Friday, August 01, 2008

Is That You, John Wayne?


Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD - Given the choice of installing a ceiling fan, and talking to you, I’ve chosen the latter. The fan can wait until later, like two o’clock, when Pine Ridge Dog Days sun turns this trailer into an oven.

The fan is possible now for two reasons; for one, the ceiling is high enough; two, I’ve got the motivation; and three, the solar panel is secured and operational, feeding the batteries that run this machine, the lights, and music, up to now. If I run any high-amp shit, like the coffee pot or a vacuum cleaner or anything that draws a lot of current, then…this is not possible.

Still working on it, you know, sort of feeling my way through a low-cost, do-it-yourself approach to energy self-sufficiency. Once I get water, then I can have indoor plumbing, do some landscaping, and turn this space into the oasis it was always meant to be.

And once the fan gets installed, the air in here can move and set the aircraft into perpetual motion, and then it’s on to bigger things, like a home-unit turbine generator, and just on the horizon, a 20 mega-watt wind farm.

Ten years ago, we were trying to establish a wind farm in Slim Buttes. The only thing that was holding us back was the 12 million dollars we needed up front to get it off the ground.

All this green revolution at the personal, community, corporate and global level is something Manny was waaaaaay ahead of the curve on. Everybody else is just now playing catch-up. Like, up here, I’ve been three years trying to get water. Misty said it took her seven. Manuel waited for five. Tribal, y’know.

I asked Uncle Joe and Milo and Misty to intervene on my behalf this summer, and Uncle Joe said at sweat lodge the other night that he’d made some moves. I thanked him. We’ll see what happens. Everybody says, ‘you’ve got to know somebody.’

Well, I know somebody. Sure. I know a lot of people. How many people do you know? Maybe I could just walk in and run the comedy routine by him. Never hurts to try.

I keep forgetting to ask Milo about his availability for the tour. I don’t know if you know him, but if you do, then you know Milo is a natural comedian and a really funny guy, even in tragic circumstances, so he’d be good in a combat zone or under fire.

However, on at least one occasion, Milo failed one of the fundamentals of ‘knowing your audience’ that Manny always used to speak of, when speaking before an entire female audience, he asked, ‘What do you say to a woman with two black eyes?’

‘Nothing. She’s already been told twice,’ he said.

Recounting the experience, Milo said, ‘None of those women laughed.’

Well, you know what Manny would say.

That’s as bad as Thunderclap for turning off an audience, who, by the way, indicated through an intermediary, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, that he might be available for the tour after the election, but didn’t have any audition tapes that would pass the DOD terrorist watch list.

The spokesman, Mr. ‘X’, said the comedian was engaged in culinary classes, hanging out with the troops, and working a small enlisted man’s nightclub ‘for drinks and a place to stay’ at some remote, undisclosed location in northern Pakistan.

So, his participation is iffy, at best. I don’t know about Milo. We haven’t set any firm dates yet, since everyone in the act says we should wait until after the election, not because we’re leaving Iraq or Afghanistan anytime soon, not like the scare we got earlier when the democrats, and then candidate Obama said they were going to bring the troops home…jesus……there for a minute…..but because the whole nature of the jokes could change by then, and Bush, Cheney and Halliburton material would be irrelevant.

That was the great thing about the late, great, master of irony, Bob Hope. He always worked with current material and had great timing, a great lesson for any comic or anyone going up with two out in the bottom of the ninth.

Right now, they’re saying we’ll still be there for years to come, so we can breathe easier knowing we’ve still got a lot of time to put it together. And Thunderclap was too paranoid to do anything further in public until Bush was out of office, after getting run out of Iraq, and the incident aboard the plane. The last thing he said to me was, “I’m laying low. This is one of the best places in the world to be if you don’t want to be found.”


Never No Hero To Me

A person can shape world events in a big way, can’t they? Look how things have changed in the last eight years. Most of us have smaller effects within our communities and homes, hoping to leave them with a smile on their faces and feeling good about themselves. Everybody leaves some kind of legacy, some kind of trail. What would your work speak of you? Eagle scout? Slime trail? Carnegie fellow? Civil Servant? Toxic residue? 400 tons of plastic? Is that you, John Wayne?

Let’s see about that fan.

SURE! Sure, I can install a ceiling fan. What’s the matter? You think maybe I need some help, like from a pro, right? Professional help. It’s not the first time it’s been suggested. ‘Maybe you should seek professional help.’

I get tired of hearing that. Nah. I can do this on my own. Done it before. I remember the last time, one of the kids asked, “Dad, are you supposed to have all these parts left over?”

Huh? “Oh…oh, those are probably…those are extras.”

“I don’t know,” they said. “Maybe they’re for the fan or something.”

Rather than be made a fool in front of my children, especially at that age, when they thought I was invincible, I told them, “You’ll understand when you’re grown.”


Got it. Two and a half hours, including undoing everything again to re-secure the mounting bracket to the ceiling, which I wondered about when I neglected putting in the extra screws in the first place. Even worked when I plugged it in. Manned mission to Mars? Chemical sniffer through the Ort Belt? Sorry, can’t help you there. Ceiling fan? With instructions? How many pages? Six? Sshuuhhh, I’m all over it.

Yeah, had a whole bunch of screws, washers, and bolts left over.


The weatherman on the radio keeps saying, ‘…when the sun sets…in the sky.’

every time he says it, during each newscast on the hour throughout the day, I keep thinking, ‘where else? Dipshit.’


You might be thinking that I’m probably sitting here listening to the radio and enjoying the breeze from my newly installed fan. But, no. It works, but it’s off. It’s pulling MAJOR amps and draining my batteries, sending the whole program into systemic shock. Still working on it.

You can catch a nice draft if you stand directly under it, and twirl the blades manually, with your hands.

What’s The Stupidest Shit You’ve Ever Pulled?

I needed to get out of here yesterday - had two tires leaking air and a flat spare, which went flat one mile from home during the return trip from Chadron the previous day. This was something that needed immediate attention, or I could be dead in the water until the cavalry arrives.

Drove down to the base farm, five miles south, on two breaths of air in the left front tire, praying all the way it wouldn’t go completely flat, or roll off the rim when I turned into the driveway.

To my immense relief, there was a small air compressor down at the base farm. The big one got stolen. There was coffee on, and they had cleaned up the big mess we’d left there from the feed after sweat lodge the night before, like six hours ago.

From the farm, I left buoyant and confident I could make it the fifteen miles to Roger Garcia’s tire shop in Oglala, check for books from the publisher at the Og (‘Ohg’, Oglala) post office, grab a gallon of gas at ‘Cubbies’, and drop by on Louie at his place on Lakeside.

Driving without a spare on Slim Buttes Road is like a double-dare, walking a razor edge of chance, eyes fastened assiduously to the road surface for any of the rife, sharp, tire-puncturing pyramidal stones for which Slim Buttes Road is notoriously reputed.

“Ahhh, Betsy. We made it,” I always say as we finally arrive at the blacktop highway east of Chadron, with an expulsion of breath held for 30 miles.

So it’s wise to run with one, maybe two spare tires. You don’t want to get stranded out there any kind of way, but running on Slim Buttes Road without a spare is sheer lunacy.

The road is in about the same extremely poor condition as always. You learn where the really bad holes are, and try to avoid them. Last week I hit a rim-crunching crater and my rear-view mirror snapped off the windshield and crashed down on the dash.

“Oooooooh. Sorry, Betsy. I know that hurt.”

After one trip down Slim Buttes Road, your car experiences what hell would be like, and the motorized equivalent of shell-shock or PTSD from which it will never completely recover.

There was a typical small compact car full of typically drunken Indians just at the turn into the base farm. They were typically trying to make it back to Oglala, still another fifteen miles north, after a typical trip into Chadron Wal-Mart and the liquor store. They typically had a flat and were crippling along at a typical two miles per hour with their emergency blinkers on. I pulled up alongside.

“Y…y…you got a donut we can use?” asked the lady behind the wheel.

“No,” I said, glancing down at their five-hole rims. “I’ve got six-hole rims.”

“Ah…ah…all’s we need is a donut. I can pay you for it,” she said, forcing the words out with great effort. “We’re trying to get to Oglala.”

“I’ve got six-hole truck rims,” I repeated. “It won’t fit your car. You’ve got five-hole rims.”

“All we need it for is to get home,” she said, almost pleading. “I can give it back to you tomorrow,” she added, trying to sound convincing.

“My spare won’t fit on your hubs,” I said, slowing down the delivery, enunciating each word.

The guy in the passenger’s seat grabbed her arm and mumbled an interpretation to her neck, without making eye contact. She turned back to me with a semi-vacant look and opened her mouth, but no words came out.

“You guys got a cell phone?” I asked.

They said they did, and someone’s brother was coming to meet them. I apologized, they said thanks for stopping anyway, offered me some Jack Daniels, which I declined with a smile, and turned into the driveway as they slowly clunked northward on their rim, the tire kaflop, kaflop, kaflopping on every revolution.


Two of the three guys who ripped me off were out on Slim Buttes road in the hot sun, hitchhiking the 30 miles into town. They saw my truck coming and stuck out their thumbs, grinning broadly.

“I would’ve gone right by them,” said Nita, shaking her head, as I told the story in Loretta’s kitchen in Chadron. Downstairs, Tom, three lawyers and their ‘observer to make sure they do everything right’, were hammering out water fight affidavits on laptops, trying to make a deadline.

I was in the way, a distraction. Tom asked for me to stick around for editing, but this was all legal shit, I told him, the experts were on it, and they didn’t have time for stand up comedy, or so I thought. Actually, they did. I returned to the kitchen after the break.

“I would’ve let them walk,” Nita said again as she prepared lunch for the eleven people in the house. “I would’ve driven right by them.”

I had let the two hitchhikers out in the Safeway parking lot, and they headed directly across the street to Lariat Liquors.

Nelson Mandela says you should know your enemies. Keep your friends close, he said, but keep your enemies closer. Those two were my best buddies. One of them hopped in the passenger’s seat, and the other jumped in the back, up on the toolbox behind the cab.

The guy in the passenger’s seat began telling me what I’d already heard. He’d just gotten out of the Hot Springs hospital, he said, after a severe beating at the hands of the two nephews, one of whom was sitting in the back of the truck.

They’d gotten some money, gotten some booze, gotten drunk, gotten into a big fight, gotten arrested, gotten hospitalized and just this morning gotten out. He had a long, freshly-sutured, deep knife wound from his left ear to above his left eye, cotton gauze still packed in the ear. His eyes were red from hemorrhaging, and his whole face was bruised, black, and blue.

He was limping badly on a leg he couldn’t straighten. That was the good leg. The other one, the one that was oozing pus, was from the steel rod, he said, that had been implanted in his broken leg the last time he was hospitalized after he’d been beaten senseless after they’d been drinking. “They used a baseball bat,” he said.

As pissed off as I was at those guys for violating me the way they did, I couldn’t help but feel pity for them as they stumbled toward the liquor store. After the break-in and robbery two years ago, during which they removed everything of material value from my home, I really wanted to hurt those guys for awhile, but in the end, I kept thinking about my good friends Jesus and the Dalai Lama, and let the universe go ahead and work things out. I didn’t have to do a thing but give them a ride.

Besides this ‘What’s-New-In-The-Neighborhood’ case, there was talk around the fire the night before of a teenage suicide hanging in Oglala, a gang murder in White Clay, a fourteen-year old crackhead pregnant neice, and within the extended family, another domestic violence jail term and wacko post-release drama involving the spouse, the kids, and yeah, everybody. They arrested her. She beat him up.

And all this is just on the surface. No wonder this year why the medicine men are being strict on the dancers. No wonder why the dancers are making greater offerings.

We returned to Wakpamni for my tipi. Sixty dancers, they said. They were just wrapping things up with some post-sun dance ceremonial honorings, and had taken the tipi down, rolled up with the poles laid off to the side. Thaaaank you. A lot of people had already packed up and gone home.

They said our tipi had withstood the big storm that rolled through the dance grounds two nights earlier. The other two tipis we set up stood as well. Only one went over.

“The only one that didn’t stand is the one we didn’t touch,” laughed Tom, being generous with the ‘we’ credit. He did all the work, layout, measurements, ties, pins and poles. That’s okay, because he’s the one with the resources, the connections, the agenda for the day, and the one who gets called. The rest of us are just worker bees.

Today, this tipi goes to the Looking Horse sun dance at Green Grass, the home of the sacred buffalo pipe. Tell Mike it’s making the rounds.

- end

*from ‘Joker’, in ‘Full Metal Jacket’