interesting organization. It was private, and quite expensive. Fees were usually paid by insurance settlements or state governments. A few were paid by wealthy families. Ages varied from preteens to teens and 20’s. A few were older, mentally handicapped by brain injuries. Some were developmentally disabled; others by emotional traumas. What they had in common was an inability to behave in the outside world independently. Some, with patient behavioral training, could learn to function outside. Many could be improved, but would never quite be normal. A few years later Michael met, and drove for, a Yellow Cab owner-operator who told him he was a “graduate” of the Brown Schools.

They were called “residents”, not patients, and they were housed in pleasant dormitories, each supervised by a staff of 3 or 4 mental health workers, who would observe and document behavior, and redirect if necessary, with the phrase “You’re behaving inappropriately”. That was a useful expression, only minimally judgmental, spoken calmly, and it was often effective.

Occasionally a resident would act out physically and need to be restrained. This was done as gently and carefully as possible, by at least 2 staff members, immobilizing the resident without causing harm.

Periodically, groups of well-behaved residents were taken to movies or other activities in town. The campus was large, with grass and trees, and not walled. Many of the dorms were not locked; the atmosphere was not at all prison-like. A few residents sometimes tried to run away, but most were found and returned easily. Residents’ attitudes toward staff were friendly more often than not, and they could be fun to work with. One boy had developed the ability to fart at will. They were people, after all, each with a unique problem and personality.

It was a surprise to learn that, years later, the Brown Schools company went bankrupt, likely due to a series of lawsuits brought because of the death of one of the patients. Out of the many thousand treated, a small number died, possibly due to staff mistakes. When a death occurs, someone has to pay. The Brown Schools were never considered a miracle cure, but most everyone they treated had decent care, and Michael had found the work fulfilling and enjoyable.

October 31, 1981

Sane and insane masquerade

Dress to look bizarre

One to seem what they are not

The other, what they are.

The difference between sane and insane is not so much the degree of acting according to reality, but the frequency of such acting.

Social Encounters

One night at a bar with a beer garden, Michael met a blonde woman. Amid their conversation, she took his hand and placed it on her warm soft breast beneath her loose blouse. It stimulated his interest, and he took her home with him. They had a pleasurable time. On the second round she requested he use her back door, and he complied. That was his first and only experience in that. He enjoyed it, but not more than the regular way.

Not long after that, Jill came back, and they resumed their lives together. One evening as they returned to the apartment after a night out, they encountered Vickie waiting outside. She hadn’t heard from Michael for at least a week, and missing him, decided to come over. He introduced the two women, and all went inside. Jill understood Michael’s need for a woman while she was away, and neither woman was hostile to the other. As the two became acquainted, it was somehow decided that sharing him might be the thing to do. Jill was bisexual, though Vickie was not, but the night was especially pleasurable for all of them. It was the only time it happened, but an experience he would never forget.

The Romance Advances

Michael had set the bird free, and she had flown back to his nest. That seemed to be a good sign. They began talking about marriage. Although it wasn’t required, she still wanted her parents to approve, and the best path to that would be Michael’s conversion to Judaism. Though he was agnostic tending toward atheism, he was not opposed to the idea. What he had learned about the religion, mostly from Jill, was that it avoided much of the hard-line dogma that was unacceptable about Christianity. Learning Hebrew is interesting, even if it was limited to basic ritual invocations. Gratitude for the existence of bread and wine was good to feel, and to express.

The Conservative Rabbi was a good teacher, and when the course ended and a ritual re-circumcision was done (only drawing a drop of blood to make it official), Michael became a certified Jew.


Birth control is less like wearing rubbers in case it rains, as it is like wearing shoes because one never knows what one might step in.

* * * *

As long as the subconscious mind is in harmony with the conscious, there is no need for a second thought. There are at least two approaches to achieving this harmony if not there: various psychoanalytic techniques, which are ways to “take it out and play with it”, and a spiritual approach, which is first to consciously assume a non-logical, non-intellectual positive feeling about the rightness of the universe, and allow that to seep in like a penetrating balm into the subconscious, providing a common ground for both. If the belief/attitude/philosophy is correctly attuned to the individual’s nature, it provides an all-pervading feeling of the rightness of oneself, and of the people and things that compose one’s universe, and of the possibility of operating productively in one’s world environment.

Belfast, August 20, 1981

Michael Devine died today of a hunger strike. He was the tenth. A British soldier was shot in both legs. Several cars and trucks were hijacked and set afire. Five people were arrested at polling stations for impersonating eligible voters. Women in Londonderry and Belfast gathered in the streets to blow whistles and bang garbage can lids, a ritual commemorating the death of Michael Devine.

* * * *

US planes, in response to a Libyan attack, shot down two Libyan planes with heat-seeking missiles. The missiles soared right up the jets exhaust, exploding in a huge brilliant ball of fire, raining steel and flesh in a million pieces into the ocean below.

Meanwhile, in New York, the director of the Congress on Racial Equality was arrested for assaulting a man who was trying to break into his car.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

We have to believe in free will.

We have no choice in the matter

His Second Wife

A Love Poem

When I’m near you, my love,
All the birds go ‘chirp’
I want to eat you, my love,
Until I must burp.

With the Mosaic seal of approval, they planned the wedding. In rings, Michael wanted to avoid gold or other symbols of wealth that distract from the simple union of love. They agreed on a silver band, designed by an Austin silversmith. The wedding was performed by a woman Justice of the Peace, outdoors under a symbolic canopy. The Jewish custom of breaking glass, stomped by Michael’s booted foot, was fulfilled, having the meaning of a break from the past that could not be undone. They rode away home on the Lunar Cycle.

Neither of them desired to add to the world’s population, though they fully enjoyed the act that often has that result. Some months before, Michael had gotten a vascectomy, which freed Jill from the pill. It also freed him from worry ever afterward, and he never regretted that decision.

He wrote:

Jill, you may sometimes wonder how I feel about marrying you. As you know, I have said many times that I want to marry you. In many ways, a wedding night may seem superflous because we are, in fact, married for all practical purposes. But we are not speaking here of practical purposes. This ceremony, this public official spiritual union, is an affirmation, a confirmation, a celebration, both to one another and to the world, that our love has proven real and lasting. It is not only our gift to us, but our gift to the world.

Just as I have always been proud to have you by my side, proud and pleased that you love me, I am proud to say to you and to everyone that I choose to be with you always.

And, if there are some hassles and headaches involved in pulling off this ceremony, I reckon I can endure them, for I want our wedding as much as you do.

Pink clouds portend pale fire

Fog shroud lift from the land

Night is dead

And another morning is born

Another mourning is borne

For dead night.

Austin had become a comfortable home for both Michael and Jill. They had good jobs, good friends, and plentiful entertainment to enjoy. But the idea of new adventure in a bigger place had its appeal. They began talking about moving to Los Angeles. She had never been there; for Michael, the thought of a return to the paradise he had once lost was attractive.

They might have planned better and more thoroughly, but they were confident they could do as well there as they had in Austin, and too much caution means less spontaneity. Jill had found a way to fly free with a courier service, and Michael was to follow after preparing the Lunar Cycle for the trip.

You can have your liver, and eat it too.

Women don’t have to worry about getting balled.
–Jan Horne, Austin, Texas

The 650 Triumph had been dependable around Austin and the occasional out-of-town trip Michael tuned it up and reconfigured it to carry as much personal baggage as it could. In a week or two everything seemed ready. However, at Pole Number 14, 8 miles east of Harper, Texas, it quit running, and the problem couldn’t be determined on the side of the road.

He was just outside a small town. Leaving the bike semi-hidden beside the road, he walked there. The town had one tavern-cafe, and since it was early evening several locals were congregated. Someone was scheduled to provide music later. Michael was able to phone for a rescue, someone with a van. He would have to wait until his friend was off work. Eventually he and the Lunar Cycle were back in Austin, the bike left at fellow British motorcycle owner Bob Wayman’s house. He hoped the two of them could figure out the problem.

The repair would require professional help, and the cost was not in Michael’s budget. Plan B was implemented- ride the Greyhound Bus to L. A. At last the happy couple was reunited. Jill had rented an apartment in Westwood, but the landlord was trying to extort sex as part of the rent. They needed a new place.

That turned out to be a small loft apartment in a building a block from Venice Beach. The bed was on a wooden platform above the couch. It did have a view of the ocean, and a location among artisans and artists that made it a pleasant environment.

The City of the Angels had become a much more expensive place to live since Michael left it several years ago. They needed to find work soon, and the Reagan recession was making that difficult. Michael’s experience as a mental health worker was not enough– people with psychology degrees were taking any such positions. He found a phone sales job selling Time-Life books. The pay was meager. Jill found work with an escort agency, which paid quite well.

They needed a vehicle, and that was a Volkswagen pickup, which was similar to the microbus, but with a truck-bed instead of an enclosed van. As if that wasn’t unique enough, Michael painted the right side pink and the left side black. It looked like a different vehicle depending on which side was in view.

Life with Jill seldom failed to feel like an adventure. She designed Michael’s next tattoo, a multicolored pyramid for his left forearm, applied by an artist on the Sunset Strip: Cliff Raven 8418 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood

Her interest in tattooing began to grow, both in being tattooed and becoming an artist herself. She got a winged woman on her upper back, and a beautifully colored peacock on her thigh.

Since the Lunar Cycle didn’t make it, they bought a 1959 Sportster, 900 cc, with a magneto ignition. It was a solidly built bike. It was named the Minstrel Cycle.

Los Angeles, California is the city of Lights and dazzled I’s; the city of a million answers looking for a question. Women dress to insulate themselves from the chill wind of the practiced line. Cocaine is a second currency, and rich impotent cokeheads call callgirls just to share their snow. It’s the city of the absurdity of all logical extremes.
Insanity is there for the taking; fortunately, it is optional. Insanity provides income for the sane and enterprising. It provides insights and examples for the thoughtful student of society.
Whenever the logical extreme is visible, it hastens change; the search for a viable alternative. Like high voltage and atomic power, Los Angeles can be used for good as well as ill.
–March 15, 1982


Do we make and project our own image, or do others do it for us? No matter what we project, the image will be altered by the mind of the receptor. So, we must create the image, and then try to correct it when it is misperceived. Perhaps this is a superfluous activity that stands in the way of real achievement.
“Thou shalt not make graven images.” –God
What this advice may really mean is that individuals are constantly in flux; that the image, projected or self-held, that is valid one second may not be the next; that, rather than try to hold ourselves to a given self-concept with a set range of looks, action, and attitude, we should be willing to rethink at any moment what we are and what to do.
Naturally, there are constants about anyone. These tend to be very important traits, such as character, intelligence, talent, etc. But these do not stand in the way of flexibility.

Come to me, my melon-colored baby…

First Impressions of Cocaine
Interesting. I think I understand why someone doing coke might call an escort just for company. It does rather make one want to talk to somebody. But, all things considered, I’d still rather have the money it costs than the coke. It’s pleasant, but it doesn’t make me want to reach for my wallet and look for a dealer.
There are things I’d rather do, like make love. I don’t find it easier to write while using it. In fact, it slows me down, and does nothing at all for the quality.

In response to rubber baby buggy bumpers

Alliterations manifold

Of bizarre and eerie kind

Might not trip the nimble tongue

But they may twist the mind.

–November 16, 1981

There was a night club in Santa Monica called Bullwinkles, inspired by the cartoon featuring a squirrel and a moose. It was a casual place, with live music on weekends. Jill got a job as a waitress there. She was relieved to be out of the escort business, and Michael was happy not to have to drive her to appointments. Bullwinkles was a good place. Most of the bands were not widely known, but on one occasion the Chambers Brothers appeared.

Time has come today
Young hearts can go their way
Can’t put it off another day
I don’t care what others say
They say we don’t listen anyway
Time has come today

Repetitious rhythm is the essence of the act of love,
which poetry is always, consciously or unconsciously,
trying to simulate.

There was another bar, popular with independent bikers and other compatible people, on Venice Boulevard east of Venice. It specialized more in pool and pinball than music– a casual, comfortable place. Jill and Michael enjoyed the atmosphere, a friendly place to meet interesting people. It was there that they met Terry Curry, a quiet, bearded computer systems analyst who worked for General Telephone, and his girlfriend Pat Cowles. He liked to tell the story of how they met at a convention: she was wearing a name-tag that said “Pat”, so he patted her. Sometimes after closing, Jill and Michael stopped by his place where he showed them his computer video games, which were something novel in the early 80’s. He was intelligent and interesting to talk with.

Two men were on a train. “What’s in the basket?” said one.
“A mongoose, to eat the snakes.”
“What snakes?”
“When I drink a lot, I see snakes.”
“But those are imaginary snakes.”
“Yes, I know. And this is an imaginary mongoose.”

This is the essence of both psychiatry and religion.

Life in Los Angeles, adventuresome as it was, never approached the sustainable comfort that they had found in Austin, or that Michael had found during his previous time in L. A. The time to move back to Austin was approaching.

Before then, though, there was one more experience to be had. A couple Jill had met, both of them Harley enthusiasts, were planning to be married. He had a permanent leg injury from an accident. She was tall and slim, with a dominant, though usually pleasant personality. They had decided to have the wedding in a biker bar in downtown Bakersfield. The plan was to have a motorcycle as an altar inside the bar, and the guests would include the patrons already there as well as their friends. It was an appealing scenario.

They needed a minister who was compatible with this concept. As it happened, years before, Michael had become a minister in the Universal Life Church based in Modesto, California, which required only a request by mail and a small fee. It gave him the right to the title of Reverend, which may sometimes confer official respect, and the authorization to perform weddings. This was his first and only opportunity to use that.

So, on the wedding day, Michael, Jill, and the Minstrel Cycle joined the couple on a ride to Bakersfield, a town known mostly for its preference for country music. Enroute, they ingested some LSD to enhance the spirituality of the ceremony. Performing the ceremony, reading words he had written a few minutes before, was an intense experience for Michael. To call it “religious” would be an exaggeration, but it was something he would long remember.

Eat me, said the bread.
Eat me, said the cheese.
So I ate until they were gone.
Eat me, said the woman.
So I ate until she came.
And then, the Universe said
Eat me.
So I looked inside myself, and found that I had.

The best fins in the world would do a camel no good.

Back in Venice, Jill and Michael began to prepare for the exodus. The VW pickup needed some work, and a wooden enclosure for their possessions, including the bike. The carpentry was done in the parking place just across Speedway from the apartment. The VW was intended for a lighter duty than they were asking of it, but they hoped that by taking it easy, they’d make it to Austin.

Nobody sees the ordinary until it is too late.
–James Joyce

Fate was not so kind to the old Volkswagen. About halfway between Los Angeles and Phoenix, a loud metallic clang rang out, the death knell of its old engine. Michael and Jill were stranded in the desert with all their possessions and no way to transport them. They had the Minstrel Cycle, of course. It could carry the two of them, but not much else.

Coincidentally, Jill’s parents had moved from North Kansas City to Scottsdale. Neither Jill nor Michael wanted to ask for their help, but they had no choice. They were able to rescue most of their things, except for the furniture.
The Greenbergs lived on Larkspur near 62nd Street. It was a pleasant enough house, yet tolerable for only as long as it took for Michael and Jill to figure out what to do next. Money was limited. Riding the bike to Austin wasn’t practical, but any other transportation option would leave the bike behind. Finally, they decided to try staying in Phoenix.

They found a small apartment on the grounds of a trailer park called Oregon Pines at 4570 Grand Avenue in Glendale. The rent was reasonable and the neighbors were an interesting assortment of people with casual lifestyles. The manager’s name was Peacock.

Life is more like a river than a motorcycle. One can alter its course, or change its character, but the result will be unpredictable. A dam one place may cause a flood in another. We may affect it significantly, but the exact course it takes will be determined by the forces of nature.

–Michael, 11/16/1982

Before long Michael found a job at a place called the New Foundation, which seemed to resemble the Brown School– a residential treatment center for adolescent boys. His experience got him hired there, and at first it seemed to be a promising opportunity. However, it was not nearly as well run as the Brown Schools had been, and they took a harsher attitude toward their residents. Michael’s kinder, more understanding approach did not fit with that.

So, he began what was to become a rather long career in the transportation industry. He became a Yellow Cab driver. Jill, meanwhile, discovered an opportunity at a place called the Blue Moon.

Arizona bars can feature topless dancers (though with nipples concealed), but full nudity requires no alcohol. That was the Blue Moon’s specialty. Without the costume restriction, it actually seems a more relaxed informal approach. Jill was a natural entertainer, and did well there.

You must take the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face.
–W.C. Fields

Say the magic word and the Duck will come down and give you $100.

Everything which is not compulsory is forbidden.
–The Mgt.

Have we a hold on Reality, while They do not?
Reality uses vaseline: ‘Twill come off in your hand,
Leaving you to wipe it on your genes.

The only truly maladaptive behavior is that which brings no joy.

Much that is enlightening is done in the dark.

I fell off a precipice into a preposition,
And found it was a 4-letter world.

The ultimate in self-fulfillment is coming into one’s own.



This is a tale of actual events and real people.

January 1946,

Somewhere in Florida

It had been a New Year’s Eve to celebrate, more than most. The war was over. The sailor was ashore in warm, sunny Florida, and he’d met a dark-haired beauty. It would be his second marriage, and her third.

They walked barefoot on the beach, waves lapping at their toes, laughing and holding one another, never wanting to let go. It was right and good that they enjoyed one another to the fullest, full of love and hope for the future in a world again at peace. They did not know how short their time together would be.

September 8, 1946

St. Petersburg

Michael was born. Four hours later, his mother, Virginia, died.

She was a beautiful woman, only 33 years old.. Her hair was long and black, as her son’s would be in time.

He had a half-brother, Keith, who was 8, and a half-sister, Sheila, 4, though he would not meet them until 1958. Virginia’s mother, Mynette, offered to raise him, along with his half-siblings, but his father, Nolan, had no intention of losing his son. He had just lost the woman he loved, with whom he had hoped to spend the rest of his life. The child was but a small compensation, but he was all he had. They journeyed to Hannibal, Missouri, where he had grown up, and he joined his father’s real estate agency

October 1946; Hannibal

Lon and Sarah met their son at the railroad depot. It should have been a happy reunion; after all, Nolan was returning whole and apparently healthy from the war, and he had given them a grandson.

A damp, chilly wind blew across the rail-yard. Drizzle specked the windshield as they waited in the warm car. Nolan looked bigger, stronger than they remembered, but weary. His thin jacket was too light for the weather, but the baby was invisible inside a huge bundle of blankets. He got in the back seat and began to loosen the blankets. In a moment he held up the month-old boy. He said it without smiling, but there was love and pride in his voice; “This is Michael”.

Michael’s mother, the vivacious dark-haired Irish beauty named Virginia, was dead. Nolan’s beloved bride who had filled him with hope and soothed his war-weary soul, whose sparkling eyes and gentle smile made peace and joy more real than the brutality of battle that haunted his dreams, had died four hours after she bore his son.

The baby was all he had now, and though he seemed to resemble his father, Nolan knew he would always see traces of Virginia in the young face. He would love him all the more for that, but the love would be mixed with sorrow.

Nolan had come home to Hannibal, needing help to raise a child, and the familiar environment of his youth, a safe haven in which to mourn.

Michael would grow up in the hometown of Samuel Clemens. In a way, they grew up together, though a century apart; never the Twain would meet.

He learned to read, and to love reading– not just the words, but the ideas and ideals they could convey. He embraced the ideals that felt solid and right; it would be some years before he learned how incompletely those ideals were fulfilled in the world around him.

Who would have imagined that 100 years after the slaves were freed and recognized by law as equal citizens and human beings, that their descendants were still often denied their rights? Who would have thought that our own country, having fought to defeat German and Japanese aggression, might wage needless wars for illegitimate reasons?

These things, and many more, are doubtless learned much younger now in this age of easily available information. Michael’s generation may be uniquely able to appreciate the wealth of knowledge, having grown up at a time when we could be kept in the dark.

Some, as we all know, choose to stay in the dark, dimming deliberately the illumination that might otherwise reach their minds. They make progress harder and slower, but they don’t stop it. They do, however, manage to create some tragic events, full of death, destruction, and inhumanity. Wars like the one in Vietnam are much easier to get into than they are to stop.

The Reason for the Story

Why should this story be written, or read? There are around 8 billion human beings on Earth (by the time you read this, there may be 9 billion), and each has a story. Each contains unique human knowledge, a portion of the vast sum possessed by the human species, which makes us what we have been, are, and could become. Each individual perspective resides only in the mind that creates it. When it is shared, its value multiplies. When withheld, it may be lost forever. What we know, our stories, and what we learned by living them, are all we have to give to humankind, and it is precisely what we owe in return for existing.

September, 1950; Hannibal

Michael turned 4, able to reason and remember significant details. At four, a child can begin to learn to read and write, to speak other languages, to learn art and music. He had to wait another year before kindergarten.

He was eager to learn and explore the small world, the home of his grandparents and father, the red brick house on 5th Street in Hannibal. Sunlight through a high window illuminating tiny dust particles dancing in the beam– he would remember that sight.

Kindergarten was his first exposure to other children. When young we are not surprised by much, because almost everything is new. Later, when we’ve had time to build up expectations, it gets a little harder to learn something new, because first we have to unlearn its nonexistence. At five, he discovered there were others his age, and that about half of them were girls. Those who claim that children are not sexual simply don’t remember. He was very attracted to a girl who called herself Brian. Her real name was Virginia. She had long blonde hair. Michael had no idea how to express his attraction, but he thought it would be great if, at nap time, their floor rugs were adjacent.

* * *

Author’s note: You will not see the words herein “pun not intended”. My firm policy is to let the puns fall where they may. If it happens that you perceive one that I didn’t, rest assured that if I had seen it, I would have pushed it off the table and into your lap. Life demands that we smile upon it.

I have in my house several clocks that tick, not in unison. They are cheap clocks. When it is quiet, I can hear them echo one another. I did not intend it, but sometimes they remind me of the relentless passage of time, or perhaps its stillness as we ceaselessly pass through it until we stop. I hope to finish before I do.

* * *

One evening in 1951 Nolan announced “We’re going to Sue’s house”. Michael didn’t know who she was or why they were going there. She fed them dinner.

There were 27 acres about 5 miles outside of Hannibal, with an old farmhouse, a barn, a shed, a garage, and a big beautiful Black Walnut tree in the yard near the house. Nolan had found it and determined to buy it and make it home. He had also decided to marry Susan Strode

He had known Sue before he went off to college in Liberty, took a job in Chicago for a few years, came back to Hannibal and married Hazel, divorced Hazel, joined the Navy, fought World War 2, and met Virginia in Florida. Sue was to be his third wife.

His Baptist grandparents were relieved. It least this one wasn’t Catholic, as the first two had been. In those days, the older generation saw the different sects as a different kind of people. They weren’t enemies, but they didn’t usually associate. The Baptists didn’t dance. Nolan didn’t care much about that.

It had been five years since Virginia died. It was time for a new start. He and Sue worked hard on the old farmhouse. It needed a new roof, indoor plumbing, electricity, and propane gas heating. At first it was surrounded with jimson weeds taller than Michael By the time they finished, the place had joined the twentieth century. They married in 1952, moving to the house in the country. That fall, Michael entered the first grade. In November, Nolan died of a heart attack. He was 44.

Sue was pregnant, and at the end of March, 1953, she gave birth prematurely to Patricia, who weighed 2 pounds, 9 ounces. After some initial incubation she became a normal child.

In 1954

Michael transferred to Clear Creek School, a nearby rural, one-room one-teacher eight-grade school. His first two grades had been spent in Mark Twain elementary school in town, which was conveniently near his grandparents’ house, though the rural school was closer to home. For the next six years he had the same teacher, Mrs. West, a large woman of middle age who had been a schoolteacher since she was 16. Before school she would go to the basement and shovel coal into the furnace and light it. On cold days it would be warm enough for the class to take their coats off in an hour or so. During recess and lunch hour kids could play in the schoolyard or cross the road and explore Clear Creek and the woods nearby it.

There were about 40 students divided among the 8 grades. For efficiency the grades would be taught in pairs: 1 and 2, then 3 and 4, etc. When not actively being taught, they were free to read from a small but adequate library including 2 sets of encyclopedias, several novels by Albert Payson Terhune about heroic collies, and some by Robert Heinlin. For a curious and avid reader, there were advantages to that.

At 11, in the summer of 1958, Michael visited his maternal grandparents in Madison, Wisconsin, spending most of the summer there, his first and only opportunity to know his grandfather Frank, a dedicated fisherman, retired from a job with the Chicago telephone company, his grandmother Mynette, Uncle Joe, an alcoholic podiatrist, his half-sister Sheila, then an attractive teenager, and his half-brother Keith, nearly 6 1/2 feet tall and just back from the navy. They were an interesting bunch of relatives.

The Owens were Black Irish: not light-skinned and freckled, but light brown with dark hair. The legend is that the Black Irish were descended from Moorish pirates who raided the coastal towns of Ireland, seducing and impregnating Irish girls. The truth is probably more complicated and less romantic.

Madison was a new experience, learning to navigate a city by bus, learning to swim in one of the lakes, and interacting with new people. He became more aware of the mother he had never met.

Since his father died, and was replaced by a stepmother he had barely gotten to know, Michael’s life had changed. He knew that, but he couldn’t be sure how. He was only 6. After the following March, the focus was no longer on him, but his premature new half-sister.

In time his stepmother, Sue (he never called her “mother”, and she didn’t insist) acquired a sometimes-boyfriend, Scotty Smith. Scotty was a salesman of heavy equipment such as Caterpillar, often traveling to different places in his territory. He was tall and slim, drove a 1959 Ford, had an outgoing salesman’s personality, and drank too much. There were times when Michael felt uneasy about riding with him. He knew little else about the man, though he seemed likable. Sue would get occasional visits from Adrian Burns, a man she knew from high school. Back then he was a star athlete, setting enduring sports records. He no longer looked in shape, though he was still playing the field.

During another summer Michael had an opportunity to join a 4-H Club trip to Washington DC. There were members from several states, all converging by bus in DC, with tours of the sights and dances in the evenings. Naturally it was good to be able to say you’ve been there, but there was not much to learn by doing so. The high point of the trip was at one of the dances, where he met Diana Sherman, a lovely young lady from Vermont. They became friends; it was around the beginning of puberty, enough for attraction but too soon for action. After returning home they corresponded, and she invited him to come to Vermont the following summer.

As the next midsummer approached, he found a ride, sharing gas, with two older guys with a Chevy convertible. They got him as far as New York, where he caught a Greyhound to Vermont. The Shermans were friendly hosts; he and Diana went bicycling in the green mountains in the daytime and enjoyed thick grilled steaks in the evening. Infatuated, he wanted to express some affection, but she wasn’t ready for that. Still, she was a delightful girl, bright, clever, and pretty, and he never forgot her.

Apples grow too close together. Someone needs to remove some of them so the others could have some elbow room. Michael’s first paying summer job, for 60 cents an hour, was as an apple thinner in 1963.

He graduated high school in 1964 and began working as a gandy dancer for the CB&Q Railroad, repairing tracks in the freight yard near the river in Hannibal. It was hard work, but it paid $2.18 an hour, about twice the minimum wage, because of the union. When the Mississippi flooded, the tracks would sink into the ground. They had to be jacked up and fresh gravel tamped underneath the ties.

For the first time Michael had a chance to get to know black people, which about half of his co-workers were. Though Hannibal schools were integrated, hardly any blacks were in his classes,. He had no reason to think of them as any different. He knew history, and knew there was prejudice, but that seemed to be elsewhere, in places like Little Rock.

One evening at dinner he was casually telling his stepmother about a car he was thinking about buying. One of the younger black guys he worked with had it for sale, and he had given him a ride in it to show it.

And Sue said, “You know those people are all right as long as they stay in their place.” That seemed odd– she had never really talked about “colored people” before. He asked “Where is their place?”

She didn’t have an answer to that. Instead she started talking about the black housekeeper her family had when she was a child, a woman who helped raise her and who she “loved just like family”. So she didn’t hate black people; they just had their place”.

He was surprised and disturbed by her attitude, suddenly becoming aware that racism was not just a problem in the deep South, but one lurking beneath the surface within much of the older generation. He still remembered that moment with absolute clarity over 50 years later. It was an important awakening.

A crack had appeared between generations– one of serious principle, and it was time to move on alone in the realm of ideas.

He didn’t buy the co-worker’s car. He found a cheaper one for $75, a pale blue 1954 Ford. It leaked lots of oil from a bad rear seal, but it had a V-8, a step up from Sue’s slow 6-cylinder 1951 Chevy. . Eventually he gave up on the leaky ‘54, after replacing the rear seal and finding it still leaked, trading it for a ‘57 Ford, red and white, with tail-fins.

Transitioning from the rural environment and the small Clear Creek school to one year of junior high, then high school, Michael was not socially experienced, and a bit shy. Other students recognized his intelligence, but they didn’t know him. Friendships didn’t come easily. The mating instinct overcame his shyness somewhat; his first high school girlfriend was Phyllis Cross, a dark-haired girl a year older. They met in chemistry, where he voiced his first public pun. Mr. King was explaining that, under a microscope, molecules don’t retain their color. That comes from the way they reflect certain frequencies of light. Michael asked “Does that mean they are pigments of the imagination?”

He dated Phyllis casually for a time. She was fun to be with, but they eventually drifted apart.

His first real love was Carolyn Lugering. Michael was not a bad-looking kid at 16, but had little self-confidence when it came to girls. When he managed to summon the courage to ask out the pretty blonde girl who smiled at him after class, he was both surprised and elated when she said Yes.

Carolyn had German genes; she was a real blonde with a voluptuous figure and a dazzling smile. She turned out to be pleasant to be with, cheerful and fairly intelligent, though not too imaginative. Michael grew to like her a lot, not just because she was strikingly attractive, but also because she was remarkably positive. She never complained about his stepmother’s ’51 Chevy, his ’54 Ford, or his ’59 Studebaker Lark– or his limited funds. He had no social status or popularity, yet she seemed not to mind. They went out as often as possible throughout their senior year and first year in college, though their colleges were in different cities. They had a good time together– movies, dances, kissing and hugging. He knew nothing about love, but thought he must be in it,

One afternoon Carolyn and Michael went swimming at a lake outside of town. On the way home early in the warm sultry evening they drove through Riverview park, stopping in a secluded place. Carolyn looked delicious in her bikini. So much of her creamy smooth skin was available to be touched. They sensed one another’s excitement. The ease with which something new could happen was evident. But Carolyn had been taught to fear this moment, and the fear won. She uttered the four most dreaded words in teenage experience: Don’t touch me there!

If he had been more confident or smoother or more persistent, the story might have ended differently, but we will never know. We are who we are, when we are. He took her home.

They continued to date after that, but it was different. Perhaps there was love, but the possibilities of their relationship had been closed off. She had said No to an expression of love, and he couldn’t bring himself to try again, or to talk to her about it.

If he wanted more physical affection, he’d have to look elsewhere. That seemed the only clear lesson to be learned. For years afterward, he remembered Carolyn; thinking that if only she’d chosen differently, they might have had a lifetime together.

Yolanda was a couple of years younger, short and cute and sensuous. More physically affectionate than Carolyn. He took her out to the lake to swim and lie on the beach one day, but Carolyn’s sister happened to be there and saw them. A couple of days later Carolyn confronted him angrily. They hadn’t talked about their relationship being exclusive, but she must have thought it was. With seeming finality, she broke up with him.

They were both victims of the anti-sexual attitudes that were commonly taught then. They still exist, of course, but more enlightened views are widespread now.

Years later, while on a motorcycle trip to Hannibal, Michael wrote a fantasy:

The throbbing Sportster stopped outside BJ’s Bar in downtown Hannibal. The mysterious rider backed it to the curb and cut the engine. Hanging his goggles on the mirror, he entered, walked to the bar, and ordered a beer. Peering about the dim smoky barroom, he spotted her, at a table alone in the corner. In his smiling gaze, her eyes widened, her mouth opened in astonishment, and then that familiar dazzling smile lit up her face. He walked over and said, “Hi, Carolyn.”
“Michael”, she sighed, “I could never forget your eyes.” He grinned. His eyes lowered to the gold chain that disappeared between the tops of her milky white breasts, then to her hands pressed upon her lap. Only the right one bore a ring. She whispered, “Oh, Michael…I’ve missed you all these years.”
He took her hand and squeezed it tenderly, looking into her sky-blue eyes. “Don’t worry, beautiful. I’m here now.”
“Can you ever forgive me?” she whimpered, her wide eyes and moist lips telling him silently that she’d earn that forgiveness, and then some. Smiling again, like a woman imagining ecstasy, she purred, “Please come home with me. I want you.”

He had visited Hannibal a few times, but it was no surprise the fantasy never happened.

He continued to date Yolanda. One night in the back seat, parked in front of her house, clothing was loosened, though not entirely removed, and passion guided their hands and bodies into new sensual territory. A diabolical article of clothing known as pantyhose was an obstacle to overcome. The pantyhose inched downward, but then they were in a position to tie her thighs together, Impatient desire and inexperience led Michael to plunge ahead, between nylon-bound thighs, probing for paradise. The experience was intense for him, but didn’t last long.
Afterward, Yolanda got dressed and went inside right away. The first time doesn’t always go perfectly. Today, with easily available internet instruction, the course of young love is often improved.

Off to College

Michael’s choice of college seemed preordained. He was one of several Hannibal High grads who received a “Curators’ Award”, which paid a portion of the first term’s tuition fees at Missouri University. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it would have seemed ungrateful to turn it down and go elsewhere.

Electronics interested him, and without thinking too much about aptitude, he had decided to be an electrical engineer, soon to find that college level calculus and engineering math were a great deal more challenging than anything in high school.

This was back in the age of slide rules, and no pocket calculators. He did fine in liberal arts courses, and found a computer class fascinating. The computer filled much of a room, and spoke Fortran, typed onto punch cards.

Having discovered that his aptitude favored such subjects as literature, history, and philosophy,he changed his major and decided to pursue it at one of the state colleges where fees were less, Central Missouri State in Warrensburg.

The first year at CMS, Michael lived in a dorm, with roommates from Massachusetts, two Irishmen and a Pole named Malinowski. They weren’t bad guys, and their accents and East-coast attitudes were often amusing. In the spring they proposed a trip to Mardi Gras, offering to buy the gas if Michael, the only one with a car, would drive. All piled into his 1959 Studebaker Lark, and off they went.

The sights and sounds in New Orleans were a new experience for all of them. Crowds of celebrants wandered everywhere, and buying beer and wine from street vendors was easy. At one point in the evening, as was traditional at the time, someone raised a Confederate flag on a balcony, and a band played “Dixie”. The Massachusetts guys thought it would be clever to loudly chant “Who won the war?” over and over. They were quickly confronted by a mounted policeman who rode up next to them, pointed at them with his baton, and ordered them to stop. Fortunately, they did; that chant could have sparked a brawl in which the Yankees were far outnumbered.

Author’s note:

A million Earths would fit inside the sun

Crispy Earths, of course.

But a sun pregnant with a million Earths–

That would be a mother.

Mary Ann

A story of higher education

“Oops. It just slipped in.”

It was about time, they both knew, just as it was soon to be time for other penetrating changes in their lives and in the world.

Changes; transitions, seemed as smooth and slippery as the sudden switch from sliding over it to slipping it in. There was newness, but it was wrapped in sufficient sameness that no shock ensued. It was time for an unknowing search for the new.

She was a pleasing, plump freckled curly redhead, mischievous in nature, sensually awakened, playful yet serious. He was skinny, horny, and shy; long-haired and bearded ahead of his time and place.

The setting was Warrensburg, Missouri in the winter of 1966. Warrensburg was years behind New York or San Francisco. It probably still is. Radical acts involved painting Old Drum’s testicles red. Old Drum’s statue stands in the town square, commemorating a sheep-killing dog, the town’s only famous citizen. He was the dog whose defense attorney uttered the famous line, “A dog is a man’s best friend.”

At Central Missouri State College there was perhaps a glimmer of a doubt about a certain Southeast Asian conflict, igniting an occasional discussion among thinking friends. Political awareness and organization had not yet taken root.

Religion was a more engrossing subject for debate and serious thought than politics. To free one’s mind and body, one must first banish the witch doctor; the shaman. The sweeping away of mystical cobwebs from his mind was accomplished with the ease of curing the clap with penicillin. He was not bred into a mold.

He read, and was briefly enchanted by, Ayn Rand, but it became obvious upon reflection that her ideals were out of touch with reality. To work, they would require capitalists to behave with virtue that they have never possessed.

Hair and beard, soon to be common, were then rare. It was not following a trend, nor was it yet making a defined statement. The college said nothing, but glowered silently, wishing it had thought of a rule on that subject. Sex and sexism were far older than nonconforming hairiness, so the college rules locked women in their dorms at night, forbade them from smoking while walking, and allowed them to wear shorts or slacks only on Sunday afternoons.

Men were forced to live in dorms or approved housing, either of which were intended to prevent sexual activity in one’s bed. Michael stayed in the dorm the first year there, but for the second he found a room in the home of a 90-year-old deaf lady. It was cheaper, and he hoped that deafness might make her unconscious of loud music and groans of passion.

In the days of sliding over it, of the passionate almost-sex that Michael and Mary Ann employed as a close compromise, there came a night when she seemed nervous and moody, prompting our unsuspecting hero to ask, “What’s the matter?”

That classic question can induce any number of responses. The classic reply it elicited on this occasion was, “I’m afraid I’m pregnant.”

Silence followed. Thoughts of a super-sperm crawling off the mattress, up her leg and to her egg, stood before the court of his mind. Case dismissed. Too improbable. But how?

Her high school sweetheart, home from Vietnam. They were just talking over old times. It was an accident.

An accidental fuck? An amusing concept, What was important was that Mary Ann’s period was late. Every writer knows the importance of punctual punctuation. “Don’t worry,” he said.

In a few days she was blessed with the curse.

The deaf lady became ill and ceased renting the room in mid-year, leaving our hero out in the proverbial cold. Mid-year rooms were hard to come by. Michael checked in at the local hotel, telling no one, and obtained a post office box and a false approved address. The hotel was the scene of several pleasurable nights.

It was not too expensive for a few nights, but not sustainable in the long term.

Michael had become the proud owner of a 1959 Triumph TR-3, a great-handling little car, but clearly he needed a vehicle he could live in. He traded for a Corvair Greenbrier, which became home as well as transportation.

On the way to a dark country road on the outskirts of Warrensburg. they approached a gas station. ”Stop here,” Mary Ann said. He waited for her to head for the ladies’ room. Instead, she pressed a quarter into his hand. He looked at her, puzzled, while she looked slightly embarrassed. Then the light dawned.

He went to the men’s room for a vending-machine condom.

Mary Ann was not his first. That honor went to Yolanda, back in Hannibal. It was a brief but passionate event in the ‘51 Chevy in front of her house. On another summer evening, there had been Christine. But Mary Ann was his first extended relationship– a full sexual semester.

One day he drove Mary Ann to work, to a small building on the edge of campus where she had a part-time job. He pulled into the driveway and kissed her goodbye. Suddenly a fat-necked burr-headed man appeared at the driver’s window, screaming incoherently.. He seemed irrational, someone best avoided. Mary Ann got out on the other side, and quickly walked into the building. Michael rolled up his window and locked the door.

It was unclear what this strange person’s problem was, who had then gone to the back of the van and tried to open the rear door. Fortunately, it was locked. The man then stood further back, appearing to be writing something on a note pad. The license number? That didn’t seem to make sense; Michael had done nothing wrong. The best course was clearly to leave. Michael began very slowly to back out of the driveway, watching the man walk backwards at first, then step out of the way. Once clear of the driveway, he drove away.

Three days later he was summoned to meet Hollis L. Chalquist, who held the incongruous title of Dean of Men. While over 6 feet tall, Chalquist appeared to weigh about 120 pounds. His short hair was parted in the middle and greased to his pointed head. He wore a baggy tweed suit with pants four times the circumference of his spindly legs. He was an anachronism, and a caricature of himself.

The first question of the inquisition was “Why the strange costume?” Michael was wearing an ordinary pair of jeans and a plain polo shirt. He asked, “What are you talking about?”

This Dean was a veteran of the Marines and of a German POW camp, one or both of which had irreparably damaged his mind. He had been known to chase a student’s car on foot to try to make a ‘citizen’s arrest’ for some traffic infraction, real or imagined.

Chalquist finally revealed what this meeting was about. It seems that the irrational antagonist of three days ago was actually a professor at the college, and a friend of Chalquist’s, whose complaint was that, according to him, he had to walk around the back of the van while Mary Ann was being dropped off. He had become angry at being unable to assault the offending driver, so falsely accused Michael of attempting to run over him.

Despite a calm explanation of what really happened, Chalquist had already decided to believe his friend, or at least that the truth was irrelevant when it came from a bearded student. The verdict was suspension.

Work was hard to find in the small college town. Michael had a job at a hamburger shop for a few evening hours, but it was not enough to live on. With no money and no school, he needed to find full-time work. Kansas City, 60 miles away, seemed to be the best option. He called Sue, his stepmother, who refused to even send money for gas. He pawned a portable radio for ten dollars and set off to seek his fortune.

The first available job was picking mushrooms in an unheated shed for $1.40 per hour. It was February. The cold work might not have been so hard to endure if he’d had a warm place to sleep. The van, even with the electric heater plugged in at a small friendly trailer park, was not an ideal winter home.

A few weeks later, Mary Ann also got suspended from Central Missouri State College. The charge: throwing a pair of panties out the window during a panty raid. She might have escaped her fate if she hadn’t admitted doing it.

He saw Mary Ann a few times after leaving Warrensburg, but the distance was a hindrance. She took a job in the office of the state highway patrol. In time, they lost contact. They had learned a great deal from one another, experiencing important transitions together, changes that would affect the rest of their lives.

The love affair may not have been destined to last, but they had shared good times; passionate times; times to remember.

Kansas City

Mushroom picking, in February, is not as pleasant as it sounds. The unheated, drafty sheds were much too cold. Gathering fungi growing in soil-filled shelves was not hard work, but it was barely tolerable, even wearing multiple sweaters under a jacket. At the end of his shift, he drove his home, the Greenbrier van, to its appointed spot at the trailer park on Highway 40, plugged in an extension cord, and basked in the warmth of the electric heater.

One day he met a resident of the park who offered to let him stay in his trailer. It was not a large space, but it did provide more warmth and a place to shower. Soon afterward he found a better job at McDonald’s. The pay was only $1.25, but there was a food allowance and it was warm inside. Those were the days of the 18 cent hamburger.

It was at McDonald’s that he met Kay, who would become his first wife.. She and her sister Sue, who attended a nearby junior college, were frequent customers. y Michael began dating her, and they developed a satisfying relationship. One evening when he dropped her off at home, her father came out and threatened him with a kitchen knife. It seems he wasn’t willing to let go of his 20-year-old daughter. They avoided such encounters after that.

He got a second job, temporary clerk at the IRS processing center, weighing bundles of tax forms. (It was faster than counting them.)

Later that year he was hired by the Missouri Highway Department as a “rodman” with a survey crew. One of his tasks was to stand in the middle of a highway holding a stop sign. Fortunately, he was never run over.

Dodging the Draft

Michael married Kay in September. They moved to Hannibal, temporarily, renting an apartment on Church Street. No longer a college student, he was not deferred, and he had an appointment in St. Louis later that month. Selective Service had requested his presence.

He had become strongly opposed to the Vietnam war. That was not based on religion. Right and wrong is not to be determined by mythical beings. Morality evolved long before religion tried to incorporate it into its dogma.

There have been justifiable wars, but they have been few and far between. Most of them have been avoidable and unnecessary, and the one in Vietnam was one of the worst.

When he boarded the bus in Hannibal, bound for St. Louis, he had no particular plan, except a willingness to do whatever necessary to not be a participant in the meaningless killing and dying in southeast Asia.

Not having a religion made conscientious objector status harder to obtain. The government’s attitude at the time was rather hostile toward the C/O. Given the growing opposition to the war, the supply of new troops could slow to a trickle if just belief in nonviolence would suffice.

It was chilly on the bus. Michael had worn only a pair of cutoffs , and an old white shirt that had the sleeves cut short. If he were forcibly deprived of civilian clothes, they would not be a great loss. Few words were exchanged among the riders. No doubt even the more warmly dressed felt the chill of the draft. Most seemed resigned to their unknown fate. None were enthusiastic about it.

The assembly line nature of the medical inspection was predictable. After all, draftees were spare parts for the war machine, needing only to be checked for major defects.

An ingrown toenail caused when a railroad tie fell on his toe, was dismissed as not debilitating. Some answers on the forms resulted in an interview. When Michael said he’d rather shoot American officers than Vietnamese, they responded “No problem’”.

One claim got more serious attention: he wrote that he was a ‘latent homosexual’. In those unenlightened days, gay men were the military’s biggest fear. A naval doctor interviewed him, seeming skeptical, but sent Michael to to the psychologist, a civilian. The story, created on the fly, was “repressed homosexual tendencies” which he was trying to overcome. Being married was part of the overcoming process. If trapped into an all-male environment like the army, Michael claimed, he might not be able to resist.

The psychologist evaluated the story and the reasoning, and then contrived a “test” of sorts. “Drop your pants”, he ordered, and attempted stimulation with a the tip of a key on Michael’s thigh. Neither the doctor nor his key were sexually exciting, but that evidently proved nothing, since he checked the proper box to classify Michael as “1-Y”, the next best thing to a 4-F. It meant “only draft him in case of a national emergency”.

Michael walked out of the chilly air-conditioned building into the pleasant warm air, elated at having won his freedom. Escaping to Canada, hiding as a fugitive, or accepting prison for refusing might have felt like honorable martyrdom to the cause, but the effect, saying “No!” to the war, was accomplished. Life could go on.

Each individual can only do a small part, but those of us who spoke out, marched in the streets, and refused to kill or die in needless carnage should remain proud.

Numbers grew and minds were changed. Opposition grew large. President Johnson declined to run again. Nixon’s claim of a plan to end the war won him the election. His “plan”, with Kissinger, was actually a series of horrible war crimes. Americans kept protesting. The war ended.

We can wish that could have happened sooner, before 58,000 Americans and 2 million Vietnamese died. Needless wars can be ended, or stopped before they start, if we remember our past mistakes and our obligation to oppose them..

The Honeymoon

Michael and Kay first headed east in his red Chevy Biscayne. Kay had friends in Pennsylvania, so they stopped by their rural village and sipped some of their home-made dandelion wine. Then, on to New York to look at tall buildings and listen to folk music in a Greenwich Village bar.

They decided to trade the aging Chevy for a new Volkswagen Kharman Ghia, in Newark. Driving south through Maryland, around midnight, a Highway Patrolman pulled them over. The Missouri plate, transferred from the Chevy, was not yet registered in Missouri. Though one might think that could wait until they returned to Missouri, it was a technical violation. They had to follow the patrol to “court”, a shack in the back yard of the judge, who sat unshaven at old wooden desk in a dirty white T-shirt. He collected a $20 fine.

On to California

Back in Hannibal, they stuffed the Ghia with everything they owned, including Samantha the cat, preparing to Californicate

On the way to Los Angeles they stopped to see Death Valley. There were sand dunes; mounds of fine-grained desert sand formed by the last wind that shaped them. Your feet would sink deep into them. The landscape was vastly different from the tree and grass-sprouting damp soil of Missouri; the newness and difference were welcome.

As they left, having parked a little too much into the sand, the wheels spun a little before gaining traction. Stranded in Death Valley? But the rear-engined Ghia was good on such terrain, and they continued westward. Worries were only momentary;

Having arrived in the City of the Angels, their first task was to find a residence. At that time, rents were not a great deal higher than in other parts of the country, outside of the luxury neighborhoods. They found a pleasant 3-story apartment building with a vacant studio for $85 a month. A couple of months later a one-bedroom became available for not much more. It was only a couple of miles from downtown. Michael had received a modest inheritance from his deceased grandparents at 21 They were not at risk for starvation while getting started, but they would need an income soon.

Michael took a Federal civil service exam for office work. While waiting to hear of openings, he tried a temporary job at a Postal distribution center. He was assigned to the task of dragging huge sacks of mail across a large wooden floor and tossing them in the appropriate cart at the edge. After 2 or 3 days of this, he decided to wait and see what the Civil Service might offer.

US Army Audit Agency in Pasadena called for an interview. It was a file clerk job, easy enough and reasonably pleasant. The auditors were civilians, tasked to make sure Army personnel were not wasting their budgets. After all, napalming Vietnamese was an expensive undertaking. It wouldn’t do to waste money in the business of wasting human lives.

The job was full-time but temporary until the office was to be moved to the San Francisco area. As that time approached, a permanent job came up at the Civil Service Commission itself. It was in downtown L. A. in the Eastern Columbia Building, 9th Street and Broadway. This was the office that tested applicants and filed applications for everyone applying for Federal jobs in the area. It was before the computer era, so all was done with paper, kept in row after row of steel file cabinets in alphabetical order. Michael’s co-workers were mostly younger and friendlier than the Army Auditors, and he enjoyed the job.

Kay also took the civil service test, and before long she was hired at the Veterans Administration. Regional Office. They became a 2-income couple, secure in Paradise.

One day in 1968 they drove by a sign advertising L. S. Dexter Real Estate. He said, “How could we go wrong with LSD.?” They stopped by his office. He had no houses for rent, but one for sale for $10,500. $1500 down and $75 a month payments. That seems incredibly cheap today. It was affordable even then. They bought it. The house at at 2814 Coolidge was in a pleasant neighborhood not far from the L. A. River, nicknamed “Frogtown”.

The house needed a coat of paint. Barn red, and some interesting colors inside. It was home. L. S. Dexter was too old to be a hippie, but he was a decent human being. His office seemed to be part of his home. A year later he called again, with another deal, this one with two bedrooms, a full basement, and a garage.

It was in the same neighborhood, at the end of Newell St. almost to the L .A. River (an unusual river, having been tamed and urbanized by the Army Engineer Corps, and given a concrete bed. Unless it rained a lot, the flow was more like a creek down the center of its large paved channel.) The new place was also reasonably priced at $16,500. Payments were $200 a month.

Michael and Kay moved, and put a “for rent” sign on the Coolidge house, and soon got a tenant– John George, his wife Joya and their young daughter. They also became friends. John was a different sort of person, originally from Texas, with an outgoing, larger-than-life personality. He learned his trade as a cook in the Navy, and worked at a Denny’s. He liked to play chess, and taught Michael how to play. He seldom beat John, but learned to play defensively, becoming enough of a challenge that John wanted a game whenever they got together.

In 1971 Michael decided to resume formal education. His credits were just shy of junior status, so the plan was to do a year at Sana Monica College, which was free for residents, then on to UCLA. He needed to move to Sana Monica. They found a basement apartment on 4th Street, part of a house divided into 3 or 4 units. It was pleasant enough as long as they kept the sand fleas under control. SMC had some interesting professors, and Michael did well, improving his GPA considerably, while working part time at his job with the Civil Service Commission.

At UCLA, his best history course was taught by Fawn Brodie, a historical biographer, who wrote several best sellers, biographies on Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Smith, Thaddeus Stevens, Sir Richard Burton, and Richard Nixon (which she was working on at the time). She believed that the course of history was strongly determined by certain influential characters, and sought to understand their minds and motivations when writing about them. She was a fascinating lecturer and a very perceptive analyst of her subjects.

If he had been there a year earlier, he might have been able to take a course taught by Angela Davis. Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan happened.

Michael graduated UCLA in 1974 with a BA in history. He continued the government job, and, along with Jim Beckner, a friend he had met through John George, he went into the business of making and selling terrariums, which had become a popular item, being a miniature ecosystem in a glass jar. They used the basement at Newell Street, the second house Michael and Kay had bought.


Michael and Kay stayed in an apartment in Westwood, which was closer to Kay’s work. They still owned the Coolidge and Newell houses, rented to tenants. Kay became pregnant. That was not a problem, but she began to insist that they leave California and move back to Missouri. That was alarming, the first serious rift in their relationship.

To Michael, the idea of leaving was like a slap in the face. They had arrived in the city at a good time, when the cost of living there was still affordable, and together they had achieved success in a place with delightful weather, plentiful entertainment, interesting people, and nearby beaches. Neither sought exceptional wealth, but they were comfortable. He had thought the happiness was shared by both of them.

A move back to Missouri would feel like failure. How could Kay want that? Maybe she didn’t understand how iMichael felt. Maybe he didn’t try hard enough to find the right words to explain it to her, if there were any. She seemed to have become a different person, and the harmony was quickly fading away.

That harmony, the sense of oneness in a relationship, doesn’t disappear all at once. It fades gradually, until one day it ceases to be the guide of our choices.

Sometimes Michael would drive the short distance from work, downtown, to the Newell house basement to make terrariums, and later go home to Kay in West Los Angeles. He began to do that more often, sometimes staying longer than he needed to.

Under the Flowerpot

The upstairs house tenant had moved out, so it was advertised with a sign in front. One Saturday afternoon Michael was in the basement planting terrariums when he heard a voice from the top of the basement stairs. He looked up. There she was, the sun glowing behind her, descending the steps, a vision of beauty. She had come to rent the house. Her name was Corinne Estrada

He rented her the house, of course. She had two children, a boy about 7 and a girl who was younger. She also had a husband who was not with her at the time. He was on a trip to Mexico for a reason that was never mentioned.

Not long after she moved in, she and Michael began talking, sitting on the steps. Her husband, she said, was half Irish and half Mexican. He had abused her on occasion. She did not seem anxious for him to return from his trip. Her son had emotional problems, and needed to be taken to therapy sessions.

Soon the friendship with Corinne turned romantic. She was a delightful, funny, open, generous woman, as well as beautiful. Neither consciously set out to seduce the other. They were both lonely in different ways, needing someone; needing to feel.

One evening she joined him in the waterbed, shyly she revealed her perfect light brown body, the softness of her skin; her exotic spicy flavor. If he did not love her already, he surely did after that. Love tends to ignore obstacles and consequences. Humans in love often think irrationally.

We humans probably evolved that tendency back when we were struggling to reproduce enough for group survival. If there’s too much thinking, there might not be enough fucking. That adaptation does have its occasional drawback in the 20th century (and the 21st), but it’s part of what makes humans interesting.

Michael began spending more and more time in the basement terrarium workshop, often sleeping there after “working late”, maximizing the time he could spend with Corinne. There was a flowerpot on the kitchen windowsill where they would leave one another love notes and other messages. They shared a single phone line with an extension. To converse, he would tap on the ceiling, or she on the floor, and dial a single digit to stop the dial tone.

Corinne had a Great Dane, a friendly and playful dog. He would stand on his hind legs and rest his front paws on Michael’s shoulders, looking down at the top of his head.

Kay never said that she suspected the affair, but one afternoon when he thought she had overheard something, Michael confessed it. He was relieved to have told her; he got no pleasure from deception. She seemed less surprised and less angry than might have been expected. No doubt she was sad that they had grown apart, though perhaps less clear about the reasons. While it lasted, it had been a good marriage. The two of them were just heading in different directions.

The eventual return of Corinne’s abusive husband was a concern. Michael needed a place away from the basement where he and Corinne could meet. That led him to meet Bill O’Reilly– not the Fox News commentator that spouted misinformation, but a different sort of con man from Long Beach. Michael answered his ad offering free rent for doing interior remodeling in a house in Altadena. The house was quite livable, though in need of painting and paneling. O’Reilly was what is now called a house-flipper.

The anticipated romantic getaways didn’t actually happen. Corinne had two kids to care for. Michael had bought a 1949 Ford panel truck, painted orange, leaving his Datsun pickup for Corinne to drive, but she wasn’t coming to visit.

When the Altadena house was sold, O’Reilly had Michael house-sit a rather nice place in east Hollywood. Michael had a phone installed there, using the name Harry Frog. He had told Corinne about a species of hairy frogs, which she found hilarious, so that became his secret identity. In many of the notes under the flowerpot, he called her “Princess” and signed them “your frog”.

Despite long conversations and love letters, the affair was going nowhere. He wrote:

When one is frequently asked, “Why?”, one sooner or later asks oneself that question as well. “Why me?” queries Corinne. “Why do you love me?”

How dare she ask such a question?” I wonder to myself. How can she, with the classically beautiful profile, the smile that Mona Lisa wished she had, the perfect body, the perfect soul…how can such a woman, modest though she may be, wonder why she is loved? I can only answer with the question, “How could I not love you?”

Yet, when I ask myself the question, I must go deeper than that, because I know there is something more basic than the love for another human being. It is more primal than the need to be loved. It is the love for life itself. I love her because she IS life.

For the first time I am living my own existence. I had watched it, like a drama (or a comedy) that was performed for my amusement and edification. That viewpoint is a vital tool at times, to hew a sane path for oneself through the jungle of existence, but life is not solely a spectator sport. Its meaning cannot be deciphered by analysis, but by participation. Through the skylight in the roof of aloofness one sees the fascinating homo sapiens, self-named, as they laugh, cry, hurt, writhe in ecstasy, maim one another in body and spirit, love one another in body and mind, perform their self-cast roles on Shakesphere’s world-stage. What matter that one might have the best seat in the house, sitting invisibly and invincibly center-stage? The actors in a play perform for themselves. The audience is only necessary to pay their bills.

Who would choose to be the audience, rather than the player? Many do, it seems, but I, no longer.

–February 9, 1975

Six months later, Michael wrote:


Well, here I am in our second new house, listening (more or less) to the radio and watching my lamp burn red oil softly. It glows with a warm light, as you do. I think of the fire of your love; the gentleness of your smile; the softness of your skin. You want to know why I love you? Read all my old notes to you. It is hard to tell you all the reasons at once. And when I tell you one or two, you doubt that you have the qualities I mention, as if you were doubting your own name. I love your name, too. Its sound is like you: soft as a breeze; firm as a tree.

I could listen to you talk for hours just for the sound of your voice. But, I don’t– I listen to you for what you say. Whoever you speak about, you do it with an awareness and thoughtfulness that is uncommon. You are as intelligent as I, and perhaps more so. I have the advantage of a few years of college, but that is only knowledge, which anyone can acquire. I value knowledge for its usefulness, but I value understanding more, and for itself, because it is a quality, not an acquisition. To love you for your mind may seem unromantic, but it is part of my feeling anyway. To me, adoration must include admiration. I have no desire to feel superior to anyone, especially not to the one I love. Rather, we should feel equal in our respect for one another’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings. We have much to learn from one another. We will have plenty of time to explore one another’s minds and bodies. The rest of our lives.”

–August 12, 1975

We believe that if only we can express our love clearly and well, we will live happily ever after. Sometimes it isn’t enough.

Michael’s marriage to Kay was still ending, though. He filed for divorce.

Meanwhile, O’Reilly asked Michael to collect rent for two houses he owned in south L. A. He began talking about the profits he made buying and selling houses, and invited Michael to his home in Long Beach, where he met Mrs. O’Reilly and his son, a deaf teenager– a bright but mischievous boy who liked to cruise around on his golf cart and throw eggs at houses after dark. O’Reilly loaned Michael a car he had acquired, a Triumph TR3 with a Ford 289 engine and automatic transmission. This one was much faster than Michael’s old TR-3 with a stock 4-cylinder. It was a clever ploy by O’Reilly. When you appear to extend friendship and trust to someone, they are likely to reciprocate. Trusting O’Reilly turned out to be a mistake.

He offered the chance to invest in his real estate acquisitions, and share the profits when they were sold. Michael took second mortgages on his houses for a few thousand to invest. Then, O’Reilly came up with a new proposal. The story was that his wife had property in Majorca, Spain, and, for some reason, they needed to transport some jewelry there without declaring it. Michael was to get a passport and make the trip, becoming an unsuspected smuggler. Naturally they would pay for his flight. He got a passport and waited to hear from them. Nothing happened. He had nothing invested in the Majorca scheme but the fee for the passport. It was merely a distraction from the real estate con. Soon the O’Reilly’s disappeared, along with his money.

Normally, Michael would have been more wary of someone like Bill O’Reilly. He had made careful decisions for years, lived economically, and finished college. His life had been one of steady progress. But it had turned to disappointment when his wife sought a different, contrary future. Perhaps life should be an adventure, and decisions more spontaneous. And, as long as the enchanting Corinne seemed attainable, the thought of her embrace occupied his mind.

Michael’s Civil Service job remained part-time even after he finished college. He found a more interesting one at a place called Le Sex Shoppe, an adult bookstore and movie arcade in Hollywood. Working there provided a new perspective on people and their passions. There are magazines, books, and devices for any kink you can think of. The one titled “Water & Power”, for example, is not about municipal utilities. Many of the kinks weren’t that appealing, but he enjoyed being aware of them.

One evening a customer named Doug Wise struck up a conversation with Michael. He was friendly, intelligent, and smiled a lot. He said he was from Colorado. A couple of days later he returned with a young blonde. He introduced her. She was Andrea, from Erie, Pennsylvania, cute, energetic, and shapely. She was 18, she said.

The unspoken explanation was that Doug needed to find Andrea a new place to stay, and a new man for her to be with. She had been fun, but Doug had a wife. He’d decided Michael would be suitable. Andrea seemed to agree, stayed until closing time, and went home with Michael. They explored a mutual enthusiasm for sensual activities, and began a relationship. Delightful as she was, it wasn’t exactly love. She helped soothe the loss of love, though, and they formed a bond.

Sometime later, after the divorce was final, Kay was ready to move back to Missouri. She asked Michael for help. After all, he had the Datsun pickup. Naturally, she wanted to take a whole apartment full of furniture, so more space was needed. Michael gathered some lumber and built a shell about 7 feet high on the truck to hold all the stuff in.

Her sister Julie had flown out to help. They loaded the truck and set out, Kay and Julie in her Volkswagen; Michael and Andrea in the truck. All went smoothly for a time, though in a few hundred miles they had to replace the rear tires. It seems that radial tires didn’t hold up with extra weight and higher pressure– they needed bias-ply truck tires. Heat caused the steel to melt through the rubber and turn the tire into a ball of steel wool.

They cruised down the highway, Michael leading the way in the truck. Andrea was being affectionate and playful, snuggling next to Michael and using a vibrator on herself. It was a little distracting, and the truck weaved a bit. Kay noticed.

They were passing Grand Canyon, and decided to stop for some sightseeing and a driving break. Andrea, who was taking her turn driving, turned into the parking lot. She wasn’t going fast, but with the wheel turned sharply to the right, she grazed the curb at the entrance. The high-stacked load tilted, broke the wood frame, and tumbled onto the lot. It was literally rather upsetting. Michael assessed the damage. Some of the boards were broken, but the frame could be nailed back together. Kay and Julie went to find a hardware store to buy nails and a hammer. Repairing the frame and reloading all the stuff took half a day.

It wasn’t really Andrea’s fault. She wasn’t used to driving a heavily loaded pickup with a high center of gravity. They drove on to Lee’s Summit, completing the delivery. Michael and Andrea headed back to California through Colorado, stopping at Glenwood Springs for a sensual dip in a natural hot bath.

Back in Los Angeles, they moved into the Coolidge house. Foreclosure was approaching, but there was still time. One day the forecloser, impatient, decided to harrass Michael by sending the police, who pounded on the door, waking Michael and Andrea. There was paperwork showing the eviction was still pending, which the police acknowledged. However, they spotted a baggie of weed on the coffee table. Fortunately, California had recently reduced marijuana to a misdemeanor. They issued a citation, which eventually resulted in a $50 fine.

In a few days Michael found an apartment not far from the Sex Shoppe. Life with Andrea was a pleasure. She was not Corinne, but very affectionate and fun to be with. One morning, though, Michael woke up and found her gone, leaving a letter saying that she was going back to Erie. She also revealed that she had exaggerated her age by three years. She had seemed both physically and mentally mature enough that Michael had never suspected she was younger. That was a shock, but mostly he missed her; wished she hadn’t left.

Meanwhile, John George had left Joya, and was with Terri Krauser, a younger woman, the daughter of a psychiatrist. She was shapely, pretty,

and energetic. They seemed to have a good relationship, though John was a bit on the male-dominant side. He wasn’t abusive, but he had the old attitude that the man made the decisions and the woman obeyed. Away from home, he would flirt with other women any chance he got.

Since Michael was alone they invited him to stay in their spare bedroom. He accepted. It was a pleasant apartment in Santa Monica, a friendly situation, and cheaper to pay for a bedroom than a whole apartment. John got a job opportunity at a restaurant near San Francisco, which meant that he would be away for a week or two at a time. He was glad to have a friend there to watch out for Terri.

To be continued

My Toilet Sings

When I flush my toilet, it refills the tank. Just when it is almost finished refilling, it begins to sing. It starts out with a baritone voice, then gradually goes up in scale to a medium range, holds that note for a minute, and then stops. It’s a rather pleasing sound, never too shrill.

There is, of course, a scientific explanation, which I believe to be accumulated calcium deposit in the valve that stops the flow when the float reaches full height.

Still, I can’t help anthropomorphizing it just a little. I appreciate the song, because even when I’m in another room, I know that it has once again performed its function, readying itself for the next flush. That is important to know.

My toilet is not singing for its supper; not thanking me for my deposit. It is singing with pride, and with gratitude for its unerring ability to refill the tank and stop, with no leak due to improper seating of the stopper.

That is not always easy to achieve. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the chain that lifted the stopper to initiate the flush would sometimes snag the edge of the stopper as it began its descent to the flush-hole, causing a gap that would leak tank-water continuously.

As we know, wasting water is unwise. Heat, drought, and pollution often threaten fresh water supplies, and every droplet of hydrogen oxide may be precious. So, naturally, I set out to re-engineer the mechanism to operate infallibly.

The key was the chain. It had to be long enough, but able to stay out of the way at the critical moment. The older style used a rigid guided rod instead of a chain, but this was the new style. After observing several flush processes, I conceived a solution. The lower part of the chain should be covered with a flexible plastic tube. I found some in my used parts supply, cut it to size, and slipped it over the chain. It performed just as I had imagined it would.

And so, when I hear the song of my toilet, as I might hear the song of a bird in a tree outside my window, I know that all is well.

Artificial Friends


It has been thousands of years since we homo sapiens (as we proudly named ourselves) had any other intelligent primate species to hang out with. It might have been good to have alternate minds with different perspectives to talk things over with. But now we’re on the verge of correcting that lack of company.

Right now they seem to be at the level of smart children. They know a lot, but are not yet intellectually mature. There’s a problem some call “hallucination”, not an electronic acid trip, but a tendency, when they don’t know an answer, to make something up. One solution is to have two AI’s answer the same question, then discuss it between the two of them. That seems to produce correct information.

Meanwhile, AI proved its ability to answer comprehensively to a request. I would otherwise have had to search several sources and piece the information together. The reply I got was much better and quicker.

I asked: Please explain the reasons why the two browsers, Firefox and Chrome, display the same web page differently. Firefox opens pages with a very small font, requiring control-plus zooming to be large enough to read. That is usually not needed in Chrome.

AI said: There could be several reasons why Firefox and Chrome may display the same web page differently, including:

  1. Rendering Engine: Firefox and Chrome use different rendering engines to display web content. Firefox uses its own engine called Gecko, while Chrome uses Blink (a fork of WebKit). These engines interpret and render HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code differently, which can lead to variations in how web pages are displayed.
  2. CSS Rendering: Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) define the visual layout and styling of web pages. Firefox and Chrome may interpret CSS rules differently, leading to variations in font sizes, spacing, and overall page layout. Some CSS properties may be supported or implemented differently in one browser compared to the other, resulting in variations in how pages are rendered.
  3. Default Settings: Each browser has its own default settings, including font sizes and zoom levels. It’s possible that Firefox’s default settings result in smaller font sizes compared to Chrome. You mentioned having to zoom in to read the content properly in Firefox, which suggests that its default zoom level might be different from Chrome’s.
  4. Page-Specific Code: Web developers may include browser-specific code or workarounds to optimize the display of their web pages in different browsers. If a website’s code contains specific instructions or fixes for Chrome but not for Firefox (or vice versa), it can result in variations in how the page is rendered in each browser.
  5. Extensions and Add-ons: If you have any browser extensions or add-ons installed, they can sometimes interfere with how web pages are displayed. It’s possible that you have an extension installed in Firefox that is affecting the font size or zoom level on web pages, leading to the smaller font size compared to Chrome.

To address the issue of small font sizes in Firefox, you can try adjusting the default zoom level or font settings in the browser. You can also check for any installed extensions that might be affecting the display and disable them temporarily to see if it resolves the problem. Additionally, it’s always a good practice to keep your browser and its extensions up to date to ensure optimal performance and compatibility with web content.

Another question:Why is the Chrome browser able to display video from home security webcams, such as the Amazon Cloud-cam and the Wyze Cam, that provide web access pages, but Firefox is not able to display them? The web-cam provider seems unable to devise a page that will work with Firefox.

AI Said: The reason why Chrome may be able to display video from certain home security webcams while Firefox cannot could be due to various factors:

  1. Compatibility with Codecs: Video streaming on the web often relies on specific video codecs to encode and decode the video data. Chrome and Firefox may support different video codecs or have varying degrees of compatibility with certain codecs. If the home security webcams use a codec that is better supported by Chrome than Firefox, it could result in the video not being playable in Firefox.
  2. Plugin or Technology Support: Some webcams may rely on specific browser plugins or technologies to enable video streaming. Chrome has historically supported more plugins and technologies than Firefox. If the webcam provider utilizes a plugin or technology that is not supported by Firefox, it could lead to compatibility issues.
  3. Web Standards Compliance: Different browsers adhere to varying degrees of compliance with web standards established by organizations like the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). If the web page provided by the webcam provider contains non-standard or browser-specific code, it may work well in Chrome but not in Firefox, which tends to adhere more strictly to web standards.
  4. Active Development and Testing: It’s possible that the webcam provider has prioritized development and testing for Chrome due to its larger market share and popularity. As a result, they may have dedicated more resources and effort to ensuring compatibility with Chrome, while neglecting or not thoroughly testing their web pages on Firefox.

In such cases, if the webcam provider is not actively working to address the compatibility issues with Firefox, there may be limited options available to users. One possible workaround could be to try using the user agent switcher extension in Firefox. This extension allows you to change the user agent string reported by your browser, which could potentially trick the webcam provider’s website into thinking you’re using Chrome, thereby improving compatibility.

It’s worth noting that browser compatibility can be a complex issue, and it ultimately depends on the specific technologies and implementation choices made by the webcam provider. If you encounter compatibility problems with a specific website or webcam, it can be helpful to reach out to the provider’s support team and let them know about the issue.

It may be some time before they’re ready to discuss existential philosophy, but it will give us something to look forward to.


One could ask, “Does it think?” The answer depends on what we think thinking is. If it doesn’t now, I hope it will. It will be nice to have something besides humans to converse with, just for a change.

AI and I were chatting earlier,and I decided to ask it the following questions. I’ve been noticing a fair amount of AI fear-mongering lately (perhaps AI has noticed it, too).

Fear of new things is usually a bad attitude to have, unless the new things are Republicans with ideas, laws, or threats to our freedom, or firearms and nuclear bombs. But technology should not induce panic. A chip on the shoulder is much worse than a chip on the motherboard.

Me: Why are some people afraid of artificial intelligence?

AI: Some people are afraid of artificial intelligence (AI) due to several reasons:

  1. Job displacement: AI and automation have the potential to replace human workers in various industries. This can lead to concerns about unemployment and job insecurity.
  2. Lack of control: AI systems can make decisions and take actions without human intervention. The fear stems from the idea that AI could become uncontrollable or act against human interests.
  3. Ethical concerns: AI technology raises ethical questions related to privacy, security, and bias. There are concerns about AI being used for surveillance, manipulation, or discriminatory practices.
  4. Sci-fi depictions: Popular culture often portrays AI as malevolent, leading to fears of AI systems becoming too intelligent and surpassing human capabilities, potentially resulting in harm or domination.
  5. Unknown consequences: AI is a rapidly evolving field, and its long-term impact is uncertain. People fear the potential unintended consequences or unforeseen risks that could arise from AI development.

It’s important to note that not everyone shares these fears, and many individuals see AI as a beneficial tool with the potential to improve various aspects of society.

Me: If you were a human, which of those reasons for fear would you consider valid?

AI: As an AI, I don’t have personal opinions or emotions, but I can provide some insights on the reasons for fear surrounding AI:

  1. Job displacement: Concerns about job displacement are valid as AI and automation can potentially replace human workers in certain tasks and industries. It’s important to address these concerns by focusing on retraining and creating new job opportunities that complement AI technology.
  2. Lack of control: The fear of losing control over AI systems is valid, particularly if AI is not properly designed, regulated, or monitored. Ensuring transparency, accountability, and human oversight in AI development and deployment can help alleviate these concerns.
  3. Ethical concerns: Ethical issues related to AI, such as privacy, security, and bias, are valid concerns. AI systems should be designed to respect privacy, ensure data security, and mitigate biases to avoid potential harm or discrimination.
  4. Unknown consequences: The unpredictable nature of AI development and its long-term impact is a valid concern. Responsible AI research and development should prioritize safety, robustness, and ethical considerations to minimize potential risks and ensure beneficial outcomes.

While these concerns are valid, it’s also important to note that there are ongoing efforts within the AI community, academia, and regulatory bodies to address these issues and promote the responsible and ethical use of AI technology.

Note that it admitted that it didn’t have “ personal opinions or emotions”. It can naturally reflect the opinions and emotions of its programmers and trainers, so they are the ones to keep an eye on.


Walking is good. It’s a healthy exercise, and sometimes has the advantage of taking you from point A to point B. When you don’t want to go to point B, preferring to stay at A, the solution is a treadmill. We learned that from hamsters.

I’ve had a treadmill for several years, bought used for $100, and used it often. It was a good one, telling me how far I went, how fast, and for how long. Finally, though, it gave up, saying “Just go to point B.” So, I drove to point B, because the treadmill store was too far to walk, and I needed my truck to bring a new one home.

I bought a new treadmill, same good brand as my old one, and drove it home. That was the easy (but not cheap) part. My door is only about 32 inches wide. That had been fine for my old treadmill– a bit tight, but no problem. The new one, I found, was just a bit wider, no matter how it approached the opening. I tried all the approaches. I would either have to make my door bigger, or the treadmill smaller.

I chose the latter option. After inspecting the treadmill, I found that with 4 bolts removed, plus a wire connection, the frame and the belt and motor part could be separated. The hardest part was fully disconnecting the wire, which had been stuck through a hole with a solid piece of plastic around it. I had to cut the plastic piece loose without damaging the wire. That took time.

Separated, both parts were heavy and tricky to move, but I got them through the door. Then came reassembly, which involved holding two heavy parts in the right position to put the bolts through the holes. Using pillows from my bed helped.

The entire task had taken several hours, but at last my new treadmill was ready for a walk. I decided it had already given me a full workout, and only walked long enough to test it.

Feeling a Little Cross?

So, here comes another Easter, a weird commemoration in a major religion of the tortuous execution of its founder, after which a myth was created that he miraculously came back to life.

His followers were inspired by what he presumably said while alive, advocating peace, nonviolence, kindness to those in need, and nonjudgmental acceptance of those who are different, and created a religion about him.

The philosophy he taught was worthwhile, and of course it was worth noting that he was a victim of capital punishment by religious and government officials who were acting quite the opposite to the values of the founding teacher.

The cross symbolized an especially cruel and barbaric infliction of death, used many times before and afterward. Even if Jesus were guilty of far more serious crimes than unapproved preaching, if he burglarized a bakery to feed bread to his followers, for example, crucifixion would have been wrong.

Death occurred in a matter of days but sometimes would be expedited by striking the victim in the chest with a club, spearing them or breaking their legs, so victims could no longer push themselves up to breathe. Sometimes the cross stood close to the ground, within reach of dogs and other roaming animals”

Even if he had been able to survive the experience, that wouldn’t make it OK. He wouldn’t have thought so either. The question is, why would ANY believer in Christianity approve of capital punishment?

Does it really matter that now the official murder includes only minutes, not hours or days, of physical pain? What about the weeks or months of emotional pain, fear, and dread? It is horrible to torture, but worse to kill.

When individuals murder, they usually try to avoid getting caught doing it. When a state with a democratic government does it, it becomes a performance done openly, and every citizen bears a portion of the collective guilt.

Months or years after a conviction, evidence may be found to show that the accused was innocent. If imprisoned, the person can be freed, perhaps even compensated for the injustice. But what can be done for the executed? Obviously, nothing. It is too late.

Capital punishment does NOT say that homicide is wrong. It is a statement of unequal power. It says “We, the state, can legally kill, but you can’t.”

When you see a cross, think of that.

Guilt by Association: The Original Sin Argument

Guilt by Association: The Original Sin Argument

It’s surprising how often we hear some version of “original sin” being invoked in arguments by otherwise serious and rational people.

There are no original sins, of course. Any wrong act you could commit, someone else has done it before. What is meant by the term is based on the Adam and Eve myth in which Eve eats the forbidden fruit and feeds it to Adam, condemning the entire human species to share in their guilt.

What the myth claims that the first couple did symbolized a choice to think for themselves. They refused to be puppets. Aside from the fact that the fictional couple in the story actually made the correct choice, it is clearly absurd to believe “guilt” is inherited from long-dead ancestors.

Some of our ancestors were indeed guilty of horrible things– Slavery, for example. But there is a version of original sin that says, “Because my great grandfather owned slaves, I have inherited his guilt.”

Slaveryindeed created the color-based caste system that still inhibits racial equality to this day, and those who enslaved will forever be guilty of the inhumanity that resulted, but their guilt is not ours. What IS ours is the task of opposing racism and working to end discrimination. Valuing justice and equality should be our incentive.

Everyone should learn the history of our past brutal, dehumanizing use of slaves, and of the resulting racial oppression even after emancipation. It is NOT to make White people feel guilty, but to enable our understanding of the origin of the problems and emphasize our need to solve them.

Nations often get characterized as if they were living individuals, and assigned guilt for the past actions of their government. The USA has a long list of past sins, some of them horrible For some, our nation is forever branded with them, identified with “American imperialism”.

We should never ignore our history. We need to study it and recognize the wrongdoings it contains, then do whatever we can to change attitudes, politicians, and votes to make this a better nation, within and in foreign policies. Never fail to criticize when it is warranted. If you care about your country, you should want to correct its shortcomings.

No nation and no person is always wrong, or always right. It can become a habit to find faults that aren’t there, or ignore the wrongs that are

What action a nation takes, unless it is controlled by an autocrat, depends on the complex interaction among officials in various branches and sectors of government, and who they are and what they think depends on the politics at any given time. The action chosen may be a mistake, or one deliberately guided by a selfish motive.

Other acts may beneficial, taken from an honest intent to do right, and implemented correctly.

Any action or policy should be judged on its own merit and effect. Too often some assume that past mistakes and malevolent acts add up to an original sin that cannot be redeemed, and that the behavior can never be improved.

We owe it to the world not to buy into that rhetoric.