My Christmas Letter for 2012 (December 18, 2012)
No, Timmy is not a straight-A student and sports star, Mandy did not get accepted to an Ivy League university, we did not go to Disney World and no, I did not get a promotion to the corner office.
Sorry for the emailed Christmas letter, but right now I'm in a homeless encampment, living in my old Cadillac hearse, and scraping up the doe-ray-mi for 45-cent stamps is a bit tough. The library closes early so I can't use their computers, but luckily one of the fellas here is tech-savvy and he hacked into the city dump wireless network--it's next door, so to speak, and mighty convenient. Seems most employees there use the same password, 123456789.
Anyway, I had a spot of bother earlier this year, and things like that tend to gather speed as they roll downhill, which is what happened to me.
As you know, I only have the one good eye, and it's not all that strong on distance. I reckon I could get a pair of specs at the VA, but the old hearse sucks a lot of gas and the 200-mile round trip to the VA costs a pretty penny. So instead I just bought a pair of drugstore glasses that seemed to work pretty well.
You want a vehicle that drinks gas like no tomorrow, get yourself an M-1 tank. You don't even want to know the mileage those babies get.
A coyote had taken down one of my goats, a sad day for me, and I spotted a buzzard circling above the carcass. I didn't want it to attract a bunch of other critters looking for a free meal, so I grabbed Betsy the Blunderbuss and squeezed off a couple shots at the buzzard.
One lucky shot hit it, because the buzzard tumbled out of the sky in a most peculiar fashion. That was the first hint the darned thing wasn't a buzzard at all but one of these new-fangled drones the government's flying all over the place now.
As you know, I served Uncle Sam in the first scrap with Saddam back in 1991--National Guard 1988, hello Desert Storm 1991--so I recognized the cameras and what-not on the wreckage and it dawned on me that the gizmo had probably filmed me taking potshots at it. The Feds wouldn't take kindly to me shooting down their drone, and I got a chill up my back when I realized I was probably now a DT--Domestic Terrorist.
You'd think being a tank jockey for Uncle Sam would count for something in this little misunderstanding, but I didn't give myself much of a chance once Homeland Security and the rest of the gang showed up. I knew they'd find my little medicinal Mary-Jane patch next to the forest boundary, and then the DEA boys would get added to the mix.
So I packed up real quick-like--easy because there's not much of value on the ranch-- and reckoned I'd call my neighbor later and ask him to keep on eye on the goats. I'd stashed my one gold Maple Leaf coin and a bag of silver dimes in a Folger's can by the back fence post, and in making my way through the forest to retrieve the can I ran into a half-dozen tough-looking hombres with assault rifles.
Turns out the Mexican Mafia had set up a major Mary-Jane farm in the national forest right behind my little ranch, and I had to do some pretty fast talking not to end up in a shallow grave. Knowing the names of my goats seemed to impress them, and though some thought better of it, the leader let me go.
I hightailed it back to the hearse and headed for the fancy outlet mall. During one of my recent dumpster-diving trips, I'd found a dead iPhone, which I kept as a paper weight. With the iPhone in hand, I approached a rich kid and told him my battery was kaput and could I borrow his to make a call. He obliged, and since my daughter had showed me how to use her iPhone during my last visit, I knew how to get the numbers I needed.
I called the DEA and told them about the Mexican Mafia operation and suggested they have a couple F-18s loaded with napalm on patrol when they go in because the hombres were better armed than the Free Syrian Army.
I reckoned Homeland Security, the DEA and the Mexican Mafia boys would make quite a party and though I was sorry to leave the ranch I was happy to miss the Government-sponsored party.
Then I called my neighbor and told him I'd shot down a drone I'd mistaken for a buzzard. He promised to look after the goats and I handed the iPhone back to the rich kid, feeling a little guilty that the call was already traced and the local gendarmes were being scrambled to nail the caller, but he looked like his parents were rich enough to clear up any misunderstandings.
Since trouble comes in threes, and I wasn't sure if losing the goat, shooting down the drone and finding the Mexican Mafia at work counted as three or only as one because they were all related, I wasn't too surprised to find a letter from the IRS at the post office, saying that the few bucks I made selling stuff on eBay was unreported income and there were penalties and fees and such now.
Turns out PayPal gives the IRS your account totals, no surprise there, and that set me wondering if I shouldn't report the few bucks I make from selling my homemade beer and my little saw-sharpening business. I reckoned I should keep the few bucks I made selling my extra Mary-Jane to buddies who didn't care to go through the hassle to get a medicinal marijuana license off the record, because that would make me a Drug Dealer as well as a Domestic Terrorist.
I am not sure there's anything higher on the government threat list than a drug-dealing domestic terrorist. If I just stole a billion dollars I'd get a slap on the wrist but if you make a few bucks selling Mary-Jane then look out, you're in the slammer for a long 10.
Throw in the destruction of government property (the drone) and domestic terrorism (nailing the drone) and you got a life sentence or three waiting for you.
My problem is I never figured out how to steal stuff legally, like the financiers do.
I borrowed another kid's iPhone to call my manager at Fat Dog & Fries and tell her I was quitting, some things had come up with my ex I needed to take care of. That was a white lie, my ex is a welfare queen sitting very pretty, and her new boyfriend is of course a deadbeat but not somebody I need to threaten to send to the Happy Hunting Ground like the last loser.
My manager is only 20, a sweet young thing, and I think she kept me on for two 4-hour shifts a week because she felt sorry for me. I was grateful for the few bucks, though minimum wage doesn't go as far as it did when I was a kid.
But at least I was employed in the eyes of the government and I could say I had a job.
After giving the kid back his phone, I felt real lonesome-like because I was in a heap of trouble without anyone to turn to. My Army buddies had troubles of their own or lived far away, my own folks had passed away and I didn't want to burden my ex or the kids with the mess I'd made.
So I went back to the hearse and took out my old Bible, the one inscribed by the minister when he gave it to me back when I was 10, and I opened it to one of my favorite verses in John, the one where Jesus is supposed to condemn the adulteress and instead he says, Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. That set the scribes and Pharisees back a good piece and they drifted off.
Then I bowed my head and prayed for Jesus' forgiveness of all my sins, and asked Him to help me get through the days ahead, which were looking kind of bleak. I told Him I reckoned a body only gets as much trouble as he can handle, but I sure could use a hand about now because I felt like one of those people who look around and see a 30-foot tsunami rearing up behind them.
It reminded me of praying back in '91 when we were on the way to meet Saddam's boys and their Russian tanks. We'd never faced other tanks trying to kill us and I prayed to either die quick or live through it.
I have always liked the book of John because it shows that Jesus had a passel of trouble, too, what with the scribes and pharisees trying to trap and condemn Him. He had the disciples to help Him but when push came to shove He faced the music alone.
Reading some of the book of John made me feel a little better, and I gassed up the hearse and headed southwest, knowing wintering there would be easier than staying put.
I also wanted to see the kids before my troubles got worse, so I reckoned my ex wouldn't deny me the random visitation. I have to hand it to her, she has a Masters degree in Welfare. I've seen the spreadsheet she uses to keep track of all the welfare programs she gets, a dozen or more legally and Lord knows how many scam ones. Section 8 gave her a nice 2-bedroom apartment, and what with everything else she lives as good or better than folks making 60 grand a year.
I feel guilty that I'm not much of an influence any more on the kids. Mandy used to be sharp in math, but recently she's getting C-minuses just like all her friends. She thinks she can make a living teaching old farts how to use their iPhones. I have my doubts about that, but who knows, maybe she's right.
Timmy is into music, even though he doesn't play any instrument. He claims musicians don't need to know how to play music any more, just how to piece together old music in new ways. He's planning to get rich on YouTube. I told him the only way to get rich on YouTube is if a million people click on an ad while listening to your tune, and since people hardly click on ads that was a real stretch.
Speaking of which, in the good news column I found somebody clicked on an ad on my blog page and I now have 17 cents in advert revenue. Yee-haw, 10 more clicks and I can buy a Snickers bar.
The Lord helps those who help themselves, and so this letter will end on a positive note. I've found a good group of decent people here in the mobile encampment who help each other out. It's hard to trust people in this environment but the local church opens their parking lot to us on weekdays and helps us sign up for food stamps and such. Did you know you can sign up for food stamps online now? Very convenient. Of course I don't dare apply with my real name, lest the Feds locate me in a flash, so I do odd work around here in trade for other people's food stamp extras. With that and dumpster diving, I eat pretty well.
My big outdoor propane burner and wok is a hit here because it cooks a heap of stir-fry in no time at all. I know some people think it's spooky and weird that I sleep in the hearse but what the heck, it's the right length for a tall body and the little curtains work great at creating a little privacy. I had to cash in the Maple Leaf to replace the head gasket and rear brakes, but the old Caddy engine is purring fine now.
The tech-savvy homeless fella helped me set up a VPN--woah, look at my tech-speak, pretty impressive--so the government can't trace my email. I found an old WindowsXP laptop in the dumpster that works just fine, though the battery life is not very long, and so I am keeping in touch with my neighbor back home to see if things are quieting down.
My neighbor is also a vet and he said he read the Homeland Security guys the Riot Act when they came around for the drone. He told them it was an honest mistake, and by the way, if they fly spy drones over private property then it's our right to shoot the buggers down.
I told him not to get into trouble on my behalf and he said he was still fried at being put on the No-Fly list a few years back by Homeland Security. He told me the DEA and local SWAT guys did clean out the Mafia Mary-Jane farm, but without F-18s. Too bad; I sure felt better when the Apaches and F-18s were buzzing around above us.
I have a buddy who's still in government service and I've asked him to poke around and see what kind of charges have been brought against me, if any. He promised to put in a good word for me and that he'd call some pals in High Places to get the whole mess cleared up. I don't know if that's possible but I am hopeful that I can plead guilty to lesser charges and get a suspended sentence. That might make me a felon and unhireable, but I'll roll with the punches. If the goats are good, I'm good, and I have a batch of gentle stout ageing in the cellar, unless the Feds took it.
I might have mentioned last year that I threw out all the meds I'd been prescribed. I have to say that I like myself better crazy, if that's what I am, than being sane, if that's what I was on the meds.
It looks like my application for a community garden plot was approved, so come Spring I can get some vegetables growing, if I can't go home just yet. Me and Betsy provide security to the encampment here, which makes me feel useful. That and my stir-fry Chinese meals have made me welcome here.
So things are good here in the Land of the Free at Christmas, and even my ex is feeling a little more empathy for me in this circumstance. Her boyfriend is a deadbeat but a decent one, and my ex says he's been pushing her to allow me more visitation rights. Seems he has a kid of his own with an ex and so he understands.
Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season--
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