Monday, December 21, 2009

Pivotal moments in US history changed by the courageous actions of 1.

It was something that was going to change the world! The internal combustion engine was not only going to allow everyday citizens to have personal transportation, but also was going to replace the more hazardous steam power. The only problem was the fuel. When the engines were made more efficient and more powerful with higher compression, this horrible problem kept revealing its ugly side. A ominous sound would start up from the very bowels of the engine cylinders when put under stress.

This sound was discovered to be "Pinging" or sometimes called engine knocking. The sound was like somebody had put gravel rocks in the cylinders! Besides the very undesirable sounds that were produced from the relatively new technology it was discovered that pinging caused damage to the internal workings of the engine itself. Some solution had to be found or this technology would never be accepted!

So in 1916 a chemist, named Thomas Midgley,  was given the job of finding a solution to this particular problem. He was told that not only was it bad for the automobiles being produced but the newfangled flying machines and the associated aviation engine development was being hampered. So working for General Motors Research, he tried several schemes to prevent this engine knock.

Since Thomas thought that too much heat might be the problem, he tried different dyes in the gas. Perhaps different colors would absorb less heat. This didn't work out so well. They then accumulated almost every element they could think of based on the Periodic Chart of the elements and started going down the list.

By trial and error, they stumbled upon a substance called Tetra-Ethyl-Tin that showed some promise. Further investigation showed that it was the lead in the Tetra-Ethyl-Tin that stopped the knock completely. Lead was extremely cheap so if this substance worked out, a lot of money could be made. The chemist cooked up a batch of Tetra-Ethyl-Lead and tried it out. The knock went away completely like magic!

But by this time, other researchers had discovered that lead had some very bad properties like brain damage, strange skin reactions, difficulties in walking, etc. The League of Nations recommended to ban all lead in paint to which Europe complied.The United States, for whatever reason, did not regulate lead in paint until a much later date. Thomas Midgley was by then receiving all sorts of reports and letters telling about the hazards of lead but by this time too much had been invested in this magical liquid solution.

In 1922, the surgeon general wrote a letter to the president of General Motors with concerns that lead would become a serious health issue to the public. In spite of these warnings, the president of General Motors, Pierre DuPont partnered with Standard Oil to form Ethyl Gasoline Company with Mr. Charles Kettering as President and Thomas Midgley, the chemist, as Vice-President. The product was put on sale in 1923. Additional public advertising was helped by the fact that Ethyl fueled cars won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place at the Indianapolis Raceway in 1923.

But problems started to show up. At the Ethyl production facility in Deepwater, the workers became disoriented, had a strange gait, and couldn't seem to think clearly. The Deepwater Ethyl plant started to be called the "House of Butterflies" for the strange effects to the workers. The companies leaders excused the effects as the workers are "working too hard" and that was causing the slow insanity. "We are going to have to protect the workers against themselves" stated Mr Kettering. The public took these statements as a clean bill of health and soon the Ethyl lead additive started taking over the market.

By 1963, over 98 percent of all gasoline contained the additive. But all this lead was also coming out of the exhausts of all those cars across the country. Thousands of tons of lead per year at its peak. But because of political muscle, Ethyl lead gasoline enjoyed the protection of the government. One instance, when a competitor came up with a nonlead additive, the US government actually sued them into bankruptcy. The US Federal Trade Commission came out with a report that stated that leaded gas was not a narcotic, poisonous dope, or dangerous to human health in any way. Ethyl Gasoline was here to stay........except for one person who just wouldn't go along.

This one geochemist graduate student, Clair Patterson, was trying some new ways of measuring how old rocks were with the goal of finding out how old the earth was. His new method was by measuring the isotopes of uranium and lead naturally found in rocks samples. But something was wrong! All of the rock samples he tested contained about 200 times the amount of lead they should have naturally. He just couldn't figure out where the contamination was coming from! He set up a strict contamination procedure in his lab. Still he was coming up with the same results. Where was all the lead coming from?

He found out that the lead contamination was from the atmosphere and spoiling the samples. He then discovered that it was from the gasoline additive, Tetra-Ethyl-Lead, and started publishing his findings.

Dr Patterson came up with an experiment in which he would take core samples from pack ice in Greenland and from the different layers, be able to determine lead contamination throughout past years. The experiment worked and it show that lead levels started increasing in 1923 and that the last tested year of 1965, the lead levels were 1000 times what they had been before 1923.

He also started testing human bones and found that modern human bone lead level were many times greater than pre-1923 bone lead tests. When these results were published, the proverbial "crap hit the fan".

First the Ethyl corporation offered him lucrative contracts for more favorable results. He refused. They then started a public smear campaign designed to destroy his credibility. Even the US government got into the campaign with the National Research Council disputing the findings. The Ethyl Corporation had many friends on their side including a Supreme Court Justice, members of the US Public Health Service, and the American Petroleum Institute.

But Dr. Patterson would not relent on his campaign to inform the general public. Eventually Congress passed the Clean Air act of 1970 which demanded that leaded gasoline was to be phased out because of research that Dr Patterson published. DuPont and the Ethyl Corporation were able to delay the death of Ethyl based additives for 10 more years in court, but eventually all gasoline became lead free in 1986. In the 63 years of Ethyl additives existence, 6 million tons of lead was released in the atmosphere.

What happened to the chemist, Thomas Midgley, who ignored all the warnings about lead and came up with Ethyl additives? Well, he was not totally out of the creative process when Tetra-Ethyl-Lead ceased to exist. He later went on to invent ChloroFluroCarbons, otherwise known as CFC'S. What a guy!!

 The Nation: The Secret History of Lead by Jamie Kitman
 Damn Interesting: The Ethyl Poison Earth by Alan Bellows
Kenneshaw University "How the best known Poison on Earth remained in the Gasoline Supply for 60 Years"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lawyer Claus

It's definitely that time of year again.  You can tell that the holidays are upon us by the way hard working Americans cram a month's worth of work into two weeks, stretching the limits of sanity to the brink of snapping.  Of course, some do snap.  But the purpose of this entry is not to probe the what-for of our collective insanity induced by trying to do too much in too short amount of time, but rather to dish out a few justly deserved presents.

First, for the teabaggers and their de facto leaders at Fox News.  Man, these people really hate government, or at least a government under the executive control of a black Democrat.  My mind still boggles at some of the rich signs these folks were holding up at rallies over the last year.  My favorite was, "Keep Government out of my Social Security."  If you do not instantly recognize the irony of that statement, you might consider using drugs--it couldn't impair your cognitive abilities worse than they are already.

One woman being interviewed by author Max Blumenthal at a spirited teabagging stated the purpose of her participation was because she wanted government out of her life, period.  When pressed to expound, she repeated the injunction over and over.  If no government is what you want, then I give you its alternative:  anarchy for the U.S.A.  Irrespective of naughtiness, my gift to the folks at Fox balls and their teabagging devotees is a pair of Doc Martens and hair clippers so that they can all give each other mohawks.  Rock on!

The religious right's faith in the singularly literal interpretation of an ancient text written by men who thought the world was flat is unwavering.  I admire people that can stick to a certain perspective despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Most astonishing though, I am chilled to the bone that the one thing the religious right wants more than anything in the world is the total destruction of planet Earth.  So, my gift to them is Armageddon and the rapture.  Go out to a hill somewhere in God's country, and wait, while modernity chugs along without you.  However, this is a bit of a gag gift.  It's not the people who subscribe to the idea that the world is 14 billion years old that are going to get left behind.

As a subset of the same category as the religious right, I have a very special gift for advocates of abstinence only sex education:  STD's and more kids than you can reasonably afford.

Oh, and look here what we have in the bag.  I have a gift for those mad geniuses on Wall Street for whom too much wealth, at any cost, is never enough.  They are the only beneficiaries of anything that approaches socialism in the United States.  Our taxes insure that they continue to make outlandish bonuses as they devise ever more complex schemes to screw us in return.  Wall Street executives get locked in a room for twenty-four hours with a gaggle of stinky World Trade Organization protesters, armed with tazers--no cameras, or other recording devices, allowed.

Let's see.  Reaching into the bag, rummaging around...I know it's here somewhere.  Yes, there it is.  For the health insurance industry, you get the bird.

As for the rest of you, all I have to give is infinite patience and an excuse to laugh at anything that might be spun as remotely humorous.

Ho, ho, ho!  Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.    

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pivotal moments in US history changed by the courageous actions of 1.

The citizens of the country were in turmoil. "The President is a socialist" they cried. A large group of protesters formed to demonstrate around the county. "We need to take back the country and follow the Constitution" were the slogans used by some of the most affluent New York investors. They had lost a fortune in investments and were convinced that the country was headed in a hopeless direction of Socialism. They saw the rapid demise of all they had built up. Something must be done......

You may think that this was a description of the "Tea Baggers" and the harsh words were for President Obama. Well, think again. The President is Franklin Roosevelt and the time is during the Great Depression. Roosevelt had just begun execution of a program called the "New Deal".

The "Tea Baggers" of that time were called the American Liberty League and they had actually more in mind than just protesting. What they had in mind was a coup d'etat, a forceful overthrow of the US Government. So some of the wealthiest men in the country along with the help of a large group of investment bankers held a secret meeting in New York to organize and bankroll this devious plan. They then appointed a go-between messenger, Gerald McGuire, of the American Liberty League, to enlist the help of a U.S. Marine Major General by the name of Smedley Butler to gain control and lead the military.

They claimed that they already had control of the newspaper publications and also had immediate access to 3 million dollars to start the coup and up to 300 million if it was needed. That was a huge amount of money in the 1930's!

Smedley Butler wasn't just any sort of General. He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal from both the Army and the Navy. He was also one of only 20 people to receive the Marines Brevet Medal and one of only a handful to twice, let me repeat that, twice receive the Medal of Honor. A national hero if there ever was one.

Initially Gerald McGuire approached the General saying he was from the Committee for a Sound US Dollar, a organization determined to force Roosevelt back to the Gold Standard. He implied that the organization had the support of several political leaders and was bankrolled by the country's most affluent individuals and corporate leaders.

After several meeting with Smedley not showing any interest whatsoever, McGuire dropped all pretenses and at a restaurant meeting laid it all on the line. McGuire indicated that he had the support of key industrial figures and had 3 million in cash to bankroll the cause. He stated that he would like General Butler to lead a force of 500,000 disgruntled Veterans and they were to overthrow the US government. The president and other existing US leadership would keep their positions but the General was to become the secretary of the Office for General Affairs and decisions were to be given to him as to the new formed government.

General Butler expressed interest in this so he joined with the group. After some months of planning, the time for action was now. In the autumn of 1934, General Butler called a press meeting to discuss matters of grave importance. But when the press meeting occurred, he didn't demand the surrender of the US Government. Instead he related to the reporters the details of the plot, complete with names and dates. He had been just playing along with the conspirators all this time. General Butler had also enlisted the help of a undercover reporter by the name of Paul French who was keeping a detailed record of the plot.

After the startling press meeting, Paul French and the General were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee for a full accounting. After their testimony and also testimony from James Zandt, National Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who also had been approached to lead 500,000 veterans on a march on Washington, the HUAC concluded that there was compelling evidence of a coup plot. They stated that there was no doubt that certain persons had made an attempt to establish new governmental control in this country.

Suddenly all the newspapers ran stories as to a "plot without plotters" and ridiculed that US corporate leaders could participate in such "Rabble Rousing" behavior. The governments action was of complete inaction. Criminal charges were brought against no one and the collection of listed people in the report were immediately excused from ever testifying. In addition, the go-between, Gerald Mcguire died suddenly 1 month after the report was made public. But the plan had been stopped abruptly even before a shot was fired.

Who knows what might have happened if it wasn't for the actions of one man, General Smedley Butler, who by the way was also known as the "Fighting Quaker".

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Party Crashing

Three hours had passed without the smell of pepper beef and chicken lo mien wafting through The Lawyer and The Engineer HQ.  The Engineer and I assumed the worse.  We had been abandoned by Edgar, our "intern" editor, the last of our restless team of editors to quit us.

Rudderless, The Engineer and I sat around for a few days, not discussing or doing much.  Eventually I wanted coffee, so I stood up and walked to the coffee maker and set to figuring out how to make the thing work, but we were out of coffee.  "Edgar," I shouted.  "Pop down to the grocery store and get us some Costa Rican, ground..."  The Engineer shook his head at me.  I slapped my forehead.  We missed Edgar.

The monotony was broken as we were jarred by a sudden calling while The Engineer and I watched the President give a speech on one of the cable "news" networks.  We had cable, with a used DVR box, all courtesy of The Engineer who had hijacked cable from a nearby utility pole.

It was a town hall style meeting about health care, joblessness, the economy, Afghanistan, North Korea, swine flu, and global warming, which pretty much ran the gauntlet of all that is wrong in the world.  Listening to him I felt more helpless and alone at the state of things in general than I did by being left to fend for my own basic luxuries by Edgar's resignation.

"Whoa, look there," said The Engineer, pausing the program.  "Right there," he said pointing to a man in a dark suit, sunglasses, a white coil-y thing stuck in one ear, with arms like tree trunks.  "Who does that look like?"

"I don't know?  A secret service guy?"

"Yeah, he's a secret service officer, but have you ever seen him before?" asked The Engineer.  I moved closer to the television and squinted.  I did recognize the bastard.

I stood and backed away from the set pointing at it.  "That's the guy," I said, my heart racing as only it does at the sight of someone by whom you have been tazered and generally roughed up.  "The security guard at Fox News."

"Who had been employed to guard that psychotic, fart-face, dry-drunk Mormon, Glenn Beck," said The Engineer.

"And protect the dread pirate, Rupert Murdoch," I added.

"And," The Engineer said, "charged to keep secret Dick Cheney's undisclosed location in his makeshift vice-presidential office."

The Engineer and I looked at each other, the blood having drained from our already pasty faces as we entertained the same thought.  My voice cracking, I said, "And to watch over the empire of--"

"The Prince of Darkness," said The Engineer as we slumped back into our respective, pre-owned, Lazyboy recliners.

Before you could say "conspiracy theory" we were in The Cube speeding out of town; destination:  The Whitehouse.

Outside the beltway, we booked ourselves into a discount hotel that offered rooms, for a darn reasonable price, by the week or the hour.  There, amidst the exotic smells of illegal substances being inhaled and the sound of primal grunts and groans and head boards thudding against the walls on either side of our room, we formulated our plan to have an audience with someone--anyone--of importance at The Whitehouse.

A black tie event was scheduled for that evening at The Whitehouse in honor of an international dignitary.  Between the two of us, we had just enough money to rent tuxedos and a limousine.  The Engineer explained that under the guise of being diplomatic assistants from the Luxembourg embassy we could gain entrance to the event and provide a written synoptic memorandum to either the President, Joe Biden or Rahm "The Asshole" Emanuel, whoever we could get closest to the fastest, and then we would have completed our mission.  Thereafter, if we were lucky, we could hang out for a while, have a square meal, get drunk, have our photos taken with Hillary Clinton and Katherine Sebelius, and maybe show what we are made of on the dance floor with the First Lady.

"There's one missing ingredient," I said to The Engineer.  "We have to have dates.  You can't go to a black tie event without a top-shelf, classy woman hanging on your arm."

"Damn,  You're right," conceded The Engineer.  "How do we get two dates on short notice?"

The hotel manager, behind the bullet proof glass window in the lobby, looked like just the man that could help us with our dilemma.  Our good host, Abd Al-Ala, who gave the impression he had not cracked a smile in well over a decade, nor appeared in the habit of shaving on a regular basis, impatiently put down the fried chicken leg he had been gnawing on.  "What do you want?  You only get one towel per week."

"No, we don't need a towel," I said.  "We need your advise."

"How does this work for you, my friend?  Go fuck you self,"  Abd Al-Ala counseled.  

"Look, prick," I said, "we need to hire a couple of real classy women to accompany us to a very exclusive party.  I just thought you might be able to point us in the right direction."

"Ha!" he guffawed.  "I know just the women for you.  How classy are we talking here?"

"Um, well, very, very classy," said The Engineer.

"What the fuck are you two?" asked Abd Al-Ala.  "A couple of fucking Canadians?"

"Yes, that's it.  We are a couple of fucking Canadians," I said.  "Now help us out here, you greasy dick wad."

"Very well," said Abd Al-Ala.  "If you want very, very classy piece of ass, as you say, that will cost you one-thousand per evening."

"Ouch," said The Engineer.

"Per woman," added Abd Al-Ala.

"Whoa," I cringed.

"Ha, ha, ha, ha," laughed the sadistic douche bag.  "You a couple of broke ass punks from Canada, huh?"

"Look," I said.  "We don't have much money, but this is what we have to offer."  I was thinking by the seat of my pants.  "We, uh, my colleague and I, are invited to a very exclusive event, and there will be a lot of extremely important and powerful people there.  It could be a great networking opportunity for the right girls, and offer a boost up in their clientele.  This is the perfect chance for the right, entrepreneurial type go-getters."

Abd Al-Ala chewed on another piece of chicken, put it down and wiped his face and hands with a dirty napkin while eying us like we were a couple of shit heads.  A chilling smile broke across his sinister face.  "I've got just the women for you then," he said.  "I know a couple of good Russian girls.  You will have to negotiate your terms yourself with them.  I make no warranties, my friends."  Though their accents were as thick as a Tolstoy novel, we were able to negotiate that in addition to being provided the networking opportunity of a life time, we would pay Inga and Olya one-hundred dollars each.  

That evening we anxiously stepped out of the lobby of the reasonably priced hotel, appareled in discount tuxedos from a haberdashery called Proms-R-Us, with Inga and Olya who each had breasts as downy-white and expansive as Siberia.  We stepped into the white stretch, Hummer limousine with ground effects, rented at a distressed rate.  Inside the limo, rolling for The Whitehouse, we explained to Inga and Olya that all they needed to do was smile, not say a word, and to hang on our every adoring word.  I'm not sure they understood half of what we instructed, as Inga twizzled my hair with her long fingers.

Immediately we garnered unwanted attention as we exited our gaudy limousine, but were able to put ourselves in line with the other guests quickly enough that most there were unaware of who arrived in the monstrous thing.  The line was long and moving slowly as the secret service agents at the door thoroughly checked the contents of everyone's pockets, swept them over with a hand-held metal detector, and another checked off a list as the guests passed through another metal detector.

Succumbing to that familiar queasy feeling I always got before the day would end by being tazered, I lent over to The Engineer and angrily whispered, "There is a guest list.  There's a fucking guest list.  We're fucked."  The man in front of us--who looked like a Mediterranean pervert I represented once--with a blond waif on his arm, had overheard me and caught my eye with a nervous smile on his face.  I darted a cold look into his twitching eyes.  Though he never quit smiling, bigger than life, he was shaking with nerves.  I sensed there was nothing but trouble ahead.

"Change of plan then," whispered the Engineer.  "We are not lower level assistants to Ambassadors from Luxembourg.  We are lower level assistants to Ambassadors from Russia.  We have to be able to see the list, while acting like we don't speak English, and point to the first Russian looking name we see." 

Inga stared at the back of the head of the waif-ish woman in the red, silken, exotic dress, while talking what sounded like a barrel of smack in Russian.  I shushed her, but not before the blond waif turned and smiled stupidly at Inga.  Inga whispered in my ear.  "I do not like the coot of her jib," she said.  "There is something nawt correct about that American beetch."  Hushing her again, Inga shot me a proud and fierce look.

With only the waif and the jittery looking Mediterranean guy with the idiotic smile left to go through the metal detectors, what I saw caused all the hope I had left of gaining entrance to drop out my pant legs.  The secret service agent that had formerly been employed by those ingrates at Fox News was standing there with the clip board with the list of guests on it.  As soon as I had recognized him, as if sensing that I was looking right at him, his eyes went straight from the buffoon with the waif and landed square upon my countenance.

"You!" he shouted.  I looked behind me as if the person being addressed was not me.  He dropped the clip board and lunged at The Engineer and me.  The other agents joined in the fray, reaching and tugging at us as Inga and Olya beat them over the head with their purses and cursed them relentlessly in Russian.

The Engineer and I were able to pull apart from the grasping hands of the agents and make just enough space between us to make ourselves easy targets from the tazers that had been drawn and triggered.  The Engineer and I were shot in the chest, and we went down hard, our teeth chattering madly, as we sputtered out something that sounded like, "Gi-di-di-di-di-di-di." 

In all the excitement the agents lost track of the waif and her man as they slipped through the metal detector and into the event, the press's cameras blasting them in a strobe of flashes as they entered, smiling and waiving.  The Engineer and I were picked off the ground, our limbs still twittering with electricity as we were hauled off into custody of The United States of America.

It was bad enough that we spent the next week detained in close proximity of cartel mules, inner-city gangsters, meth-heads in withdrawal and an assortment of other violent offenders.  The only matter being covered in the news was the incident of The Whitehouse party crashers, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the mad man and his waif wife in the red, silk dress.  It served as a constant reminder of our folly and failed mission.  There was no mention of The Engineer and I since our arrest was a matter of national security and therefore secret.

Otherwise the coverage of the matter was predictably dull.  Who are the Salahi's?  What where they doing there?  How did they get in?  What does their house look like?  What brand of car do they drive?  Whose fault was it that they were able to shake hands with the president and Mrs. Salahi was able to get a photo with the Vice President while fondling his chest?  It went on and on, in a monotonous dribble worse than Chinese water torture, until the announcement came one afternoon.

"This breaking news, just in," announced the perky anchor woman.  "The secret service agent that was in charge of overseeing the guest list at last weeks black tie event at the Whitehouse has been terminated from his duties as an agent for purportedly being derelict in his duties in allowing the now infamous Salahi's to enter the exclusive event, though they were not on the list."  The Engineer and I gave each other a high five and celebrated with an intense game of fish in our homey little cell.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Edgar, The King of Kings

While still masticating the last of the second bagel he had eaten within the span of ten minutes, The Engineer spread a heaping mound of cream cheese on the third he intended to ingest.  "Not hungry?" he asked me with a toothy grin.

I wasn't.  Sitting in the green room, waiting to go on air, live in front of the whole country, my stomach was rebelling, along with my nervous system.  No matter how much I wished to impress that I was calm and perfectly in command of my faculties, my hands were beginning to shake like they had a mind of their own.

A page stuck her head into the green room to remind us that we would be going on in five minutes.  I looked at her like a suffering squirrel that had just been hit by a car, pleading with my eyes to be put out of my misery.  She recognized the look and directed my attention to the top shelf of a cabinet.  Scotch!

Stepping out into the studio of the Rachel Maddow Show, I tripped over a step leading to the stage but managed not to spill any of the contents of the MSNBC coffee mug.  The Engineer bound to the stage and took a seat at the desk across from Rachel with the exuberance of a little boy strapping into a carnival ride.  Seating myself, I took a long draw out of the mug summoning the courage of a hundred generations of musty highlanders.

A voice boomed out of the sound system announcing that we were going live in "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five," and went silent.  I conjured the best smile I could muster that came across as maniacal.  We were live.

After introducing us, Rachel got straight to the controversy that had been slowly suffocating us since stepping into the limelight.  "You made a comment in one of your blog posts, wherein you stated that The Lawyer and The Engineer are more popular than Jesus Christ."  As a result of that statement, we had received trash bags, and hard dives, full of hate mail, a large percentage of which wished The Engineer and I nothing short of an untimely and painful death.

"If I had said television is more popular than Jesus," I started, "I might have got away with it, but I just happened to be making a blog entry, as if I was talking to a friend, and I used the words "The Lawyer and The Engineer" as a remote thing, not as what I think - as The Lawyer and The Engineer, as the Engineer likes other people to see us. I just said 'we' are having more influence on our eleven followers at the time and things than anything else, including Jesus. But I said it in that way which is the wrong way."

Rachel asked, "Some of your blog followers have repeated your statements - 'I like the The Lawyer and The Engineer more than Jesus Christ.' What do you think about that?"

I braced myself with another swig from the mug, and said, "Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to our fans. That we meant more to our fans than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for interpretive dance enthusiasts than for others. I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it's all this."

"But are you prepared to apologize?" Rachel asked.

"Wasn't what I said an apology," I said, my face turning crimson.  "I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying. I'm sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologize if that will make you happy. I still don't know quite what I've done. I've tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologize, if that will make you happy, then OK, I'm sorry."  I wasn't sorry, I just wanted the whole controversy to go away and to be in peace.

"Let's talk about another issue that has garnered a lot of negative attention.  You wrote on your blog that it was your future intention to write an article entitled, Why Conservatives Hate Homosexuals even though Half of Them Are."

"That was The Engineer's idea," I said attempting to deflect some of the controversy away from me.

"It was not my idea, you scrote," said The Engineer.

"Yes it was," I lied.

"Up yours, man," said The Engineer.

"Piss on yourself," I said.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," said Rachel encouraging us to bring it down a notch.  "The reason I ask about this, in part, is that I want to know where the two of you stand on the issue of gay marriage and gay civil rights."

"Well," said The Engineer.  "We have gay friends.  I don't know.  Whatever."

I chimed in, "They're here, they're queer, and we don't care."

"If," said The Engineer, "those people want the right to get married and divorced, more power to them.  Give it to them."  Rachel, the sharpest, lesbian wit on national television, contorted her face in a grimace.

"You have friends who are gay?  Those people?  Seriously?  That sounds like what bigots say who are being disingenuous," said Rachel.

"Here's the deal," said The Engineer.  "What we were really getting at with the quip about people hating homosexuals being gay themselves is this:  That any irrational hatred of any aspect, or expression of human behavior that poses no direct threat to a person's well being, though is perceived as such, is nothing but a repression of one's own sacral desires and inclinations, and the self loathing that fosters is projected externally.  The internal threat is externalized and made other--not the self.  Hatred of anything, not a real threat, is denial, and a hatred of self.  Homophobes are closet gays."

Rachel and I looked at each other approvingly.  "Wow.  Sounds good to me," I said.

A thousand miles away, in God's country, between the rural townships of Gotiebow and Bowlegs, the right Reverend Ezekiel Slanderson, the leader of the Southend Pentecostal Church of the Apocalypse, picked up the remote control and turned off his television set.  "Dear Lord," he muttered to himself picking up the phone to call his second in command.  "Daryl.  The Lord has spoken to me this evening.  The Lord told me that the end times are, at this moment, upon us, and the sinners are to be swept away in a fiery storm of God's wrath.  The Lord also told me that we have one last mission to undertake in his hallowed name.  Mobilize the flock.  And most importantly, Daryl, find out everything you can about two fag-loving sinners called The Lawyer and The Engineer."

All of our editors, with the exception of Edgar, had quit The Lawyer and The Engineer citing the unsustainability of working for free.  Edgar was different.  He had recently graduated from college--an English major--and was happy, given the state of the economy, to be an "intern" editor.  He had long hair that he kept in a pony tail, and a beard for the reason that he could not afford a hair cut, razors or shaving cream.  The Engineer and I were happy to have Edgar, the "intern" editor, working long hours, fetching coffee, running errands and generally doing the things for us that we didn't want to do for ourselves, for no remuneration beyond encouragement, food and the occasional pat on the head.  Edgar was a great sport.

There was a forceful knock at the door at the bottom of the stairway that led to the street below.  "Edgar," I said.  "Be a good fellow and go so if that is another delivery of tazers."  The only material benefit that fame had thus far brought us was that we had been sponsored by the same tazer company whose weapons we had been stunned by more than once, all chronicled here in The Absurd Adventures of The Lawyer and The Engineer.  We already had three boxes full of the damn things.

"Do it your self," suggested Edgar.

"I can't.  Look at me. I can't get up when I am holding a newspaper in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other," I said.  "Ask The Engineer, he's not doing anything."

"Sorry, Edgar," said The Engineer.  "I'm thinking."

Edgar smirked and made his way to the stairway muttering profanities under his breath.  He came back, the blood having rushed out of his face, holding a piece of paper in his trembling hand.  He held it to us.

"What is it?" asked The Engineer.  Edgar could only stammer in response.

"Give it to me," I said.  I read it out loud.  " And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.   And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.  God hates fags.  God hates Jews.  God hates The Lawyer and The Engineer."

"Geese, that's a little harsh, don't you think?" asked The Engineer.

"Who in the hell is this from?" I asked looking at the blank backside of the note.

"It's--it's those bat-shit nuts," said Edgar, "from--oh shit, I can't remember what they are called.  Ah!  The Southend Pentocostal Church of the Apocalypse.  God I hate those assholes."

"Well," I pointed out, "they don't make themselves very lovable, do they?  What I want to know is how they found us?"  I asked looking at The Engineer.  "There is no public record whatsoever that we have anything to do with this building.  Ah!" I said slapping my forehead.  "Unless they checked the county records to see what property we are paying taxes on."

"They are famous for peaceful demonstrations, no matter how offensive, but otherwise they operate like a terrorist organization, with cells in every city across the South and Midwest," said Edgar.

"How do you know so much about them?" I asked.  "You're not one of them?"

"Fuck no.  I hate those bastards.  I wish they would all die a slow, miserable death."  Edgar was shaking and looked like he would lose his mind.  "Guys, this has been a great resume builder for me, working for you, but I am afraid I will have to tender my one minute notice, now."

"Whoa, whoa, hold on," said The Engineer.  "You can't quit--or, I guess you can, about a tazer?  You want a tazer?"  Edgar shook his head in the negative.  "Two?" asked The Engineer, upping the ante.

"I don't want a fucking tazer!" Edgar exploded.  "I want money, and you two worthless jack-holes don't have any."

"Not much," I said modifying his assessment.

Our attention was suddenly captivated by the angry sound of a man yelling.  We sidled up to the windows over looking the typically quiet and empty street and saw a throng of white bread, unimaginatively dressed people.  The signs they held more than made up for their outward appearance of complete blandness.  The signs read, God hates this and God hates that; mostly Jews and homosexuals.  "That's the Reverend Slanderson," Edgar told us.   

The preacher stood before them giving them an Old Testament, looker room, pep rally.  He quoted nonsensical scripture breathlessly, interspersed with prophecy of the end of times and the second coming.  "This is the anointed moment!  That time we are blessed to see with our own eyes!  That Jesus will return and smote the sinners into eternal hell-fire and damnation!  And we, the chosen ones, after aiding God in his will to bring the sinners to their knees, and dash the life out of them, will be lifted up by the Angels of heaven, to be with and in the glory of the Almighty!  Amen!"  That was followed by more scriptural non sequiturs.

I couldn't resist any longer.  I opened the window and shouted at the children of the corn.  With all their eyes on me, I grabbed my crotch and hollered, "Here's your Almighty, fuck-nuts!"  The Engineer and Edgar ducked away from the window, praying to the great Santa Claus, sky god that they would live to see tomorrow.

The Reverend had a skeletal face, with nothing of the rosy meat of joy in his chin or cheeks.  His tight expressionless face gave way to the most sinister grin I have ever had the displeasure to witness.  Under one arm he had a Bible.  The other raised up, a bony, chilly white finger pointed straight at me.  He said, "Death is your mother."  I'm not sure what in the hell he meant by that, but I didn't like the tone of it.         

"Oh shit," said Edgar.  "Let's not screw around with these characters; just call the police."

"No, no, don't call the police," said The Engineer.  "There are a few problems with that.  We don't own, nor rent this building," he confessed to Edgar.  "We are squatters."

"I looked it up in county records," I said.  "The guy who owned this building has been dead for ten years.  We pay the taxes on it."

"And I," said The Engineer, "have all the utilities illegally hooked.  Most importantly, the police are exactly what those assholes want.  If the police come, then so do the media.  They love the attention, so let's no give it to them."  We were in agreement, and went about our day to the noxious sounds of Leviticus, Genesis, Ezekiel and Revelations disjointedly quoted in angry, white voices.  Occasionally I peeked my head out the window to try to engage in dialogue with the inbreds.

"Hey, crackers!  Help me out here.  What does this mean?" I asked and read from the Bible we had there at The Lawyer and The Engineer HQ.  "From Ezekiel, and I quote, 'I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by; I let them become defiled through their gifts--the sacrifice of every firstborn--that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD!"

"Sinner," one yelled to me.  "Faggot," screamed another.  "Jew!" bellowed a third.

"I don't know about the sinner part, for sure, but I'm sorry to disappoint you.  I'm not a Jew, nor a homosexual."  They booed and hissed me.  "I'm sorry, that's just the way it is and I can't help it.  Another passage I need help with.  Explain this shit from Deuteronomy: 'You may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud.  However, of those that chew the cud or that have a split hoof completely divided you may not eat the camel, the rabbit, or the coney.'  No coneys, with delicious cheese, chili, onions and mustard?  That's my definition of hell."

Slanderson, not to be out done in the nonsensical quoting of Biblical scripture department, fired off:  "The sun will darken," and with those words, a cold front with clouds finally moved in, obscuring the sun, just as it had been forecasted by the local weatherman that morning.  The creepy old bastard of a reverend continued, "and the moon will not give its light--"  It happened to be a new moon The Engineer stated.  "The stars will fall from the sky--"  I queried whether there was supposed to be any meteor showers that evening.  Edgar and The Engineer shrugged.  "And the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  They will see the Son of Man on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.  I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all of these things have happened," he hollered, the cage of his chest heaving up and down under neath his shirt. 

"Do you suppose," I asked Edgar and The Engineer, "they believe the second coming is upon us?"

"Ask them," said The Engineer.

"Hey!  Reverend Skeletor!  When's the rapture?"

"Soon," he answered up.  "Before the day is over, faggot!"

It was then that I had noticed Edgar was looking queasier with each passing moment.  I also took note that he bore and uncanny resemblance to a famous biblical character.  "Edgar," I said.

"What," he said, a little jumpy.

"Undo your pony tail for a moment, please."


"Just do it, damn it," I persuaded.

Edgar let down his hair.  "Fuck me running," I said.  "Look at that.  Who does Edgar look like?"  The Engineer puzzled over Edgar but could not see the similarity at first.  "It's Jesus H. Christ, in our midst."  And he did look just like him, or at least the simile of the Northern European Jesus that had been shoved into the eye sockets of white, God-fearing children since time immemorial.  Edgar had deep blue, shaming eyes, like the ones your mother looked at you with the first time she caught you masturbating in the bathroom.  He also had a long, sad and humorless face, to go with the beard--it was a perfect match.  "Behold," I proclaimed, "The Son of God!"

"Would you like to play the part of Jesus in a little passion play this afternoon?" I asked Edgar.

"Oh no.  No, no, no.  Fuck you," he responded.

"Wa, ha, ha, ha," laughed The Engineer.  "No, Edgar, you have to.  This is going to be too good."

"And if I refuse?" asked Edgar.

"Then you are fired," said The Engineer and I in unison.

"Then, I quit," said Edgar walking towards the stairway.

"We'll pay you," I said.

Edgar stopped and turned.  "Pay me what?  Chinese take out?  Screw you."

"Um," the Engineer said, "twenty-five dollars."

"Get serious," said Edgar.

"Fine," I said.  "Fifty."  Edgar thought it over, and then shook his head.  "Okay.  One-hundred, and that's our final offer."

"Where is it?  Put the cash on the barrel," said Edgar.  I pulled out my check book, of a closed account, and wrote and endorsed it to his order.  On the memo line I wrote, "For services faithfully rendered unto the governor of the universe."  Ripping the check free, I handed it to him.  Edgar looked it over and said, "To tell you the truth, I don't think I could do what I think you are thinking for a million dollars."

"Why?" asked The Engineer.

"Guys," said Edgar.  "I'm Jewish."

"So what?  Jesus was a Jew.  And you don't look it."  I said.

"Oh, because I don't have dark hair and skin and a big nose?"

"Well, yeah," said The Engineer.  "They'll think you are Jesus."

"Damn it," grimaced Edgar.  "I-I," he paused, "I'm also gay."

"All the better," I said gleefully rubbing my hands together with the serendipity of it all. 

After a quick rehearsal, we huddled at the back door that let out to the alley behind head quarters.  "Just in case," said The Engineer, handing Edgar a tazer.

"How do I use this?" asked Edgar.

"It's all ready to go.  Just aim and pull the trigger if it comes to that," said The Engineer.  Edgar put it in the front pocket of his jeans underneath the brown robe that we had fashioned for him from an old, dusty curtain.

"Now go forth," I summoned, "and may the peace of the Lord be with you."

"You guys suck," said Edgar as he walked down the alley and out of view.

Back at our perch, over looking the premodern  imbeciles below, Edgar emerged from around the corner with his arms uplifted.  One of the flock saw him and went silent.  Then two more, and three, began to tremble with ecstasy at the sight and comfort that the world had finally come to an end.  "He hath returned!" shouted one.  "Behold, our Savior!" screamed another.  The rest began to froth and babble in tongues.

The Reverend approached Edgar, our Lord, and dropped to his knees in front of him.  "Dear Lord, Christ Almighty--you have returned.  We are your servants.  Bid us your command, Son of God."

Edgar looked them over, and shot a glance up at The Engineer and I, our heads peeking over the window seal above.  We nodded to him, encouraging him on.  "Kneel before your Lord," hollered Edgar, his voice cracking.  The flock dropped to their knees, some laying out flat on their bellies in the street.  There was a long pause as Edgar was obviously wondering what to say next.

The Reverend, holding his Bible in front him, his thin lips twitching, asked him again, "What is your command, O Lord?  What would you have us know and do on this day that the sinners, faggots and Jews will be swept into the flames of hell?"

Edgar spoke, thus:  "You shall do God's bidding on Earth, as he does in heaven."  Edgar took a deep breath, and let it rip.  "I am the Son of God, the Prince of Peace.  I am love!  I command you to love your brother as I do.  Forgiveness is my sustenance.  And love for all of God's creatures is my gift.  And by all of God's creatures, I mean ALL people, no matter what religion they follow--or no religion at all; ALL men and women, whether they be Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, or homosexuals.  THAT IS MY COMMAND!"

Rising to his feet, the Reverend stood toe-to-toe with his Holy Majesty, and looked him in his twitching eyes.  The ancient Reverend began to shake with anger.  He held his Bible to the air and yelled, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction!"  We didn't like the sound of that, least of all Edgar.  The Reverend turned to his flock, and gave them an acidic frown that made my skin crawl.  Turning back to Edgar, the Reverend struck him across the head with his Bible.  "Damn you to hell!" thundered the old buzzard, and was about to strike Edgar again, but not before two prongs of tazer zapped him between the eyes.

Never losing his grasp on his Bible, Slanderson convulsed, "Ga-di-di-di-di-di," his teeth chattering as he dropped to the ground, and flopped around.

The flock was as figuratively stunned as their convulsing leader.  Edgar, unable to resist getting in one last juicy jab, lent over Slanderson and said, "You've just been tazered by a queer Jew, bitch."  Edgar stood and took stock of his predicament.  He was outnumbered by fifty.  Edgar pointed to the sky behind them and yelled, "Behold!"  Every last one of the dim-wits turned to see what it was.  Edgar tucked-tail and ran like his hair was on fire back for the alley.

With a twenty yard head start, the flock tore after him.  The Engineer and I hustled down to the back door with it cracked open, waiting for the arrival of the carpenter from Nazareth.  He came furiously high-stepping it, holding the bottom of his robe in his hand, and dove into the door to safety.  I shut and latched it as the faithful pounded on the other side demanding blood.  The Engineer reinforced the door with a two-by-four.  He ran to the front and did the same just as the flock began pounding and calling for our heads there.

"Oh shit," I said.  "This is bad.  You really pissed them off Edgar."  Our hearts were in our throat.  "How long are these doors going to last?" I asked the Engineer.  The Engineer shrugged.  "Fuck.  What in the hell are we going to do?  These bastards intend to kill us."

Edgar ran up the stairs to the main room.  "Where are you going?" I yelled up to him.  Edgar logged on to Facebook, Twitter, and began emailing with one hand, while furiously texting with the other.  His electronic dexterity was breath taking.  "What in the hell are you doing?" I asked.  "This is no time to be lolly-gagging and networking."

"Shut the fuck up," said Edgar.

"That's really no way to speak to your employers," said The Engineer, as the howling of the true believers grew more violent by the second, and the front and the back doors were being pummeled.

"There," said Edgar.  "It's our only hope," he said peering over the window seal.  Below us was a splintering crash.  They were in the stairway.  No sooner than The Engineer leaped to the door to the room and bolted that door shut, the anointed ones were hard at it, unhinging the one thing that was prolonging our lives.

The Engineer and I stood hard against the door, holding it to while more than one of the flock threw themselves against it from the other side, repeatedly, for the next five minutes.  "Crapping hell!" yelled The Engineer.  "We're goners, aren't we?  I'd say this door has about two minutes left."  I had the uneasy feeling that The Engineer's assessment of the structural integrity of the door was dead on.

"Ha!" guffawed Edgar.  "It worked.  They're here! They're here!" he said jumping up and down by the window, still in his robe.  We could hear the thunderous roar of motorcycles.  "Come look," said Edgar.

"But the door," I said.

"We're saved, We're saved," said Edgar.  I left The Engineer holding the fort, and ran to one of the windows.  At one end of the street there was a sortie of motorcycles mounted by men all decked out in black, leather chaps, pants, vests, boots, jackets, and halters connected by a chrome ring above the solar plexus.  At the other end there was about fifteen, shirtless hulks, pure muscle and all business, punching their fists in their hands.  Edgar yelled instructions to the bikers and body builders.

They took after the Pentecostals on the street, banging heads, flipping them in the air, head over ass.  Bikers came in the destroyed front door.  The pounding on the other side of the door that thinly separated us from being maimed stopped.  The Engineer stepped away from the door, puzzled.  Then there was a blood curdling scream, and desperate pleas were shouted, mixed with sadistic laughs, and more screaming.  We dared not to open the door for fear of what we might see.

In the street, the fallen were picking themselves up, scuttling about and trying to escape.  Two Pentecostals picked up the Reverend, the tazer darts still stuck to his forehead, and dragged him away.  One biker was beating another Pentecostal over the head with a God Hates Fags sign as he chased him down the street and out of view.

"We did it!" I celebrated.

Edgar looked at me, and asked, "What do you mean 'we'?"  With the exception of the occasional scream for mercy and the roar of motorcycle in the distance, things had quieted down considerably in the street.  The Engineer went down stairs and propped up the doors in their jams.

Looking out the window still intoxicated with bewilderment, I saw a police cruiser round the corner.  I stepped away from the window and out of sight.  Getting a glance a safe distance away from the window, I spied the cruiser moving along down the road and away.

Peace and quiet had finally returned after five hours of Biblical mayhem.  It was as eerie as it was relieving.

"Whew," said The Engineer.

"Wow," I said.

Edgar wiped perspiration from his forehead with his sleeve.

"Edgar," said The Engineer.

"Yeah," responded Edgar.

"How about being a good sport, and pop around the corner and get us some Chinese carry-out.  I'm famished," said The Engineer.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ode to my Shadow: A Poem

Leave me alone.
That's not me,
You see, peering
Through the blinds.
Let me be,
It's peace I need,
Guarding my
Soul and blood.
I know its urgent,
You need me ASAP,
But I do not,
Bathe with my phone.
Your sky is falling,
They're at the gate calling,
Your mortal name.
Rome is burning,
But I must
Play my fiddle.
Leave me alone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

T.M.I. and Polarization effects of the Internet.

The title of the blog stands for too much information. What? Is it possible to have too much information? I think in some cases, it can cause a distortion and polarization of viewpoints, especially in the political circus of American Politics.

Well let me clarify the statement of too much information. I mean too much information of the same viewpoint. The Internet allows a person to seek easy reinforcement of opinions and viewpoints that the person may hold. It is easy to find out "You are not alone" in whatever it may be. But are you just reinforcing  preexisting viewpoints?

With the old news information networks like newspapers and TV news, reading or watching exposed you to stories with viewpoints that were not particularly yours at the time. But, if a valid case was made or facts that were previously not known presented for a different opinion, intelligent minded people may actually veer towards changing their mind.

In a way, you were forced to deal with differences in thinking. You could think of it like traveling to another country or culture.You are exposing yourself to different opinions and facts, expanding your mind and outlook.

With today's instant click stories, blogs, and websites dedicated to certain viewpoints, doesn't this act as a reinforcement of ideas, giving people a sense of belonging with this "group-think". Most of these sites also contain links to "Sites we follow"that will further elaborate on the same viewpoint, perhaps getting just that perfect angle or soundbite that trumps the site before.

With the new social networking applications becoming more popular, does this reinforce this process?. If you create a network of friends, doesn't most of those friends hold similar opinions about social issues and political mandates. Even when a dissimilar viewpoint is expressed, does it eventually become a comment shout-down instead of debate? There has even been a funny observation of that phenomena, see Godwins Rule of Internet debate.

I am under the opinion that the current state of affairs of partisan politics is not all just the effects of the Bush Administration and throwing the Republicans out because of the direction the country was taking. I think that this is the new face of the American political process. Each political side, with its vast virtual army of spin, will continue to enlarge the gap between what is considered the center, not only by cherry picking stories to present their particular slant, but also by playing on emotions of a "Us versus Them" or "those people.."

There will always be biased news, blogs, and sources of "Truth". The Lawyer and Engineer blog could be claimed to be biased by who we make fun of. But we have also stated that any viewpoint, if the facts can be presented, will have value.

The only path that must be taken is for people to base their opinions by making the effort, not becoming complacent in searching for the truth. Don't just go to the same places for your facts. Mix it up, see what the other side has to say. Find out what other countries have to say about the same news. Don't be lazy!

You shouldn't always seek out that feeling of self righteous smugness from your favorite dogma channel!

 If you just want comfort, make yourself some smores.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Raccoon Mountain

Other than practicing law, there existed three other things I could cite as "job related experience" on my resume:  dishwasher, cubicle rat, and lawn boy.  Tired of loitering around the house in sandals, boxer shorts, a t-shirt and a robe, and my back aching from sleeping on the couch, where I had been relegated to by my wife
after the Smoky Balls incident, I focused my efforts on becoming gainfully employed as a lawyer, once again.  I shaved my beard.  Three weeks later I was employed as an associate at a large firm, and finally had sex with my wife instead of my right hand.

As for The Engineer and I, we had ceased to be on speaking terms.  He had accused me of selling out.  I had accused him of being a half-witted mooncalf.  The coupe de grace was when he poured sugar in my gas tank.  I swore that I would never talk to him again, much at the urging of my wife.  

Law practice was just as wonderful as it had always been, working sixty-plus hours a week, gen'ing billable hours for work that may, or may not have been actually accomplished, all in a cold, soulless environment where nary a laugh could be heard.  The judges were still dyspeptic, opposing counsel was still zealously uncivil, and the clients were still out of their ever-loving minds.  Practice was still a high-paying, meaningless endeavor; the kind that makes being an artist subsisting on a meager diet of Ramon Noodles look attractive.  

"So, I have this condition," said Gerald, my client.  "See, here is the note from my therapist," he said handing it to me.  "I have this turtle.  His name is Gomer. I would take Gomer to work with me in a box, and let him hang out in my cubicle.  Gomer helps calm my nerves and keep me from--," Gerald choked up.  I slid a box of tissue across my desk to him.  Gerald took a handful and trumpeted a few ounces of mucous into them, and laid the soppy tissues on my desk.  "I got fired."

"Because of the turtle," I said.

Gerald looked at me, indignant.  "Yes, because of the turtle.  Because of Gomer.  What else?"

"Gomer is a 'he'?"

"Yes," said Gerald.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"What does that have to do with my discrimination suit?" asked Gerald.

"There is no suit yet.  We're just talking about whether you may have an employment claim.  We've got to figure that out before we file a petition with the court.  Is the turtle--um, Gomer--is he the only reason that you were terminated?"

"No," confessed Gerald.  "Also, part of my therapy is to laugh out loud for fifteen minutes every hour."

"Really," I said.  "And where would you exercise that part of your therapy."

"At my desk!  Where else?"

"You couldn't go outside and laugh?"

"No," said Gerald.  "I have terrible allergies.  I have to laugh inside."

My phone rang.  My secretary said I had a call from a man that would only identify himself as "The Engineer," and that it was vitally important that he speak to me that very moment; something about saving the planet from utter destruction.  I rolled my eyes.  "Excuse me, Gomer--ah, I mean, Gerald.  Important call I got to take."

"I'm not important?" protested Gerald.

"You are, you are very important.  Just give me a moment.  This will be really quick," I assured him.

"Dude, you've got come with me," The Engineer said frantically on the other end of the line.

"Stop right there," I said.  "I thought my wife had made it clear to you that you were never to speak to me again."

"I know, I know, goddamit, but listen.  This is it.  This is big.  We have a chance to become national heroes.  We'll be on the cover of Mother Jones.  I've got The Cube gassed up and a bag full of soda and chocolate ho-ho's.  I'm waiting out in front of the building.  We are going to West Virginia to stop a mountain top mining operation."

"What's this 'we' shit," I said.  "I'm not going anywhere.  I've got a good job," I lied.  "It is way passed due to give up these follies.  You can go without me.  Now leave me alone."

"Come on, man," implored The Engineer.  "We have a chance to make history.  This is going to be fucking spectacular.  We are going to save a mountain.  Do I need to remind you?  Drawing clarity from the opaque, shining light into darkness, confronting ignorance with brilliance, and strangling boredom with competent absurdity and critique of postmodern interpretive--" I hung up.

I considered Gerald for a moment.  "Could I get you to wait here for just a moment?  I will be right back," I said, nonchalantly walking out of my office before he could protest.  I walked by my secretary, putting on my jacket, and in a very easy-going manner told her I would be right back, but to hold my calls.  I could hear Gerald begin laughing in my office as my colleagues and staff came out of their nooks and crannies to take stock of the offending noise.

The elevator doors opened and I shuffled past one of the elderly partners of the firm who was getting off.  "Sir," I saluted.  He grunted in response.  I pushed for ground floor, whistling, with my hands clenched behind my back, the twenty-five floors to the street.  The doors opened to the lobby.  I walked calmly, waving to the security guard.  A few yards from the door I could contain myself no longer and broke into a hair-on-fire sprint, burst through the revolving doors, and dove headlong into the passenger seat of The Cube.  The Engineer revved the engine in neutral, dropped it into drive and we were off in a flash of smoke.

Hours later and before dawn, hopped up on ho-ho's and pop, armed with fifty pounds of sugar, dressed in black, with smudge camouflaging our faces, we stood looking through the tall chain link fence that surrounded the work yard of Massey Energy.  There were twenty or so trucks loaded down with explosives, ready to deploy that morning to a nearby mountain whose destiny it was to be blown to kingdom come to expose the coal beneath it.  The resulting rubble was to be transported to fill in, and bury, an adjacent valley.

With steel clippers in hand, The Engineer sliced a line in the bottom section of fence, enabling us to pull back the edges wide enough for us to pass through.  We gave each other a thumbs-up, and with backpacks full of sugar, we stealthily high stepped it to the trucks ahead.  I unscrewed the gas cap of one of the trucks, and stopped.  "Did you hear that?" I whispered to The Engineer.  The Engineer shook his head in the negative.  I finished unscrewing the cap as The Engineer held up the first bag of sugar to empty in the tank.

Flood lights lit the yard up, causing The Engineer and I to jump to our feet.  We were surrounded by a couple of dozen humorless looking goons with automatic weapons pointed right at our heads.  A man with a fat face and a little sheriff mustache walked through the platoon of armed men and stood in front of us.

"How you all doing dismornin'," said the man as he chuckled.  "Let me introduce myself.  My name's Don Blankenship, the proprietor of this here operation."  It was Blankenship, the fat bastard, CEO, of Massey Energy that had been blowing up West Virginia's mountains, and burying her valleys, polluting the water, and generally devastating the Appalachian ecosystem, for years, while donating staggering amounts of money to politicians, mostly Republican.  In consideration of his coal fortune, once a year, during the holidays, he would personally hand out frozen turkeys to the toothless, mentally-stunted hillbillies that inhabited the surrounding area.

"I'd like you to meet my friends from the Blackwater organization," he said pointing to the armed men behind him.  "These good Christian mercenaries help to take care of mischief makers like you."

"Good morning," said The Engineer to the Blackwater guards.  His salutation was reciprocated with stoic silence.  "Rude," The Engineer muttered.

"Well, boys, I'm kinda busy this morning."  Blankenship snapped his fingers and the Blackwater guards were all over us like a rash.  "Enjoy your last sunrise," said the fat fuck, laughing.  Before we could say global warming The Engineer and I had been bound and fastened, on our backs (so we could enjoy the sunrise, as one of the guards put it) with duck tape to the hood of a Hummer, and driven out of the yard with the convoy of explosives laden trucks rolling out behind us.        

We bumped along for a long while over what felt like an uneven, pothole ridden, mountain road, ever ascending.  Finally the Hummer came to a stop in the middle of a clearing.  It was the mountain top that was to go up, along with us, in a mighty plume of dirt and fire, shaved bald in preparation for the festivity.  Men were hustling about all around us packing explosives in holes that had been previously excavated.  After a while the frenetic comings and goings of the workers subsided.  A Blackwater guard appeared standing over the hood looking down on The Engineer and me.

"This looks like the end of the line for you, dick wads," said the guard.  Looking at his watch, he added, "You have exactly an hour.  Enjoy the fireworks."

What we didn't know was that a safe distance away planned protests were in full swing by a number of environmental groups, and had attracted the media.  Vans and talking heads from all the major and cable networks had set up shop to cover the event.  In attendance was CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX who had brought with them a gaggle of idiot tea baggers that had somehow been convinced that blowing up mountains for coal was a good thing and had an amorphous connection with their personal freedom from government intrusion.  Also, there was The Engineer's wife and kids, and mine, searching through the crowd of thousands for us.

As it turns out, the day before, The Engineer's wife had stumbled upon a notebook, authored by The Engineer, that outlined, in excruciating detail, our plan to sabotage the trucks and take the mountain, thus saving the environment and gaining some sorely needed publicity for The Lawyer and The Engineer.  She contacted my wife and told her all about it, and they arrived a few hours later by plane and a rented minivan.

My wife happened to be standing next to Don Blankenship, by the FOX News van, when she over heard him mutter to another Massey executive there, "Don't worry.  The whole thing is taken care of.  When the mountain goes," he said looking down at his watch, "in fifteen minutes, there wont be a thing left of those two morons."

After forty-five minutes of contemplating the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, The Engineer and I were quickly coming to terms with our shared fates.  We recited our mission statement together.  The Engineer said with a quivering voice, "I love you, man."

Tears streamed down the side of my face.  "I love you, brother."  Then I noticed an eagle circling over head.  I thought of Soaring Eagle and what he had told us out on the reservation about the universe and the spirit world.

At that moment a raccoon, my animal spirit, with whom I had become acquainted in Smoky Balls, popped its head over the top of the grill of the Hummer close to our feet.  We stared at each other.  "Get out of here, little fellow.  We are all about to be blown to bits," I said.

"Do what?" asked the raccoon, looking confused.

"You heard me," I said.  "Get going, unless you want to get atomized along with us."

The Engineer looked at me, puzzled.  "Who in the hell are you talking to?"

"The raccoon.  Who do you think?"

"Wow, you're really losing it," said The Engineer.  "This is bad, bad, bad," he blubbered.

I shushed The Engineer and resumed my conversation with the raccoon.  "This mountain is going to blow any moment now.  You have to leave."  The raccoon climbed down from the hood of the Hummer as The Engineer and I were mumbling our prayers, which were interrupted by a tapping on the windshield from inside the SUV.  We craned our heads to see the raccoon inside the car waving at us, excited.

"The keys, the keys!  They left the keys in the car!" yelled the raccoon.  The engine beneath turned over and rumbled to life.  Then there was a click noise, and the Hummer began to slowly move forward.  "Ha-ha!  I'm driving, I driving!" shouted the raccoon, holding the steering wheel, jumping up and down in the drivers seat, as the Hummer idled forward and picked up momentum heading straight for the forest and down a steep incline.

My wife was giving Blankenship what-not.  "What did you say, you fat fuck?  Are you talking about my husband and his reprobate friend?  Where are they?"  Several cameras trained on the commotion between my wife and Blankenship.  "I heard what you said."  My wife bleated to who ever would listen.  "My husband and his retarded friend are on that mountain.  They're going to get blown up!"

The Hummer rumbled down the side of the mountain, narrowly missing trees and jumping ravines.  The SUV went up on two wheels as it struck a large green, and metal box that looked like a transformer, demolishing it to pieces.  As things would have it, that box was the relay station for the multiple lines connected to the detonators above, and we disabled it, saving the mountain.

The Engineer and I screamed at the top of our lungs, as the raccoon laughed hysterically.  At least on the top of the mountain we were destined for a quick and painless death by explosion, but now it looked as if we were to get dashed into a tree and skip across a few boulders before having the Hummer, driven by a raccoon, rolled over us.  I was feeling unapologetically irritated.

After what seemed an eternity of bouncing down the side of the mountain, we finally leveled off into a clearing where there was a large group of people gathered.  People were hustling, jumping and diving to avoid being ran over by the maniacal raccoon.  The Hummer was running out of momentum, but still moving quick enough to pack a punch as we approached a van that said FOX News where a fat bastard, with a cheesy little mustache, was wrestling with a woman that looked a hell of a lot like my wife. 

The woman looked straight at us coming straight at her.  She jumped out of the way in a nick of time.  The last thing Blankenship saw before being struck unconscious and having his clavicle, femur and eight ribs broken was the large silver letters "HUMMER" and the faces, contorted with excitement, of The Engineer, the raccoon and me.  Having cleanly ran over Blankenship, the Hummer came to a stop as it crashed into the Fox News van.

A bunch of itchy looking environmentalist ran to the Hummer and peeled The Engineer and me loose.  The raccoon, not particularly fond of large social gatherings of hairless apes, jumped ship and ran for the woods, but not before stopping and waving to me.  I waved backed, smiling.

"Daddy!  Daddy!" yelped my daughters running to me.  I bent down to hug them as they crashed into me, knocking me over.  The sun was blotted from the sky by the head of my wife standing over us.  I stood at attention.  We looked into each others eyes.  She grabbed my face and kissed me passionately.  The crowd cheered and clapped.

The Engineer's wife and kids ran to him, smothering him in hugs and kisses.  Cameras and microphones jockeyed all around us.  The questions were flying at us quicker than we could hear them.

That was the day the world was introduced to The Lawyer and The Engineer as flat screen TV's the globe over were occupied by our discombobulated, smudged faces in high definition.  The Engineer and I raised our fists in solidarity to the wild cheers of our adoring fans.

Gerald, watching the news with Gomer, couldn't believe his eyes, as he turned the TV off and called his therapist.