Sunday, January 31, 2010


Progress Report

Well, gutsy guys and galloping gals (you know who you are), here it is the end of January. How are you progressing with your running goals for 2010? My goal for the first month was 84 miles. I made 78 miles, about one run shy of the mark, close but no medal. My running doppelganger, Kinsey Milhone, that darling girl, made 93 miles, but you know she’s just relentless (bitch). So, 78 run to date, 922 to go. I am going to have to make up some additional miles in February regardless of weather. Oh, yes. Bad weather is MY excuse.

But, back to you.

No, you are not off the hook. How are you doing? If your progress is disappointing, what has been holding you back?


Friday, January 29, 2010


Growing and Eating Sacred Cows

Think about raising your own pasture-fed beef cattle. How could you do it? How much would it cost?

My old Marine Corps comrade, Gary (not his real name), paid a visit last week to “talk story” about our time together in Viet Nam. I asked him how he was making a living, and among several answers he mentioned that he was raising cattle for his own table and for retail at the local farmers markets. Holy shit! His response really got my attention.

Cattle ranching would seem to be an strange match with which to fire up a vegetarian, but I am interested in all things related to sustainable farming, localism, eating seasonally, and organic food production. Though I have no intention in ever eating beef myself, I understand and applaud well-reasoned agriculture based on pasture and ruminant symbiosis. When Gary pitched his story across my plate, I just had to take a swing

I ask him to break it down for me:

$400 Purchase a feeder or stocker calf of good breeding. Nevada County is mostly agricultural so there are plenty of locally raised calves available. You can buy them from a rancher or at the County Fair from the FFA kids.

$315 Rent pasturage from a local rancher at $17.50 a week for 18 weeks. Gary is a stand-off cattleman. He doesn't own the land or breeding stock himself.

$50 Medications, vaccinations and worming, but not the heavy dose of antibiotics or hormones given to CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) cows.

$1320 Cattle feed (mostly corn) to “finish” them off. $11 a day for 120 days. Finishing is the process of introducing high-fat content into the meat, or marbling, which satisfies a taste addiction acquired by most beef-eating Americans. Gary, with pride, boasts that he finishes his cows for 120 days while most other boutique cattlemen finish for only 60 days. Whether grass-fed beef needs to be finished at all is a matter of taste. There is a growing movement that lauds 100% grass-fed beef, but that’s not my friend Gary’s goal.

$576 Butcher. Gary quotes $.80 per pound for butchering a 720 pound steer, but winks that he gets it done for less. Looking into this further, I discovered that butcher costs vary wildly, and that butchering in California costs a lot more than butchering in Arkansas (surprise!).

$3000 This is the total cost when we include incidentals like transportation, cold storage, salt and worm licks, and so on. From his 720 pound steer he receives about 600 pounds of beef. Divide yield into total cost:

$5.00 per pound (average)

Even when we consider that some of the cuts may go for more than $5.00 per pound, it is obvious that there is no big money to be made here by us amateur cowpokes.

Could our costs be cut? Sure, especially if we eliminate the “corn finishing” or reduce it drastically, and we also find a butcher (wink) who will do it for, say $.50 per pound. From time to time we can also purchase a calf for less than $400. In his budget “Gary” did not mention the costs of hay (for over-wintering) and other food supplements and concentrates. So, eliminating the intensive “finishing” process, but keeping the other costs the same, and adding about $300 for hay and food supplements, our total cost for 600 pounds of butchered beef could be as low as


About $2.50 per pound.

Would you pay $2.50 per pound for the healthiest, leanest, safest, most environmentally sensitive, happiest filet mignon you’ve ever eaten? Well, certainly you would (if you eat the sacred filet at all). The point here is that you can not make a lot of money at raising your own beef, but you can feed several people cheaply and safely, rebuild the fertility of the land, quietly sell a little on the off-market, and maybe pay your property taxes with the bit left over.

Quietly sell a little on the off-market? The USDA and other regulatory agencies make it difficult to operate mom-and-pop meat economies, but there are a few small meat packing houses around and there are ways we make obeisance to the USDA rules, policies largely formulated to protect the giant food business, the industrial megalith USDA worships as its own sacred cow.

Or we drive our little herds into outlaw country. We better start remembering how to ride low in the saddle.

Coma ti yi yippee yippee yay, yippee yay
Coma ti yi yippee yippee yYay
Git along little doggie.


Monday, January 25, 2010




Chu Lai in the afternoon, a benevolent California summerscape, harmonious mountains in the purple distance o’er looked mellow sunburned hills and innocent beaches with waves lined up for cheerful surfers. But, with respect to photographic accuracy, appliqué upon this sultry paradise, a patchwork of olive helicopters, Hueys and Shithooks (Chinooks), a squadron of camouflaged Phantoms so bitchin’ they gave me a hard on, deuce-and-a-half trucks, jeeps scooting around like busy bugs, storage vans, tents, and heaps of mysterious military stuff, all squatting ugly beneath the background roar of diesel generators. Quite a sight.

I grinned.

A Pair of Shithooks Flying Into Chu Lai

Nobody was expecting me. Of course. By now I was used to indifference regarding Lance Corporal Jenkins’ haphazard arrivals. Locating a plywood construction that looked like it might offer useful function, or at least a telephone, I made inquiry about the location of Bravo Battery, Second Light Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion.

Lance Corporal Pogeybait on duty blinked several times like he was just waking up and blearily acknowledged the existence of my new unit. There was something off-kilter about the way he was acting, but I couldn’t tell what it was, not that I cared.

“Bravo, huh? Point Cluster Fuck just north of the ROKs (Korean Marines).

“How do I find it?”

“Look for the biggest shit storm in Nam,” sneered Pogeybait, “that’s Bravo Battery”.

“OK, whatever you say. Got a telephone?”

“Yeah, but you can’t use it.”

“Why not?”

“Duty phone,” he slurred, “O-fissshal communications only.”

“Then how about you calling Bravo and get me a ride?”

Huffily he replied, “Not authorized to do that.”

I had about a bellyful of this weird asshole.

“Then how about I ‘authorize’ your scrawny chicken neck until it snaps like a pencil?”

“OK, OK, don’t get yourself worked up. Here’s the phone. Knock yourself out, FNG.”

(Fucking New Guy)

“Thanks so very much, REMF”

(Rear Echelon Mother Fucker)

He laughed. Evidently I had established my cool lingo credentials. He reached under the desk and came up with a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

“Wanna beer?”

That’s what it was! The reason for his odd behavior. Lance Corporal Pogeybait was snockered.

“Aren’t you on duty?”

“Yeah, but it’s groovy, man, groovy. Everybody in Chu Lai is drunk.”

“How’s that?”

“Cargo ship came in with the . . . beer. Nothing but beer, beer, beer, stacks of beer, mountains of beer. No food. No ass wipe (toilet paper). Just beer, lots of . . . beer.” He giggled.


“Yep. Supply tried to keep it under wraps, but there was just about a fuckin’ riot and the Old Man finally said shit let ‘em have it the sooner they drink it the sooner it’s gone. So every swinging dick got CASES of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Wanna beer?”

“Is it cold?”

“Fuck no! How ya gonna cool beer out here? Who cares anyway? Wanna beer?”

“I'll take a pass, don’t want to show up drunk to my new unit.”

He thought that was about the funniest thing he had ever heard.

Switchboard put me through to Bravo. I was expecting another drunk reply, but the Marine who picked up the phone on the first ring was sharp.

“Bravo battery, Lance Corporal Crisp.”

I told him who I was and that I was reporting for duty. I heard him yell.

“Hey Gunny, we expecting Lance Corporal Jenkins?”

I head a familiar voice off in the distance say, “Oh fuck me, Jenkins.”

Shit. Cunningham. Gunny Cunningham. Why did it have to be Cunningham? Shit. Shit. Shit. How the hell could he get here ahead of me? He was still at Cherry Point when I deployed, and I hadn’t wasted any time getting here. In fact, as far as I was concerned, I was at least a week early.

He picked up the phone, “Jenkins?”

I sighed, “It’s me, Gunny?”

“Where the fuck have you been? You’re late. You’re UA (unauthorized absence, the new term for AWOL, absent without leave).”

“En route, Gunny, I got here as fast as I could.”

He snarled to someone, “Give me those orders!” He slammed down the phone.

There was a moment of silence while he read. He picked the phone back up.

“You’re early. You’re a fucking week early. Why are you a week early, Jenkins, can’t you just follow the fucking program?”

This was vintage Cunningham. I was not going to win a point from him, and I had learned a long time ago not to try.

“I’m here, Gunny, can somebody come get me?”

“What am I supposed to do with you for the next week while we sort out this cluster fuck?”

There it was again, the mysterious ‘cluster fuck’ reference.

“Put me to work, Gunny, that’s what I came out here for.”

Every now and then even I was capable of saying the right thing.

Cunningham spoke to someone on his end. “Get your ass over to the pad and pick him up. Jenkins?”

“Yeah, Gunny?”

“You better have your gear wired tight when you get here. I don’t need another fuck up in this already-fucked-up shit pie.”

“Aye Aye, Gunny.”

He paused, “Jenkins,” his tone had changed to something serious and significant.

Uh oh.

“When you get out here, you keep your mouth shut and you don’t ask any of your usual smart-assed questions. You find your rack (bed), get your shit stowed, and stay out of sight until I find you. You got that?”

This was really bizarre. I had picked up that something heavy was going down.

“OK, Gunny, whatever you say.”

He hung up. Wow. Well, at least somebody knew me, even if it was my old nemesis, Cunningham. A short time later, Lance Corporal Crisp picked me up in the Battery jeep. Not just cold sober, he looked like he had stepped away from a stateside uniform inspection, blouse starched, helmet strapped, boots shined, M-14 rifle perfectly cleaned and ready. He made me look and feel like Private Shit the Ragman.

Crisp turned out to be OK, in fact, he had a wicked sense of humor I would come to appreciate.

“Man, oh man, did you ever pick the wrong time to jump into this furball.”

Remembering Cunningham’s admonition, I was guarded. “What furball?”

“You haven’t heard?”

“Heard what? That everybody in Chu Lai is drunk on warm beer?”

“Fuck that. You’re not going to believe the shit going down in Bravo.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Nothing. Nothing much . . . except Corporal Nutcase fragged the CO (commanding officer).

Fragged the CO?”

“Well, tried to.”

Fragged the CO!”

“But he fucked it up.”

“Fragged? Like . . . threw a grenade at the CO?”

“Yeah, fucking grenade.”

“OK, “(Whoa!) “Tell me about it.”

“So, the CO, Captain Napoleon, has a hard on for Nutcase who is a supply guy, right? And Nutcase is getting really bent out of shape, I mean he’s really starting to lose it, like he is going off the edge ‘cause he thinks the CO who is, by the way, a crazy asshole himself, and you if you ever see him you should turn invisible if you get what I’m saying, anyway, Nutcase thinks the Napoleon is out to get him and send him to Da Nang for another full tour or some weird shit.”


“Anyway, this goes on. The CO is busting Nutcase’s chops and Nutcase is getting crazier and crazier. Then two weeks ago, somebody takes a dump in the CO’s boots.”


“Yeah. Dumps a big loose load in the CO’s boots.”

“Somebody took a shit in his boots?”

“That would be affirmative.”

“How’d they do that?”

“CO puts his boots right out side the door of his hooch so they air out and don’t stink up the hooch. So somebody comes along at night and craps in them.”

“One boot or both boots?”

“Fuck should I know? Wasn’t like they was going to call formation and pass them around, like, “Can anybody identify these turds?”

Like I said, Crisp had a sense of humor.

“They said ‘boots,’ so that’s what I’m saying, boots. Fuck difference it make?”

“OK, some idiot shits in the CO’s boot . . . or boots. What happened?”

“Well, CO knows it’s Nutcase and goes after him, but Nutcase says, “Sir, I did not defecate in your foot ware, Sir.”

Defecate. Foot ware.”

“Yep. CO screams, ‘Yes, you did, you fucking Kike.’ Did I mention that Nutcase is Jewish?”


“Yeah, Jewish. So Nutcase does not like that shit one bit. He says, ‘Prove it.’ CO says, ‘I don’t have to prove shit.’ Nutcase says, ‘Yes, Sir, that’s exactly what you have to prove, shit. You have to prove shit. You have to prove that shit came out of my puckered Kike ass hole and dropped into your shiny goddamn Goyim boots.’ Then the CO screams “I’m going to bust you to Private and you’re going to spend the rest of your fucking life in Leavenworth (federal penitentiary). You are restricted to your quarters. Sergeant-at-arms, get this filth out of my sight.”

Crisp, looked over at me, smiled.

“So . . . ?”

“So, that same night, it happened.”

He paused for dramatic effect.

“They play Taps (he imitates the evening bugle call) Duh ta duh, Duh ta Duh. Nutcase sneaks up to the O-hooch (Officers’ quarters), opens the screen door and yells ‘Everybody but Napoleon get out!” He pulls the pin on a grenade and tosses it in. Fuck, man, hair, teeth, and eyeballs, the four guys who live in that hooch are diving for the other door. CO is out first and safe, wouldn’t you know? Then Gunner Salty ( Gunner is slang for warrant officer, not to be confused with Gunny which is slang for Gunnery Sergeant) gets out, then the XO (Executive Officer), he gets out, too. Top OldCorps (slang for First Sergeant) is last and not quite out the door when the grenade pops and he catches shrapnel everywhere down his back, legs, ass, head, everywhere.”

“Kill him?”

“No, but he’s pretty chewed up and already trying to deal it into a Purple Heart.”

I chuckled. “Yeah, go Top. So, what happens to Nutcase?”

“He’s got a bunch more grenades and his rifle and maybe some claymores (anti-personnel mines) and some other shit and he climbs on top of the 45 Club (a beer shack for corporals and sergeants) and gets behind the lookout. He’s hunkered down up there where he can see the whole camp and he’s yelling that we’ll never take him alive and that he’ll shoot anyone who comes after him.”

“Fuck me.”

“You got that right. So we all got our heads down and Doc (Navy corpsman/paramedic) patches up Top OldCorps gets him in the jeep and off to Wing hospital, and pretty soon, here comes the CO shouting orders and nobody is listening and Gunner Salty comes over and tells the CO to shut the fuck up. Gunner has steel balls, by the way, and he’s a good guy, and him and Nutcase have not got into each other’s shit, so Gunner just strolls over to the 45 and starts climbing the ladder. Nutcase is yelling ‘I’ll shoot you, I’ll shoot you,” but Gunner ignores him and just gets to the top and squats down and starts talking real low. This goes on for a while so we all pop up and come out to listen but we can’t hear what they’re saying. After a while we hear Nutcase laugh and then Gunner laughs. Gunner yells ‘Somebody bring us a couple of beers and some smokes.’”


“Then the CO starts yelling at Gunner and Gunner yells “Shut the fuck up . . . Sir.” Then the CO yells some more and Gunner ignores him and we all know who is in charge of Bravo right now and it ain’t the CO. Finally we see Nutcase climb down.”

“Still have his weapon?”

“No. Gunner brings it down with him. They go into Nutcase’s hooch. After a while the MPs show up and take Nutcase away.”

“So what happened to him?”

“No word yet, but all we’ve been doing for two weeks is giving testimony and answering questions and covering our ass. CO vanished the day after the fragging and the XO is supposed to be in charge, but they transferred Gunner over to HQ (headquarters) and Top is out on the Repose (Navy hospital ship).”

“So who is running the show?”


“Gunny Cunningham is running Bravo Battery?”

“Yeah, he showed up about three days ago, and, daddy-o, that man is the real deal. Took him one day to get us squared away. You’ll see how it is.”

“I already know how it is. I spent a year with Cunningham at 3rd LAAM.”

“Fucking A! When the shit comes down, I want that bad assed motherfucker in charge of my young self, Gung Fucking Ho.”

“Everyone feel that way?”

“You bet.”

Well, well, well. CO of Cluster Fuck Battery is fragged, or almost, and Cunningham is the big dog for all these Marines. Not what I expected of my combat mission to Viet Nam.










Thursday, January 21, 2010



Start your run in the rain. Avoid getting your feet wet. Dodge puddles. Run on the side of the path that has become a miniature Class II rapid.

But, sooner or later, you will mis-step and come down ankle deep in the creek. The other foot will plunge into a puddle you didn’t see until too late. Your feet are soaked and getting cold. But something wonderful happens; you no longer give a damn.

Splash ahead like some big-tired redneck swamp buggy. Look for “water features” to attack. Yeeee Haaaawwww.

Fierce winds arise and whip the trees. Respond by un-zipping your jacket so you can better feel the storm. Now you are getting soaked through and through. The howling gale makes you mad, quite mad. At the top of your lungs you must, you simply must roar lines from King Lear.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!

Snatch off your ball cap and shake out your hair, and should you happen to have a great mane of red curly hair, it’s quite a sight. Soon your big hair is drenched and flopping around in great loopy ropes.

You wonder why you are not getting cold, but if you really, really rip this run, like a cheetah, feet barely touching the ground, your body will super-heat and effortlessly fight off the chill. So you crank it up into a higher gear, rain gear, and let 'er rip.

Your loyal running companion, the Great Dog, likewise wet and ecstatic, hears your accelerated footfall and picks up her own pace. She looks especially noble today, head held high, soaked and fearless. She is two-toned, the top half sparkling gold, the bottom half, black mud.

The forest is dressed in its stark winter drab, leaves long-fallen from deciduous trees. You can see much further into woodland secrets. There’s an eagle nest in a digger pine. Been past here a hundred times and never seen it before. The mushrooms and fungus are busy with the miraculous work of transforming dead trees into rich topsoil.

Squish squish squish squish squish squish squish squish squish squish squish.

Miles disappear beneath squishing shoes.

So soon?

Your tempestuous run has ended.

Back at the truck, open the door, the one away from the road and out of sight. Make yourself a little private dressing room between the door and the body of the truck. Strip off your soggy, cold clothes.

Stand there naked in the downpour; rain hitting your body and dripping off. Take a few steps away from the truck, still naked, and turn your face to the sky.

Let it all fall down on you.

OK, enough. Time to get going. You remembered to bring a towel this time. Briskly dry off. Doesn’t that feel good? If only you had brought dry clothes! Oh, you did. Ha! Snuggle into your warm, dry, scratchy sweats. Ooo la la.

Now for Miss Pooch who has been waiting patiently. Let her jump into the cab of your truck where you, with unprecedented foresight, have laid out her blanket. Using your own towel, dry her off. The towel is damp, but she doesn’t mind, it’s got your smell on it. Bend down to pick up your key, and as your head comes up, she’ll probably give you a huge lick, right across your nose. Slurp. Sputter and complain all you want. She knows you’re just pretending. Grins at you. Gratitude and love, that’s what she knows.

Slide into the drivers seat, turn on the engine, the heater, the wipers, and some rock and roll music. Hey, even the double-cupped coffee is still warm, well, kinda warm. Good enough and better than nothing.

Time now to make elaborate plans.

“Let’s go home.”


“And get some chow.”


Is running in the rain a great party, or what?




My God, last night on Facebook was like an old hippy party. Paul Hood and I drove around from thread to thread in a psychedelic VW van picking up members of the tribe like Maggidevi and Stacey who were just walking along the road and climbed in with their AMAZING IDEAS and their equally amazing ta tas, both of them, and Maggidevi caught me peeking, smiled sweetly and said "In your dreams, Bobba," and then we were bouncing off to some high place overlooking the river where we smoked a bowl of some REALLY GOOD SHIT and then started rapping our asses off regaling each other with some REALLY BIG IDEAS and laughing and crying until even you-know-who crawled up out of her menopausal funk and started giggling while Alys who was just ten feet tall wandered around in the woods chewing on a riddle and then returning with an answer but "not that, Alys, close, just keep trying" when we realized some tribe members were missing-in-action and we went to the edge of the cliff and yelled into the canyon "KELLLYYYYY (kellykellykelly) MARIEEEEEE (mariemariemarie) WHERETHEFUCKAREYOU (areyouareyouareyou) whereupon Susan complained that she actually had to go to WORK tomorrow and we all said "just one more story" and she said "OK" and then when we were just about out of steam along comes Bunny out of the shadows already looped with a bottle of Annie Green Springs and we’re off again. Kinda like that.