Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The day did not start well. I had done some re-organizing and even some rebuilding of my kitchen and forgot where I put the cats’ food. I planted one foot firmly in the middle of the cats’ water. Then after stripping off the soaked sock, I couldn’t find my slippers. But I didn’t have time for slippers anyway, because I went to Great Falls for supplies. Cat food is up to 55 cents a can now. Because they can. They know little old ladies will feed their cats no matter what. But they have become a major expense. Good thing they're a major comfort.

It’s eighty miles to Great Falls so I was pleased that we’re down to three dollar gas. Thirty dollars is about a half-tank of gas, which is enough to get me to Great Falls and back once. So that’s it for GF for the month of November. Social Security is actually paying me for October -- they pay in retrospect -- but these groceries must last to the end of November except that I buy green stuff along the way for the sake of my diabetes II. Also, my vitamins and antacids ought to last through the next two months. They are increasingly expensive. I bought my Halloween boodle: breakfast bars. That gets rid of the teenagers. And I carry the remainders in the pickup as emergency food.

This time of year there is no picturesque scenery along the way, just subtle Whistler-type atmospherics. A painter only needs three tubes of paint: Payne’s gray, yellow ochre, and terre verte. The fields are shining pale stubble, except for the chemical-fallow fields where everything has been killed to ash. (Would you buy honey from bees next to those fields?) The sky is shifting gray, many clouds of many shapes moving swiftly across the screen because the wind is so strong. A fur cloak of storm slid along the Rockies. All the windmills along the way -- more all the time -- were whirling furiously, making money. “’Tis an ill wind that blows nobody good!” Because of the wind yesterday, the sky is dark blue today, cleared so the sun is intense -- if chilly.

In Great Falls I had the brilliant idea of showing my Blackfeet research aids to the librarian at the University of Great Falls where many Blackfeet folks go to school. She welcomed them and wants to order them but the college policy is to only order via the mail and pay after receiving an invoice. I’m thinking the thing to do might be to look for grant funding to get the materials into the state’s and tribe’s college libraries at the least, and maybe into the high schools of the bigger cities. Everything boils down to capitalism: where is your capital? How will this generate more capital? But capital is more than money: it can be good will or vision.

The bread I buy in Great Falls is Oregon Hazelnut bread, not because of loyalty to my birth state but because it doesn’t have a lot of chemicals in it. It costs roughly four times as much as Wonder bread, more than Wheat Montana bread. Still, the nuts are nutritionally valuable and one slice of this bread with whipped cream cheese or sliced avocado on it counts for me as a meal. Lots of vegetables (including beans), one piece of meat at night, maybe a few eggs, a lot of peanuts, and that’s my gorilla diet. My blood glucose readings are now in the eighties except right after a meal. But brain function and muscle performance are better than they were before I began to eat this way.

The first grocery store I visit in GF is Van’s IGA, which is a family descendant of the first grocery store to ever give me credit: Teeple’s in Browning. The motto of the big Van’s chain is “home town proud” without anyone ever realizing that the hometown in question is Browning! Dolly Teeple gave me the credit, writing my purchases into a steno book from under the counter. It’s her son-in-law, Paul Van Der Jogt, who grew the little store into a chain. The original store now occupies a whole block on the highway in Browning.

In the email when I get home is a message from England saying that one writer’s agent of nine years has dumped him because he has left nonfiction science essays in favor of sci-fi, which she doesn’t know how to represent. He’s been self-publishing on Lulu anyway. This is a prosperous family man embedded in an excellent editorial job but he says he feels like a newly divorced man camping out in a seedy motel where he must cook over a gas ring. Too too tragic.

Another email friend sends a conversation in which two of the most brilliant and far-seeing economists, Taleb and Mandelbrot, say they are terrified of what might happen. (Krugman in is agreement.) Someone sent me a very long and complex analysis of how world economics were reorganized after WWII, why it all became dependent on the US (mostly because none of the war was fought on US territory so we didn’t have to rebuild and because we didn’t come into it until late), and how the US went off the Gold Standard, and what that all means and how we might reorganize now. What I get out of it is that we have invented this world game called economics -- it’s ALL Sim City and weather forecasting, which is to say, anything COULD happen and those in control will make sure they survive. Hopefully they will realize that they survive ONLY if we survive, or what will they be controlling?

Then last was a “notes on books” from the woman who grew up across the street from me, though our backgrounds and life paths have been entirely different. She’s reading Sam Harris who rails against religion as the root of all evil. Of course, he defines religion as the major world institutions, each of them grown out of small tribal ecologies which he doesn’t acknowledge. To Sam all religions have books and buildings, but -- even worse -- authorities who do not like Sam Harris, who wants to become THE authority by destroying them. Forget the big monotheisms, Sam. Go back to the Greek tragedies, all about hubris. Iconoclasts out to set themselves up as icons, or at least make a lot of money, always fail in the end. The success of Jesus is based on humility, which is why Sam so loves to attack Jehovah instead: intolerant tyrant against intolerant tyrant.

When I make the next grocery run to Great Falls in a month, we’ll have a new president and there will probably be snow on the ground. For now, I’ll note that though the robins have migrated, the cotoneasters that the robins planted under the poplars are waist-high and blazing with red and orange.

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