Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Thirsty

Lots of bluster and fear mongering from the White House these days over immigration while the nation passes the potato chips and gazes mindlessly at videos of kids in cages, a few possibly sold to white slavers after their paperwork was lost under the current administration’s “supervision.”

Ironically, a natural event at our house recently spun a new perspective on this issue.

Squirrels are diurnal, but one interrupted us last week after dinner, retrieving nuts from the attic, we thought.

Completing a house project a couple of years ago, workers stepped all over the aluminum ventilation slats, so now they don’t fit the triangular space at the roof-crown where the air circulates. So we called the local rodent-remover, a friendly guy who put up a tube-trap after covering all the vents with wire.

I noticed a fat squirrel sitting in the yard watching the entire operation, so I wasn’t surprised to see the trigger torn off the next morning while the apparent perpetrator smiled from the bushes.

But a little nighttime noise turned into dismantle-the-house cacophony.

Sounded like a three-man wrecking crew with pry bars out there, and the morning light revealed all the aluminum around the wire torn up or off, and a hole bitten through.

Furthermore, several pieces of siding were torn free from the side of the house, and a hole dug through insulation.

“Looks like she got the babies out,” said my wife, her pinched face revealing battle fatigue after a sleepless night worrying about the innocent.

I wondered what kind of nuclear-powered squirrel could accomplish this?

Was it raised atop the transformer on the pole behind the house and unknowingly gene-altered into a super-charged Electro-Squirrel?

The mystery uncloaked the following evening when a 20+ pound matronly raccoon climbed the porch pole, lumbered onto the roof, and headed straight to the entry hole where the wire was destroyed.

***

As it happens, my Anheuser-Busch-fueled paternal grandfather owned a blue clay farm in the 1960’s that became Mark Twain State Park (Florida, Missouri), and he took my brother and I on midnight hunts. Those indelible images include:

A raccoon family -- back-lit by a full moon -- bawling at the top of an ancient oak. Baying blue tic hounds swarming under the tree, howls piercing my eardrums. Spurious white male "buddies" in holey overalls spitting tobacco juice and fingering triggers on loaded rifles while taking frequent hits off Mason jars.

The old Missouri law prescribing the death penalty for the proven killing of a man’s coon dog was recently replaced by large monetary settlements.

***

After retrieving my .410 pistol from the safe, loading it, chasing off mom raccoon with two scatter shots from forty-feet that didn’t appear to harm her much, and chasing her into the bushes, I heard the neighbor yell:

“What the hell you doing out there! Coon hunting?”

We reside in the center of a mid-sized East Tennessee city. Thirty-three years ago, when we moved in, I took a photograph of a black bear in the driveway. It crossed a double railroad track and a two-lane highway to get there.

How can anyone stop millions of mothers from doing whatever it takes to protect their children?

Oddly, many of these migrant haters are pro-lifers; for example, one of our local state representatives — who poses with his AR15 rifle on his web site — recently drafted a “heartbeat bill” that will effectively end legal abortions in the state.

A few weeks later, he signed his name to legislation that would eliminate healthcare insurance for 280,000 poor Tennessee children.

I hate abortion as much as anyone, but simultaneously wonder what’s to become of all the crack, heroin, alcohol-fetal-syndrome, and opioid addicted babies?

When I asked my right-wing friends this question, a few went dark in the face, snarled, then defamed me as a baby killer. For simply wondering what their plan may be. After making clear to them that abortion is abhorrent.

Interesting.


Perhaps people migrate for reasons we won’t admit, or care to comprehend. I read a wonderfully-written piece in the New Yorker a few years ago that explained how scientists took core samples from the bottom of the Red Sea, analyzed the sediment and matched them to migration timelines, and discovered that mass migrations occur during droughts.

Previously, scientists and historians believed invasions by outside forces (think Mongols), wars, or pestilence caused massive populations shifts. But this new evidence showed that people don’t stick around long when there’s no water.

Imagine that.

Saw this first-hand during camping trips out West at places like Canyon de Chelly and Chaco Canyon, where human life flourished from 1020 to 1090 A.D. before drought hit.

Canyon de Chelly
Canyon de Chelly

After hiking down to the river, we found several dozen school kids happily splashing. Four hours later we began to ascend the trail back to the car and they were still swimming.

“Don’t they want to see the rest of this fabulous scenery?” I asked their teacher.

“We’re from southern New Mexico,” he said.  “We drive two hours just to see ‘The Tree’.  They will be in the river all afternoon and the driver and I will have to drag them onto the bus.”

***

Our current president cuts off aid to Central America, backs the coal industry while simultaneously snubbing the solar juggernaut, sword dances with oil-heavy 9/11 perpetrators, denies climate change, then wonders why streams of people head north to the much cooler, much wetter, more fertile land of opportunity.

Looking back at the raccoon attack, I now realize that we'd just spent an outrageous sum eliminating huge trees in our yard -- trees threatening the safety of our house -- but simultaneously holding the livelihoods and homes of our squirrel and raccoon friends.

We're stumped as to why the mother raccoon invaded our house ...                                  Stumped?

So it turns out I shot a migrant mother for looking after her babies … one week after cutting down her home and grinding it into sawdust.

The realization that I’m just as careless and stupid as President Trump is a bitter pill to swallow, indeed.

In fact, I feel like dying my hair orange, golfing four days a week, eating cheeseburgers for breakfast, then spending my little remaining “executive time” tweeting unfiltered brain-poop to gullible semi-literates happily spooning it down with silver (the winking super rich) or plastic (the gullible poor).

We refuse to view the whole picture because then we’d have to change our behavior.

We watch white cops on the nightly news thrusting knees onto Hispanic necks, but refuse to acknowledge the boardroom boys thrusting coke up their noses. They created the pusher, and sacrifice one now and then to keep their noses sharp.

We avert our eyes from whale bellies bursting with plastic while grabbing a handful of straws to toss out the window on the way home from work so our families will never know we’re gnawing burgers between meals.

We avert our eyes from caged kids while cashing government vouchers enabling us to wall off our children from those smelly Puerto Ricans with the gall to want electricity, or those nasty Flint-water folks.

Americans all.

We avert our eyes from brown children torn from their mothers’ arms while penning heartbeat bills to “protect” the unborn.

We avert our eyes from the poor and hungry living in our midst, while pouring wrath upon mothers leading children to better, more secure lives.

There is no end to the raccoon parable; she’ll follow my dreams into the child-fraught future, images of her kids chilling my spine, exposing my thoughtlessness, shining light upon my shame, for God-knows how long.

Raccoons migrate when we destroy their environment and threaten their babies.

People migrate when we destroy their livelihoods, deaden croplands, and divert their water.

I’m not overlooking the bad elements trying to enter illegally, and neither are the Democrats.  They gave Trump  everything he wanted plus more — and he turned it down, though his base seems unable to process this simple fact.

The president’s moral inability to stand for all Americans — as he swore to do upon taking the office — magnifies the need for better screening at the border. The rich and the powerful appear to be his only concern when it comes to aid. The constant fear mongering serves no other purpose but to keep the lightly-educated agitated.

Send criminals and drug purveyors back where they came from, permanently. 

I’m all for it, and perhaps more conservative about eliminating them than you are. But the major cause of mass migration is climate change and lost jobs.

Until we pull back, look at the whole picture, and work together as a global team to improve the environment — which is certainly compatible with capitalism — well.

Pass the cheeseburgers. Wash them down with orange Kool-Aid while listening to the Fearless Leader’s mantra on how mamma raccoons, mamma squirrels, and mamma humans should protect their young.

The Perfect Prison

When I was twenty-three, I found myself unemployed, and living in my girlfriend’s room in her parents’ beautiful brick house on the South Side of Chicago in an affluent white neighborhood slipping into descent after the M.L.K. riots of 1968. They kept me upstairs and visible, with girlfriend relegated to the basement.

Chicago during 1968 M.L.K. riots.
Chicago, summer of 1968.

I remember wandering the streets day-after-day-week-after-week begging for work, sliding in and out of tawdry bars – sticky-floor flyblown dives I’d never venture into for a drink on my own – but places I now prayed would hire me because I’d just spent my last $250 attending “Professional Bartender’s School” and earning a “Professional Bartender’s Certificate” after spending a week pouring colored water out of fake liquor bottles into appropriate glasses.

Armed with this “certificate”, I wandered into dozens of Chicagoland watering holes, but no one would hire me. Sheila’s Puke Shack owner S. Hardnutter threw me the stink eye when I dangled the Professional Bartender Certificate in front of her narrow eyes, then pointed toward the door.


Each night I’d limp home on sore feet and sit on my girlfriend’s bed and despair.  I remember a lone tear running down my cheek one night, followed in a few seconds by spontaneous laughter because Iron Eyes Cody – a pure-blood Italian, we found out later – currently starred in an environmental television ad as an American Indian saddened by the rape of the land, a single tear running down his cheek, which miraculously prodded Americans into picking up trash.

Iron Eyes Cody
Iron Eyes Cody

Swinging for the fence the next morning, I took a train downtown and hit all the major bars on Michigan Avenue, earning a ubiquitous thumbs down. Fingering the last $10 in my pocket, I stood at the corner of Walton and Michigan Avenue, eyeballing The Drake, where visiting Queen Elizabeth bedded down.

Too classy for my zero experience.

Looking southeast — across the street at the old Palmolive Building — I saw the Playboy Club‘s flashing siren lights. Shrugging off the gut instinct to stop wasting time, I walked inside and told the smiling bunny at the door that I needed to see the human relations rep.

Who turned out to be my girlfriend’s sister’s best friend.

“You’re in luck!” she smiled. “We need a bartender pronto, and you can start Monday morning. Get here at ten for an orientation on lunch, which starts at eleven.”


The Playboy Club turned out to be a mixed blessing. Although I was able to rent my own place and start saving, the nature of the business fired up already simmering jealousies.

I’d graduated from college the previous December with an English degree and accepted the only job I could find – once again through nepotism – when Future-Mother-In-Law told me about a job opening at her school, a junior high in Chicago Ridge.

The permanent teacher was taking a year off after giving birth, and a succession of substitutes tried and failed to make a stand with her students, kids from blue collar families with moms and dads who worked long hours and didn’t have much time to spend with their offspring, so they threw money at them instead. Blue collar kids accustomed to bullying each other in the absence of parental guidance.

At six-foot-four-two-hundred-twenty-pounds I became substitute number seven immediately following Christmas break. That semester – my first in a classroom by myself – gave me the confidence to carry through the rest of life.

Years later I chatted with a man at the airport as we waited for a plane, and during the conversation we uncovered the fact we’d both taught junior high English on the South Side of Chicago.

“How long did you last?” I asked.

“One year,” he said.

“What did you do after that?”

“I quit, joined the Marines, and went to Vietnam for a vacation,” he said.


That semester I taught English to kids with names like “Toots” and “Doobie” and was required to coach 7th grade girls’ basketball; unfortunately, the 8th grade girls’ basketball coach was a conniving blonde bombshell who sensed the unease in Future-Mother-In-Law and went right to driving her nuts by sitting next to me during games, flirting whenever FMIL was in eyesight, and wearing a string bikini to the Indiana Dunes when the three of us accompanied a busload of kids at the end of the school year.

FMIL hadn’t really taught long, this being her second attempt. She’d left the profession in her early twenties to raise four children through high school while her husband, a prince, worked at US Steel.

During her free time all those years she soaked up daytime television, eventually becoming brainwashed by sexy-soap-opera-actors teaching her to trust no one – especially me – while the hot blonde simultaneously poked out of a white see-through hand-crocheted bathing suit on blazing Indiana beach while Little Richard sang Tutti Frutti from the top of a telephone pole.


When the junior high job ended and the bartender’s school landed me in the Playboy den of iniquity, my days with girlfriend dwindled.

A clean-cut Iranian floor manager named Sami started me off in a service bar out of sight from the public with liquor bottles in overhead racks, a double-sink, an ice machine, mixers, and a cash register at the end of the stainless-steel counter. The bus boys were Palestinian, the cooks Mexican. If you learned early on to treat the women right, all worked smoothly.

Bunnies would approach this portal with drink orders, and I’d pile beverages on trays before they sashayed on high heels and kidney-pinching bunny suits back to thirsty Joes elevated to Playboy Key Holders with an annual credit card fee.

The bunnies were kids like me, trying to eat under roof while putting themselves through school, putting together a stash to make a move in life, trying to survive the dollar-draining nature of the big city. There were long ones, tall ones, big ones, brown ones, black ones, round ones … crazy ones.

We were kids.
We were just kids. Laurie Proffitt, center, has enjoyed a successful photography career for decades.

And although I stayed true, my girlfriend came to visit during lunch one day — at my request — and stood in the doorway of the little service bar as I mixed drinks and piled them on bunny trays. As each female appeared, we talked business, and I often called them by name. The window I pushed drinks through revealed bunnies from their waists to their chins. Neither girlfriend nor I could see hip-tags or faces.

“How do you remember their names?” asked girlfriend as she gazed open-mouthed at the exposed set of breasts arching into the bar window.

“See that mole?” I said as “Carla” arrived with an empty tray. Having grown up on a hog farm in Western Illinois, I was not especially enamored with big breasts, though I admired their magnetic ability on the average Joe’s iron head.

Blood boiled up the chin of girlfriend’s face, onto her cheeks, then up her forehead, and with a turn of her heel I was suddenly alone in the Windy City, bereft of my only reason for being there in the first place.

The Mole
Carla’s nefarious mole.

Several months later, I’d worked my way up to the “night shift” at the main bar and enjoyed meeting out-of-town folks in the midst of convention bacchanals, though many of the women — upon reaching alcoholic euphoria —  lashed out with tongues more lascivious than any deranged Roto-Rooter man ever wagged.

One night, just after midnight on a slow shift with few people at the bar, management uncloaked in their black suits and fired every bartender on the floor.

Except me.

“You were the only one not stealing,” said Sami. “We’d been sending in people to sit at the bar and observe for two weeks now. What these dirt bags do is ring up a lower amount than they sold, then put the remainder in their pockets. Oldest trick in the book.”

One of those rounded up and kicked out of the revolving door was Howie Wong, the first bartender Hugh Hefner picked for the original Chicago Playboy Club on Walton, not far from his mansion on North State Parkway. Howie was taciturn and unfriendly, so I never knew him well.

But three months later I was walking down a side street and above a newly-painted door an electric sign flashed:  Howie’s.  Taken aback, I stepped inside and there were the six recently-fired bartenders, along with Howie at the cash register, preparing to open their new digs. Turns out they’d pooled their purloined cash – Howie dipped for decades – and opened this business. Together.

“How’s this going to work?” I asked. They just smiled and shrugged their shoulders. Six months later Howie’s was history, naturally.

Which brings me to the point of this essay.

Prisons would be more effective if we piled like-minded criminals atop one another.

As the world lurches toward nationalism and the rule of authoritarians, we need a way to deal effectively with run-away dictators.

Imagine islands – the Aleutian archipelago comes to mind with its Alaskan fresh air breeziness – islands exclusively housing like-minded criminals. Redneck Racist Island harboring Dylann Roof wannabes. Female Redneck Racist Island next door, ten thousand Rosanne Barrs separated by churning seas and hungry flesh-eating fish.

The Aleutians
The Aleutians

Black Racist Island covered with Al Sharpton wannabes. Criminal Mexican Island.  Catholic Priest Pedophile Island. White Collar Embezzler IslandWhite Collar Crook Island. Rapist Island. Man-Trapping-Liar-About-Rape Island.

Ad infinitum.

The unending torture of individuals imprisoned under these conditions would test the “cruel and unusual” clause under the Eighth Amendment, but this treatment would be justified due to its effectiveness and ultimate benefit to society.

Can you imagine a self-aggrandizing, constantly lying, narcissistic blowhard in a green parka – absent makeup – wielding a hand-ax, a book of matches, and some fishing gear, and marooned for life on a frozen slag heap in the middle of an ocean with hundreds of other convicted narcissistic blowhards and a few Kodiak bears on Russia Money Laundering Island?  A pleasing and peaceful thought, indeed.

Perhaps the perfect prison doles out the perfect punishment.

For those of you who bless your children by reading to them, check out “The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf” by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s the story of a girl who loves pulling the wings off of insects, but her bullying comes to a bad end:

An evil spirit soon took possession of Inge, and carried her to a still worse place, in which she saw crowds of unhappy people, waiting in a state of agony for the gates of mercy to be opened to them, and in every heart was a miserable and eternal feeling of unrest. It would take too much time to describe the various tortures these people suffered, but Inge's punishment consisted in standing there as a statue, with her foot fastened to the loaf. She could move her eyes about, and see all the misery around her, but she could not turn her head; and when she saw the people looking at her she thought they were admiring her pretty face and fine clothes, for she was still vain and proud. But she had forgotten how soiled her clothes had become while in the Marsh Woman's brewery, and that they were covered with mud; a snake had also fastened itself in her hair, and hung down her back, while from each fold in her dress a great toad peeped out and croaked like an asthmatic poodle. Worse than all was the terrible hunger that tormented her, and she could not stoop to break off a piece of the loaf on which she stood. No; her back was too stiff, and her whole body like a pillar of stone. And then came creeping over her face and eyes flies without wings; she winked and blinked, but they could not fly away, for their wings had been pulled off; this, added to the hunger she felt, was horrible torture.

"If this lasts much longer," she said, "I shall not be able to bear it." But it did last, and she had to bear it, without being able to help herself.

The perfect ending for a bully’s sad life.

Similar to an immortal history book full of verifiable facts, I reckon.