Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shoein' for a Livin:' Part II of a Miserable Assignment

The Recession is Over, But Nothing Else has Really Changed:
[Anvil archives:] Rob Edwards, publisher.

LAMPASAS, TEXAS: August 10, 2000 -  Just to bring you up to speed, I work for the San Francisco Business Review, a beat-up old rag that tried to make the best out of a rather extended recession under the Carter administration.  At that time, the publisher was scouring the country looking for anybody that wasn't collecting food stamps.  It seemed that farriers were virtually recession-proof, making all kinds of money when most people were eating Hamburger Helper without the hamburger.  That's how I ended up in Natchez, Mississippi, at the Three Fingers Motel, interviewing Harlan Ginder and his sociopathic sidekick, Emmet.  (He was the guy who collected human hair and ear wax. -- see ANVIL Magazine March 1995, "Shoein' for a Livin'  Part I.)

Well, the newspaper somehow survived.  In fact, we found our own little niche.  Mostly we quit writing about business (unless it was absurd or illegal), and instead focused on smut, pornography and personal smear campaigns.  Our advertising revenues increased three-fold, which meant we didn't have to pawn the computers again.  We were also able to renegotiate our bank loans once we got enough dirt on the board of directors.  Hell, we got it down to 1% annually with no late penalties and an option to defer the whole mess for ten years.  These bankers obviously had some pretty quirky habits since they'd sign-off on most any ludicrous idea we came up with.  Probably explains why I'm driving a BMW registered to some guy that's doing five-to-ten for selling junk bonds to people who never quite figured out why junk is called junk.

Anyway, my publisher, Eddie-Bob Edwards (cute name, huh?), a Texas ex-patriot himself, figured it was about time we got back to business news.  The real issue was that his oldest son had entered puberty at a dead run and was spending too much time with the pictorial section of the newspaper.  You know, those beaches in Brazil?  So he decided to send me to Texas to re-examine the horseshoeing business while the economy was still breathing.

Some things hadn't changed though:  economy class to Houston with a ten-hour layover in Pittsburgh.  They didn't name the place Pittsburgh because it was a scenic getaway.

7:15 AM:  I'm in the wrong town.  I'm supposed to be in Lampasas, Texas.

7:30 AM:  Still in the wrong town.

8:15 AM:  On a Greyhound bus heading west.  The temperature is 102 degrees; the driver says the air-conditioning is busted and the scenery looks like Mars on a bad day.  I think the woman next to me is in labor, but her English is a little rusty or nonexistent.  I hope it's not twins for god's sake!

1:30 PM:  The bus stops.  I've dozing with my mouth open, so I take a moment to spit out a few flies.  I'm not sure if the bus ran out of oil, the driver passed out, or if we just ran out of Texas, which didn't seem likely.  The woman next to me pointed out the window.  "Lampasas," she said.  Turned out it was twins, a boy and a girl -- Louisa and Antonio.  She thanked me for my help.  What help?  I was asleep.  I do think she broke water in my shoes though, and the diapers on the new arrivals bore an uncanny resemblance to my favorite Hawaiian shirt.  My shoes squeaked as I stumbled out of the bus into the brightest, brownest place I'd ever seen.

The glare of the sun almost knocked me down.  It was white-hot, like an A-bomb test that promised to last all day.  Sunglasses helped me to realize that four or five lizards and a hairy spider didn't constitute a town.  "Hey!" I yelled to the driver.  "I don't see Lampasas or anything else around here!"

He smiled a little wickedly.  "They didn't tell ya, huh?"  See, we don't go to Lampasas.  See that thar dirt road?  About seventeen miles due west.  Maybe ya can hitch a ride.  Adios!"  The door slammed shut, leaving me in the middle of nuclear summer.  Iced-tea sure sounded good.  Bad beer even better. 

3:35 PM:  Yeah, hitch a ride.  With who?  The Libyan Army?  I trudged along the dusty road, the lizards staring from the scrub along the shoulders of this no-account excuse for a thoroughfare.  I thought I saw them laughing.  Any minute, the vultures would start circling, drawing straws to see who would get to peck out my eyeballs.  In the distance, I saw a dust cloud racing toward me, an undulating mirage piercing the endless horizon.  Closer and closer it came, revealing a bright blue convertible, a massive chrome grill, an over sized straw hat, and a great bunch of blond hair waving in the wind.  The car's brakes screeched to a halt next to me; a whirlwind of dust coating my eyes and throat.

The air suddenly cleared like it does after a shell blast.  The blond was busy re-arranging her hair in the visor mirror.  A big guy in a white pearl-snap shirt and a cowboy hat was slowly moving his lips.

"You that journalist from San Francisco?" he drawled.

"Yeah.  Why didn't you tell me that the bus didn't..."

"Bus?  Hell man, I got my own airport just down the road.  Couple of Lears, a Cessna or two; shoot my cousin Floyd's got a damn 727, but that sucker just eats up the runway.  He's tryin' to con me into adding 5000 feet to it so's he can trade it in on somethin' bigger.  Crazy son of a bitch wants to buy a Concorde.  Can you imagine?  Hey, you look dry.  How about a beer?"

The blond opened a big cooler in the back seat and pulled out three icy Buds.  The cowboy hat handed me one and we all took a long draw.  His name was Hack Johnson, and from what I understood he was a thrice-removed cousin of LBJ and rather tight with the Hunt brothers up in Dallas.  He introduced the blond as "Misty," but she was still busy with the mirror.  "Hi y'all," she said to nobody in particular.

"Jump in," Hack offered, "and have another beer.  I'll take 'ya up to the ranch.  We'll have some steaks.  I got this Frenchy chef that can cook up a storm.  Finally got him trained Texas-style and got him to stop makin' them funny little vegetable things and arranging things on a plate like a damn Monopoly board!  Think he's a little light in the loafers myself!"  Hack slapped me the back.  "But you'd know fer sure, being from San Francisco and all."

"Hack, he's not a faggooo."  Misty was finally done with the mirror.

"That's faggot and quit tryin' to sound like a Hungarian countess.  Bad enough when he lolls that shit on.  And how the hell would you know?  Miss Chevrolet Pick-Up Truck of 1973?    Sure as hell ain't Buckin'ham Palace...hell, wasn't even even a good year for Chevrolet."

"Sounds great folks," I said.  Actually it did.  "Maybe we can talk about your business after dinner?"  Seemed like nobody was listening, then...

"He stares at my boobs all the time.  That's a pretty good indicator don't ya think?" Misty was feigning a kind of indignant pout.

Hack tossed the empty beer can out on to the road, twisted around in his seat toward me and kind of winked.  "Them boobs store-bought ya know.  Cost me $25 big ones.  Damn things are bigger than her brain most days, but this here is Texas.  Nothin' done small around here.  Now, what were you sayin' son?"

"Your business.  Maybe we could talk a little..."

"Oh, that.  Well, sure, I guess.  I don't know why you guys from California care about what I'm doin'.  I mean, I just play around at stuff and manage to make a few bucks.  Hell, it's no big deal.  What about them Silicon Valley guys you got out there?"

"A net worth of $16.5 billion dollars is kind of a big deal, especially when nobody can quite figure out where it came from."

"Well, shoot!  Is that what I'm worth?  I'll be gosh-darned!  Would've figured $14 tops  Somethin' musta happened.  That damn lawyer of mine never tells me nothin.'"

The blond broke in again.  "That reminds me, honey bunch.  I can't do anything with my hair.  I'm so depressed about it."

"Well, what about that Maurice guy up in Houston?  That swishy kind of guy that talks through his nose.  I thought you liked him?"

"Honey bundles, he's so expensive."

"Ah, hell.  Here, take a few thousand and give Pepper a call and tell him to flight-check the Lear.  Go shoppin,' it'll do 'ya some good.  And get me some of those chocolate-covered espresso beans when you're there.  I love those suckers!"

I cut into the conversation.  "Nice car."  Kind of lame, but maybe it was an ice-breaker.

"Ya like that, huh?  '69 Coupe de Ville.  It's like a flame-thrower on wheels.  Takes two of my oil wells to keep this thing in gas, but what the hell.  It's nothin' like those European cars that yabber at ya all the time."

About that moment a large jet roared overhead, too low for comfort.  Looked remarkably like a 727.

"Well, looky that!  Floyd must be comin' for dinner.  Sure hope he got those infernal brakes fixed.  Last time he rolled right through the fence and killed a couple of my best heifers.  Cheffy had a heck of a time figurin' out what was a steak and what was just a damn mess."

We pulled into a long driveway that snaked around some trees for a half-mile or more before we stopped at a large iron gate, topped by a set of longhorns with the head still attached.  Hack pressed a couple of buttons and while the gate swung open, a Texas state flag shot up the flag pole.  A few more turns and we entered a large courtyard, back-dropped by a house that would have looked better somewhere in France.

"Let's eat," Hack said enthusiastically, as we piled out of the Cadillac.  "I think we're havin' lobster ala something or other, but Cheffy always throws on a few rib-eyes just the same.  Personally, I think lobsters are nothin' but over sized toilet bugs, and God knows we got enough of them around here as it is!"

"Toilet bugs?"  No, I didn't really want to know.  Figured maybe I would need some local color, but that probably wasn't it.

"Hell, scorpions.  They come in for water and fall in the toilet.  Next thing ya know, your ass gets a wake-up call."

We traversed a long hallway, entering a dining room through two massive doors.  The kitchen was to the left; a large stainless steel barbecue billowing smoke up to a ceiling that seemed to be missing, along with the roof.  Hack noticed my visual inquiry.  "Yeah, I gotta fix that before winter.  Teachin' Cheffy there Texas-style cookin.'"  The dining room table looked to be about 18-feet long surrounded by an eclectic collection of chairs.  None of the good ones matched and the rest were cheap patio versions.  In the middle of the table sat a large silver punch bowl, filled with ice and at least a case of Bud.  Cheffy was scurrying back and forth between the table and the kitchen and there appeared to be a ladder next to the hole in the roof with a fire extinguisher perched on top of it.  The dining room walls were adorned with the heads of various dead animals, including at least six armadillos over the mantel of a fake fireplace.  Seemed the taxidermist had managed to adorn the whole collection with sort of wry smiles, like the joke was really on somebody else.  Floyd emerged through a side door.  He looked more like a Wall Street investment banker...until you panned down to his boots.  Yeah, more dead armadillos. 

"Well, how many head of my cattle ya kill this time?" Hack queried.

"We gotta talk," Floyd stated bluntly, pointing to a door that was obviously meant for privacy.  Hack looked irritated, but ushered Floyd into the room just the same.  I was stuck with Misty and Cheffy, both engrossed in either primping or cooking.  I grabbed a beer, twisted  off the cap and sank into an over-stuffed chair.  In the kitchen, a collection of lobsters went for their final swim.

9:30 PM:  Hack and Floyd emerged from their private sanctuary.  Hack was laughing, Floyd offered me a weak apology and explained that he had to get to Washington DC that very night and though he'd love to chat, etc., he had to 'git.'  A few minutes later, the 727 roared over the house.  It so rattled the building that one of the smiling armadillo heads fell off the mantel and rolled into another room.  Hack kind of watched it disappear from sight.  "You know, sometimes we take those heads to the bowling alley.  Boy it pisses off some folks."

10:15 PM:  Cheffy started piling platters on the table:  four-inch thick steaks, six lobsters, a big bowl of mashed potatoes, cowboy beans and a giant shrimp salad.  He also brought in some steamed artichokes and about 20 different sauces and dressings, two baskets of biscuits and about five-pounds of butter.  Cheffy brought me what looked like a pair of pull-offs and  Hack threw a four-pound lobster on my plate along with a claw hammer.  "Have at that sucker, son!"  The steak came with a knife that only Jim Bowie could love.

11:15 PM:  Out came the toothpicks and Jack Daniels.  The table was a pile of post-mortem debris:  dismembered crustaceans and steak bones.  Cheffy was asleep in a chair and Misty had disappeared, no doubt gassing up the jet.  "Tell me Hack," I started.  "I thought you started out as a horseshoer?"

"Oh that.  Well son, I've been a horseshoer for 25-years.  Still am, sort of.  Can't really remember how to do it, but that's why I've got the boys."

"The boys?"

"Yeah, ten of 'em...well, nine.  One, he sort of escaped."


"Yeah, well, they're on work-release from the state prison.  My cousin Earl is the Attorney General, lives in a big ol' place up in Austin.  He got me these guys -- robbers, a couple of murderers and what not, that kinda needed some parental guidance.  So we bring 'em up to the ranch and make horseshoers out of them.  Most of these boys work out pretty good, except Maylon, the guy that escaped.  He's what they call a 'predator-type.'  I guess he can't figure out how to ask a woman on a date without locking her in the trunk of his car.  I don't think he's gonna work out.  Never could figure out why he bought so damn much duct tape, until now."

"This doesn't sound quite legal."

"Well, hell no!  Call it kidnappin' I believe."

"Uh, no Hack, the other...hiring prisoners."

"Oh that.  Legal?  Heck son, this is Texas!  The only law around these parts is whatever yer checkbook can tolerate.  How do ya think I got that airport?  I own the zoning commission.  Have 'em over here once a month for a barbecue.  They love me -- I put some of their kids through college at A & M."


"That was my lawyer's idea.  Ol' Dagget.  He said I had to have a 'real' business, somethin' the Feds would buy into.  Otherwise, they'd think I was a hot-shot Miami drug lord or somethin'.  Hell, I wouldn't know marijuana from loco weed."

"Well, what about the money?  I mean, you don't make a few billion shoeing horses."

"Well, couple of things.  First off, I list my occupation as 'farrier.'  Folks at the IRS don't know what the hell that means and are too lazy to look it up.  Second one's a little tricky.  My daddy never liked me much, so I left home and took up horseshoeing.  Figured he'd leave everything to my sister.  She ran off to some commune in the 70's and became a hippie.  You know, givin' out free love and stuff.  Next thing, she started votin' for Democrats.  so she was out and I was back in.  Kind of persona non somethin' I suppose.  The money originally came from my great-great grandfather who got all this land from a Mexican Count, way back when Mexico belonged to Spain.  It gets a little contagious here because he didn't exactly buy it, legal-like anyhow."

"Contagious?  You mean contentious."

  "Well, that too.  He kinda popped the Count with a chunk of lead in a disagreement over a horse, or maybe a woman...not sure which.  As luck would have it, about the same time, General Sam Houston decided to kick that little prick Santa Ana, and his boys the hell out of know, the Alamo and all that stuff.  Well, the family ended up with 680,000 acres of land, a whole shit-load of cattle and close to 40,000 horses.  Then there was the oil, the deed to the whole town of Lampasas and all the water-rights for a hundred-square miles.  My Pappy added another 300,000 acres, a uranium mine, the hydro-electric project that sells electricity for all them swimmin' pools in California and a fat contract with the biggest meat packer in Chicago.  Those 'billions and billions' McDonalds keeps harpin' on?  Yep.  The whole thing just keeps multiplying."

"My publisher mentioned the Hunt brothers."

"You mean Bunky, and all that silver nonsense in the 1980's?  That was nothin.'  Bunky had this bet goin' with John Wayne on who could collect the most of something.  Bunky picked silver.  Wayne went for friends.  Cost Bunky a bundle.  I never laughed so hard in my life.  And those damn idiots in Congress never did figure out that it was a big joke."

"When was the last time you actually shod a horse?"

"Well, let's see.  I think it was around 1987.  Reagan came down to the ranch to ride his horse, some gift from a King or somethin'...his horse was a little long in the toe.  The boys were gone, so Ron and I put some iron on him.  Took all damn mornin' and Reagan was pissin' sweat, but never gave up."

"Reagan was here?" I exclaimed, somewhat incredulously.  

"Sure.  A lot of Republicans wander in.  I even had Clinton down once 'cause he can sling bull better than any Texan.  Had to hide all the women though."  Hack laughed.  "The man can lie to 200,000,000 people and his ratings go up.  Ya gotta love the guy!  Worst part was figurin' out what to do with all those Secret Service guys.  Couldn't even take a leak without somebody inspecting the toilet."

"Look Hack, I gotta have something to write about.  Next thing you're going to tell me is Jimmy Hoffa's buried out back."

"Tell ya what.  Let's not talk about Jimmy.  I'll give ya a bigger story instead, since you're all wound up in horses.  You know that Count I talked about?  Well, like I said, he had about 40,000 horses.  My pappy just turned 'em all loose...studs, mares...everything.  We still do.  I don't know a pedigree from a poodle, so we just let 'em breed and then sell off the youngsters to most anybody with $500.  We produce about 150,000 young-uns' a year.  We sort of invented the Grade Horse.  It's a mixed-up cross that keeps 4-H goin' strong all over the west.  The thing is, nobody knows where these mongrels come from.  Well, guess what?  Hack Johnson owns the biggest unregistered registry in the United States, and the funny part is that it's startin' to catch on in Europe.  A Warmblood?  That's one of our franchises.  I sort of invented those big stupid things and if you give 'em a foreign name, they sell like hotcakes!"

"I think I've got a headache."  I felt dizzy.

"Ah, that's just the heat and the Jack Daniels, partner.  They got your suite ready upstairs.  Come down about 8:00.  Cheffy's gonna make eggs Benedict or some such thing...bunch of cheese on a pooched egg or something.  I'll make sure he throws a couple of steaks on.  If you like, you can hitch a ride to Houston with Misty.  I just hope Pepper isn't hung over again.  Last time...well, you don't want to know about that." 

Adios from Lampasas....

Friday, February 10, 2012

Identifying the Thoroughbred: The horse isn't talking...

[image: wikipedia commons]
When the world produces far too many brown horses:

That of course means that somebody has to referee the process.  Yes, Thoroughbreds do have VIN numbers of sorts, that being the age-old lip tattoo, but somewhere between birth and the equivalent of being either initiated into a motorcycle gang or The Jockey Club, some poor soul has to make sure that Brownie doesn't become Blackie, or worse yet, that Mrs. Brownie doesn't become Mr. Blackie or...God forbid, force a racing secretary to write a $4000 claiming race for hermaphrodite non-winners of two.  Don't laugh until you have spent an afternoon trying to 'identify' a horse.  I mean the TSA has enough trouble identifying humans and most of them can speak one language or another.  A horse...well, he just stands there having a good laugh to himself.  You see, he doesn't really give a shit who he is.  Self-identity is purely a human process and is normally conducted in the lobby of the nearest Lexus dealership. 

So if you want to sell a Thoroughbred yearling at a public auction you will need irrefutable evidence as to the genetic purity of Brownie.  Or Blackie.  Of course, it is important to realize the origins of this tedious process and naturally it had to do with people:  Humans are really, really, really obsessed over identity -- and secondly, they very often misplace their honesty, unless the IRS happens to be on the phone.  So...certain kinds of twisted logic evolved to try and overcome the obvious pitfalls of too much honesty, not enough honest, a failure to embrace common sense or simply a case of bad eyesight.  And it is here that The Jockey Club (an organization similar to a Turkish Court, but with more paperwork and fewer executions), struggles mightily to insure that Blackie and Brownie aren't really Bob.  Or worse yet, Shirley.

In the beginning, Thoroughbreds were kind of visually identified.  Everybody got a handy little guide that would fit on a clipboard.  The owner would then wander out in the pasture with new Sharpie pen and the proper form.  An hour later he'd be back in the house phoning The Jockey Club for more forms.  At least two-dozen.  Oh, and maybe a pencil instead. 

Most people that own racehorses tend to be rich...if not rich, then they have access to more ready cash than I do.  You know, captains of industry, investment bankers, divorce lawyers, movie producers...movers and shakers.  As such, they never paid much attention in third-grade art class.  And without those particular skills, they're doomed. 
The forms indicate that the artist should approximate the areas of white (as opposed to brown -- we're trying to keep it simple here), by drawing a line to separate the division of color.  The form goes on to suggest that you do the left-side first.  Whose left, you ask?  Yours or the horses?  And is it a right leg if you're standing on the right side?  The front and hind part seems simple enough.  The one end is liable to kick you if get too curious about a little white spot on the heel.  Hell, it's probably bird shit.  Better to move on to the face.

Pretty doesn't matter here.  The Jockey Club tries not to be too subjective on this matter.  You can't write, "Looks just like Secretariat.  Very cute horse."  They frown on commentary.  All of these markings (believe it or not), have a specific title.  If you're lucky, your horse is identical to the one on the bottom/right image below.  Of course, that brings up a whole different can of worms.  Brown horses that have no white whatsoever.  Whenever I got one of these, I'd spray-paint fluorescent markings on their side, photograph the horse and send that to The Jockey Club with something like, "fluorescent pink stripe to left, descending to a dot, mid-stifle to hock."  That always garnered a call from New York.  Same thing happens if you include your favorite dog, wife or child in the picture.  They are very fussy people at The Jockey Club.
[image: wiki commons]
The research department at The Jockey Club finally came up with a system to deal with one-color horses and art school flunkies.  Equine fingerprints.  No, not the hooves.  They decided that chestnuts (also called night-eyes or mistaken fungal infections), were unique to each individual horse.  Chestnuts are actually left-over appendages from when the horse sprinted around on three-toes, instead of just one.  But some horses don't have them -- probably the same ones that got short-changed on white markings.  Aha, you say!  Foiled again!
Well, not quite.  The Jockey Club also decided that whorls (equine cowlicks) were unique to individuals.  Hell, so were intestinal polyps.  Pretty soon, the search for honesty would end on the coroner's slab.  And besides, all these systems were analytical, not empirical -- and each horse would have to be identified by a different individual at least three times prior to being tattooed -- the tattoo only administered if the horse made it to the racetrack.  Sooo...
[image: wiki commons]
[image: bozo_z_clown/flickr]
....Plan B, or maybe C actually.  Blood-typing.  Science to the rescue at last.  Maybe.  They didn't consider my farm during that particular brain-storming session.  See, my farm was owned by a veterinarian...and veterinarians are sort of do-it-yourself types.  So...
[cooperative extension]

"The spring months gave me the opportunity to attach a new name to each of Doc's broodmares.  Sure, I used their registered names whenever Elaine was around, which wasn't too often, or when The Jockey Club called for some form of clarification, that normally being twice a day.  Clarification was important.  Between me, Doc, and The Jockey Club, none of us were capable of matching the paperwork with a likely candidate.  The high-court of paperwork in New York noted this fault in their system and finally initiated blood-typing for all Thoroughbreds.  That led to some brilliant conversations around the farm:
"Say Doc.  Says here that that horse isn't Spit.  It's some horse named...I can't read this.  What does that say?"  I'm trying to read the fine print.
"It says 'sterile.'  That's the label thing."  Doc had glasses, I only had eyes.
"Well, if it's not Spit, then who is it?"  I was thinking we'd just call one horse 'Sterile' and mail the shit back.
"Ah, you know I think it might be the neighbor's horse.  When we took the blood samples I only had fourteen kits and there were fifteen horses in the barn if I remember right.  Or it could be one of the dogs.  I had a lot of samples in the refrigerator."
"So..."  I wondered how this filing system worked when he was neutering a cat.  "What do you think we oughta do?"  And here The Jockey Club thought they had finally closed the last great loophole.
"Why don't you give 'em a call.  Oh, here's another one.  I don't think I own this horse either."



Monday, February 6, 2012

A New Kind of Timeline...

I was born...soon, I was shaving regularly.
My looks improved.  Doctors attributed it to a diet of Wonder Bread, Spam and Velveeta cheese.

Eat your heart out...Zuckerberg

I also remember being born.  The experience was very disturbing for me.  Some woman was screaming incessantly and this guy with a bad haircut was pulling on my head.  His breath smelled like sardines.

Later, I heard my first swear word.  Pretty sure it was me talking.

When I was floating around the uterus, my mother was apparently watching old Roy Rogers films.  I was born very bow-legged and developed an abnormal interest in horses and sweaty leather.  Since we couldn't afford a horse, I had a turtle.  It took a month for it to follow me home.  I named it Trigger.

 That's my Sis and I with Mom.  We did this a lot when the TV news guy said an A-Bomb might be coming.  We also ran in the hole when Dad drank too much.  Seems we stayed in the whole a lot back then.  One day, Mom forgot to close the lid and Dad fell in it.  We never went down there again.  Mom said  that we didn't have to worry about A-bombs anymore.  Pretty soon we moved to another house. 

In high school, I mostly dated lesbians, girls with eating disorders and ones that didn't bathe regularly, shave their legs or wear underwear.  I experimented with sex, but it was mostly by myself.  Well, sometimes the turtle would join in.  He finally ran away, though it took him three days just to get down to the corner.

This was my high-school sweetheart.  Her name was Rocky.  She let me feel her up sometimes.  I kinda liked her, but one day I left her alone in my room and afterward I noticed my hamster was missing.  I'm pretty sure she took drugs a lot because she always smelled like formaldehyde.  Maybe that was okay, because I used to have a cockroach problem until she starting coming over.  She left me her collection of Frank Zappa albums and moved to France.  I think it was France.  Maybe Nebraska.  I did learn later that "brown shoes don't make it."  So I don't wear them.

After to listening to Frank Zappa for a couple of hours, I became a radical.  Pretty sure I was on the left side of things, but some days it was hard to tell.  I lost my draft card somewhere, so when we demonstrated about stuff, I burned my library card.  The other hippies said that didn't count so I wasn't allowed to have any solidarity with the brothers and sisters.  So I became a party animal instead.  That made me throw-up a lot.

                                                               It was hard to be a party animal in Seattle.  Maybe it was the building code or something, but I kept having to move shortly after I had a party.  So I bought a bus.  I filled the back of it with couches and foam rubber and invited people to come over for Ripple and LSD.  They didn't know I was going to actually drive the bus in my condition, so it was very exciting for everybody.  We all wore different costumes and in the summer we sometimes just drove around naked since it was pretty warm.  The police would look at us kind of funny, but most of the time they just asked us
to go somewhere else.  We weren't sure where that was exactly. 

Some time later, I left politics and formed a grunge band for cross-dressers with my sister.  She had recently flunked out of beauty school and seemed to have a lot of issues.  We couldn't play guitars or anything, so we just growled a lot.  Mostly people threw food at us, but at least we ate regularly.  Sis didn't sleep much due to an amphetamine habit, so she took to practicing her beauty school skills while I was sleeping.  Then she switched to dental college and I had to kick her out.  The neighbors didn't like all the screaming.

Then I had to go to jail briefly.  It was a nice jail.  On Sundays we had something yellow for breakfast.  I didn't do it -- whatever it was.  I shared my cell with a famous arsonist.  Actually, I think most arsonists end up famous one way or the other.  I had the top bunk.  He had matches.  Sleep was difficult most nights.  Eventually they released me for 'lack of evidence.'  I told them I'd take a look around.  See if I could find it.

They kept my fingerprints though.  The guy was having so much fun that we decided to do my whole hands.  Of course in all the excitement, he did my left hand twice.  That might be a problem later.
[image: wiki commons]

The saga day Don Quixote's horse speaks to me in a Italian.

Can't tell you what he said cause...hell, I don't speak Italian.  I was pretty sure it was something like, "Go west young man and date better women."  Since I lived in Seattle, he must have meant Japan or someplace like that.  Or, the horse was speaking metaphorically.  Horses do that sometimes.  But since the turtle wandered off, I was back on the notion of getting a real horse.  Thought it might improve my image.  I know that sometimes guys get cute dogs just to meet, tie my horse outside Starbucks and wait for a pretty woman to say, "What the fuck!?"  However...this horse wasn't Starbucks material as it turned out.  He didn't stay anywhere for too long.  Apparently, he required heavy doses of tranquilizer in order to hang out around people.

Sadly, like Dad, he wandered off and fell in somebody's bomb shelter.  I never did get a new girlfriend, but I did meet a lot of nice people from the fire department.  They kept telling me how lucky my horse was, not knowing the horse in quite the same context as I did.  They said they'd have him out in a 'jiffy.'  I figured that was just long enough for me to catch a bus. 

Some days I miss him, but mostly I don't.  Then I decided to go to horseshoeing school.  No, I don't know why.  At first I thought it might be fun and I'd get rich, but it was a little like my sister's adventures in dental college.  A lot of blood and not too much repeat business.  So I became a 'horseshoeing advisor' instead.

I hired some assistants and mostly we drank beer.  Sometimes the horse drank beer too.  Then we'd have the horse look through a Sears catalog and pick out some nice shoes.  Horses can't seem to hold their liquor so we'd end up with pizza, magazine subscriptions and boxes of Enzyte.  Business was bad.

But then I discovered polo shirts.  Seems that intelligent people always wear polo shirts and dark glasses -- even in winter.  I advertised myself as a 'sensitive' farrier and only accepted women clients.

Mostly I got crank calls, but every so often I'd get a real customer.  Trouble was, they'd end up doing most of the work since I didn't want to get my polo shirt dirty and it was really hard to figure out all that proper balance stuff with dark glasses on.  So I took a break and became a Thoroughbred farm manager.  Not sure how you manage a farm with no employees and seemingly fewer horses, but figured it was worth a try.  

The owner of the farm sent me a photograph and said, "Well son, it kinda looks like this here."  So I figured, boy this job should be a cinch!  Turned out he lied more than I did.

This fellow was the old manager.  Turned out he had been dead for close to a month.  The only horse I could find on the place was one that spent all day walking in circles.  Mostly backwards it seemed.  The vet said it might be rabies.  Or not.

Once again, Rocinante came to me in a, more like a hangover.  He said...
Never mind what he said.  It was kind of personal and since he was a horse, he didn't talk in English, Italian or much else.  But it seemed that he was strongly suggesting that I too, go on a quest.  Quests are a little like occupational scavenger hunts only you don't have a specific list.  So I went off and joined a circus.  Trouble was, it was a Russian circus.  Being new, I got all the hard jobs.  I had to ride a horse upside-down, which might have made me a better horseshoer, only I couldn't really take notes during the show.  My boss told me it was okay to fall off sometimes because the audience really enjoyed that part.  I didn't though.

Then one day, I found the boss's sword.  Seems in the Soviet Union that whoever has the sword gets to be the leader.  In America, it is much more complicated.  You have to vote for a bunch of people you don't like, just so you can impeach them later for doing a terrible job.  They call it democracy.  Not sure what that really means.
Once I became boss, I demanded a cut on the action.  They told me I was "being a bad little communist," so they sent me to China where they said I needed to be 're-educated.'  So now I think "socialism is good" for the Chinese.  Personally, I'd rather have a percentage of the gate...or maybe a gas station.
So I moved to New Zealand and became an exotic dancer.  Mostly I danced with older, thick-ankled women who were overly curious to know if I wore underwear.  Actually I did, but that was because...well, wool itches.
Turned out to be a lot like socialism though.  The tips were terrible and everybody seemed to smell like wet sheep.

Since exotic dancing is fairly strenuous I was able to lose a lot of weight.  So I went back to America and became a jockey.  It was hard since most of my riding experience was upside-down.  That made it difficult to get regular work.  Since I could only afford the $1 menu at McDonald's, I quickly became too fat to be a jockey.

So I joined an Islamic militant group for white guys who were too fat to be jockeys.  The outfits were nice, but we had  a lot of trouble around airports and nuclear reactors.  However, when we went to Mississippi, people kept taking us out to dinner and buying us drinks.  We didn't all sit at the same table.  Instead, they'd sit across the room and wink at us all the time.  Figured it was some Islamic custom we didn't know about, what being new to militant stuff and all.

So, I moved on to journalism and sometimes I'd have to interview myself because a lot of people were reluctant to talk to me "on the record."  That was okay, since I was more interested in myself anyway.

And then one day, I decided that being a grown-up wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Just maybe that was Don Quixote's whole point.  Quests are wasted on adults.

So...feel free to create your own timeline!

[images: wiki commons & the author]