My Cousin Elmo says, “I know people who have spent more time in Facebook jail for fake ‘fake news reporting’ than Jussie Smolett has done for real ‘fake hate-crime reporting.'”

An Unapologetic and Uncorrected Ramble About Mark Twain

“I am not alive. I am dead. I speak from the grave.” — Mark Twain

In his 70th year, Mark Twain would perform a show in his brownstone on Fifth Avenue in New York. He would tell stories, crack jokes, and cut the high and mighty of his time down to size.

“To-morrow I mean to dictate a chapter which will get my heirs [and] assigns burnt alive if they venture to print it this side of 2006 A.D.,” he wrote a friend, before calling the Bibles portrayal of the “Lord of Creation…the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere.”

Twain planned to share the dictated record of his musings and rants, but he knew that the publication would have to wait “at least a century after his death, give or take a few years.”

His audience consisted of two people, stenographer Josephine Hobby and newly appointed biographer Albert Bigelow Paine.

“We constituted about the most select audience in the world,” Paine recalled, “enjoying what was, likely enough, its most remarkable entertainment…It was absorbingly interesting; his quaint, unhurried fashion of speech, the unconscious movements of his hands, the play of his features as his fancies and phrases passed in mental review and were accepted or waved aside.”

He also seemed ahead of his time explaining how people take their opinions from others, then herd themselves into self-protective groups.

“We are discreet sheep,” he says. “We wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove.”

On the subject of political behavior: “Look at the candidates whom we loathe, one year, and are afraid to vote against, the next; whom we cover with unimaginable filth, one year, and fall down on the public platform and worship, the next, and keep on doing it until the habitual shutting of our eyes to last years evidence brings us presently to a sincere and stupid belief in this years.”

He roasted John D. Rockefeller for preaching a Sunday-school lesson full of “twaddling sentimental sillinesses,” and Theodore Roosevelt for giving a patriotic gloss to atrocities committed by American troops in the Philippines. About Roosevelt, he proclaimed, he was “the most formidable disaster that has befallen the country since the Civil War,” the vast majority of the American people loved, and even idolized, him.

Twain declared Andrew Carnegie a bore, who took “juvenile delight in trivialities that feed his vanity,” adding that Carnegie keeps his place “on top of the wave of advantage while other men as intelligent as he, but more addicted to principle and less to policy, get stranded on the reefs and bars,” and by endowing libraries, “has bought fame and paid cash for it.”

He candid about his unscrupulous publisher, Charles L. Webster, and critical of the publishing world, he opens himself and his total output to razor-sharp sarcasm. He refers to his complete works as “a pile of paralyzed old books,” and describes his 1895 lecture and book tour around the globe as a “money-grubbing raid.”

Twain detailed what led him to fire his secretary Isabel Lyons calling her a “liar, a forger, a thief, a hypocrite, a drunkard, a sneak, a humbug, a traitor, a conspirator, a filthy-minded & salacious slut pining for seduction & always getting disappointed.”

Twain lost $250,000 on the Paine Typesetting Machine. Of the inventor, he stated, [“James W.] Paige and I always meet on effusively affectionate terms, and yet he knows perfectly well that if I had his nuts in a steel-trap I would shut out all human succor and watch that trap till he died.”

Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in Liverpool, England, in 1907, Twain compared himself to “the little skipper” of the Mary Ann. Exchanging greetings with the captain of “a majestic Indiaman,” her decks swarming with sailors and a capacious cargo of Canton spices, the skipper identified his vessel as “Only the Mary Ann, fourteen hours out from Boston — with nothing to speak of.”

For one hour in every 24, Twain indicated, he was as meek as the Mary Ann, 14 hours out, carrying vegetables and tinware. But in the other 23, he acknowledged, “my vain self-complacency rides high…and I am the Begum of Bengal, 123 days out — and homeward bound!”

By his admission, vain and lazy, Twain was a complicated man. For example, Twain explains that he wears white clothes in both the winter and summer because he wants to be “clean in a dirty world; absolutely the only cleanly-clothed human being in all Christendom north of the Tropics.”

He expands on the importance of “the pause” in public lectures. Audiences need time to absorb the absurdity of a situation. But if the pause is off, “by the five-millionth of an inch,” Twain maintains, the audience has time “to wake up from its deep concentration in the grisly tale,” foresee the climax, and the joke falls flat.

Twain added, “there isn’t any way to libel the intelligence of the human race.”

Awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University, Twain sought to rid himself “of thirty-five years accumulation of bile and injured pride” by noting that although American institutions conferred degrees to hundreds of individuals who were certain “to drift into obscurity…I have seen our universities…overlook me every time…This neglect would have killed a less robust person than I am, but it has not killed me.”

Twain at first advised American Rhodes Scholars upset over the selection of Alain Locke, a black scholar, who subsequently received a Ph.D. from Harvard, edited the literary anthology The New Negro, and became a cultural critic, that their opposition was neither wise nor just. When he learned Locke received low scores in “popularity,” a character trait valued by Cecil Rhodes, Twain decided not to refer to the matter in his talk to the students, even though he conceded that Locke’s unpopularity was due to his color.

His dictations ended in December 1909, following the death from an epileptic seizure of Jean Clemens, his youngest daughter. Already inclined to melancholy and still mourning the death of his wife and eldest daughter, Twain was inconsolable, yet hopeful, with Clara Clemens living in Europe, he had thought he and Jean “would be close comrades — just we two.”

Twain died on Apr. 21, 1910.

Penny Dreams

As a child, I dreamed of growing up and dazzling the world. But time and disappointment chipped away at me until only the real stuff was left, and it was not all that dazzling. Tired stories, a sack of regrets, and a reverence for the pieces of me that survived.

All this ruination has stranded me in a dark place where I stare at my fingertips, realizing I cannot offer the world what I had hoped. But I still wake up each morning and draw my hopes on the sidewalk, though every time so far, they have been trampled over or hosed off, or the rain rolled them into the gutter.

I am not all I wish I were, but I am here, trying, awake, and part of the story even if no one ever hears it.

I get it now.

1985

At a certain point, daydreaming will not do it. I had spent too much time in that venture as I sat at the dock looking out over the Pacific Ocean.

Penny slots, one-armed bandits, Nevada, and gambling that had been the dream and to make it rich and return triumphant. Lo! Life had another plan for me.

Rolling east across the Mohave desert, the once 19th-century farm wagon was no more, replaced by a late 20th-century Volkswagen Bug. Still hot, still dusty, less room but more efficient.

My travels came by way of my girlfriend’s family home, along the mixed-up track of several numbers roads and byways, until I sped down the ramp of Interstate 15. Because I had no firm plan other than to find lodging and seek work, I promised to call her once I got to wherever I was going.

My only company for the next few hours would be the AM radio, news/talk, classical music, and Jesus. I rotated through them as their signals weakened to a cacophony of garbled sounds or faded to a soft hiss.

Las Vegas came into view after dark. It was blinding and exciting, though still many miles away.

Housing was a series of motel rooms at first in the drearier areas of the city, not that the Strip was any better as I would soon learn. Whores and hustlers, loud noises, and even brighter lights.

All of this was before the transformation to a family-oriented village-like atmosphere. Casino guards still carried guns and would use them to defend their employer’s gambling chips without being asked.

Though November, wind blowing dust from everywhere, walking the sidewalks in search of my dream proved impossible. I took a job flipping burgers.

To work in the daytime, I saw stereotypical scenes.

A black man, a bright yellow Cadillac, a small fedora on his head, and fat stogie drooping from his oversized lips. Red Foxx onliners rang through my head.

I could hear the raucous laughter.

Chicano teens in bright white wife-beater tees and cream-colored chinos, decked out with gold chains, head bandanas, and Keds. Cheech and Chong, the Other White Album, “Dave’s not here,” skits.

This time I laughed.

Queers, Trannies, hustlers, crossdressers, the homeless, and others, avoiding or failing to find classification. They were societies jetsom and flotsam.

Nobody laughs.

From work, after dark, I would see other stereotypical scenes.
Women, women, and more dressed to the nines, standing along the boulevard they called the Strip. They stood amid the litter of handouts offering up the latest and best escort services, hoping to make some luck tourists day.

Around the dirtier corners and back alleys home to my one-room abode, the less fashionable of the trade wandering and shouting com-ons to lost the passerby and those simply trying to get home so they could do it all again.

It all fascinated me. What made these women sell their bodies, if not their souls.

One woman sees me looking out the window and waves. I return the polite gesture.

Still, she stands there looking at me. With an angry shrug of her rabbit-pelt-clad shoulders, she turns her back and steps into the gutter to talk with a “john” who has pulled up.
Abandonment, money, survival, it was always the same.

The sadness is so overwhelming I think of killing myself.

Two months, then three, and I was ready to return to the more genial life I had left along the Northcoast of California. But pride forbade me to go home, and instead, I packed my version of the Connie and headed north to the Biggest Little City.

No map, no plan, I went ‘north young man.’ No sooner had I debarked from Sin City than I came to an elevation that presented itself with snow.

Snow came from the east, from the west. It pushed at me from behind and bogged my little Bug down to crawling speed. But like the pioneers of yore, I pushed on.

Then my wipers died, and I had to reach out of the driver’s side window to remove the freezing snow as it slammed and stuck to the windshield. I cursed my rotten luck as I wheeled my way through one sleepy and darkened town, nearly striking a tree growing in the middle of the road.

Often I have wondered where that happened, but even with the advent of the Internet, I have never been able to learn its location and return to that near-fatal spot.

Then my heater followed the way of the wipers, and I cursed my misfortune even more as I now had to roll my window up after scratching out a viewpoint on my windshield.

A few months before, because it started leaking oil and blowing black smoke, the car received a rebuilt engine. It was no small task either, nor inexpensive as I had a 911 Porche mounted in the rear end.

Three years later, the same thing happened, and I ended up trading her in for a Hyundai. To this day, I still mourn for that Bug, not because of what it was, but for what it represented.

A simpler time.

As for the Hyundai, it ran like a champ for nearly 13 years. It began to overheat and blew two hoses to the radiator before it caught on fire along the Interstate, and I had to pull over and get my son and his stepbrother out of the back seat before completely being engulfed.

The fire department and police arrived about the same time, and while a friend was taking the boys to school, the cops cuffed me up for arson. It would take an act of God and the fire marshal to clear my name and prove it was not my fault.

Even though I studied to be a law enforcement officer and worked as a deputy reservist for a time, I have found myself on the wrong end a few times. I threw away $1,200, which became grand larceny-theft; nine years later, I received stolen property in the form of a video camera a manager loaned me without the proper paperwork. Finally, I called my son’s middle school principal a name, and I got busted for disturbing the peace.

There are two takeaways from the above tale: law enforcement officers will follow the law as long as they do not have to work to bring justice to a situation. And the justice system is rigged to force a person to act against their better judgment.

Unfortunately, I am not lubricated enough to make my argument sound any more uncomplicated than I have done. Maybe later.

All night I slugged my way north, through unknown towns and burgs, uphill, downhill, and sharp curves, both left and right. I saw only two other vehicles that night and into the early hours of the morn.

Both were parked on the side of the road, going no place, evidence of intelligence and self-awareness.

How I found Interstate 80, I have not a clue. I did have an idea of east and west, so I turned left. Still, I pushed on into the dark morning towards what I hoped would be Reno.

Suddenly, between two massive walls of a rocky canyon, I saw the first hint of my prize. Bright lights in an inkiness I had only experienced once before as I rolled east towards Vegas.

It would be another three or four months before I dove east on that piece of road and saw all the splendor I had missed in the dark. It is still a fascinating drive to this day.

My heart leaped for joy and my butt unpuckered. It would soon be okay, and I could find rest, relaxation, and refreshment after my long, freezing journey.

The price for a room at the MGM was far too steep for me, so I decided to sit down and toss a few quarters in a machine and hope a waitress would offer to serve me a cocktail for free.
Broke and still no waitress, still no cocktail. Only a rising ball of bile in my stomach, the ringing of bells, coins in the metal pans of the slot machines, “Cigarettes, cigars, gum,” and a dizzying world of lights and no way of registering the time.

Disappointed in myself, my weakness, my loss, I walked to the men’s room and splashed water on my face. I turned, and an old black gentleman handed me a hand towel to dry myself.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Sorry, I don’t have a tip to offer you.”

“Don’t worry, but let me offer some advice, do not gamble. The house always wins.”

“Thank you.”

As I walked by the seat where I had blown much of my cash, an older woman was beaming, having won the 100-thousand dollar jackpot and the new car sitting on the carousel, center stage of the bank of slot machines.

There is a reason they are called one-armed bandits. And there is the reason why I do not gamble.

Wandering the casino floor grew irksome, especially when told to move along by security officers. It would be a year before I understood the ‘eye-in-the-sky’ had been tracking my every movement in that cavernous room with the loud colored carpet.

Down the long walkway, I finally took to strolling. Posters of old movies, many I had seen, statuettes once owned by actors and actresses that I had watched on television, lined the walls.

Then there was the famous stairway, where at four in the morning, a lucky couple had their wedding photographs taken. Above them glimmered an opulent chandelier, beaming rainbow light streaks over the area below.

I have always wondered if their marriage succeeded, and what a shame if it didn’t.

Making an abrupt change of direction is dangerous business in a casino, especially when filled with hobnobbers seeking their next party. For me, my danger was Joe Montana, San Francisco 49er Quarterback, whom I walked into and who knocked me back on my derriere.

Not many without a jersey can claim such an embarrassing moment. I did get an autographed photo out of the ordeal.

For two weeks, I slugged it out with MGM security, moving my Bug from one lot to the next as I did my best to live from that cramped space. Finally, down to my last few bucks, I had a change in fortune and found a room at a boarding house for $50 a week.

By the way, as a side note, we went to work for the MGM in security, but only after it became the Reno Hilton. Talk about coming “full circle.”

With a place to lay my head and address to use for work, I quickly found myself employed as a writer. But do not get too excited about that queer descriptor, as I wrote keno at the Cal-Neva, not the career choice one selects when numbers look like scribbles and scratches.

“You are not dressed for work. Where are your ‘black and whites?’

“Black and whites?”

“Yeah, black pants, white shirt, black tie, black shoes.”

“I don’t own anything like that.”

“Well, go buy some or don’t come back.”

“You can get them cheap across Virginia at Woolworths,” someone offered.

As fast as possible, I rushed across the street and bought a shirt, a pair of pants, a belt, and a tie. Then I sprinted downstairs at the casino to change, so I might get a few hours in before I got fired.

The black man at the shoe-shine booth and guarding the bottom of the stairwell and restroom doors offered me a free shine.

“At least nobody gonna say you ain’t spiffy.”

Smiling, I handed him a two-dollar tip. Now, I had less than five bucks to my name, and I had to make that last through payday, still two weeks away.

Three months later, I had some more success. I landed a job doing radio overnight on the weekends.

He liked the letter I had sent to him and every other program director in the valley whose name I could learn. I also sent him an aircheck from a radio station I had worked for before I embarked on my magnificent journey.

He was less impressed with that than the fact that I had been the voice for Paul Bunyan for four years.

“I was the spieler for a tourist attraction.”

“A spieler? What’s that?”

“A P.A. announcer.”

“Oh, like a carnival barker.”

“Yeah, something like that.”

I got the job, but it did not last because I found another one, which did not last either.

Then I left the Cal-Neva for John Ascuagua’s Nugget in Sparks. Again, I was a writer, but not the kind of writer I dreamed of being.

Pitfalls to this job came daily, as I had a disability that prevented me from understanding numbers. I made many an adding error that the desk had to correct.

Further, twice in one day, I wrote a $50,000 ticket and was removed from the game to sit in a back room to ‘cool off.’ Worse still, I was not allowed to go downstairs to collect the $5,000 tip offered by one of the winners.

Blessed keno. I lasted another three years before finally landing a full-time radio gig, where at least I could rewrite some of the promotions I repeated from shift to shift.

Nightly, I returned home smelling like cigarette smoke and feeling so defeated that I could not find the emotional energy to pick up my pen. At least I had my radio show.

Before landing a full-time radio gig, I had a brief interlude where I came and went in the blink of an eye. Because I had worked in a couple of different professional photo labs, I had gone to a career placement center, and they sent me to a lab in Carson City.

I was there for only two days when the manager decided I was not a good fit for her business, leaving me unemployed for nearly three months.

Slowly, I became a night owl, sleeping during the day and working at night. It was not the penny slots that I had dreamed of all those years before. It was better because I also started writing for a radio magazine and nationally televised nighttime show host and comedian Jay Leno.

Watching someone open a secured door allowing a knife-wielding crazy man into the building, a shoe-box with electrical wiring hanging from it, coworkers found dead in an empty studio, and calls from listeners requesting to hear this song or that tune. It came with the territory, though save for the last of the list, never expected.

After bashing the knife-wielding crazy man in the head with a disused teletype machine and then having to pay for damaging it, I found myself canned. Another time I was in a recording studio when two women walked in off the street. Blamed for leaving the door unlocked, I got the ax.

Still, in our newly-wed phase, I came home one Saturday morning, stripped off my duds, and crawled in bed for a two-hour nap before having to go to my other job at the casino. I was snoring pretty hard when I was violently shaken awake by my bride.

“What is this?” she said, holding up a folded envelope I had forgotten was in my back pocket.

“Well…uh…I can explain.”

“You had better!”

“Every Saturday and Sunday morning as I start my shift, I say good night to the cowboys and truckers for the ladies working out at the ranch. And so, they sent me those free passes as a way of saying ‘thanks.'”

Never saw that envelope again.

Always wanting a touch more, I landed jobs working in the movies. It started before I left the Northcoast with a small film about an alien left behind and nearly falling into government clutches. My big break was shaking a two-by-four attached to a line of trees.

Ever struggling to make ends meet, I washed dishes, mopped floors, washed bedsheets, and then found myself on the set of the third film in a series of movies that I had never seen. Enter Mark Hamill’s stand-in and eventual stunt double.

I still have the autographed picture that reads, “To Tom (Luke II!) from a galaxy far, far away. Mark Hamill.” That and a handful of call sheets.

Carrie Fisher and I even became lovers for three weeks. Her boyfriend, singer Paul Simon wanted to fight me, he was so angry about our ongoing rendezvous.

“What would you like to do tonight after we wrap?”

“Same thing we always do, let’s fuck all night long.”

“Damn, you’re my kind of woman.”

“Hey, you, fucking asshole, you know who I am?”

“Yeah, and so what?”

“You’re screwing my future wife.”

“I doubt that.”

“Why, I’m going to kick your ass.”

Simon’s bodyguards, he had two of them, intervened by lifting him off the ground and carting him off. I had no idea he was such a short-statured man.

And I still think I could have beat him in a good old-fashioned fistfight. Hell, who knows, the two of us could have even ended up being drinking buddies afterward.

She was sweet, and I miss Carrie. And she never did marry Paul Simon.

Disappointment rolled in early the following year when neither my face nor my name appeared on film. It was hard to look my friend’s in the eye because I was sure none of them believed me.

Once settled in Reno, I found all sorts of movies to be a part of, from Starman, the T.V. show, to Pink Cadillac and Sisterhood, Cobb and The Cooler. There were others, all as an extra, and I have put them from my mind.

The Cooler is the closest I ever came to having a speaking part. As one of the two stickmen at the craps table, actor William H. Macy tosses me a casino chip, and I say ‘thanks’ before tapping the chip on the edge of the table.

The shot was so far away that not only could you not make out my face, but then the film was speeded up to show how a ‘hot’ game can ‘cool’ rapidly and then returned to standard speed as I tapped on the table’s edge.

One late night, after the set wrapped, I got on the elevator. Actor Alec Baldwin followed, moving past me to the rear of the carriage.

“Have a good night, Mr. Baldwin. Hope you get some sleep.”

Crickets and a side-eye were his response. I never spoke to him again, though we rode the elevator together several times.

Eventually, these things ran their course, and I found myself seeking work I would never have imagined doing when I was younger. Hired to drive fence posts into hardpacked earth, string barbed wire, chase cows and horses, I learned about cowboy poetry and collected ideas for a story or two.

At least once, I found myself wrapped up in my work, literally. That is to say, a rather lengthy piece of barbed wire came uncoiled and found it necessary to wrap itself about my body, head to foot.

It was a painful lesson, but not nearly as excruciating as being dragged through a cactus patch because your horse got spooked by a tumbling sage bush and decided to quit you. Days and weeks, plucking needles from places one cannot reach on their own come and go in uncomfortable ways.

But being wrapped in barbed wire happened only once. Getting knocked from a horse occurred with more frequency than my body would like to remember, and it was usually caused by my negligence, a failed tie-off on the horn, or a sudden but violent jerk down from a roped heifer or steer.

Dislocated shoulders and long, bumpy truck rides to the doctor are not fun. And it is hard to wipe your bum or even pick your nose with a handful of dislocated digits.

Other times stupidity followed where the whiskey and bottle flowed. A cowhand, recovering from the night before, was sure that the old and fragile mountain cat that was trailing us, and that I pointed out, was a danger.

It was all I could do to not laugh because I had been dropping bits of jerky for the old guy to eat since he was getting too weak to hunt anymore. I can be tender that way.

Perhaps, blowing up a privy by accident with someone seated on the hole and because he was plan ornery is not your kind of fun. Then neither will the tale of a guy getting knocked head over heels by a wild bull running through the outhouse that he is using, only to end up landing in the trench below.

Nor will I share my exploits as an emergency medical technician and the odd things I have witnessed over the years. Suffice it to say that violent death is the worse while live birth is often the best.

However, there was that one time when I was on the radio during a breech birth, and I had asked for another ambulance with specialized equipment to respond. I quickly learned that the baby was coming with or without their arrival.

“So you want her knocked her out?”

While waiting for a response, the ambulance driver clipped the mother on the chin, knocking her out. Had it not been for the headphone and mic set I was wearing, I would have murderized that man.

The headphones plugged into the overhead console prevented me from reaching him as he ran from me. I hit the end of the cord and bounce on my keester.

A poor choice of words on my part, but mom gave birth to a healthy baby girl anyway.

One afternoon a man exited his car into the street without checking what was coming up behind him. He bounced several dozen feet after a bus hit him and his car door.

Arriving, we assumed he had severe injuries, so we planned to ‘scoop and run’ instead of ‘stay and play.’ As we packaged him for transport, he asked jokingly, “Did anyone get the license plate of the bus that hit me?”

I knew at that moment that the man would survive his ordeal.

Being on an ambulance crew is fine for a while, but the burnout rate is phenomenal. I decided to save what sanity I had left and become an instructor. I even had the fortune of speaking to the legislature one Fall afternoon in an attempt to convince them that Washoe County should not have the final authority over who is qualified or not to be an EMT.

All my training came in handy as I spent four months nursing my parents back from the brink of death. It is the first and only time I returned to the Northcoast to live, and I never want to reside there again.

Writing it down makes it suddenly sad to say, but the truth is the truth. Besides, only my sister and her family live there. The rest are either dead, moved away, live elsewhere, or as in the case of my son and daughter-in-law, are less than 15 minutes from me.
It took me 20 years to finally find that sweet spot and land a cush job as a news reporter. It lasted less than a year, but what a wild ride I had in the meantime.

There is so much dirty politicking happening at the state and federal levels. I found my niche, and I rolled in it like a pig in a mud pit as I went after one bad apple after another.

Guys like the younger George Bush and Harry Reid were always in play, and I thought them fair game as they sidestepped the Constitution all the time and without a hint of remorse. I also found that I could become a target, so to speak, as Internet outliers used the web to beat me into submission.

After a local politician blamed me for his failing campaign in a letter to my editor, I lost my job. I did not help myself by having published that letter on my blog for all the world to read.
I take full responsibility for what went down.

Ah, the good old day.

That sent me packing back to radio, where I languished between swing and graveyard shifts for seven years. It was the first time in my career that I was happy to have been canned, though I did not enjoy how it happened.

Let me say this: if you call a spade a spade, do not be surprised when that spade tries to bury you.

2022.

Margaret (Babb) Martinez, 1957-2022

We all have our little superstitions, though many do not like to admit it. I have my own, including never wishing a friend a happy birthday on their Facebook page because it seems that every time I do, that person passes away.

While it isn’t true, it has happened enough times and registered so plainly in my psyche that I avoid doing it. And as I finally remove it from my mind, it happens again.

Last night I learned a childhood and lifelong friend passed away. Margaret Babb, now Margaret Martinez, had spent the last few years fighting cancer.

Happily, she was surrounded by family as she finally closed her eyes one final time on this earthly plane. I pray she is swimming with the whales that she dearly loved in the expanse of that big Pacific ocean she knew so well.

We first met in 1967 while moving into our new home, next door to the Babbs. They had four girls, and we spent the day playing more than helping pack stuff into the house.

One evening, a year or so after the family moved away following the father’s death, the girls and their mom came up for a visit. While away, she had developed into a young woman — but I did not understand this.

To me, she was jus’ Margaret, the same girl that roughhoused and played grab-ass with me for years. So, I commenced with roughhousing and grab-assery.

When she finally had enough, she spiked me in the grass, holding my arms down and over my head, and with her large breasts, that I had loosed a few moments before, began beating me in the face with them until I had a couple of fat lips and a bloody nose. When she finally got off me, I understood full well what “knock it off,” meant.

“What happened to you?” was the question when I walked inside the house.

“I hit myself in the face with the basketball.”

Hey, it’s difficult as a 12 or 13-year-old boy to admit you’ve been beaten up by a girl, let alone that her boobs left me bloodied.

She smiled at me as I disappeared to the bathroom to clean up. I learned my lesson and never played grab-ass with any girl again.

Later, she apologized, and I told her, “I’m the one who needs to apologize,” which I did.

When we reconnected a few years ago, we both had a good laugh over the incident. It is that laughter and those chats that I’m going to miss.

Ernie’s Advice is Crap!

“Write drunk, edit sober” is a maxim attributed to Ernest Hemingway. It may work well in fiction writing, but not for historical news articles.

Even though I took cold medicine before bedtime, I still could not sleep. What it did do was leave me feeling intoxicated and desirous for something to do.

I decided to write.

Within a couple of hours, I had tallied nearly seven-thousand words about mail trains. With the need for sleep finally kicking in, I saved my work, turned off the computer, and crawled between the sheets.

The following morning, I arose refreshed and ready to get back to the article. With coffee in hand, I powered up my computer, opened the document, and began to read.

“What in the…?”

There, somewhere between Neanderthal, Anglicised Cantonese in a Bavarian accent, and Washington DC idiocy was an editors nightmare. I discovered made-up words, words so poorly spelled that I could hardly make out what they were, and others made of random letters strung together.

And let us not get into the grammar of the thing.

It took me three hours of deciphering, rewriting, and deleting till I whittled the tangle down to 530 words, creating a cohesive article that even I understand now. I wish I could say I did this without cussing, but alas…

For my next news writing experiment: write drunk, and edit drunk.

Twice Shushed

So ill was I that I thought I was going to die, but it did not prevent me from dreaming or, at the very least, hallucinating. The two I recall most emphatically involved God or a being I believe is God.

I have flown in my dreams for years, sometimes high, sometimes low to the ground. I then read someplace that flying dreams are associated with God-like desires.

Try as I might, I tried to fly from the sidewalk in front of our home. The best I could do was jump a foot off the ground and maybe a foot or two forward.

Disappointed and confused, I sat on the bench on our porch next to a man. I hadn’t seen him there before I took a seat.

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked.

He looked at me, lifted his right pointed finger to his lips, and shushed me. I have not had a flying dream since.

The next is even odder.

The same being from the bench danced and twirled across my backyard, so I opened the door and shouted, “Hey, God, I command you you heal me!”

He appeared to ignore me, continuing across my yard. He then bid me be quiet, his pointer finger of his right hand to his lips, before touching the tip of a tree branch with the same finger, causing the entire tree to blossom tiny green leaves.

God shushed me — twice.

Do Your Homework Before Hand

Hired to take photographs of a Venezuelan military review earlier this century and fresh out of adventures, I took the assignment.

As the parade moved down the open court, passing the cheering crowds, I had a surreal moment of being pulled back through time. It was like watching an old Movie Tone newsreel, and I felt flushed with trepidation.

With their naturally tan skin, brown eyes, and black hair, these soldiers, some on horseback, some in tanks and other equipment, were majority goose-stepping to the steady rhythm of drums and trumpeters. Their crisp gray uniforms, bright insignias, highly polished knee-high black boots, and the traditional helmet worn by German soldiers during World War II took me complete surprise.

It was back to Nuremberg, Germany, and the 1938 Reichsparteitag, but in full color.

We Are Being Lied Too, Again

The same media that controlled the narrative of a pandemic is also using the same tactics to frighten us when it comes to Ukraine and Russia. Vladimir Putin is trying to halt a neo-Nazi movement ensconced in the Ukraine government while protecting the citizenry of two self-declared independent regions.

One sentence.

In 2008, Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two Georgia breakaway regions. Russia provided them with financial support, offered Russian citizenship, and thwarted Georgia’s NATO aspirations by denying it control of its territory.

The same applies to Ukraine.

The Donbas region of eastern Ukraine contains two provinces, Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR,) bordering Russia. Citizens from these two areas declared independence right after the 2014 Ukraine revolution.

However, Ukraine has used military and paramilitary forces to regain control of the regions, killing about 14,000 people and displacing millions of residents. Russia has since prevented Ukraine from liquidating these regions, from joining NATO or the European Union.

The US media are not reporting that:

The United States backed the violent coup in Ukraine in 2014 to justify a new NATO military mobilization against Russia. Obama administration spokespeople announced that the administration had financed and orchestrated the organizations participating in the demonstrations on the public square, the Maidan.

President Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland visited rioters several times, refusing to acknowledge that in addition to peaceful demonstrators, there were openly neo-fascist gangs conducting an armed insurrection against the elected government. Nuland was also caught by wiretap instructing the US Ambassador to Ukraine who the new Prime Minister would be.

Referring to Parliament members Vitali Klitschko as “Klitsch” and Arseniy Yatsenuk as “Yats,” she stated, “I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think Yats is the guy .”

Government military forces and neo-Nazi militias carried out perpetual warfare against the Donbass region of the country, which refused to submit to the illegal coup. Western media, meanwhile, continues to claim Russia caused the problem by objecting to the Kiev government, annexing Crimea, and invading the Donbass.

The coup d’état against President Victor Yanukovych succeeded on Feb. 22, 2014. His life in peril from commandoes of the so-called Maidan Self-Defense Forces, Yanukovych fled, ultimately seeking asylum in Russia.

The 2014 coup followed the example of the 2004 Orange Revolution, where maidan rioters claimed Yanukovych’s first election was fraudulent. In December 2004, they forced a revote, which Yanukovych lost.

Yanukovych ran again in 2010 and won.

However, his November 2013 decision to delay signing with the European Union became the pretext for a full-scale coup. Rioters moved into Kiev, saying they would not leave until Yanukovych left office.

As a side-note…

The color revolution method, as in Orange Revolution, is simple. “Color” refers to how a single color, symbol, slogan, or demand, promoted and repeated often enough, can inflame passion and retard reason. In its latest application, a color revolution operation was conducted in an attempted coup against the US manifesting in mob-think, mob-defiance, and mob-violence, funded by operations connected to Soros.

More than two thousand non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Ukraine, funded by the US, the UK, the EU, and Soros’ Open Society projects, continued to shape public opinion. Meanwhile, Nuland boasted that $5 billion had gone into Ukraine through State Department channels in the form of grants to develop an intellectual community of experts, oriented against the Russian Federation and directed toward shaping Russophobic attitudes in Ukrainian society.

Nuland addressed a Washington D.C. National Press Club event, stating, “Since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1991, the United States supported the Ukrainians in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government. We have invested more than $5 billion to help Ukraine achieve these and other goals.”

While many people came to the Maidan waving EU flags, the paramilitary groups marched under the red and black flag of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the mid-20th-century fascist movement of Stepan Bandera. The OUN had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II and carried out the ethnic-cleansing mass murder of Poles and Jews on its own, as well.

These neo-Nazi groups called themselves Right Sector; their formation and build-up from 1991 to 2013 came directly out of funding to Bandera’s followers by MI6 and the Allen Dulles wing of the American CIA during the Cold War.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine in March 2014, voting to join the Russian Federation. In the Donbass, the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) and Lugansk Peoples Republic (LPR) declared their independence, leading to 14 thousand killed by Ukraine army units and the Right Sector battalions.

Negotiations held in the capital of Belarus and conducted by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine, reached the Minsk II agreement between Kiev and the Donbass republics for a ceasefire and prospective political settlement in that region in February 2015. Controversy remains over the Minsk II commitment to Constitutional changes in Ukraine and autonomy for the DPR and LPR.

The radical nationalists in the Ukrainian Parliament, with Right Sector figures among them, have refused to revise the Constitution as Ukrainian forces staged a creeping offensive to regain control over the Donbass region.

Alexander Hug, deputy chief of The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe-Special Monitoring Mission for Ukraine, reported that forces in Kiev had positioned large-caliber artillery, including howitzers, tanks, and rocket systems banned under Minsk II in the open with impunity.

Senators John McCain, Lindsey Grahan, and Amy Klobuchar spent New Year’s Eve with Kiev troops near the front line with the DPR. McCain issued a letter to Trump, ignoring Hug’s report, blaming the Donbass escalation on Russia, demanding the US supply Kiev with “defensive lethal assistance” weapons.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko then announced his intention to hold a referendum on joining NATO. Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman visited NATO Headquarters in Brussels to meet with NATO Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller, formerly an undersecretary of state in the Obama Administration.

The media ignore this, focusing instead on Trump handing Ukraine over to Russia, as when Eurasia Daily Monitor analyst Pavel Felgenhauer complained, “If Trump hands over Ukraine, he will make Russia great again.”

Among the most aggressive in the maidan operations was the Right Sector, founded in November 2013 as a paramilitary confederation. Made of three groups, including the Tryzub or Stepan Bandera Trident, founded in 1993 by successors to the Hitler-aligned 1941 Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera (OUN(b), named for Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian Hitlerite, who founded this organization in Munich during WW II.

“The newly formed Ukrainian state will work closely with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler, which is forming a new order in Europe and the world and is helping the Ukrainian people to free itself from Muscovite occupation,” states the OUN(b) 1941 proclamation.

National-Socialist is a Nazi.

In 1943, the military unit set up by Bandera’s OUN(b) carried out a mass extermination campaign against Poles and Jews in Ukraine, killing an estimated 70,000 civilians during the Summer of that year alone. By April 1948, Bandera was working for British intelligence, whose 1956 MI6 report described him as “a professional underground worker with a terrorist background and ruthless notions about rules of the game.”

In 1948, Bandera’s top lieutenant Mykola Lebed, who carried out the Ukraine exterminations, went to work for the CIA, heading the front company, Prolog Research Corp., controlled during the 1950s by CIA Director of Plans Frank Wisner. US Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) tried to stop Lebed from entering the US, but CIA Deputy Director Allen Dulles secured permission for him to come and go at will.

The other two constituent groups of the Right Sector were the Ukrainian Patriot (UP), and the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO).

Founded in 1991 as the neo-Nazi youth wing of the Social-National Party of Ukraine, UP became the Svoboda (Freedom) Party, whose leaders were committed to Bandera in 2004. UP members were known for their paramilitary training and deployed to the Maidan in December 2013.

Likewise, the UNA-UNSO and its youth arm, Bily Molot (White Hammer), founded in 1991, entered the Right Sector in November 2013. Members occupied positions in the post-coup government, while their neo-Nazi organizations, like the Azov Battalion, were absorbed into the military and bureaucracy.

As a young Ukrainian emigré in London in 1984, U.S.-based backer of the coup, Natalia Diuk had very close contacts with Prolog Research, whose 2008 poster glorifies the Nazi 14th Waffen SS Division. She married Adrian Karatnycky, also of Prolog headed Freedom House, and took part at the Atlantic Council.

Dmytro Yarosh became the leader in 2007 of the Stepan Bandera Trident, then head of the Right Sector in November 2013. In July 2013, he called for a national revolution in Ukraine and an end to the “Russian Empire.”

Andriy Parubiy founded the Ukrainian Patriot (UP) youth group in 1991, which became a Right Sector unit in November 2013. He was Commandant of the Maidan. Following the coup, he became Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council and later Chairman of the Ukraine Parliament.

Yuriy Lutsenko was the founder of TUR (Third Ukrainian Republic,) which cited the earlier two republics as, first, that of 1917, and second, the 1941 Hitlerite Bandera Stetsko Ukrainian State. In 2017, Lutsenko was the Prosecutor General of Ukraine.

Yaroslav Stetsko was Bandera’s deputy and the declared head of the 1941 state; his widow Slava Stetsko continued his work.

Oleksandr Turchynov, a parliamentarian for the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party, was Speaker of the Rada and was unconstitutionally installed as Acting President on Feb. 26, 2014, by a coalition of the Svoboda and Fatherland parties. Turchynov was Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.

Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, a parliamentarian for the Batkivshchyna Party, was unconstitutionally installed on Feb. 26, 2014, as Prime Minister by the Batkivshchyna/Svoboda coalition. He held the position until April 2016.

Vitali Klitschko was a parliamentarian for the Udar Party (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms,) a boxing champion, and Mayor of Kiev.

Oleh Tyanybok was a parliamentarian for the Svoboda Party.
He was Chairman of the Ukraine Parliament.

Holos Ameryky, security chief for Bandera, co-edited the Prolog-associated Soviet National Survey. She joined the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 1990 as Vice President for Africa, Central Europe, and Eurasia.

Victoria Nuland was Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs from 2013 to 2017 when dismissed by the Trump Administration. Nuland was the lead liaison for the 2014 coup in Ukraine.

She was also a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2003 to 2005 and Ambassador to NATO from 2000 to 2003, advocating out-of-area deployments and similar operations.

Her husband, Robert Kagan, is the co-founder of Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which included targetting Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen to destabilize Russia, India, and China.

Nuland’s Jan. 15, 2014 assertion that the coup was a spontaneous democratic upsurge, “[T]he movement that started as a demand for a European future grew into a protest for basic human dignity and justice, clean and accountable government and economic and political independence of Ukraine,” is disproven.

It is the same story as a YouTube video causing a spontaneous attack on a US embassy, leaving four Americans dead. US media outlets pushed that claim till it was proven false.

We are being lied to again, but few are catching on this time.

Grand Marshal, Almost

It is not every day that the swing-shift announcer gets asked to be the Grand Marshal for Independence Day. So I jumped at the offer.

It was early Friday evening, and I went to find my contact. That person turned out to be a rather wonderful-looking and wonderfully built rancher woman.

She showed me where I would be bunking for the night. It was a ranch house with several empty bedrooms and a large spread of food laid out on the table.

Up the street from the ranch house were the rodeo grounds where cowboys and women were in the finishing stages of a rodeo. I sat on the fence and watched, hoping someone would offer me a bronc to brace, but alas…no.

As night slipped over us, out came that weekend’s main attraction, the Ragin’ Cajun Doug Kershaw. We spent the night dancing around the hardpan arena and drinking beer.

My contact hardly let me out of her sight as we heel-toed to every tune that Louisiana fiddler knew and then some.

After midnight, I headed back to the ranch house. The food was gone, and so was the beer, so I retired to my room and climbed into bed.

Laying there, listening to the music, I heard a noise from the kitchen. I pulled on my jeans and tee-shirt and stepped out to see my hostess doing the dishes.

I helped her.

Once done, I left her to put away the dishes and returned to bed. Soon I heard her knock at my door, which she opened and poked her head inside.

“May I come in?”

“Sure.”

She didn’t turn on the light, which I thought was strange until I realized she was removing her clothes. We took our time making a mess of the bed linens.

Nearly dawn, she rolled from the bed and got dressed. Slipping into her boots, she leaned over me and kissed me deeply.

“Gotta go, my husband’s probably wondering where I am.”

After about two-and-a-half hours of sleep for me, I got up, cleaned my face in the bathroom down the hall, and finished dressing.

Coffee was already on, and I had a cup. As I stood on the porch hoping to see my hostess and learn where I was to be for the start of the day’s parade.

Then a guy came up on the porch, “There’s a change in plans. Doug Kershaw going to be our Grand Marshal. So we don’t need you now.”

When the Laughter Can’t Be Heard

Many people, including, and most especially including Program Directors, do not know how often we overnight jocks get a call from a celebrity appearing in town. It happened to me many times, and sometimes they were very memorable.

One such was the Sunday morning ring-up I got from Richard Colangelo, a comedian appearing at Sammy’s Showroom inside Harrah’s Reno or one of those places. That call led us to ride around that day, me telling him about Northern Nevada and him telling me off-color jokes.

He comes to mind as he took his life on Sat., Mar. 10, 2007. I think I still have his private number in an old inoperable cellphone, hidden away in one of my many junk drawers.

We knew Richard Colangelo by his stage name, Richard Jenni.

Bohemian

It was midsummer, and I’d been at the radio station for about five months. It was the first station to hire me since my moving to Nevada, and I was happy to be doing the graveyard shift on the weekends.

That evening, I decided to wear my Birkenstocks, an old pair of OD green jungle pants from my military days, a white knee-length shirt (otherwise known as a nightshirt,) and a black six-button vest that I left open to work. It was not my usual jeans, white tee-shirt, and tennis shoes or boots.

My coworker and friend Kathy McCovey looked me up and down, then said, “What in the hell are you wearing?”

I smiled and shrugged, “So, I felt a little Bohemian.”

Don Bennett, 1927-2021

As a child, should I stand outside my front door on Redwood Drive, I could see to my right the Philips’, the Salsbury’s, most prominently, Mrs. Keatings, and further in the distance, the Myers home, though it partly blocked by a small hill. The hill, at one time, had been a simple mound of dirt and one of three, left to nature, and because of that, wheat grasses had grown over it till it looked like the rest of the field.

If I were to stand at the end of my driveway, I would see the Babbs’ home, the Morgan’s, the Methodist house, because it was for the minister family to live in, followed by the Champion’s and the Peterson’s. Not in view would be Mrs. Van Vanten’s home, Judge Hopper’s, or the Walcott’s, and hidden by Mrs. Keating’s home was Wright’s house.

Such was the layout of homes in my neighborhood.

One afternoon I came home to find the field, with its hills, trees, and the bluff, a three-foot drop off where previous excavation had left off, razed. Gone too was the late 1950s model Coca-Cola machine with no doors, but filled with rainwater and home to tadpoles and Polly-wogs and frogs.

At first, it was upsetting, but then I learned it came following a burglary of Mrs. Keatings. The perpetrators, whoever they were, had used the nearby copse of pine trees to hide, leaving behind expensive Native American artifacts.

It was Don Bennett who cleared the field. With Mr. Bennett’s passing on Fri., Dec. 3, 2021, only Bonnie Peterson, Carolyn Seats, John Van Dusen, and 91-year-old John Arnold, that I can think of, remain.

The Price of Business

Years ago, one evening, a reporter raced out of his house to find his car would not start. He called a cab.

What was so important? A house fire on the fire/police scanner.

Paying the cab driver, he got out and went to work. Fire crews made short work of the structure blaze and returned to their station.

Suddenly, he found himself alone, miles from home, and since cellphones were not available, he had to walk the four or five miles back into town. Such is the life of anyone who works in the rural newspaper business.

After missing our publishing deadline, I knew I’d have to deliver the newspapers once printed. No problem, since that is part of my job.

It happens that on that day, my truck had broken down and was in the shop. Further, my wife’s car went crazy and all sorts of sensor lights popped on along her dash.

So, taking a cue from the reporter, I called for an Uber ride to help me get my delivery out. It’s the first time I used the service ever.

It cost over $200 to complete my deliveries, the price of doing business. As I finished, the repair shop called to tell me my truck was ready, so add nearly $400 to my spending for the day.

But it didn’t break the bank — I still have 56 cents to my name, so I’m ahead.

Regardless of Politics, Bullies Need Their Asses Whipped

Not what I wanted to write about today, but not unlike the 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the room, address it I must.

True, I did once tell him to “shut up, the woman is offering up a prayer,” at a Hungry Valley Reservation Numaga Pow Pow, before Steve Sisolak became Governor, but I’d never verbally assault the man or his wife like the two men at the restaurant did. And after watching the now-national video of the verbal assault, including a threat of lynching, I’m reminded of when my wife and I dined next to Nevada’s then-Democratic Governor Bob Miller and his family.

It was at Olive Garden, and while I admit that I did not care for Messr. Miller’s policies or politics, I did not present myself as a nuisance or threat. We even made polite talk about anything and everything, save politics. It was a pleasant outing for all.

While not a fan of Messr. Sisolak, his politics or policies, I am a fan of decorum. Those men’s mistreatment of the current first family of Nevada leaves me appalled, and had I been there, I would have stepped in the loud mouth’s way as I detest bullies of all stripes.

Yes, they would have stomped me into the ground, but not before I hurt one or both of them. I’m an old man, not a boxer.