Cliff: Off Edge Thereof

Well this site sure fell off the edge of a cliff, huh?

Yeah, after 9 years I just got really disinterested in doing it regularly. So disinterested in fact, that I had to ask my hosting provider for the god-dang password 'cause I completely purged it from my memory!

But of course I'm thinking up some new crazy web shit to do sometime in the near future. Don't know what yet, though. Something involving profanity, I'd imagine.

Looks Like We Got Us a Convoy

Who among us honestly doesn't entertain the idea of becoming a long-haul trucker? I often dream about that life of solitude and exploration, having everything you need in the cab. It sounds pretty awesome. A fella could get a lot of thinkin' done on the road. And also a lot of music- and podcast-listening, if he's so inclined.

But then I realize how goddamn depressing it must be. Driving on interstates is pretty much all you'd do, and that gets old pretty quickly. I figure there are two basic kinds of suck when it comes to trucking on interstates: shit like I-80 through southern Wyoming or northern Nevada, which are some of the most unsightly, meth-addiction-inducing environs I could imagine (although, having never driven through Texas or Oklahoma, I probably haven't experienced the worst of it). Time slows to a glacial pace as you roll through mile after mile of windy, desolate scrubland that smells like burning oil, the monotony only occasionally interrupted by the sight of a eviscerated antelope on the roadside or a rusty, overturned mobile home off in the distance.

The second kind of suck is stuff like I-70 through Colorado, which is very scenic but must be extremely stressful for truckers with its sharp curves and steep climbs and scary descents where you have to worry about your brakes overheating. And then of course there's the blinding snowstorms and other extreme weather events that can happen up there 9 months out of the year. And then of course there's also the traffic ordeal, which gets pretty absurd most Fridays and Sundays as Denverites complete their mandatory outdoor activities. In the summer, the westbound side of I-70 out of Denver is a cavalcade of overheated RVs on the shoulder and trucks climbing at 15mph in the right-most lanes while the people in their turbo-charged Audis and Dodge trucks jockey for position in the other three lanes.

Then you got truck stops. Sweet baby Jesus, what some uniformly unpleasant environments those are! The civic centerpiece here in Wheat Ridge is a super-mega truck stop on I-70, and recently I had 20 minutes to kill, and so I decided to indulge my trucker fantasy and go mill around in there for a while. Turns out it's not a place I'd want to spend more than the 20 minutes I'd allotted myself. There was a wide selection of fried foods available, of course. JoJos were strongly represented, as well as many varieties from the Poppers and Fried Chicken families of cuisine. Breakfast taquitos? You got it. And this particular truck stop makes an impressive effort to attend to a trucker's entertainment needs: a wide selection of CDs ranging from country to western, with a few classic rock and Ray Stevens titles sprinkled in for good measure; and of course a wide spectrum of porn mags behind the checkout counter with 7/8ths of the cover sheathed in black plastic wrapping. I guess one of the skills you must acquire as a trucker is the art of asking the clerk for the latest issue of Cum-Hungry Co-eds or Samurai Suck Sluts without completely forfeiting all of your dignity.

So it's maybe not an ideal career choice. The older I get (I think I'm like 72 now or something), the more I realize just how much my psyche is attuned to my immediate surroundings, which accounts for why I've expended so much energy over the years griping about how depressing so much of America is. Not all of it, of course, but you could safely make the case that truck stops are not representative of the country's greatness, nor is southern Wyoming.

As it happened, my uncle Steve was a trucker for a couple years, and one summer when I was about 9 or 10 years old I went along on a couple of trips with him, once to Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge, Alberta; and once to Seattle. I don't remember it as being at all unpleasant, but of course at that age, I hadn't really developed much of a sense of my surroundings. I also recall that Steve's truck didn't have a sleeper, so we stayed in motels every night. So I don't recall spending any time at truck stops other than just to get gas. My clearest memory is from the Rainier brewery in Seattle (which I see closed in '99 and is now a coffee roastery). They put the truck on this lift that tilted the truck to a ridiculous angle to dump out the grain or hops or whatever we were hauling into a giant bin on the back of another truck. I also remember that someone at the brewery had a bunch of dented cans of some kind of fruit punch that he gave to us.

Truckdriving as a lifestyle was fairly high on the cultural radar in the 70s, as you may recall. C.W. McCall had a huge hit with his song "Convoy," and the Kris Kristofferson movie that it inspired. Then of course there was Smokey and the Bandit and B.J. and the Bear, and a heap of other movies and songs that inspired ordinary citizens to get CB radios put in their cars. As a kid I was infatuated with C.W. McCall's Greatest Hits, which contains a number of great trucking songs in addition to "Convoy".

A Prescription For America: Let's Us Balkanize!

The more I watch the appalling behavior of some of my countrymen concerning this so-called debate over health care in America, the more I'm convinced that there is no point in continuing with America as we know it.

I think we could forgo a lot of anguish and violence if we just admit to ourselves that we, America, need to give ourselves a divorce. We really need to disabuse ourselves of this desperate belief that we can bridge the deep cultural chasms between stupid fucking right-wing drama queens and Normal People in this country. Really, all we do is fight, and there's no point in staying together for the kids. This is the terminal condition for America as it currently exists; it cannot continue in this mode and expect to succeed and be a decent place to live.

So I've undertaken to draw a preliminary border that roughly bifurcates the US. Some states get split in the process, including my current home state of Colorado, but you know, tough shit. So here we have two new nations: Normalica (kind of a stupid name, but we'll come up with something better) and Trashcanistan.

Trashcanistan will naturally be a fundamentalist Christian theocracy with a voluntary taxation system. Its leaders aren't elected, but anointed by clergy members, who choose among the most pious Christians. Citizens are not formally required to tune in to the leaders' nightly devotional addresses, but are strenuously encouraged to do so. Likewise, daily soliloquies delivered by prominent thought leaders like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck will give direction and purpose to the populace.

Trashcanistan will be upwards of 98% white, since most minorities will have chosen to emigrate to Normalica. However, this has will deprive Trashcanistan of a pool of cheap immigrant labor which it will require to build its infrastructure, and so it will likely have to resort to enjoining its citizenry into "voluntary" labor pools. Freedom Corps, let's call it.

The initial euphoria its citizens will experience upon being abruptly disencumbered from taxation and federal government regulation will wear off as the country quickly falls into a crippling budget crisis. It will feature privatized free-market fire and police departments which compete for customers via a telephone bidding system in which a distressed citizen must call around to solicit bids on an emergency response package. Obviously, this sub-optimal system will be quite unpopular, and most citizens will end up relying on vigilante groups for fire and police services. Roads and highways will be maintained by the church and have tithe booths located at regular intervals to collect for their upkeep.

There will be no public schools or universities in Trashcanistan. Families who choose to educate their children will do so at home, though I'd guess most won't bother, since both parents are will be busy with their Freedom Corps chores. This will have an added benefit of increasing the available labor, since there will of course be no laws preventing children from working to support their families. A ruthless ruling merchant class will emerge and prey mercilessly on its workers, who will refuse on principle to organize. All universities in Trashcanistan will eventually be converted to Oral Roberts extension schools, though there will be no liberal arts or non-vocational courses offered.

Trashcanistan could have a couple of success stories: it could feasibly retool what's left of the American auto industry with financing from the church, who as the primary shareholder, could demand that new cars be faith-based (suggested names for new models: the Ford Redemption and the Chrysler Witness).

Normalica, after the initial upheaval of the Great Bifurcation, will fare much better, though it is not without its own set of problems. The high demand for real estate will cause the cost of living to be quite exorbitant in the cities, and there will no doubt be roving bands of hippies that set up camps in parks and streets. Also, the initial excitement over the direction of the new nation, coupled with the absence of an opposition party will likely cause many organizers to go overboard with their legislative framing, converting Wal-marts into clothing-optional roller rinks and so forth.

Also, although the nationalized health care system in Normalica will be extremely popular, but I predict it will attract many illegal immigrants from Trashcanistan seeking treatment.

I for one welcome this new arrangement.

Send In The Shrieking Dipshits!

Ha! And here you thought that the election of Barack Obama would signal the end of the Era of The Loud Misinformed Imbeciles. You foolishly hoped that America had come to her senses after a long bender of debauchery and malfeasance on a level not seen since my homey Warren G. (Harding, that is. Teapot Dome and shit).

No such luck, wino. The right-wing doughheads haven't gone anywhere, and if anything, they're more strident, more misinformed (willfully so in most cases), and more bloodthirsty. This national debate (to use the term very loosely) over health care reform has provided these people with a handy forum in which they can spew about how Obama=Hitler and how this is fascism/totalitarianism, or even (gasp!!) socialism. They latched onto the socialism thing before the Obamanator was even in office and have been clinging to that tired old brickbat ever since. Who knew there were so many gullible Red Scare types left in American in fucking 2009?!?

I'm no Communist

And who are these fucking idiots, anyway? Good question.

Well, they're not all fucking idiots. Too often we Normal People characterize Rush-bots and Fox News zombies as brain-dead, paranoid simps, and that assessment may in fact be accurate for a large portion of them. But dude, some of these people are in fact high-functioning adults, normal in other aspects of life, but are afflicted by a psychological glitch that prevents them from forming a rational, cogent opinion on matters of national importance, health care being but one example. Some would call it cognitive dissonance, but that doesn't do justice to this particular malady of which I speak.

I'm convinced that the glitch is formed in early childhood. At some point in their pre-adolescence they were unduly deprived some basic need, or perhaps robbed of some bit of dignity. It may have seemed innocuous or inconsequential at the time, but sure enough, some bit gets flipped in their neurological makeup and they grow up to become unusually overprotective of property and material possessions, and thus prone to paranoia. In short, these people are highly susceptible to the notion that someone wants to take away their stuff. And of course it is widely known that Americans are already predisposed to paranoia, an idea that was explored somewhat in Bowling for Columbine.

So these people, most of whom are not necessarily crazy or stupid or ignorant, are easy targets for cynical Republican organizers who propound the idea that liberals want to tax you to death and take away your guns and force you to watch Oprah every day while being subjected to gangsta rap, like some sort of forced-multiculturalist version of the Ludovico Technique. But they might be otherwise very normal, well-adjusted people with whom you probably share many values and opinions.

And The Glitch doesn't necessarily have to be paranoia (although that seems to be the one getting triggered during the health care debate). For example, maybe you've had occasion to meet a hard-core pro-life protestor. Not the blow-up-clinics variety, but the stand-outside-of-clinics-for-72-hours-shouting variety. If you approach these people outside of this milieu that triggers their freak-out response, they probably seem perfectly normal. But put them back in front of an abortion clinic, and they lose their shit in some sort of cathartic paroxysm of righteous indignation. Another example: older Missoula natives will no doubt remember the Reverend F.V. Bex, the self-styled "Pentacostal Street Preacher" who stood on busy street corners, rain or shine, waving a bible and shouting "Pillar of salt, lake of fire... BUUUURRRRNNNN!!!!" at the absolute top of his lungs for hours at a stretch. He even advertised his sermons in the newspaper with all the other church listings. Rev. Bex was widely regarded as a total nutjob, just another freak among the many hook-handed acid casualties, snake handlers, balloon-tying leprechauns, mad hatters, runaway circus geeks and sex-cult escapees that wander Missoula's streets. But I had several occasions to chat with the guy (he used to come into the Mexican restaurant where I worked to refill his thermos), and he was perfectly lucid, and in fact seemed quite intelligent and well-adjusted.

So anyway, that's my theory. In other news, the new Dinosaur Jr. album Farm is pretty good.