No Time for Work

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Getting fired helps you realize there's no time for bosses  


Since being downsized by corporate a few months ago, I’ve come to realize that I don’t have time for a job. I don’t know how I ever managed to fit a cumbersome, chronophaging work ethic into my crowded life. Unemployed, I have been busy every moment, without even eight minutes (much less, eight hours) to spare for an employer’s agenda. Initially, I thought that being mowed down in the recession’s first wave would leave me with time hanging on my hands like training weights. Instead, I’m amazed that anybody is able to organize a life that includes (as mine once did) a freeway commute followed by the usual eight/five holding down a pod amidst countless other drones, all with foreheads spot-welded to the tube.


Now if I review my day I find no gap where I could shoehorn a remunerated effort. It’s not that I’ve become a sluggard, either. I arise as always when first light hits the window. Nor do I dally over the coffee pot and the crossword puzzle. 


So what happened? After being dismissed abruptly, corporate-style, I admit to being a little miffed about how easily the company dispensed with services that the day before had commanded a living wage. During these first weeks I began to take long morning walks, to replay in my mind all the events leading up to the catastrophe, and to mull the appropriate revenge. The autumnal air was brisk, the trees changing hue. The county watershed hard by my apartment complex afforded interesting trails.

The morning mile of my past began to stretch out incrementally until today the minimum daily requirement afoot has lengthened to two hours. Opium-like endorphins flood my brain and trigger Coleridge-esque reverie. A few months of these long morning rambles and my paunch melted. I’m lean as a hickory, and my 57-year-old integument, which had just begun to accumulate all the ordinary crotchety aches, now feels, not youthful by a long shot, but pleasantly well-tuned. 

In a very short time it has become obvious that a long walk every morning is vital for my well-being and mustn’t be shouldered aside by bagatelle. On the way home from the walking trail I pass the neighborhood shopping center, which is typical in every way, with the usual mix of corporate outlets (Albertsons, Rite-Aid), except, that to combat an outbreak of skateboarders and other teenage Yodudes, the management has taken to playing over the loudspeaker a repertoire of classical music.

Teens Dead

This has exterminated the teens. A Korean doughnut shop offers comfortable alfresco seating and a cup of Joe for $.60. An additional two bits delivers a large bundle of reading matter. Nothing could be more pleasant than to listen to Mozart in a milieu free of obnoxious youths, sip a restorative beverage, and muse an hour over the panoply of far-flung events. It’s the best time to do it, too, since the lingering exercise hormones dilute the choler  I used to feel at breakfast over the world’s repetitive idiocy. 


The point here though is that by the time I get back to the apartment I share with the Comradette lunchtime already has arrived. My consort used to be a teacher, but lately she has thrown that over to retrain at college for a job as a medical artisan. At first she showed signs of alarm at my professional setback, since her own income at the moment depends on student loans. But now she too marvels how I ever had time for a job. Back at home, a peanut butter sandwich, a glass of water, and a drowsy languor steals over me.  When this feeling overtook me in the workplace I would head upstairs to the cafeteria to recaffinate. Now the couch beckons. I settle a pillow under my head... A million words have been written in praise of naps, and I needn’t add any. But isn’t it the finest sort of snooze, to drift off in the droning afternoon? 


It so happens that bookcases surround the living room couch. These carry the usual collection of volumes that any two college-educated adults will accumulate, plus hundreds more purchased over the years with good intentions, but which remain unread. When I wake up my eye immediately falls on the spines of books that at one time I very much wanted to read. It’s only natural to take one down for a minute, which becomes another... Now I can’t see how I could have existed without this interlude of several hours of serious reading for pleasure. It’s an indispensable part of a full life and can’t be squeezed out to make room for annoying martinets and pointless meetings.My consort returns from her class around four, and since my layoff we have taken up the habit of tea. We aren’t Anglophiles at all, and probably aren’t taking tea properly anyway. It’s just the teapot and some homemade biscotti. But what usually happens is that the table talk turns to some mild dispute over this or that. The preferred pronunciation of the word “intaglio” (-tal-yo). Or where the phrase, “eat, drink and be merry” comes from (Eccles. 8:15).


To get this settled, the reference books come down, and one question leads to another... Before we know it the time has come to drape the blankets over the windows and to light the candles. We have found in the last month that the candlelit dinner really is preferable to having electricity. There as never anything on TV anyway, and my battery-operated portable brings in the classic station almost as clearly as the stereo did. As I put on my sweater and mittens, the consort starts cutting cabbage for soup. Then I begin to hunt up the evening reading, (another innovation since my pink slip.) The reading sort of stands in for the recitation of grace in a more religious household.  She sets the topic (“spiritual renewal,” for instance) and I try to find some appropriate lines in one of the college poetry anthologies that we have lugged around from one apartment to another for two decades.

 Lately I go straight to Wordsworth, since the old gasbag pretty much had a sentiment on everything. This new-budded ritual reminded me that even though I once passed through the gut of a university I’d never actually read Wordsworth, or any other Lake poet either, being too busy preparing myself for what I no longer have time for.Now I accompany the generic cornflakes with readings from Lords Byron and Tennyson, in place of the East Coast newspapers we no longer get. I’m not saying here that work might not have its uses. As a character-builder for youth. As a tonic for the bored.  Or as a scramble to power for the ambitious. And even though I no longer seem to have time for a job, I’m not saying I’ll never turn my hand at something again. If Opportunity knocks at my door tomorrow, I suppose I’ll answer.

 If it’s the landlady, I won’t.  


Gramps Backpacks the UK
I grow old, I grow old... I will wear my trousers if I remember.  The synapses misfire, the memory miscues.  Bummer.  Happily, for me the backpacking never gets old.  A sport for life, amply demonstrated by the number of fellow geezers I meet on Sierra Club outings or find chugging along during my solitary wanderings. 
 As a young man, as a middle-aged man, how swell to see some spry old duffer hefting his rucksack deep in the mountains. A good omen that says, sonny boy, keep fit like that guy, and you can hit the dusty trail pretty much right up until it’s time to go West.   


Now that sixty summers have put me in the company of the aged, I find another thing.  Not only does the sport not pall, but the backpacking pensioner, however straightened, always has the wherewithal to travel.  The astronomical price of a hotel room?  He smiles. Those pricy restaurant meals?  A shrug.  Being on the retired list usually means plenty of leisure to roam, but often not much ready to cover the tab.  An open calendar but a flat wallet.   Not the backpacker.  Always, at any age, he is Mr. Self-Sufficient, room and board on board, the personification of Song of the Open Road.  You want an example?   Okay, how about my recent two-month walking tour of the UK (with a side trip to France and Spain).  Typically, it’s the student kiddo who takes some months or even a gap year to tour Europe afoot.  Usually, for impecunious youth, this means economy backpack travel with Eurail Pass, and a bunk at the hostel.   But then the seasons turn, the former callow traveler establishes himself, makes his pile. When he revisits the Continent as affluent adult he dines on linen, mesero or garcon at elbow to scoop up the plastic.  The successful or lucky can continue this luxurious mode into dotage.  But some of us more improvident elders have unzipped the IRA or the 401(k) and said, “Oh oh.”  


 Yo.  I’m one of those retired guys pilloried on a fixed income.  During the salad time I gushed money, didn’t squirrel away the stash, and get the picture.  But that’s okay.  I just backpacked Europe as a codger on the same kind of lean budget favored by  the 18-year-old tyro.  Probably less.   My rules for budget European travel are simple:  Go off-season, use the bus (instead of the train), and most importantly, no roofs or restaurants.   Obviously Europe is so damn expensive because of lodging and dining.  Staying in a hotel, snapping a napkin at a cafe, the European sojourner can figure on laying out maybe two, three hundred a day. Even a bunk in the hostel dormitory, $20.    My budget was $30 a day, transport included.  I could do it because every night I pitched my tent in one of the many camping club sites that dot the UK and the Continent.   


(An aside here.  Personally, I’d rather tent than sleep in a noisy dorm.  Youth wants to socialize; I want a night’s zzzzs.) 


So here’s what I did.  A couple of months in advance I booked a cheap round-trip flight to Heathrow departing at the beginning of low season, returning two months later.  Forget London.  Too expensive.  I hopped the National Express bus from the airport straight to the quaint cathedral town of Salisbury, pitched my tent at the Camping and Caravaning Club site a mile from the center, spent a day looking around and shaking off the lag, and then set off on foot on the Kennet-Avon canal towpath for the 70 mile walk to Bath.  September in the UK?.  Sure, it’s gonna rain. For the month and a half I stayed with the Brits it rained for at least part of every day. 


I didn’t find the sun again until I got to southern France.  Not a problem, though, because I’m a Boy Scout.  Prepared.  Before stepping off I’d shopped the Memorial Day sale at REI and got some good lightweight rain gear.  I already had the other backpack items in my 20-pound load:  a three-pound tent, a light synthetic bag, the skinny ground pad, and a change of quick-dry clothes.  No cooking gear or stove, because on European holiday I picnic out of the market. Before leaving the States, I’d checked out the Brit camp sites on the Internet, and planned an itinerary.  Often, I footed and bused from one site to another in a day.  Other times I camped at one site for awhile while I investigated the countryside on day walks.  The Brits (and Continentals, too) like to caravan, as they call it, the caravan being a slightly reduced travel trailer.   


So there are hundreds of sites, meaning that at least one will be reasonably handy to anyplace the hiker of rural England might want to look it.  On the first night at the Salisbury camp site I joined the nation-wide Camping and Caravaning Club, one of the better known clubs which has sites near most cities on the tourist circuit.  Membership conferred a backpacker’s rate of three or four pounds a night (prices fluctuated slightly according to amenities).  I didn’t really need the membership, it turned out, because non-members are welcome, and the rates for those over 60 are just as good.   Anyway.  Six to eight bucks a night for a patch of lawn (Brits call it a pitch) and the use of the showers and laundry.  Good showers, too, plenty of hot water. And the dryer in the laundry for fluffing up a damp sleeping bag.  Were lots of other backpackers or tent campers at the sites in dank September?  Ah, no.  So there’s always room.   September and October I hiked the Cotswalds, the Lake District, Hadrian’s Wall, Northumbria, and while the weather blustered and wept, I never got cold until I hit Scotland.  Then I had to buy an extra wool sweater at a thrift store.   


For temperate autumnal England, with temps in the 50s, I got by on two pairs of very lightweight quick-dry pants, Capilene longjohns and Capilene long-sleeve shirt, a short-sleeve cotton shirt, rain pants and parka, a thin wool sweater, some underwear and socks.  Total weight a couple of pounds.  I’d wash clothes every few days at one of the camp sites. Another reason I got by on $30 a day is that I traveled between hiking venues by bus.  The intercity bus company, National Express, has one heck of a deal for seniors.  Over sixty, half price.  Apparently you just need to look old, because no agent ever asked me to show ID.  I mostly skipped the train, which is expensive even with Eurail.  The bus takes longer, but it’s comfortable enough, and in any case I wasn’t covering vast distances.  The longest ride took me from Dover to Montpelier in southern France, ten hours, for $50 round-trip.


I ate out of the market.  I looked for produce, breads and cheeses.  Every grocery store and news vendor sells prepared sandwiches.   The cheapest was the egg and celery on wheat for the equivalent of a buck and a half, with a steep discount if you bought it on the expiration date.   For lunch then a sandwich, apple, banana, and a handful of peanuts. Breakfast, milk or yogurt, a bun, and peanuts. It helps that I don’t drink coffee.  At night in the tent, cheese, crackers, an avocado or tomato, and sometimes a bottle of Spanish or French table red, very reasonable.  The English also make a wine, called a perry, in Bristol, of all places.  Fizzy, but not as bad as you’d think.


Of course, part of the fun of England is the pub.  I had to practice discipline, because a pint, even in a rural neighborhood joint, is going to be five or six bucks.   Once, after a ten-mile hike with a hiking club from Haltwhistle in Northumbria, I tagged along afterwards to the Bear and Bait (or whatever), to listen to fervent, arcane talk about fox hunting.  But we all put down four expensive pints each.  Sometimes a pub will feature a pensioner’s pint (that is, a local brew) for around $3.  But, in my opinion, the stuff tastes like mucilage.  What helped me with pub discipline was coming from California, where smoking isn’t allowed in bars.    The Brit pub is layered with blue.  And what with the shocking cost of tailor-mades, a lot of students and pensioners are rolling their own rank weed these days.  For the effete non-smoking Californian, there’s little long-term allure to the smoke-filled parlor.


I didn’t knock myself out on the trail.  Ten, twelve miles a day, tops.  And much of the English topography, provided the weather isn’t too brisk, makes for relatively easy walking (if the Pacific Crest Trail is your comparison).  Lots of easy pleasant days, ambling along a foot path in the mist, through some laird’s  gracious green sheep folds (it’s legal), the fluffy stoic ungulates drifting all about,  followed at day’s end by a hot shower and sure, maybe the pensioner’s pint.  Even so, a lot of friends said to me:  “Phil, this sounds awful.   It rained constantly and you were eating cold food inside a minuscule tent in a downpour.  No three hots.  No cot.  You lived like a tramp. What fun is this?  So stay home. 


My choice was and is, travel the world cheap or don’t go.  Why shouldn’t I go?  I’m still in good fettle, thanks to my medical plan’s parts A and B, my right foot and left foot.  It’s not going to get any better.  And I have fun on the frugal road.  Let me show you something.   Here I am, strolling along the Kennet-Avon Canal towpath.  It’s “soft,” meaning a little hazy, a little drippy, but mid-50s, not cold.    I’m headed for the caravan site at Sells Green, but stopping now and then to admire the locks, a marvel of 18th Century engineering, and still in top shape, since every day thousands of narrow boats and other skinny barges float up and down, literally, inside these boxes.  On one stretch 29 locks within one mile, one about every 100 feet.  Most of the motor-powered narrow boats are hired by tourists, who get the experience of pushing on huge handles to open the heavy lock doors for a fill or flush. 


These gaily-painted craft are very slow; it’s one long no wake zone; and I’m making better time on foot.  But what’s the hurry?   There are many beckoning pubs along the path, ready to draw a pint for the voyager.  And at every lock the sedate, decorous  black-headed swans, their long interrogative necks wondering if perhaps the passerby can spare a bit of crumpet.  And the surrounding landscape.  Stone farm houses with chimney pots, pastures tittled with fleecy balls.  Along the canal bank very serious fishermen.  British Waterways rents sections of the canal to fishing clubs. The unaffiliated angler isn’t wanted.  Only members may pursue the loach and coarse (I have no idea). 


As I walked around England I worked it out so that camping sites would put me in striking distance of famous sights. Maybe you know Bath, but I’d never been.  The Circus, the Pump Room, the Roman dip.  Because of my constraints, I never went to any museum or other attraction that required an admission fee.  Besides, this was a walking tour.  I’d made past visits to London (in the dead of winter to take advantage of bargain air fare) and spent the two weeks doing nothing but museums. Now I beheld from the outside.  And this kept me busy.  In Bath, Oxford, Canterbury, York, I took guided tours conducted for free by the local historical societies.


Check this out.  I’m in cute Kendel in the Lake District, a former wool town built of gray stone.  A couple of pubs actually named, “Ye Olde...,” the best being “Ye Olde Fleece Inn.”  The stately homes all have brass plaques naming the “House.”  Bleak House, Bleaker House, Bleakest House.   I took a walk along river Kent to the ruins of yet another old castle up there on top of the hill.  Many of these piles are just there, without fence or fee, open for casual gratis inspection.  This one had been built in 1400 or thereabouts more as a gated community than as a military fortress.  Not meant to withstand a siege, but to deter the unwanted posse.  I found out from a sign that the noble master and mistress usually had bed chambers in one of the tubular turrets.  Wooden sheds in the keep housed the oxen and the help.  You don’t have to pay to see a castle.   I checked out maybe a dozen of ‘em for free while wandering around.   


My only splurge in England was the tea shop.  A spot of tea for 80 pence.  Read the papers.   Some big news of the time concerned a gaggle of fanatic fox hunters who had invaded Parliament to protest a proposed ban on tearing small brush-tailed mammals to shreds with dogs.  Many tsk, tsking editorials in the press, about the poor security.  Could have been Osama.  As for the issue, I sympathize with Reynard, but personally I don’t think the Labour MPs ought to muck around too much with immemorial custom.  Much of my tour followed public footpaths that crossed private property, often right under the window of the laird’s manor.  Public right-of-way.   No American rancher would tolerate this kind of trespass for one little minute, and would be out to see you pronto with his rifle.  But these little arrowed signs are everywhere:  “Public footpath,” pointing straight into some guy’s field.  Being able to legally trespass means that most of the rural countryside is open to the pedestrian.


Take note.  I’ve just stepped off the bus at Haltwhistle, the geographic center of  Britain, and the gateway to the best preserved example of Hadrian’s major pubic works project.   It turned out the Wall was not really built to hold back the brigand McGregors and Campbells.  Rather a physical statement of the Emperor’s political decision to halt Roman expansion and consolidate.  So far, no more.  Plus, it gave restive Legionaries a focus for eight years.  Despite Conrad, England wasn’t considered a hardship post for the Roman soldier.  Apparently a milder climate then.  Grapes flourished, or at least grew, ameliorating barracks life.   Most of the inhabitants of Northumbria, then as now, were peaceful farmers.  Civilian towns with all the amenities sprang up around the milepost forts.  


Romans built the wall, but for three hundred years afterward the garrison troops were mostly auxiliaries sharked up from the skirts of the empire.  Even a battalion of Syrian archers.  For walking, Northumbria was my fav.  I admit, the Cotswalds, very picturesque.  Lake District,  postcard smart, but touristy.  And the actual lakes not much of a show without the literary allusions.  But Northumbria.   Think of Theodore Roosevelt National Park with castles and a latticework of stone fences.  Sweeping desolation and not many folks.  The first day at the Wall I hiked from the camp site the five miles to Chester’s House, an old fort. Roman aches peeped up from the bottom of borrow pits in the sheep pasture.  Soon a raw and biting wind arrived, punctuated with gusts of rain. I followed the Wall another five miles over a dozen stiles to the Roman military museum at the imaginatively named Walltown.   On the way I met half a dozen or so other walkers in foulies making the best of it, eating soggy sandwiches in the lee of a rock fence, and tipping the Thermos or flask. 


In the free part of the museum I learned that the Legionnaire carried two pila, one light, one heavy.  He threw the lighter first.  With its barbed tip it snagged and fouled the opponent’s shield.  The head of the heavier spear was meant to break on impact, so the spear couldn’t be picked up and returned with interest. One could spend some time on the Wall.  In Haltwhistle I’d spied a notice for a group walk out to Housested, the best preserved of the Roman forts.   We know that hobby walkers are notoriously democratic, seldom class conscious or snobby.  They’d gladly welcome a stranger. 


The appointed day came with sprinkles and a piping breeze.  Even so, a  dozen hard-core from the local hiking club turned out in the parking lot at Quality Faire (perhaps not the happiest name for a grocery), with two of the men ostentatiously dressed in shorts, determined to wring the last drop from the rind of the English so-called summer.   The hike leader is known by the map encased in a sheer plastic folder slung round his neck.  Five miles out to a Roman fort that was in pretty darn good shape, considering the intervening 2,000 years.  The Romans quarried, squared, and dressed all the facing stone in the wall and fortifications.  As opposed to the lackadaisical natives (were they still painting themselves blue?) who just piled up what they found for their fences and hovels.  


After the Romans decamped, later builders pinched freely from the wall, and in local Norman castles the visitor can see square Roman stones mixed in with the melange. The walkers were kind enough to tutor an outlander.  I learned about old kilns that burned lime and coal to make a soil additive, about wind sills, about a lone sycamore on an otherwise treeless hill where parts of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood were filmed.  From Housestead we walked along the top of the wall, and then through pastures and ruined farmsteads, nine miles back to Gherkin-on-the-Water (Haltwhistle).  As mentioned, the post-pedestrian stop at the sign of the Black Bear could not be refused


As I wandered along the byways, I noted that most English castles, particularly those open to the pubic for an admission fee, have ghosts and ghost stories.  Bellister Castle in Northumbria no exception.  The story:  A wandering minstrel visited the feudal laird of Bellister, oh, a thousand  years ago, and got a friendly welcome, and a free meal for his lyre and lays.  But on to midnight, after supping much wine, the baron conceived the delusion that the harmless minstrel actually was an enemy spy in the household of one of the other border chiefs.   When the minstrel retired to his straw in the courtyard, the baron loosed the dogs, which tore the innocent strummer to pieces.  Now the ghost of the Gray Minstrel haunts the surrounding forest.


One night, returning to camp from town, I took the path through the woods adjoining the castle, just to see if...  Well, I’m not a believer, of course; too skeptical.  But the perfect time for a sighting.  Gloomy dusk, swaths of fog weaving through the trees, spectral branches dripping, skeletal ferns thrashing in the wind.   I even sat on a mossy stone bench to eat my egg salad sandwich while I listened for tinkling bells or the whistle of a flute.  I looked over my shoulder for a glimpse of motley tights or the toss of a tasseled cap.   Is it me?  Nothing.  The pearly jongleur didn’t appear.  I gave it up, but I could have tried my luck right up the road at Featherstone Castle.  The story there, the daughter of the castle lord had plighted her troth with a handsome knight.  Alas, for fiduciary reasons her dad married her off instead to another landed gent.   


Made incautious by passion, the knight hired some local varlets to abduct his love on her wedding day.  These pickup hirelings were overzealous, and in the ensuing brawl the varlets slaughtered the entire wedding party, including the bride.  The knight killed himself.  The entire cast of ghosts supposedly comes haunting back, but the hitch is, only on one night, the anniversary of the wedding.  Featherstone Castle isn’t open to the public.  If it were, the ghosts might come back more often.


Blah, blah.  Anyhow, I managed to keep amused during my UK walkabout despite my superannuated status and the lint in my wallet.    Returning from Europe to the States I then drifted south for a month of beachcombing around the little resort ville of San Felipe in Baja; next excursion is to Big Bend National Park, Texas.  Point here, it’s pretty easy for the penurious codger backpacker to keep things interesting.  As long as he can still walk, he can light out for new territor  


Recessional for the lower forty

By Diego Garcia

As for the ambiante.  It's too late.  Even if everybody unexpectedly were to be good, recycled their bottles, disdained plastic bags, rode a bicycle to the busstop, composted the grass clippings, lit up with LED, air dried the laundry, cooked with solar, and aborted all but one child, it's still too late. 

Walk around the neighborhood.  Not evil people, mostly.  Ordinary liegemen to Sam.  Way too much stuff.  A smudge pot or two in every driveway.  A crib swollen with sofas and cosas.  Sure, now, with the mortgage underwater and the 401 kayoed, "I'm not in a buying mood, except maybe at Wal-Mart." 

There's this woman Thessaly who lives on an acre or two in a self-built cottage outside Ukiah.  Self-sufficient, self-sustaining, pretty much.  Thick garden all around, pantry shelves groaning with glass jars of preserved rhubarb, an outdoor toilet producing soil that fertilizes the fruit trees, 12-volt solar juice, bins of rotting verdure happily composting.  In the summer she teaches sustainability to acolytes.  In the dreary winter she hops on a plane for a vacation in Tasmania .  

Thessaly !  Your share of the soot from the kerosene that lofts that jet to Hobart compounds ten times over the light thumbprint of your sustainable homestead.  It doesn't matter if you poke in an extra oak for an offset.  High altitude flatulence from jets is almost as debilitating as the methane from the cow fleet.  Thessaly is a good ol’gal who has raised her New Age consciousness to the rafters, but she's the problem when she goes to the airport.  Somehow the enviros, jetting off to do-good conferences in Aspen and Bali , don’t see the contrails.  It's too much fun to jump about the world in hours. 

Is there any signal that there will be less air travel?  Yes, if oil spikes, which I hope to God it will.  Meanwhile, more long-range jumbo jetliners rolling onto the tarmac, and air traffic control staggering.  I don't fly much, but I'm just another hypocrite.  I don't have the excuse of deliberate ignorance of the mad fascists of the airwaves.  Bad fess a'comin' from soot.  An ice-free Northwest Passage is pretty darn likely.  A longer summer in Newfoundland .  Bangladesh needs to be building dikes and increasing the size of its Coast Guard.  The long and lat of low-lying Pacific islands to be marked by floating palm fronds.  Every bit player is in on this. 

My contribution to the coming swimming lessons of swarthy Southerners on the littoral plain is the three tons of smudge puffed annually by my Ford Intransigence.  Should I spike my Ford?  I know it’s complicit in ushering countless innocents to a watery grave.  Not six fathoms five today maybe, but pretty soon.  Since I believe this, shouldn't I...?   But I won't.  Far away people I don't know, not of my tribe or complexion, will drown.  So what? I'll stop my ears to their gurgles.  I need the Ford to get my fat, under-exercised corpus to my boring, meaningless job. You know the level of my security clearance.  Same as yours.  A Will Rogers security clearance.  All I know is what I read in the newspaper.    But I know better than the government or the CIA, evidently. 

I never believed for one little second that Saddam had slate cleaners, despite what Judy Miller said on the front page, I dozed along with the egghead profs on the op-ed page who said, maybe Saddam has a lashing of mustard gas or a vial of anthrax.  But not nukes.  Iraq is too dysfunctional.  Science is antithetical to the wishful thinking of dictators.  To make a bomb you need scientists.  The pool of competent nuclear physicists is small enough that we pretty much know who they are, says the egghead op-ed writer.  Nobody like that in Iraq .  Besides, you need rivers of juice to turn centrifuges.  In pre-invasion Baghdad , air conditioners were rationed, to keep the grid from collapsing.  They barely had enough juice to turn the overhead fans in a hookah joint.  There it was in the paper for anybody to read, including Collin Powell.  Iraq did not have nukes. 

So, what do the egghead professor op-ed pieces in the New York Times say about the warm-up?  Al Gorp says Manhattan will be an estuary by Friday.  No.  But that’s not even the scary thing.  Did you read argument of the UN report?   Carbon lingers in the air, so even if sap put all fossil-burning on hold the warming effects of present carbon will go on for a decade.  The conclusion of the panel, humankind needs to cut back 100 percent on carbon emissions.  Today.  Say what?  Hunnerd percent, today?  Stop all fossil power generation, today?  Fact is, the planet is going to up the soot bigtime in the next decade, thanks to the Chinaman and the Hindu, not to even mention Sam and Ivan.  Dirty new coal plants up the ying-yang and the Yellow River .  There’s no clean coal.  No gasification or carbon sequestration.  Won’t happen.  Everything’s dirty.