Root of All Evil

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, there was absolute freedom. This period existed in the distant past. People ventured outside of their caves and into the outside world. This is not meant metaphorically as in staying in your home planning dates on matchmaker, masturbating, or “friending” people staying in, but as chained to a wall, while some unknown specter cast shadowed realities on a screen in front of you staying in. Plato’s cave allegory, which is required-reading of just about every undergraduate everywhere said, “The visible is a shadow cast by the invisible.” You know, “The Matrix argument.” Am I dreaming or maybe it's a dream within a dream? How about a nightmare inside a sex dream? A girl wearing a Scream mask seductively singing R. Kelly. No. This is not a dream. 

A greasy man with a greasy smile holding his hand behind his back forced a lie on the innocent people of this world. He gave us comfort and material possessions that kept us complacent, obedient, and entertained. We have pulled back the curtains and we have seen Oz. Slavery was never abolished. What little cliché teenage angst is left in me makes me sick when I say this, but we are all slaves. Working all day, every day, breaking your back, exhausted, drenched in sweat, and frustrated. It’s like being in a jail with a really big yard. Luckily in return for your hard work you receive a piece of paper with an old man's face on it that will provide food, shelter, and presumably happiness. A piece of cotton that carries a promise that someone somewhere will accept it in exchange for food, clothes, or shelter. Want to go hunt for your food? Want to revisit your animal instincts by being self-sufficient? Want to feed yourself under your own power? Too bad. There’s a zoo a couple blocks from here and the groundskeeper has a hunting rifle. 

What was this dastardly farce I speak of? And if the truth came out, what would happen? The general social fabric and structure of our society and modern civilization would crumble. Archaic pelf, funds, capital, coin, currency, bills, notes, dough, bread, loot, greenbacks, moola, dinero, shekels, mazuma, the means, the wherewithal, talking about cash, Quan, dough, green, cabbage, ducketts, boxes of ziti, you name it. The only name that matters is Benjamin Franklin. 

"If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."
If you view money as an unnecessary evil you will be viewed as a miser, a broke bastard, a penniless hermit, with no desire outside of indigent squalor. You become penurious and parsimonious. You become stingy. You are destitute. You’re poor. But you’re FreeThe tautology in itself is enslaving. The needless repetition of the idea, especially in words other than those of the immediate context, saturates your psyche without imparting any actual additional force or legitimacy. A compound prepositional form whose instances are always true, as in it's either “A or not A.” To be or not to be. That is the question? Isn’t it? But by definition is irrelevant. 

Right or wrong. Black or White. Good or Evil. Saying, “This candidate will win or will not win.” You have no reason to believe that the foremost is the emphasis or the latter. Will he win, really? What if he loses? Why do we believe good will always triumph over evil? There isn’t any evidence to support such a cause, it's simply a matter of emphasis. It’s the continual repetition of a phrase or thought. Something you can’t help but think about. It controls your action. It isn’t that you’ve told yourself a lie so many times you start to think it’s true. It’s knowing the truth and still believe the lie. Some would call it faith. But it’s still a lie. 

“I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating because it causes war, hypocrisy, and competition.”
- Fidel Castro
I had an endless playlist running through my head while writing this. Pink Floyd. Bowie. Fitz and the Tantrums. Aloe Blacc. The O Jay's for the love of money. Pusherman. Pay to the piper. Money in the bank. Plenty Money. Gimme the loot. But there is only one song that captures my feelings. Only one song encapsulates my point. My jam of the week: 

What Dreams May Come

After reading about uranophobia, or the fear of heaven, a friend of mine asked me why, or rather how, people could be afraid of heaven. We both realized he was asking the wrong question. To be, or not to be. That is the question. We all live with fears, but living with a fear of the inevitable is something we can not live with. Most religions live for, and out of, what comes when we die. 70 virgins? Reincarnation? Heaven? My coach always said you eat to run, not run to eat. I think I finally know what he was talking about. "Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep, no more; and by a sleep, to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to? This is a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream; AY, therein lies the rub. For in that sleep, what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause."
Remember Flubber
For the entirety of all our lives, from birth, inception, until the end, right before death, there is one question we can never answer. What happens next? People have spent thousands of years questioning and pondering the possibility of the afterlife. Do we get another chance? Are we reincarnated based on our past transgressions or are we rewarded for our good deeds? If we were terrible while on this Earth do we come back as anal beads, or worse, chickens? If we are good do we come back as eagles or dragons? Maybe. Or do we arrive at the golden gates? Facing down the almighty bouncer. Does old Saint Pete check the guest list, make sure we aren't wearing white sneakers, tell us we are "GOOD" and finally move his velvet key. 
doorman, Doorman, DOORMAN
Do we only then enter paradise? Where we get to live forever with all our old friends and loved ones, people we haven't seen in years, or maybe we get to meet people we have never met before? We get to ask all our heroes what their life was like. You get to see your dog again. I hope. But, then again, maybe it simply ends. Darkness, oblivion, the long sleep. The dirt nap. Maybe we do only get one chance. Are you ready for that realization? What know you about ready? A long time I have watched. All our lives we have looked away. To the future. To the horizon. Never on where we are. What we were doing. Hmph. Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things. We are reckless.
The answer to these question is that it doesn't matter what happens next because we have the chance, the opportunity, the means, and God-given right to have Heaven on Earth right now. Most of us hold the ideas of Heaven in disdain because of hardships we have faced in our own lives. If there truly was such a place, that would mean that things on this Earth happen for a reason. And to most of us, that concept is not only confusing, but frustrating, and even painful. Maybe someone was taken from you. Maybe something was done to you. How could this happen if there is meaning in our lives? How could someone let you go through that? It's not fair. The truth is our judgment, our reckoning takes place within ourselves. We know when we do something wrong. Even the worst of us know when we do something truly wrong. Maybe there is too much pain coming from somewhere else that blinds us from our conscience. What we need to realize to survive together is that no matter how hard it gets, there is a place we can live together in harmony, without pain, sorrow, or judgment, and it isn't called heaven. It's called Iowa. I jest. But, it is here. All around us. And it is now. 
This that Cryptochroniccunalight
Death comes to us all. We can't stop it from happening, but we can challenge it. We can rival its omnipotent presence and looming shadow by engaging in the ancient ritual which is the horrible beasts only weakness. It's kryptonite. What weapon could we possibly possess that could challenge such a force? The same one that happens to be the greatest obligation we have...
To live, grasshopper. To live.

The Good Samaritan

       Today I had off work I wanted to do some writing at the Philadelphia Free Library. I got a hoagie and a soda and walked to the fountain to sit down and eat. I sat and ate my lunch. I could see the Art Museum, home of the Rocky steps.  I looked around and noticed there were only a few others enjoying this spot. One was an older woman eating a bagged lunch. She had a sandwich in a plastic bag and a small juice box. After she was done eating she got up and left. A few minutes later a man came wondering, more like stumbling, into the park around the fountain. Judging by his disheveled appearance and dragging feet he had obviously seen some hard times. He walked to each separate trashcan placed around the fountain and looked inside. He didn’t find anything. Each time he searched one of the bins he came up empty and his demeanor dropped even lower. He staggered over to where I was sitting and I knew he was going to ask me for money. I thought about how much I hated people like this. They were everywhere in the city. They line the streets laying in gutters begging for change. They hound you and guilt you into giving them money.

O how wrong I have been! As a kid, I hated asking my parents for money. I did it out of necessity. Or so I thought. I thought I needed things. If I didn’t have the money to pay for it, I’d beg my parents to get it for me. Most of the time, I’d end up losing whatever it was anyway. Then I got a sick feeling in my stomach. This man, these people, don’t ask for money because they want to, they do it because they have to. Could you imagine asking for money to eat, let alone beg for it? Imagine asking your parents for money to pay rent, for groceries, and then imagine asking a complete stranger. How low would you have to be? How desperate? To ask someone you don’t know to help you feed yourself. The shame of that concept, the embarrassment, made me put down my sandwich and prepare to hand it over to this man. I couldn’t imagine letting someone into my life like that. To let a stranger know that, “Hey, I’m broke and can’t even pay for food, can you help me.” Think about the information that comes with that admission. Divulging intimately personal secrets that most of us would guard against our lives. Think about the assumptions that come with that knowledge; probable drug addiction, degradation, zero home life, no family, no friends, no hope. These people are alone. And there are a lot of them. As he approached I put my hands in my pockets, in a preemptive motion to empty my pockets. I didn’t have that much on me, but I was willing to part with the rest of it, my BBQ chips, and the end of my sandwich. Then the unthinkable happened.

 He walked right past me. He walked over to the bench recently vacated by the woman with the juice box. In the exact spot, she was sitting there was a tiny pyramid of plastic juice and snack boxes and a sandwich. The man picked up the sandwich and pocketed two of the boxes. Leaving one apple juice. He unwrapped the sandwich and tossed the bag on the ground. The woman had left food, without any knowledge that a mere minute and a half later, a man would come along and she would have satisfied his painful hunger. Maybe she did know. Either way, she had done something selfless. No thank you, no pat on the back, and no tax return. We often do things because we want people to know we did them. I don't know who this woman was, but she should be canonized. 

Doing something without an ulterior motive, without the possibility of recognition, without a reward, is what it's all about. 


Have you ever had that feeling, you know, like you're being watched? It's a worry or slight apprehension. Sure it's agitating, but it's nothing to be scared of. Probably just nerves. Classic butterflies in your tummy. But that anxiety turns to unease as the floorboards creak. I'm talking about the creeps, the willies, the Heebie Jeebies! All it takes is a tiny twinge of angst like a pinprick or a bee sting to send a bucket of ice water cascading down your spine. I'm talking about dread. Shiver as a moment of foreboding gives way to alarm and panic inside you. Fright warps your mind which throbs as the walls close in around you. Then, finally, when everything is quiet, the moment you've been worried about has arrived at your doorstep, danger knocks! Consternation, perturbation ominous trepidation! Skin crawling, teeth chattering, and blood-freezing terror! A coffin opens, nails claw the wood, and a wolf howls on a mountaintop in the distance silhouetted by the full moon! Womp Womp Wommmppp! Oh, the horror! Muwahaha. Lion, tigers, and bears, OH MY...

No, not the type of fear you can buy for $15 bucks at your local cinema, $20 if it's in 3D IMAX. I'm not talking about the fear of flying or spiders or snakes. Not even crowds, clowns, or foreigners. Not talking about tight spaces. Not talking about water. And definitely not talking about the dark. Did you know that aibohphobia is the fear of palindromes? Erythrophobia is the fear of blushing, embarrassment, and red lights. Ergasiophobia is the fear of being employed. I personally struggled with this for many years along with alektorophobia, which is the fear of chickens. For obvious reasons. There is something called Eleutherophobia which is the fear of freedom. I'd say this is the least of my worries. In fact, I'm rather an eleutheromaniac!

Erotophobia is the fear of being in a sexual situation, while fenophobia is the fear of sex in general. Mormons are predominantly affected by this disease. Just kidding. And for reference, geliophobia is the fear of laughter. I wonder what the fear of oral sex is? Tinaphobia? Ba dum tss. Gerascophobia is the fear of growth, progress, or evolution. A bibliophobe is someone who is afraid of books or libraries, while uranophobia is the fear of Heaven. If you can believe there are actually people that are literally afraid of Heaven! Whether you believe in it or not is one thing, but to be afraid of the actual idea, is downright horrifying. Atychiphobia is the fear of failure, which I hear has the largest percentage of undiagnosed cases in the US. 

   I’m talking about THE FEAR. The one we all have. The one we don’t have a name for that stops us dead in our tracks like a Deer transfixed by the blinding pearlescent fog lights of your Audi. Put yourself in that animal's hooves, somewhere along the entire navigational timeline of your life, you made a decision or decisions that brought it to this point. Did it let fear dictate direction?Standing with its pants down in front of a fast-moving, rapidly approaching metallic beast made of not four but four hundred horses barreling down upon you, eight thousand RPMs, screaming move or watch your entire existence come to an end. I am Shiva destroyer of worlds. Do we let it destroy us? Do we cower in its shadow and let it dictate the direction of our own lives? An enemy stands at our gates and the last white flag was just used to bandage your arm. So, I ask you, dear friend, what do we do now? Do we run? Or reload? The Belroq rises from its ashen tomb, breathing fire into the air, standing between us and our path, threatening our very existence, our very freedom, our very lives. Sure, we face total and absolute annihilation, but will we let it ruin that which we have worked so hard for? Will we give in now after we've come so far? 

You shall not pass. When caught between two choices, two opposing forces, two complete and utter antithetical anathemas, do you cut off your arm and live, or die? Forget the odds; remember the stakes. When the walls close in and Chewie's banging on the door and Luke uselessly tries to barricade them with a pipe, everyone is screaming and freaking out what do you do? Situations often arise that we find ourselves in not quite sure how we arrived there. We can either turn around and go back the way we came or we can hop the fence. We stand frozen while it grips us, shaking us down. It slams us into submission so fast you’d think it was Royce Gracie or Kurt Angle with the Anklelock. When faced with the Sleeper hold, The  Figure Four, The Sharpshooter, or dare say it the LION TAMER, do you tap out?

Second WWF picture used in this blog. Suck it.
When you turn around face to face with fear, do you run away? Turn on a dime, scoop up your pants, and leave a Roadrunner-esque puff of smoke where your body used to be. Peace, see ya later, no thanks, I’m outta here. It could be taking that job, moving to that city, or just asking for her number, but for that split second let your mind wander to what would happen if you just, uh, excuse me, but the moment is gone. The prospect of doing something and failing, the shame, the disappointment, the pain, is often too much for us to gamble against the quiet safe comfort of our own ineptitude. Are we willing to take the risk? Sure it may backfire and blow up in our faces, but at least we went for it right? What if we shot for the moon, bet the house, swung for the fences, sure it's a long shot, and maybe we were being a bit foolish, but at least we weren’t afraid?

The judges of fate toss our lives onto a heavily weighted scale every single day. Somehow of the countless chances, you had to avoid this moment, you now stuck with only two options. Two weapons left in your vast strategic arsenal, two plans, neither of which were A or B. Do we let it hammer us, stomp and tramples us into the ground? Do we let it take the bridge? Do we die without a clutching embrace from a fallen comrade with a speech of faraway seas and misty childhood nostalgic reverie, cue Taps, and BUH BUH BUH...

No. We stand and fight back because fear isn't real. It's an invention to make our lives easier, like money or the internet. It's an efficient and expedited route to the end. An unobstructed EZ-pass lane to a life of blindingly bland boredom and missed opportunities. How do we combat this dark shapeless force with inexhaustible resources? You may think simple confidence will help, or mental fortitude, but you'd be wrong. The left side of the brain can't help you. It's nearsightedness clouds your vision. And the right brain especially can't help. It tells us to be reasonable, use logic, compute the risks, tally the total, and the odds always come back heavily favored against, but you can't destroy, eliminate, or even subdue fear. It will always be there and we just don't have time for false dichotomies. Slam the over. Roll the dice. Why not? Who cares? Fuck it. According to Mark Twain, there is only one resistance to fear and it's not logic, reason, or confidence. It's conqueror, it's vanquisher, it's courage, and that comes from someplace else.

Measure of a Man

A few years ago I was in a big chain bookstore looking for a copy of Portrait of an American Rebel. I had to order a copy because they didn’t have any in store. I found myself assailed by manuals. Bombarded by books that layout the best pick up techniques to use at bars. Molested by magazines that describe the best “look” for the fall. These manuals take away the last piece of a man’s incarnation. They deteriorate a man’s learning that is essential to his maturity. Because of this deterioration, a man is now manufactured not grown. Faux masculine robots constructed out of the pages of GQ and Esquire. Then I came upon a tiny old distressed copy of a book entitled The Measure of a Man. It was so small it could fit in my pocket. It was barely over sixty pages. Then I read the front cover. It was written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was published in 1968. The same year he was assassinated. In it, he attempts to calculate the value of a man. He explains that a long time ago a group of scientists worked out the worth of a man based on today’s market value. A man has enough, “fat to make seven bars of soap, iron to make a medium sized nail, sugar to fill a shaker, lime to whitewash a chicken coop, and phosphorus for about 2,000 matches.” The total of which came to 98 cents. Adjusted for inflation it would be $1.98 in the 60s or roughly twelve bucks today. Twelve whole dollars for the physical make up of a man. I’m sure if you wanted you could get a few extra for your organs and body parts. I will ask the same questions he asked over 40 years ago. Can we explain the artistic genius of Michelangelo in $12? Can we explain the poetic genius of Shakespeare in $12? Can we explain the spiritual genius of Jesus in $12? Can we explain the mystery of the human soul in terms of $12? “There is something within man that cannot be reduced to chemical and biological terms, for man is more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons. He is more than a wisp of smoke from a limitless smoldering.”
“What a piece of work is man! How noble in faculty! How infinite in reason; in form and moving how express and admirable; in apprehension how like a God; in action how like an angel! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.”
- Shakespeare’s Hamlet
A boy used to have to learn the hard way, by asking his father. If that didn’t work, and the kid didn’t have an older brother, he’d have to figure it out on his own. Tree houses, go-carts, firecrackers, seem like things of the past. Those that don’t take blueprints. No directions included. These sacred vestiges need to be protected. I feel bad for our younger generations, kids raised on a constant onslaught of social media. They suffer from a constant barrage of advertising. They are bombarded worse than London. A blitzkrieg of Justin Bieber, Twilight, and Facebook. 1 in 5 relationships start online. Connected through wires. Mystical mainframes that make them feel and live their relationships’ through pictures and text. It’s our own version of The Matrix. Ironic, I can never accurately convey an emotion in texts. I’m glad for that. Twittering their lives away. By now you know it takes more than 140 characters to get my point across.
Where are the role models that made boys want to be men? Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen. Ran five miles every day, worked as an oil rigger, a carnie, a lumberjack, and even a towel boy in a brothel. All served in the military. McQueen spent 41 days in the brig for going AWOL for two weeks with his girlfriend. He died in Ciudad, Juarez, a known hideout of John Dillinger. Men who knew one thing. Livin’. Cars, guns, action movies, and women. A man used to have to QUIT smoking. As a kid, we didn’t have anything special. My dad always talked about the muscle cars he used to have. He got rid of them in exchange for something more practical. The fuel-efficient, economically sound, family mobile. Just being around him, watching him tinker with the engine, was fascinating. Here was a guy with zero actual mechanic experience and yet he was comfortable. It wasn’t a chore; it was therapy. I know this now because I see cars for what they truly are; freedom. Freedom on wheels. They are a gateway to new places. My dad gave up part of that freedom for his family. He had a Karma Ghia and a GTO at one point in his life. Like most men of that generation, as a father, he had to forfeit his prizes for soccer practices and family trips to DC.
There are certain lessons and trials one must pass to enter the ancient fraternity known as the brotherhood. Sisters are welcome too. None of that “He-Man-woman-hating” nonsense. Mankind is an equal opportunity employer. But today it seems these ancient rituals are lost. Can we survive when most guys can’t change a tire? Role models now are metrosexual prepubescent males, who sing in musicals, and talking robots. We lived through boy bands. Why the hell do I know the dance to Bye Bye Bye? In spite of all this, we have the desire to be more. The desire to live in a better time or be a better person. A time where standing for something wasn’t a cliché.
I read a story the other day, a kid ran from the cops after stealing a car. He was on the run for weeks. People were outraged. They interviewed his teachers who said naively, “I couldn’t believe he would do something like that.” In my father’s time, that was called being a teenager. Being an outlaw or rebel isn’t about a look or style. It’s an action. It’s a way of life. It’s doing something outside the laws of conventional society to better your own or someone else’s situation. As a kid, we are obsessed with movies. I saw everything. Kids in school would say, “I want to be Harrison Ford or Matt Damon.” I wanted to be Jason Bourne, I wanted to be Han Solo. We want to be pirates, bank robbers, and samurai. We want to be cowboys, soldiers, spies, and revolutionaries. We wanted to be heroes. Somewhere along the way, we lost that. But we have that chance again, no matter how small the act. Growing up, however, you did it, kids always going to give you trouble. We all struggle with people saying we are a certain way when we aren’t. They want you to be the person they want. You need to be the person you want to be. And give the big middle one to anyone who says otherwise. My father always asked, “Well what do you want to be when you get older?” I would say, “I don't want to be anything, I want to grow old on a beach surrounded by my family and friends.” It’s a pretty paradoxical answer, but life is a paradox. We spend most of our time thinking about who we want to be instead of simply being that person. The old coyote would say, “Why to pretend to be a great man when you could be a great man?”
Jam of the week:
Bonis nocet quisqus malis perpercit.

Guilty Pleasures

Our personalities are often subjugated into the parameters of "haters." People who are unsatisfied with the lack of fulfillment in their own lives so they want to limit the extent of other people's happiness. We label ourselves fans of certain films, books, or music. We often feel we need specific examples of things we enjoy to describe ourselves. I want to address a phenomenon, that I myself, have experienced on a number of occasions. What happens when one of these "likes," ventures outside our normal wheelhouse? Have you ever been made fun of for liking a certain song or artist? I myself have a very eclectic taste in just about everything, music, movies, even religions. But I, like you, am not immune to the internal struggle, the competition, of persona and enjoyment. I am, once again, guilty of liking something "uncool" or "corny." Have you ever seen a 300-pound biker singing Miley Cyrus? What about a teenage inner-city youth belting out Celine Dion? Sometimes we have to push our boundaries. Sometimes we have to try new things. Getting to the point. My current guilty pleasure is a song by two artists, who I have publicly condemned and criticized in my own life.
I applauded Jay-Z's Death to Autotune for its unabashed execution of T Pain's career. Or so I thought. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy his music, I just thought he was a faux musician, who used computers to make his tunes. He took the beautiful art form of pure talented singing and turned it into a do-it-yourself. Can't Sing? Try autotune. But what I realized after hearing so many others use the technique is that he was, ironically, an original. His voice simply, works, with autotune.
Next, Wiz Khalifa used to be one of my favorite up and coming rappers. Being a native of the Steel City, I had respect for Wiz. Show and Prove was one of the best mixtape freshman albums I had heard in a long time. Pittsburgh Sound was a throwback beat with catching lyrics. Gonna Ride was an ode to old westerns with its Spanish trumpets that inspired a feeling of "ride or die." But I chastised Wiz for selling out. I thought he cheapened himself and his lyrics. Maybe he smoked too much. In my book, both men are vindicated in this song. Maybe its Lily Allen the soulfully classic English siren. Either way, I am guilty of my criticisms. But, I am not guilty of liking this song. My jam of the week:

Money Grows On Trees

George Washington, the father of America, our Patriae Pater, who said, "I cannot tell a lie," also said, “make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.” He was a proud supporter of the hemp seed, but today only thing more suppressed than an honest politician is hemp. You see hemp and marijuana go hand in hand, if you legalize the production of hemp, marijuana will follow. For some reason, congressional roadblocks prevent any research into hemp as a source of ethanol. Even though extracting ethanol from hemp uses fewer fossil fuels, fewer chemicals, less water, and less time than extracting it from corn. And as we all know Presidential candidates have long sucked up to Iowa corn farmers for votes. It's basically a rite of passage to the White House.
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for they have no tongues.”
- Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)
Enter the presumably incorruptible Harry J. Anslinger to spearhead this "War on Drugs." He immigrated to the United States to work on the Pennsylvania Railroad and after making his name as a hard-lined fraud investigator he set his sights on a defenseless plant. Anslinger, anointed the head of the newly minted Federal Bureau of Narcotics along with his media tag team partner William Randolph Hearst sought out to destroy hemp. First order of business, divide and conquer. They demonized marijuana to the point of ridiculous calling it Indian hemp of all things. This anti-hemp propaganda skyrocketed into the stratosphere of the absurd when Anslinger and company published articles and police reports about the dangerous plant. In1933, their campaign gained its most powerful ally and scapegoat in a 19-year-old Italian man named Victor Licata who killed his family with an ax. This was just the hard proof they were looking for. Licata claimed to have blacked out after smoking marijuana and didn't remember committing the crime. The American Magazine published an account of the incident: “An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an ax he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and sister. He seemed to be in a daze. He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crimes. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed.” This segment was published as the entirety of the story. 
“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
- William Randolph Hearst
Anslinger and Hearst used this to propel reefer madness onto the national stage. They left out information that they saw as either non-vital or unusable. Leaving out that Licata was a lunatic and murdered his family in a psychotic episode. He escaped from two hospitals after the trial and his mental exams were missing from Anslinger's testimony before Congress during the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act hearing. The ensuing media onslaught plunged marijuana down the substance ladder passed alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, and even heroin. He also used racism as a tool to divide the nation on an issue that wasn’t even related to race. “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” Well, Harry, I don’t think Marijuana had anything to do with it. Rock stars who don’t smoke weed still get laid. That was then, but this is now. Mr. X said, “Until prohibition ends make hay whilst the sun shines.” We took this proverb to heart. It didn’t just become a motto or mantra; it became a creed. With the help of Newsie hating William Randolph Hearst, they created a sensationally absurd anti-marijuana campaign. 
"Hemp is the first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country." - Thomas Jefferson
Hearst once said, “You can crush a man with journalism.” They crushed their competitor. The crushed it in Congress and in the free market, claiming it was not a viable alternative to wood pulp and nylon. Anslinger said you couldn’t outlaw hemp without outlawing marijuana. In 1936, He reported that his experiments with the harvesting of hemp were not successful. It was all about competition. They knew what they were doing. It was a tool for Dupont to gain complete control of the petrochemical industry. Maybe they knew, maybe they didn’t, but the real money wasn’t in textiles and binding, but energy. Fossil fuels are the only commodities that we can never make more of.  All available sources for alternative fuels are crucial to our nation's future. 
“Any man who has the brains to think and nerve to act for the benefit of the people of the country is considered a radical by those who are content with stagnation and willing to endure disaster.”
- William Randolph Hearst
Modern Drug Regulations are Nixonian. He probably realized what it was doing to teenagers in America and soldiers in Vietnam. He pushed forward legislation as a scapegoat. It was a good distraction from his shortcomings and Watergate. He needed a cause to get behind and reinforced the stigma against marijuana users. He and the DEA took a hardline attitude toward offenders that only made things worse. The counterculture was amplified to what it is today.  In 2001, a Nova Scotian native named Rick Simpson found a cancerous spot on his skin. He did some research and read an article about the benefits of applying topical oil made from marijuana to one’s skin. He discovered that a spot on skin disappeared after a few days after applying the ointment. Researchers in Spain confirmed that THC kills brain-tumor cells in human subjects and shows promise with breast, pancreatic and liver tumors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use. Unlike Schedule II drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamine, which they believe may provide medical benefits. John Adams once said, "We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp for our own consumption." Today, over 10% of Adults in the US smoke marijuana on a daily basis. That’s 22 million users a DAY. If everyone one of those users buys a gram of marijuana a month, at the market price of $20 a gram, and it is then taxed at roughly the average sales tax of 8% leaving out any additional taxes or fees they see fit to impose, like the ones on cigarettes and soda, would equate to around $1.60 per user per month. That's $35 million a month and yes, of course, it is, $420 million annually. All of this pales in comparison to the money they would save. The United States government this year alone spent $15 billion on the War on Drugs. That’s $500 a second! 
"If the words 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' don't include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn't worth the hemp it was written on."

An Unoccupied Philadelphia

Philadelphia's City Hall stands a modest 548ft including William Penn’s six-foot likeness in the heart Center City. It is the world’s second tallest masonry building behind than Mole Antonelliana in Turin by a mere 40 oz bottle. Beautiful and ornately decorated with limestone, granite, and marble, it was the tallest habitable building in the world from 1901 to 1908. It was the first secular building to have the record and the first building to have that record that could actually be lived in. It was surpassed during its construction by the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower respectively, which brings me to the point of all this architectural madness. You can judge a society by the extremes of its decadence. Before City Hall, all the tallest structures in the world were religious. Mostly European cathedrals and prior to that for 3,800 years the record was held by the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Religion once ruled the world, traditions passed down through generations, but by the turn of the century, it was government, reason, and progress. City Hall would remain the tallest building in the state of Pennsylvania until 1932 when the Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh overtook it, but, it remained the tallest building in the city of Philadelphia. Until the 1980s when the greatest cultural shift in mankind's tattered history happened in the blink of an eye. A fifty-year metamorphosis, a transmogrification if you will, leading us away from the greatest generation to its antithesis. The repressed militaristic 50s of Chesterfields, Sock Hops, and unadulterated imperialism amalgamated with the free love revolutionary cluster fuck of the 60s to train wreck into the Cirque Du Soleil on crack that was the 70s and finally crashing into the 80s. An equal and opposite reaction. The antithesis and the answer. Capitalism was our cure. Our renewed faith brought with it an end to the Cold War and the communal socially enlightened orgy of the left. What remained were a group of devious self-serving dregs known as the yuppies. Thus dawned the age of Wall Street.

I'm not talking about the David Brooks Ben Franklin kind of yuppy, but the manipulative sociopathic Patrick Bateman kind. An era ruled by paper, suspenders, and closeted homosexuals who ran our economy into the ground by the time most of you could get a job. I can’t say for sure that this was the straw that broke the camels back, but I’d bet a dollar on it. Housing bubble? Debt Crisis? Nervous lenders? All of these words are just words from the eternal Rolodex of catchphrases and Babylonian thesaurus of taglines. Scanning the pages of this vast infinitely expanding library of words I snap my fingers celebrating my epiphany: greed. That's what I was looking for!

Because the building that overtook Penn’s illustrious monument to freedom, prosperity, and brotherhood is ironically named One "Liberty" Place. Financed by Willard Rouse nephew of developer James Rouse, who is Edward Norton’s maternal grandfather, which is off topic, but interesting nonetheless. The construction of One Liberty Place was highly contested by architect and “Father of Modern Philadelphia,” Edmund Bacon, who was city planner at the time. Willard Rouse broke the longstanding “Gentlemen’s Agreement” in Philadelphia agreeing that no building would be taller than William Penn’s statue on City Hall. The New York Times ran an article saying Bacon did not attend the groundbreaking ceremony in 1985 saying, “I think it’s very, very destructive that he and he alone has chosen to destroy a historical tradition that set a very fine and disciplined for the city.” But he WAS at the ceremony. Why? Because he’s a gentleman. Not at the ceremony was Mayor Wilson Goode, who had his hands full with the deaths of five innocent children in Cobbs Creek at the hands of Philly PD. Goode was in support of the building even though the building plan was flawed leaving the future of Philly’s downtown unsure. One Liberty Plaza became home to Smith & Barneys, the financial hub of Philadelphia, and Starbucks. It remained the tallest building in Philadelphia for more than a decade until another generation would stake its claim.

Okay never mind, I guess that's when it happens. Comcast, the cable conglomerate, was now King. If there was a sarcastic font, I’d use it, big surprise. It wasn’t anything new or groundbreaking, it was inevitable. Aldous Huxley was right and I didn't need a four hundred dollar history class to realize it. Quakers testify in front of God that they will live in opposition to gambling, capital punishment, and slavery. Oddly they also oppose time itself and seasons. They also oppose oaths. Seems counter-intuitive I agree, but we digress. What Quakers do promote is more relevant: integrity, truth, temperance, moderation, and sustainability, relief of suffering, penal reform, plain language, and peace. They had this idea that our pleasure would take over our world and we would become complacent in our comforts.

William Penn had high hopes for his new land. Religious freedom, inventive thinking, and a country whose wealth far exceeded her need were his goals.  The betterment of all, which includes the less fortunate. A bountiful harvest capable of feeding both native and newcomer. Whether he planned it or not, from the right angle, his statue looks like he’s taking a piss all over his wondrous creation. Standing at the top of the tallest building in Philadelphia, the founder is committing public urination.
     It shall be unlawful for any person to urinate or defecate on any public right-of-way, underground platform or concourse, elevated passageways used by the public, railroad or railway passenger stations or platforms, or on the steps leading to any of them, or any private property used to accommodate the public, or on any private property without the permission of the owner. The penalty for violation of said law is subject to a fine of $300.

Los Pollos Hermanos Part II

After what seemed like a two-hour trip we arrived at a farm in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. The van pulled up to two large white makeshift barns. They must have been a mile long.  We parked and we sat there. We waited for what seemed like hours. Then a huge rumble shook us and could be heard coming up the country road. A truck came into view. It looked bigger than a normal 18 wheeler, but there was something different. It looked like a giant woolly mammoth skeleton. It pulled up and I realized they weren’t bones, they were cages. 

Countless metal bureaus waiting to be filled with both white and dark meat. That exact moment is when it happened. The moment I realized I would never look at work, restaurants, and chickens the same. The doors to the first barn opened as a gust of wind filled our lungs. KABOOM. I gagged. To describe that festering mass as a smell, wouldn’t justify just how terrifyingly wretched it was. I took a step closer to the door of the barn and squinted. I couldn’t get a glimpse of what it was. I couldn’t quite make out what my eyes were seeing. Before I knew it the zombies in the van jumped and were lost in the billowing blanket of funk. One of the men whipped around the corner and sped toward the cage ridden truck with a forklift. My eyes focused on the interior of the barn. For as far as the eye could see there was a white undulating mass covering the ground. A witch's cackle bounced off the walls of my head and rattled my brain. 

A wave of frightened, fidgeting, feathered beasts carpeted the ground from wall to wall. 32,000 chickens had just been woken. They do it at night so the chickens don’t have time to organize a counter-attack or some shit. The weary war-torn van riders transformed into agents of fate. Sent to deliver these chickens to their final resting place. I was in a daze stumbling around the barn catatonic. At first, I couldn’t stop laughing. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Eric, Pete and I were holding each other up each convulsing in fits of laughter. A guy grabbed me by the collar and yelled, “Start fucking grabbing em ya idiot!” The forklift had started bringing the cages into the barn and the men were already hard at work filling them. These “cages” if you can call them that, looked more like a dresser for clothes. They had metal slats on springs that would be snapped closed when filled with enough chickens. Each drawer had to have at least 20 chickens in each. My harasser shook me out of my stupefaction and told me I had to get at least a hand of chickens each time I grabbed them. “What the fuck is a hand of chickens,” I thought to myself. A hand meant seven chickens total. That means three in the left hand and four in the right, or vice versa. 

Seven chickens, I repeat, seven chickens in your two hands. Full grown, “free range” chickens weigh between 5-8 lbs. This means you have to grab a leg of each chicken. Three legs in one,  four in the other. The guy who was explaining this to me with a mouthful of tobacco and curse words said he could get 15 chickens normally. I shook my head in bewilderment. He smacked me on the back and told me to get to work. So I dove in. In case you didn’t know when chickens are scared they try to fly away and crap their pants. This means when you pick up one they go absolutely apeshit. Feathers, dirt, poop, fills the air. The job is so dirty that Mike Rowe did it, and hated it. I can't even imagine the damage we did to our lungs. Did I mention that chicken legs are very brittle and weak so you can feel them break in your hands when they try to get away? It's horrifying. Almost as horrifying as watching one exploded into dust as it gets run over by a 9,000 lbs forklift. I remember stuffing a few chickens into the slots and closing the gate as one stuck its head out. The gate closed and his cheeks puffed out like a cartoon. I opened the slate and pushed his head inside. That was the last humorous thing that happened that day. After hours of filling our lungs with putrid air, the first barn was done. The other workers simply went on to the next barn. No break, no downtime. 

The three of us staggered over to the cow pen where the smell was actually better. As we began to empty the second cow house, things started to calm down. The other workers were having conversations with each other about different things. What grade they dropped out at. How much time they had done. And many other topics that are wildly inappropriate for anything but a bordello. When the morning dawned we could finally see the actual cloud in the air. We cornered the last few chickens as they ran in terror. When it was all over we sat down by the van and thought about what we had just done. We were scarred for life. The foreman of this crew was the women, who drove the van. She told us that we would be paid like 0.0001 cents per pound. We had caught 64,000 chickens. 64,000 chickens sent to their doom at my hands. If they were people, they would make up the entire population of Lebanon, PA. We didn’t talk to anybody on the ride home. A few of the other workers tried to make conversation, expecting to see us again. We left that McDonalds' parking lot and barely said a word to each other in the car. Then suddenly we all started cracking up. Did that really just happen? We thought. I got home and took all my clothes off and left them on the porch. They would later be burned by my mother. I took three showers and still couldn’t get the smell out of my nose. Weeks later I received a check for about $93. I spent the next 6 months in clucking shell shock. I couldn’t even think about chicken. I had to eat alone anytime my family made chicken for dinner. After the trauma wore off I was finally ready to eat that white meat again. Do you know the first place I went? 

Where they serve only the oldest chickens no longer able to lay eggs, stripped down to the bone, and then ground up into a mash combined with a variety of stabilizers and preservatives, such as tertiary butylhydoquinone, a phenolic antioxidant used as a chemical preservative, polydimethylsiloxane, an anti-foaming agent, all pressed into familiar shapes, breaded and deep-fried, frozen, and shipped to your friendly neighborhood eatery. MMMMM GOOD.

Los Pollos Hermanos Part I

One summer, I was working in a warehouse. Unlike my other friends who were working there for the summer, I got placed in shipping and receiving. I spent most of the days inside a dirty disgusting big rig packed to the gills with boxes upon boxes of sneakers. We would unload the trucks onto a metal slide and put them onto palettes. That meant these palettes were about 10 feet high. Each box had to get scanned before it was taken off the truck. We had an efficient system. Two guys were in the truck throwing boxes onto the line as two full-timers used the scanners to check in each box. The rest of the crew feigned being busy. This old guy would just lean on the palette jack waiting for the boxes to get stacked, complaining about how hot it was and how things would be different if he was white. Since it was a warehouse a large portion of the people who worked there were temporary. Kids working there for the summer, recovering addicts, and people on work release. A guy named AJ who had done five years for hearsay as he told it, became a good friend of mine. You see only full-timers and summer kids could use the scan guns. They didn’t trust temps to use them and not steal them. This didn’t go over well with many of the temps, who were also upset we got paid more. It really isn’t their fault they went to jail, right? AJ had a barcode tattoo on the back of his neck that I would scan whenever his back was turned. He used to hate that. Every morning I’d stagger into work at six in the morning and he’d already been in the truck. I’d reach the opening of the truck and I’d hear a voice echo out of the belly of the beast. Out of the dark depths, I’d hear, “Fucking Andy’s coming.” It was AJ mimicking Chucky from Childs Play. I remember one day inviting him to eat lunch with me and my friends. 

I didn’t tell them because I wanted to see how the would react. He just sat down and started eating. Then he looked around and stared at my friend Eric, who was a red-head, was about to piss his pants. AJ yelled with a mouth full of burger, “What you looking at Rick Astley!” Eric quickly looked back at his plate and muttered nothing. AJ leaned across the table and ate Eric’s PB&J in one bite, “Fucking Pete and Pete looking muthafucka!” We all started laughing except for Eric. Eventually, he lightened up, but AJ busted his balls for the rest of the summer.

Anyway, one day we had just got done with a long work week and we were hanging out at Eric’s. We were looking for ways to make some extra money. We made decent money at Footlocker, but when one of your history books cost $200 alone, we needed something extra. Eric was looking through the classifieds when he stumbled upon a notice that would change my life. “Chicken Catchers Wanted.” That is all it said except for the number below it. What is a chicken catcher? We asked ourselves. 

Did they set traps? Did they use weapons or nets? Did they camouflage themselves and trudge out into the wilderness in hopes of bagging a big one? We were curious. Eric called the number and a woman answered on the other line. “Hello?” She answered brusquely as if she was doing ten things at once. “Quiet!” She yells at the apparent house full of kids she had running around her during this conversation. Eric asked her about the job to which she replied, “Are you sure you guys wanna do this?” That should have been our first hint that something was wrong. She said all we would need was a pair of gloves. Then she told us a van would pick us up by the McDonalds on Front Street in Harrisburg. We dressed in the most stereotypical redneck gear we could find and prepared for the worst. We even got a can of chewing tobacco at the gas station to get us in the mood. Me, Eric, and our boy Pete sat on the hood of the car and talked about the upcoming night. You see she told us the van would pick us up around midnight. As I was entertaining the boys with my best Larry the Cable Guy impersonation a white passenger van rolled up. A woman in the driver's seat rolls down the window and glares at us. I’m serious. She just stared at us. Didn’t say a word. It was obvious to her that we were the guys she was picking up. We walked around and slid open the door of the van. POW. A mushroom cloud of some type of fecal death spray saturated our eyes, mouths, and noses. The only thing weirder than the smell was the men originating it. Four rows of bench seating had one guy a piece. Two were passed out. One was rolling something into a cigarette. The last stared out the window apparently hoping that someday this all would end. 

They were all covered in dirt or shit. I’d like to say dirt, but I know it was shit. I sat next to stargazer and kept my mouth shut. A few minutes into the ride and my phone vibrates with a text. It’s from Pete. It read:  “Turn around.” I turned around. Eric was puking into his spit filled Gatorade bottle. The smell must've got to him. Maybe it was nerves. Maybe it was the fact that a van was driving us deep into the Pennsylvania wilderness in the middle of the night. People don't come back from stories like this, I thought. TO BE CONTINUED...

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