Sunday, August 2, 2015

HEMINGWAY HAUNTS 12: "GRAB BULLY BY HORNS"



Painting:  Van Stein


“I’ve already told you more than you can digest," I say to the apparition.  "Tell me more about your existence?”

The apparition shrugs.  “All that matters is I cannot write anymore.  Isn’t that ironic?  I send myself off because I lose hope about writing again, and here I am, yearning to write a story.  I can only write what I’ve l-lived, and I’m no l-longer l-living.”

“So write a story about being dead.”

The apparition reaches out to my Hemingway pen, which rests upon my leather notebook.  His fingers cannot grip the writing instrument; they pass through it.  “You need physical tools to write.” 

“But you’re talking to me.  You can tell me a story and I can write it for you.”

The apparition shakes its head sadly.  “In Glamour House, I see people come and go, overhear traumas and tiffs, plots, trysts, moments of love, lust and happiness, and I can only lament how progress never changes human nature.  The wars you mention, so-called leadership?  Can’t change it, had my day, l-lived well, and hard, different places, and I wrote, l-left record.”

“Would you change anything if you had the chance to live your life over again?” 

The apparition nods.  “Not spook so easy.”  It raises both arms, hands cupped into fists.  “You have to grab bully by horns.”

“Who?”

“Bully.  Whoever bully is.  You look bully straight in eye, stare him down. If that doesn’t work, rip horns from bully’s head, hang them over fireplace.”

“Would you have…?”

The apparition raises an open palm to stop me finishing.  “Would have stuck around l-longer.  Time is the l-least thing we have.”

“But you sounded so sure about, uh, ending your life.”

“Not my right mind.  Needed booze to overcome shyness, and my stammer—you noticed?  Got carried away, drinking martinis at noon, after writing.  Eleven a.m. in Cuba, I’d say, 'Well, noon in Key West.'  The apparition sits back, crosses one leg over the other.  “L-Life, all we got.”  It studies its transparent hands.  “This not l-living.  Bases were l-loaded against me.  But dying?  Worthless.”  It hunches forward, eyes directly into mine.  “Want some advice?”

I nod.

“L-Live each day l-like it’s your l-last.  Call everything the way you see it, to hell with everyone.”  It sits back.  “I’m going now.  Someone wants to talk to you.”

“What?  Who?”  I watch quizzically as the translucent apparition remains seated; its smoky molecular structure is only slightly altered.  

White hair brushed forward and gray beard remain the same; shorts transform into black trousers and other clothing darkens until black.  

There, sitting in the burgundy leather chair, is my father...


Saturday, August 1, 2015

HEMINGWAY HAUNTS 11: PRIVACY






The apparition seems deeply absorbed, so I stop speaking.  It is, for sure, a lot of take in.  

“The potential for privacy has never been better,” it finally says.

I consider this.  “Are you being sarcastic?”

“No.  If I’m hearing you right, people have become reliant on this new system, the Internet.”

I nod.  “Yes.  Almost totally.”

“And it’s not compulsory to be part of system?”

“No.  But the way things are going, there will soon be no other way to communicate.”

“I get that.  Point is, you’re not forced to communicate on Internet.”

“No.”

“Which means,” says the apparition, “great opportunity for privacy.”

“How does that work?” I say.

“People, and government agencies, become reliant on this Internet and personal phones, so they forget how to contact people old-fashioned way, and even if remember, it seems too difficult, and they be too lazy to try.  Which means anyone who not have personal phone, or attached to computer mailing system, has more privacy than ever before."  

“You mean,” I say, “non-users will become eccentrics with whom officialdom can’t be bothered about because they’re off the grid, too difficult to find?”

The apparition nods.  “Yes.  What everyone must beware is government insisting you have personal phone number—maybe implanted at birth, and you must connect to Internet under threat of prison if not.”

“The Internet is a free-for-all,” I say.

“Innovations always begin that way, until governments figure out how to take over and improve control over people.  Disconnect, before it’s too late."



Friday, July 31, 2015

HEMINGWAY HAUNTS 10: DUMBING DOWN





The apparition scratches its beard.  “Know why I grow beard?”

I shake my head.  

“Scaly skin.  Scalp, too.  From mountain climate.  And also from watching politics on TV.  Next.  Writers.  Anyone genuine after me?”

"Vonnegut," I say without a moment’s hesitation.

“Who?”


“Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  Simple sentences containing powerful messages.  Vonnegut was an admirer of yours, believed you could make anything interesting with your brushwork.  So he adapted a similar style around satire, irony, and science fiction, usually as a metaphor for an underlying theme.”

“What theme?”

“Same as Mark Twain.  It’s all a crock.”

“All American literature, from Huckleberry Finn.”

“And John Fante,” I continue.  “One of the best, underrated.  He and William Faulkner wrote screenplays together in Hollywood to carve a living.”  I shake my head sadly.  “Writers are no longer the stars of storytelling.”

“No?”

“Half a century ago, people were entertained by reading.  Magazines and books.  Writers were royalty.  Radio came along and chipped into leisure time.  And then TV, which reduced storytelling to trivial situation comedies with laugh tracks, so the audience would know when something was supposed to be funny.  That eventually transformed into reality programs…”

“What is?”

“Putting people in real situations to watch how they interact.”

“How about just living your life?"


“I know.  Reading exercises your mind, but viewing this pap trashes it.  There’s been a dumbing-down in America, almost as if it’s cool to be stupid.  Most people, especially a new generation of young adults, do their reading on the Internet.”

The apparition nods, riveted.  “You mentioned that word.  What is?”

“It connects everyone, worldwide, with instant data on a computer screen.”

“Computing?’

“Computers have come a long way since answering mathematical formulas.  They’re leading us to a paperless society.  The book publishing industry is already a dinosaur.”

“Meaning?”

“Books, as we know them, are headed for extinction.”

“Because people don’t read them?”

“There will always be an interest in storytelling and information.  But, more and more, people download their reading material.”

The apparition shifts in discomfort.  “Don’t understand download.”

“It appears, on demand, upon their computer screens, which have become portable and wireless.”

“Wireless?”

“Oh, dear, you have been gone a long while.  A lot of electronics are wireless now, which means they don’t have to be plugged into electrical sockets.  That includes portable computers, which can work for hours on batteries until they need recharging.  Phones, too.”

“Telephones?”

“Everyone has a personal phone and number.  Some phones are mini-computers, for downloading data.”

“Sounds dreadful.”

“People born into this technology don’t know how we got by without it.”

“Who controls data on Internet?”

“No one.”

“Sure?”

I think about this.  “Pretty sure.  Anyone can create a blog, and it’s there for all to see.”

“Blog?”

“A personal written commentary.  Anyone can do it, professional writers, amateurs, even the illiterate.”

“Dreadful.”

“People don’t bother to buy newspapers any more.  They can read the news, and their favorite newspapers, on the Internet.”

“How newspapers stay in business?”

I shake my head.  “They don’t.  Newspapers across the country are folding.  Those still in operation are cutting back, relying more and more on the wire services.  The post office is next.  People don’t send letters any more.  They send e-mail on their computers.”

“E-mail?”

“Short for electronic mail.  It’s instantaneous.  I can send you a letter by e-mail and you receive it a couple seconds later, or whenever you access your computer mailbox, or even on your portable phone, wherever you are in the world.  But people don’t write letters anymore, they write brief notes.”

“Dreadful.  Certain no one controls it?”

I shrug.  “Pretty certain.”

“Anyone watching it?”

“Ah, now that’s a problem.  When you enter the Internet, you give up your right to privacy.  For a start, other people can hack into your computer and see what’s there, read your mail.  It’s illegal, but you won’t even know it’s happening.  Also, after those fanatical Moslems crashed the planes they hijacked into the Twin Towers, the President and Congress passed something called the Patriot Act, which makes it easy for the FBI to monitor telephones and e-mail, and Internet use.”

“Dreadful.”

“Most people don’t care, they’re into social networking.”

“Social what?”


“They belong to networks on the Internet, like something called Facebook.  They announce what they’re doing on a daily basis to their friends—and everyone else.  Like, I just went for a run and I’m about to take a shower.  They can update their latest doings from their wireless phone while they’re doing it.”

“Why?”

I shake my head.  “I don’t know.  I think it’s an existential thing.  To network on the Internet is to exist.”



Thursday, July 30, 2015

HEMINGWAY HAUNTS 9: WARS






“And I haven’t got to the Internet yet.”

“The what?”


“Changed everything,” I say.  “But it comes later.  Do you want to know more politics?”


“Hate politics.  More wars?”


“Oh, yeah,” I say.  


“Bunkmates.”



“We had a president named Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer, and he got the people of Iran so mad, they invaded our embassy in Teheran and held fifty-two U.S. citizens hostage for over a year.  Carter didn’t start a war over it, and got booted out after one term.  That’s when Ronald Reagan became president, and the Iranians thought Reagan would start a war against them, so they set everyone in the embassy free.  The Soviets also thought Reagan would attack them, so they spent all their money on weapons, bankrupted themselves, and collapsed.”

“You mentioned.”


“It started with the Berlin Wall.”


“Russians took it down?”



“No, it was a miscommunication that turned into a fiasco.  The West German media reported that the borders had been opened to everyone, based on something erroneous announced by an East German press spokesperson.  Everyone came out to the wall to celebrate and the border guards were overwhelmed, didn’t know what to do, and,” I shrug, “they stood by and watched while the crowds tore it down.”

“Word power,” says the apparition.  “Words should be used simply and sparingly, with vigor.  Wrote ninety pages whale shit for every masterpiece page.  Good book measured by how much great material discarded.”  The apparition pauses.  “I had built-in shit-detector, kept phoniness from my writing.  But never have guts to write story me not live.”


“What do you mean?” 


“Stephen Crane wrote my favorite book, Red Badge of Courage.  That's talent.  I wanted to write Civil War story.  Could not, because I hadn't l-lived it myself.   I had to experience something for true before writing it.  I had good Civil War story in mind." 


“What story?”


“Yankee soldier escapes fire during battle, jumps into river. Almost drowns, saved by Confederate soldier, nursed to health.  Become friends.  Confederate dies.  Dysentery.  Yankee finds photo of dead man’s wife in pocket, travels, Mississippi, meets her, offers help.  Goes on.  Wanted to write story about Oregon Trail.  October, end of trail, beginning winter… what the hell.  Continue.”


“A man named George Bush became president.  He went to war against Iraq.”


“Why?”


“Because Iraq invaded Kuwait.”


“We don’t join World War Two when Nazis invade Europe, but make war over Middle East pissant country?”


“Oil,” I say.  “The new gold.  Plus another miscommunication.  Our ambassador met with Iraq’s ruler, a dictator named Saddam Hussein.  She gave him the impression the U.S. had ‘no opinion’—those were her words—on conflicts between Arab countries."


The apparition shakes its head.


"So we had the Gulf War," I continue.  "Bush saved Kuwait, but didn’t finish the job.  It led to another war against Iraq a decade later when Bush’s son became president.”

The apparition studies me with squinted eyes.  “United States becomes monarchy?”  


“Sort of.  We used to have Kennedys.  Now we have Bushes and Clintons.  Voters like a familiar name.”


“Baa.  Okay, next war.”


“Precipitated by something now referred to as nine-eleven, because it took place on September 9th.  It has become more important to Americans than when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”


“Smelled the coming,” says the apparition.  “Was here, Glamour House autumn 1941.  Hated l-leaving, l-loved fall here.  With war comes rationing, other hardships that restrict travel.  So we cut out of here, didn't make it back till after the war.  I Predicted Japs give us Christmas present.”  The apparition stares into space.  “Great hunts that fall.  Met Averell, first time.  I'd been put out of the place, was at Challenger Inn.  Until meeting Averell.  He made management invite me back.  I swallowed pride.  Deal too good to say no.   Glamour House again. Gary Cooper, in the lodge.  And Howard Hawks.  My mob, Hollywood and Washington buddies.  They call me General.  Tell me, nine-eleven?”


“In the mid-1960s, two 110-story skyscrapers were built in lower Manhattan."


"Higher than Empire State Building?"


I nod.  "It was called World Trade Center.  On September 9th, 2001, fanatical Moslems hijacked commercial airliners and crashed them into both towers, causing them to burn and collapse.  Almost three thousand people were killed.  They also crashed a hijacked plane into the Pentagon.”


“Why?”


“They were terrorists.”


“Terrorists?”


“A new kind of revolutionary, based on causing terror.  Kill one, frighten ten thousand."


"Revolution in the United States?"


"No.  A militant Islamic group called Al-Qaeda, whose chief issued a fatwa.”


“Fat-what?”


“It means, new ruling.  It demanded that American soldiers get out of Saudi Arabia.”


"Why American troops in Saudi Arabia?"


"They stayed behind after the Gulf War to keep the peace."


“Some peace.  Hoover’s boys didn't see it coming?”


“J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972.  Didn't you know that?


The apparition shakes its head.  “I don't have sense of time.  No news bulletins about people changing molecular structure.”


“Is that your definition of dying?”


The apparition shrugs.  “Science.”


“Sitting here with you seems anything but scientific!”


“Ha!  All kinds science has not yet been discovered.  A hundred fifty years ago who would believe TV and airplanes?  Science will produce things you cannot imagine."


“You’re saying in a hundred and fifty years we’ll be communicating with the dead?”


“Why wait?”  The apparition winks.  “Working now.”


“Maybe I’m just dreaming this.”


“Maybe.”


“Or gone crazy.”


“I know about crazy. L-lived crazy.  Doctors say I was crazy.  When you zap away crazy, you erase creativity.  I l-learned hard way.  So you got terror people crashing airplanes into buildings, killing lots of Americans.  What next?” 

“The President, George W. Bush, son of George Bush, starts a War on Terror.  It began with our invasion of Afghanistan.”


“Afghanistan?  No one wins war in Afghanistan.  Limeys try.   Conquer Afghanistan impossible.”

“The Soviets tried, too, for ten years beginning the end of 1979.  They finally gave up, and the Soviet Union imploded, taxed by the cost of war.”

“America not afraid of implosion?”

“We believe in credit,” I say.  “We keep borrowing.  And the lenders keep handing us rope.  We’ve been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets.”

“Have we made a dent?”

I shake my head.  “The opposition is stronger than ever.”

“Casualties?”

“Mounting daily.”

“Why Afghanistan?”

“That is where Al-Qaeda was based.  And the Taliban.”

“Taliban?”

“An Islamic extremist political movement, related to Al-Qaeda.”

“Can't be just threaten Afghanistan's leaders with atomic bomb if they don't hand over bad guys? That’s why invented, no?"

"We have installed Afghanistan's new leaders.  They take our money, pay us lip service, and barely control the cities.  Other countries have nuclear weapons, and everyone agrees not to use them.  So wars are still fought on the ground.  George W. Bush also went to war against Iraq.”


“Again?”

“As I said, the first George Bush never finished the job during the Gulf War.  He could have chased the Iraqi Army back to Teheran and deposed Saddam Hussein.  But he worried what the world would think of him.”

“Sounds like mama’s boy.”

“Yeah, everyone thought he was a bit of a pussy.  Booted out after one term.”

“By his own son?”

“No.  A man from Arkansas named Bill Clinton.  The son came after Clinton, and aimed to finish the job after 9/11 happened.  Iraq had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, but family pride was at stake.  Not to mention oil.  So they made themselves believe Saddam Hussein was stockpiling WMD…”

“Huh?”

“Weapons of mass destruction.  Nuclear, biological.  Saddam didn’t have any.  It was his own invention to prevent neighboring countries from invading Iraq.  But the real reason was a mosaic.”


“New weapon?”

“No, it’s an image made with pieces of colored glass.”

The apparition studies me with one eye closed.  “You being wise-ass?”

“No.  Saddam Hussein commissioned a mosaic portrait of George Bush the first, which he laid at the entrance of Baghdad’s biggest and best hotel, Al-Rashid, for all to step on.  The sole of a shoe is the biggest insult in Middle Eastern culture.”

“Sonny boy wages war because daddy insulted by shoes?”

“Seems so.”  I shrug.  “There never were any WMDs.”

“Is Bush son still president?”

“No.  Served his two terms.  We have a new president.”

“Dynasty name?”

“No.  This one is named Barack Obama.”

“What kind of name is that?”

“African.”

The apparition startles.  

“He’s black.  Half-black, anyway.  Father from Kenya, mother from Kansas.”

“Negro president?”

“No one uses that term anymore.”

“Why not?”

“It’s considered a racial slur.”

"It's just word."

"One of the most offensive words in the English language."

The apparition shakes its head.  “Words don't hurt people.  People hurt people.  You tell me president of United States is color…”

“African-American,” I interject.  “The United States has become politically correct.”

“Only correct thing for politicians, vote them out, replace with new representatives, until corrupted by power, privilege, replace again.”

“Term limits?”

“You said yourself, people l-like familiar name, l-leads to permanent representatives, power, privilege.  Eric wrote it right.  Animal Farm.  What is meaning politically correct?

“We watch what we say not to upset anyone.”

“Upset who?”

“African-Americans, Native Americans…”

“What’s that?”

“Native Americans were formerly known as Indians.  Political correctness is also gender sensitive.  You don’t say fireman any more, you say firefighter, or it’s a slight to women.  Its proponents see it as the basis of a more tolerant society."

“Sounds l-like prohibition on words, repression.  Do they send people for shock treatment if they don't conform?"

I shake my head.  “Money for that dried up a long time ago.  If you’re schizophrenic and can’t pay, you’re out on the street.”

The apparition shudders.  “Better off.  How does... African-American become President?” 

Obama didn’t have much experience, but he’s a good talker, and it was time for a change after eight years of a second George Bush.  That was his campaign slogan, Obama for Change.”

“Anything change?”

“Not that I’ve noticed.  We’re still bogged down in the Middle East.  We’re still deeply in debt to foreign banks and countries, and the debt grows bigger every day.”

“Politics as usual.”   The apparition scratches its beard.  “Know why I grew this?”




Wednesday, July 29, 2015

HEMINGWAY HAUNTS 8: THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST






“A lot has changed.  I think the turning point was the assassination of Kennedy.”

President Kennedy, assassinated?”


“Actually, JFK and his brother, Robert.”


“At same time?”


“No.  JFK was president when he got shot in 1963.  Robert was running for president, five years later, when he got shot to death.”


“Who shot them?”


“Lone nuts.”


“Lone who?


“In both cases, a man with a few screws loose and a gun.”


“People believe that?”


“Not everyone.”


“People are sheep.”  The apparition shakes its head.  “Tell them which way to look and... Kennedy ends Vietnam, right?”


“No.”


“Anyone could see it had no legs.”


“He got sucked in deeper by a bunch of men called the best and the brightest.


The apparition looks down.  “How long?”


“How long?”


“How long did it go on?”


“Fourteen years.”


“The apparition looks up, eyes filled with disbelief.  “Fourteen years?  Two-and-half times longer than World War Two?  Sounds wrong.” The apparition studies me as if I’m toying with him.


“Many people thought that,” I say.  “It divided the country.  We had massive protests.”


“How many dead, our side?”



“A quarter million.”

“Who won?”


“The communists in North Vietnam.  They were supposed to recognize South Vietnam’s right to exist, but as soon as we left they invaded.  They even changed the name of Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City.”


“Did we get anything out of it?”


I consider this.  “Yeah.  A debt.  Five hundred and eighty-four billion dollars.”


“Does Asia fall l-like dominoes?”


“No."  I shake my head.  "That theory, dreamt up by the best and the brightest, turned out to be a load of crap.  Lyndon Johnson became president and got re-elected in 1964.   He believed the domino theory and created a military draft, and put ground troops in Vietnam.  He said, ‘If we allow Vietnam to fall, tomorrow we’ll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week in San Francisco.’”


“And that happens?”


I chuckle.  “No.  We also invaded Cambodia and inadvertently strengthened their communists, the Khmer Rouge, which took over and returned Cambodia to the eleventh century, and created the phrase killing fields.



“Killing fields?”

“They massacred one-third of their own people:  about two-and-half-million Cambodians.”



The apparition shakes its head. "Who after Johnson?"

“Richard Nixon.”

“Kidding me.”


“He had to resign during his second term.”


“Resign?  No one resigns presidency.”


“He had to.  No choice.  He would have been impeached.”


“Why?”



“A scandal called Watergate.  Nixon was implicated in covering up a burglary against his political opponents, in addition to massive surveillance against his enemies. Vice President Ford took over…”

“Who?”


“Gerald Ford.  He was a congressman.  A decent man.  Too decent to get elected.  He’d actually been appointed VP after Agnew had to resign.”


“Agnew?”


“Spiro T.  He’d been governor of Maryland.  Some say Nixon chose Agnew so he wouldn’t get assassinated.  Agnew was corrupt, and he got caught.”


“Stop,” says the apparition, putting up a palm to slow me down.  “Were Americans ashamed by any of this?”


It is a good question, one I’d never heard before.  “I think most Americans were distracted by TV.”


“I had TV.  Good for watching fights.  And ball games.”



“It changed a lot.  For a start, by the late 1960s almost everyone had a color set, and kids grew up addicted to it, watching every night.  Parents, too.  It got switched on after dinner, often during dinner, and stayed on till bedtime.”

“Sounds like book Eric wrote.”


“Eric?”


“George Orwell.  In Spain we fight Fascists together.  Eric knew his stuff.  Was he accurate?”


“What do you mean?” I ask.


“Nineteen eighty-four.”


“It came and went without mind control."


“Doesn't sound like that to me," says the apparition.   "Perpetual war, surveillance, mind control through TV…”


“And I haven’t got to the Internet yet...”




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

THE DUDE: 3 YEARS OLD






HEMINGWAY HAUNTS 7: CATCHING UP






The apparition sighs.  “Your turn, chief—catch up.”

“Catch up?”


“What happened since my send-off?”


I study the apparition sitting just beyond arm’s reach in a leather club chair.  I don’t know if I am dreaming, channeling, or seeing a ghost.

The apparition looks back at me in anticipation.


“If you’re here now…?”


“Me present.”


“Wouldn’t that mean you know what has gone on since your, uh, departure?”


The apparition shakes its head.  “Dead is dead.  Don’t work like that, kid.”


"How does it work?"


"Ask questions, later.  Now catch-up."


“I guess the first big event after you left was the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962.”


“Favorite month, especially Idaho.  Did you say Cuba?”


“Yes.  Castro, your friend.”  I chuckle.  “Pretty soon after you, uh, died, Castro declared himself a Marxist-Leninist…”


“Damn.”  The apparition pounds his right fist on the chair arm.  “Should-a seen it coming.”


“He wanted assistance from the Soviet Union.  The Russians, under Khruschev, were happy to help, but only on condition that they be allowed to place nuclear missiles aimed at the United States on Cuban soil.”


The apparition whistles.  “Surprised mankind hasn’t bombed itself to goat shit.”


“We almost did.  President Kennedy stood firm and positioned navy warships around Cuba to enforce an embargo.  Some say the world was only minutes away from nuclear war—and probable annihilation.”


“What happened?”


“The Russians blinked.  And the U. S. made a secret deal to remove its own missiles, which were obsolete anyway, from Turkey.”


“My grandchild.  Bumby’s.”  The apparition strikes a thoughtful pose.  “Boy or girl?”


“Girl,” I say.  “Mariel.”


The apparition shakes its head.  “I always wanted daughter.  So me call lady friends daughter.  Not Marlene Dietrich.  She, The Kraut.  So Bumby, two daughters.  How is Margot?”


“The next big event was in 1963…” I try to change the subject.


“Margot,” the apparition says sternly.


I remain silent for several seconds.  “Are you sure you want to know?”


“Tell me.”

“She died.  In 1996.”


“How?”


"Drug overdose."

"Suicide?"

I nod.

The apparition stares grimly into space.  “Gigi?”

“Your third son?  You chose the right nickname for him,” I say sardonically, almost regretting it.


“Meaning?”


“He’s dead, too.   I’m sorry.”  I pause.  “Don’t you know when someone joins the… what would you call it, the… dead?”


The apparition shakes its head.  “Don’t work like that, chief.  Tell me, Gigi.”


“It’s not pretty.”


“L-life’s not pretty.  I know.  Covered wars.”


“Gigi got arrested for exposing himself when he was 69 and died in his cell at the Miami-Dade Women’s Detention Center…”


“Women’s?”  The apparition cocks an eyebrow.


“After he was apprehended, walking naked around Key Biscayne, the police, uh, examined him.  They discovered he’d had a sex change.”



The apparition turns quiet, lowers its voice to a whisper.  “That boy always trouble.  Mean.  Wrote cruel letters.  Should have paid more attention to him.  Hard for son to walk in shadow of famous father.  Go on.”

“About your family?”


“No.  Fake war almost turned nuclear.”


“Fake war?”


The apparition nods.  “Cold War.  Hoover’s war.  And his buddy, Roy Cohn.”


“It finally ended.”


“How?”


“When Ronald Reagan was president…”


“Stop, stop, stop.  Ronald Reagan, actor?”


“Yes.  First he got elected Governor of California, two terms, and then…”


“The actor?


“He’s now considered one of the best…”


“Never l-liked politics.  Boxing and bullfighting.  Blood sports.  Nothing phony about them.”


“To make a long story short,” I say, “the Soviet Union collapsed and disintegrated, Lenin was disavowed, and Russia went capitalist.”


“Next you say United States turns socialist.”


“It sort of has,” I say.  “We have laws about illegal immigrants, but we don’t enforce them.  We give them free medical care and welfare and education.  To pay for that, we borrow money from banks and other countries.”


“Why?” The apparition is puzzled.


“Because we’ve run out of money.”


“We invented TV set.  I finally bought TV, right here in Ketchum.”


“We don’t make them any more.  We contract most manufacturing to other countries, where labor is cheap.”


“But labor makes America great, powerful,” says the apparition.  “Work ethic.”


“A lot has changed.  I think the turning point was the assassination of Kennedy...”