Excerpts from Rancho Costa Nada: The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead:

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Excerpts from:  “Rancho Costa Nada:  The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead” 

By Phil Garlington     


Conversations with the Demented Vet            

The author goes visiting in the neighborhood.  The Demented Vet is at home, as usual, at his remote desert seat atop a bleak stone hill.  He’s reclining on a lounge chair under a flapping awning, a pump Thermos of coffee and a cigarette roller on a table at his elbow.  Binoculars hang from the chair back.  Propped against the trailer, within easy reach, is an AR-15, the weapon of choice out here.  The DV is very security conscious.  I am not allowed, on pain of execution, to describe any of his arrangements or preparations.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t call him tight lipped.  From the moment of one’s arrival until the mentally exhausted visitor warily begins edging toward his car, the DV spiels like the Ancient Mariner to the wedding guest.  At least he has the same dogged verbosity if not always the Mariner’s mesmerizing magnetism.  Like a marooned Crusoe sequestered on an atoll for too many empty years the DV leaps at the rare opportunity to uncork the vapors of his lonely broodings.  There’s no place like the desert for honing political theories.            

“You again?  I see that piece-of-shit red Geo coming and I say to myself, please, don’t turn up my road.  I don’t believe in telepathy or prayer, but I try it anyway, in your case. 


"Did you read that in the paper about this high school kid who got expelled for saying “under Mammon” during the pledge?  “One nation under Mammon, invisible...”  Wiseass little punk but pretty damn accurate in my opinion.  Wahhabi brown-nosed subsidy-sucking Baptist clone of a principle expelled him for telling the truth about this country.  That’s the kind of tight-assed unsmiling American Gothic can’t -take-a-fucking-joke Baptist government we’ve got today. 


"Did you see that on TV when all those hypocritical Philistine U.S. Senators got up together for the under God pledge?  Did you puke?  You can’t please God and Mammon, and you can’t get into the U.S. Senate without having made that decision a long time ago.  Flannel-mouthed sanctimonious butt-in-the-air hypocrites, grabbing their ankles for every corporate lobbyist who walks down the corridor.  Instinctive.  Pavlovian.  That kid Lindh who took up with the Taliban?  You think he’ll ever be sharing a cell with a real traitor like Kenny Boy Lay?  The kid didn’t do anything except fall for a religious line of crap. 


"Do we put brainwashed broccoli-eating Moonies in prison?  But those felonious back-stabbing Benedict Arnold CEOs who trashed their stockholders and ripped off the help?  Enron’s pension plan? Wal-Mart greeter.  I say, the shortest way with the traitors, Phil.  That’s what I say.  But instead they’re holed up in their gated communities counting their millions.  Ha!  I know.  I’m in a gated community myself, if you count the hounds and the trip wire.  But I didn’t get here by selling my country down the river and fleecing the rubes who took my word for something. 


"Okay. I know about the stock holders.  The greedy bastards deserved it.  Just like the greedy bastards who went down with the savings and loan.  But the Enron stiffs didn’t have a choice on the 401(k), Phil.  They weren’t even allowed to collect a whopping one point five in the money market.  They weren’t allowed to buy T-bills to finance the deficit being racked up by Rummy and Dummy  and Dicky and Conda-leezy.  


"Hey, nobody is more willing than me to mess up the rag heads.  But not with this bunch.  Not with Howdy Doody as CINC.  There’s POTUS teeing off on the back nine when the bird colonel trots up with the football.  Sir, Dicky Boy wants you to mash the button.  “This one here?  There.  Let freedom ring.  Now watch this drive.”  A commander in chief with the resting heart rate of a hibernating toad.  Oh I know what you’re saying, you damned liberal.  None of those sniveling sumbitch Enron drones ever whined about accounting fraud when Enron and WorldCom went to the moon.  But don’t get me started on the deficit, Phil.  Traitors, Phil.  Do you think your kid will ever see a dime of Social Security?  Figure it out.  Count on your fingers.  It doesn’t take Howdy Doody with his Harvard MBA. 


 "Right now there’s nothing in the lockbox but IOUs.  All the social security surplus gets spent.  At least that child-molesting pervert Clinton -- may he spend his flaming eternity in Hell getting red-hot BJs from poxy lava-mouthed Calcutta hookers -- at least Clinton tried to pay down the debt.  This bunch!  Spend money they don’t got, and can only get by squeezing the bejeesus out of the cajones of the mouth-breathing middle class. 


"Nobody wants twelve divisions more than me, Phil.  Nobody wants a 400-ship Navy more than me.  Nobody wants to smash Iraq, Iran, Zimbabwe, France and the Netherlands more than me.  But where’s the dough?  It’s been blown on welfare for the plutocrats. 


"Oh, I know what you’re gonna say, you damned liberal.  The first duty of any government is to protect  the ruling elite.  But they don’t even leave a moldy crust and some gristle for the kids in the spastic school.  This level of thievery is a finger in their own eye, Phil.  The little chickens are feeling for their feathers and not finding any.  Plucked and fucked.  Even the docile narcotized tube-fed suburban zombie in his Barcolounger may wise up one of these days. 


"And it’s right in front of their noses. See this stack of newspapers?  It’s all there.  But they’re snoozin’ in front of the tube. Nap time in America. They won’t snap to until they’re wearing a barrel at the soup kitchen.  Your average American sapsucker is clueless.  That was funny what you said the other day, Phil, about how during the Persian Gulf War you flew the Iraq flag in front of your house.  And the next morning the whole neighborhood was on your doorstep.  Thought it was a garage sale.  I know it’s a lie, I said it was funny. It just makes my point.  Dummies.   No idea what’s bearing down on ‘em. 


"It’s like Social Security keeps pushing the retirement age back.  Pretty soon your son will have to be 75 before he can collect anything.  If it’s there.  I bet, I bet, Phil... Oh, I smell a default coming.  They’re gonna renege.  Already they got an armed guard at the Social Security office in Blythe.  What’s that about?  They’re worried the saps may wake up.  But maybe by that time we’ll be hit by an asteroid.  I hope I’m around for that.  Ka-boom.  Wipe the fucking smile off the faces of some of these people...”                            

I try my hand at a rant, in the style of the Demented Vet.  Ready?  So, what was this all about again?  

The summation                       

 People always say the same thing:  "I couldn’t be a desert homesteader.  I need a hot shower every day."  “Hot shower” here stands for modern plumbing.  Hey, I’m not a proselytizer.  I realize that only a handful of zanies and misanthropes would ever throw over comfort-driven lives and light out for the desert territory.


I don’t have any stats.  But just from an empirical view, I’d say most working stiffs look happy enough with their lot, or at least can tolerate it.  Decent job, good bennies. Don’t knock it, says my sister.  House in a good nabe.  Kids doin’ okay.  I don’t knock it.  Yet, I’ve seen plenty of guys who hate their life, see themselves as circling the drain, but can’t see a way out.  Any change is risky.  So they’re willing to give up their volition and real leisure, debase themselves as serfs, piss away their youth doing shit work, and suffer being bossed around by assholes their whole lives, in exchange for a hot shower.             

Been there.  Like nearly every other mope, I’ve toiled (maybe not toiled, but reluctantly served) in the hierarchy, answering to dicks, taking the program, usually discontented, because I hate taking orders, even sensible orders.  Guidance irritates me.  I don’t want a mentor.  I’d rather fuck it up by myself.  Even out in the desert, where obviously I need tutelage, I balk when, say, the Hobo gives me good advice.  Panel screws work better than nails in this cedar.  Oh, yeah?  I’m peeved.  I do it my way, fail, and then wind up taking advantage of the well-meant, sound suggestion.           

Obviously some deep-seated issue about authority.  But anyway, at the homestead I don’t have to take advice.  I’m not an employee.   I’m not a salaried associate answering to pigmies, those darn diminutive carnivores.  I’m an unfettered guy who doesn’t have to face an annual evaluation.  Sure, now I have to get along on short money.  But I’m never broke.  I’m not in pinched circumstances.  I always have  walking around money.            

My spot in what the Hobo calls Sand Valley isn’t much.  Wind-beaten, barren desolation.  Waterless dirt and thorny scrub.  Actual value:  worthless.  But it’s real property and in Samland real estate is king.  You’re a piss-poor excuse for an American if you don’t own a chunk of your own dirt.


  Property ownership is just about the highest aspiration of any son or daughter of Sam.  Property ownership might even get you some respect before the bench, maybe. And you may as well take advantage of prevailing mores of the home country.  In American civil justice, property rights trump.  Deed uber alles.  The body of U.S. law supports and protects the owner of real property and chattel over the whining, leveling, egalitarian communard, however righteous. 


The law-abiding desert crank or recluse sitting on his own acre quietly polishing his political theories, but bugging no one, probably sits immune to official lather.  Nobody bothers the DV.  The now-incarcerated Indian Phil, with his tire dump, pushed the envelope.  Ditto for the speed cookers.  But you know from your own observation in suburbia.  The home mechanic with junk cars in his front yard; the eccentric little old lady whose house reeks from accumulated rubbish; the grumpy pet owner with the howling rotweiller leashed on a stake next to the sidewalk:  That part of civic majesty charged with abating nuisances moves slowly against private property, even in gross cases of abuse.            

I sing the deed.  I sing the outright purchase.  I sing Paid in Full. The landowner who owns his piece in fee simple, deed in pocket, cannot be tossed out in the street with his furniture and suitcase like a pathetic renter or the bankrupt failure with a mortgage in arrears.  Even if for some reason a landowner declines to pungle up his property taxes, why it still takes YEARS for the county to call the auctioneer.  The county doesn’t want that hassle.  Most of the parcels at that auction where I acquired the Rancho were ten years behind on taxes.       


This is what happens after living awhile in a homemade sandbag hogan in the desert.  You start sounding like the Demented Vet.            

I don’t expect many people actually to do any of this.  To give up a regular life and live in the wilderness.  I just point out that you could, that it’s possible, for a mope with no skills and no money to disengage from his assigned slot and walk away from his pod for a life in which he no longer takes orders. 


But it’s also a metaphor and daydream meant to appeal to the marginalized.  You know the type.  Maybe you’re one of ‘em.  The played out geezers, pimply illiterate punks, useless cripples, vets on a stump, wetbacks on a bicycle, the multitudinous square pegs of all girths, and all other superfluous supernumeraries who sort of dimly see that they have been bred by the culture to be the creatures of their betters;  simps, simpletons, Prufrocks, monkey paws of the higher orders, low men on the pole, last peckers in the pecking order, the privates in the rear rank, the most ordinary of the seamen, the ruck, the commonality, the herd.  You, in other  words. 

Let’s review.  You’re fucked.  Face it, you’re screwed.  You got no chance.  This world isn’t made for you.  The world is made for better looking, smarter people.  Your place is to serve in a menial capacity for a pittance.  You’re not the Pharaoh.  You’re the brick maker.  Your lot in life is to cringe before your superiors, beg for a three percent raise, sweat out the rent or the mortgage.  All your desires and wants are guided and molded by the media. 


Other people tell you what you want, what to wear, what movie to see or CD to buy.  Okay, you’re allowed to posture.  Go ahead, pierce your tongue.  Subscribe to Rolling Stone.  That’s so daring.  Now fetch my latte.  That’s your place and worth in the marketplace.  To fetch.  You think plunking that guitar will help you?  You have no talent or marketable skills.  You don’t understand money or finance.  You’ll never be on stage, or an actor in Hollywood, or make a film, or do anything successful for that matter.  Can you look at this?  Serf, villain, vassal, stoop labor, hired hand, faceless widget, common mope.  Your little dream is what?  To own your own home?  You pathetic mope.  A crushing mortgage for a stucco eyesore forty miles from your job in some loser’s ghetto, paid for in blood daily with a nightmare commute through stinking air, tailed by testosterone-fueled gangsters hanging on your bumper.


“Well how about the tax advantages?  The interest rate deduction?”  You simp.  You’re mired for life.  The government has you right where it wants you, with its boot on your neck.  You’re not going anywhere now.  They know they can count on you. Where’s the mope?  “Right where he should be, your honor, forehead spot-welded to the tube, making his quota, paying his mortgage and your taxes. Yes, your honor, he’s a good lad.”  Leisure?  Two weeks -- per year.  Fourteen days out of 365.  And you go where you’re told. “This looks like fun, honey.  Cancun.”   Packaged, stamped, delivered, a lockstep ramble with the souvenir peddlers, a pastel drink with an umbrella, and then back to the last.  There’s no way out. 


You’ve been groomed from birth to step into the hierarchy at the low end as a cookie cutter doughboy programmed to curtsey and say, “Can I help you out with that?”   One with the American Borg.  The conditioning in school, the incessant propaganda (“How can you expect to get a good job if you don’t study?), it’s too much to resist.  You say you don’t believe it?  Try saying this:  “I would give up my television and all my favorite programs in exchange for more time off.”  Or, “I would give up my car and my paid vacations if I could have real leisure.”  Or, “I would give up electricity, refrigeration, restaurants, movies, CD players, cell phone, Nikes, hot showers, if I could have my life back.”   You can’t say it.  Nobody can say it because...ah...           


 I can’t do this.  I’m trying to be indignant.  Do a screed or tirade, in imitation of the DV.  Can’t.  Too many bubbles in my batter.   I’m made of the low elements.  Hydrogen and helium.  I’m too indolent and easy going to be a rabble rouser.  I don’t even like the rabble.  My purpose in the desert isn’t sack cloth or hair shirts or ascetic escape from the world’s evil blandishments.  I like a lot of the world’s evil blandishments.  I just built a shack out here to beat the rent and to goof off reading novels.