Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Last week I bought a small can of spray paint. $4.99 the label said. I took the can to the counter and paid for it. I didn't think much about it until I looked at the receipt. The price of the paint was indeed $4.99 but I paid $5.39. Well 39c won't kill me but ...

I started thinking about little taxes. Today taxes are like a spreading virus, they're everywhere. City taxes, State taxes, Federal taxes not just big taxes like property tax and the April 15th variety but the ever increasing small taxes and the micro-taxes that are built into every part of every little thing we buy. These little taxes are relatively painless until we think about them. Man, these slimy politicians even tax death!

How many ways can our government suck blood out of us? Taxes are a lot like small leeches, thousands of them, and leeches go for the blood!

Just a little more revenue ... The leech's mantra is MORE!

I remember a hot humid night in Assam India. We were on a hunt quietly winding through the bush; our guides were barefoot, wearing shorts and tee shirts. I was wearing tennis, tee shirt and long pants. In an hour or so we paused and I noted our guides scraping their legs with small sticks. They were scraping off the ugly leeches they had collected on our hike. I was fascinated, I had never seen leeches, I'm a California boy. These leeches, large and small were ugly, like varicose veins out of control. The guides were scraping them off leaving their lower legs bloody and bleeding.

As I watched, suddenly the thought came to me ... what about my legs? I pulled my pants up and sure enough my legs were loaded with large and small leeches. Leeches I never knew I had, rather painless until ... the flashlight revealed it all. Those slimy leeches were after my blood.

An analogy came to mind.

Little taxes, like leeches, come on so gradually and even painlessly we aren't aware that they're sucking our life blood. The leech starts small, it quietly and persistently starts sucking and then begins growing larger and larger! Yes! Ever larger! (Sound familiar?)

This analogy, as in all analogies, breaks down.

The leech, unlike the government will stop growing and when it's full will drop off. The government leech, well, it will continue growing and develop a life of it's own. And true enough the government does something for all it's blood sucking, however the more it grows the more corrupt, incompetent and cumbersome it gets, that's the very nature of the government leech. There's just something about parasites I don't like.

Could it be that the ultimate end of a parasite is to cripple and destroy it's host?

Monday, March 09, 2009


People have often give me advice. "Von, you need to be thinking about your future." "What you need is a hobby; you need a day off, take a vacation." "Von, don't take life so seriously, after all" ... etc., etc. These friends are well-meaning. Their advice is sincere and I understand where they are coming from ... however, I doubt whether they understand where I'm coming from. I wish they did.

May I be honest? I find it hard to buy into advice like that no matter how logical and well-meaning it might be. Why? I guess I have seen too much of the world ... the real world. The plight of the poor. The vivid pictures I've seen of an unfair world have colored my philosophy. What I have seen has truly affected my life. Both my philosophy and my perspective are not "normal." How can I not take life seriously? Life on earth is limited. I'm here to do what I can't do in heaven. Do I indeed have the time and money to pursue an amusing hobby when so much needs to be done by so few? Retirement? I don't think so. It's true, with what I've seen and experienced, I have a hard time defining "balance."

In Mexico they have a saying, "What I don't see doesn't exist". Which is to say, "If I see it I am somehow responsible for what I see, so I simply look the other way and I'm off the hook." What a comforting perspective. I only have to keep my eyes focused on the beautiful blue horizon above the ugliness of reality and maintain a positive attitude. True, life is indeed great ... if you don't look down! The mindset of "What I don't see doesn't exist" is as deceptive as it is popular. The flip side of this perspective is actually more truthful, " What I do see does exist!"

The images that haunt me weren't gotten from the television or the pages of a book nor did they come from secondhand illustrations. They were created in three-dimension from the permanent and smelly stuff of reality ...right before my eyes!

Every week more uninvited images come my way. Frustrating and unfair, they're images that rip out the very concept of our American "balanced life".

The little mother standing before me asks for money to buy milk for her children. Her husband has been in the U.S for over two years now. She's received no word from him. She is holding her infant in one arm and her one year old boy in another. (She has another man "paying the rent") Her thin, barefoot six year old boy stands next to his little sister holding her hand. All of them are looking at me. They are hungry. They are waiting for my answer.

If you look closely you can see that Emilia had once been an attractive lady. Now she's older and is no longer as attractive. A barrio prostitute, and at her age she makes very little money. Emilia has no husband. Her thin, bastard son who's dirty and unkempt is sitting in the corner against an equally dirty fence. He is more of a vegetable than a young man. He and his mother live together in a small shack. Inhaling paint thinner has produced his vacant stare. She stands, avoiding my eyes as she asks for some money for groceries.

Enrique is always there. He is big. He is quiet. His thinking and speech are slow. He just stands there on his two swollen legs that are always infected. They drain into his dirty socks. Enrique has walked over a mile on those painful legs for some free produce. He is upset because his teenage son and his wife are sleeping together. He's asking for some money also.

Young teenage Carlos in tears confides to me that their living is hard. They haven't much money anymore. "My mom is old and the men don't want her anymore." (Referring to his prostitute mother, whom he loves.)

Maria presents me with her two year old son Felipe. "What am I to do?", she asks. "Will you help me?" Her sons eyes are not focused. She tells me how the doctors had operated on him. "Look", she says as she brushes his hair back to reveal the many scars. I'm looking at a warm, human vegetable. Maria wants some hope, some help and some money to buy his milk. You see, that's all she can feed him. She squirts the milk into his umbilici with a syringe several times each day. I look at her as she walks away with Felipe in her arms ... I could only buy her milk; I could do no more.

I would like to look the other way, but somehow, I can't.