Archive for February, 2010

28
Feb
10

peculiar place

I love the town of Terlingua and the people in it, so I hope you won’t get the wrong idea when I say the place is downright peculiar.

Terlingua is about twenty miles from where we live, an ugly collection of roadside shacks and metal buildings surrounded by breathtaking beauty. It’s our source for almost everything we can’t make or grow here. We drive into town every two days to stock up on the necessities: propane, food, table water, toilet paper, gasoline, etc. We can usually buy everything we need in Terlingua, even if it’s not everything we want.

We also go there to do our banking, take showers at the RV park, wash our laundry at the Laundromat and, usually, to take in a meal at one of the restaurants and catch up on the gossip. We usually don’t learn much, though. People live here because (and not in spite of the fact that) not much changes here.

The new things we do learn usually have to do with people’s pasts: that is, what they used to do in the outside world before escaping here. It’s not an uncommon thing to learn that the store clerk you’ve always taken for granted as “just a store clerk” once worked as an emergency room technician or a computer programmer or some other highly-skilled thing. People find their ways here because they’re smart. Terlingua is populated by individualists and anarchists.

Because of this, doing business in Terlingua is always a logistical challenge. Shop and restaurant owners only work when they want to, and their regular hours of business simply do not match up.

The health food store (our source of Pellegrino, organic half-and-half, Sumatra coffee, and real peanut butter) is open from nine to twelve and three to six every day except Sunday. The bank is open from nine to eleven and two to four-thirty Monday through Friday. The hardware is open from nine to twelve and one-thirty to five Monday through Saturday. The mail doesn’t arrive at the post office until noon each day, and the service desk is closed from noon to two-thirty Monday through Friday (except legal holidays and weekends when the post office is closed all day). Kathy’s Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe is closed Mondays, as are the Grub Shack and Che (our favorite, which is also closed Saturdays and Sundays). Susi’s Snack Shack is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays or whenever else Susi has something better to do. The woman who runs the H2O Store hardly ever is there; her water business operates on the honor system. There is a sign on the door at Whitehorse Station that says: “Open when can, Closed when caint.” You get the idea.

It’s impossible to drive into town whenever you want to and get everything done you need to do—efficiently, that is. If you show up at the Study Butte Store for propane anytime before three o’clock on Thursdays, you will have to wait until Ringo returns from his weekly run to Midland for supplies. On Friday we showed up at the Cottonwood Market looking for a roast and had to wait an hour-and-a-half before Rick got back from Alpine with the goods and they were unpacked and shelved. “We’ve spent more time in town today waiting than shopping,” I said to Paul.

The rules from establishment to establishment are different, too, and not always predictable and hardly ever consistent. For example, there is no smoking on the open porch of the Ghost Town Café; smoking is only permitted indoors. Go figure.

If you are an unreformed Type-A personality, you might not do very well out here. If you’re in the beginning stages of age-related memory loss, you definitely won’t. But then again, maybe you wouldn’t care. 

Except for the occasional confused and exasperated tourist, no one else out here seems to mind.

We’re all peculiar.

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27
Feb
10

unravelin’ & scramblin’

Yes, what I wrote last Tuesday in “Keystone Cops” is absolutely true.

As if any more proof were needed, the State of Pennsylvania will apparently stoop to any underhanded thing to win its case. This was demonstrated on Wednesday when the prosecution sent its own psychiatrist to evaluate Jordan Brown in connection with the hearing, currently in continuance, to determine whether Jordan will be tried as a child or an adult.

The state tried to pull a couple fast ones and failed.

The doctor they sent, Dr. John S. O’Brien II, is well-known as a reliable advocate for the state’s interests—you know, one of those “expert witnesses” who can always be counted on to back up the state’s assertions and arguments in court, no matter what.

Twice during the interview, Jordan’s attorney David Acker had to stop the questioning when improper questions were asked. The second time, Acker took O’Brien out of the room and told him, “If you ask one more question like that, this interview is over.”

The state’s shrink was obviously sent there, not to evaluate Jordan’s “amenability to rehabilitation,” but to extract some kind of statement about the circumstances surrounding the crime that could be used against Jordan in the trial itself.

This conclusion is backed up by the fact that the prosecution dispatched a police investigator from halfway across the state to “pick up Dr. O’Brien and drive him from the airport.” Yeah, right.

They tried to get this investigator to sit in on the interview—a gambit which was denied by Mr. Acker. The investigator was clearly sent there to fish for new evidence against Jordan (evidence which does not exist).

This highlights one of the curious things about our legal system: The police are allowed to lie to you to get you to say whatever they want you to say, but you cannot lie to them. That would be perjury and is punishable in and of itself. Just ask Martha Stewart.

The bottom line is that Jordan told the truth—again. His story hasn’t budged one bit in the year and seven days (as of today) he has been in custody. The prosecution discovered no inconsistencies with what Jordan has been telling the authorities all along—that he knows nothing of the crime because he wasn’t there. Jordan and his sister were on the school bus when the murders likely happened.

With the state having sent such a prejudiced expert for this evaluation, there’s no telling how he might color his report. But unlike the police interviews (for which interview notes were destroyed and only partial recordings were made), Jordan’s attorney was there for the full interview and he can bring the truth to bear in cross-examining Dr. O’Brien.

The state has not acted fairly, nor with integrity, from the very beginning of this sad affair. It was unlikely they would act any differently in this instance and, true to their track record, they didn’t.

I think it is significant that the investigator who was Dr. O’Brien’s “driver” urged Jordan’s father not to talk to the media about the case. “Nothing good ever comes of talking to the media,” he said.

Good for whom?

Of course they don’t want the story to come out. The careers of many so-called public servants will founder on this case.

I’ve already heard that the superintendent and principal of Jordan’s school (who allowed unlawful police interviews of Jordan to take place) have decided to resign or retire. The superintendent of the jail was sacked and his assistant who released Jordan’s mug shot to the media (against the superintendent’s direct orders) was demoted (Now think about that for a moment: the guy who disobeyed orders was only demoted, while the guy who gave orders to do the right thing was fired?!). One of the lead police investigators who engineered Jenessa’s tainted statement retired.

When the full, disgraceful truth is exposed to the light of day, other heads will roll.

26
Feb
10

signs of spring

Last night was a major milestone in the year: it was the first night since October that we did not have to run our propane space heaters all night.

I cannot describe the bliss of sleeping in complete silence without the constant hiss of money being burned. There will be many more such nights to come.

Four or five days ago we saw our first of the famous Texas bluebells blooming in clumps along the road to town.

People are lingering longer at the Grub Shack, three roadside picnic tables under an open tin roof, set up around an old camping trailer which serves as the kitchen.

The Spring Break tourists are returning. Two days ago I was in line at the Study Butte Store behind a little old guy with a huge RV and a pretty wife. His gas bill was over $250. The store and restaurant owners in town are in good moods.

The pretty girls in town have shed their sweaters, jackets, and sweatshirts for tank-tops and shorts.

Everywhere the signs of strain in people’s eyes and faces are beginning to disappear as they speak of winter in the past tense. “That was the longest and coldest one I can ever recall,” they say.

People are beginning to describe their usual laid-back and even lazy ways as “Spring Fever.”

Now it is just a short matter of time before the turkey vultures return and remove all doubt that spring is here.

25
Feb
10

recovered catholic

I grew up about a quarter-mile away from the University of Notre Dame in a creekside brick Tudor home with an acre of lawns and big trees.

If this sounds great, it wasn’t. Almost the whole time we lived in that house, I was enrolled in Catholic schools and hated it. I lived through six-and-a-half years of mean-nun hell.

All Catholicism ever did for me as a kid was to make me feel bad about myself. The church taught me I was born in a state of “original sin” and were it not for their ritual of baptism my soul would have been hellbound—or, if I had died as a baby before the sacrament, I’d have been damned to Limbo, a boring place where the souls of babies sleep in a perpetual vegetative state. Either way, the church said, you were screwed without them.

The church conditioned me, through its ritual of weekly confession, to think of my life as one damnable sin after another—a rather gloomy view of existence, don’t you agree? In a perverse way, however, the prospect of easy absolution also encouraged me to view life as offering an endless string of opportunities for carefree sin, of which I availed myself repeatedly with mindless ardor. As long as I remained within the church’s net and made it to confession every Saturday, I had little skin in the deal. I could still look like Mr. Perfect and take communion on Sunday.

As soon as I realized I was able to, though, I left the church and never looked back. The only times I’ve ever been sentimentally tempted to reconsider my chosen path have been on those fewer and fewer visits to my old home town. Since my mother died fifteen years ago, the only times I’ve returned was to attend a couple Notre Dame football games in my great-grandfather’s 50-yard-line seats, which my family still owns after more than seventy-five years.

The Church in Ireland: Bad for the Brand?

My last visit there was last November for the Navy game. It erased forever any lingering doubts. The University has mestasticized into an industrial-strength campus much different from the Bells-of-St. Mary’s place I remember so fondly as a boy. My own guild-laced memories, combined with the revelations of clergy child sex abuse scandals in the US and now in Ireland, have amply reinforced my decision to move on. Seeing Notre Dame on this last visit home helped me see, once and for all, the church for what it is: Big Business.

In South Bend the church has taken the concept “fishers of men” to new heights. Notre Dame has turned into a sprawling, university-gothic-on-steroids complex on the scale of River Rouge but without the smokestacks. I don’t care if I never go back.

I had been accepted there and was actually planning to attend Notre Dame before I changed my mind about it and Catholicism. While making a painting at age 18,  I remember seeing just a brief glimmer of what I was to eventually discover in a stunning moment of profound insight. Unfortunately, it was a thread which remained unexplored in the hangover which followed my early intoxication with the church.

The vision did not re-emerge for me until twenty years later when, at age 38, I met Jim and Ellie Newton, a man and wife from Fort Myers, who claimed me as a “grandson” and introduced me to the concept of non-intermediarianism in religion or, more precisely, in one’s spiritual relationship with God.

They pointed out that religions almost always position their clergy and institutions between the individual and God as a “one true church.” Since the beginning of time, like fishermen netting spawning salmon in a river, the priests have known that one of the strongest urges of man is to achieve unity with God and all creation and, most especially, a connection between the individual and God.

I have since come to think of the church as basically a system of diversion gates and entrapment ponds which takes advantage of the blind desire of human “fish” to make their ways to God. Since the beginning of human history, priests have created sacred texts, stage-set temples and churches, doctrines, laws, and rituals as paraphanelia for shunting, diverting, and controlling human perception and behavior. In this way they dominated the masses and the mass mind. Even the kings of old could not be crowned without the intercession of the church.

Jim and Ellie were personal friends of at least one such king and queen (and at least one prince of the church), and they taught me that intermediarianism is a strategic sham regularly perpetrated by the powerful in government, banking, and religion. They told me we individuals can do more by ourselves than we may think. They said that each of us can establish a direct connection with God—a palpable, numinous, life-changing connection—any time we want. They showed me how. It is not difficult. They showed me that each of us has had the innate ability to connect with God since the day we were born.

God, they said, is like a radio station that is always broadcasting. All you need to do is tune in and listen, and heed the flawless directions you receive. That was twenty-four years ago, and since then my life has never been the same.

Seven years ago I met Paul at the coffee shop in Marathon. He had come in from the wind and rain while traveling cross-country from San Antonio to California on his bicycle. Each day, reading and quoting Tolstoy and Ghandi, he was guided by the same inner “voice” Jim and Ellie had taught me to hear. Paul was the first person I’d met since Jim and Ellie who self-evidently took the idea of following the Guidance of God so seriously. Then, as now, he seemed to have been a literal godsend in my life.

Paul has been living with me off and on for seven years. He has the gifts of foresight and healing, and he is inventive with his mind and hands. He can build or fix anything; the work here at Estrella Vista would not be moving forward without him. He is as a son to me, and he well tolerates my quiet, monkish ways.

The main thing I find challenging about living with Paul is listening to the daily news headlines interspersed with explanations about how this or that latest outrage or statistic or natural disaster relates to an End Times sequence of events foretold in the Book of Revelations. Paul has the whole Bible memorized and sees in it prophesy as well as hidden codes, guideposts, and formulas for achieving enlightenment and union with God. Paul seems to welcome every misfortune as a milepost marking the approach of a dawning Age of Enlightenment. I do not discourage his ideas because I believe Paul was sent to me so I might learn from him and his example. But this doesn’t mean I must always find it enjoyable living with a Jeramiah who is always quoting scriptures that I associate with an unhappy period in my life.

I personally believe the sun will rise on the morning of December 22, 2012 (or any other day-after which may be scheduled as the end of the world). Paul believes this, too. Yet, as Paul is quick to point out, the sun will likely rise on a very different world than we live in today.

If and when that day arrives, people will be motivated to turn to the religions of their childhood for answers which might assuage their fears. If they can find such solace in organized religion, I will not begrudge them any comfort they may find there. As for me, however, I need only listen in silence for that voice deep within that will never betray my trust and faith.

As Paul so often tells me. “The Kingdom of God Is Within You.”

24
Feb
10

small hinges

Paul has been scolding me the last couple days. He wants me to tell you more about all the progress at Estrella Vista. I don’t blame him. He’s excited. When the reverse osmosis water filter arrived yesterday, you’d have thought it was Christmas.

A lot of supplies have been arriving here, day after day, to help move us forward in our vision for survival through the coming times of trial.

Paul’s right. As evidenced by our new charge controller for the windpower and solar generators, a lot of small positive steps have been taken here. This report is a little overdue.

As I reported on Saturday in “fingers crossed,” we have been fabricating the new greenhouse as the weather permits. Saturday, for example, was a beautiful sunny day once the fog burned off—but it was too windy to install the plastic membrane on the PVC ribs of the greenhouse.

Paul was crestfallen, saying: “This place is forcing me to learn patience.” I did get a gamely chuckle from him when I said that at least I could get back to my rockwork. “The rocks won’t blow away.”

On Monday there was a lull in the winds, so Paul and I dashed to complete the fabric installation. We got one large panel installed before the winds came up again, making it impossible to finish. Only one panel remains—maddeningly, the smallest and easiest to install.

As the greenhouse project moves forward in fits and starts, Paul and I occupy ourselves with other projects. Paul has been fabricating his hydroponic equipment (and now has the reverse osmosis system to play with) and I have been working on my stonework.

This is what has been keeping me busy on the warm beautiful days: a stone patio on the east side of the house, with adjoining walkways to now-nonexistent structures (an octagon kitchen and round dining deck).

I have always enjoyed working with stones, and I find myself surrounded by an infinite supply of material. The work is slow-going, as each stone must be located and gathered, brought to the site, fitted into the emerging jigsaw puzzle, and individually cut into the ground and leveled. When I began this project I was satisfied if I got three stones into the ground in a day. Now I believe I am up to about five or six. And many days, of course, stones are not being put into the ground at all.

Yesterday spring suddenly turned into winter, and even the rock work had to come to a stop.

Patience…

It is from projects like this that I have always derived the greatest satisfaction in watching a vision, at first seen in a flash, slowly materially unfold in time and space. The serpentine line of narrow stones marks the presence of an underground water line that Paul has dowsed. Earth energy revealed.

The vision emerges stone by stone. Steadily, relentlessly, it appears. If there are times of no money and other construction comes to a halt, this stonework will continue on. We are, as I’ve said, surrounded by an abundance of free building material.

I value this project because it is teaching me patience and the pleasure of finding gratification in small things. It also provides me a way to set a good example.

An expression I’m fond of is: “The big things in life swing on small hinges.”

Paul has big visions of things he wants to accomplish. He has a vision of natural healing and age reversal which requires a doubling or more of atmospheric pressure. It has taken him years to acquire the hyperbaric equipment and he is almost ready to begin his experiments.

He has a vision of being able to feed hundreds of people a day growing food on the desert. Paul knows what he’s talking about. He grew up on a farm and his biological dad is a soil scientist. The vision is emerging from his genes and experience. As with our stone patio, it is revealing itself part by part as Paul assembles his hydroponic equipment.

He has a vision of building a gyrocopter which combines all the advantages of a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter (and none of the disadvantages of either) with mechanical simplicity, fuel efficiency, speed, range, and safety. It would put us within hours of just about anywhere we’d want to go.

All these visions have many small parts and hinges, and I am encouraging Paul to accomplish as much as he can each day with whatever resources he has at hand. Even if we don’t have all the resources we’d like, we must soldier on. We are in a race against time and events.

The world as we know it is disintegrating. Warren Buffet’s longtime partner Charlie Munger has reportedly said American capitalism is on its last legs. Eighty percent of Americans think our government is broken beyond repair. Forty-one states will be financially broke by the end of this year. Alan Greenspan has said we are experiencing the worst financial crisis “ever.” All the infrastructure upon which our society has come to rely looks like it’s about to fly apart.

Only the clever, self-reliant, and strong will survive the coming tribulations. But these qualities alone will not be enough.

Vision is required—a vision encompassing human purpose and morality and an ethic for daily living which is harmonious with the tides of energy and change. “Without vision the people will perish.”

Stone by stone, gadget by gadget, day upon day, a positive and regenerative vision is emerging here.

Whether our vision will deliver on its promises only time will tell. Yet we continue to serve the vision and are helping it to manifest here in the faith that it will.

23
Feb
10

keystone cops etc.

Right about now you might imagine the prosecution is scrambling as their case against Jordan Brown is unraveling. The physical evidence coming back from the crime lab has blown out of the water their whole scenario for the crime. They’ve got zilch. All their physical evidence proves is that the police screwed up big-time.

The prosecution’s been dispatching investigators far and wide, looking for dirt on Jordan, anything at all, that that might support their “Addams Family” fantasy. The best they’ve done is identified a witness who will testify Jordan flipped off a passing car when he was two. Too true.

Whoooo… really scary!

This case would be so laughable were it not for the uncomfortable detail that Jordan has been locked up for a year and three days for something he didn’t do. He has had a birthday, a Thanksgiving, and a Christmas in detention and cried himself to sleep many lonely nights.

An innocent child who never committed a crime or hurt anybody in his whole young life is locked up with, and being influenced by, older delinquents who are teaching him who-knows-what.

The prosecution’s psychiatrist will be interviewing Jordan this week. Call me naive, but isn’t this an opportunity for the Keystone State to stop acting like the Keystone Kops and come to its senses about this case?

What if this doctor came back to Deputy Attorney General Krastek and said, “Tony, I don’t think Jordan did it. That kid doesn’t need rehabilitation. He needs to go home with his dad.”

Would Mr. Krastek have the courage to do the right thing? Would he be able to tell the people of the Commonwealth that it is the state’s responsibility to prosecute the right person for the crime, and that all the evidence they have clears Jordan of any responsibility or suspicion?

I am fifteen hundred miles removed from the events in Western Pennsylvania and it is easy to imagine that maybe there could be a little Atticus Finch in that prosecutor out there.

Dream on.

Everything I know from experience with public officials tells me this is a vain hope. This isn’t the movies. It is far more likely the state will further discredit itself in a lame-brained attempt to prove itself right.

But wouldn’t it restore your faith in justice if Mr. Krastek were just a little like Atticus, who taught his children to do what’s right through his own example?

Wouldn’t it restore your hope in humanity (just a little, but maybe a lot) if Mr. Krastek acts as Atticus spoke: “Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

21
Feb
10

belated anniversary

I could kick myself. I forgot.

I called Chris Brown yesterday and was so focused on the launch of the Jordan Brown Trust Fund’s website and on the issues surrounding it, I forgot Saturday was the one-year anniversary of Kenzie’s and the baby’s murders.

I didn’t acknowledge it (stupidly!) and Chris didn’t bring it up (gracefully).

Now I know it was on his mind for the whole day. Each anniversary of Holly’s death, Henry and I still walk through our memories of her last day with us. After seventeen years, it is still a heavy day for Henry and me. But for Chris, the memories are so raw. Just a year…

A year is a short time for grief, but a very long time indeed for a little boy and father who have been cruelly and wantonly separated by the greatest tragedy in their lives.

Their anguish has been compounded by a terrible, nightmarish year that has heaped insult upon injury.

I have long ago put away the childish delusions taught in the civics books when I was a kid, but a part of me can still not believe that our system of justice is so broken that the Jordan Brown story is happening here in America.

It makes me ashamed of this country. I was always taught we were better than this. It makes me sick to witness all the rage and hatred that have been projected at this innocent little boy.

It has been harder still because Chris has revealed his broken heart to me in long late-night calls. I like and admire the guy so much, and it offends my sense of justice that such bad, bad things can be happening to very good, even model, people like Chris and Jordan.

It has been very difficult sitting on the truth for months and months, while the whole world—misinformed by dishonest police, a sleazy former prosecutor, and by irresponsible media—believes that Jordan is a monster, a fiction backed up by Kenzie’s grief-stricken family which was cynically manipulated into providing tainted statements supporting the prosecution’s implausible (and impossible) crime theory.

All that will begin changing tomorrow when the Jordan Brown Trust Fund website goes live. Now we will finally begin pushing back with the truth!

Please visit either savejordanbrown.com or jordanbrowntrust.org tomorrow (they’ll both get you to the same place). Familiarize yourself with the facts of the case and please consider supporting Jordan’s defense with a generous gift.

Supporting Jordan will benefit the kids in your life, too.