A Bronx Cheer


Over 60 Million Tons of Produce Are Wasted Annually in the United States

          A few days ago I happened to be in the grocery store, buying some stuff to nibble on during the American League Championship Series, when I noticed a young man—I’m in a post-season mood so I’m going to call him Billy Martin–re-stocking the older fruits and vegetables. He was doing a tidy, efficient, job of it, and I was intrigued.

        The old stuff went into a box on the bottom of his cart, and with admirable speed and finesse the new stuff was shuttled into the display. Billy Martin is a man who knows his trade. And, in full disclosure, I’ve done good business with Billy in the past. Once, we needed fresh dill for pickling cucumbers, and Billy delivered: the very next day.

          I was suddenly curious to know where all of that old food eventually wound up, so I walked over and asked Billy Martin what the story was. “We throw it all out,” he said, which was surprising, and struck me as both tragic and revealing on many fronts. So I asked Billy—stupidly, it turns out–if I could take some of the old food, or all of it even, off his hands. I was thinking that our chickens would make short work of the stuff, and that the horses would love to tear into a few mildly bruised and perfectly edible apples, but I had forgotten what century we live in.

        “We can’t,” Billy told me, shaking his head, and then went on to explain that they had done just such a thing, in the long ago, until someone, somewhere, fed cast-off apples to her horse and the horse died. We have no definitive word on whether or not the apples were actually to blame—and one is suspicious of the claim–but the lawsuit for damages that followed put the eternal brakes on doing something useful with older food.

        Grocery stores around the country, getting a strong whiff of liability in the wind, shut down the practice.


What Makes The World Go Round

         Let’s review: a woman asked a grocery store for free, or greatly reduced, apples that were going in the trash. She took them home and fed them to her horse. The horse died. She sued the store. The store likely paid off—whether the claim was legitimate or not it’s generally cheaper than fighting the lawsuit (see Modern Police Work for further explanation)—and outlawed the practice.

          Billy described to me a particularly sad scene, which I had no trouble envisioning, wherein a long-time customer, an elderly gentleman who had been taking old produce off the store’s hands for years, came in expecting to pick some up, when Billy had been forced to explain the new policy. It was as if, and this is my own imaginative reconstruction, the kindly old man had been brutally struck by the fungo bat of modern litigious reality.

      This episode of the Old Produce Conundrum got me thinking about how much produce gets thrown out in America. It’s probably impossible to quantify with terrific accuracy, but one conservative estimate places the number at around 60 million tons per year. That’s 120,000,000,000 pounds of food every year. I think that number is Gazillion–wasted. An estimate on the worldwide waste of otherwise usable produce puts it at around 1.6 billion tons per year.

       In many cases, there is nothing wrong with the food at all, except that it has a blemish of some sort, which reduces the ability of stores to even sell it, so it either rots in the field or is abandoned in warehouses and eventually tossed. That is what is known as the “downstream problem,” in case you were wondering.

        We probably shouldn’t be too shocked by all of this waste, given that in the US we consume nearly 20 million barrels of oil each and every day. A barrel of oil is considered to be 42 gallons, so that means we are consuming 840,000,000 gallons of oil PER DAY.

       One is left to wonder exactly how long that kind of consumption and waste can actually go on before the trap door opens up and we all fall through it.

     We are not a country that lives lightly or even, apparently, with any notion whatsoever that we are heartily taxing the planet’s ability to sustain the 7.6 billion people who live on it. And that number, by the way, is expected to reach 11.2 billion by the year 2100.

             If you think it’s hard to make a left turn in Sisters now, just you wait.


The Reliever is Relieved…Again

            Anyway, it’s October, playoff time, and I am a fan of the notoriously evil New York Yankees. I can be that because I was raised in what my friends and siblings fondly referred to as the BFE, which is shorthand for saying a long way from anywhere, and we could choose whatever teams we wanted. The point is that Yankees fans have perfected what is known as The Bronx Cheer. This is an utterly sarcastic round of applause aimed at Yankees players who are not performing well. Dellin Betances, who in the playoffs has been suddenly unable to find the strike zone, earned his first Bronx Cheer Monday night by walking two batters in the top of the 9th–with an 8 run lead.

        So in that spirit, after my visit to the grocery store and an inspired study of our American wastefulness, I’m offering up a hearty Bronx Cheer to that nameless woman—condolences to the horse–who sued a store over the free apples she wanted, and ruined the game for everybody else.


Unzipped in the Land of Oz


Hillary and Harvey, Yucking It Up

           In the wake of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s spectacular mid-air explosion, the unholy relationship between Hollywood money and obsequious political ambition has never been more transparent. Sure, a few months ago we were all treated to the infamous “Grab’em by the pussy” bus tape, which was a window into President Trump’s narcissism, but Weinstein & Co. have gone Trump one further. What’s mostly apparent, and despicable, is that it appears these large-style abusers, the Trumps, Clintons, Weiners and Weinsteins of the world, are able to skate for years because they have political power, and more importantly, a lot of money.

           That, by itself, is no revelation—it’s the way of the world. What rubs is that these men, and women, campaign—and raise fabulous sums—by presenting themselves as paragons of virtue. There is no lie that they won’t tell. They ask us to vote for them, or watch their movies, and people do because they loudly champion causes such as women’s rights, or gun control, or whatever the algorithms suggest will curry votes in the swing states. But when the curtains are peeled back, and we are able to take a long look inside the land of Oz, all of that moralizing and grandstanding is exposed for what it actually is: utter bullshit.

            They are frauds, all of them, and they have made—and here is the scariest part—a willing mark out of the average American. They make millions upon millions selling the lie, and people keep lining up to see their horrible movies and worse—to vote them into public office.


The Autistic Hitman and the “Gun Hater”

            An audio-tape published by The New Yorker—recorded by a young model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez—in which Weinstein’s abuse is so utterly vile that any real man in America would enjoy beating his fat ass to a bloody stump, sparked a flood of fresh accusations from actresses and models from New York to LA. Most recently, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have joined the list of accusers, and Weinstein’s wife has packed her bags for, who knows, let’s just say Jackson Hole.

            Where have they been all of these years? One must tread carefully here, because blaming the victim—or even appearing to blame the victim–is a horrendous enterprise, but any cop can tell you that “victims” are not always standing on a firm foundation either. They are no less victims because of that fact, but if there is strength in numbers today then there was strength in numbers five years ago and, in the end, they all got the parts they wanted. One marvels at the power of ambition and wealth to silence victims of abuse.

            Paltrow, whose bizarre website Goop peddles something known as a “Vaginal Egg” which is meant to “improve the pelvic floor”, and who champions walking barefoot—known as “earthing”– as a cure for insomnia, was allegedly groped by Weinstein in the Beverly Hills Hotel. Jolie, Rosanna Arquette—and the list goes on—describe similar abuses by Weinstein.


Good for the Pelvic Floor

It took a while—and one can only speculate as to why–but Hillary Clinton, it turns out, was “shocked and appalled,” by Weinstein’s cavorting, which is as arid a condemnation as one can imagine. Weinstein, the world now knows, was a notorious and serial cretin, known far and wide in entertainment circles for his boorish and brutal behavior. But given her cozy relationship with Hollywood types, who overwhelmingly support her, the notion that Hillary Clinton was unaware of Weinstein’s bent is a new frontier in the realms of absurdity—even for her. This is a woman, remember, whose personal assistant was married to the now prison-bound Anthony Weiner—Carlos Danger, you might remember–and whose own husband is a prominent abuser of women, a man whose escapades reached their famous zenith when he decided to bang a star-struck intern in the Oval Office. One might reasonably expect Hillary Clinton to be especially sensitive to this kind of behavior.

            In fairness, Bill has told the world that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Okay, Bill, whatever.

But what mattered most—what always matters most to these loons–was the money. In 2016, Weinstein had maxed out on the individual contribution–$5400, but then donated an additional $68,000 dollars to the “Hillary Victory Fund” in two separate contributions. Hillary’s VP nominee, Tim Kaine—and I admit that I had completely forgotten he was an actual person—had this to say about those contributions, in an October 10 interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota:

Camerota: He gave I think $39,000 to yours and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election effort. Should that money be given back?

Kaine: Well, the campaign is over. So here is what’s happening. You got to call out bad behavior. Anybody who sexually harasses somebody or anybody who uses their position of power, especially, to coerce or intimidate somebody, that’s low-life behavior and it’s unacceptable.

And whether it’s in government or media or business, it’s unacceptable. And you’ve got to call it out. I think a number of folks who he has given money to in this campaign cycle are returning those funds. I haven’t asked him for anything. He hadn’t given me anything. But —

Camerota: You’re saying that the money for your campaign —

Kaine: It’s over.

Camerota: It can’t be given back.

Kaine: Yes, it’s over.

            Kaine, whose own son “Woody” was cracked by Minnesota cops for a bout of adolescent douchebaggery at a Republican campaign rally, is factually wrong in this case—and he knows that. But my sincerest appreciation is reserved for his masterful political dodge. Weinstein may be a tithead, says Kaine, but his money is still good. And therein lies the lesson for all of us mere citizens.

           Weinstein’s contributions are paltry, in the big picture, but what isn’t paltry is Weinstein & Co.’s ability to raise millions more for the candidates. To wit: I once served on a security detail for Vice President Joe Biden, who landed in Air Force 2 at the airport in Goleta California, drove to Montecito for a fundraiser, stayed fifteen minutes, then returned to the airport and flew away. Montecito, if you don’t know, is a rookery for Hollywood Big Birds.


I’m Running for President..How Much Is Your Dog Worth To You?

            And this morning there is Ben Affleck, whose smarmy contributions to culture—wrap your head around this–include a cynical turn as an uber-modern autistic hitman, who has now been exposed as a boob-grabber in the crater of Weinstein’s crash. Even as I write there is a developing Twitter skirmish between Hilarie Burton—whoever that is—and the Affleck militia, over who grabbed which boob and when, and more importantly, who remembers it.

            Alas, if you are still looking toward the flying monkeys from either major political party, or any of the witch’s henchmen in Hollywood, for examples of virtue–or at the very least conviction without irony–you might be better off grabbing one of Paltrow’s jade eggs and stapling your eyebrows to the ceiling.

The Petrified Man


Calcified in Mockery

In 1782 Ben Franklin published a fake edition of an otherwise real newspaper. It was meant to curry sympathy for American resistance to the British, by claiming that natives allied with the British were on the warpath, slaughtering settlers by the hundreds. Complete with phony ads and other articles, it was all fake news.

Fake news becomes fake news when it is published, or broadcast, by an otherwise reliable source. Conversely, when fake newspapers publish real news the whole centrifuge is thrown out of balance, so maybe they shouldn’t do that, either. But even when real newspapers stick to real news, and fake newspapers stick to publishing fake stories, the results can be confusing.

For instance, it may be impossible to disprove the Weekly World News’ claims that a redneck vampire attacked a trailer park in Kentucky, that a mermaid cemetery was discovered in the Atlantic, or that a woman in British Columbia was Bigfoot’s love slave. In front of a modern jury, which is essentially a collection of licensed drivers, those claims might be much easier to defend than to prosecute as taradiddles.

And in an alarming twist, “real news” headlines are often more difficult to swallow than tabloid fantasies. “Scientists Breed Glow in the Dark Rabbits,” we are told—which is both bizarre and true—or this gem, from the revered BBC: “Stoned wallabies make crop circles”.

At any rate, we seem to love a good “fake news” villain, and a plank-holder in that realm is–beyond any reasonable doubt–Mark Twain. Twain didn’t invent fake news–but he most certainly grasped the possibilities and flogged them with all of the zest and vigor befitting the energies of a Wild West boomtown.

Twain arrived in Virginia City, Nevada Territory, in 1861. After two years of cynical efforts to strike it rich on the Comstock Lode, he fell into newspapering and began writing for The Territorial Enterprise. He went on to write stories—published as fact—that he made up entirely.

Perhaps his most famous fake news piece was “The Petrified Man”, in which he wrote convincingly about the discovery of a man, said to have been dead 100 years, who had turned to stone during his long nap.


Fake News Heavyweight, Mark Twain

Twain wrote: “The people of the neighborhood volunteered to bury the poor unfortunate, and were even anxious to do so; but it was discovered, when they attempted to remove him, that the water which had dripped upon him for ages from the crag above, had coursed down his back and deposited a limestone sediment under him which had glued him to the bed rock upon which he sat, as with a cement of adamant, and Judge S. refused to allow the charitable citizens to blast him from his position.”

There had been, at the time, a general mania surrounding the alleged discoveries of “petrified” men, and his real purpose was to make fun of it. And Twain, who seemed to live on the frontier in a state of perpetual bemusement, left clues that careful readers of the piece might have noted, had they attempted to imitate the supposed placement of the mummy’s hands, a position which can only be described as the “nanner, nanner” configuration.

A decade after, in a speech given to the Monday Evening Club in Hartford, Connecticut, Twain warned about the perils of news in general: “…the trouble is that stupid people—who constitute the grand overwhelming majority of this and all other nations—do believe and are molded and convinced by what they get out of a newspaper, and there is where the harm lies.”

Instead of quashing the ridiculous, Twain’s piece helped carry the petrified man sensation to even greater peaks of absurdity.


…And Dirty Bird Wins by a Beak!  Virginia City, Nevada

The Territorial Enterprise was, in retrospect, a kind of fake news academy. James W. Townsend, a colleague of Twain’s, went on to found The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, California. He was known as “Lying Jim” and described by his former Enterprise editor as: “a unique specimen, by all odds the most original writer and versatile liar that the west coast, or any other coast, ever produced.”

Townsend, while trying to build an audience for his newspaper, allowed himself to invent an entire town, populated with a mayor and city council, with killings and robberies, law suits, railroad accidents, and a buzzing townfolk; “Every last one of which he coined out of his own brain.”

Almost exactly 100 years after Twain wrote about petrified men and Townsend was inventing an alternative world, the Enterprise struck again when editor Bob Richards published a fake story that camel races would be held in Virginia City. To everyone’s surprise, a rival newspaper arrived on the day of the fake race with actual camels, unraveling the story, but also sparking a tradition that carries on to this day, and which now includes ostrich and zebra races, complete with jockeys.

In 1835 the otherwise respectable New York Sun published a story claiming that an English astronomer had found life on the moon. Readers were told that the moon, seen through a powerful telescope, was a kind of garden party for unicorns, man-bats, and two-legged beavers. And the undisputed champion of fake news must be Orson Welles, for his 1938 radio show War of the Worlds, which terrified tens of thousands into believing that Martians were rampaging around with heat rays and poisonous gas.

Fake news is as old as storytelling. Plato warned about it. But in the bait and switch tempest of modern information exchange, and in an era when almost any bizarre claim might seem somehow plausible, it can be nearly impossible to finally discern the difference.







“Take Charge of Your Platoon and Carry Out the Plan of the Day…”  Marines in Fallujah

The graduation of a female from the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course has left many of my fellow veterans conflicted. To be clear, there is no short-shrifting her accomplishment thus far—IOC is the most difficult infantry school anywhere in the world–but we are conflicted because we are, most of us, raised with no small pride in the notion that the infantry is the last place left exclusively to men.  It is perhaps the last place where men can be left alone to just be men.

We like it that way, us grunts–a lot–but we are conflicted because we hold the simultaneous notion that women are as capable, if not more capable, than men when it comes to many of life’s challenges.  We were raised that way, too.

But this, we say, is the infantry—Marine Corps infantry–which is undoubtedly an entirely different universe. It isn’t driving a truck, holding down a radio, or pulling an artillery lanyard. Anecdotes about Russian or Israeli female soldiers aside—knowing what we know about the life it might be reasonable for us to harbor questions about the wisdom of injecting females into Marine Corps infantry battalions.

The life of a Marine Corps infantryman is defined by friction, which is a nice way of saying it requires the willing embrace of total misery, which is an even nicer way of saying that it means living for long periods of time in conditions of utter filth, injury, disease and, most often, severe physical and mental discomfort.

And that’s when no one is shooting at you.



Sleep Number:  Grunt

It means frequent 20-40 mile conditioning hikes in full combat gear, which means carrying all of the mortar tubes, 60 lb. base plates, heavy machine guns, gigantic radios, spare barrels, spare batteries, ammunition, water, and anything else needed to sustain a marginal existence in hostile places for very long periods of time.

It means never sleeping more than an hour at a time, and rarely eating anything not covered in dirt, lead, blood, and gun oil. It means frequent fights with hypothermia, heatstroke, ringworm, a host of other horrific infections, bizarre injuries—no one is more creative in ways to get hurt than an infantryman–and feet so badly blistered they are held together with benzoin—which is essentially leather glue that a Corpsman can inject into your flesh with a needle.

Most importantly, it means leading a group of 40 men who carry bottomless hatred and discontent under their helmets—and who are experiencing some or all of this misery at the same time–into the dark night to locate an objective many miles away and then to kill the people standing on it while they are trying to kill you.

It’s not for everybody.

Having said all of that, I hope this young woman succeeds. I also think it was wise for the Corps to keep her identity under wraps—at least for now. She is already a distraction, a newsy sensation, and the last thing any branch of the military needs—in a time when our armed forces are stretched farther and thinner than ever before–is more distractions.

I hope this young butter-bar lieutenant arrives in the fleet—she’s been assigned to the First Marine Division—strides across the parade deck, takes command, and earns the respect of those salty Marines—about half of whom will be combat veterans–standing in formation to greet her. I hope she can look her platoon in the eyes and earn their respect because of who she is, not what she is.


Fine living on Guadalcanal

That won’t be easy—it isn’t for men either–and it shouldn’t be. It isn’t her platoon sergeant’s job to make her job more comfortable because she is a woman—and that’s the deeper fear that so many of my fellow infantry veterans are mulling. Not that females are incapable of leading infantry Marines, but that females will instantly be treated as something other than equals because of their gender. They fear that standards they have long been held to will crater and the Corps will get weaker instead of stronger. And if it turns out any other way than completely equal, she will not succeed because she will not have earned the respect of her Marines.

And if it turns out she doesn’t belong, I hope they get rid of her as fast as they took her in. The young Marines who will deploy into combat under her command deserve that kind of honesty, because the Marine Corps is not some candyland where they pass out lollipops to non-hackers, revel in excuses for failure, or have an “empathy tent” where softer souls and weak bodies can go play with crayons.

The Corps exists solely—and trains every day of the week–to “locate, close with, and destroy the enemy, and to repel the enemy assault by fire and close combat.”

That’s it, and that’s all.

For this veteran turned observer, the only important part of the equation, at the end of the day, is whether or not this officer—any officer–is a good leader of her Marines. That means she leads by example, never asks others to do something she isn’t willing to do herself, doesn’t break in the field when people are counting on her, is fair and just with her discipline, and succeeds as a force multiplier when rounds are coming down range.

If she can do all of that, and there is no reason to believe she can’t, then she will earn the respect of the very hard and inflexible world of combat infantrymen she is now stepping into. We should all want that.


A Balmy Retreat from the Chosin Reservoir, Korea

I can admit my own skepticism. I’ve labored over it for a long time. Call it sexism, some kind of lingering chauvinism, whatever the PC flavor of the day might be. I don’t care what you call it, because I am being honest based on my own formative experiences, and honesty makes a far more interesting conversation.

And I have a stake in all of this. My own daughter will become a Marine Corps officer in the near future, and the only thing that I would ever ask for her is that she be granted the opportunity to prove herself at the highest level, to demonstrate her intellect, her iron commitment, and her physical capabilities in a level arena—not one designed to see her succeed. Given that opportunity, I know she will succeed, and hope she learns to lead with judgment, justice, integrity, and honor in the decidedly inelastic world of the Corps, where many hard and accomplished males have failed.

I hope for that because, in the final analysis, that’s precisely the kind of country my Marine Corps has been fighting—from the Barbary Coast to Belleau Wood, from Guadalcanal to Fallujah—to build, honor, and to protect for future generations.


The Sacred Blue Diamond and Southern Cross




Unsportsmanlike Conduct


NFL Referees Consulting the Ministry of Truth

The biggest problem with the NFL isn’t the mostly meaningless and entirely self-congratulatory fad of anthem protests. The biggest problem with the NFL is that the product is becoming unwatchable.

A football game lasts, on average, about 3.5 hours. A prime time game between two teams with anything on the line can last even longer. By the end of that 3.5 hours the audience has been mugged to exhaustion by an endless series of artless and grating commercials selling everything from crass patriotism to pickup trucks, from beer and bikes, to pizza and male enhancement products.

The marketing is a clue: the NFL believes its audience is a jingoistic, beer swilling, truck driving fat guy with erectile dysfunction, and accepting that scheme is the real price of admission. And that’s if you stay home to watch. Considering it costs over $500 dollars for a family of four to attend a football game with bad seats—where you might also enjoy being mugged by partisan drunks in the parking lot—why bother to buy a ticket?

You can also, we are told, buy an “all access” football package from your television provider, which will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred bucks, which is the same as buying three hundred dollars worth of Drano and pouring it up your nose.

To stay home and watch the very intermittent feats of superb athleticism, or the very rare game where the outcome is still undecided after 2.5 hours, one must agree to be endlessly battered about the head and neck by Joe Buck’s day old beard, Jimmy John’s Sausage WhamDog, Dodge Trucks, and Nationwide Insurance, snazzy jingles and all.

The game? That has been reduced to occasional, mostly predictable live-action, sometimes offering even three or four plays in a row before it’s interrupted by more commercials, two-minute warnings, or whistles and flags and zebra conferences, which always trigger more commercials. My personal favorite marketing strategy is when they bookend the jaw-dropping excitement of a punt—fair caught–with eleven minutes of commercials extolling the virtues of the Archer Daniels Midland Corporation, and a charity spot begging parents–who are presumably watching–to let their children play outside.


NFL Mary, Rocking Her Mullet for The Cause

Before and after the requisite barrage of commercial breaks, while the players stand around or sit on the bench fiddling with notebook computers—which must be tremendously exciting when actually in the stadium–we might even get to watch the referees trot off the field, don the headgear, and stick their heads under the hood so that an unseen inquisitor in the NFL Star Chamber can decide whether or not the game can continue.

There is something undeniably Orwellian about how the game is officiated.

But it gets better: while the refs are under the hood receiving instructions from the NFL Mothership, we get to watch the contested play—which happened fifteen minutes ago—from an endless series of angles. We get to replay that important moment in all of our lives in slow motion, super slow motion, and then, just for kicks, in actual human speed. We get close ups—coffee breath close—of reactions from coaches on the sidelines, or of some guy in the stands wearing a bumblebee costume and beer-cozy hardhat beseeching the heavens for interdiction.

Also, we get to listen to booth-blatherskites like Joe Buck moon over an offensive lineman with a life-long passion for origami, or a tough-luck linebacker with gang tattoos who just signed for 25 million—guaranteed—who just bought a Lambo and a house for his long-suffering mother, who also has gang tattoos–on her neck.

If that isn’t the height of entertainment, I really don’t know what is.

When the game is actually played it is now soured, at least for this former fan, with droll predictability, shameless showboating, me-first whinging, sideline temper tantrums, and routine unsportsmanlike behavior that is exactly the opposite of what coaches all over the country tell its youngest players—and their parents–the game is about.

If all of the character-building that football allegedly provides results in people like Aaron Hernandez, or Greg Hardy, or Ray Rice, or PacMan Jones, or Chris Rainey or any of the dozens of other NFL players arrested in the last few years, I’m sure I can do without.

Aaron Hernandez Football

Aaron Hernandez at his Murder Trial

Oh sure, there are lots of football players who don’t beat their girlfriends in elevators, or wave guns around in nightclubs, but the problem for me is that I don’t care anymore. Dozens of genuine good guys like Jason Witten, JJ Watt, or Larry Fitzgerald aside, there is no longer a payoff in the product worth overlooking the air of spoiled and aggressive, almost showcased thuggery that now clouds every game in every stadium.

It says something about the state of the game when fans worry an entire off-season that a key player might get arrested.

The NFL, in many respects, has become professional wrestling with pads. They are equally unwatchable events, operating on many of the same theatrical themes–one just lasts interminably longer than the other. At least in professional wrestling someone just gets hit with a folding chair, and then gets dramatically pinned while toothless trailer park grandmothers rend their garments and throw popcorn on the bad guy.

As for the protests, it’s hard to imagine a more disingenuous way to air supposed grievances over inequality, given that the minimum allowable salary, for a rookie, is $469,000. For veterans of the game, who have played at least ten years, the minimum salary is 1 million dollars. Minimum. That does not count signing bonuses, endorsement deals, or any other bells and whistles that might adorn a tender—for guys who probably won’t even play that much during the season.

This for a job, remember, that outside of mere entertainment—and we are seeing how dubious that is–contributes virtually nothing of actual value. I might make an exception for the engineering required to build some of those magnificent stadiums (often forged in sweetheart deals and at taxpayer expense), but that is a by-product of the game. Take away the entertainment aspect, and the game itself offers nothing more of intrinsic value than the bread and circuses of ancient Rome.


Ray Rice, Concierge and Elevator Attendant

Don’t get me wrong: I hope every player in the NFL makes as much money as they possibly can. I really do. But I have a hard time getting behind a self-conscious protest made by people whose very lives demonstrate–with perfect irony—how talent and opportunity can be converted into financial security in America. And for the best players in the league, the financial security is generational: their great-grandchildren will never have to pine over tuition, or rent, or choose between eating cat food or buying life-saving medicine.

Perhaps a greater protest would be against those players protesting a system that is certainly flawed, but which somehow bestowed upon them unimaginable riches and opportunity–merely for being good at a game. Perhaps we, as equally conscientious citizens, should protest their full-ride educations, or the Universities that provided them, while other students, pursuing meaningful degrees, pile on student loans they will struggle for years to pay off.  Talk about inequality.

At the end of the day, I really don’t care about the protests. I don’t care about the protests because I increasingly don’t care about the game, and I certainly don’t care about the transition of pampered jocks into social justice warriors—anymore than I care what Rosie O’Donnell or Sean Hannity think on a topic.

Tonight my team, the Dallas Cowboys—I’ve been a fan for forty years–are playing the Phoenix Cardinals. I would love to watch, and in years past I wouldn’t miss it, but Roger Staubach and Tom Landry aren’t there anymore—not even in spirit—and I think for right now, and on into the foreseeable future, as much as it bums me out, I’ll just be taking a knee.





The Shoulder Season


“Picture a weasel…that little demon of destruction, that small atom of insensate courage, that symbol of slaughter, sleeplessness, and tireless, incredible activity–picture that scrap of demoniac fury, multiply that mite some fifty times, and you have the likeness of a wolverine.”

                                                   Lord, let me die    but not die


                        For the Last Wolverine, James Dickey

A few weeks ago, on our way to the End of Summer Concert and bbq at the Camp Sherman Store, my wife and I crossed paths with a bear. He wasn’t a big bear, probably not much more than a yearling boar, and we surprised him at whatever he was doing. He lumbered a few yards into the brush, then stopped, sniffed the air, and sat by a rotten stump. We stopped too, and for a long time the three of us just sat there studying each other.

Maybe it was the smoke, or the heat, or the way the bear sat panting as he watched us, but I had what alcoholics call a “moment of clarity,” a brief window of comprehension that stayed with me long after.

For whatever reason, I thought of Hiro Onoda. Onoda, who refused to believe that Japan had lost the Second World War, finally came out of the Philippine jungle in 1974, almost thirty years late, and only after his former commander was flown in from Japan to formally relieve him from duty.

ODFW estimates that there are 25-30,000 black bears living in Oregon, which is greatly encouraging, if you believe them. But based on what we know about post-industrial human behavior, and how the chart lines of human domination and the success of other species travel in opposite directions, it may not be too far-fetched to think that in the lifetimes of our children, or our grandchildren, seeing a bear in the woods at all may be more the stuff of Onoda’s surrender than a realistic expectation.


The last Grizzly in Oregon probably died alone

I don’t think that’s too dramatic. The last documented Grizzly bear in Oregon was killed on September 14, 1931, near Chesimnus Creek, in the Wallowas. That really wasn’t very long ago. And the sad truth about it is really much worse, given that the last Grizzly bear in Oregon likely never surrendered, and probably died utterly alone, unknown to anyone.

And how could Lewis and Clark, who witnessed bison by the tens of thousands, believe that within 75 years of their journey some 60 million bison would have been hunted to near extinction?

I’m not pointing fingers. As a young man I would hide in the giant haystacks of one ranch or another, working a rabbit call and cradling a rifle. My friends and I would sit for hours in the cold, glassing the desert and calling coyotes in over the snow–so we could shoot them. We never, to the best of my memory, gave any serious thought to the rightness, or the wrongness, of it all. If anything, we thought we were doing a bit for predator control because coyotes can be truly vicious. Among other appalling spectacles, I’ve seen them encircle a calving cow and drag the calf from her body even as she tried gallantly to fight off a snarling pack of murderous midwives.

But today, in my personal shoulder season–that odd space between old understandings and the search for new ones—I’m looking for ways to accommodate rather than kill, and I worry that my behavior wasn’t much better than the garimpeiros in Peru and Brazil who, for the sake of minerals, routinely murder human beings.

Nothing says “Modern Man” quite like shooting our primitive and defenseless cousins for profit.

We’ve seen that before, too. Settlers in the country where I was raised thought nothing of taking random pot-shots at Paiutes or Maidus, or Bannock and Pit River natives who were usually starving, and sick, had no means to defend themselves, and were simply travelling on the wagon road.

What’s more disturbing is that in some way, with only rare exceptions, we have inherited the mindset. We are part of that lineage because we are, in a direct sense, part of the horrors in the Congo, where children are forced at gunpoint to dig up minerals such as Coltan for our cell phones and computers—by hand.


The bear on the road to Camp Sherman

I know a lot of people who think that is wrong, but I don’t know a single person who is willing to give up their cell phone or computer so that kids in the Congo don’t have to do that sort of thing, or who would trade the comparative comfort and convenience of modern American life to help stop the slaughter of stone-age tribes in Amazonia. We couldn’t even manage that kind of decency in our own backyard. And these days we mostly don’t see it, so it’s far easier to rationalize those concerns away and to invest emotionally and financially in the anodynes that ultimately do nothing but preserve the disease.

Again, I’m not moralizing here; I place myself firmly, inescapably, in the ranks of the consumer. This is simply the dichotomous web of modern life, and the more we struggle against it the deeper, it seems, we are caught.

“Things reveal themselves passing away,” wrote Yeats. That’s true, but only if we are paying attention. Hiro Onoda revealed himself in the last sad act of a war for domination, resources, and liebensraum that consumed the world, and a few weeks ago a bear revealed himself to us in the under-logged woods of Oregon.

He wasn’t the last bear, not yet, and he’s fighting a war for resources that he isn’t even aware of, but somehow I think these things–the bear, the natives, the minerals, and Onoda, are all related. In fact I know they are related, in the same way that I know the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, spilled out onto a table, somehow, eventually, with the due diligence that is our responsibility, fit together into a much larger picture.

A Word, If You Please



Today I wanted to take a brief moment and offer my sincerest thanks to you all, the readers and followers of The Bunkhouse Chronicle.

We have recently reached a humble milestone: over 30,000 individual views of the Chronicle. From Bosnia to Mozambique, Guatemala to Estonia, Morocco to Cambodia, readers have checked in to see what was happening in the Bunkhouse. Yesterday we had a reader from Pakistan, which was a first.

That’s a modest start–many sites get that kind of traffic in a day–but it is a very long way from where this all started.

Every writer wants readers—in the words of my favorite Montana poet, Richard Hugo, “If we didn’t, we might as well just write diaries”—and this writer, if that’s what I am, is very grateful for your support, your comments, your encouragement, and your loyal readership.

This morning our colt, in a feat that I may never quite understand, somehow managed to lift a paddock gate out of its attachments and set it down where he preferred to have it. The other horses, like so many eye-witnesses, have been mostly unreliable in the investigation.

So I’m off to fix a paddock gate, and to ponder the enduring mysteries.

But first, I wanted to say thank you.