Thursday, September 28, 2006

T'row Da Bums Out!

Question: How many politician jokes are there? Answer – Two, the rest of the stories are all true…

What kind of person goes into politics? Is it merely coincidental that the top three prior professions or educations seem to be lawyer, military, and sports professional? How does that segue work? Is that a job you’d do? I have a standing rule that goes like this: Never Go For A Position That Is Appointed Or Elected. I also tend to think that the whole thing is hogwash, and almost all the players varmints, frankly... Maybe it’s gotten into my craw because of the state of the world: We have perhaps the most volatile world situation that there has ever been, featuring rampant famine, disease, war, and unrest. We have the worst international reputation as a country that we’ve probably ever had in the history of this great country. We have a ‘war’ in Iraq that we started and can’t get out of, (Which I fondly refer to as Viet Nam II – The Sequel – Nightmare in the Middle East).

And during all this chaos and horror, what is our government doing? Well, according to the news, we’re voting to rewrite or overshadow the Geneva Conventions, really hoping to get the hell out of Dodge so that we can do The Election Season, (Which will, by the way, be followed by The Holiday Season, after which we’ll mosey back for a spell), denying the contention that a company or companies in concert with said government could manipulate gas prices just prior to an election, and, what else… Oh, yeah, reading Albert Camus… Now granted, reading Camus isn’t a bad thing, but to be honest with you, I doubt that one – Too many big words there for His Shrubness… Maybe they got him the Cliff’s Notes version…

Oh, and somewhere on the back burner, there’s a distinct possibility of invading Iran, but that’s really kinda page 10 news…

Does any of that strike you as odd? Does any of that make you nervous? If so, good, you’re probably more or less properly skeptical and charitably cautious. If, given those two choices, you don’t also agree with the latter, I’m nervous about you, frankly.

Now, I’m just gonna step in and say I don’t really have a solution here, per se, but the way this is all stacking up, I’m gettin’ more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs. I think it’s time for, in the words of the immortal Seldom Seen Smith, a li’l ol’ pre-cision earthquake in D.C., or maybe just a good old fashioned revolution; 'cause this I do know – Whatever it is they’re doin’ up there on the hill, it ain’t workin’.

Which leads us back to them politicians – I think that they’re pretty much all ne’er-do-wells and rascals: We aughta tip over the whole basket o’ snakes and let ‘em all slither back home.

Here in Texas, the breath of fresh air answer to this dilemma comes in the form of one Kinky Friedman; novelist, musician, rounder, and roustabout running for Governor. Lined up agin him are the following:

1. Incumbent Rick Perry – hair boy, and a brain-dead remnant of the Shrub’s days here.

2. Carol Keeton ‘Granma’ Strayhorn – Former comptroller of the state, major land trout who actually petitioned the state to allow her to have ‘Granma’ on the ballot. Two of her spawn work for the Shrub now in D.C. – ‘nuff said.

3. Some Democratic Stiff – I’m a registered Texas Democrat: I’ve been racking my brain, I can’t think of his name for the life of me, or how or why this guy ended up as a candidate. Nuff said there, too – At least the other three are colorful…

So, there you have it, a political rat race laced with Texas chiles and rampant irreverence. In a Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas, somebody gave Kinky a can of Guiness Stout and the press caught wind. They asked him if he was drinking in public, and he responded, with a straight face, “I did drink some of the beer, but I did not swallow it...” You gotta love this guy.

Texas politics is rife with this stuff. Last year in a nasty, hard fought Representative’s race in the county south of us, the stalwart, hard-core, right wing Republican candidate turned out to be a cross-dresser who’s closet door got flung wide open toward the end of the campaign – Now that’s politics.

Anyway, Friedman says very sensible stuff interspersed with rampant wackiness, and he’s getting keelhauled in the press for it, but I find it refreshing. At least he’s honest about who and what he is. He’s denied nothing, admitted everything, winked when he should, made fun of it all throughout, and I’m gonna vote for him. He says he’ll get rid of the asinine TAKS testing in schools, get back to real education, and lower property taxes. I think it’s very close to what my friends said when I became a cop: “Well, he’s definitely not normal, but I’d rather have him do the job than the other idiots they pick”

With the recent death of Anne Richards, the last great Texas Democrat, and the passing of Byron Nelson, the last great Texas gentlemen, I figure the gloves are off and it’s time for a change.

OK, hell, I’ll fess up - I just want to be able to see headlines that read, ‘Governor Kinky’

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Almost done with a very cool book, titled The Minutemen and Their World, by Robert A Groff – Not sure of the author, but it’s apparently out of print anyway… This is a rather in-depth historical treatise on the social, economic, and political forces in play prior to and during the Revolutionary War, (I’ve admitted before to being a history nerd, and I proudly do so again!) Anyway, the particular draw of this book was the fact that its analysis is centered almost wholly on Concord, Mass, my birthplace and the town where I grew up. The insights I’ve gleaned from the read are particularly interesting in a couple of areas: One, how much Concord back then was like the Concord I grew up in, and how those similarities most likely are manifest because so many of the names of the citizens in 1770 where the same ones I grew up with in the 1960s – Funny that. And secondly, how much of the nascent political shaping of the United States came directly from my hometown.

Reading of the events immediately surrounding April 19th, 1775, I noticed prominent names mentioned; Fitch, Barrett, Buttrick, Bartlett, Meriam, and Dawes among others. Funny that, since one of my oldest brother’s best friends was John Fitch, and they’d lived there forever; there is still a Fitch listed in Concord, although I don’t know if they’re the same family. The Barrett’s, who were so prominent in the Concord political life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, very much were still there in my day. Barrett’s Mill Road still exists, although the mill is, of course, long gone… A direct descendant of those Barrett’s is a practicing attorney, (As so many of his kin had been), in Concord to this day, and lives off the Lowell Road, where they lived when I was a child. Bartlett's still live in Concord, the same family of Lucia, my sister’s high school pal. Meriams Corner, where the militiamen lay in wait for the retreating redcoats after the early morning confrontation in Concord, was named for the family of course.

Many have heard of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, but few who were not schooled in New England know why the British were going to Concord on April 19th, 1775 in the first place. In fact, General Gauge had a spy in the midst of the Concord rebels, who had given them detailed information as to exactly what stores of war were stockpiled there, and exactly where they were. Fortunately, the early British mobilization efforts in Boston during the night of April 18th were closely watched by colonists, and a warning had already made its way to Concord: Residents had been up throughout the night moving all the military stores further afield to new hiding places. Furthermore, history records that, in fact, Revere did not ride into Concord crying, “The British are coming,” (He referred to the British troops as “Regulars.”) In fact he did not ride into Concord at all. Final shocker, Revere wasn't alone, either: Unbeknownst to many Americans, he was joined by Dr. William Dawes, (The same family from whence came, in fact, the William Dawes who I babysat for in the early 70’s). Those two made had their way to Lexington to warn John Hancock and John Adams, who had snuck out of Boston to avoid arrest and were quietly lodged at an inn there. A doorman told Revere that Adams' party had left instructions, "Not to be disturbed by any outside noise during the night:" "Noise?!" Revere thundered in response, "You'll have all the noise you'll want soon enough, the Regulars are coming!". He and Dawes endeavored to continue on the way to Concord, but were stopped by a British Patrol. It fell to a young physician from Concord, Samuel Prescott, who had fallen in with Revere and Dawes after visiting his girlfriend, to raise the alarm after they were stopped: A local boy used to sneaking about after dark, Prescott jumped a stone fence with his horse and disappeared into the cold night. Hence, in my hometown, the Birthplace of the Revolution, it was never Paul revere who was honored for spreading the alarm, it was Samuel Prescott and his brothers, who continued on from Concord as far as Maine and New Hapshire, from whence came many, many militiament the next day.

There were more and earlier direct descendants there in my day as well: My father and I regularly played Badminton with Miles Standish – Yes, the direct descendant of that Miles Standish, and Standish’s still live in Concord; Peter, Miles’ son.

And of course, anyone who has visited Minuteman National Historic Park knows that The Buttrick Mansion stands on the heights to the north of the Old North Bridge – Don’t get too sentimental, though, gang – The real bridge was torn down during the revolutionary war, as newer, better roads made the old route obsolete. In any case the mansion is in the right spot, it was indeed the veteran Colonel's home on that fateful day in April.

The socio-political scene outlined by the book emphasizes how highly the townspeople held a sense of community in regard when contemplating what they would do and how they would do it during turbulent times. The author notes that Concordians were generally prosperous and proud people, and that they tended to not pay too much attention to the issues of the wide world, preferring to focus on the needs of their town. Oh, Boy - How that sounds like the Concord I grew up in! Granted, the emphasis on God and church as the center of social life had changed, but truth be told, those trends began during the Revolutionary War, and had cycled back and forth numerous ties in the intervening ages. I remember being at The Concord Country Club in the late 70’s, having just watched the mess of Viet Nam on the TV and wondering about all that – yet here were Concord’s well-healed, tanning by the pool with a tall drink, reading Ms. And The New Yorker: The dichotomy wasn’t lost on me then, and it still isn’t. Ah, the idle rich! Of course people assume that everyone worked harder in the 1700’s, and for many that was true; but for landed gentry, then as in my day, a life of privilege and leisure was the reward of fortune. It was interesting to read that, initially during the war, Concordians of all social strata volunteered and served in the militia and Continental Army, although, in the waning years of the war, when drafts were instituted, the wealthy often chose the suitable alternatives to personal service: Either paying a fine, or hiring a replacement...

Yet not all was idle nonsense, in either day. Fact is, when our fledgling nation formally dissolved our bond with England, (At least in their minds), the new Continental Congress asked the colonies if they would have their representatives form a new Constitution: Virtually everyone said yes – But Concord said no. Concordians argued that a new constitution could not and should not be written without a constitutional convention, wherein the people to be subject to these new laws would be the ones to determine who would write them and what they would be. Concordians believed that even their own chosen representatives to the old government needed to be reconsidered, and were adamant that a new government would be different – Truly of and by and for the people, or not at all. Their first effort failed, but when the watered down constitution that was eventually produced was examined by the colonies, it was found wanting, and the second time was the charm – Concord’s suggestion became the way it was done; it literally was the kernel of the new American government.

Then as now, this is heady stuff to me. I recall many, many April 19ths – The pealing of bells at around 1 a.m., and the clattering of hooves thundering down the lane from Lexington, the rider portaying Dr. Prescott shouting a warning of the advancing British Regulars. The foggy, cold dawn, paddling or walking down to the bridge, hoping to be there before the first cannonade rolled through the still air, but always thrilled with the sound. Or walking in fall through the old, old graveyards; not looking for the famous, but for the unknown who died on that day, and in the long years of that war thereafter. Truth be told, the skirmish at Concord lasted maybe three minutes, after which the British returned to town to look for arms, and the militia dispersed; some going home, some wounded, but most racing through The Great Meadows toward the wooded ridge that overlooked the Bay Road, choosing places to fight. The British called them scum and worse for not standing up and fighting in pretty lines like men were supposed to, but these were fighters trained by the ferocious French & Indian War: In that conflict, every man for himself was the way it was, and guerilla fighting was the only way to survive.

To this day, you can walk along the Lexington Road toward Meriams Corner. The ridgeline rises to your left, the road is not sheltered. There are many places on that lonely road where you sure as hell would not want to be a British Regular. It is still easy to feel what it must have felt like that day. The ghosts of war are close here. The only place I have been where the feeling was thicker is Gettysburg.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Modern Iraq

What's wrong with those people, why can't they get along? Why is that place such a mess - have they always been that way?!

Well, yes and no; and as fate would have it, the root of the answer is that it takes western white folks to come in and really screw up a neighborhood.

I know that a lot of people here don’t have a clue about where this country has come from, or why these people are always fighting. Probably fewer still know that what’s happening now is far from the first time such things have occurred.

Somewhere in the late 1300s, Turks rolled in and took over what is now Iraq: Prior to that, for along, long time, there were separate and relatively autonomous areas of Kurds to the north, Sunnis in the middle, (The so called ‘Sunni Triangle'), and Shiites to the south. All that ended in the 1500s when the Ottoman Empire claimed most of Iraq, a situation that remained basically status quo until believe it or not, World War 1.

So, here’s the quiz: How long has Iraq been a ‘Country’, and how’d it get that way?

Well, again, the answer is, you need westerns to help you do this. In 1917, during the Great War, Britain captured Baghdad, and it was then that things really began to get screwed up: Ever wonder why they’ve been so dang loyal through these recent harangues? Easy! Because they’ve been feeling potential ever since they lost Iraq in 1932! Yep, it was the Brits who took chunks of Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite lands and put a border around it all; a thing us western colonialists just love to do in our typical arrogant, arbitrary fashion. Now, all of a sudden, you have thoroughly disparate groups that traditionally don't get along at all being told they're now countrymen by some foreign power who showed up and simply decided that they'd all get along because we said so - Neat trick, huh?

Now, the Brits have always dug monarchy, so why change here? The first Iraqi King was pretty much installed by none other than T.E. Lawrence: Yep, Lawrence of Arabia, who was, if you didn't know, very much a real guy and an inveterate meddler in other people's worlds…. By ’32 Iraq was more or less 'independent', but the colonial hooks remained deeply set: Oil was discovered in the north of the country in the late 20s, and then in the south. Although Iraqi Petroleum had the rights to all the finds, don’t let the name fool ya; they were based in London. That, by the way, is one big reason that the Sunnis have always been fired up to get and hold control; 'cause in that there Sunni Triangle, there ain’t much oil, gang…

Monarchies turned to coups in the late 50’s, and a series of military leaders appeared. About the same time, Kuwait was looking to free itself from British rule, (Yeah, they were there, too), and got friendly with Iraq. Iraq began to notice that, well, owning Kuwait would give them more Gulf access, more oil, and would just be real darn convenient: Neither the Kuwaitis or the British were real keen on the idea however. This chunk of history ended with a ’68 revolution that put the Ba’ath party firmly in charge. A young Saddam was working diligently therein, and in ’79, he got the nod and proclaimed himself both President and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council.

Kuwait-Iraq squabbles were ongoing all through the 60s and 70s, and faded only at the advent of the Iran-Iraq war in ’80. Oh, and don't forget; all us friendly western powers were real helpful during that conflict: Iraq got weapons and money from Britain, the U.S., China, and Russia. Oh, and the French – They gave Iraq her first nuclear reactor, which the spoilsport Israelis promptly destroyed.

Of course, the Kuwait-Iraq conflict resumed immediately after that Iran thing was done, and we all recall that Saddam’s boys rolled into its neighbors turf in 1990. And then we came and saw and kicked their asses, sort of…

Nope, we all know that Geo. Sr. didn’t go to Baghdad, didn’t get it done, and that wound has festered for… Well, let’s see… About 13 years before we had the proper stooge in place, and a plausible enough reason manufactured to go in and really screw things up good!

Thank God we’re able to bring our kind of democracy to the needy parts of the world, huh?!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fun With Pigs

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’ll fess up – Sometimes being a cop was fun.

In my home town, we had one who spent his whole day at the intersection of Main and Walden Streets – He was the traffic light. There was a little booth out in the middle of the intersection, and that’s where he stood all day, directing traffic and letting peds X. Maybe there’s a light there now; I hope not… I remember him chasing our car down the street, yelling, "Stop" to my dad, as we headed out for a vacation: Dad had left his coffee cup on the roof. Anyway, I noticed as a youngster that he talked a lot, I thought to himself: Oh sure, when we were crossing, he’d say, “Go ahead, girls, you can cross,” because it was the 60's and we had long hair. But I always wondered what he was saying when there wasn’t anybody crossing – Later in life, I would find out.

And when you’re driving, daydreaming or listening to tunes, and all of a sudden there’s a cop right on your ass? I know I saw their lips moving, what was that all about?

Well, since I now have some experience, let me enlighten y’all.

I’ll use for my first example the worst plain ol’ traffic cluster I remember – At probably the busiest intersection in the town I worked in, (And in the words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up), a truck took the corner a smidge hot and spilled boxes of roofing nails all over the street. The boxes exploded and spread said roofing nails everywhere – I don’t know how many, but let’s just say really a lot and go from there. I get there, and the construction guys want frantically to start cleaning up, but drivers have already driven over the nails and we have about a half dozen cars with blow outs. Its morning rush hour; welcome to day shift patrol work!

So, after getting everybody stopped, we proceed to open minimal lanes through the nails so that we can continue the clean up and get the traffic moving too. Now, the intersection is a huge clusterfuck, there are cop cars, fire trucks, construction vehicles, disabled cars, people out all around them – Let me ask you; how hard should it be for people behind the wheel to realize that something is up? How hard should it be for folks to pay attention, drive carefully, and help us all get through this? Answer: Way the hell harder than you can possibly imagine!

So, what was the nice Officer, (Me), out there talking to himself, (Not), saying? Well, it went kinda like this:

“Come on… COME ON!! YOU, drive, NOW! Lord… Okay you wait – WAIT! That’s why I’m showing you the stop hand, jerk, WAIT!! Ok, you – Yeah YOU, go, dipshit! NO!! NOT OVER THERE!!! STAY IN THE… SHIT! Ma’am? MA’AM! THEY’RE BLOWN NOW SO JUST GET IT OUT OF THE WAY RIGHT NOW, PLEASE! HEY! I said WAIT, you JERK!”

That’s what they’re talking about out there.

And the driving thing? Easily explained – Let’s start with a simple statistic: Percentage of overall times that a cop following right behind you IS interested in you when you’ve been doing, “Nothing wrong” - Maybe 5%. Percentage of overall times that a cop following right behind you because he or she only wants you to GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY – 95%.

We call it Black & White fever. Citizen sees cop car, instant guilt trip ensues, driver slows to snail speed and drives really, really, really carefully. See the above stats, learn it, believe it! Yes I understand the sensation –Hell, when I was driving a patrol car and went by a traffic guy doing radar, I’d go, Oh shit! And slow down and be paranoid for a second or two… Really, truly, 9 times out of 10 they are going somewhere else, have something they have to do, need to get a move on, and YOU’RE IN THE WAY!

Biggest mistake I ever made in this regard was… Well, let’s just say I was downtown on a busy Friday night, people all over the place, I'm following somebody with serious B & W Fever, I needed to get by and on to what I was doing, she wouldn’t move, and wouldn’t move, and finally I lost it and yelled, “WILL YOU PLEASE JUST GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY AND LET ME BY?!?!?” And my windows were all open. Bad career move… I still cannot believe that nobody called to complain, although most of the people on the street were laughing.

I was cruising once with a partner, downtown, weekend evening, when one of the local ne’er-do-wells came bopping down the sidewalk. He was sneering at every one he encountered, spitting, laughing at things other people couldn’t see. He wore black leather pants with a big wallet chain, and a green leather jacket. Oh, and he had dyed his hair green and was maybe 5’ 4” in heels. The citizenry was properly cowed until we rolled by. My partner saw the perp, and without missing a beat, yelled at top volume, “Hey! Somebody grab the Leprechaun, they’re worth money!”

Mr. bad deflated like a popped balloon and the citizenry was in tears, laughing.

When stopped for traffic lights, I liked to pick out folks with radar detectors and blast ‘em with my onboard unit. I'd watch ‘em scramble to turn it down, their heads on a swivel, looking for the danger: They’d see me about the time they’d realize they weren’t moving, and I’d be there with my radar and a big shit eating grin…

Ever notice how most cops don’t pull right next to you at traffic lights? They pull up short of your vehicle so that they can see you and what you’re doing, in case you’re a bad guy. Then if everything is cool, they might slide up closer for a closer look-see. So one night I’m doing just that, and I see in the car to my immediate right a lot of motion in to the back seat by the guy in the passenger seat. It’s a young lady driving; they look college age, probably… They don’t feel dangerous, but the guy’s head is on a swivel, so I sneak up for a closer look… Right as the guy completes his 360 visual sweep, decides everything is A-OK, and pops open a road beer. I wait until he’s got it up to his lips for his first sip and yell, “HEY!” he turns, spilling beer all over himself and the car, and sees me smiling. “Check ALL the way around before you do that, OK?”

I didn’t write him; I didn’t have the heart. Besides, his girlfriend was laughing too hard.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Rooskie Guitar

I liked the downtown foot beat when I was a cop; once I did it for a whole year straight. It reminded me of old-time cops, and also felt like a better way to get to talk with people and actually interact with the community.

I had fun with it too. On Halloween, I borrowed an Old Time parade uniform from one of the guys and did the whole shift wearing that, (Long coat, tall hat, no gun showing, just night stick). I also walked with my hands behind my back and did the Monty Python cop accent all day: “Right, what’s all this then?” and “Right! Piss off you lot… You ‘eard me, piss off!”

I also walked past the cafĂ©’s with outside tables all the time, and I liked to walk up to a full table out of the blue and say, “How’s everything here? Ready for a desert tray or some coffee?” And if they said yes, testing the whacky cop, I’d go inside, where a grinning Martha would say, “Desert tray and coffee pot, right?” I did a great feature presentation on the various goodies, too – Sold a bunch of Death By Chocolate, and even had my own recipe made there, Doctor Atwater’s Magic Bars, (Shortbread topped with crunchy peanut butter and dark chocolate – You could feel your blood getting sludgy when you ate one – Very popular on graveyard shifts…)

I got to know all the shop owners, and among them, of course, were the pawnshop owners. They soon came to know that I liked guitars, and they’d let me know if something particularly sexy came in. So one day I walk into one of the shops and the owner grins and points at me and say, I got something you’re gonna like!” It was a ’59 Reissue Strat, black, perfect, looked like it had never been played. He said the guy who turned it in was a doper, would buy great axes and then pawn ‘em, and often didn’t come back for ‘em. He said he’d only told about four or five people about it. I asked him not to tell anybody else, and he promised he wouldn’t. I got the date that thing was coming available and marked my calendar. Oh, and the guy only had $300 into it - A stone cold bargain, that.

So the day approaches and I realize I’m signed up to work Acting Sergeant that day shift. Luckily, (And no, I’m not making this up), the Shift Lieutenant is Vince Gill’s first cousin, and a player in his own right. I tell him, vaguely, about the deal, and he says “I don’t care, as long as you respond when you’re needed,” I think he was a bit put out I wouldn’t tell him what axe and where, but, well, you gotta be discrete…

So the morning in questions dawns cold and clear, and the shop opens at nine a.m. I am camped out at 8:30, right in front, in a prowl car, in uniform, and runnin’ the Day Shift right from there. Nobody else in sight. Would you screw with me at that point? Didn’t think so…

Anyway, about five minutes after I arrived, some skinny, long-greasy-haired wasteoid comes shuffling up the block. He's wearing torn jeans, an Alice in Chains t shirt, those funky boots with the big strap and buckle over the instep, and a silver Bud Light tavern jacket. He sees me and stops, looks around, looks at where I’m parked, visibly swallows, and turns back around. Then he changes his mind, and comes back my way, stopping about three feet short of the pawn shop and leaning against the wall, pretending I’m not there. I am drilling cop eye laser beams into him through my Ray Bans. I am not smiling, even remotely. I am looking directly at him, car idling menacingly, with the patented Sergeant Atwater’s Get Your Sorry Ass The Hell Away From That Store You Wasted Prick look. He’s withering, but he’s holding up.

Finally he sighs and approaches the car. I’ve got target acquisition and lock for his entire long, long walk to the car. I let him wait for an eternal ten or fifteen seconds at the window before I lower it slowly, staring at him with pure I Am The Pigs, Go Away intensity. “Can I… Help you?” I ask.

In heavily accented English he says, “You are here for Strat?”

He rolls the r of strat nicely; he sounds Russian.

I nod slowly, “Yep, since 0h eight thirty, son.”

“Ya,” he nods, “You get then…” and turns to go

“Wait,” I nod, “Where you from, Partner, Russia?”

“Da,” he nods, “I am born outside Moscow.”

We start talking about guitars. We are about the same age. I tell him about my first, a busted up Strat with a screw holding the peghead together, and then, at his repeated urging, go through all the axes I’ve owned, played, sold, traded, lost, and the few I’ve kept.

He tells me that growing up in the USSR in the 60s, there was no way he could even see many pictures of “Real guitar – All we had was Russian shit, don’t play good, don’t sound good, real crap – All along, I dream of Strat, like Jimmy Hendrix and Clapton play!” His name was Vladimir. He had emigrated at his first opportunity in the late eighties. He had gone to school in Russia for art, and was trying to make it here doing that, and playing music. He loved it; he had “Real Levi Jeans, no secret police, I live where I want, can eat well, sell when I can, I am completely happy here.” We talked for twenty, twenty five minutes about bands, amps, artists, guitars, clothes, girls, and good local beer.

Then the sound of the lock turning on the pawn shop's front door catches our attention. We are both leaning on the front of the prowl car, side by side, bullshitting when the smiling owner steps out and nodded at us.

“Eben, Vlad, good morning; I shoulda known it'd be between you two... So, who gets the axe?”

Vladimir turns to me, smiling gently and says, “My friend was here first,” and reaches out to shake my hand.

I take his hand in mind, cover it with my other, and say, “My friend, you were in line for this guitar for way longer than I can even imagine – Enjoy.”

And I got in the car and drove away, smiling.