Wednesday, October 29, 2008


"Ed" from Bogalusa, La the only interviewee who gave permission to post


I stealthily ensconced myself at the heart of this glittering metropolis and walked the major casinos. Suddenly I was seized with the question posed above and decided to answer it. I called on my intuition to drink in this hoopla, digest it and spit out an answer. (Try challenging your intuition sometimes–it’s wiser than you think. I think of FAITH as trusting my deepest intuition)

I walked for hours but no answer came. I still didn’t “get it.” I went to bed. Next day I got serious and began to engage the “wheel watchers”. I probed 16 of them, 8 of which were serious players: (lets call them addicts) 4 slot players, 2 dice, and 2 blackjack. I engaged the 8 serious players in depth charming the truth out of them. (Two of them required charm plus dinner) I dug deep into their background, looking for commonalities. And then–and then suddenly BINGO! I got it! I found the commonalities and I think I know why 100'000 hard-core gamblers sit in front of machines pushing buttons or rolling dice etc. The answer surprised me and will be difficult to communicate but I’ll try. It’s not about money. Though real money is a necessary component, it is not sufficient.

Before I give you the answer, I’ll reveal what the 8 addicts had in common. All of them had WILDLY UNEVEN PARENTING during their formative years. Sometimes super duper nurturing and sometimes neglectful and even punitive. The child’s behavior was seemingly irrelevant. They could never quite figure out how to win the parents loving side, so that when a parent approached, a certain feeling awakened in their tiny body–that of ANXIOUS HOPEFULNESS.
(each described this is different words–like “nervous wishing” and “didn’t know what was coming–kissin or kicking) All hurried to tell me that they loved their parents–They emphasized this suspiciously strongly–but I believed them. Do you see where I’m headed here: I believe that these 8 people got HOOKED ON A FEELING, IDENTIFYING EXISTENCE ITSELF,AND WELL BEING, WITH THAT PARTICULAR FEELING, SOMEWHAT LIKE SOME ANIMALS GET IMPRINTED WITH THE FIRST SCENT THEY DETECT. AND I THEORIZE THAT SLOT MACHINES PROVIDE PEOPLE WITH A REASONABLE FACSIMILE OF THEIR FIRST "EMOTIONAL SCENT."

So here’s the answer my intuition provided. Same answer said 8 different ways–what these 100,000 people are doing is:

I know it’s true of me and I suspect its true of everyone that we are all hooked on a feeling. And here’s how we get hooked: (according to some Psychiatrist–I forget who) When we WAKE TO CONSCIOUSNESS WE WILL ADOPT THE AMBIENT FEELING AS PROOF OF EXISTENCE LIKE A COLT ADOPTS THE SMELL OF ITS MOTHER AND WE

I think gambling is a destructive chase, a monumental waste of human energy– a grievously misdirected quest for affirmation--worse even than building pyramids. It is a kind of dope that is dealt to deficient meaning makers. In a spiritual sense it is an illegitimate enterprise and all who participate in it diminish themselves. It is truancy from creativity; seeking nourishment from candy. It is sex with blow-up dolls.(Leaving for another blog the question of what real meaning looks like)

But as harshly as I judge the industry, I hypocritically enjoy some of its perks–as I have celebrated in this poem:

How to Beat the Casinos

Says every casino from Yuma to Reno,
Free parking to all who ramble.
Pull out your slide, come on inside,
Lay down some dollars and gamble.

For the freebie you’re getting, the casino is betting
You cannot resist their bait.
A week-willed critter sucked in by the glitter,
Whose pocketbook they will deflate.

But if you choose, it’s a bet they will lose,
Certainly for this wandering chap.
Slick as you please, I eat all their cheese,
And scamper away from the trap.

Friday, October 24, 2008



Day after day, alone on the hill
the man with the foolish grin
is keeping perfectly still.

But nobody wants to know him
they can see that he’s just a fool
and he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
sees the sun going down
and the eyes in his head
see the world spinning around

I FOUND ONE! A real live “fool on a hill” In a small town in Nevada resting in the shade of a tree; and I’m curious to know if what the beatles said about such a person is true.

I U-turned, parked nearby, and using a technique I’ve learned to approach jittery, sensitive or crazy people, stood some distance away looking casually about until he noticed me. Then I moved slowly in ,looking needy and asked easy questions. Where can I get some water? In garbled speech he told me, seemingly proud he knew something useful.

How do I know he was a fool in the Beatle song sense? He was alone, weird looking and weird acting. Surely the kind of person no one wants to know. I took a few surreptitious pictures and later got permission for more.

I sat down, admired his equipment and waited in silence till at last he began to talk. (I learned this lesson the hard way in North Carolina when a very shy person literally ran away from too much talk) Ever so slowly, I got the story: He is alone in the world, survives on about $400 a month SSI benefits, has a secret place to sleep, travels about on his bicycle with all his possessions piled high. He’s careful in his choice of gear as a cyclist must be. He loves radio music. His garbled speech may have been lack of practice. I guess few are eager to engage him.

Then a dreadful memory flashed in my mind. Our small town (Sondheimer, La) had someone like this, Ramondell Black. Much worse actually, because he would yell maniacally as he wandered around. One day, our gang teased him and he threw something that hit a girl in the head. The authorities took him away to live and die in an insane asylum. He lost his freedom forever and I feel guilty yet.

So I’m doubly inspired to use this occasion to show some respect to an alternative mind. In memory of Ramondell Black I will give this hapless man the most valuable thing I have: MY FULL ATTENTION. He seemed delighted; SOMEONE WANTED TO KNOW HIM. I wept when I left. Forgive me Ramondell–wherever you are.

Sunday, October 19, 2008



This is Janice whom I met in a bookstore in Sedona, Az sparking one of the great exchanges of my life. (I have permission to show her picture) I “opened” with interesting questions. She answered with easy openness, which allowed even more interesting questions. She answered with even more openness. Thus began a self-reinforcing spiral that took us down, down, down the conversational ladder: Past 1. RITUAL (Hello, how are you, etc.) Beyond 2. PASTIME (hobbies, gossip, current events) skipping over 3. WORK TALK; down to bedrock conversational level 4. INTIMACY. (what I really think, feel, want, have done.)

Wow! A beautiful stranger willing to engage at the level of intimacy. We were both delighted and soon adjourned to a coffee shop and got down to business. Business is the right word because valuables are being exchanged–as you will see.

We are ships passing–she en route to Chicago and I a vagabond philosopher, So we can risk letting all our cats out of the bag–even the wild ones. Why would anyone want to do this? Because it’s exciting and because we are all hungry to tell the truth about ourselves–to an appropriate listener. Especially the politically incorrect truths and the taboo stuff we have done or yearned to do. We want to share our agony and ecstasy; to trust someone enough to report our ridiculousness. Finally, we want to reveal ourselves to ourselves by saying it out loud.

Janice and I did all this. Each revelation evoked another till all our cards were on the table. It was hilarious fun. We laughed so hard and often we had to be shushed. It was indeed better than sex. Then we set about interpreting the cards on the table like a tarot reader, convinced they meant something. I cannot give you the details, except to say they were juicy and a pattern emerged for both of us. (The juicy details linger erotically in my mind.)

We concluded that all of us are driven by a bundle of inclinations as though we sat astride a willful horse determined to take us toward the things we like and away from what we don’t.
Every kid in this sense gets a “pony”, a pinto blend of genetic inheritance and childhood experiences; a unique bundle of affinities and aversions. And we ride this pony into adulthood–sexually and socially “wired”, acting and reacting almost on autopilot.

Once we wake up and acknowledge our wiredness–that we sit astride a willful horse, we face a crucial choice: To try to switch horses or go with the one we rode in on, learning to guide it a bit. Not an easy choice because some of us ride weird horses indeed. Nevertheless, we agreed on the latter, discussing for hours how to ride our particular horse with grace and efficiency. How to get gratified and still stay functional in society.

We discussed our “racket feelings” , those familiar, recurring feelings that somehow make us feel alive and that we have learned to generate for ourselves out of almost any situation–manipulating our environment till BINGO! We feel that old familiar feeling. Have you not seen angry personalities generate anger for themselves whatever situation they are in. Or sexual addicts generate a sexual high wherever they are. Well, our cards were on the table and our rackets easy to see. What a relief and a joy to see the truth about me. She said the same.

We moved on to “games,” comparing the psychological maneuvers we each use to generate our racket feelings. I told her about the superb analysis contained in the vintage book GAMES PEOPLE PLAY by Eric Berne. And the later work SCRIPTS PEOPLE LIVE.

Our evening ended outside in the parking lot with a goodbye kiss. Intimate conversation swells your heart. We’ve kept in touch. Her life drama is fascinating to me. Perhaps mine is of interest to her.

Thursday, October 16, 2008



I believe religion to be a vast and varied evil, wasting human energy, tribalizing humanity, causing wars and impeding ethical evolution. Mormonism is among the worst because of its thoroughgoing brainwashing of its children.

To be a Mormon you have to believe many things that are unbelievable. Just one of these is that there were horses in America before Cortez introduced them in 1519. The Book Of Mormon says that there were. (1 Nephi 18:25—“there were beast in the forest of every kind, both the cow and the ox and the ass and the horse....”) Science denies this.

So before confronting the missionaries, I marshaled my evidence: (check it out for yourself)
“American Museum of Natural History magazine, may 17, 2008...”Horses died out in America 10,000 years ago”
“Canadian Geographic–A brief history of the horse in America.
Smithsonian Institute: The Horse in America
American Horse Magazine–Ned Eddings: researcher–(

All agree that horses died out in America about 10,000 years ago along with the saber toothed tiger, the wooly mammoth and other large mammals. The book of Mormon alleges to record the span of 600 BC to 400 AD. So you see the conflict.

Armed with this evidence, I went reverse missionizing, hoping to persuade Mormon Missionaries that their Holy Book is a fraud and they are wasting their lives on a delusion. I chose just this one arrow from my quiver, aiming it for an achilles heel: One clear and unequivocal fact that proves that the Book Of Mormon, to say the least, is in error.

So I found the Missionaries and with kindness, presented the conflict: the Book of Mormon vs Scientific fact.----and waited for their answer.

If you think they were troubled by the conflict or convinced by the facts, then you don’t know the religious mind. Almost NOTHING can convince an indoctrinated mind that it has been deceived. Only time can sometimes erode doctrines. I met an ex Mormon in Baker, Nv who told me that the evidence against Mormonism built up in his mind over years until one day it suddenly yielded and he declared out loud: “this is bullshit.” It is not widely known but there are ex-mormon groups all over Utah that meet to celebrate their freedom from this irrational religion.

Anyway, Here’s what the Missionaries said: “If the Book of Mormon says it–I believe it. When I have doubts, I just pray and heavenly father restores my faith.”

I expected as much—but I’ve done my job and I go away satisfied. I’ve planted seeds. Do you think these guys would have better lives believing or unbelieving? Those interested in pursuing this issue further can google Mormons and horses in America. Also Wikipedia–Mormons–and scroll down to movement wide criticisms of the sacred text: Archaeology, genetics, linguistics etc.

Sunday, October 12, 2008



I spent three days at Wal-Mart in Kingman while searching for a Mormon Bishop to confront. I did not find one so that little drama will have to wait. (though I’m loaded for bear)

Instead, I found myself entranced with a mystery. Something is very different about this store–I could feel it but couldn’t see it. So I went in and out 20 times over 3 days trying to get a grip on it. Physically the store looks exactly like all super wal-marts, but SOMETHING about it was dramatically better–more appealing. On the third day I flashed on an old Sherlock Holmes mystery: The Hounds of the Baskervilles-----and INSTANTLY I got it! Just like the solution in that case, it was SOMETHING THAT WASN’T THERE. THE ANNOYING LOUD SPEAKER ANNOUNCEMENTS WERE NOT THERE. No arcane store jabber to pollute my shopping experience.

I quickly found the manager and got the story. He was pleased as punch to show off Wal-Mart’s new technology. All store management now wears the devices shown above and each is connected to all instantly. Now the ones that need to talk to each other do so without involving us.

Bless my soul–I love the quiet and I told him so. He grinned with pride and told me the practice was going nationwide. And he let me in on a secret. He personally has extended the idea and will soon initiate a pilot program in that store to electronically notify customers when their cars are ready. Customers for lube and tire work will be given a device which will sound or vibrate when their car is ready. Nobody else is disturbed. Again–Hurray and Hallelujah. Good news on a day the stock market is crashing. I got a stash of cash and a 20 pound bag of rice and left town.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Parked to catch the sun and watch football

Out of sight for the night

Decision made--go see Bagdad

Bagdad seen from water tank hill

Mr and Miss Miner

A whopper of a liquor dept?

Tin Town, where the mavericks retreat to.

I NEED SUNSHINE-Emotionally and physically to power my lifestyle. So when Prescott turned cloudy and chilly, I'm out of there---driving south on 89 to Yarnell where I paused to engage an unlikely resident: A former Raider linebacker (Logan) who shared his unusual story. After his career he lived his fantasy on a south sea island; the one that Marlon Brando bought near Tahiti. He married an island girl. (showed me her picture–wow!) In three years he ran out of money. They divorced. He returned–took to drink and lost himself in this oddball town. He said it was filled with weird people: artist, hippies, drunks, gays and old cowboys. But this is not one of the two cities I’m reporting. ONWARD (to where the skies are not cloudy all day)

A thrilling 2000 ft downhill drive from Yarnell is Congress–where I paused to enjoy a chili cook off. Congress is not one of the cities either.

I could see clear skies far to the northwest so that's where I headed on hwy 93. I won't stop till I see blue skies. At the Bagdad turnoff I found sunshine; parked crossways to get a good angle on the sun, raised my panels and tuned in my satellite to watch football. Night overtook me and I settled in the desert nearby. (See photo–there are thousands of free beautiful places like this all over the west. I hardly give a thought to where I will spend the night–just glance about me when it is time to camp)

Sunday AM I let the map speak to me--staring at it a long time till at last it suggested the road's- end town of Bagdad, Az., 20 miles north into the desert. An hour later I was there "getting the story" (It's what I do you know and who I am----a story getter--and in good time --a story teller--to you my readers. It's not a grand purpose, I admit, but it will do till I generate a grander vision) Anyway, I learned that Bagdad is a copper mining town of 4,500 souls, clean, prosperous looking and friendly. I wandered around a few hours and began to feel that something important was missing. It nagged at me. And then I got it: Individualism of the fringy sort was missing. I saw nothing and no one "unusual". All and everyone was in good order. Spooky and unnerving. Then suddenly I learned the reason:
No one here owns his house! The COMPANY owns all the houses. These are all “kept” people. To give up ownership is to some extent to give up parts of oneself. To become managable and tame surrendering ones wild side. These are compliant company people; mavericks and misfits are not welcome. The flavoring they bring to a community was noticeably missing.

On a hunch I went to the grocery store and checked out the beer and liquor section: BINGO! It was HUGE big enough to account for surrendered individuality. (note photo)

I learned that when anyone acts up sufficiently, they are out on their ass, bag and baggage. Then---where do they go? Where have all the misfits gone? THEY WENT TO TIN TOWN! A community of perhaps a hundred mavericks living 9 miles away in stark desert on property they OWN. THAT'S where I want to spend the night. So I went there, drove boldly into its heart, displayed a friendly harmlessness, asked the right questions and was soon embraced by the community. A 35 yr old divorcee invited me to camp in her yard. By firelight and starlight I got her story–refugee from San Francisco–now hooked on the peace and pace of the desert. Land here is cheap: $1000 an acre but you have to make your own amenities, like water sewer and electricity. Many live in campers. She knocked on my door at 10 and we chatted till 12. (No, I didn't--what kind of guy do you think I am)

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Meet the new SST's. Their official name is SWEET SMELLING TOILET. I kid you not. Google it to confirm. This is a low-tech, high efficiency solution to an age old problem--stink! Visit one and see for yourself. They cost between 10 and $25,000 installed and are rapidly replacing the old version nationwide. This one is located near the top of Mingus mountain, Az. I was so impressed that I was moved to poetry:

Celebrating the New Pit Toilets

Humanity has used pit toilets
For perhaps ten thousand years.
Kings and peasants have endured
Their smelly atmospheres.

And millions of pit toilets remain,
Serving the third world and here
In parks and places where
No treatment plant is near.

But have you noticed that,
Quick and easy as a wink,
Someone has found a way
To take away the stink.

The secret is in that pipe
That’s big and black and tall,
Exposed to the sun and mounted
Against the privy wall.

When sunlight heats the pipe,
Warm air rises on its own,
Drawing the foulness away
From the seat of the “throne.”

And wind across the pipe,
Whenever it might blow,
Creates a draw and pulls
The odors from below.

So day and night it works,
Wind or sun suffice
To keep the toilet smelling
Neutral, if not nice.

Hooray for black pipe! Hooray
For clever engineers!
Black pipe takes the stench away
Endured ten thousand years.

Now I’m inspired to believe,
For me and the human mix,
That many more petty discomforts
Might have so simple a fix.

(The Forestry Service was delighted to have their facilities appreciated in verse)