Vagabond Architect – Johann Beukes C

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).

Johann BEUKES is from South Africa and worked as an architect for 40 years before deciding to do a lateral move into the travel business. He is a keen learner through TRAVEL experiences and is the CEO of TRAVELinform & TRAVELwithus.  I caught up with him by email earlier this week before he was heading to Germany.

Vagobond: You spent forty years as an architect – while some might say you’ve left that profession behind – it seems to me that you are still designing and building with TRAVELinform –

Johann Beukes: A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of an enriched heart. An architect-at-heart has to have a soul, a spirit and a passion for people. Exactly the same principles apply to a traveller-at heart.

TRAVELinform is a unique platform where one can share one’s passion for travel: many wonderful human true to life travel stories as well as travel photography to create the specific mood. And a growing family of equally enthusiastic members, sharing their experiences with one another on the social networking forum.

Vagobond: What made you decide to change gears? Can you tell us a bit of the journey that took you from architecture and into travel?

travel to Machu PicchuJohann Beukes: Since my childhood days I had pen friends in Japan, Germany and Canada; at a young age I started with travel- scrapbooking and became engaged with people in different places. My architecture brought me into contact with international architects around the world; thus making my early dreams a reality.

Various joint-replacement operations of most of my major joints forced me to bid my first love, practicing architecture, farewell. Fortunately I initiated a travel agency some 15 years ago; first as a hobby while travelling as an architect to some 80 Countries, which has now turned into a fulltime profession: the privilege of sharing ones travel joys with other people with a similar passion for exploring the unknown.

Vagobond:I’ve heard it said that travel is a series of near misses – can you share a harrowing tale from your travels?

Johann Beukes: As student, I joined a friend from Namibia on a Namib Desert excursion: our vehicle got stuck in the wilderness between kilometres of dunes. Luckily a helicopter search team discovered us after three days without water and food. No wonder it is also known as the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.

A few years ago I went with only the pilot on a ski-plane scenic flight of Mount Denali in Alaska; as keen photographer I convinced the pilot to land at a high altitude on a solitary glacier. With me in my photographic spell, we slightly overstayed our time. The severe cold quickly fixed the skis to the ice. Normally the passenger would move the ski-base while the pilot is accelerating the propeller. This time however, we had to swop roles, due to my disability to assist with the physical manoeuvre. We managed to escape the ice-trap and I almost deserved my wings!

Vagobond: How is TRAVELinform different from the many other travel sites and networks out there? What is your vision for it in the future?

Alaska Johann BeukesJohann Beukes: I think there is no replacement to first-hand experience; anybody browsing through the multitude of country galleries of stories and photos will soon share my passion.
We have two TRAVEL sites i.e. TRAVELinform as a free Travel Information and Social Networking site, and TRAVELwithus, the unique, dedicated consultant-connected Travel, which will be launched during April this year.

On TRAVELinform we do not sell anything; we believe that through this we will eventually build a platform where people will trust our impartiality with no strings attached. Should they be interested in packages and travel-related products, TRAVELwithus will ensure a trust-worthy reputation.

TRAVELinform has the social networking forum, the unique travel stories and photo galleries, Travel-related links, sanction of many a country’s Tourism Boards. It has been visited by viewers, representing some 100 Countries and the average time spent on the site is 5 minutes at a time; indicating the popular interest.

Vagobond: In terms of vision, can you make a few predictions about where travel is heading in the next 5-10 years?

Johann Beukes: I believe that TRAVEL will become the most important industry world-wide; interaction between customer and professional consultant will move away from traditional consultancy selling air-tickets first, followed by other ancillary sales.

All basic commodities like air, car and bed will be done online by more and more, IT generation customers. If your destination knowledge, input and value as Travel Consultant are not omissible, you will soon become extinct.

The sooner the high street agency understands the many challenges online travel agencies are offering, the more secure their future will be.

Vagobond: Travel has changed in some massive ways over our lifetimes- what are some of the positives and negatives you can see in these changes?

Johann Beukes: Customers have become absolute knowledgeable on their Travel expectations and needs. Guessing and selling products without first-hand knowledge and expertise cannot succeed. For this reason consultants should act pro-actively and professionally: providing a service that will address all aspects of personalised travel.

The positive side is that a far wider choice of options of destinations exist; however, on the negative side is the fact that the exclusiveness of destinations will disappear: destinations off the beaten track will unfortunately become less and less available.

Vagobond: Has travel become too easy?

Johann Buekes in Plovdiv, BulgariaJohann Beukes: My honest opinion is that travel has become a hugely complex and high-risk service industry.
Only the real Travel PROFESSIONALS will survive. Through globalisation everybody becomes a traveller in some or other way. It has become very easy to travel today.

Vagobond: What makes great travel writing?

Johann Beukes: Experience the heart of a country through the eyes of ordinary people;
original, warm and descriptive words will enhance, almost like a picture taken at a scene; though it should always be factual correct; add passion to the most simple theme and people will experience travel through your eyes.

Vagobond: What makes a great travel writer?

Johann Beukes:  A passionate honest story teller; look for stories off the beaten track, among ordinary people.

Vagobond: In terms of press trips with Tourism Boards – do you think there is a magic formula for landing them?

Johann Beukes: Personally, I do not have a problem with press trips organised by Tourism Boards to promote their country. As long as the travel writers act as true travellers and not tourists: a Traveller will always shows appreciation and respect the diversity of the travelled world and the different cultures of its people, whereas a tourist demands attention to their personal needs only.

Vagobond: How do you prepare for a trip?

Johann Beukes: My time is always limited and good planning of time spent is therefore crucial. Through my LinkedIn network, make first-hand contact with connections within the country, communicate my ideas and proposed itinerary; clearly define my objectives of experiencing the country as a traveller-at-heart and not as an insensitive tourist. Many of my travel stories are rooted in the origins of ordinary people.

Vagobond: Can you share three travel tips that Vagobond readers may not have heard?

Johann Beukes: Communicate with the taxi-driver, if local, or the receptionist at the hotel and get first hand local tips of quieter times at tourist traps, eating spots supported by locals etc.
Do a proper research on all to do and see well in advance, in order that you can orientate yourself easily once at the destination; time is always limited.
Rather try and stay in the original old town area and enjoy the real atmosphere once all the tourists have left.

Vagobond: As someone who travels a lot, I realize how hard it is to answer questions about best, favourite etc. Still, having seen more than 75 countries – which 3 would you most like to go back and visit?

Johann Beukes:  Three totally different destinations:

Romania; especially Transylvania, due to the interesting culture and history;
Alaska, because of the unequalled scenic beauty of its landscape, from south to north;
Peru, truly a country with wonderful people; although poverty prevails, they assist each other and where the role of the family is very important.

Vagobond: Do you also have a bucket list of places still to visit?

Johann Beukes: High on my list is an exclusive adventure cruise on board the VIC of the Spitsbergen Arctic zone; for its incredible photographic opportunities.
Then I would still want to travel to Tibet, especially the Shigatse and Nyingtri mountainous areas to stay some time and really meditate within the rural regions; maybe do some new travel writing.

CONTACT DETAILS:
johann@travelinform.co.za
http://www.linkedin.com/in/johannbeukes
and share your travel ideas on www.travelinform.co.za

John Steinbeck – California Vagabond

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).
Steinbeck pirate

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902. He came from a poor family and worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated.  As a young man he worked on farms near where his family lived in central California and this most definitely influenced all of his later work. In 1925 he vagabonded his way to New York, where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer or novelist, but, like many freelancers and novelists, he failed and returned to California where he worked as a tour guide and ranger in a fish hatchery. He was a west coast kid and while he was away, he never stopped dreaming of the Pacific and California. Steinbeck was fortunate in that after he was married in 1930, his parents decided to provide him not only with a home for he and his wife to live in, but also even bought the paper and typewriter for him so that he could focus on his writing instead of burning his inspiration at dead end jobs.  One has to wonder how many great writers could have been born with similar treatment and how many were simply lost in the day to day struggle to survive.

Steinbeck had some minor success with a few short stories but became widely known with Tortilla Flat in 1935 – the book was a series of humorous stories about Monterey paisanos. The book was successful enough that not only was Steinbeck able to repay his parents, but he also bought a house for he and his wife in Los Gatos and was able to further devote himself to his writing. Not only that, he began to explore the world further – starting with a sailing voyage around the Gulf of California.

All of  Steinbeck’s novels deal with the economic problems of rural labor, but there is also a streak of worship of the soil in his books, which does not always agree with his matter-of-fact sociological approach. After the rough and earthy humour of Tortilla Flat, he moved on to more serious fiction, often aggressive in its social criticism.

In Dubious Battle (1936), he deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers on California plantations and Steinbeck  followed this with Of Mice and Men  in 1937. The story of the imbecile giant Lennie captured the imagination of a nation struggling with the Great Depression and the second world war. This was followed by a series of admirable short stories collected in the volume The Long Valley (1938). In 1939 he published what is considered by many to be his best work, The Grapes of Wrath, the story of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became migratory workers.

After 11 years, his first marriage failed and a month after the divorce he was married for the second time (hmmmmm…a month). With his second wife, he fathered his only kids – two boys John and Tom. He served as a war correspondent during World War II and was wounded in North Africa. He was one of the first Western writers allowed into the Soviet Union and took many trips there. His writing about the new nation in A Russian Journal, brought him induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Among his later works should be mentioned East of Eden (1952), The Winter of Our Discontent(1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his impressions during a three-month tour in a truck (fun fact: the camper was called the Rocinante after Cervantes classic Don Quixote’s horse) that led him through forty American states with his dog, a poodle named Charley, the book is subtitled In Search of America, the book offers both criticism and praise for America and according to Steinbeck’s son Thom, Steinbeck went on the trip because he knew he was dying and wanted to see the country one last time.

Steinbeck’s last novel, The Winter of Our Discontent , examined the  moral decline in America. The protagonist Ethan grows discontented with his own moral decline and that of those around him. The book is very different in tone from Steinbeck’s amoral and ecological stance in earlier works like Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. It was not a critical success. Many reviewers recognized the importance of the novel but were disappointed that it was not another Grapes of Wrath. In the Nobel Prize presentation speech next year, however, the Swedish Academy cited it most favorably: “Here he attained the same standard which he set in The Grapes of Wrath. Again he holds his position as an independent expounder of the truth with an unbiased instinct for what is genuinely American, be it good or bad.”

It was the last fiction Steinbeck published, one could imagine because it was unappreciated and largely caused outrage. Why should he waste his time on anything else for people like that?

In 1967 he went to Vietnam and wrote about what he saw of the war there. The American public decried him for a hawk for describing the actions of the American soldiers there as heroic. Both of his sons served in Vietnam. He died in New York City in 1968.

John Steinbeck VagabondSteinbeck wrote of pirates, hobos, Mexican revolutionaries, drunkards, knights, kings, farmers and other unsavory types that have been described by the world as vagabonds. He was accused of being a communist by the right and a ‘hawk’ by the left – one thing for certain – He was a genius and a vagabond himself.

 

Nomad Vagabond – Genghis Khan

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).

 

Traveling round the world doesn’t usually involve conquest of foreign lands but for Temujin, also known as Genghis Khan, conquest was probably just a means of travel. Starting with nothing as an exile and prisoner means he was certainly an extraordinary vagabond.

Genghis Khan was a nomad, in other words he was a world traveler of sort. Genghis Khan’s real name in his childhood was Temujin. When his brother poisoned his father Temujin killed his brother and in punishment he was thrown into forest, he was held in prison by his former friends after that. vagobond genghis khanAfter few years, Temujin rose up as a powerful leader and united the tribes of the Mongol people. With this goal accomplished, he and his Mongol hordes targeted many and far lands. From the time of his unification of the Mongol tribes, the Mongols called him Genghis Khan.

Genghis Khan first attacked the Tangut tribes to the west of the Mongol homeland. His first important foreign venture was not an easy one, but he brought the tribes of Tangut to their knees by 1209, which was the beginning of his empire. Genghis targeted east and south after that, this was the land ruled by Jin Dynasty of China. Genghis Khan captured Beijing, bringing the pressure to the Jin emperor and managing to restrain the complete northern half of the kingdom.

Kara-Khitan which is called “Xinjiang” today by the Chinese government was the next battleground of Genghis Khan. With just 20,000 soldiers, the Mongols brought the surrender of Kara-Khitan by 1218. Now Genghis Khan’s empire extended from shores of China in the east to Kazakhstan in west.

genghis khan mapThis was not enough and Genghis Khan desired more. He set his eyes on his new neighbor, the Khwarezmid Empire. It stretched from Kazakhstan to the banks of Persian Gulf, surrounding most of Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and half of Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. At first Genghis Khan tried to establish a booming trade partnership with Khwarezmids, but the leader of Khwarezmid attacked his 500 man caravan. After this, he foolishly refused to pay compensation for his act. Genghis Khan later sent his group of ambassadors to the Shah of Khwarezmid in a hope to have some kind of political trade relationship. But the Shah refused his proposal, Genghis Khan invaded Khwarezmid and executed the Shah. After this horrible conquest of Khwarezmid Empire, he headed across Afghanistan and northern India.

By the end of his life, Temujin had conquered everything from Asia all the way to Europe’s doorstep. Most of modern Turkey, parts of Greece, and even portions of Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia were his domain.

As a world traveler, he spilled a lot more blood than most, but the fact is he controlled the largest contiguous empire in history and saw more of the world than most people ever will.

Jack London – Prince of the Tramps, Patron of Vagabonds

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” about the great vagabonds. It’s available as an ebook for kindle on Amazon for just $3.99. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of those characters from the past (and present).

Jack London – Prince of the Tramps

For many, all they know about Jack London is that he wrote dog stories. In fact, he did much more than that. Jack London was born January 12, 1876 and his life reads like an adventure novel.

Jack London was a passionate socialist, sometimes drunk and sometimes a prohibitionist, a sailor, a pirate, a gold prospector, a tramp, and of course, all of that makes him a vagabond.

London started out as a poor kid doing wage slavery in San Francisco but borrowed money to buy a boat and became the ‘Prince of the Oyster Pirates” before his boat sank. From there he joined the ‘Fish Patrol’ and then signed onto a schooner which took him to Japan.

Returning to the USA he again became a wage slave and then quit to become a tramp and marched across the country with unionists before getting arrested and thrown in jail for vagrancy.
Jack London, extraordinary vagabond, vagobonding
To me, one of his best books is ‘The Road’ which details this period of his life. It’s also one of the hardest of his books to find.

London returned to San Francisco and attended Berkley before splitting for the gold fields of the Yukon. One would think that he spent a long time there, but six months of suffering was enough and he returned to California where he wrote his most famous books “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang”

London was one of the original members of the Bohemian Club which met in the redwoods and included such figures as Ambrose Bierce and John Muir.

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London started making money at writing and bought a ranch in California which became a vagabond camp of sorts from which he became a vehement socialist. (John Barleycorn).
London spent most off his life fighting against wage slavery and lived in London amongst the poorest of the poor. His book The Iron Heel, details some of what he learned and saw in this period.

Later he sank most of his fortune into building a ship called “The Snark” which he and his second wife sailed to Hawaii. When they tried to go further, the ship sank. This part of his life is detailed in Martin Eden.

On his ranch, London became an advocate of sustainable agriculture before most people ever knew what the term meant. He also began to drink more and more, which led to his sinking into awful depressions and ultimately probably to an early death.

Jack London Surfing

London made many trips to Hawaii and was one of the first Californians to take up surfing. He learned the sport from the legendary Duke Kahanamoku! (Incidentally, I once met London’s grandson and great grandson on Kauai and they were typical California surfer dudes.)


Unfortunately, like many of the men of his day, Jack London had some ignorant racial views. He is often cited as a racist and the truth is that he was, but so was every other white man living at the time. London just happened to write his views and so is often singled out. He wrote some science fiction which is interesting, one is about China taking over the world by population and a war coming as a result. It seems to be a future that is coming to exist.

London died at the young age of forty years old of a morphine overdose. Some say it was suicide, but what is certain is that he was in extreme pain from illness which is why he had the morphine to begin with.

Jack London was an extraordinary vagabond.

 

If you’d like to write about an extraordinary vagabond, living or dead, past or present just use the contact form to let me know. You can either send me your completed article and I will publish it or you can ask me questions. Here is what I am looking for:
500 + words
An extraordinary vagabond
picture (at least one)
website (if they have one)
about the author (that’s you!)
link to your website (if you have one – but no commercial links, just personal sites please)

Merry Christmas from Vagobond!

Dec 25, 2020. Man, what a long strange trip it’s been but here we are. Merry Christmas.

 

Dec 25, 2019

Merry Christmas folks!

Here’s a picture from Christmas back in 2008. I had no idea what the world had in store for me. Hard to believe it’s been 11 years.

Still got the soul patch but the hair is mostly gone. Back in Hawaii now, which I didn’t really think would happen.

There I was, alone in the world with nothing but my friends and my hat and no home to return to, no home left behind, no home ahead of me. I’m glad I didn’t waste my freedom on some soul sucking job. I’m glad I decided to say fuck it and ditched it all.

And I’m glad, 11  years later that i sit here in Hawaii again on Christmas Day with my beautiful 8-year-old daughter and my lovely wife – and once again – I look outwards at the world ready to see what it has to offer and ready to find what I can offer it.

 

Dec 25, 2018

This was 40 years ago. It’s funny how as I sit with my wife and daughter (mee looking at the instructions and my wife grabbing the wrappings – we almost mirror this picture of me with my parents from 1978. This was my favorite shirt as a kid with a van filled with dogs and cats it said “Keep on Truckin’ – of course it did. Merry Christmas everyone and Keep on Truckin!!!!!
Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve in Hawaii – At Home on Oahu for the Holidays

Oahu Christmas2020: Christmas Eve this year was simple. We didn’t make plans to go anywhere and here we are. We hope you and yours are safe and happy this Christmas Eve of a challenging year. Meli Kalikimaka.

2019: Well, we messed up again. Once again, I had a great plan for Christmas – we were going to go to Molokai but by the time we were able to find my wife’s work schedule – the prices had gone sky high – as they always do on school holidays when capitalists know that families have the opportunity to travel so demand goes up – and while we could have dealt with that – there were no more rental cars available and the place we wanted to stay really needed one. So, once again, here we are again – home on Oahu for the holidays. It’s not such a terrible thing – we will certainly go to the beach and do some sand castle building and body surfing to celebrate the pinnacle of the  blight of consumerism that seems to never have a start or end point any longer.

2018:It was my intention to meet up with friends on Maui and have a Merry Christmas trip to the island of Molokai this year – but things don’t always work out the way you plan. In this case, the fake nuclear attack, near misses with hurricanes, and Big Island volcanic eruptions (plus the largely unspoken economic crisis that is looming) hit our tourism based income incredibly hard this year. As the holidays loomed, my wife and I were left with the choice of working in Honolulu during the Christmas break or taking our annual holiday – due to our budget – we opted to go with working.

Honolulu ChristmasWe will have Christmas Day off together but during all the other days of our daughter’s school break, one or the other (sometimes both) of us will be working. We’ve enrolled Sophia in a Christmas break day camp, so she will still get to have lots of holiday themed fun – and frankly- that’s the most important thing to us. We’re lucky – actually. This year, there are a lot of workers such as those who work for TSA, Homeland Security, or Border Patrol who won’t be collecting a paycheck. There are many families here on Oahu and throughout the Hawaiian Islands (and the USA) who are homeless and won’t be celebrating Christmas, getting presents, or spending any time with loved ones. There are many families who can’t afford to send their kids to day camps during the holiday and without school to watch over them while the parents work – many children are being left to their own devices – not through cruelty, but through necessity.

Honolulu ChristmasSo, we are thankful. Hawaii is a strange place for Christmas in any event – we try really hard here with lots and lots of decorations and Christmas music- but if you’ve ever spent time anywhere else for Christmas – it just feels really odd to have perfect weather, warm water to swim in, and everyone wearing shorts and Santa hats. Merry Christmas in Hawaiian is Mele Kalikimaka. The Hawaiians in ancient times didn’t know anything about Christmas. They celebrated a four month period from about November to February called Makahiki when there was generally no work done, lots of games, contests, and all warfare and hostilities were called off. This is just one more way the Hawaiians lived better in the past than we do today.

Christmas in OregonThere was no money, no economy, no imports, no exports, and nearly everyone could take four months of the year off from working or fighting to just enjoy life. When you average it out, the ancient Hawaiian family only needed a total of 4 hours of work per day to provide everything they needed in life. They didn’t need all this stuff we have now. I noticed something odd this year – people were frantic about their Christmas shopping, often neurotic and seemingly in a panic. In Hawaii, it’s not like other places – you’re expected to give good presents to all of your coworkers and friends and family – and that gets expensive fast. Then there’s the Secret Santa tradition – in the jobs I had on the mainland – Secret Santa was a way to ensure that everyone got one nice gift and no one had to spend too much – something like maximum $25 – and no other gifts needed. Not here – my wife’s work laid out the rules $25 minimum! And- they all went ahead and bought gifts for everyone else too…

Honolulu ChristmasGrowing up, Christmas was never that fantastic for me or my siblings so as an adult, it really took becoming a parent for me to grow to love the holiday. When our daughter was old enough to open presents – I began to spoil her the best I could (okay, from birth, I admit it). I love watching her wake up and look for presents. I love the mystery. I’m going to admit something here though – I’ve always been really honest with her. I’ve never wanted to tell her lies about anything – and frankly – I became terrified that she would discover that I was lying about Santa Claus and feel it as some sort of betrayal of trust. I felt incredibly guilty about it. She had started to ask questions that were leading to the answer and in a moment of what may have been bad judgment – I just told her that Santa isn’t real. After that we worked through the way the whole process works.

Honolulu ChristmasWhen she was a baby, we took her to where the real Santa Claus lived in Demre, Turkey – so I went from there and explained the tradition. As it got closer to Christmas though,  we both  agreed to suspend reality and believe in Santa together. We have a tiny little tree in our tiny little apartment. I’ve kept all her presents hidden so I can put them out on Christmas morning – and just like last year on the Big Island (I snuck the presents in an extra suitcase) – Santa will be visiting us again. So we will leave him cookies and milk. I have to admit, it’s much more fun to suspend our disbelief together than it was to fool her – I think it’s going to be a lovely Christmas in Honolulu this year. We’ll go to the Beach on Christmas Day, build sand castles, and maybe go see a movie and eat Chinese food. Maybe next year we can restart our holiday travel tradition. Or maybe not. In any event, we wish you a Merry Christmas!

Mele Kalikimaka!

5 Ordinary American Foods with International Twists

When you think of the classic American lunch,  probably the first things which comes to mind are hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, fries, and a soft drink. It’s pretty hard to make those into something different, right?

Wrong!

The world is full of innovative styles and flavors. You’d be silly to think that even the most ordinary  meals haven’t been turned on their heads somewhere in it. Here are five examples of the most ordinary kind of American lunch items that have been taken to places you never would have dreamed.

Hot Dog. It doesn’t get much simpler than a hot dog. A sausage placed in an open bun then topped with ketchup or mustard and if you feel adventurous you might put some pickle relish, onions, or chili on top.

Puka Dog. In Hawaii you can get a Puka Dog instead of a hot dog. Instead of the sausage being in an open bun, it is cooked inside a roll with a hole it it (puka is the Hawaiian word for hole). Also called a Hula dog or Aloha dog, these delicious cousins of hot dogs combine the taste you expect with local fruit relishes, exotic Asian sauces, and spicy Hawaiian mustards.

French Fries. The American fry needs almost no introduction. A sliced potato in strips or wedges, deep fried, salted, and served with ketchup. Easy to understand and delicious to eat.

Poutine. Quebec, the Northern neighbor of the USA has a completely different take on fries (and, we might add, they are much more French). Poutine is a disturbingly ugly mess of fried potatoes covered with brown gravy and cheese curds! The word poutine means both fat and an unappetizing mess of food. Poutine would certainly turn you fat if you ate it every day, but it is delicious and found in diners, specialized poutine restaurants, and even at McDonalds!

Burgers. Americans love burgers. The concept is simple – mince meat, cook, put between two halves of a bun, top with ketchup, mustard, pickle and salad. There are variations with toppings, meat, and sauces but essentially, a burger s always a burger.

Sushi Burger. The Sushi Burger is made with raw fish, wasabi, lettuce, Japanese mayonnaise, and sauce placed between seaweed topped  rice cakes. It looks like a burger but tastes like sushi!

Pizza. Pizza while having origins in Italy is about as American as American food gets. Melted cheese, tomato sauce, and toppings cooked on a round dough then cut into pie shaped pieces.

Berber Pizza and Turkish Pide. In the Sahara desert they serve ‘Berber’ pizza. Roasted lamb, onions, and spices cooked inside a flat loaf of bread (hobz). It’s cut into the familiar pie shaped slices but tastes  nothing like any pizza you’ve ever had.  In Turkey, one of the most popular snack foods is pide. It is a pizza stretched out to as much as two meters and topped with onions, lamb, and spices. It looks like pizza but the shape is all wrong.

Soft drinks. An American lunch tends to include a soft drink. There are many variations but they tend to fall into the following categories. Cola, lemon-lime, orange, or root beer.

Salty Watermelon Pepsi and Lemon Pepper Tang. Not all people have the same desire for incredibly sugary drinks. In Asia you can find regional variations of soft drinks that sound terrible to North Americans but are much loved by the locals. Pepsi mixes some odd flavors in their Japanese cola. Salty watermelon and cucumber are just two. In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the locals like to sip Lemon-Pepper Tang!

5 Extraordinary Souvenirs to Take Home from Turkey

5 Extraordinary Souvenirs to Take Home from Turkey

Turkish CarpetTurkey is one of those destinations that will affect you for the rest of your life. The aesthetics of design, the tastes, the smells – you will never forget a trip to Turkey. Still, it’s nice to have a special souvenir to remember your journey. Here are five extraordinary souvenirs to take home from Turkey with you.

A Carpet or Kilim

There’s a reason Turkish carpets are famous. They are beautiful. Buying a carpet can be one of the most rewarding experiences you have in Turkey. Or, it can be where you get ripped off. Do your homework, only buy from reputable carpet dealers, and make sure you aren’t paying big money for a mass produced Chinese rug.

Iznik Pottery

The delicate blue pottery from Iznik, on the other side of the Marmara Sea from Istanbul is famous the world over. The beautiful fblue and white patterns and fine character of the pottery will serve as a lifelong reminder of the beauty of Turkish design.  Just make sure you pack it carefully!

Turkish Delight

While you can’t take a kebab home, there is a treat you can bring back that will last a little better. Turkish delight is the famous Turkish taffy that comes in flavors from rose to pecan. While it is doubtful that you will keep this souvenir very long once you are home, it will certainly be worth carrying. We won’t blame you if you don’t want to share it.

Turkish Shadow Puppets

The city of Bursa is famous for a shadow play about two funny characters. Karagoz puppet shows were very popular during the Ottoman times and the puppets, made from camel leather and then hand dyed are a gorgeous souvenir. You can find a Karagoz puppet theatre in Bursa – after the show see if you can find your favorite characters.

Turkish Evil Eye Protection

No Souvenir is Turkey is more famous than the famous blue and white glass eyes. You can find them in a multitude of shapes and sizes but if you look really deep in the bowels of the Grand Bazaar you can find particularly fine examples from Ottoman times. The talismans are meant to protect you from envy of others, but if you find one beautiful enough, it might do just the oppossite, so you might want to buy two of them!

 

Five Offbeat Destinations in Morocco

Azrou, MoroccoMorocco is one of the most photogenic countries on the planet. From the markets to the sahara there is never a lack of wonders worthy of a photograph. Here are five off-beat destinations that you may not have heard about but are worth your time. Don’t forget your camera.

Azrou. In the Middle Atlas mountains there are vast cedar forests that the Phoenicians used to build ships. The mountain town of Azrou is a picturesque village with a lively market on Tuesdays where the Berber tribes from the surrounding regions converge to sell blankets, rugs, and handicrafts. If you trek into the mountains, you will find Barbary Apes swinging in the cedars.

SefrouSefrou. Sefrou has been eclipsed by it’s neighbour Fez, but the old medina (walled town) of Sefrou is actually older and more manageable than that of Fez. Just 28 kilometres south. Sefrou is great for a day trip. The waterfall just outside of Sefrou is a cool destination on hot summer days.

Sale. The ancient pirates of Morocco were based in Sale and caused problems for Europeans for hundreds of years. This was the center for white-slavery and nefarious deeds. Today it is a relaxed seaside city where you can find delicious seafood and uncrowded beaches.

OuarzazateOuarzazate. Morocco is famous for the Sahara and most people miss out on visiting Ouarzazate, also called the Hollywood of Morocco. It was here that films like The Mummy, Lawrence of Arabia, Prince of Persia, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Gladiator were made. Most recently it has been a location for the very popular HBO series Game of Thrones. There are studio museums and ancient desert fortresses that have been well preserved by the dry desert air.

MarrakechMarrakech. Everyone has heard of Marrakech, but most people go there for the old medina, Jmma el Fna, or the ruins. It’s the new parts of Marrakech you don’t want to miss with red hot world fusion cuisine, great chefs, fabulous nightclubs, and an annual red carpet Film Festival that brings some of the biggest stars from around the world.

Monkeys, waterfalls, pirates, mummies, and movie stars – I’ll bet you had no idea Morocco could offer so much!

The Silicon Boom in Unabomb Valley – A Novel by Christopher Damitio

The Silicon Boom in Unabomb Valley

or 

Riding Unicorns to Civilizations End

 

A novel of tech, startups, unabombers, dog-shit, and romance.

by 

Christopher Damitio

5/20/2019: This is my favorite of the novels I’ve written (so far). I feel like it incorporates so much that the world needs to know. This novel was written late in 2019 before I wrote A Very Good Novel (Coronavirus) or rewrote The Keys to the Riad. I wrote this novel in a pre-COVID-19 world.  This is the first time it has been published anywhere. I recognize that I’m giving away the cows and no one will want to buy the milk by putting my novels online, but as a writer I have two motivations that drive me. First, to create new worlds and second to share them. Money is a priority that appears far down the list – and when I look at the world we live in – making serious money from writing I enjoy seems about as likely as – well, it seems less likely than the events of this novel. Enjoy.

Chapter 1

 Name Recognition

The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “advanced” countries.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

One of the first lessons anyone in the Silicon Valley learns is that it doesn’t so much matter what you know or what you can do – it’s all about who you know and what they can do. Theo had everything going for him – he knew people, he’d gone to school at UC Berkley, he could do stuff, he understood programming, computers, protocols and algorithms – the problem was that everyone knew his name.

Name recognition, it’s one of those things they put a lot of emphasis on in start-ups and MBA programs. Generally it’s considered a good thing to have strong recognition but there are some exceptions. You can have a negative associated with your name or brand that will outweigh all the positive that comes from people recognizing it. You probably wouldn’t get very far if your new clothing company was called Enron or if you were starting a church called ISIS.

Chances are you wouldn’t have the easiest time in the game of life if your name were Hitler, Saddam, or Jeffrey Dahmer either. And if your name was the same as the Unabomber’s – well then you would know what life was like for Theodore Kazinsky. Theo’s life sucked.

April 3, 1996

It was just a few months from graduation and Theo was working on a project with his team in the UC Berkley Student Union. They had been working on a way to let game players take part in a shared online world via Gopher – the plaintext alternative protocol to the World Wide Web that everyone seemed to forget about as soon as Google came along. No one had done that yet. Google still wouldn’t launch for another two years – these were the glory days of dial up modem connections and people thinking that the internet was going to level the playing field and give everyone a chance to live to their fullest potential.

The future was bright and as a particularly gifted student with an interest in population studies, computers, and mathematics – Theo’s future was brighter than most. His team was going to demonstrate that http was a dead end. They were going to show that graphical interfaces could be harnessed to the Gopher network. They were going to demonstrate how seemingly random events could be used to solve impossibly large problems. They were as bright eyed and bushy tailed as well…gophers.

As usual, the television in the background was showing daytime television.

That’s when everything changed. ABC’s breaking news came on – there was no such thing as a smart phone in those days and most people still caught their news from the networks or newspapers. Breaking news was a big deal. These were the shared cultural moments that bound generations together. The OJ Simpson chase, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the start of the Gulf War, and now this:

“Breaking news. Authorities have arrested a man they believe to be the Unabomber in the small town of Lincoln Montana.”

Most of the students dropped what they were doing and gathered around the TV as the newscast unfolded. The Unabomber had been blowing people up for nearly a decade. A few months earlier, the Unabomber had vaulted into the spotlight again by forcing the Washington Post to publish his manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future. Like everyone else, Theo had read it – unlike most other people he had read the entire manifesto – he found it to be both disturbing and compelling – the ramblings of a madman – but not a complete madman. There was enough context in the manifesto that it gave him a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. Certainly killing wasn’t the answer – but Theo had the disturbing feeling that the Unabomber might be right about a lot of what he wrote about.

“After 17 years of looking, the FBI thinks they may have finally captured the Unabomber. Late this afternoon, Ted Kaczynski was taken from his backwoods cabin…”

Theo’s heart dropped. One of his team mates laughed and called across the room – “Hey Theo, you’re famous…” No one called him Ted except his grandfather, he was always Theo or Theodore – but it wouldn’t be long before they would be calling the Unabomber by his given name – everyone knew that Ted was short for Theodore. This was going to be much worse than when he’d been teased for sharing a name with one of The Chipmunks in the 6th grade. Alvin, Simon, Theodore Kaczynski – the fucking Unabomber.

“When he came to town, always alone, Kaczynski who did not own a car, rode a bicycle and one of his favorite stops – the library.”

Hey Theo – is that guy related to you?” The question wasn’t a joke. He wasn’t sure who said it, but he was sure that it wasn’t the last time he would hear it. Someone else piped up “I think he used to teach here – I’ve seen his name before…” The answer came from the television.

“He was a ghost for eighteen years, targeting universities and airlines – thus the name UN-A- Bomber. Authorities say that Kaczynski lived in the Salt Lake City area in the 1980s when bombs were sent from there and that in the 1960s he was a professor of mathematics at UC Berkeley in San Francisco, California….”

Another student asked if he was related. Theo knew he should say something – he just didn’t know what to say. “No, no relation. His name is spelled totally different.” That was the best he could get out. He would say it again and again – but it was like trying to stop a flood with a paper towel. He turned down every interview that came – hundreds of them. He began getting phone calls, letters, and email from people who thought he was the Unabomber – not just threats and hatred – but also praise and fan mail. It continued like this through graduation and on for the next two years as the trial progressed. He didn’t have a single job interview where the question wasn’t asked and no one called him back with an offer. His roommate joked that they only gave him the interviews to see if he was the Unabomber. Sometimes he wondered if he should have lied and said he actually was related to the Unabomber. It couldn’t have made things worse. His life was destroyed.

In the year after he graduated, Theo applied to every major tech company in the San Francisco

Bay Area. None of them hired him. He moved into a rent control apartment near Dolores Park – it was all he could afford. He broadened his search to surrounding areas with the same results. Finally, he started wholesale applying to whatever jobs he saw available. He landed jobs as a waiter, a bartender, a dry waller, and a landscaper. The truth was, the only people that would hire him were the people who were non-native English speakers that mispronounced his name or who were so uninformed they didn’t know anything about the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, or that Theodore was shortened to Ted.

He got used to being addressed as Theo Kazinsky (pronounced with sky instead of ski).

Finally, during the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s , people forgot about the Unabomber for a while as they saw the internet and software creating more millionaires than had existed for most of America’s history. Geeks were suddenly in such demand that he was able to land a promising job with an amazing startup based on his ability to work with TCP/IP and networking protocols – but the company – TechPlanet – was one of the first victims of the dot-com bust. His next gig seemed like it could change the world – Flooz was going to change fiat money for digital money, but when crime syndicates began using it to launder money, it failed quickly. The terrorist attacks of 2001 and the wars that followed brought the name problem back to him. No one wanted to hire a guy with a terrorist’s name. He landed one more tech job with another promising company called Friendster – but was laid off when the company turned down an acquisition offer from Google and then had to start tightening budgets.

Through it all, he continued his academic work on GOPHER holes and networking even as the world moved on and forgot the GOPHER protocol existed. His fascination with digital money survived the collapse of Flooz and the idea of building a better social network stayed with him – that was what had brought him to Friendster in the first place. Friendster was fucked from the beginning though – just like all the other companies that were focused on using the world wide web and http protocols. The future was going to be about something else. Theo knew it. He was a genius.

One of the shitty things about being a genius and working for promising startups that fail is that your shares in the company end up being worth nothing – so you always need to find another job.

Theo Kazinsky was a genius. He was a flat fucking broke genius living in a rent controlled apartment who would be 48 in 2020 and had fuck all to show for it. He was an innovative inventor that had been dished a series of particularly shitty breaks in life. He was tired of being a bystander and victim in the game of life.

Chapter 2

Gopher Broke

The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Sometimes it seems like the internet just popped out of DARPA’s vagina and was already a fully grown and mature method for sharing digital information on networks, but that’s not how the internet was born at all. First of all, DARPA probably doesn’t have a vagina and secondly, the internet was created by a huge group of dedicated and enthusiastic nerds who worked tirelessly for decades to be able to swap jokes with their colleagues in different parts of the world without having to pay for a stamp or a long distance call.

People don’t think of scientists using the internet in the 1960s and 1970s (or even the 1980s for that matter) but they were. The scientists from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) created ARPANET and then they gave it to the world. The first packet message transmission took place in the 1960s between UCLA and Stanford. The systems were refined over the next couple of decades but largely remained academic. In the late 1980s, Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues at CERN in Switzerland came up with the hypertext transfer protocols (http) that resulted in the birth of the World Wide Web (www) and what we think of as the modern internet. From 1993 to 2007, 95% of the telecommunications industry migrated to ‘the web’. During that period everything we think of as the internet today (instant messaging, voice over internet protocols, social networking, email) came to life using the ‘http://www’ protocols, but that is only one of many protocols. Sure, it’s the biggest and it’s the one that gets used the most by a long shot – but there are others. JANET, ABILENE, TERENA, INTERNET2 – these were and are – other protocols that run alongside the world wide web. Another one – that is rarely heard about except in the geekiest of circles is GOPHER.

Believe it or not, at one point GOPHER (which I will call Gopher from here on out) was once as well known by the public as www. Magazines and television spoke of it as the future that had come to life. In a way, Gopher was the first organizational tool on the internet. Gopher was simple but revolutionary. It worked by menus – so essentially, what we think of today as a list of links were the menu and every link led to either a different menu, a document, or a file. It was simple and it avoided the needless spam world we have with Google and links. The huge advantage and the huge disadvantage of Gopher over the World Wide Web was that Gopher was a simple text based interface – to put it bluntly – Gopher was stupid. You could link to a picture or video but you couldn’t actually incorporate it into your gopherpage (not a web-page). If you wanted pictures on a gopherpage you had to draw them with text. No HTML, no Flash, no Markup languages. Gopherpages were simple text pages with menus (links). Actually, I should say that Gopherpages ARE because they still exist. So, no photos on the page, no embedded animations, no doo-hickies, no animation based games. Just information. Gopher is lightning fast, won’t crash, and doesn’t require bandwidth beyond a dial-up connection.

The project that Theo and his classmates had been working on allowed multiple users to take part in a connected Gopher world, to interact with one another, and to engage in Dungeons and Dragons type adventures together even when at a distance. It may not sound like much today, but actually, it was revolutionary. What they were working on was among the first MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) that used sociology and population dynamics to help player groups to achieve a common goal. The type of game they created was called a MUD or Multi-User Dungeon – a strange fusion of fan fiction, D&D, online chat, and slash games – but one that worked.

MUDS have been around since the mid 1970s but the innovation that Theo and his team were bringing to the table was to integrate the four character types from the Bartle Matrix into a cohesive type of game where users could engage in their desired type of play while still advancing the narrative and assisting their group towards success – and more.

The Bartle Matrix might need a bit more explanation – the designer of one of the first and most successful MUDs was an Englishman named Richard Bartle. Bartle studied the type of gameplay that attracted certain types of players and then divided players using a cross grid with player/world as the X-Axis and acting/interacting as the Y-Axis. This left four types of game players – Killers and Socializers on the player side and Achievers and Explorers on the world side. One of the big problems in organized game play has always been getting these four types to work together towards a common quest. For example, an Achiever can be working towards a big goal and a Killer might start a big fight or feud that halts the progress. Socializers tend to get in the way of both Explorers and Achievers – but since socialization and a killer instinct are both necessary to advance in most group games – the challenge has always been finding a way to get these disparate groups to work together harmoniously towards a common goal.

You will be forgiven if the Bartle Matrix makes you think of real world people – it turns out that the four types of game players can also be translated into the four types of living people.

Achievers tend to be those people who like status and rewards regardless of whether such status and rewards bring them any real benefit. A gamer example would be a person who goes after a boss monster just to get a beautiful helmet that confers no real advantage in the game. Real world versions might have a fancy car they don’t drive or a lake house they never visit. Entrepreneurs and opportunists.

Explorers are those people who like leaving no stone unturned. In games, they like discovering glitches or hidden easter eggs – they might tap every wall of a dungeon to find a hidden door. In real life, explorers tend to be those who like digging into a field of study to a depth that most people simply will never desire to know. In a word – they are the experts. Hackers and scientists.

Socializers are those people who are only in it to form relationships. In the games, they spend more time talking to other players and non-player characters than actually playing the game. In real life, they like to chat, they like to sit around the water cooler, they want to spend time building relationship. In both real life and in games, they are drawn to achievers because achievers love to be praised and noticed and the socializers love to be able to socialize – even if it’s just praising an achiever. Networkers and social workers.

Killers are those people who take competition to a level where the only thing that matters is winning. In game play they are fighters, builders, and destroyers. In the real world, they are narcissists, empire builders, criminals, and bullies. Of course, there are degrees in all of these so a killer might be a successful business person who always looks for the right advantages, but the bottom line is that killers are in it to win it – no matter the cost. Politicians and criminals.

While it can be argued that all four types are necessary to build human civilization or to achieve game play goals, the big problem is that there is rarely balance in groups – they would be heavily weighted towards one extreme or another.

So, what Theo and his team were working on was a MUD that sorted players by their type and then diverted them to tasks that helped the entire team to achieve their goal – but they’d actually started to go further than that, they were looking at the meta of the entire game and had engineered a way to do something much more complex – they were using players who thought they were working towards selfish goals to bring the team closer to a selfless goal – and at the same time they were using teams and groups who thought they were working towards a selfish group goal and setting them towards a selfless meta goal – so multiple teams who assumed they were working towards disparate goals were actually working towards a unified goal, but the true brilliance of the system was that the meta goal could be programmed into the game itself, which would then create individual team quests to solve a common goal that the players were never even aware of.

If that doesn’t make perfect sense, here’s an example – Raven and his party are given a quest to go fight a troll who is snatching children from a village and recover a treasure item that will provide some benefit to their group. At the same time Lightbearer and her group are tasked with exploring a mountain cave complex which requires some theft/dexterity and a bit of fighting as well as some simple spell casting. A half dozen other groups are given similar tasks based on the matrix position of the group members. As each task is unfolding, the movements, decisions, and actions of all the groups are analyzed and recorded by a mainframe that is using these seemingly random actions to crunch huge mathematical problems. The bizarre part was that there was no logical reason anyone on Theo’s team could come up with for why this should work. So regardless of the outcome of Raven and Lightbearer’s quests – at the end of the session – the MUD would spit out the most likely scenario for a pandemic emergent in a small Bangladeshi mountain region to be controlled with the most expedient methods and the smallest team – for example.

As the most talented math genius on his team, it fell on Theo to develop a theory for why it was happening, how it was happening, and show how this power could be harnessed. The problem was that the whole Unabomber scenario unhinged him, disconnected him from everyone, and created a subtle distance between Theo and the other MUD Gophers. Nobody wanted to be published on the same paper with Ted Kazinski. Especially not in the late 1990s.

By the time that his name had become less of a bomb, the dot com bubble was exploding and no one was interested in MUDs, Gopher, or anything other than the World Wide Web. And now you know what set Theo on the path towards being that rare breed of Silicon Valley tech genius approaching fifty without enough money to buy a decent car.

Chapter 3

Breaking the Bonds

The breakdown of traditional values to some extent implies the breakdown of the bonds that hold together traditional small-scale social groups. The disintegration of small-scale social groups is also promoted by the fact that modern conditions often require or tempt individuals to move to new locations, separating themselves from their communities. Beyond that, a technological society HAS TO weaken family ties and local communities if it is to function efficiently. In modern society an individual’s loyalty must be first to the system and only secondarily to a small-scale community, because if the internal loyalties of small-scale communities were stronger than loyalty to the system, such communities would pursue their own advantage at the expense of the system.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Theo hadn’t talked to his family in years. They had no interest in him – and as a result, he had decided to have no interest in them. For years he had sent birthday cards, Christmas cards, sent small ‘thinking of you’ gifts, and tried to be conscientious about calling just to say hi once in a while. Then, one day, he realized he was the only one doing these things. His siblings never called, his nieces and nephews never sent cards, his parents were busy with social clubs, volunteer work, and figuring out how to structure their retirement.

At first, he thought he must be mistaken. So, being an analytical sort of person, he decided to run an experiment. He would let them make the next move. He would play a game of tit-for-tat relationship building. If they called him, he would owe them a call. If they sent a letter, he would send a letter. He would start out with being the bigger man though, just in case his own clouds of vision were causing him to attribute a better starting score than he deserved.

So, one day in 2015, Theo called every one of his relatives. He already knew that he had been the only one sending any sort of mail since the turn of the century – but he thought he must be mistaken about the phone calls. Surely someone had called. The only fair way to run the experiment was to start with a clean slate and him making the first move.

Most of his extended family let it run to voicemail. He left a nice message with his name and number, told them that he was thinking of them and he would love to have a chat to catch up. His mom answered the phone and said that she and his father were about to sit down and watch Star Trek – so it wasn’t a good time. His brother answered and then proceeded to list his life’s woes without bothering to ask “How are you?” and his sister told him that she needed to take her kids to a soccer game and would call him back. That was it. It wasn’t a huge investment of his time. All told it took him about forty minutes.

He created a spreadsheet and put each family member with the date he had called and a space for when they called him back. Four years later there were no new entries. No one had called him back, not even his parents.

Whether through a sick sense of perversion or a genuine curiosity, after a year of not hearing back from his family – he decided to run the same experiment on his old school friends, the people who were no longer in his day to day life – and sadly it was with the same result. It wouldn’t quite be accurate to say that Theo had expected the result – in fact, he had hoped that he was wrong when he realized that all of his relationships were one way – but the data spoke for itself. No one gave a shit about him.

There was one moment in 2017 when he thought that his entire experiment might have been flawed. Theo had a Facebook account but generally he didn’t use it – he didn’t like the idea of his mental energy being directed by an algorithm. He had created it at the dawn of Facebook, a former Berkley classmate had invited him to the platform back when the platform was invite only. He’d used it for a few months but then gone back to his gopherlog and generally forgotten about it.

In 2017, he logged in and saw that he had scores of old birthday greetings and messages from family and friends. He was genuinely touched until he remembered that he had put a fake birthday in when he signed up – and he recognized that the majority of birthday wishes were automated messages coming from bots his ‘friends’ had set up to not miss a birthday. His phone number was available on his profile but no one had called. His results stood. No one gave a shit about Theo.

Don’t misunderstand though, Theo wasn’t some kind of misanthrope – he wanted warm relationships but he couldn’t understand why other people didn’t seem to understand that there has to be a back and forth – not so much a quid-pro-quo, not a give and take – but more of a both sides giving situation. The taking didn’t really matter – the most important thing was that both sides gave and continued to give. The giving of time, energy, interest, and action. If it didn’t happen, then the relationship was a sham based on a sense of responsibility instead of a sense of desire.

Theo wanted to care about people – but there was something in him that would stop caring as soon as he realized the other person wasn’t willing to give for no reason other than giving. So, in that sense, he was as guilty as everyone else – but to his credit – he was at least the last one to give in his relationships. He had working relationships, casual friendships, and a whole string of romantic relationships – but they all sort of ended the same way. He would call, they wouldn’t call back, and then he wouldn’t call back and they just sort of disappeared. In some cases, the women he was involved with would call back after some sort of invisible deadline he had set and then the relationship would just sort of fade away. Without him willing to give, the women would invariably look for someone else to give them that energy. Theo wasn’t interested in being a unidirectional beacon of love.

Women found him attractive. They were drawn to him. He was average height at about 5’11” , a bit of a thick build – muscular without being fat or jocky, a full head of black hair that was starting to get a touch of grey, and had a quick smile and flirty wit. He didn’t attract the sugar babies because they could smell that he was nearly destitute, but he attracted the smart, serious girls – the ones that were on flag team or in the band instead of being cheerleaders. Good looking geek girls loved Theo.

He was the opposite of an incel (involuntarily celibate). Theo was inlaid (involuntarily getting laid). The involuntary-celibacy movement was something that never made any sense to him. He figured that what they really should have called themselves was selfish-pretending-in-giving movement (SPIGS). Spigs acted like they wanted to give everything to their mates, but from what Theo had seen, most of them only wanted to take away freedom, initiative, desire, movement, and money from the mates they claimed spurned them. Spigs came in both sexes and all genders.

No, the reason Theo wasn’t in a relationship was because he needed someone who played the game of “I can love you more than you can love me” and played it to win – because that was how he played. Also – and this had been a problem in several of his past relationships – he didn’t feel like it was fair to bring any child into the world unless the world was fixed – and that didn’t look like it would be happening any time soon. Any potential parenting partner had to be a world change warrior – like him.

He’d tried dating a couple of single moms (and even a married one) but while they were far better at the love more than you can game – the problem with them was that when it came time for Theo to spend time with their kids, he would ask disturbing questions that led the children (potentially but not every time – just that one time) to dark contemplations that most mom’s didn’t want their children subjected to.

The time in question, he had posed a version of the railroad worker problem to a bright eight-year-old. It goes like this:

You are standing at the switch for a train track. If you don’t switch the track – the train is going to kill a pregnant woman. If you switch the track, it’s going to kill three men working on the other track.

The kid had been incredibly interested in the problem and they worked through all the scenarios with some changes – what if you knew one of the men? What if you knew the baby would grow up to be a murderer? What if you did nothing? If you did nothing, would that make you guilty?

What Theo hadn’t expected was that the eight year old would get on the internet and as a result become the youngest nihlist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’d apparently told his third grade teacher something like “We’re all murderers and it doesn’t matter. Killing should be legal.” None of that had been Theo’s intention, but it was after that incident that his rather promising relationship with the kid’s mother had faded away.

The kid obviously had much more thinking to do because he’d already missed the point – killing is already legal, but it’s all how you justify it. Are you looking at long term effects or only short term violent murder? Are you looking at the death penalty or warfare? The point of the question was to get him to think about the fact that there are no really good choices and if you dig deep enough there is always a reason why every decision can’t be made. Theo realized he’d gone too far with the boy though. He should have let the kid be happy when he saved the young mother. That may well have led to a happy relationship with the boy’s young mother – but probably not, something else would surely have come up. There are no good choices. Consequences no matter what path you take.

Chapter 4

Change Comes From Within

If a change is made that is large enough to alter permanently a long-term trend,

then the consequences for the society as a whole cannot be predicted in advance.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Everything about the year coming, the year 2020 made Theo want to change. There was something magical about the number, the repeat, the double meaning of perfect vision, and that fact that generally his life just wasn’t very good. He wasn’t sure how to change but he figured a good start would be to quit doing drudge work. He’d been doing coding for the highest bidder, working as a handyman, and even driving Uber and Lyft to make ends meet. The only thing worse than driving a crappy car is driving other, better off, younger people around in your crappy car.

He wasn’t envious or jealous – or not really – but maybe a little bit. Mostly he was just curious how the world had changed so much around him while his life had seemingly not changed very much at all. San Francisco had become an insane place to live with the divide between the haves and have nots reaching some middle-ages level bullshit. There were people who slept on the street, shit on the street, ate garbage, and died on the street – and walking among them day in and day out were super ultra-rich. Billionaires and beggars.

Theo had been pushing people away for so long that it had become his long term trend. Every year, more isolation, and less friendship. It was one of the things he decided to change as 2020 drew near. He began reaching out to people and accepting invitations.

While doing handyman work for a young hipster couple with an ungodly amount of money, Theo had struck up a friendship – not the kind of friendship where you hang out every day, but the kind where you sometimes get together, have lunch, and look out for each other. Mark and Priscilla were pretty normal – except for the security and the billions of dollars. Theo had a theory that the only reason they had taken an interest in him was because he wasn’t interested in Facebook. They didn’t give him the security code or anything – besides, it didn’t work like that – a series of gates and guards and door keepers kept everyone but who they wanted in – out. And yes, I’m saying that Mark Zuckerburg and his wife Priscilla Chan were friends with a guy who shared his name with the Unabomber.

Mark went out of his way not to offer Theo opportunities – he didn’t want to spoil what was one of the only high level acquaintance friendships the universe allowed him to have. He’d simply call Theo up and say “Priscilla is cooking up some lunch and we’ve got a couple of things we need fixed around the house…are you interested in making a little money and having lunch with us?” Theo always said yes. First of all because he needed the money, second because Priscilla was a fucking amazing cook, and finally because he didn’t have that many high level acquaintance/friends himself.

Theo, for his part, went out of his way not to talk to Zuck about social networks or coding or anything technical. He figured they already knew his story, they had teams of people who ran background on everyone they came in contact with – but he didn’t want to change the dynamic. It was casual and friendly and somewhat lucrative as they usually paid around $125/hour for his handywork. About double what others were willing to pay him.

Generally, he’d come in and Mark would walk him around, show him the work he wanted done. They might talk about some movie or TV show, maybe a popular song or something not about Facebook that was in the news – and then Priscilla would call them to lunch like some perfect 1950s TV housewife. It was a bizarre form of play-acting, but on some level, they were all into it.

It was at one of these casual lunches, sitting on the floor in one the Zuckerbergs ‘guest cabanas’ (which were about six times the size of Theo’s apartment) that Priscilla, still wearing the pink apron she’d been cooking in, dropped a bomb and changed the dynamics of everything.

Hey Theo. I want you to meet a friend of mine. Can I set you up on a blind date?”

Theo wasn’t really sure what to say, so he said nothing. Zuck wasn’t so shy.

Priscilla, that’s highly inappropriate. If he wanted help meeting someone he’d probably say something or look elsewhere, as friends, I don’t think we should overstep our bounds…”

Priscilla just looked at him with scorn. “Oh shut up Mark. You don’t know anything about relationships, men, women, or people.” Theo thought it was a strange thing to say to a guy who was successfully manipulating about 1/3 of the human species. “What do you say Theo? Her name’s Adell..”

He liked the name. He didn’t think he’d ever met someone named Adell. He wasn’t sure why.

I’m a really simple guy Priscilla, I live in a rent control apartment and drive a 96 Jetta…” It was a lie, not about the car or the apartment but about the being simple. There was nothing simple about Theo.

Oh, that’s okay, Adell isn’t rich or anything – I mean, not that there is anything wrong with being rich, I mean we like it – oh shit, that all came out wrong. I mean, she’s mostly a normal person – but interesting and when I told her about you, it was actually her idea to meet you…”

Wait a minute? Why in the world were you telling her about me?” Theo had a feeling he knew where this was going. A bad feeling. He’d met serial killer stalkers before – they just wanted to say they had met so and so – no matter if it was a lie. He didn’t want to get too offended about it but he felt like he needed to say something before it got out of hand “If this is about my name…”

Mark wanted to nip this in the bud “Priscilla, I told you this was…” but she just interrupted him.

No, it isn’t about you at all. It’s not about your name, it’s about hers. You guys just have to meet. I don’t want to tell you more, but you have to meet her. She’s super cute, smart, and funny…seriously.”

Theo looked at her, then looked at Mark and then shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of ‘Why not?” Priscilla jumped up and grabbed him in a hug. I knew you’d say yes. I didn’t want to push, but I knew you would. I’ll set everything up now. This is going to be so great. I just know you two are made for each other. It’s perfect. Trust me you are never going to regret this.”

The change in dynamic sort of made it okay for Theo to later drop a bomb of his own – it was a bit of a violation of the rules they had all been playing by. He would wait until after the date – assuming they invited him again afterwards – and then he was going to dig into Zuck’s brain. He had an idea that could change the world.

You’re never going to regret this” – it’s not usually a phrase that bodes well for the future. It usually means you’ve just invested in a dying company, bought a dying car, made a loan that will never be paid back, or made some other huge mistake in life. What would it mean with Adell?

Chapter 5

The Fuhrer and the Unabomber Walk Into a Taqueria

Once a technical innovation has been introduced, people usually become dependent on it,

so that they can never again do without it, unless it is replaced by some still more advanced innovation.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Priscilla set everything up. They met at a low-key taqueria in San Mateo. The kind with plastic school chairs and no windows – just concrete walls that had obviously once been someone’s garage. It was Theo’s kind of place and he wondered if Adell had picked it. He wasn’t naturally negative but had developed a pessimistic defense mechanism that kept him from putting his hopes too high. As he wandered in and sat down, he wondered what was wrong with her. Was she a midget? That wouldn’t really bother him. Disfigured – not ideal, but personality and temperament were more of his thing. Above all he hoped she wasn’t one of those vacuous non-stop talkers who the valley was filled with.

Most likely, she had a couple of kids and a decent job but had found that despite the equality rhetoric that Silicon Valley loved to spew on the media, that the big earners didn’t want their wives working and didn’t want to spend their time or money on someone else’s children. Theo actually was the opposite of that – he was a low earner and favored the idea of rearing someone else’s children. He didn’t like the idea of bringing his own children into a world that functioned like ours.

He looked around the taqueria and at the grade school next door where parents were waiting to pick up their kids. Even when they were sitting with other people, every customer either had their phone in their hand or sitting next to them. They would glance down at the phones on the tables as they had conversations or more blatantly hold the phones up blocking their companions from their vision. These weren’t wealthy valley types either – these were working people – black, white, latino, but in general people who looked like they were either on a break from a blue collar job or had a day off from working at a grocery store. It was worse with the wealthy.

The parents waiting for their kids all stood at the fence looking at their phones. No one talked to anyone else over there. He saw two women greet each other, chat for about a minute and then both of them went back to their devices, leaning on the fences.

He was ten minutes early. He was always ten minutes early. He’d considered this problem in the past – his being early problem. As far as he could tell, there was no solution. Theo didn’t like waiting for people and yet, because of his early problem, he was always waiting for people. Usually, with most people – despite having supercomputers that could accurately forecast traffic and remind them of appointments 24 hours a day – they arrived late and as a result, Theo waited longer than just the 10-minutes. He’d tried arriving just on time before so that he was only waiting for however much they were late by, but it caused him stress because he couldn’t stop thinking that maybe they had arrived early and were annoyed (as he became) waiting for him. His ‘arrive just on time’ experiment had been a bit of a sham because it usually meant he arrived ten minutes early, waited in his car or around the corner, and then strolled in just on time. So he was still waiting. Theo considered a 10-minute wait a small sacrifice if it meant keeping another person (presumably one who he liked and respected or needed enough to be meeting with) from wasting their time. The problem was the same as in his relationships – the scenario only worked if all parties practiced it or if one party didn’t mind being the martyr. Theo hated martyrs and didn’t want to be one. He was an unwilling participant in the solo waiting game – but there was no way out of it.

Three minutes into his ten-minute-early-wait, he spotted an oddball milf leaning against the fence. Yes, mentally he described her as a milf – or ‘mom I’d like to fuck’ – he didn’t mean to objectify her but it was such a convenient term that he mentally used it all the time – even though he never said it out loud. She was the only one without a phone in her hand. Pink loose fitting t-shirt, mom jeans, pink Doc Martin boots, and a bag that looked like it was probably more expensive than the rest of her clothes – but had been around far longer. The oddball part of the milf in question was the way she was looking out at the school buildings, waiting for the kids to come marching out and be loaded into mini-vans that would take them to viola, soccer, jiu-jitsu, or coding lessons – she was actually watching and sort of smiling to herself. Not so odd, really, but what stood out was that she didn’t have a phone tucked in her back pocket or in her hand. She wasn’t half in the world and half in the phone – she was totally in the world. He noticed that she had a couple of tattoos on her forearms – from thirty feet away he could make out the dark blue ink but not the designs. Her hair was the kind of blonde that doesn’t come from a bottle, straight and cut off around neck length. Brushed back as if she had been doing something else and had to move it out of her face. She looked to be reasonably fit – like most moms in the valley. Probably zumba’d every morning before the kids got up and did yoga at mid-day during the lunch break she didn’t eat at. He couldn’t quite decide what kind of work she did – he played this game a lot and was usually pretty quick to come up with a profession. Accountant, coder, human-resources, teacher, fitness expert, lawyer, stay at home mom, – none of the usual labels fit her.

He looked down at his watch. Five minutes left to wait. His own phone was a clamshell Motorola Razr. Not the new ones, one of the old ones – the same one he’d had for a decade. It still worked. He didn’t get all the bells and whistles of a smart phone but it texted and it called and it told him what time and day it was. He could even use the internet if he really needed to – but not efficiently enough to make him a net-junkie. So when I say he looked at his watch to see the time, I mean he looked at a plain old Seiko Automatic watch and when he looked back up – there she was standing in front of him. The pink shirted hottie moved fast.

Her pink t-shirt and Doc Martin boots suddenly made more sense. He still couldn’t figure out what she did for work or what her story was. It crossed his mind that she might be Adell. Priscilla and Mark hadn’t shown him a picture or any details – nothing. Just a time and place for him to meet her. She smiled at him – blue eyes, Nordic features, probably in her mid to late-thirties. Theo felt guilty for having described her as a milf, especially when he realized that yeah, she was definitely a milf – but not having said it out load, he decided to keep his guilt to himself and not let out the apology that was jumping to his throat. He stood up as she held out her hand to him.

Are you Adell?” he really wanted her to be Adell.

No,” she told him “But I saw you checking me out when I was over there so I thought I would come introduce myself.” Theo immediately knew he was in a situation – he desperately wanted to get this woman’s number but he was here to meet Adell on a blind date – plus he’d totally been busted checking this woman out. If this was a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure” novel he would be given three choices:

If you blow off the date with Adell and go after the hottie – turn to page 3

If you politely brush the hottie off and wait for Adell – turn to page 5

If you decide to try to get her number and then meet Adell – turn to page 7

Theo decided to go to page 9 instead.

Are you waiting for your kids to get out of school?” he asked her.

No, I don’t have kids. I just came down to get some lunch.”

He’d already accepted her hand and was still holding it so it would probably be a good idea to introduce himself. He was going to have to figure out some way to escape from the situation he was in. He didn’t like the first three options that came to mind.

I’m Theo” he said “What’s your name?” Their hands were still together. She hadn’t let go and he wasn’t particularly inclined to either.

What are you doing here Theo? You don’t have food but you’re sitting by yourself at a table.” This was an awkward question but it gave him the escape plan he needed.

I’m here on a blind date. I’m waiting to meet someone – some friends set me up. Actually,” he did his best to look sheepish “She’s supposed to be here in about three minutes.” He forced himself to let go of her hand – but he really didn’t want to. She hadn’t told him her name – she was completely in charge of where this conversation was going.

Cool,” she said. “Can I join you guys?” He hadn’t expected this. This was a strange scenario where Adell showed up and he was already sitting with a new pink t-shirted hottie he had just met. “A blind date. That’s super exciting. So her name is Adell? Who set you up?” She hadn’t given him time to say that she couldn’t join them and now he felt like he had to answer the last question first but he really had to do something – this was quickly falling completely out of control.

It was a couple of mutual friends – I’m not sure exactly why – but hey, you seem really cool, but it might be a little bit awkward if you’re here with me when she arrives…you know? We’ve never met…”

Oh my god, totally – you are totally right. I’m so sorry.” She was really beautiful. Her skin was perfect. Now that she was closer he could see that the tattoos on her forearm were a kind of mathematical formula or code. He wanted to ask about them. He really didn’t want her to go away at all, but this was out of hand. She went on. “Hey, I’ll get out of here, but just one thing – can you watch my bag for a minute, I’ve got to go to the bathroom and I hate carrying it around the side of the building – I swear when I get back I’ll just say thanks for watching it and let you enjoy your date.”

Sure, no problem. I mean that shouldn’t be a problem.” She dropped her bag on the table and walked outside and around the side of the building to where the restrooms were. Two minutes until the appointed time for meeting Adell. It still had the potential to be awkward but not as much as if the hottie had just sat down at the table with him.

Two minutes went by and then the hottie came back. “She’s not here yet? Don’t worry Theo – these bitches in the valley, they’re always late. She’s probably sitting in her car around the corner waiting so she can be exactly five minutes late…I’ve got friends that do that. Hey, thanks for watching my bag.” She grabbed her bag and moved to the counter to place her order. There was a part of him that wanted to get up and follow her – to re-introduce himself, to find out her name, but it just wasn’t the right thing to do. It wasn’t a part of his code. He wasn’t coded that way. He stayed at the table, tried to ignore the woman in the Doc Martins as she ordered and waited for her food…and as he waited for Adell who he was starting to become annoyed with as five minutes past the meeting time slipped by, then seven minutes, then nine.

The cook put two foil rolled burritos in plastic fish and chip baskets down and then looked at the ticket for a minute before shaking his head and calling out the name on the bottom of the ticket.

Two burritos for Adell Fitler. Adell Fitler.”

Yeah, of course she was the woman in pink. Her eyes met his with a smile as she picked up the burritos and walked back towards the table.

Chapter 6

The Fucking Chans

Thus it is clear that the human race has at best a very limited capacity for solving even relatively straightforward social problems. How then is it going to solve the far more difficult and subtle problem of reconciling freedom with technology? Technology presents clear-cut material advantages, whereas freedom is an abstraction that means different things to different people, and its loss is easily obscured by propaganda and fancy talk.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

As she walked up to the table, Theo wasn’t amused. Actually, he was a bit pissed off. Obviously she knew his name and this was all some chance to make a big joke at his expense. She was smiling after her big reveal – yeah, she’d totally made a fool out of him. That whole thing with the name – and then the set up for the blind date. Priscilla and Mark were obviously some bored fucking dickheads. He didn’t know whether to get up and storm out or just play it cool and act like it was no big deal. He opted for the second.

Adolf Hitler, huh? That’s pretty funny. How long did it take you guys to come up with that?” He was trying really hard not to sound totally pissed off and scornful, but some of it was leaking through. He’d been dealing with the effects of having a fucked up name for too long to control himself completely. “So what’s your real name,” he made air quotes with his fingers “Adell?” He laughed in what he hoped was an ironic way.

For the first time since he’d seen her, the pink hottie seemed to lose her composure “Oh, no…wait a minute man…it’s not like that. I see what you’re thinking…hold on a second there buddy.” She set the burritos on the table and reached into her bag. Was she going to shoot him with pepper spray now? That would be funny, she could tell her friends she pepper sprayed the Unabomber.

But no, that wasn’t what she was doing at all. She was pulling out her wallet. Her hands were shaking and the other clients had all started to watch what looked like it might be some real life drama unfold. One fat lady in a floral print dress stared while she picked her teeth. A couple at the next table had actually scooted their chairs away as if they had expected the pepper spray or maybe a gun to come out of the bag.

Pinkie pulled her California Drivers License out and slapped it on the table in front of him. “Check it out man – look.” Theo looked down. Nobody should look that good in a drivers license picture. Damn, she was so fucking hot it almost made him forget he was trying to keep from becoming upset – then he saw the name on the license – Adell May Fitler. All the rage dissolved like sugar in a pot of boiling coffee and was replaced by a sticky sweet syrup that left him just feeling confused.

Adell saw it and pulled up her chair. The other patrons looked vaguely disappointed but went back to minding their own business. The toothpick lady kept staring (and picking) but maybe that was just her thing.

Theo was still a little bit annoyed by the whole theatrics of the thing, but he was more curious than anything else. “Is this really your name?”

She smiled, her confidence coming back. She reached her hand across the table “Yeah, that’s really me, it’s really my name. I’m Adell…nice to meet you Theo.” He took her hand again, part of him waiting for the next act in her carefully crafted play to unfold. That was it though – she hadn’t expected him to get angry or offended and when he had – all the pretense had melted away.

Nice to meet you too.” Once again he didn’t want to let go of her hand but he had to if they were going to have lunch. “Are you going to eat both of those?” He handed her license back to her.

She giggled and then followed it up with “Sorry for being such a dick. I ordered one al-pastor and the other one carne asada, take your pick.” He took the al-pastor and when she looked disappointed suggested they cut them both in half and split them. It was a winning suggestion and from that point forward they were friends.

Obviously you know my name,” he said to her.

Theo,” she said. “That’s all I know. Priscilla didn’t tell me anything else. I don’t even know your last name. Are you Jewish?”

Theo was a bit confused – “Jewish? No, I mean maybe, I don’t really know. Why in the world would you ask that? Theo isn’t exactly a common Jewish name.”

She blushed the tiniest bit, which was absolutely charming. “You know…because of my stupid burrito stunt, the whole stupid Hitler gag…”

He got it, he understood, and then it hit him. “Wait a minute…you don’t know my last name?”

No, Priscilla was really mysterious about the whole thing. Her and Mark, I call them the Chans – they wouldn’t tell me a word”

But how did you know I was the guy you were meeting?”

Well, she described you pretty well and you were sitting by yourself without food at the right place at the right time – early actually – and by the way, thanks for being early. I hate fucking late-tards.” He had never been around a woman who exuded such femininity and harshness at the same time.

Theo laughed. “Yeah, I guess you were early too. I appreciate that. I really do, although the whole thing with pretending not to be you…making me think you were someone else who was late..”

Yeah, sorry about that – I mean a girl can’t really be too careful and honestly, I wanted to see if you were the kind of douchebag who would ditch a date or hit on someone else when you were meeting someone – nice job by the way, you navigated the reef pretty well. I liked your honesty…but you were checking me out pretty hard when I was at the fence…”

Who, me?” Theo was discovering that he really liked this girl. He liked the way she did things. He liked her style. He even admired the way she’d sort of thrown her fucked up name at him in the most dramatic way possible. As he looked at her, he decided that he was going to do something he never did.

I should really introduce myself….” she looked at him in mild confusion and took a bite of burrito.

My name is Ted Kazinsky, sometimes people call me the Unabomber.”

An explosion of guacamole, pork, beans, and rice sprayed his face and probably would have hit the couple at the next table if they hadn’t of moved their chairs back a few minutes before. Adell coughed and laughed, wiped her mouth and took a sip of water.

Swallowing she laughed as she grabbed his hand and said “No fucking way, are you serious? You’re fucking serious? Your name is Theodore fucking Kazinski?”

He reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet and laid his drivers license in front of her. She picked it up while shaking her head…

The Chans are some seriously fucked up people…you think they do this shit for fun?” Her smile was like a sun going supernova.

There was one thing for sure, no matter why the Chans did it, Theo was very happy that they had.

Chapter 7

The Revolution Will Be on CCTV

A revolutionary movement offers to solve all problems at one stroke and create a whole new world;

it provides the kind of ideal for which people will take great risks and make great sacrifices.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Over the next several weeks, Adell and Theo got together for lunches, walks around Coyote Point, and they even caught a Joan Baez concert in Golden Gate Park during the Hardly Simply Bluegrass Festival. Much to both of their surprise – they were compatible and also to their surprise, their calls to the Chans were not returned. They found that they had much more in common than just their names.

There’s something weird going on with those two,” Adell told him as they sat in front of a Trader Joes. “They had me come in to do a mural on one of their bedroom walls and then became all buddy buddy with me. I was cool with it, because they’re interesting people, but it always struck me as a little odd.”

When they compared notes they found that that Chans had run the same playbook on each of them – and yet both agreed, the friendship had actually felt genuine and the end result (so far) was anything but onerous.

I like them both. I’m glad they introduced us, but it’s bizarre to think about how much power they have,” Adell said to him. “They can do anything they want. Who the fuck knows, they’re probably watching us on CCTV right now.” She pointed up at the cameras over the store doors, on the light posts in the parking lot, and presumably elsewhere.

Obviously, they put us together because of our fucked up names,” Theo said to which Adell straightened up in mock anger.

Speak for yourself, my name is awesome. The Fitler family has a long and proud tradition. My 2nd great grandfather on the Fitler side was the fucking mayor of Philadelphia – there’s a park named after us. And… I’m honored to carry my maternal grandmother’s name. It’s not my fault when you put them together I sound like the most evil person in history – but honestly, that’s kind of awesome too. Fuck em if they can’t take a joke.”

I just don’t get it – didn’t your parents ever say your name out loud? I mean I’m sure you were a beautiful baby…” that comment got him a hot smile, “Who looks at their beautiful baby girl and says ‘Let’s call her Adolf Hitler.’ ”

They never did. Growing up, I was always Adell May, never just Adell. My mom is southern so calling me by two names was never an issue. It wasn’t until I got into the glorious Philadelphia Public School System that some idiot teacher called out the name I would never be able to escape ‘Fitler. Adell Fitler.’ I’ll never forget the roar of laughter as I politely tried to correct her that I was Adell May, not Adell. She didn’t hear and neither did anyone else. There are some things you just can’t unsay.”

Theo thought about his own journey – it was totally different. Like a bomb dropped out of the blue on a grown man – but still, he was a little bit ashamed of how he had tried to hide from it – Adell had decided to own it right away. She’d only been a child but she had taken the harder path.

I recognized right away that there was no putting that can of worms back in the ground. That first day, I didn’t even know who Adolf Hitler was – I went home and asked my dad. He was much more upset than I was – we had always taken a lot of pride in being ‘The Fitlers, the Philadelphia Fitlers’ and now here was his baby girl getting called a Nazi, and the worst Nazi of them all. At first he wanted to go down and set the school straight but he was a pretty smart dude and realized that doing that would only make him look like the dumbass that accidentally named his daughter for a monster – or worse, like some kind of fetishist Nazi.”

So what did you do?” Theo was genuinely curious.

I just went with it. I made jokes about it. I made sure that I was the complete opposite of a Nazi in all of my actions, became super liberal, and always became the first one to poke jokes at myself. And, like you saw when we first met – I found ways to shock the fuck out of people right at the beginning instead of waiting with dread for them to discover it. I’m Adolf Hitler, bitch.”

That’s totally different from me,” Theo said “I did everything I could to hide from it – Theo, just plain ‘T’ and even changed the way I pronounced my last name ‘Kaz in Sky’.”

Nah, that shit never works man. They always sniff it out. The urge to bully is too strong in people. Even nice people love to sniff out a weakness and exploit it. They’ll do it in a different way, but they’ll do it. You’ve gotta own your shit. If I were you, I’d start telling people to call you Ted. In fact, I’ll be the first.”

Seriously? I’d prefer you didn’t. It’s not funny to me”

Yeah, fucking seriously Ted. I’m starting.” She put her finger over her lip in the universal Hitler mustache symbol and did a goosestep across the Trader Joe’s parking lot – “You vill be ze facking unibomber. You vill be Ted Kazinski or vee vill fuck your shit up.”

Theo cringed but he’d rather be called Ted than not spend time with Adell. He felt himself running through a huge range of emotions – not the least of which was anger but she just kept going.

I’m going to tell everyone I’m dating the fucking Unabomber.” It was the first time the word dating had come into their interactions since the first ‘blind date’ somehow hearing her say it made all the other emotions he had been feeling disappear – but still he had to get her to stop. There was only one way.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her close enough that he was able to kiss her. She didn’t try to stop him. It wasn’t some big sloppy kiss like in the movies, just a kiss on the mouth – their first. As he pulled away he looked into those big blue eyes and said what came naturally.

Heil Fitler.”

Chapter 8

Heil Fitler

Our society tends to regard as a “sickness” any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible because when an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a “cure” for a “sickness” and therefore as good.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The reason Theo (who despite his misgivings was suddenly being called Ted by at least one person) hadn’t figured out Adell’s job while she leaned against the fence was because she didn’t really have one. She had hundreds. She was a dog walker, an illustrator, an ear-ring model, a ghost-writer, a fill in waitress, a substitute pre-school assistant, and anything else that showed up on the temp or gigs section of craigslist.

She’d gone to school in Philadelphia and after graduating had moved to a dozen different cities where she took one semester of classes she found interesting at a dozen different community colleges. Her interests were all over the board – history, literature, art, math, crafts, business, karate, kung fu movies, skateboarding, bicycle repair, welding, jewelry design, and sacred geometry. She probably would have ended up some hippy dippy baby machine living in a bus if she hadn’t of had a name that no respectable hippie could ever say out loud. The fact that she refused to hide from her name had kept her from falling onto the hippie trail.

Fucking hippies,” she laughed as she told Theo (Ted) about guys trying to pick her up through the years “They’re the funniest. They’re like ‘What’s your name sister?’ and I’m like ‘I’m Adolf Hitler’ then they’d get this fucking look on their faces – part disapproving, part scared, and part disgusted – if they stuck around long enough to learn my actual name, they’d always try to convince me to change my name to some dipshit emotional state like ‘Serenity’ or ‘Tenderness’ and I’d be like ‘No, I’m pretty happy with Adolf Hitler.’ Sometimes I’d start giving them suggestions back like ‘Hey Momo, you should change your name to something strong like ‘Mussolini’ or ‘Polpot’. None of them would even consider it. Fucking weaklings.”

One thing Theo (Ted) learned quickly was that Adell had one of the foulest mouths he’d ever encountered. It wasn’t just f-bombs she threw. She made up brand new obscenities on a regular basis and used all the old standards as well. She could shut it off at a moment’s notice but when she was comfortable and being herself it flowed like toxic waste. She was at her most comfortable that day when she was telling him about the hippies, drinking a beer while sitting on a stoop in the Haight Ashbury – they didn’t know who the stoop belonged to, but it was the Haight. So they could sit there and drink a beer on a stranger’s stoop. And she could cuss as much as she wanted.

After a while he figured out that most of her new curse words came from a simple formula. Generally it would be something like [bodily discharge + deformity] but sometimes she would also use [sex-act + obscure profession noun] so he got used to hearing things that were jarringly discordant and disgustingly funny.

It was a nice day, the weather was perfect. A few clouds were chasing each other across the sky, but there was no chance of rain, no fog, and no hint of chill in the air. They’d known each other about two weeks and Theo (Ted) hadn’t quite gotten up the nerve to ask her about the formula on her arm. He’d looked at it, he’d touched it, but he hadn’t figured out a way to ask about it. Largely because he didn’t want to seem stupid for not knowing. Today was the day.

Hey, there’s something that’s been bothering me for a while…”

My foul mouth or my foul name…” he couldn’t tell if she was joking but figured she must be so he just kept going.

No, it’s this.” He gently reached out to her arm and used his other hand to trace the coded formula on the bottom of her right forearm. It must be a formula but he wasn’t sure what it was for.

dQ/dt=-h*(T(t)-Tenv)=-h*AΔT(t) (way cooler in tattoo script)

The binary underneath her other forearm would be easy enough to translate if he could remember it or take a picture.

01001100 01101001 01100010 01100101 01110010 01100001 01110100

01101001 01101111 01101110 00001101 00001010 00001101 00001010

Careful Ted, you’re going to get in over your head.” Adell laughed and pulled her arm back looking at it with what might almost be described as sadness. “But it’s cool.”

She was gazing at him with warmth and he had the impression that she was making fun of him at the same time she was flirting.

By this point he had stopped flinching when she called him Ted. They hadn’t yet committed to any sort of relationship through words or consummation, but there was something in the way that she was looking at him that told him that time was coming soon. This was what is so often described as ‘a moment.’

He didn’t want to spoil it. He wanted this moment. The only problem was that he also wanted to find out the meaning of her tattoo. “Are you going to tell me?”

Cool down big boy. Maybe it’s time to show me that rent control place of yours in Dolores Park. Come on.”

She got up and began walking – he had no choice but to follow her right back to his car.

Once they were in the car, she reached over, closed her fist around a handful of hair and yanked him to her. Theo (Ted) didn’t really like it but he kissing that followed was incredibly likable. She finally let go and shoved him away.

Did you know that you parked in one of the only spots where a camera can’t actually see what’s going on in the car?” He hadn’t known. He leaned down and started looking around the parking lot. They were right under a camera bubble, but all it could see was the top of the car. He couldn’t actually see any other cameras that would be able to see them.

Huh. Nope, I did not realize I did that.” He was surprised that she had seen it too.

It’s one of the things I like about you Ted. One of many things. You are a natural when it comes to security. I’m not sure what would cause that, but you seem to just be naturally inclined to move about the world in a secure way. Virtually no online footprint except for an almost never used Facebook account. You don’t have an Apple or Google device to spy on you. Your parking is totally instinctual but almost perfectly correct in a security sense. It’s fucking weird man, and I love it.”

They were still sitting in the Trader Joe’s Parking Lot. She still hadn’t told him the meaning of her tattoo. He was hot and bothered and bothered more by the bizarre security speech. There was some sort of a red flag that wanted to go off in his brain, but he wouldn’t let it.

Instead, he just followed his annoyances and desires which seemed to go right along with the right instincts.

Do you still want to see my place?”

Of course I do, you think I’m some fucking jizz-gimp?” She smiled as he said it. It was another one of those odd curse words that sounded like it should actually be something.

And hey, what is that formula?” he tried to throw it out casually but she knew it was under his skin. It had to be if he was still thinking about it after those kisses.

I always wanted to be cool and never wanted anyone to see me lose my shit,” she told him. “I’m not a physics geek or anything but I thought it was pretty dope that there was something called the ‘Law of Cooling’ – Isaac Newton came up with it. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with keeping your cool, but I’ve used it to remind myself to stay calm through the years.”

I knew I’d seen it before. I knew it.” Theo had seen it in physics and hydrodynamics classes at Berkley. It had never been anything he actually needed to use – but that was why it had seemed familiar.

She was looking at him funny “Yeah, so it basically means ‘you are cool in proportion to the difference between your cool and the cool of your surroundings’.”

Yeah, that’s right,” Theo said “A body will lose heat proportional to the difference between it’s temperature and the ambient temperature around it.”

Uh-huh, so I use it to remind me to chill in relation to the vibe around me. My own law of cooling. I like the Delta T in it though because it reminds me that time is a fucking illusion. Delta T is the difference between Earth’s rotational time and atomic time – and it’s getting bigger all the time.”

Whoa.” Theo (Ted) made the universal head exploding sign with clawed fingers pulled outward from the temples while he made an explosion sound.

Yeah,” Adell went on, warming up to her explanation “The rotation of the Earth isn’t a constant but we treat it like it is. It’s only a constant when you average it out over a fuck-long time – and that’s actually bullshit. The universe isn’t precise. That’s one of the big lies. We didn’t pretend it was until the late 1940s – the whole Atomic Age was built on lies. Are we going?”

Ted took her cue and started the car. He’d cleaned his apartment every day since he’d met her just in case she ever asked to see it.

Chapter 9

Play it Cool

Assuming that industrial society survives, it is likely that technology will eventually acquire something approaching complete control over human behavior. It has been established beyond any rational doubt that human thought and behavior have a largely biological basis. As experimenters have demonstrated, feelings such as hunger, pleasure, anger and fear can be turned on and off by electrical stimulation of appropriate parts of the brain. Memories can be destroyed by damaging parts of the brain or they can be brought to the surface by electrical stimulation. Hallucinations can be induced or moods changed by drugs. There may or may not be an immaterial human soul, but if there is one it clearly is less powerful that the biological mechanisms of human behavior. For if that were not the case then researchers would not be able so easily to manipulate human feelings and behavior with drugs and electrical currents.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

How the fuck do you afford this place, Ted?”

It was the next day and Adell was making coffee. It was a fair question. The truth was he shouldn’t have been able to afford it – and he wouldn’t have been able to afford it if it hadn’t of been for San Francisco’s Rent Control Ordinance.

Theo (Ted) had moved in while he was still in college. He’d had at least one and as many as three roommates at one time. Eventually, they all either moved away, got better jobs, or just disappeared and it was just Ted (Theo) left in the apartment. The certificate of occupancy had been issued initally during the 1970s and since it had been continuously occupied by renters since that time – there was only a limited amount that the landlords could raise the rent. The rent increases had to be based on the Bay Area Consumer Price Index and could only be a small percentage per year. Also, capital imporovements couldn’t be passed on to the tenants and eviction was a serious pain in the ass. In San Francisco, long term renters who had been there prior to 1996 had all the power on their side.

Essentially, it meant that Ted (Theo) was paying $950 a month for an apartment that should have been renting for around $4500 per month. Essentially, this meant the landlord was missing out on almost $42,000 per year in rent – and had been doing so for decades.

Rent control,” he told her. It was all anyone needed to say in the Bay Area. She nodded then he continued, “But I’m thinking about moving out…”

What? Why the fuck would you do that? Are you crazy?”

Maybe,” he told her, “But check this out…” He’d gotten a letter from his landlord a few weeks before. In the letter they explained how much money they had been missing out on, thanked him for being a great tenant, and then made a crazy offer at the bottom. It made sense – but it was still one of those things that might make sense but makes no sense at all.

Adell read it and then looked up at him. “What? I am totally baffled…is this real?”

Yeah,” he told her. It made sense. Here was the offer – the landlord was offering to pay him $90,000 to move out by the end of 2019. “The eviction procedures are all in my favor. Nobody wants to buy a rent controlled apartment with a long term tenant in it – because they just get the same fucked up deal my landlord has been getting. So, they can’t get full market value unless they are selling it unoccupied. The difference in occupied versus unoccupied when measured over ten years is about a half-million dollars and that’s without property values going up. So, giving me $90k has a serious value to them. But I’m not sure I want to move…”

Dude, you have to take it. If you don’t they are just going to pay some lawyer $90k to find a way to fuck you.”

Sure, but I don’t really want to move out of my neighborhood and everything is so fucking expensive in the city that essentially they are only giving me two years to either move or find a way to make a fortune so I can continue living here. I don’t have anywhere to go…and I’m not sure I really want to start a business.”

You can move in with me and we can create a startup,” the words seemed to rush out of Adell’s mouth before she had a chance to consider them and judging by the look on her face – if she had been able to – she would probably have taken them back – but it was already too late.

Shit,” she immediately followed her offer/idea with shit. “So much for me being cool. We hardly know each other, we’ve only just spent the night together for the first time, and here I am suggesting that we move in together and become business partners. You probably think I’m some sort of psycho oral pinsetter.”

Wha – what?” Ted (Theo) wasn’t so much shocked by the offer as by trying to figure out what in the world a psycho oral pinsetter was. “What the fuck is an oral pinsetter?”

You know, a guy who puts the bowling pins back up but has an oral fixation. An oral pinsetter.”

Ted (sort of Theo) started laughing. “Yeah, you’re a definite psycho oral pinsetter. Although, the picture I had when you said that was more of a drooling bird dog.” He was laughing but Adell was really bothered by her offer. He saw it.

Hey, it’s cool. Don’t worry about it. I’m not going to hold you to it. It was an idea – that’s all. Relax.”

I don’t want to relax you fucking piss-cleft. And I don’t want to take my offer back. I want you to move in with me so we can start a business. I really fucking want that – I can’t believe I’m saying it, but it’s true. So will you Ted? Will you give all this up and become my bitch?” That smile of hers – it was all he could see anymore. It was all he wanted to see.

Ted (not really Theo anymore) couldn’t believe this was happening. This was an impossible situation. He really liked her, hell, maybe he even loved her but she was asking him to give up everything, to change his life, to start all over and leave everything he had built over the past twenty years behind. He looked around at his apartment and suddenly realized he hated Theo’s life, he didn’t have shit to hold him here, and he didn’t even like Theo very much.

You’re going to have to buy me a ring, but okay, I’ll be your bitch.” They’d known each other for fifteen days but it felt more like forever. He didn’t mean she’d have to marry him, but it came down to the same thing. Adell jumped up and down in joy and then squeezed him in a huge hug while showering his face with kisses.

Hooray, I’ve always wanted a bitch. Especially one that led the FBI on one of the largest manhunts in the history of the United States.”

Chapter 10

We Are Evil

It presumably would be impractical for all people to have electrodes inserted in their heads so that they could be controlled by the authorities. But the fact that human thoughts and feelings are so open to biological intervention shows that the problem of controlling human behavior is mainly a technical problem; a problem of neurons, hormones and complex molecules; the kind of problem that is accessible to scientific attack. Given the outstanding record of our society in solving technical problems, it is overwhelmingly probable that great advances will be made in the control of human behavior.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The first thing they had to figure out was what kind of business they were going to start. Since they had almost two months before the offer required them to move out, Adell moved up to Dolores Park and more or less moved in with Theo. Strike that, she completely moved in with him. She brought three suitcases and a trunk. In the trunk was a juicer, a blender, and a fuck load of shoes.

Ted (not really Theo anymore) and Adell stopped at a Starbucks and she pulled a tablet out of her bag. She powered it up, signed into the wifi, and had a storage startup she’d been using to store a few things deliver them to Theo’s place. Welcome to the world of ‘Clutter’ – they bring you packing materials, help you pack, take your stuff, and then bring it back to you. It was a personal storage service without having to go to a scummy storage facility.

I’ve actually had this idea before,” Ted told her. “It always seemed silly to have to rent a storage unit when it made more sense to store things piecemeal in an Amazon style fulfillment center.”

That’s a great fucking idea Ted, but as you can see – Clutter is already doing it. Barcodes on boxes and all. There might be room for competition, but I don’t really want to do this.” Adell motioned to the guys bringing her suitcases up the stairs to their (now temporary) apartment. “I can’t believer we’ve fucking moved in together. I wonder if the Chans know?”

Of course they know, they probably own Clutter.” Ted (not the loser formerly known as Theo) “And by the way, I thought I was moving in with you…”

Oh, suck it Trebek. You will, but for now we need to be in the city to get access to all those startup motherfuckers. Do you know anything about Lean Methodology?”

I’ve heard of it, but I’m not sure what it is. Want to enlighten me?” Ted was on the old beige sofa – it was one of those overstuffed and ultracomfortable ones from the 1990s and since Ted hadn’t really been a partier, had a dog, or ever had roommates who smoked – it still looked pretty good and was even more comfortable in 2019 than it had been in 1997.

Sure. The old way of doing business was to develop a plan, develop a product, find the market for that product, and then find a way to let the market know the product existed and sell it to them. Building a business took years, lots of effort, and a lot of money. Lean methodology is different. You come up with an idea, you see if the idea fits into the marketplace and determine product/market fit, then you build the minimum viable product, test it with the marketplace, assess, adapt, and repeat. Pivot if you must but don’t waste time or money on ideas that don’t get near immediate validation. That’s Lean. The reason it works is because there are a bunch of really rich assholes who are willing to throw millions of dollars at hundreds of bad ideas in the hopes that one of them turns out to be a really good idea. If they stopped throwing the money, Lean would wither up and die – but as luck would have it – most of those rich assholes live right here or at the least send their money to Sand Hill Road to be distributed towards whatever the next amazing thing is.”

I’ve been thinking about a different kind of social network…” Ted wanted to tell her about Gopher and Mesh Networks and his work in technology earlier in his career but she interrupted him..

Nope, social isn’t going to work. The Chan’s already own most of it and Jack ‘the Beard’ Dorsey and Twitter pretty much own the rest. Nobody is throwing money at social any more unless it has a very different kind of twist. Disruption is where it’s at now – Grubhub disrupting the restaurants, Laundoo disrupting laundromats, that kind of shit…We’re looking for the Uber of Bedspreads, the Tinder of Parking, the BirchBox of Pizza, or the AirBnB of Dentists. That’s pretty much all they are taking right now…the fucking things of other fucking things.”

I can dig it,” Ted laughed. “I can come up with some. How about the Uber of Moving? On demand movers.”

Great idea, but Lugg is already doing it. Already funded. Has a moat. Next.”

AirBnB of Weed?”

Nope, BudnBreakfast is already killing it in California.”

Shit, this is harder than I thought. How about a Tinder for Beards? We can pitch it to Dorsey?”

Too late. He’s already invested in Bristler.”

Serious?” Ted couldn’t believe these really existed.

Yup, totally fucking serious. All the obvious ones are already taken.”

That’s obvious?”

Yeah, come on hipsters and Tinder? Slam dunk.”

I like your idea about the Tinder of Parking. How would that work? Is anyone doing it?”

Adell shook her head. “Yeah, I kind of like that one too. I’m not sure what it would be. Would it be like hooking up in parking spaces or more like swipe left if you want to park here, swipe right if this parking space isn’t good enough for you?” They were both laughing. Adell pantomimed the motions…”Nope, I’m not putting my car in that… Ugh, I wouldn’t park there with your car….oh, man, I’d sure like to parallel into that space!”

Okay, maybe we put that one on the back burner. At least it’s an idea we don’t know of someone already doing. Next?”

Ted didn’t have internet in his apartment. It was a bit of a pain in the ass sometimes, but he actually liked the incentive to get out and go to coffee shops, parks, or McDonalds. Adell pulled out her tablet – “Do you have wifi?”

No, I don’t even have cable.” She shook her head and smiled at him. It was a mix between pity and pride.

Well, we’re going to need to bring the internet into your home Mr. Unabomber. We can’t build a technology company without the internet. We must have the World Wide Web.”

He hadn’t told her much about his past work but loved the opportunity that she had just given him.

Actually, WWW is just a protocol – one of many. There are several different internets but the http www internet is the dominant one today – but that’s probably going to change…there’s actually a whole alternate internet in place using mesh networks and lighter weight internets like Gopher – the one I used to work with – you can run Gopher over HAM radios creating a MeshNet.”

Adell was staring at him with an expression somewhere between shock and disbelief…”What the fuck? I mean what the scatophile-fletcher fuck are you talking about? There’s only one internet – the world wide web – Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Ebay, Google – the walled garden internet – it’s the only one – I mean right? What you’re saying is just crazy talk, isn’t it? Come on Ted – tell me the truth, you’re just fucking with me.”

Ted was always surprised (or actually Theo had been always surprised but now Ted was surprised) to find that people who used the networks had no idea just how deep the networks ran. The World Wide Web was only the tip of the iceberg. He started to explain in more detail but Adell already had her tablet fired up and was digging.. “I’m sure one of your neighbors has an open wifi hotspot – let’s see…okay there are two of them. Do you know who ‘FBI VAN’ or ‘VIRUS THAT WILL ERASE YOUR DATA’ are? Those are the only two open networks. Which should I go with? I’m going to go with FBI VAN – here goes…”

Ted started to say something – to discourage her from signing onto something that obviously wouldn’ t lead anywhere good but he stopped – there was no stopping her.

And I’m on – we’ve got the fucking internet Ted! Now let’s see who FBI VAN really is – I’m guessing that it’s probably a standard Cisco router with the default password – fucking BINGO – let’s see what they have been looking at – browser history – oh, my – we’ve got someone who likes incest porn – let’s see uses a private browsing window on Chrome – that will hide it from your wife but not from your ISP there old FBI VAN. He banks at Wells Fargo and works for UPS. I bet we can figure out his name, social security number, and date of birth in ten minutes or less…”

Ted watched this all happen in less than a minute and frankly, he was shocked. He wasn’t shocked at his neighbors choice of porn or the ease with which Adell was finding the information – he was shocked that she was so good at it. This was obviously not her first rodeo.

What the fuck Adell? Did you forget to tell me you were a black hat hacker?”

Yeah, sorry about that. I forgot to tell you – I’m a black hat hacker. It’s just a hobby.”

Chapter 11

The System is Evil

Suppose the system survives the crisis of the next several decades. By that time it will have to have solved, or at least brought under control, the principal problems that confront it, in particular that of “socializing” human beings; that is, making people sufficiently docile so that heir behavior no longer threatens the system. That being accomplished, it does not appear that there would be any further obstacle to the development of technology, and it would presumably advance toward its logical conclusion, which is complete control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other important organisms. The system may become a unitary, monolithic organization, or it may be more or less fragmented and consist of a number of organizations coexisting in a relationship that includes elements of both cooperation and competition, just as today the government, the corporations and other large organizations both cooperate and compete with one another.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Did you know that way before 2016 Google ran some experiments to see if by tweaking search results the tiniest bit, if they could change sentiment in an election?” They were a couple of days into brainstorming now and between having each other, a bedroom, and the internet – neither one had felt the need to leave the apartment.

Ted (Theo had been fucked into oblivion) couldn’t believe it – “There’s no way they would have been able to get away with that,”– particularly with the scrutiny that had come after the 2016 election. “Got a source on that?”

Adell looked at him with pity “Of course not – because Google…hello. I read the story in 2014 and it has since been largely purged from the internet. The story was all about how Google found a race with a high percentage of undecided voters in the 2014 Indian elections– they tweaked their algorithm and managed to get the margin pushed by roughly 5% in the direction they wanted which put Modhi, the pro-technology candidate in the seat. It’s called the SEME or the Search Engine Manipulation Effect – it was probably used on some level in 2016 election here too, but maybe not because Google would have seemed to have been in the Clinton camp – but who knows.”

Yeah, I sort of remember that, but what happened to the story – did Google scrub it?” Ted was doing what would have been unthinkable a few months prior – he was surfing the net in his apartment on the FBI VAN network – which turned out to be coming from the apartment of the Davis family across the street. Adell had created a firewall that allowed them to use the connection at will without leaving any trace behind on the Davis router or ISP. Their searches and browsing were being routed through an onion router.

An onion router works by hiding information in a series of encrypted packets with each packet showing a different destination. The ‘peels’ of the onion effectively hide the destination address from internet service providers, prying eyes, and anyone else who might be curious what you are looking at.

Yeah, effectively they scrubbed it. It might still be there but since most search is done through Google, they have de-prioritized it and if you want to find the story you have to know what to search for and be willing to go to page six of the results.” Adell herself was a like an onion – each layer that was pulled back revealed something else – hacker, graffiti artist, digital activist…gardener.

Our friends the Chans aren’t much better – they had a secret project in the works a few years ago that was designed to guide people towards a more ethical way of thinking – which doesn’t sound too bad until you start asking who is making the decision about what is ethical – it wasn’t like they had an election – it was more like Mark said – ‘people shouldn’t hide their income’ and Priscilla said ‘all kids should be vaccinated’ – or whatever – I mean they had people working on it, but there wasn’t any transparency and when it got leaked, people freaked out. Mark has these weird ideas about ruling the world – and they’re scary when you realize how much power he has. So the whole project was either scrubbed or more likely moved to a deep dark and secure level.”

Ted was interested. He understood this stuff. He’d worked on Friendster and seen the potential for abuse even in that primitive social platform. “The internet used to be a lot more fun,” he said.

Yes it did,” Adell agreed with him. “It used to be a place to discover information and broaden your mind but now it’s a place where you are fed information that narrows your view while you search for information that might broaden your view.”

Whoa.” Ted made the mind blown symbol again.

What if we took the power back from the big platforms?” he asked her. “What if we were able to disempower the walled gardens and give people back the internet?”

Adell shook her head “Not to be a defeatist, Ted, but they are already too big to fail and they have the full support of the US government – and all the other governments for that matter. Besides…our mission is to build a startup that the venture capitalists see as the next fucking unicorn, take a big paycheck, and then…I don’t know – save the world.”

We could always try to save the world without taking a huge paycheck first…” Theo (not completely Ted) still had some ideas about right and wrong, but even as he said it Ted took over”…but who am I kidding, you can’t get shit done without paying people.”

Let’s just keep coming up with ideas – we’ve come up with two hundred and eighty seven start up ideas so far – let’s keep going.” Adell was all business but not all the time.

Ted’s head hurt. “I think I need a refresher of some of what we’ve come up with so far…and what we’ve rejected – can you go through the list.”

She was happy to comply – going through the list together was likely to spark some new ideas…

Okay Ted, here goes – some of these have potential.”

Anti-plastic. A way to make up for all the planet destroying plastics we use everyday.”

Morganizer. An automated day organizer that you access when you first wake up.”

Tweetoclock, an automated twitter scheduler. Hard to compete with Tweetdeck.”

Hidden camera finder – but that’s already being done by Scout. “

Gum flavored like entres…a bit hard in terms of manufacturing”

Favood: an app that you list your favorite foods on to get personal recipe and restaurant recommendations.”

DadPals: a social network just for Dads.”

Orgasm simulator – I like the idea but it kind of defeats the point. Right?”

Gobag – a personalized and delivered bag at your destination. No more luggage.”

Ballbuddy – which, sounds like a fuck app but is actually a way for non-sports guys to find coaches to teach them about watching sports – we need to change that name or make it a fuck app.”

The Dickyuum – a gas station automated blow job machine – which is fucking gross but not as gross as the dicks of the guys who will use it.”

Disposable compostable underwear – hard to believe but already for sale on Amazon.”

Veggies made from meat – Arby’s beat us to the punch on that one.”

She kept going. The list was long and filled with failures and crazy ideas most of which were already in the marketplace – things like spray on shoes, making a superfood from cockroaches, peer to peer escorts, and internet personal trolls for hire. It was exhausting and – when you looked at the companies that had gotten funded to the tune of a million, five-million, or ten-million dollars – it was ridiculous.

What about something with cryptocurrency or bitcoin?” Ted asked her.

Oh, Jesus, now you’re going all 2017? Get with it. That shit is dead. It’ll come back someday but right now, all the idiots who bought it are licking their wounds. They all got royally fucked when the big boys realized how easy it was going to be to separate them from their money. That whole thing was done by the banks. I don’t know who Satoshi Nakomoto is or was – but my guess is that he had nothing to do with the wholesale robbery of middle-aged men that cryptocurrency has been over the past two or three years…Wait a minute – did you get suckered too Ted?”

Probably, I haven’t been following it since 2014 or so – but I’ve got a hard drive somewhere where I probably wasted $1000 bucks or so on it. I figured it would go up to a dollar per bitcoin, but sounds like that never happened.” Adell turned to look at him, to see if he was serious. She couldn’t tell.

You’re fucking with me, right? Tell me you’re not fucking with me.” Ted smiled. Yeah, he was fucking with her. He’d bought ten bitcoin when they were a hundred each – so he had a pretty good stash, but not like she was thinking. “Yeah, I’m fucking with you. I’ve got ten BTC though – and since I got them at $100 each – it’s a pretty good emergency fund.”

Thank God. I thought I was fucking a millionaire Forest Gump for a second.” He liked her reaction. No disappointment and no real excitement about it either. They went back to work. “Maybe we should think about blockchain and crypto a little bit, you might be right.”

How about crypto for pet-sitters, dog walkers, pet owners? Like a bitcoin focused strictly on pets. It would be like Pets.com combined with crypto.” Ted thought it sounded pretty good but Adell’s face told him otherwise.

You mean take two of the biggest bubbles of the last twenty years and combine them into a new product? Why not throw Enron and subprime mortgages in there with it? We could create a cryptocurrency based on subprimes and pet trends and then sell the derivatives in a ponzi scheme to oil barons…” The sarcasm was puddling on the floor around them. “But… you might actually be onto something. What if we did create a pet ponzi scheme?”

Well, we’d probably go to prison like Bernie Madoff but without the silk pajamas.”

Haha…but seriously, what’s the biggest pain in the ass about being a pet owner?” She asked him.

Taking them for walks, feeding them, …oh wait…I got it. Cleaning up their shit.” That was why he didn’t have a pet. He didn’t want to clean a fishbowl or litter box and he definitely didn’t want to be one of those people who stood on the sidewalk watching the shit come out of their dog’s ass while standing impatiently with a plastic bag over their hand waiting to pick it up. Fuck that.

Yeah, the shit. All those little dogs shit a lot. The landfills are full of non-biodegradable plastic bags filled with dog turds and there are still dog turds on the sidewalks around every fucking neighborhood in this city – in America for that matter. We come up with a way to deal with the dog shit – and better yet – we figure out a way to pay people for it.”

We can call it Petshitter.com” Ted laughed. Adell laughed with him. Neither of them were joking.

Chapter 12

Petshitter

Don’t imagine that the systems will stop developing further techniques for controlling human beings and nature once the crisis of the next few decades is over and increasing control is no longer necessary for the system’s survival. On the contrary, once the hard times are over the system will increase its control over people and nature more rapidly, because it will no longer be hampered by difficulties of the kind that it is currently experiencing.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

It’s a terrible name. It can’t be said in polite company, on the radio, or even really between friends. No one is going to take it serious. It sounds like some sort of cartoon villain that defecates pets.” They were at their first VC meeting. The Bay Area is filled with crazy opportunities and this was one of them – it was called Speed Pitching. The idea was simple – a group of low level venture capitalists agreed to sit down with as many founders as could give them a one minute pitch with four minutes for questions and comments. If it went well, business cards would be exchanged.

Derek, the first VC they pitched too – didn’t seem like he would be offering a business card for a follow up. He didn’t seem to care about anything but the name.

We realize it’s a bit gritty, but we’re talking about turning pet shit into electricity. Not just cleaning up the streets but also turning a serious source of waste into a sellable commodity that everyone needs.” Ted wasn’t going to give up so easily. It had only been a minute so far. “And it’s a public service on top of that.”

How will this even work? Do you have a prototype yet?” Derek seemed more doubtful than curious but that was where Adell came in.

Yes, we’ve got a German engineering team that has built a prototype that turns dog shit into usable electricity. We can scale that model up into a full scale power plant. Our research has shown that with enough waste we could power a small town with a clean, renewable, and otherwise hard to get rid of waste product.” She laid schematics on the table.

Everything she’d just told Derek was a complete and total fabrication. They’d found a German video from 2015 that showed what it claimed was a home unit that would use dog poop to charge a series of batteries that would power fans, computers, and other household stuff. They didn’t even know if it was legitimate and so far had been unable to get ahold of the producers of the video. Theo had drawn up a good looking schematic, bought the domain Dogshitter.com for $11.99, thrown a landing page up with the schematic and a bunch of fake company information (because they didn’t have a company yet), and a way for people to sign up for an email list to be notified when the product became available.

What kind of leverage do you have?” It was a common VC question and they were ready for it.

We ran a few ads on social media and Craigslist,” Adell said. “In the 72-hours since we put those up we’ve had 23,000 people sign up to be notified.”

This got Derek’s attention. “Did you say 23,000 people signed up in 72-hours?” This time they weren’t lying – as much. In fact they had put free ads on Craigslists and they’d bought ads on Twitter, Facebook, and Google. They had also paid a well known product hunter to ‘find’ and share Dogshitter on the website Product Hunt. Their ads would have made Bernie Madoff proud – maybe – or maybe not – but they got the job done. “We’ll pay you $$$ for your dogshit.” and “Turn dog poop into real cash!” Adell had also written an absolutely insane press release about how Dogshitter was going to save the city, save the planet, and maybe even save humanity. So far, they had been BoingBoinged, written about by a hack writer on Forbes.com, and they’d made it to the front page of Reddit. By this point in the day, 23,000 was probably a huge understatement.

Derek gave them his card and asked for theirs. He did a little double take when he looked at it but then shook hands and went to his next pitch.

Petshitter

Turning Pet Poo to Power and Money

Founders: Ted Kazinsky and Adell Fitler

They did ten speed-pitches and they got ten business cards and ten invitations to set up meetings where they could pitch to higher ranking venture capitalists who actually had the power to get them funding. They left the speed pitch ready to take on the world and full of energy.

That was fucking awesome,” Adell squeezed his hand as they walked down Geary towards the Tenderloin. “We’re going to be fucking ass-funambulism rich.”

Shouldn’t that be ass-fucking funambulist?” Ted was getting the hang of it. “Or even sodamite tight rope walker?” She turned to him with hands on hips and they both busted up laughing.

When they were able to talk again, Ted took things on a serious turn “We’ve got a real problem, Adell.”

What are you talking about? They love Dogshitter.” Her hands were in the air.

Yeah, but we don’t have a product, we don’t have a team, we don’t have a company, and we don’t have a clue that any of this will work.” Ted (feeling a bit Theo) was starting to be a tiny bit worried.

Stop worrying Ted. I’ll make a few calls. I’m sure you know a few people from the startup world. It’s going to be easy to get people on board for this. We’ve got traction baby. We are gonna light this fucking city on fire.”

It may sound ridiculous but it was happening constantly in the startup world. The whole WeWork debacle was still unfolding – billions of dollars thrown at a company run by a guy who wouldn’t wear shoes (in New York City!) All of the money that was coming from VC firms was being thrown at them by central banks that were buying up collapsing financial assets in an attempt to keep the economy working and avoid another tumble like the one in 2008. Free money and when they ran out they would just print more. Hundreds of shitty startup ideas with shitty teams, no product, and no clue.

Accelerators and Angel Investors were giving away life changing sums to businesses that were “pre-idea stage” – no shit. That’s not a term that was just made up – it has been being bandied about for a couple of years now. All a startup needed was a pitchdeck, at least one known founder or backer, and a bank account. The rest could be bought with the first check. The second check could make the product. The third check would be used to start buying up other companies in the same vertical – or completely different verticals. Fucking WeWork bought a pool cleaning startup.

At the end of the day, Petshitter was just as real as MoviePass, AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, WeWork, and all the other unicorns that bled more money than they could possibly make. The funniest thing was when the bankers and junior VC’s started talking about Petshitter they solved one of the biggest problems the company had – the name.

Somehow without a memo – they’d all decided to call it an even weirder name Pets Hitter.

In order to start building their team, Adell brought in a friend who had worked in recruiting. It turned out that Adell had always had a soft spot and a fascination for people with fucked up names. Or maybe it was more accurate to say she was sympathetic or empathetic to their plight, In any event, there were few people with names as fucked up as hers (or Ted’s) but her friend Timothy had suffered a totally different kind of awfulness because of his parents naming choices.

The Burr family had consciously made the choice to saddle their child with a name that would forever subject him to people cupping their hands around their mouth and heartily calling out “Tim-Burr!” As far back as he could remember, it had never been funny. The only funny part about it was that people who did it actually seemed to think themselves clever as if they were the first to notice it or the first to call it out. In any event, Timothy was very clear about his name not being Tim and when people made the unfortunate choice to call out “Tim-Burr” his response had become pretty routine “Gosh, aren’t you clever.” Followed by “Hey, you’ve got a little bit of schmutz on your face…” and he would motion to a spot around their mouth or if he’d already done that he would mention a bit of dandruff or some other self-doubt inducing lie that caused them to focus on themselves. Somehow watching people become insecure and worried about things that didn’t exist eased the sting a bit – honestly, sometimes he felt like he got more enjoyment from it than they did.

Timothy was meeting with them at their soon to not be their’s apartment. Adell had warned Ted not to call him Tim and explained that despite her trying – there was nothing that would make Timothy ‘own’ his name.

When the doorbell rang, Ted got up from the kitchen table where they were working to get it. For some reason Ted had pictured a tall skinny white guy with a beard – but that wasn’t Timothy at all – he was a little below average height – probably 5’6” or 5’7” and clean shaven. His skin was that beautiful satin black color that recent immigrants from Africa sometimes had.

Nice to meet you Mr. Burr. Thanks for coming.” Ted had decided to stick with Mr. Burr unless he was told otherwise. “I’m Ted Kazinsky.” Adell was standing behind him and probably would have introduced them, but Ted had wanted to do this himself. He watched for the reaction. There was none.

Timothy smiled and shook his hand. “Please, call me Timothy.” His voice was soft and slightly effeminate with the lightest of Southern accents. Adell came forward and squeezed past in order to give Timothy a hug and bring him inside.

Timothy, I’ve missed you!” She was squeezing him with enthusiasm. She led him over to the table. “Can I get you a cup of coffee or some juice or something?”

They all sat and for the next few minutes chatted about history, mutual friends, and times past. Adell had met Timothy when she took a temp job with Oracle. He had literally called her because of her name – so, maybe it wasn’t quite accurate to say she collected people with fucked up names because after all, he had really collected her. Timothy and his boyfriend had recently bought a condo in San Jose but he was still coming up to the city on a regular basis. His boyfriend had a completely normal name – well, normal in Korea. Hank Yu.

When the talk turned to names – Ted had to ask “Timothy, I’ve been meaning to ask you about your name…” Ted caught the eyeroll from Timothy which had been directed at Adell – he was supposed to have missed it, but it didn’t bother him – he knew what it was about. “Are you related to Aaron Burr? – the guy who shot Alexander Hamilton?”

It wasn’t the question he’d been expecting, but it still raised his hackles a bit. “Well, according to my grandmother, I’m a direct descendent of Aaron Burr, 3rd Vice President of the United States of America and one of the least understood of all the founding fathers – in fact, my middle name is Aaron. It never used to be a problem before that bastard Lin-Manuel Miranda made it famous. Now I get asked all the time. There are times I just want to hear “Tim-Burr” – okay, not really.” They all laughed.

I always admired Aaron Burr,” Ted said “I think he got the short end of the stick. America might have been a better place if Hamilton had lost those arguments. Did you ever read Gore Vidal’s book, Burr?”

Tim nodded enthusiastically. “I did. It’s a masterpiece and a true critique of our system.” He turned to Adell “Ms. Fitler – I do believe you might have found a bonafide radical here.” From this point forward, they were all friends.

With Tim’s help they were able to recruit a fairly solid team that agreed to work for small equity stakes until they had funding. Three engineers, a finance manager to be the CFO, a lawyer (technically she was waiting to pass the bar), three social media mavens, a search engine optimization specialist, a chemist, two designers, and a web designer. Ted protested that they were bringing too many people on but Tim and Adell refused to listen to him. Ted pointed out that he was a decent engineer, could do web design, and that three social media mavens was overkill – but they would’t listen.

Tim stressed how important it was to put diversity in their founding team, so candidates that were under-represented (code for not heterosexual, white, males) were sought out.

The finance manager, a guy named Geronimo Murphy was half Lakota Sioux and the lawyer – a recent Yale Law graduate named Charlene Mansion, managed to get the Delaware C corporation set up for less than $200 and all of the new team members agreed to receive between .5 and 2% equity in stock as payment until funding was achieved and salaries could be determined. Everyone coming on had to sign non-disclosure and non-compete contracts and agree to work as I-9 contractors without the expectation of benefits for the first 18-months.

It took two weeks and less than $1000 to take Petshitter from a ridiculous idea to a company with nearly twenty employees, a bank account, legal status as a person, and close to a hundred-thousand people waiting to find out where to send their pet shit for cash.

Nobody seemed very concerned that they still didn’t have an actual pet-shit-energy-generator. The engineers had looked at the online designs and decided it had probably been some sort of a hoax – maybe a sociology experiment or an art test. In any event, they did think that it was possible to generate electricity from pet shit (and human shit) in a couple of ways – burning it, allowing bacteria to eat the feces and then ‘burp’ methane, or to mix it with other substances which could then be burned. Ted seemed to be the only one who was actually bothered by the lack of an actual answer.

After some argument, Ted convinced Adell that she should be the CEO, not him. He preferred to be the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) . Tim would be the COO (Chief Operations Officer) so he was able to move from department to department – which was pretty bizarre, because, you know, they had departments. He was also the head of human resources, but just until they found someone else. After she had finally agreed, Adell came around to Ted’s decision that she should be the CEO because having a female led startup in Silicon Valley gave them some unique advantages. The investors all wanted to show diversity in their portfolios of companies they funded – so it gave them a leg up. Their founding team was well represented with two women, one African American (Tim), a Native American (Geronimo) , a second generation Korean American (Charlene), a Japanese American (also Geronimo) and at least one LGBTQ (they hadn’t asked Geronimo or Charlene but had a feeling).

CEO and Co-Founder – Adell Fitler

CTO and Co-Founder – Ted Kazinsky

COO – Tim Burr

CFO – Geronimo Banzai

CCO – Charlene Mansoon

Tim was the only one whose name didn’t like like a mass killer. Adell joked that they should give him a nickname on the masthead “Killer Tim Burr” but he said it made him sound like really good lumber.

Nothing wrong with solid wood, Bro.” Adell looked at Theo and smiled when she said it, but they all nodded in agreement.

Chapter 13

Identity Politics

We all know what many of our schools are like. The teachers are too busy taking knives and guns away from the kids to subject them to the latest techniques for making them into computer nerds. Thus, in spite of all its technical advances relating to human behavior, the system to date has not been impressively successful in controlling human beings. The people whose behavior is fairly well under the control of the system are those of the type that might be called “bourgeois.” But there are growing numbers of people who in one way or another are rebels against the system: welfare leaches, youth gangs, cultists, satanists, nazis, radical environmentalists, militiamen, etc.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The first few meetings were rough. They met with venture capital funds that were already well represented by diversity in their portfolio of investments and their management teams. The bottom line was that they were able to poke holes in the fundamental ideas of petshitter and ask for things like financial projections, videos of a working product, an actual real life working product – and other things that they didn’t have. Also, no one wanted to work with Adolf Hitler and Ted Kazinsky.

The fifth VC firm they met with was the one that Ted almost called off. VWA or Victor White Associates was embroiled in controversy already – they’d been a heavy investor in Uber and a couple of other ‘bro culture’ startups that had taken some serious media heat. A few years earlier they had been one of the VC firms that got caught up in ‘Gamergate’ and most recently they had been involved in the ICO scams of 2017. VWA was known as being heavy handed in their term sheets, taking bigger equity stakes for smaller investments, and worst of all – they were big Trump supporters which everyone in the Vallley took for shorthand as being religious bigots, anti-gay, and racist. The main reason being that if you support a candidate known for those positions, there was a good chance those positions resonated with you.

The VWA meeting was set up for a Wednesday morning. A different, well respected firm offered them a meeting at the same time – Ted’s inclination was to cancel VWA and take the other meeting. Adell wouldn’t hear of it.

I’ve got a feeling about VWA. I just have a gut feeling about this one Ted. They need our diversity. They need our representation. Yeah, these guys are scumbags – I know, but think of it this way – the liklihood of us even creating a product that works is pretty close to nothing. Wouldn’t you rather take money from scumbags than from good guys?”

Ted liked the logic – although he wasn’t too keen on the idea of them not getting a product made. Personally, he was starting to think they had stumbled on something that actually made sense – a product that could make the world a better place. Sure, there were challenges – but he felt like each day they were getting closer to an actual working product – or maybe a working concept – or a viable concept. Adell was right.

The meeting took place two blocks off Sand Hill Road – the street where the most famous deals in tech had taken place. The VWW office building was an impressive cinder block structure that looked like it had been airlifted off of an old army garrison. The VWA logo had an American flag and an eagle on it.

This place reminds me of something…” as they pulled up. It was just he and Adell that went to the pitch meetings. It was just on the dge of his memory. Then it hit him – the building looked like an old VFW post in Martinez – the Veterans of Foreign Wars had hired him as a temp to do some restoration work a few years earlier on the old Martinzez post. Everything about VWA was reminiscent from the big white VWA letters on the front to the logo which he figured must be plagarized and stylized from the VFW logo. He counted six American flags flying in the parking lot and on the building itself.

They’d done their homework. Victor White was a Vietnam Veteran supporter (but not a vet himself) who generally only supported veteran led businesses. His companies were ‘American Values’ companies generally led by heterosexual, Caucasian men. They’d had three companies hit by ‘Me Too’ problems, the scandals with Gamergate and Uber, plus a whole host of rumors about racial problems. They were not a good fit. The companies with VWA were security firms, transportation, and private prisons and schools. Petshitter didn’t fit in any portion of that.

The lobby smelled like stale bread and bleach. The receptionist sat behind a brick wall that stood waist high and had what looked like bullet proof glass separating her from visitors. It was a bit like passport control in third world countries combined with pawn shops in Detroit combined with a CVS pharmacy. Overall the feeling the reception area gave was something akin to “You are not getting past the receptionist.”

We have a meeting scheduled with Victor White for 1:30.” It was precisely 1:15. Ted knew that military guys like fifteen minutes early.

Your names?” the receptionist asked.

Fitler and Kazinsky,” Adell said. No reason to freak out the receptionist. She probably had a gun back there.

Sign these NDAs and then please have a seat, he’l be with you in a few minutes. ” Ted scanned over the document, it was fairly standard and said that any offers, questions, or information shared was private and severe financial penalties would follow if it was leaked to the press, shared with other companies, or written about. They both signed. The reception area felt like a dentist waiting area with Fortune and Entrepreneur magazines on brown leather coffee tables in front of tired brown leather couches. There were fake plants that looked like they were growing dust. On the walls were pictures of Victor White and CEOs, presidents, generals, and religious leaders. White was usually wearing vaguely militaristic khakis – never a uniform, but what looked like a passable ‘civilian’ or ‘contractor’ uniform. He was a fit white man in his late sixties.

Ted had been refining his pitch – he was going to appeal to the ‘man’s best friend’ aspect and ‘generating power’ and ‘America’s next great innovation’. At exactly 1:30, the receptionist looked up “Mr White will see you now.” She buzzed a security door and they were able to pass through a metal doorway to the right side of the room.

Once they’d gone past the metal security door, it was like they had entered a different world. Rich wood furniture, expensive looking paintings, live plants. The receptionist somehow met them on the other side of the door even though she had been seated at her desk across the room when they went through it. Ted looked back to see if she had a twin still sitting there, but the security door had already closed.

She led them down a long hallway to a heavily polished mahogany door with gold gilding on it. In the center where it would have said ‘Star’ if they were in Hollywood was a gold placard that simply said “White”. Ted gave Adell a warning look to keep her from saying out loud what had already popped into his head “White Only”.

The receptionist opened the door and motioned for them to go in. “Have a seat, he’ll be with you in a moment.” Ted felt like he’d crossed the silk ropes at a museum palace. Gold and highly polished wood everywhere. Silk carpets covered the floor and a large desk sat in the center of the room. Two chairs sat in front of it. There were doors leading off to either side. The sense of over the top luxury was only jarred by the hand grenade sitting in the center of the desk, by itself, the pin pulled out and sitting next to it. By the time he noticed it – the door had clicked shut behind them.

He pointed to it. Adell turned her eyes and they instantly widened when she saw it.

Fuck.”

When she said it, some instinctual mate-preservation mode clicked into action from inside Ted. He shoved her down to the ground and dove onto the desk covering the grenade and sliding across the smoothly polished surface to the far side of it. Holding the grenade to his body he rolled off the desk and onto the floor and waited for the sudden destruction of his body as the grenade fragmented itself, his limbs, and his organs.

What the fuck, Ted?” Adell was pulling herself off the ground. Just then the door to the right side opened and Victor White walked in the room. He was a bit rounder and shorter than Ted had expected, but otherwise looked like his pictures.

Bravo, Mr. Kazinsky. Bravo. That was as true an act of bravery as I’ve ever seen. In all the years I’ve been doing this – you’re the first one to dive on the grenade. I think you probably would have saved Ms. Fitler’s life right there, but sadly, you would be dead. The good news, however is that there is no explosive in that grenade.”

You do this to everyone?” Adell was still out of breath and Ted could tell she was starting to boil.

No, only to those founders who I think I may want to do business with. So, tell me about Pets Hitter.”

Ted got up and put the grenade back on White’s desk. He walked around the desk to the side where Adell was starting to sit in one of the plush chairs. On the way, he shook White’s hand. “I’m Ted Kazinsky.”

Nice to meet you Ted. Great fucking American.” Ted wasn’t sure if White was still congratulating him on his heroic behavior or saying the Unabomber was a great American, but he suspected it was the latter.

Adell stood back up “I’m Adell Fitler, the CEO of Petshitter” When Adell said it, it really sounded like “I’m Adolf Hitler the CEO of Pet Shitter” mainly because that was what she said.

That name – you might want to put a pause in there.” Again, Ted couldn’t tell if he was talking about her name or the company name. “Okay you two, enough fucking around. Pitch me. And before you start, I don’t want to see any slides – just tell me about your company.”

Ted jumped into it. “American’s love their dogs. We have nearly 75-million of them! We can say that dogs are man’s best friend but in the United States but dogs are also one of the worst polluters. The dogs of America generate approximately 10-million tons of poop per year. Cats generate another 7-million tons. Most of this waste gets left on sidewalks, in parks, in yards, or dumped in the garbage with the added toxic plastic bag around it. Dog poop is the number three cause of water pollution. The reason we see so much dog poop in public places is because more than 60% of dog owners don’t pick up their dog’s feces. This causes big problems.”

Do you have a dog, Mr. White?” Ted had meant to ask at the beginning.

We have three great danes,” White said “They probably produce about half that dog shit by themselves. Keep going.”

One gram of dog poop contains more than 23-million fecal bacteria that seep into the soil, get into our water, and are carried and spread by flies and other vectors.”

Like my god-damn shoes…” White griped. “So what are you going to do about it?”

Petshitter incentivizes owners to pick up their dog’s waste and turn it into electricity. Generators have so far been used to charge batteries, power fans, and other small appliances – but we believe that if we can harness even 10% of the dog waste in this country, our energy output could get as high as 50 gigawatts of power – which is the same amount of energy produced by solar panels in the USA in 2017. “

Holy shit.” White caught himself by surprise with the unintended pun. He chuckled but he was a serious businessman despite his earlier prank. “So, why haven’t the other VC’s you’ve talked with jumped on this money wagon you just pulled into my office. I know you’ve had four meetings this week.”

This was the question that Ted hadn’t wanted to answer. He began to explain the issues they had with the product, the lack of a viable prototype because they didn’t have funding to build it, and would have gone on but at this point Adell stood up and interrupted him.

The main problem is that our names suck. Nobody has the guts to work with Adolf Hitler and Ted Kazinsky. All of these valley snowflakes are so PC they would have turned us down if we walked in with a wagon full of gold and the directions to El Dorado. We can’t change our names – and we won’t change our names – but we have the keys to the golden city if you are willing to work with us. Also, if you don’t mind my saying so – it wouldn’t hurt your company to be working with a female led company that enables gays, Asians, and African-Americans in their management team. We are as diverse as it gets.”

White steepled his fingers looking like he was trying to channel Steve Jobs. His crisp khaki shirt made him look like he had just taken a pith helmet from his grey head when he walked in from a safari. He looked at Adell with an intense gaze.

I like you Ms. Fitler, I like the way you cut to the heart of things. Here’s what I will do – I’m going to fund Pets Hitter with a seed investment of $3-million dollars for a 30% equity stake and a seat on your board – providing that you are willing to do a couple of things. First, you are both going to have to go through our VWA Startup Basic Training – our deal will be contingent on your satisfactory completion – it’s a one-week intensive course we require all of our founders to go through. Second, you’re going to have to change the name of the company Pets Hitter or Petshitter are both terrible names. Although…maybe for a product like this, there is no such thing as a good name. ”

Draw up the papers and we’ll have our legal team go over them Mr. White. If it all matches what you’ve just said, it sounds like we have a deal.”

White reached across the desk and shook both their hands.

Chapter 14

VWA Startup Basic Training

The system may become a unitary, monolithic organization, or it may be more or less fragmented and consist of a number of organizations coexisting in a relationship that includes elements of both cooperation and competition, just as today the government, the corporations and other large organizations both cooperate and compete with one another. Human freedom mostly will have vanished, because individuals and small groups will be impotent vis-a-vis large organizations armed with super-technology and an arsenal of advanced psychological and biological tools for manipulating human beings with instruments of surveillance and physical coercion. Only a small number of people will have any real power, and even these will have very limited freedom, because their behavior too will be regulated; just as today our politicians and corporation executives can retain their positions of power only as long as their behavior remains within certain fairly narrow limits.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Hey Ted,” Adell leaned across his chest – her hair glowed like a halo from the morning sun coming in the window. “You know what cracks me up?”

He knew a couple of things but he knew he’d never guess it so he shook his head.

The actual Hitler rolling in his grave as his name becomes associated with dog shit – I mean even more than it already was. That’s some funny shit. Shit Heil!”

They laughed. Oh man how they laughed. Life was unbelievable. They wanted to tell the Chan’s but they still weren’t returning their calls or texts. So it was just the Petshitter crew who got to be in on the gag.

The gag was this – they had a literal dogshit project that they’d put a casual couple of weeks work into and they’d just been funded to the tune of three-million dollars. It looked like VWA might change their mind on the name change but they had to go through with the two week intensive VWA Startup Basic Training. Today was day one. Checkin was at 10:00 am at a facility in San Jose so they needed to hit the road if they were going to make it. They would be staying on for the program as a sort of retreat for the entire two weeks. They had time – and it was low pressure.

At least until they got there – in hindsight, Ted realized that knowing what they knew about Victor White and his usual companies – they shouldn’t have been expecting your typical Silicon Valley circle jerk where successful founders became mentors and everyone sat around eating expensive food and having the famous ‘fireside chats’ where successful CEOs and founders got to masturbate about their ‘journey’. A journey that usually started with having well-to-do parents who put a focus on education, going to school in an area where the affluent live, getting accepted into Stanford or MIT, doing an internship at a Fortune 500 tech company, and then dropping out to start their own tech company and having to hustle around the valley hitting up their doctor, lawyer, or engineer parent’s friends. Failing, losing a shit ton of money, and then having their parents or their parents friends believe in them again and showing everyone that this rich kid who got all the breaks could do it despite a drug, alcohol, or other social problem. Nope, that wasn’t this startup school.

There were about seventy participants from around fifty different companies that were looking to be funded by VWA. They all gathered out front waiting for the doors to open at 10:00 am. Most of them were in their twenties to early thirties – Ted and Adell were not the oldest but definitely in the top tier in terms of age.

The doors opened and there wasn’t any of the coffee and donuts social aspect. No ‘get to know you’ breakfast speeches. No polite, boring, and possibly informative keynote speech. No, none of that.

No, this was VWA Startup Basic Training – which should have been called Boot Camp – but White didn’t want to give away the joke – which was only funny to him anyway. The facility was an old police training facility and White had contracted one of his military security contractors to run an old fashioned, in your face, shut the fuck up and do some pushups scumbag boot camp for his potential investees. Ted was glad they’d spent the morning laughing. The next seven days promised to be hellish.

Upon checkin they were told to turn in all of their phones, wallets, and personal items which were placed in sealed plastic evidence bags that they wrote their names, and the inventory on before sealing them with security tape. They were given orange jumpsuits and white tennis shoes – the kind prisoners wear and told to go into the men’s or women’s locker rooms, put their clothing in a locker and change into the jumpsuits.

When I say they were ‘told’ I’m understating things – they were met by ten huge and screaming men and women in olive drab t-shirts, camouflage pants, and combat boots. The conversation went something like this.

Oh, you want some fucking money, huh? You want VWA to give you millions of dollars so you can follow your fucking dreams?”

You can’t handle it punks. You don’t want this money. You don’t want this investment. You don’t want this partnership and relationship so just turn away you weak fucking geeks. Right now. Take your stuff, go back to your garage, and put away your toys. You can’t handle the startup world. Go on, get the fuck out of here.”

One guy actually turned and walked away. Ted thought about doing the same. He admired the guy who said “Fuck it, this isn’t worth the money.” Then he looked at Adell who was smiling ear to ear as a huge black woman screamed in her face “What the fuck are you smiling at? Do you think this if funny? I’m going to fuck you up.” Adell saw Ted watching and winked. This drove the instructor even more batshit crazy. “Did you just ‘wink’ at your friend? What the fuck? Who the fuck do you think you are?”

Once again Adell just said it cold “I’m Adolf Hitler and this is my partner, Ted Kazinsky” This stopped the woman cold – she took a step back “Did you just say your Adolf fucking Hitler and he’s the Unabomber? What in fuck’s name is wrong with you?” Adell puffed her chest out (Ted had to admit, it was a very nice chest) and she screamed in a loud angry voice “No Ma’am. I’m Adell Fucking Fitler and he is not the Unabomer.”

All of this seemed to have taken the steam out of the instructor’s sails because she said “Well, get your ass inside, sign the release forms, put your shit in a ziplock, and go change out of your civvies Adolf – cause we fixing to make sure your startup shit is in order.”

Adell scrambled. Ted had somehow avoided direct contract with the instructors so far and also headed towards the door. The instructors were making a couple of younger founders do pushups, one girl had sat down and was openly weeping on the steps. Gradually, they were all herded towards the lobby where Ted and Adell were already emptying their pockets, putting their backpacks and briefcases in huge ziplock bags, and being issued their orange jumpsuits and white tennis shoes. Once they had the jumpsuits they were screamed at/herded into the locker rooms and then yelled at constantly with demeaning terms until they had placed their clothes in lockers and were exiting the back exit.

You think you’re a CEO? You’re more like a C student. You can’t handle this job.”

You aren’t a founder, more like a foundling. You’re nothing without investment.”

You ain’t got traction – except on your face where the competition has run their traction tires.”

Ted had no conception how a week of this was going to make their company a success. If anything, he was already seeing the roots of the ‘Me Too’ problems VWA funded companies had been going through. There was no way this was going to help their company – but $3 million dollars definitely would – so he shut up and just kept doing as he was told.

For the most part, they left him alone and focused on the younger founders. The men and the women had been split up into two ‘platoons’. Looking and feeling like orange jump suited prisoners they were tortured for hours and then they were all marched to an outdoor track and told to sit in the bleachers just before sunset.

The women took a bit longer to get to the bleachers and sat in the next section down – Ted caught sight of Adell – she was still smiling. Tiki-torches were carried out by the instructors and planted into the earth. Loudspeakers began playing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ – the instructors screamed for everyone to stand up. They kept saying ‘Attention!’ but then they weren’t doing anything. Finally he realized it meant to stand up and they said it whenever anyone sat down.

The Boss playing, everyone standing, and out marched Victor White. Same khaki uniform but this time with a sort of Cuban fedora on. He walked out, stepped onto a platform, and was handed a mic. The Boss was faded down and the actual boss began to speak.

We are so happy to have you here, applying for funding with VWA. If you’re here, that means that you’ve crossed the hardest gauntlet – which is getting here. For the next week – we are going to cram you full of all the information we think you will need to become a successful startup.”

We are going to teach you how to talk to your customers, how to evaluate your ideas, and how to plan out your minimum viable product. You will learn how to set you KPIs and what analytics you need to be sharing with us and learning from. We are going to teach you how to launch over and over, how to scale, and how to grow.”

You will learn the financial pitfalls and how to avoid them. We will help you prioritize your time and teach you how to pivot when you realize that your idea sucks…and trust me…your idea sucks. We have brought you here because of who you are and who we think you can become. We aren’t here because you have a great idea – ideas are easy. We’re here because we think you can do it. Well, it’s not going to be easy. None of this is easy and trust me when I tell you this will be the hardest week of your life – until next week when the real hardest part of your life starts.”

This is the first moment of your startup life so take a moment and take a deep breath. You have arrived. We are going to give you the tools you need to build a company culture, to move forward, and to lead – but once we give you that – you are the ones who have to do something with it. You are the ones who must lead.”

One of the greatest lessons we can teach you is that you need to use your body. If you push your body to the limits – your mind will become stronger, your thoughts will become more clear, and your drive will become that much harder. So – a part of this curriculum is going to be giving you the habits you need to be fit. For the next week, smokers will quit cold turkey as will drinkers and fuckers. If you want to wank, go right ahead – but you’ll have to do it in bathrooms without stall doors or open dormitories – so expect to be caught and mocked.”

For the next week – your bodies and minds are mine. If you want funding – that’s the way it has to be. If you don’t want funding that bad – well, then get the fuck out. My instructors will be happy to give you back your clothing and belongings.”

A couple of founders got up and left. There was silence. A few more got up and left. White just stood on the stage watching until there were no more getting up and leaving. Once they were gone he continued.

Can you imagine throwing funding at those founders? We haven’t even started and they’ve already quit. But for now – that’s enough of the chit-chat. It’s time for your first fireside chat – so I’d like to bring out my good friend, Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle Corporation. Please give him a warm welcome. Also waiters will be coming through the bleachers and giving you either coffee or tea – but no sugar or cream. One of the first companies we funded was Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – but for now, please give a warm welcome to Larry Ellison!”

Ted had to give it to VWA. He hadn’t seen any of this coming. One thing was certain – he was glad that he hadn’t walked away.

 

Chapter 15

Fireside Chats

Let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

This was Silicon Valley, after all and there was no way that any sort of event was going to happen without the celebrated fireside chat, but this wasn’t THAT Silicon Valley – this was VWA’s right wing bizarro Silicon Valley and Larry Ellison wasn’t going to disappoint.

Larry Ellison came lumbering out from the far side of the bleachers lit by the fire of the tiki-torches. For a man pushing eighty, he looked surprisingly fit. Like Victor White, he was wearing a sort of militaristic civilian uniform. A couple of assistants came out and put chairs on the turf platform. Both men sat down. Another assistant handed Larry Ellison a cordless mic.

Larry, thanks for coming to speak to these guys – you’re one of the most successful men in the history of planet Earth. You are the only person in the world who owns their own Hawaiian Island, you own more jets than many nations, you founded Oracle Corporation, one of the most successful companies in the world, and you are one of the wealthiest people in the world. What’s your secret?”

Larry turned and looked at the crowd. His natural scowl made him look slightly angry even when he tried to force a smile on his face.

Thanks for having me here Victor. My secret is that I don’t take no for an answer. I never have. No means yes to me.” It wasn’t exactly a ‘me-too’ moment. “When the US government told me that I couldn’t own Mig fighters and fly them with full armaments, I didn’t accept it. I simply paid for renovation of an old air base in Mexico on the condition that they let me keep my planes there. When they told me that Oracle couldn’t have a lucrative US government contract that would allow us to provide the one approved fund raising software in the developed world, I didn’t just bow down to that buffoon ass Marc Benioff – no, I built a script to run on top of Salesforce – and ultimately he had to use our databases – so we won. The common thread in all of my successes have been ignoring the word no.”

Victor was nodding. “I’ve always felt that no is just a different level of yes. Unless I’m saying it, then it means no.”

Ellison laughed. “Yes, my no is also the only no I know.” The audience (forgetting they were wearing orange jumpsuits and simply falling into Valley Hive Mind) laughed appreciatively. Ted caught Adell’s eye and she raised one eyebrow – something he wished he could do. This had gotten very strange very rapidly.

But Larry,” Victor asked like he was some kind of late night sensitive talk-show host “What about the government and how it is stifling innovation?”

Now it felt like Ellison was going into some sort of prepared monologue. “Oracle has paid somewhere along the lines of a trillion dollars to the US government. If you include payroll, taxes, FICA, insurance, charitable contributions, the taxes our employees pay, the donations to campaigns and more – then it’s even more.” Ted wondered how he could possibly include all those things as coming from Oracle. “And that’s fine, but we shouldn’t be supporting Ohio and some tank manufactury.” Huh?

Ellison went on. “The old farts in congress – most of them aren’t even my age but 90% of them need a young assistant to check their email for them. Silicon Valley has a larger Gross National Product than more than one hundred and fifty countries. California is the fifth wealthiest nation in the world and it’s not even a nation. The West Coast of North America from Alaska to Baja would be the wealthiest country in the world if it were to leave the United States. Think about it – Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Costco, Oracle, Nike, and the list goes on and on. Alaskan oil, Hollywood…”

He paused to take a sip of water. Ted drank a sip of his coffee – it was really good – probably single origin, hand processed, top of the line. Ellison went on. “And yet, we have to put up with regulation from the descendants of former slave owners in a backwater swamp called Washington D.C. Why in the world do we, the greatest people in the world have to listen to that shyster New York president and his crooked cabinet?” That was a surprise – Ted had sort of thought Ellison would be a Trumper but then he sort of remembered Ellison being a big Marco Rubio backer in 2016.

There is no reason to remain a part of the United States of America. We should secede and take the whole West Coast including British Columbia, the Yukon, and Baja California with us. I’m naming it right now ‘West America’. The USA has become a laughingstock and Larry Ellison and Victor White do not like to be laughed at.” No one was laughing now.

Larry,” Victor was still the host of this show “I’m with you, but what steps should we take. How can we make this a reality?”

By doing what you are doing here Vic, by gathering patriots, putting the best and the brightest minds to work, and getting our minds, bodies, and souls in order.” He turned to the audience “Your companies were picked because they have something to offer to West America. Fresh water, energy, security, education – I’m telling you now – this is going to be the most important week in your lives. And I also want to say this – my venture arm will invest an additional $1 million in every company that makes it through this training. I believe in you.”

He stood up and based on the last two sentences alone – he received a thunderous round of applause. Victor White and Larry Ellison walked off the stage together and the heavies moved back in. They weren’t smiling any more. Just before he was out of range – Victor White turned and said “Please make sure to properly dispose of your coffee cups.”

Over the next seven days, the founders were taught everything they needed to know to make their startup work and a completely bizarre amount of physical training, combat techniques, and methods of improvised warfare. The ostensible reason given was that business is a lot like war and by developing war skills, they were learning to have the winner mindset that would be necessary if they were to succeed in the startup world – a world where 90% of startups failed in the first year and another 7% failed in the next. It all made sense – but Ted wasn’t sure that he needed to know how to create a cigarette timer for an improvised bomb so that he could scale his business properly.

The fireside chats continued with a powerful cast of characters. Eric Prince – the founder of the Blackwater Security Firm discussed the murky world of landing government contracts and running one of the world’s largest private armies. Prince had helped to set up the VWA Basic Training and his fireside chat let everyone know to call it VWAB or V-Wab. The surprise takeaway for Ted was finding out that President Trump’s Controversial Education Secretary – Betsy DeVos was the older sister of Prince. The nepotism runs deep.

John McAfee – the founder of McAfee Antivirus and the Godfather of Cryptocurrency – video-fireside chatted about the importance of defunding the Federal Reserve and making sure that profits were denominated in a number of different currencies – both crypto and fiat. His firesdie chat had to be teleconferenced because he was on the run from the US Government for tax evasion and possibly murder. He was also running for President again with the Libertarian Party. “A vote for me is a vote for West America. Buy Bitcoin!”

Peter Thiel, one of the cofounders of Paypal had a lot to say about gold and how to get it, keep it, and use it. Unlike McAfee, Thiel thought bitcoin was a scam. He laughed about how bitcoin believers had given him a bitcoin and he had sold it and bought gold. By the time that Thiel’s fireside chat started, Ted had figured out that V-Wab was a Libertarian Indoctrination Camp. While the discussion did talk about the trials and opportunities of starting Paypal, most of the chat was about how non-Libertarian views are skewed liberal of fascist. Ted, who was no stranger to politics and had developed some pretty educated political views over the years – didn’t disagree but felt that any Libertarian who looked in the mirror and saw themselves as a centrist was fooling themselves.

On the fifth day, the fireside chat was with David Friedman, son of Milton Friedman and a well respected economist in Libertarian circles in his own right. Friedman continued with his parent’s brand of Libertarian Capitalism pushing it even further into the realm of Anarcho-Capitalism, a bizarre free market brand of libertarianism where the state offered no protections to the poor or weak but defended the borders in order to promote free enterprise. Much of Friedman’s talk was in regards to his book “The Machinery of Freedom” and Victor White assured everyone that an autographed copy would be waiting for them when they graduated.

The sixth day’s chat was with with Ken Schoolland, an economics professor. Schooland had written a book that detailed Austrian economics called “The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey” – which he also said would be waiting for graduates when they were done. Ted was impressed with the growing weight of his V-Wab schwag bag – even though he didn’t have it yet.

The final fireside chat was something completely different – Joe Rogan, the podcaster, comedian, and political influencer did a fireside chat where he poked fun at people who trust the government, roasted people who willingly pay ‘all’ of their taxes, and generally made fun of everything that wasn’t the libertarian view. It was hilarious and when he finished, Rogan generously invited all of the founders to sign up to be guests on his show – providing they graduated.

The fireside chats were the thing to look forward to each day. The rest of the days were spent in long lectures, intensive workshops where participants developed their pitches, worked on their media skills, and learned how to make sure they were never taken advantage of by the government, the media, their employees, or their customers. Meals were timed communal affairs served in a large cafeteria. Showers were gym style. Dormitories were open rooms with rows of bunk beds. One dormitory for the men and one for the women. In between workshops, lectures, meals, and fireside chats – the founders were tortured with physical exercise. If they wanted the funding (and the schwag bags – they had no choice).

Still – with all of that, there was some amount of down time when the founders were able to get to know each other, learn about each other’s businesses, and do what people do when they are thrown into adversity together – develop friendships.

Chapter 16

The Useless Burden

Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure his “problem.”

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Much later, in hindsight, both Ted and Adell would come to realize that V-Wab had an astounding impact for a 7-day adventure. That’s what it really came down to – V-Wab was an adventure for those who stayed – sometimes terrifying, sometimes exhilarating, and sometimes educational. It was even fun – at times. The biggest impact, however didn’t arise from the seminars or the workouts, not the fireside chats nor the workshops – it came from the people and the relationships that formed inside the sweaty, stinky, emotionally distraught confines of that old police training ground. And of course, the huge injection of money that came afterwards – but that was later.

During the course of V-Wab, Ted got to know some of his fellow founders very well. They bonded through whispered conversations after lights out, they literally helped pull each other up as they traversed the so called ‘confidence courses’, and they goaded each other and competed in hand to hand combat, at the shooting range, and on the sports fields. The cast of characters were diverse – even if most of them were white and/or named with vanilla monikers like Danny, Rick, Jen, Misty, David, Carrie, and Phil.

Danny Carlisle was a rich kid with a trust fund who had been gifted with brains. He and a couple of his classmates at Stanford had figured out that people were scared and there was a solid need for an Uber for Bodyguards. They’d put together a private security outsourcing firm called ProTekshun. User’s could have an armed or unarmed security officer on call for an hour or a week using the app Danny had developed.

Rick Bransetter was a data scientist who had been working at Google when he realized that there was a direct correlation between people’s browsing behavior and their income. His analytics startup provided an alternate ‘credit score’ for lenders to determine if the amount of income people reported was par, under, or over the reality of their situation. His firm was called BroSir.

Jen Yang was one of the few non-white founders at V-Wab. She and her engineering team at UC Davis were working on a way to make electric outboard motors more efficient and capable of running on a drastically reduced battery power. Their aim was to eliminate noise, air, and water pollution in watercraft.

Misty Tucker and her crew were developing what they called the reverse-stuff-annuity. They paid a monthly dividend to users who signed a contract that specified that when they died, all of their household possessions, collections, and personal items would be picked up, taken away, sorted and sold. It was a benefit to heirs who didn’t have to deal with hoarder houses and generally a cheaper way to buy estates that sometimes yielded expensive hidden treasures.

David Davidson III was at the forefront of the investor lending industry with his company Profitday. His firm planned to offer loans guaranteed by stock portfolios. As a way of getting the loans, users would need to transfer their portfolios to his hedge fund for management and then sign a promissory note that if not honored would transfer the ownership of the stocks to his fund. People loved it. They felt like they were borrowing against future gains in their stocks and able to spend their earnings before they even happened. And, if the management of the fund was bad, they could walk away without incurring further losses.

Carrie “Carolyn” Ludspeker had started one of the nations fastest growing Yoga schools. It was called Prosperity Yoga. Students would do yoga on sandboxes filled with money. The ‘money energy’ would filter upwards into their lives and through a series of mantras focused on earning and receiving – they would become healthy, flexible, and prosperous. She had a whole slew of gimmicks and rituals that kept users hungry for more. Her future plans included a whole host of Prosperity Yoga brands – everything from cereal to clothing to soft drinks.

Phil Giovano was the guy who Ted most enjoyed talking with. Phil was an old school internet guy like Ted. He had put in a few years at Microsoft during which he had mucked around with Gopher and the other old protocols. Phil’s startup was literally doing what Ted had thought about doing – creating a new internet using Gopher’s menu organization. The idea was to bypass Google, Bing and other so called ‘Search Engines’ which had actually turned into ‘recommendation engines’ and ‘ad engines’ and allow users to get back to the joy of finding gopher holes and diving down them.

These founders made up the ‘lunch bunch’ ‘breakfast club’ and ‘dinner companions’ of Phil and Adell. On this particular morning they were all trying to come up with a suitable rebrand for Pet Shitter.

The problem I have with it, is that it sounds like you want to hit pets.” That was Carolyn who was actually quite soft spoken. “I wish you had called it something like Pet Caresser or Pet Stroker.”

David III spit out his coffee. “Not Pet Stroker. Oh my god. Not unless you want to watch viral videos of people jerking off their dogs every time you search for your company on Google.”

I like our name,” Adell said. “It describes what our company is built on. Pet shit.”

Yeah, but you can’t say that so you’re left with Pet Hitter which has all kinds of bad reasons that validate getting rid of it.”

What if we made hitter into a good thing? Like made it slang for scooping?” Ted didn’t particularly want to get rid of the name because it made him laugh. Not the best reason for keeping it, but in a human sense – completely valid.

David III liked it “Like ‘Hey Ted, where’d you get that new bling?’ ‘Oh, you know, just been hitting the pet and getting paid.’ “ David was a frighteningly good looking guy with a chiseled jaw line, perfect hair, and a tall toned body. Mid 30’s – he was literally the king of his world.

I’d hit that,” Carolyn said it looking at David III and immediately began to blush. She was a very good looking person, herself but suffered from some shyness and anxiety – which Ted would have thought made being a yoga teacher or doing this kind of training difficult – but she didn’t appear to have any issues outside of personal conversation. They all laughed and Adell threw in a “Hell yeah, sister.”

Rick, the Google data-scientist jumped in “So what you really have is a marketing and education campaign issue – that’s what will solve it. Not really an issue because you are going to have to teach people how to harvest the shit anyway.” He was also very good looking – Ted looked around the table, then looked around the dining hall – everyone there was good looking. There were no fat, disfigured, handicapped, or even mildly ugly people there.

This was roughly half way through the boot camp and Ted was surprised he hadn’t noticed before.As he looked around the room he realized that it was more than everyone’s good looks and general fitness that made this a unique experience. Out of the original seventy or so participants – there were around fifty of them still in it. Of those the vast majority, nearly forty of them were white. There were two Asian women, one Asian man, one African American woman and five more brownish people who were a mixture of Indians, Arabs, Southern Europeans, and Latin Americans. The huge majority of the rest were white people with blond hair, blue eyes – most likely of Western, Northern, and Eastern European descent. Ted had never been a practicing Jew, but his ancestry was definitely Jewish – as he looked around he had a distinctly uncomfortable feeling about the ethnic mixture of the majority.

Without knowing much about Silicon Valley, it would be easy to think Ted was having a moment of total unsubstantiated paranoia. After all, the United States is by and large a ‘white’ country settled by English, German, Norwegian, and other mostly white people – but California is a different story. California has a close split between English and Spanish as the first language with Spanish set to surpass English in the next decade or so. Latinos already outnumber Caucasians in California. In the Bay Area itself there is an amazing amount of diversity. Ted couldn’t think of a single instance when he had been in a restaurant that was all white.

Silicon Valley has a huge Asian population, a sizable African-American population, a growing Latino population, and an even more rapidly growing Indian and Arab population. In fact, tech itself tended to be dominated by Asian and Indian startups – which when they matured tended to be handed off to straight white male CEOs.

This group was not even close to being representative of Silicon Valley, tech, San Francisco, the Bay Area, or California. With that realization, the fireside ‘tiki-torch’ chats suddenly had a completely different kind of feel. Ted wasn’t exactly sure what was going on here – he wondered if anyone else had noticed.

They were all still laughing and nodding at Rick’s comment but Ted decided to interject and change the subject completely “Have you guys noticed anything strange about the ethnic makeup of this cohort?” He gestured around the room. Mostly, white people never noticed when there were mostly white people – they just felt more comfortable. Ted had never had that luxury, one thing about being Jewish is that you always know that you are different from everyone else unless you are in a synagogue – history had driven that awareness to a genetic knowledge level.

They all looked around. Misty, the reverse-stuff-annuity founder and the only African-American in the cohort made the call first. “These are a bunch of very good looking people. Though, no offense to present company – I prefer my men to be handsome, tall, and dark – of which there seems to be no real representation. A lot of the security and the trainers are black – but the founders seem to be mostly white guys.”

And white girls,” Jen Yang spoke up. “I’d noticed it early on but as a vastly underrepresented minority, decided not to say anything. Besides, everyone knows that VWA is a huge alt-right donor. Hell, I heard that Victor White and Steve Bannon go deer hunting together.”

What about Jewish founders? Anyone know any Jewish founders here?” Ted asked. It was the kind of question he usually didn’t go near. Adell began laughing.

From what I’ve heard about Victor White through the years – I’m guessing that there are no Jewish founders here Ted, except for you and you get a pass because you’re dating Adolf Hitler.” The situation wasn’t funny, but the comment was. They all laughed.

Ted didn’t have any qualms about taking money from a racist or anyone else for that matter – in fact, he was of the opinion that people should take as much as they can from the shit-heads of the world – but he decided that when they were free of V-Wab – he would do some serious homework into what the fuck was going on.

The old adage ‘birds of a feather flock together’ had proved itself to be true more times than Ted could count and it seemed to have demonstrated it’s universality with the founders at their table finding their way together as well -though none of them had done it consciously. None of them fit the straight, white, heterosexual, ‘cis’ mold that predominated at V-Wab. Cis comes from the latin word meaning ‘on the side of’ which is the opposite, gender speaking, of ‘trans’ which means across from. So a cis person identifies as the gender they were born with and a trans person does not.

Danny was actually born Danielle, Rick’s mother was Cuban, Misty was the sole African-American, Jen was Asian, David III was gay, Carrie was in a three way relationship (non-binary) with a man and a woman, Phil was Italian-American and one of the few older white geeks – like Ted, Ted was of Jewish descent, and Adell, well she was Adell. In any event this was the core group they spent time with inside – and while there were certainly a few exceptions – most of the rest of the people at V-Wab looked like Hitler youth at a holiday training session. Those folks who were not straight white cis and not in Ted’s group didn’t seem to care or notice that they stood out like exotic flowers in a field of wheat.

Chapter 17

None Dare Call it Conspiracy

On those who are employed, ever-increasing demands will be placed: They will need more and more training, more and more ability, and will have to be ever more reliable, conforming and docile, because they will be more and more like cells of a giant organism. Their tasks will be increasingly specialized, so that their work will be, in a sense, out of touch with the real world, being concentrated on one tiny slice of reality. The system will have to use any means that it can, whether psychological or biological, to engineer people to be docile, to have the abilities that the system requires and to “sublimate” their drive for power into some specialized task. But the statement that the people of such a society will have to be docile may require qualification. The society may find competitiveness useful, provided that ways are found of directing competitiveness into channels that serve the needs of the system. We can imagine a future society in which there is endless competition for positions of prestige and power. But no more than a very few people will ever reach the top, where the only real power is. Very repellent is a society in which a person can satisfy his need for power only by pushing large numbers of other people out of the way and depriving them of THEIR opportunity for power.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Ted and Phil were geeking out about Gopher and Phil’s vision of a new internet between work out sessions and start-up seminars.

It’s kind of like Gopher, but different. I’ve kept the menu structure – which seems like old school links but actually is totally different – but I’ve developed a sorting algorithm called wasp hive.” Phil was an incredibly smart dude. “Wasp hive is really dangerous to the internet as it exists now.”

How so?” Ted was interested “Is it that much more efficient or advanced?”

Phil hesitated with a drawn out “Yesssss,” but he couldn’t resist explaining his creation to someone who actually understood it and was interested. “Do you know anything about wasps?”

Just to stay away from them. They’re pretty nasty.” Ted had been bitten by a wasp when he was a boy. It stung for days.

Okay,” Phil was in full lecture mode now “Bees are pollinators and wasps are predators. Bees sting once and die, wasps can sting over and over. Bees live in wax hives and make honey, wasps live in papery nests and hunt bees and other insects.”

I knew they were nasty. So why wasp hive?” Ted couldn’t understand why Phil would name his new algo after a nasty predator.

Look, please keep this between us. I haven’t given these details to VWA or anyone else for that matter because frankly, I don’t think they’d invest in me if they understood just how powerful WaspHive is.” Ted nodded, even more interested now. “The existing internet isn’t going to just step aside and the big companies aren’t going to give up their walled gardens. Plus, rebuilding the internet from scratch is a huge undertaking and to do it manually – would take years. So I started developing an A.I. that could read, validate, and copy websites – and in the process restructure their links and navigation to something along the lines of the old Gopher taxonomy.”

The internet as it exists right now is really analogous to a beehive. It contains millions of worker bees who have built a wax hive – they go out in the world, gather pollen and bring it to the hive where it is made into honey. A wasp hive on the other hand is made from digested trees and plants that are internally processed into a kind of paper. Lots of wasps are actually parasites as well as predators – so they will sometimes use another species nest as raw material to increase their own brood.”

So how does this affect what your algo does.”

Well, I started thinking about how parasitism works and after a bit too many cocktails one night, I wrote a piece of parasitic code into my web-scraper. Much to my surprise, it increased efficiency of the AI and created a more beautiful kind of structure with the menus. The only problem – and this is the part that I don’t want to get out – is that while it reads the existing web page, a built in viral part of the AI chews up the page code, scrambles it, and potentially destroy the existing servers.”

Wait…so WaspHive is a virus?” Ted was blown away.

Phil smiled sheepishly. “Well, sort of – but essentially it creates a better internet on top of the existing one. I’m working on a way to stop that – but – aside from the lawsuits and the disruption to pretty much everything – it does seem to be the only way to get the world to adopt a new internet.”

Ted couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “How many people know about this?”

Phil smiled “Actually, you’re the first one I trusted enough to explain it to Ted.”

Don’t tell anyone else. Seriously. Not a word. We’ll talk about it more once we’re out, deal?” It had become common for the attendees to talk about when they had their freedom or when they got out – like prisoners – which in a sense they were. Ted held his hand out and Phil shook it and agreed. Now they needed to get to the next seminar.

This was the final seminar before the last Fireside Chat with Joe Rogan. The seminar was scheduled for mid-day and there was a two hour mystery activity that was happening afterwards before the Fireside Chat. Ted had a bad feeling about what Victor White might try to shake out more founders. He knew it was coming. He just didn’t know what it was.

The seminar was titled ‘Snowflake Culture and How to Survive It.” The first half hour was a right wing historical account of identity politics. It started with civil rights and how the movement had changed from an attempt to create equality to an attempt to create a divisive ‘black culture’ that could not coexist with the dominant ‘white culture’. Ted saw Misty, the sole African-American among them, getting a lot of looks from founders – she was playing it cool though and pretended (he presumed) to be unaware of the attention she was getting. He had no idea how she controlled herself as the entire African-American experience was condensed into a cliff-notes version of historical revisionism that painted the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, and even Dr. Martin Luther King as political radicals trying to unfairly disrupt the status quo.

The lecture, which was deeply offensive and completely incorrect in an historical and political sense, continued on suggesting that the virus of ‘black identity’ had spread to Latinos, American Indians, Women, Hawaiians, and ‘the homosexuals’. The point they were making was that if it hadn’t of been for black identity politics – everyone would have merged into a sort of uni-culture that would have grown from White Anglo-Saxon Protestant America. They didn’t use the term WASP but Ted couldn’t stop thinking it as they talked about how tensions would have eventually melted the wax of society and created an American where everyone was inwardly the same and outwardly unique.

The lecture was well done – it was complete and total horseshit, but it had been carefully put together with the right statistics, historical quotes, and carefully selected facts to make it sound almost reasonable. The problem was that anyone who had ever dealt with racism on any level from priviliged white assholes, could instantly see it for what it was. It was an attempt to once again put ‘white culture’ on a higher level than all the ‘other’ cultures. It was an attempt to belittle and discredit anything that wasn’t ‘white culture’ and for the most part, the attendees ate it up. It was like watching Donald Trump get voted into office all over again.

Ted had heard an intelligent radio commentator put it best. He had said “If half of America voted Trump into office – the only possible conclusions are either that Trump’s half of America is stupid, crazy, evil, or racist. The last option is the easiest one to believe.” Ted was seeing it as clear as daylight right in front of him. The white millennials in the lecture hall with him were oblivious to their own racism. They liked what they were hearing and for the most part didn’t question it.

Ted and Adell’s lunch bunch gang had all discussed whether they should continue at all costs and take VWA’s (and Larry Ellison’s money) and they had all agreed that it was the right thing to take money from these scumbags. This lecture, however was putting them all to the test. It was nothing however compared to the wrap up and hand’s on portion.

With the revisionist and offensive fake history lesson complete, the instructor (another blond haired, blue eyed, 6-foot tall 30-something) gave them some pointers on how to survive “Snowflake Culture”. His tips included things like ‘Try to look sympathetic, nod your head, and pretend that you really care about their whining” and “Hiring a snowflake is the quickest way to guarantee your organization a quick death.” A snowflake, by the way, was any person who believed in, respected, or made allowances for ‘identity politics’ in the workplace. Some of the buzzwords to look out for in the interview were ‘equal opportunity’ ‘glass ceiling’ ‘equal pay’ and the doozy – to ask candidates who their favorite Supreme Court Justice was and send them packing if they said Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

This went on for quite a while with similar astoundingly unperceptive characterizations and then came the coup de’tat – the place where the offensiveness couldn’t get any worse. First, the moderator asked the audience for real life examples of snowflakes. If Ted and his friends had thought the audience was in the same boat with them and just going along for the money, they were wrong.

Liberal arts majors.”

Women in pants suits.”

Blacks… ” yes the guy actually said blacks and paused for a second before qualifying it with “ …with Afros.”

Or expensive sneakers…” another member of the racist crowd chimed in.

Haitians.” A white woman threw in, with no explanation whatsoever – but no one asked her for one.

Rainbow flags or bumper stickers,” another slightly older white lady said.

LGBTQ shirts or hats…” again, no one interjected anything.

MAGA hats…..” Ted had known Adell wouldn’t be able to keep quiet. She’d tried to throw a bomb that would show just how awful they were being – but instead the crowd erupted in laughter.

The moderator felt the need to intervene on that one, he was also laughing “Probably not the problem we’re looking for on that one.”

Apple products,” a very pale white guy yelled. Ted heard some of the other members say things like “Queer CEO” and “Faggot company”.

Despite everything that had happened since 2016, despite the election of Trump, despite the things he had seen here – he still couldn’t believe what he was hearing or seeing.

Speaking Spanish…” another guy yelled.

Or Arabic. They’re all terrorist sympathizers.”

Asians…” this one came all the way from the other side. Ted was pretty sure that it had been someone in his group, but maybe not.

Again the moderator stepped in – “That’s not cool. Asian people have been with us all along. They’re almost white.” The impact of that last statement hit Ted harder than anything else. The audacity, the level of feeling superior, the implicit white supremacist context of that.

The list grew and grew until it was eventually anyone that wasn’t of North and Western European descent – but also Russians, Asians, and American Indians in business suits were given passes.

What amazed Ted was how quickly it had gone from generic stereotypes to specific ethnicities. It had gone from “Vegan to Black.” The groupthink on this kind of racist shit was astoundingly easy to bring to a head.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity in some kind of hallucinogenicly negative acid trip, the session came to a close. Ted, Adell, and their group all sort of coalesced. The other obviously non-white founders wandered over – either expelled from their ‘white’ groups or no longer comfortable with the people in them. There they were. Twelve people out of fifty. It was the last day of the camp and while they all knew each other, the bonds with the newcomers were never as tight as those with the original lunch bunch – still they were welcomed with open arms.

Ted had no idea how the mystery activity was going to compare with that but they all concurred that they had gotten through the worst of it and now all they had to do was ride out the storm to the bitter end. They had come too far and gone through too much to walk away now – though that would have felt spectacular.

The heavy instructors now gathered around – they had been conspicuously absent from the last session – which Ted figured was probably by intent since most of them were African-American (or <gasp> possibly even Haitian!) Ted figured that even Victor White knew better than to alienate his hired muscle.

The lead instructor pulled out a bullhorn – there was no need, his voice was booming anyway – but it was even louder and more terror inducing with the speaker. “Today, some of you are going to pass the final challenge. If you succeed, you will be funded and will most likely go on to become powerful millionaires who determine the future of our great country. If you fail, then you will lose it all.”

He let that hang in the air. Ted had no idea what that meant.

He went on. “Right now, before we provide you with details of your final challenge, we need each of you to sign this comprehensive waiver which absolves VWA of all responsibility in the event of injury or death. You will also need to sign this ironclad non-disclosure agreement. We will not answer any questions. If you do not want to sign, you can pack up your things and go.”

They were too close. All of them. Ted would realize later, that a big part of the indoctrination they had been through over the past week had caused them to think of this opportunity as their last and only chance at success. The lack of sleep, the pushing of the body and mind to the point of collapse, the rousing speeches and motivational fireside chats. All of that had really been preparing them to sign on the dotted line at this moment. They all did it.

After the last of them had signed – the most fucked up thing of all happened. They were randomly assigned to two groups. The instructors went over all of the hand-to-hand and self-defense moves they had been taught during the past seven days. They put a special focus on the kill moves.

With this complete – Victor White stepped out among them. They were all exhausted, beat up, drained, and probably working on 25% mental capacity at this point. The night before they had been forced to stay up late and wake up early providing only four hours of sleep.

You’ve all done a great job out here this week,” White said. “I wish there were enough money to fund all of you. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that we don’t do things in an orthodox way out here. V-Wab is designed to turn you into the executive rulers of the world.”

He paused. “The problem is that we can only fund half of you. We need to know that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get that funding. That you are willing to take your killer instinct and the lessons we’ve taught you and test yourself in the ultimate challenge. Welcome to the V-Wab Death Match.”

Ted couldn’t believe his ears. He looked around and caught the eyes of the friends he had made here. Some were on one side, some were on the other. Adell caught his gaze and held it. There was no way. They couldn’t do this. There was no fucking way they could get away with it. This was taking playing god to a whole new level.

Without giving them time to think, Victor White went on with his instructions. “You are divided into two groups – one on this side,” he motioned to Ted, “And the other on this side,” now he motioned to Adell’s side.

Ted and Adell’s eyes were still locked on one another. “I want you to look to the other side and find someone you think you could kill. Maybe you don’t like them for some reason, or maybe you think you are stronger. In any event, you are going to catch the eyes of that other person.” Ted thought of looking away and then realized he would rather just keep looking at Adell. She winked at him. They were locked and he couldn’t really feel what else was happening but then curiousity got the better of him and he looked to see if anyone was looking at him. On the other side, one of the biggest, muscle-dudes in the whole camp caught Ted’s eye. Fuck. He was staring right at Ted with total and obvious murderous intent. He tried to look away, to find someone else, but that guy wouldn’t stop staring at him.

We are going to count down from ten. When we reach zero – you are going to cross the divide and engage your enemy. You will either kill them, or they will kill you. There is no escape. Even if you want to do something else – the die has already been cast.” Ted wavered on whether to look friendly or fierce, all he felt was an overwhelming urge to yell “Fuck!” His mind began racing. They couldn’t do this…this was not fucking possible.

But, he had already seen enough fucked up shit during the course of the week at V-Wab that he knew it was possible. They were super-rich and they could do whatever they wanted. He noticed a group of the Fireside Chat guests and other Valley Luminaries had gathered on the bleachers.

10” He just wouldn’t do it. The guy would have to kill him. He looked and saw the guy next to him staring at Adell with murder in his eyes.

9” He would trip this fuckwad next to him first and then start beating him. Maybe his friends would help him.

8” His friends all seemed to have a bunch of white male and female babboons planning on murdering them. Maybe he should just run. He thought about turning and just running before the count was down.

7” He caught Adell’s eye. She motioned downwards and took a deep breath. She was telling him to calm down.

6” Phil moved next to him. “I think we can take that guy together,” he whispered.

5” Ted had never felt anything like this. It was the most intense moment of his life.

4” Until the next number down was counted and then the feeling doubled. He was ready.

3” He saw that all of his friends were feeling the same – maybe they could all meet in the center and fight off the goons.

2 – This is it. This is the moment folks. I hope you win.” Victor White threw one last comment in.

Stand down – everyone stand the fuck down. Exercise over.” The heavies rushed into the center, there would be no engagement. The whole thing had been a mind-fuck.

That’s what it feels like my friends. That’s what the moment of life or death, victory or defeat feels like. This is the only way I could show you what really matters and what you are really made of.”

Congratulations. You are now funded. All of you. Now go get showered and come check out Joe Rogan at our final Fireside Chat. You did it and you don’t want to miss the finale.”

Ted turned to Phil and the two men hugged. “Thanks for having my back, Phil.”

That’s what friends do,” he replied.

The big guy who had been eyeballing Adell began to walk away and Ted casually stuck his foot out causing the man to trip and fall on his face. Ted kept talking to Phil as if nothing had happened. He wondered how much rage that had been restrained would find other ways to be relieved. After tripping the guy, however, Ted felt much better.

Chapter 18

Funded Not Funambulists

 

One can envision scenarios that incorporate aspects of more than one of the possibilities that we have just discussed. For instance, it may be that machines will take over most of the work that is of real, practical importance, but that human beings will be kept busy by being given relatively unimportant work. It has been suggested, for example, that a great development of the service industries might provide work for human beings. Thus people would spent their time shining each other’s shoes, driving each other around in taxicabs, making handicrafts for one another, waiting on each other’s tables, etc. This seems to us a thoroughly contemptible way for the human race to end up, and we doubt that many people would find fulfilling lives in such pointless busy-work. They would seek other, dangerous outlets (drugs, crime, “cults,” hate groups) unless they were biologically or psychologically engineered to adapt them to such a way of life.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

When investors invest in your startup, it’s not a loan. They’re giving you that money – so in essence, whatever your startup was worth before the investment, it is now worth that plus the investment money. So, when you give up some shares in the company, you do so with post-investment value, not pre-investment valuation. The long and short of it was that VWA transferred $3 million dollars to Pets Hitter, Inc. (the change they required at the end of it all was just making the space an actual thing) and Larry Ellison Investment Partners transferred $1 million to Pets Hitter – so now, the company was worth $4 million plus the pre-investment value which Adell assured Ted (and everyone else) was something like $3.5 million dollars. So, Pets Hitter was valued at $7.5 million dollars without a product. VWA got 30% ownership. LEIP got 10% – which was what they had negotiated but about double what the valuation and investment called for. Both companies got seats on the board – two for VWA and one for LEIP. The board was made up of Adell, Ted (he would never be Theo again), Tim Burr, and the three reps from the venture capitalists – that left a situation where there was a potential for a 3-3 vote. It wasn’t ideal but better than being outnumbered.

With the money in the bank and the company fully funded, it was easy for them to get to work. Adell was on a mission to hire nothing but snowflakes while Ted put together a pretty solid crew of mechanical engineers to build their prototypes. Adell and Tim were working with the marketing team and Charlene and Geronimo were doing their financial and legal work to make sure they didn’t go bankrupt or to jail. During the evenings, Ted often met up with Phil and the two of them worked on his WaspNest project.

Phil’s Wasps wouldn’t simply get loose on the internet and eat everything – they more or less left the walled gardens whole and in place – they just made them inaccessible. That was the main thing with wasp hives – they actually left the infrastructure alone but more or less used the http://www as plant matter to build the paper hive out of. Phil had no desire (and no way) of installing wasps on the servers of Google or Apple or Facebook – but instead they worked their way through the internet chewing up the main navigation protocol and replacing it with wa://sp so that anyone typing in www.google.com or http://www.google.com or https://wwww.google.com would simply arrive at a menu that looked like this

Welcome to Wasp Nest

Click the menu of what you are looking for.

Computer science, information & general works

Philosophy & psychology

Religion

Social sciences

Language

Pure Science

Technology

Arts & recreation

Literature

History & geography

People

Products

Current Events and News

Phil had opted for using the Dewey Decimal System as the basis of the entire redesigned internet. They’d gotten rid of the numbers on the surface of the design and Ted had suggested that it might be a good idea to add the three last categories: people, products, and current events/news. The old Google homepage would still be there – but to reach it users would need to type in something like

Wa://sp.computerscience.companies.searchengines.google

The revolution was that it was a scientific and hierarchical system that didn’t leave room for deception. Like going to the library or a great book store, users would be able to walk in, navigate to the section they were interested in, and find everything that was there. Once they had clicked on the Google link they would find the entire Google ecosystem available for them – and once they knew the specific location it would be saved as something like 000.35714932789 and that could be saved with a nickname. It was like knowing the title of a book and where it fit on the shelf – if you were interested you could look at the books on either side – in this case they might be Excite or Dogpile on one side and Hotbot and Lycos on the other side. If a user didn’t like Google – the options would be just a click away – click upwards in the hierarchy and you would find yourself at the page:

Wa://sp.computerscience.companies.searchengines

It would look something like this:

AOL

ASK

BING

BAIDU

DOGPILE

EXCITE

GOOGLE

HOTBOT

LYCOS

etc

With each company being a menu item. One of the most exciting things about Wa://sp was that it eliminated the need and function of domain names and completely eliminated the need for ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – the private ‘non-profit’ corporation that has largely been controlled the the U.S. Department of Commerce since the whole www came into being. ICANN and the entire DNS (domain name server) system set the stage for the entire subjugation of the internet by search engines, search engine optimizers, scammers, and spammers. This was the reason that a student who wanted to find help with crafting a teen dress on a sewing machine would instead find a porno film of a teen undressing when they typed in teendress.com or searched fro Teen dress on an unfiltered search engine. wa://sp instead would catalog all of the sites about teen dresses under something like 740.27159372 or wa://sp.arts.graphic-arts.textile-arts-fashion-clothing-womens-girls-teen-dresses – and since the entire structure was laid out mathematically and sorted by the AI with the ability for human intervention and flags – the chances of being sent to the wrong place were almost non-existant – but, and this was what Ted and Phil were so excited about – the chances of finding something else that was within your realm of interest were extraordinarily high. You were never more than one step away from something connected to your interest. There was no need to game a system like that because the game was already included in the system itself.

So this was what was happening on many evenings. Two midlife geeks putting together an antiquated system of internet organization that was a vast improvement over the current system of internet chaos. During the day, however, it was a completely different situation. Adell was a ball of stress. She knew she could count on Ted, Phil, and Tim for their board votes, but just because they had a majority didn’t mean she didn’t have to argue about every company decision she made with the board. The new board members were experienced in the ways of the valley and their job was to make sure that the money invested by their funds was being spent in the best possible way – and for them, that meant constantly scaling bigger and bigger regardless of the cost to the business.

They rented office and engineering space in South San Francisco – it wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t as expensive as being in the city or out on the Peninsula. If Ted and Adell had thought that being funded would give them tons of money and change the way they lived – they were mostly wrong, however there were definitely some nice perks that came with it. First of all, they were able to pay themselves salaries $115,000 per year – pretty standard in the Bay Area for C-Level startup founders. There was no more need to drive for Lyft or walk dogs – which was nice. Also, they had expense accounts so any meals they ate, taxis they took, or reasonable expenses they incurred on a day to day basis could be charged to the corporate credit cards. Ted signed their company cards up to a crypto cashback app called Pei which monitored what they bought and where they went – but paid them 1% (in Bitcoin!) of all the purchases they made – so for $1000 in lunches spent on the corporate cards – $100 in BTC went into their semi-anonymous crypto wallet. Ted had a totally anonymous offline wallet that he kept all of his crypto in – it was his end of the world rainy day fund. He also registered the corporate cards with multiple cashback programs like Earny and as an added bonus made sure that the cards they got were high paying airline and travel rewards cards.

So, essentially what they both did was let the company pay for pretty much everything while putting away their salaries and earning cashback, crypto back, and mileage points– and all while still living in Ted’s rent control apartment for the last month of 2019. Ted still hadn’t seen Adell’s place but he figured when the month was done he would just have the movers from Clutter move his stuff to Adell’s – and put it on the company credit card. They had laid out their position on what their company was all about from the beginning. They were sticking it to the system. They were going to leach every penny they could get out of these bigots and nazis of the banking system – and they were going to metaphorically put it all in a pickle jar, bury it in the backyard, and when their startup went belly up (like 97% of all startups) they would dig out the pickle jar and retire to someplace cheaper and less filled with sociopaths than the Bay Area.

That was their plan – and they walked a tightrope to justify every expense they made with their company cards and balanced like skilled funambulists to put as much away as they could without drawing attention from the board. They’d both read too many stories about founders who were multi-millionaires on paper when their companies failed and quickly found out they were broke when the stock was worth nothing. It was a common story in Silicon Valley – and it wasn’t going to happen to them. Technically, they were millionaires – but they didn’t have that money in the bank, only on paper.

The only real problem with their plan was that Pets Hitter was starting to look extremely promising. Ted’s engineering team had come up with a viable, table sized bio-generator that would power a family home for a month with two tons of dog shit. It actually worked and the prototype contained the smell, and as a byproduct produced tidy scentless brown bricks that could be burned to make more energy or alternatively used as a very powerful fertilizer. Ted suspected that by mixing in a fire-proof polymer, the bricks could even be used as a building material.

There was one very obvious problem. Very few families produced two tons of dog shit in a month. Or cat shit. Or pet shit. At most a big dog produces a pound of shit per day (and that’s a BIG dog) – so that would come to a maximum amount of 30 lbs per month – about 1970 pounds short of the two tons needed. Still, it was progress.

To get the poo they needed for R&D, they had contracted a company called DutyCalls which specialized in picking up pet waste from animal shelters, kennels, veterinarians, and dog parks. Duty calls actually paid them to take it – which was money that Ted and Adell collected through another small private business they set up called RePoop. Dutycalls paid Repoop to take their dog droppings, and then Repoop sold the droppings to Pets Hitter. They were collecting on both ends with Repoop.

Meanwhile, Pets Hitter was getting a fair amount of media attention. The idea that a family could generate enough power to run a home with washer/dryer, refrigerator, air-conditioning, etc was a big deal and the local news got wind of the story through Adell and her PR department. The truth was, this only translated to about $250 in San Francisco – but the novelty of the idea was what was making people excited.

It was during an interview with ABC7 News that Adell created one of the more interesting problems they had yet had to deal with.

I don’t see any dogs here,” the reporter said, motioning around the facility “Where do you get your dog droppings?”

We buy them,” Adell said. It was true – they bought them from Repoop who was paid to take them by DutyCalls. Over the next few days they were bombarded with calls, letters, and emails from people wanting to sell their dog poop.

Chapter 19

The Power of Poop

It is overwhelmingly probable that if the industrial-technological system survives the next 40 to 100 years, it will by that time have developed certain general characteristics: Individuals (at least those of the “bourgeois” type, who are integrated into the system and make it run, and who therefore have all the power) will be more dependent than ever on large organizations; they will be more “socialized” than ever and their physical and mental qualities to a significant extent (possibly to a very great extent) will be those that are engineered into them rather than being the results of chance (or of God’s will, or whatever); and whatever may be left of wild nature will be reduced to remnants preserved for scientific study and kept under the supervision and management of scientists (hence it will no longer be truly wild).

-Industrial Society and Its Future

One of the many shitty but fascinating problems they ran into was the issue of bags. Most pet owners picked up their dog poo in cheap plastic bags, tied them shut, and threw them in the trashcan or a DutyCalls bin. The entire shit distillation process hinged on bacteria eating the poo and then excreting methane which was used to generate electricity. Actually, there were several processes that could be used to make energy, but the methane burn was the simplest. The process didn’t work if the poo was in plastic bags.

To get around this – Ted’s team had come up with a machine that would rip and tear the bags and the poo while mixing it with water. It worked but Ted hated it because he saw the potential for using the byproducts of the methane process as an additional source of revenue but that wasn’t a possibility with the plastic bags included as part of the material. Nobody wanted to burn or fertilize with shredded plastic bags. The ‘shit-bricks’ were high concentrate energy waiting to be used as either fertilizer, a fuel source, or (with the addition of a clean, binding polymer) a building material.

When he explained this to Adell – or just about anyone else, the response was usually for the person to be totally grossed out by the idea of using shit to build houses, schools, or any other human use building – Adell of course took it even further – she sang about it…blatantly turning The Commodores song ‘Brick House’ into her own version called ‘Shit House’.

Ow, it’s a shit house
It’s mighty-mighty, just lettin’ it all poop out
It’s a shit house
The poo is stacked and that’s a fact
Ain’t holding nothing back

Ow, it’s a shit house
Well put-together, everybody knows
This is how the story goes

Shit it down, shit it down now
Shit it down, shit it down now

It was a catchy tune and they were all singing it all day. In fact, from that point forward whenever Ted saw the shitbricks, the song would come up in his head. The song was fun but the problem of getting rid of the plastic bags was a sore point with Ted. It was a problem with an itchy solution hiding somewhere but he wasn’t completely sure what it was.

It was when the calls and letters began coming in that inspiration hit him.

Oh my god,” Adell complained “I had to open up my big mouth. Everyone in the Bay Area wants to sell us their dog shit now. Dollars to donuts that story is going to get picked up by the national press and we’re going to have every dog owner in America trying to profit from selling us Rover’s dog logs.”

Tim, always the money man, saw it differently “This is great press guys. I smell money here. There’s something here that we can use to make more money. I know it.”

Adell wasn’t having any of it. “Tim, you don’t understand – we actually get paid to take shit from DutyCalls and then we pay our own small company Repoop, to buy it.” They should have told Tim about that earlier. Ted waited for Tim to be upset, but he wasn’t – this whole thing had been a blessing to him and he was loving it. He didn’t begrudge them not bringing him in on Repoop.

That’s a smart idea. Nice one. Still – I think there is something here.”

Ted, as usual thinking about the plastic bag and shit-brick issue jumped into the conversation. “Even if we did buy dogshit from America, they would all send it in cheap, toxic, non-biodegradable bags that we couldn’t use to make viable shitbricks with.” They’d all gotten used to Ted talking about viable and non-viable shit bricks so no one even cracked a smile.

Tim let out a big ‘hmmm’ – “Look, I’m okay that you guys left me out of Repoop – that’s your deal but I’ve got another idea that might enable us to pull in more cash outside of Pet Hitter. I don’t want to be left out of this one – we will go three ways on it. Deal?”

Not even knowing what the deal was, Ted and Adell both agreed. “ Sure, Whatcha thinking Tim Burr?” Adell queried him.

What if we were to tell all the dog owners that the only way we would buy their shit would be if they picked it up in biodegradable bags that didn’t fuck up Ted’s shitbricks.”

That’s great,” Ted said “But does anyone even make them?”

There’s the beautiful part Ted,” Tim replied “We’re going to make them. Let’s sell them bio-bags!”

And that’s how they got into the Bio-Bag business. Tim’s uncle, Big Al, was a huge multi-level-marketing guru – he’d made a fortune with Amway, drop shipping, and other MLM organizations. Tim brought him in as an advisor on the Bio-Bag operation. When they met, Ted felt like he was meeting an African-American mafia don. Big Al was creepy. His suggestion was that they set the whole thing up as a Mary-Kay or Avon type of business – they would order the bags in bulk from a wholesaler. The bags were already being made so they didn’t need to re-invent the wheel. Tim, Big Al, Adell, and Ted would be the top tier in the pyramid. They would sell the bags to the next tier for a 10 % markup and split the revenue generated. The bags would be sold to the next two tiers for an additional 5% markup. The three tiers after that would mark up 3% each. Five tiers after that would be 2% markup. Ten tiers after that would be 1% markup and if the downline went further than that the markup would get steadily smaller.

Additionally, on Big Al’s advice – they charged the next tier $100k each to be top tier authorized distributors of the bio-bags. Big Al brought in five guys who happily paid the $100k to be the top tier of distribution arms. They would charge $50k each to the five guys under each of them, making a $125,000 profit in the process {($50k x 5) – 10% = $125k}. Tim, Adell, Ted, and Big Al each got $281,250 out of that deal and the money just kept coming as more people signed on and paid less and less for less and less profits. All of this cash came in before they’d even sold a single Bio-Bag!

The beauty of it was that by requiring pet owners to use their branded Bio-Bags to sell their dog shit, they were creating a market incentive for the sale of the bio-bags. Also, it made Ted happy that they had potentially solved the plastic problem. That’s probably why he didn’t do the math and somehow convinced himself that what they had just embarked on wasn’t a ponzi scheme.

 

 

Chapter 20

Bio-Bags

The technophiles are taking us all on an utterly reckless ride into the unknown. Many people understand something of what technological progress is doing to us yet take a passive attitude toward it because they think it is inevitable. But we don’t think it is inevitable. We think it can be stopped, and we will give here some indications of how to go about stopping it.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The Bio-Bags business was an instant and huge success. The money from the distributorships alone covered the cost of the bags, the cost of the poop, and the cost of branding the bags. They opted to have the entire bio-bag business under the Pets Hitter umbrella. The media loved the idea of dog poo being a sudden and valuable commodity and while they weren’t paying much for it ($0.25 per pound) the narrative was that as they ramped up production and increased efficiency – the price of poop would go up. The key to all of this was getting people to buy the bags, pay for the distributorships, and bring their poop.

Suddenly, much to their amusement, there was actually talk about people ‘hoarding’ dog poop and waiting for the price to go up. A couple of cases arose in Golden Gate Park where homeless people (suddenly called ‘poo pickers’ by the news) had gotten into territorial brawls over what looked like some pricey piles. Meanwhile the story was picked up by national media and more and more inquiries were coming in.

Adell, like her namesake, was a master of propaganda and used the attention to drive the bio-bag business into high gear. The top five levels of their pyramid filled out. Lower tiers were starting to have some traction even though the margin was not nearly as good as for those on the higher levels.

At this point in the narrative, it makes sense to explain the difference between a multi-level-marketing operation and a pyramid scheme. Essentially, an MLM business uses a pyramid structure to distribute and make money from the sale of an actual product. A pyramid scheme (Ponzi scheme) tends to not have an actual product, and profits are made by distributing the right to collect royalties or distribution fees. They were riding a thin line – they had an actual product – the bio-bags – but the real money was coming from the distribution scheme. If they were actually buying poop and people were earning from it – then the bio-bags were a legit business, but if the poop buying stopped, the bio-bags would suddenly be worth far less than the distribution licenses – and in that situation, they would be sitting on the top rungs of a big pyramid scheme.

The Ponzi scheme gets it’s name from Charles Ponzi, a financier who lured investors to a high profit venture in the 1920’s – unknown to the investors, the high profits were being paid to higher ranking investors from those newly coming into the scheme. As long as new investors are coming in and the all of the investors think their profits are coming from the investment vehicle itself – the scheme continues to work. Eventually, however, the other shoe always drops.

When Ted brought up his concerns about a ponzi scheme to Adell, she laughed and told him the tale of Adele Spitzeder, purportedly one of her distant relations who lived in Germany in the 1870s. Spitzeder had been a well known actress but when she aged out of good roles, she opened a bank in Munich and at one point was considered the richest woman in Bavaria. Her bank ran what was probably likely the first ‘ponzi’ scheme.

So, actually Ted,” Adelle said with a cute sort of schoolgirl charm “It should be called an ‘Adele Scheme’ because Mr. Ponzi misappropriated my ancestor’s brilliant criminal scheme.”

What happened to her?” Ted asked.

She went to prison, lost all of her money, and when she got out became a lesbian folk singer.”

Seriously?” Ted was sure she was pulling his leg.

Seriously…Google it, or Gopher it or whatever it is that you and Phil do.” She wasn’t joking, he could tell.

In any event, the bio-bags, the Pets Hitter generators, and turning poop into gold was generating a lot of media attention. Their valuation was skyrocketing. Their were getting offers of investment without asking – and, on the advice of VWA and LEIP they were turning all suitors away. The plan was to wait for an acquisition offer – hopefully before the whole thing blew up and they all went to jail.

Chapter 21

Shitbricks

Nature makes a perfect counter-ideal to technology for several reasons. Nature (that which is outside the power of the system) is the opposite of technology (which seeks to expand indefinitely the power of the system). Most people will agree that nature is beautiful; certainly it has tremendous popular appeal. The radical environmentalists ALREADY hold an ideology that exalts nature and opposes technology.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

By the time Christmas rolled around, Ted and Adell were too busy to celebrate and it was time for Ted to pack up his house, get rid of his extra accumulations, and be ready to leave before the first of the year. Given that they were suddenly rolling in money – the $90k his landlord had given him to move out seemed like an insignificant amount of money. Ted converted it to bitcoin – the price had gone up a bit at the end of the year, but the mining rewards were set to be cut in half by mid-2020 so he was fairly sure he would earn a pretty good return on his money – plus, having ten bitcoin as a back up plan wasn’t a bad idea. It was his, no one could take it, and it retained it’s value wherever he took it. A bitcoin was always worth a bitcoin.

As progress on the shit-reactor generators progressed, Ted found himself becoming more and more fascinated by the shitbricks. As mentioned before, they had developed a process of taking the leftover waste and pressing it into bricks that could then be burned for additional power, ground up and used for a high concentrate fertilizer, or with the addition of a polymer – made into a building material. Ted had hired several chemists and they sometimes spent their lunch breaks chatting about the potential uses for the various components feces.

Methylindol, also known as skatol, was the substance which gave poop it’s terrible smell. It was a highly toxic substance and unfortunately was one of the things that bacteria didn’t feed on to create the methane they were harvesting to create energy with. It was flammable but not really useful if Ted wanted to create building materials or fertilizer from the bricks. Interestingly, skatol is what gives coal it’s smell. Using a different bacteria than the one in the generators, they could separate skatol into benzene and toluene – two highly flammable hydrocarbons. Essentially propane and paint thinner. These could be bottled and sold. The process looked like it could be profitable at scale.

Removing the skatol from the brick material left the bricks scentless, sterile, and filled with possibility. Adell had a friend in Santa Cruz who had a marijuana growing operation, she reached out to him to see if there was a possibility of selling him the brick byproducts to fertilize his plants with. Ted and his chemists sent the chemical composition and a sample down for them to check out in their lab facility. Adell’s friend was a disabled Marine who had come back from Afghanistan with a serious case of PTSD, cannabis and CBD compounds were the only treatment that had helped him to get back to a normal sense of being. In gratitude, he had started ‘ChronicPTSD’ and was spreading the love.

After they had done their analysis the answer came back right away. ‘ChronicPTSD’ offered to buy as many shitbricks as were available for a price that was considerably higher than Ted had expected. The phosphates and organic compounds were like fertilizer gold. Whatever ChronicPTSD couldn’t use, they would sell to other growers at a markup.

Everything was happening far too fast for anyone to process. Ted and Adell had met, fallen in love, moved in together, started a startup, gotten funded, hired enough people to run and build a growing company, become millionaires, made new friends, developed new products, and all in the space of a couple of months. Life was not supposed to happen this quickly, but one of the more useful lectures at V-Wab had been about finding ‘flow’ and how when you found flow you would be amazed at the way that things fit together, moved quickly. Flow had a life of its own. It took you where it wanted to go and if you allowed it to lift you up, it would carry you over the jagged rocks and bring you to the place where you were supposed to be.

They were definitely in the flow. The way to recognize flow is when synchronicity and kismit start to be the norm in your everyday life. Things just naturally fit together. You run into the people you are supposed to meet, you see the billboard or the other thing that gives you the inspiration, and generally, you think or say one thing – and something else follows on the heels of that.

For example, they had been busy but one day when they were both coming back home at the same time, Ted stopped to check his mailbox. As he thumbed through the bills, offers of loans, credit card statements, and holiday junk mail, a small red envelope caught his eye. It looked like a Christmas card – he hadn’t gotten one for ages from anyone but marketers. He flipped it over to see the address and at that exact moment Adell said “I wonder what the Chan’s are doing?”

By itself, that’s not kismit – the kismit was that right at the moment she said Chan’s, Ted read who the card was from ‘The Chan-Zuckerbergs’ – that’s a clear sign that you are in the flow. When that kind of shit happens, you know that you can enjoy the ride for a while longer.

He was musing on that when she grabbed the card from him “What’s this? Woah…that’s some synchronicity right there, huh?” She tore it open. It was a pretty standard Christmas card photo of Priscilla, Mark, and their kids that said ‘Season’s Greetings’ on the front.

Snowflake alert – boop, boop, boop” Ted couldn’t resist. ‘Season’s Greetings’ had been one of the snowflake telltales at the famous V-Wab lecture. This card had a literal snowflake on it. It had a handwritten note on the back of it.

‘So happy that you guys found each other…sorry we’ve been so absent. We’ve been watching from afar! Congratulations on Pets Hitter! It’s amazing. Let’s get together after the holidays at our place!

Love, Pris, Mark and the kids.’

I’ve never seen their kids in person, have you?” Adell was lauging at his snowflake alert while she said it.

Nope, do you think they are real?” Ted wasn’t sure if he meant the kids or the adults or something else. Adell ignored his question.

It’s pretty fucking weird they’re our friends. I mean, kind of, sort of…I mean this means we are their friends right? You don’t send an actual physical Christmas card to someone unless they are your friends or your clients right? I noticed that you never name drop them…me either.” It was true. Ted wasn’t a big name dropper in the first place – neither was Adell unless she had a reason, but neither of them ever mentioned the Chans. Even when people asked how they met, they just said they were introduced by some mutual friends. It was rare for anyone to ask who, but on that blue moon occasion, the answer was always just The Chans.With no mention of Zuckerburg, Facebook, Insta, or first names.

Adell went on “Do you think they really are our friends?”

Ted wasn’t sure, but when he thought about it – yeah, you didn’t send out Christmas cards to people you didn’t care about – especially with a handwritten note. “Yeah, I think they are, but it’s not a normal sort of friendship. I mean, I never namedrop friends anyway but let’s say I did, like I just mentioned to Phil, ‘Oh yeah, my buddy Mark Zuckerburg thinks blah blah’ and then he would be like ‘Not that Mark Zuckerburg? Right? Are you serious?” And I would be like “Yeah, he and his wife introduced me and Adell – we exchange Christmas cards.’ Then he would say ‘Where do you send them?’ and I’d be like ‘Um, I know where their house is but the return address on the card in actually just Facebook HQ’ and if he was scrupulous at all he’d ask something like ‘Oh yeah, call him if you are buddies’ and I’d be like ‘Okay’ and I’d call that number they never answer that doesn’t identify who you are calling and that they haven’t called us back from in months and then he, or anyone would say ‘Yeah, you’re full of shit Ted. Have you been smoking the dog logs at your shop? I think a Doberman may have raided your sensimilla stash.” So, no, I don’t see any reason to mention them. It would come to no good.”

Adell was looking at him with her mouth wide open. His monologue/fake dialogue hadn’t been very long but he had changed voices along the way and acted it out. “Holy shit Ted. That was awesome. Maybe you have been smoking the dog logs.”

Chapter 22

Dog Logs

Nature takes care of itself: It was a spontaneous creation that existed long before any human society, and for countless centuries many different kinds of human societies coexisted with nature without doing it an excessive amount of damage. Only with the Industrial Revolution did the effect of human society on nature become really devastating. To relieve the pressure on nature it is not necessary to create a special kind of social system, it is only necessary to get rid of industrial society.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

There are all kinds of different problems that come with startups. Problems with the technical end of things, problems with the legal end of things, problems with ‘culture’, problems with scale, problems with regulations, and all the other problems that affect any sort of business. Then there are unique startup problems that arise – founder and co-founder issues, investor issues, and the other personnel issues. Finally there is a kind of problem that is generally unique to a startup because it dies with a startup that doesn’t solve it. That’s the almost legendary ‘solution in need of a problem’ problem which is often mistaken for the very much more desirable ‘problem in need of a solution’ problem.

The solution in need of a problem works like this: founders don’t do their market research, they don’t find a valid product market fit which is where good ideas come from (.i.e. solving problems) but instead create a new bright shiny object (BSO) that they get investors, other founders, and the public excited about. The BSO can be very expensive and very cool – it can be something amazing – like a grocery delivery service or getting pet food through a website or turning private vehicles into taxis – or getting rid of private offices and having the whole world work in open offices without privacy or cubicles and no personal desks or – well you get the picture. BSOs are awesome while everyone is excited about them. Investors flood them with money, they become the darlings of Wall Street and Fortune Magazine, they have huge IPOs – and then over time people come to realize “Hey, wait a minute, I like picking out my groceries and having an excuse to go to the store” or “I don’t really want to pay $50 extra each month for pet food” or “Hey, this $20k car has earned $20k but that doesn’t pay for the free water I’ve been giving my rides and I had to pay my rent during this time and actually, because of all the miles and maintenance my $20k ride is only worth $5k now” or people start realizing working with a bunch of Type A people in an ‘open office’ actually sucks. It’s like that and then the investors start to realize – grocery delivery has even shittier margins than grocery stores and those were already pretty shitty, pet food is a horrible business because pet owners are generally cheap and a pain in the ass. In pet food the margins are crappy and the driving app has been bleeding money because it has been paying the drivers too much and the economy is about to come crashing down and people don’t need office space plus it’s bleeding money because the margins are shitty. Then investment rounds stop. Then restructuring happens. Then bankruptcy. Then the main street investors lose their asses, the economy crashes, and all the BSOs? They disappear.

Ted and Adell knew they had a BSO. They had created it at the perfect time in history when central banks were throwing money at investment banks and hedge funds and there were already so many BSOs pulling in money hand over fist that nobody would notice if one more was thrown out there. And no one had noticed. They were getting away with it – and they knew they were getting away with it. It was all working! It even seemed like they might pull the holy grail of maneuvers and pivot or start something else within the same space in time to avoid exploding

For Pets Hitter – things were really working. Their generator designs were working. The Biobag and Repoop businesses were booming. In fact, they had so much pet shit coming in that they had completely outstripped their capacity to use it. They had bought massive tanks and installed them in additional warehouse space. It was just a matter of time before there was a spill or a leak. So far, all was good, but the law of averages was against them. Since they had set up the MLM scheme with Big Al, they couldn’t stop buying poop or the price would collapse – and then they would be left under a mountain of shit.

Thankfully, DutyCalls had stopped giving them free dog turds – they had wanted to negotiate a contract and get paid once they saw the poop-gold-rush stories on the internet. As a result they had stopped selling free poop for high prices – but now they were left with buying poop in bio bags. Things were getting out of hand. It was all too much. It was more than either of them had wanted.

Remember that thing about flow and kismit – when you are in it, you have to pay attention because if you don’t – it will knock you down and fuck you. Their business was going too good. They were getting too much media attention. The valuations they were suddenly hearing thrown around about them were just too good. Ted and Adell didn’t realize that – they were along for the ride. They were first time founders. They didn’t know the dirty way the business works. They had almost forgotten about who they had gotten in bed with.

Victor White and Larry Ellison both showed up on the same day. They called an emergency board meeting and somehow they’d managed to buy Tim Burr’s vote. Ted had been trying to convince Adell to let Phil have a seat on their board. It never hurt to have a former Microsoft guy at your table and Ted trusted him completely after their combat experience. He had thought they would have more time.

The emergency meeting was about a vote of no-confidence on Adell as CEO. The board voted 4-2 to remove Adell and replace her with Tim. The entire thing was shitty – Victor and Larry sat in the back of the room and after the meeting had gone exactly the way they wanted they called Ted and Adell aside for a private meeting. Tim wouldn’t look at either of them after the deed had been done.

Victor and Larry were douchebags, of course, this was the kind of thing that had made them billionaires. For all Ted knew they did this on a regular basis – but in any event, Ted and Adell had no choice but to go to the meeting, hear what they had to say, and probably do what they wanted them to do.

The meeting had none of the fun touches of their past encounters – no desk hand grenades or rousing motivational stories about racism. No, this was business. It was just the four of them.

We know about the potential you’ve been hiding from us,” Victor started.

You guys are in way over your heads,” Larry followed up. “As first time founders, you are going to get eaten up by these guys. You can’t handle what is coming.”

Ted wasn’t sure if they were on to the skimming, the pyramid scheme, or had figured out the potential for the shitbricks. Adell, was thinking it was something else entirely. They were both wrong.

We’re going to buy you two out today,” Victor just said it. It wasn’t an offer, it wasn’t a question, it was just a fact.

We’ve talked about it and we’re sitting on top of a mountain of gold here,” Larry said. “This has all the right ingredients to be the next $100 Billion Dollar Company, but you two with your fucked up names are not the ones to do it.”

Who’s going to do it, Tim Burr?” Adell said it bitterly.

No, we’re going to fuck him too,” Victor said. “But you two at least are getting out of this before all the hard work starts. Larry and I have put together an offer we think you’d be crazy to turn down.” He slid a paper across the desk.

The offer was a $1 Billion dollar buyout of all of their interest, their control, and any technology they might have developed in the course of the project. The thing about being in the flow is that you have to know when the flow is telling you to duck, when it’s telling you to weave, when it’s telling you to punch, and when it’s telling you to get the fuck out. Adell and Ted recognized the flow all over this one. They could fight, they could win, they could enter the ranks of the top hundred wealthiest people in the world – they could stay and have $50 billion dollars.

They couldn’t sign that paper fast enough. The flow was giving them a billion dollar exit from a world of shit and they’d both paid attention to the fact that companies and founders that turned down billion dollar offers ended up being worth far less. Just ask AOL, Yahoo, MySpace, Friendster, or countless others. Sure, they might be able to become the king and queen of pet turds – but why the fuck would they want to do that?

They didn’t even run the offer by lawyers before signing – although Adell was smart enough to make sure that there was an indemnity clause that absolved them of any and all potential lawsuits or legal issues that might arise from their time with Pets Hitter

They weren’t billionaires, but between the two of them, they had almost a billion dollars when it was all said and done. They’d managed to keep a lot of it off of any sort of books. That’s called tax evasion in legal circles and doing good business in business circles. In politics it’s called business as usual.

Chapter 23

Moving Out

Whatever kind of society may exist after the demise of the industrial system, it is certain that most people will live close to nature, because in the absence of advanced technology there is no other way that people CAN live. To feed themselves they must be peasants or herdsmen or fishermen or hunters, etc. And, generally speaking, local autonomy should tend to increase, because lack of advanced technology and rapid communications will limit the capacity of governments or other large organizations to control local communities.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

During the short time they’d known each other, Ted and Adell had been through a lot but in the process, they’d been so busy that Ted had still never seen Adell’s place. In fact, aside from going through a bizarro start-up bootcamp, building a multi-billion dollar business, creating a modern day ponzi scheme, and solving San Francisco’s (and the world’s) stinkiest problem – they really hadn’t done that much together. They simply hadn’t had the time. Still, through the process, they had come to know each other intimately and completely without actually knowing each other at all. They knew one thing for sure – they were meant to be together.

Ted was excited to start the next phase of their life together. Adell was already busy putting new ‘Uber of…” ideas together while Ted packed up, donated, and ‘Clutter’ed his life into boxes that would go to storage. As before, Adell cautioned him to pack light because her place was a little crowded. He reduced his world to a laptop and two suitcases. It wasn’t that hard, actually – he had never been a ‘stuff’ person.

Do you think we should have tried to keep some percentage of the company?” Adell asked him. “I mean we rolled over on their first offer.”

I think we were smart to be completely shut of it. Unfortunately, that thing is a time bomb. We didn’t do it completely on purpose, but at some point that whole ‘Adele Scheme’ is going to blowup. My question is whether they intended to fuck us from the beginning or if that only happened because the press and investor excitement took off….”

Adell was laughing. “I see what you’re saying, but I don’t really think we can get any sympathy for this one – we got a billion fucking dollars. That’s not exactly getting fucked…I’m just glad they agreed to let us be indemnified if the thing does explode. You know what I mean? That’s fucking priceless. Admit it, you were never that into it anyway…”

Ted nodded. “Granted, chemistry and engineering aren’t really where my passions lie and dogshit – I don’t know if I’ll ever stop smelling it – it’s like it is burned into my nasal cavity, but I enjoyed the intellectual challenges, I liked the whole ‘waste not want not’ aspect of it. I suppose – the whole thing was about optics to begin with…female CEO, getting some diversity in VWA, that kind of thing…I just can’t get over Tim…I never expected that sort of betrayal from him.”

Adell nodded. “That reminds me. I had an email from him. He more or less was apologizing. He said that it was going to happen no matter what and if he hadn’t of complied, they would have gone about it in another way and it probably would have been nasty. He also made a pretty good point about the lack of gay black CEOs in the world – which I totally get, but yeah, I didn’t expect it either and honestly, fuck that guy and his creepy Uncle Al.”

Ted had a thought “Maybe it was because we kept calling him Tim. He wanted to be called Timothy, remember.”

Adell looked thoughtful, “I tried, but it just kept coming out Tim.” She laughed “That would be hilarious if it were the reason. I wonder if they will make him go through V-Wab!” She laughed at the thought. “The poor guy. I do wonder if there is something bigger going on with the venture capitalists though. I mean, they gave us a shitload of money to get out. They must have a reason.”

The reason became clear on Christmas Eve.

Ted and Adell were spending their first Christmas together in Ted’s apartment – it was the last days of his tenancy, but they were the best days of it too. They had a little plastic Christmas tree from walmart and had opted not to get presents for each other because they both could buy whatever they wanted. Instead, they had decided to just spend time doing normal people stuff – because their lives had already moved out of normal people range and they both understood that this might be their last chance to experience a normal Christmas.

So there they were, surrounded by half-packed boxes, a tiny 2 foot plastic tree with twinkling lights, Bing Crosby singing the theme to some horrible 1950s Christmas movie on the TV – and both of their phones lit up. Pets Hitter had signed a deal with the City of San Francisco to build a huge municipal poo reactor to generate power. The amount of money involved was staggering. The deal had been signed through the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. They were going to start harvesting and generating power with human poo.

Why didn’t we think of that?” Adell said. Actually, Ted had thought of it but had kept it to himself. It was bad enough dealing with pet shit. In any event, the two had decided to be content with the blessings that had been heaped upon them and set about creating their new life together. Just a girl named Adell Fitler and a boy named Ted Kazinsky having a quiet night at home together on Christmas Eve.

On the second day after Christmas, Clutter came and picked up the stuff Ted was keeping – which wasn’t very much. The Salvation Army came and picked up everything else. Adell suggested that they go someplace special for New Years Eve – so they had bought tickets to Dubai, booked a room in the Burj Khalifa, and were flying out before 2020 even came.

Maybe we should just go to your place,” Ted suggested – partly because he still hadn’t seen it. He was starting to think she might be hiding something – but then, what could she really be hiding – in the process of the business, they’d had to disclose everything about themselves, go through background checks, and – no, she wasn’t hiding anything from him.

You really don’t want me to see your place, do you?” He teased.

I’m having some work done on it – we can both move in when we get back.” He was sure there was something she wasn’t telling him.

Chapter 24

The Rich Live Just Like Us

You can’t eat your cake and have it too. To gain one thing you have to sacrifice another. Most people hate psychological conflict. For this reason they avoid doing any serious thinking about difficult social issues, and they like to have such issues presented to them in simple, black-and-white terms: THIS is all good and THAT is all bad. The revolutionary ideology should therefore be developed on two levels. On the more sophisticated level the ideology should address itself to people who are intelligent, thoughtful and rational. The object should be to create a core of people who will be opposed to the industrial system on a rational, thought-out basis, with full appreciation of the problems and ambiguities involved, and of the price that has to be paid for getting rid of the system. It is particularly important to attract people of this type, as they are capable people and will be instrumental in influencing others. These people should be addressed on as rational a level as possible. Facts should never intentionally be distorted and intemperate language should be avoided. This does not mean that no appeal can be made to the emotions, but in making such appeal care should be taken to avoid misrepresenting the truth or doing anything else that would destroy the intellectual respectability of the ideology.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

It didn’t seem fair – not that they were suddenly among the top 1% or the to .5% – but that they were able to just pull out their passports, buy tickets, get on a plane, fly halfway around the world, and check into a hotel in the tallest building in the world. They could do that because they were citizens of a first world country – and on the flight they talked about how many people had zero opportunity to ever do the same – regardless of income – because of nationality.

Rich people don’t have to pay for things the way poor people do though. It’s just a fact, they don’t pay taxes, they don’t pay rent or fees, they don’t even pay for airline tickets. All the miles from their corporate cards had been accumulated in Ted’s account. He was able to get them first class tickets on an Emirates flight direct from SFO and five nights in the Armani Hotel Dubai in the Burj Khalifa Tower on the 39th floor. Total cost – 620,000 miles for the flight and $4600 for the hotel. He didn’t have enough miles to cover the room – but he’d only been rich for a short time so he used a brand new American Express and got 100,000 Hilton Points for spending $4000 in the first 30 days. The Hilton Points would cover their next hotel.

Ted had given up flying after the September 11th attacks because the first flight he tried to take had resulted in a three-hour questioning and a strip search. He’d missed his flight and never tried to take another. He’d hired a lawyer who assured him he was no longer on the ‘no fly’ list – but he hadn’t gone back to the airport for a flight – until now, but he’d always believed in keeping an up to date passport – for some reason. Now that habit was showing itself to be worthwhile.

At the airport, they were whisked through priority Pre-Pass. Adell had registered them both for the service at the start of their short corporate careers. They didn’t have to wait in line, they didn’t have to have their bags searched, they didn’t have to wait in the waiting area but were driven to the Emirates Lounge where they had free food, free drinks, a live jazz band, and even free massages.

Anyone who tells you that the rich are living in the same world as the rest of humanity is lying either because they are rich and don’t want you to know how good they have it or they are rich and have never seen how the other 99.5% live – or they are not rich but brainwashed and delusional because of propaganda control systems. The rich have fucking organic fruit served to them on silver trays at the airport and they don’t have to pay for it. How much would that cost you?

When they were escorted on the plane by a well dressed and soft spoken flight attendant (through a private entrance – they didn’t have to go through the ‘poor door’) their seats were like Japanese capsule hotels with full reclining beds, multiple entertainment systems, and enough room for three normal sized people. There were privacy curtains around each pair of seats – and optional privacy curtains between them.

It was a long flight – one that didn’t involve long waits for the bathroom (there were four bathrooms for the ten first class guests), cramped seating, someone drooling on them, neck aches from trying to sleep in a cramped seat, bad food, plastic utensils, tired old films, bad sound systems, or when they arrived – long waits to get off the plane while they waited for Mr. and Mrs. Bumfuck to pull their massive bags out of the overhead compartment. There was a lounge area near the cockpit entrance with a full service bar and room to stand and move around. Ted was surprised there wasn’t a fitness center – the first class section had everything else.

No, it was a long flight with total comfort, Dre Beats headphones, full internet access, first run films, chef prepared meals served on china, and valet bag service. The flight could have been twice as long and they would have been fine.

Upon arrival they were led out ahead of the masses, taken to a private customs window, welcomed to Dubai and then driven in a golf cart to where a waiting limousine took them straight to the Burj Khalifa. Looking out the window was like watching a travel channel television show.

Dubai is a bit like Las Vegas in that it is a city that never sleeps and you can pretty much get anything you want there as long as you have enough money. They had enough money for anything but no real agenda other than being someplace else and spending time together.

There was a cultural festival celebrating the founding of the Sultanate of Baboob taking place in the entire convention area of the Burj Khalifa – which is more like a vertical city than a skyscraper. Neither of them would have known what was going on except that the presence of so many nuns was a bit of a surprise and caused Adell to ask what was happening.

They’re not actually nuns, they’re from the Sultanate of Baboob – part of the entourage surrounding the festivities. It’s all extremely interesting,” the concierge told them, ‘but take it from me, don’t try the pickle juice tea. It’s definitely an ‘acquired taste’.”

And that was Dubai – they snow skied in the mall, took a camel safari out into the desert, ate far too much lamb, and admittedly went way over the top for the first time in their lives. With any luck they would stay rich forever, but they might as well enjoy it since they had no idea how long forever would actually be.

On New Years Eve, they took the Special VIP Dubai Fountain Lake Cruise – which cruised through the world’s largest performing fountain as the Emirates prepared to ring in the New Year. As the countdown happened, Ted felt like the sounds of the crowd were being magnified and amplified – because the people noise was astoundingly loud.

The countdown was preceded by the most amazing laser light show that either of them had ever seen, it defied the imagination. The lasers were drawing pictures in the air and animating them. The music drowned out the people sounds while the air literally came alive with laser drawn movies in three dimensions. Cartoon like figures ran up and down the exterior of the tallest building in the world.

They were newly obscene-rich in an exotic and technologically advanced foreign country and they were in love. As the masses counted down they kissed from 10 down to zero and beyond. Yes, they’d been warned that public displays of affection were frowned on in the Arab world, but they didn’t care – and frankly, no one else seemed to either.

Except for the mother who turned her children away and glared at them, but they didn’t notice her anyway. It was the best New Years kiss ever.

Returning to their room they found champagne and a note that said Happy New Year! January 1, 2020

During their time in Dubai, Ted became aware that most of the people around him weren’t using the regular internet. In fact, they weren’t using the internet at all. The vast majority of Arabs, Chinese, and Africans were all using WeChat – an app developed by TenCent, a Chinese social media company. From conversations and asking questions, Ted learned that WeChat functioned as it’s own micro-internet. Within it were chat functions, social media that was like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – also there was music, video, news, a payment app (like Paypal but easier), and that most Chinese based restaurants – or those that catered to Chinese customers had mini-sites within WeChat that allowed them to order and pay for food, services, or just about anything else.

These people, for the most part, didn’t need the internet. They didn’t use email. They just used WeChat. Ted was sure that Facebook, Twitter, and the other American walled gardens must be working on similar plans. Since http was the backbone of the modern internet, he was fairly sure that there was some reliance on the protocol within the app-nets, but he wasn’t entirely sure how much. It would bear some further scrutiny once he was back in California – he was looking forward to going home. Dubai was definitely not where he wanted to be in the long term. In fact, he wasn’t sure where he wanted to be long term…but for the moment, all he wanted was to head back to California.

Lucky for him, their flight left the next day and they had no issues. It was as comfortable heading back as it had been heading in.

Chapter 25

What are the Chan’s up to?

Cheap, intemperate propaganda sometimes achieves impressive short-term gains, but it will be more advantageous in the long run to keep the loyalty of a small number of intelligently committed people than to arouse the passions of an unthinking, fickle mob who will change their attitude as soon as someone comes along with a better propaganda gimmick. However, propaganda of the rabble-rousing type may be necessary when the system is nearing the point of collapse and there is a final struggle between rival ideologies to determine which will become dominant when the old world-view dies.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

As they walked out of SFO, jet lagged and culture shocked – it occurred to Ted that he didn’t know where they were going. He hadn’t really thought of it. He was homeless. His mail was going to a mailbox service, his stuff was in storage, and he didn’t have anywhere that he knew of to sleep tonight.

Hey, are we going to your place?” He asked Adell as they waited by the curb.

She sighed. “Yeah, I guess it’s about time to introduce you to her.” Ted wasn’t really sure who the she was, but he was too confused to ask. “Should we get a taxi?”

Adell looked up from her phone. “I’ve already called a Lyft. We should go to Zone 44.” They made their way along the ride share section of the terminal until they found a small covered shelter that said Zone 44. “We’re looking for Jazon in an orange Subaru.”

The car was easy to spot and Jazon stood out as well. He was a tall white guy with a big smile and a grill full of gold teeth. He waved as they walked up. His car was a seriously bright day-glow orange. The license plate said ‘Jazon’.

You guys are going to Soquel, right?” Adell nodded and they were off. He didn’t bother asking if they were interested in listening to music – it was on and if they didn’t like it they would have to ask him to shut it off. Of course, it was Jay Z. Nothing else would have made sense.

Neither of them were in a very talkative mood, but Adell always had something to say – this time it was something he’d heard her say a lot lately. “What do you think the Chans are up to?”

I guess we’ll find out soon enough if they invite us…” Ted took the question at face value. It wasn’t actually how she had meant it though.

No, Ted. I mean – WHAT are the Chans, UP TO? They are up to something – they’ve always been up to something. The more I’m around rich people the more I realize that they ALL seem to have plans that revolve around getting other people to make some pre-requisite for some condition to happen that they are waiting for. Hell, we’ve even started doing it.”

We have?” Ted was confused but amused. He wasn’t sure what they were doing and he sure as hell didn’t know what the Chans were up to. The drive was fairly long – it was over an hour without traffic. Jazon was either stoked on the long ride or bummed that he had to find someone else needing to come back. Either way, Ted nodded off.

He woke when the music was suddenly shut off. “Here we are homiez. Don’t forget to give maximum stars and tips are appreciated.” It was mid-day. Ted looked up and saw a sign with an old hippie Volkswagon bus on it – complete with the old hippie throwing a peace sign out the window. “Welcome to the Old Volks Home” the sign said. “California’s #1 VW Bus and Vanagon Repair Shop.”

In the parking lot were around a dozen VW buses, Vanagon campers, Eurovans, and a couple of VW bugs.

Is this where you live?” Ted asked Adell as he pulled the bags from the trunk.

No, but she’s here,” Adell said. Ted couldn’t hold back anymore.

Who’s here? Your mom? I don’t understand. I thought we were going to your house.” He wasn’t yelling because that wasn’t his thing but if it had been, he would have been.

Adell laughed. “No, better.” She walked over to a purplish Vanagon camper, pulling her bags behind her. “Ted, I’d like you to meet my house. This is Mandy-Van. I had her totally tuned up over the holidays so she should be ready for us.”

A guy in blue coveralls came out of one of the open garage bays. He looked like the old hippie on the sign. “It’s about time you made it back here, Adell. I was wondering how long I was going to have to store her for you.”

Adell hugged him and turned to Ted. “I’d also like to introduce you to Lee Oan, the best VW mechanic anywhere outside of Germany. Lee, this is the love of my life, Ted Kazinsky.” Lee had been walking over but he stopped and turned to look at Adell.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he said – “Do you collect us or something?”

Yeah, something,” she said “and yeah, I’m serious. Ted Kazinsky.”

Lee turned back to Ted who was understandably confused about what Adell collected – did she collect ‘loves of her lives’ or something else. He was about to find out.

Don’t worry Ted – I can see your confused. I’m not a competitor. Nice to meet you, my name is Lee Vamile Oan – also known as ‘Leave me ‘the fuck’ alone’ – if you see what I mean.”

Yup, Ted got it now. She really did collect people with fucked up names.

Chapter 26

#Vanlife (hashtag van life)

Any kind of social conflict helps to destabilize the system, but one should be careful about what kind of conflict one encourages. The line of conflict should be drawn between the mass of the people and the power-holding elite of industrial society (politicians, scientists, upper-level business executives, government officials, etc.). It should NOT be drawn between the revolutionaries and the mass of the people. It would be bad strategy for the revolutionaries to condemn Americans for their habits of consumption. Instead, the average American should be portrayed as a victim of the advertising and marketing industry, which has suckered him into buying a lot of junk that he doesn’t need and that is very poor compensation for his lost freedom. Either approach is consistent with the facts. It is merely a matter of attitude whether you blame the advertising industry for manipulating the public or blame the public for allowing itself to be manipulated. As a matter of strategy one should generally avoid blaming the public.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Mandy-Van was a 1987 Westphalia Vanagon with a pop-top camper and a ‘full’ camping package inside. With her new found wealth, Adell had asked Lee to install solar panels, a second battery system, a more comfortable bed, a pull out awning, and a few other features to make Mandy-Van more livable.

Ted wasn’t so much bothered by finally figuring out that he was part of a collection of unknown size of people with unfortunate names. He was sure that he was the only one she truly loved – in that way – but he was bothered by the other secret she’d been keeping from him.

You live in a van? Didn’t you think of telling me about this?” Rather than being truly upset he was more curious how she would explain it to him. Half the fun with Adell was having her explain things and thus give a window into how she viewed the world.

She kissed him, which instantly made everything better and then she began.

It’s expensive to live in the Bay Area, Ted. Doing all kinds of temp work, dog walking, gigs, and everything else – I had to be in a bunch of different neighborhoods at different times and I realized that vanlife,” she paused and threw in “hashtag vanlife” before continuing on as if she were writing a social media post “was the most affordable, most convenient, and most enjoyable way to stay in the bay.”

But why didn’t you tell me?”

I wanted to…at first. Then, I found myself really liking you and I was sort of bothered by the fact that I hadn’t told you which made it awkward to tell you and then things with us just ‘boom’ exploded and became so much more than I ever expected and then it was really awkward and we were living together and I knew I should really tell you, but honestly by that time it was kind of fun to have a secret that I knew I was going to reveal – so I decided to wait until you had moved out of your apartment…”

We – had moved out of our apartment…”

Yeah, she went on. I thought maybe I would do a big Christmas reveal or an unboxing or something and then we went to Dubai and I forgot about it – mostly – and it just came about this way.”

She kissed him again and it made total sense to him and he wasn’t bothered at all by it – but now the name collection was under his skin – as if he just needed to be annoyed at her for something.

Just how many people do you have in your fucked up name collection?” he asked her. They were no longer in the parking lot at the Old Volks Home – so Lee Vamile Oan was not a part of the conversation except as a topic. They had driven down to Capitola and were parked out on the bluff looking down at the surfers below.

Oh, there’s a bunch of us Ted. I don’t count people though, that would be fucked up – they’re people not Pokemon cards.” And so, one more fact about his soul-mate clicked into place with that strange exposition – in Adell’s world, people could be collected but not put into stacks. It was a comforting realization, but he wasn’t sure why.

Over the next two weeks, Adell gave Ted a crash course in living in a van – ahem – ‘hashtag vanlife.’ Ted was a lifelong house or apartment dweller. He’d never been much of a camper, hadn’t been much into roadtrips, and in general – this was all new to him.

The first thing you need to do is read this,” Adell handed him a worn copy of a book called ‘Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond” – this is the bible of living in a VW van. Ted noticed that the author had mis-spelled his own title on the spine of the book.

He mis-spelled his own title – maybe he should have just stuck with Vegebond.” He laughed.

Adell laughed with him “Hey, give the guy a break. It wasn’t as easy to write and publish a book from a van back in 2003.” The cover of the book was a beat up old VW van with a kayak on the top. As Ted opened and flipped through the book – he started to get a sense of what it was all about.

This book seems like it’s equal parts about being homeless and equal parts getting fucked up.” None the less, it was interesting. “Hey, we’re not going to be doing any ‘cafeteria grazing’ are we?”

Don’t be ridiculous Ted, we’re a billionaire.” As one person, they were a billionaire. He liked it. As the week went on, no one they encountered had a clue how wealthy they were. They parked in a Walmart parking lot over night, used Starbucks bathrooms, drove up to Muir woods and paid the $50 per night camping fee (it included free wi-fi access), and in general had more fun than if they’d been living in an apartment.

The downside was the lack of a bathroom. As far as a kitchen – Mandy-Van had it covered. Small stove, small fridge, and a tiny little sink. The front seats swiveled around and Adell had installed a 12.9 inch iPad up above the back seat that they could stream Netflix on or watch anything else on for that matter.

Laundry and storage proved to be a bit of a pain in the ass, but other than that – it wasn’t really that bad. Ted had become a fan of #vanlife. None the less, he was ready to start looking for a place to live.

Adell, aren’t you ready to move back into a house yet?” They were drinking French press coffee and kicking back in her folding chairs looking down at the fog covered ocean in Pacifica. It was idyllic but a little bit cold and he would have really liked to have taken a 30 minute hot shower and a long read sit on a warmed toilet seat.

She looked at him. “I am,” she said “But I just don’t feel like we are ready yet. I feel like there is something that has to happen before we do that.” Her voice told him that he should know what it was she was talking about, but he had no clue.

I mean, I know we have the money to buy a house and we can do whatever we want, but that seems like a big commitment – you know what I mean?” He still wasn’t getting it.

I mean – we’ve already entered 2020 – so it’s not like we need to RING it in again…” He was starting to understand.

She saw that he was getting it “I’ve been GROOMing you for something bigger…”

Ted dropped to his knee and grabbed her hand. “Adell Fitler, will you marry me?”

She looked into his eyes “Yes, Ted Kazinsky, I want nothing more than to be your bride….but, there is one thing…Do you mind if we keep our own names?”

Ted hadn’t thought of it. He’d never considered calling her Adell Kazinsky (or calling himself Ted Fitler for that matter) and both names sounded stupid. It did make him think of an additional issue though – but he probably shouldn’t have said anything.

But what about the children? What name will they get?”

She batted her eyelashes at him “Well, aren’t you the bold one. If …and it’s not a guarantee…but if we have children, I think it makes sense for them to be Fitler-Kazinsky – but promise me one thing – no funny business with the names. Deal?” She held out her other hand – the one he wasn’t already holding.

He shook it. “Deal”

Well in that case Mr. Unabomber. Let’s plan a wedding.”

Chapter 27

Wedding Fest

The kind of revolution we have in mind will not necessarily involve an armed uprising against any government. It may or may not involve physical violence, but it will not be a POLITICAL revolution. Its focus will be on technology and economics, not politics.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Their wedding was a simple affair. A dozen friends, some of whom were very rich – a beautiful venue – and on Adell’s insistence – a feast to feed the homeless. It was a small affair where they spent close to a million dollars on the food and services for the homeless and less than ten thousand for the ceremony and accouterments for the invited guests.

They had considered other ways they could help with the overwhelming homeless problems in the Bay Area – but ultimately, Adell insisted that what the homeless needed more than anything else was a party. For this reason, there was plenty of wedding pie, ice cream cones, Hawaiian shave ice, and healthy food. There was no alcohol at the ‘public’ party – which had great bands, plenty of grassy areas, and an open door policy.

Working with Lava Mae, an organization that repurposes old school buses into mobile showers and toilets for the homeless – their wedding was a free festival with pop-up care villages where people could do laundry, get haircuts, get manicures and pedicures, and more.

I’ve always said that a wedding should be more about the community than about the bride and groom,” Adell said. “I’ve been very lucky but I know how hard it is for these people.”

After their time living in a van – and years of struggling to make ends meet even when he had a rent control apartment, Ted also had a lot of compassion for the homeless. He was proud to be a part of ‘Wedding Fest’ as people were calling it.

They set a very specific date and time for when they would be announced man and wife. The announcement would come on Pi Day, March 14th, 2020 at 1:59 pm It was a brisk day with light rain and a bit of wind – but nothing the tents couldn’t handle. They’d written their own vows and Ted had made Adell promise to invite every person in her ‘not a collection’ of people with fucked up names. They’d set up a stage and a huge concert style seating area with VIP seating for the invited guests and standing room for the other attendees.

Their vows were dark comedy gold. Adell had asked her old school friend – Elvii Pressman, to officiate. He had turned a mocked name into a passable career as an Elvis marriage officiator. He didn’t look anything like Elvis since he had red hair, a beard, and was short, fat, and pink – he looked more like one of the seven dwarves – but, his white jumpsuit covered with sequins was unmistakable. When he spoke – it was the voice of the king himself.

Ladies and Gentlemen. We are gathered here – at Marriage Fest – to celebrate the coming together of two terribly misunderstood people. Neither of them chose the name they were given, but they have chosen to own them, to keep them, and to make something wonderful of them. Today, I’d love for you to give it up for these hunk a, hunk a, hunks burning with love – the one, the only, the true Adolf Hitler” Adell had made sure that he said it Adolf Hitler so people wouldn’t mistake the double entendre. She came running out on the stage like she was the guest speaker at a motivational seminar. She was wearing bright colored yoga clothing. A few people in the audience has started booing when they heard the name Hitler, but they stopped when a modern day hottie in day-glo yoga clothing came running out. Elvii motioned that she should come stand in front of and to one side of him.

And, it takes a special kind of man to capture the heart of a beauty like this. Give it up for Ted Kazinsky!” Ted ran onto the stage – he was also wearing brightly colored yoga clothes. They looked like clowns or 80s workout show extras. Once again there were a few scattered boos from the audience, but mostly there was some polite applause. As hard as it was to believe – most of the audience had no idea who the Unabomber was, what his name was, or what he had done – but if you had asked them who Jennifer Aniston was seeing – they would have been able to make a pretty good guess.

Elvii stood them next to each other, staggered a bit but facing him and the audience. He moved to his podium.

Do you, Adolf Hitler, take Ted Kazinsky as your lawfully wedded husband?”

I, Adell Fitler, do solemnly swear to be your friend for life, to always tell you if you are getting a sunburn or have food somewhere you shouldn’t, and to never use propaganda to turn the fear and hardship of the German people (or any people) into fascism. I promise to love, honor, cherish, and respect you from now until death does us part – as long as you don’t turn into some super asshole clerk. I do. I really fucking do. ”

The audience cheered, but they were sort of weirded out by what we have become used to.

Do you, Ted Kazinsky, take Adolf Hitler as your wife?” The audience was starting to get it. Many of them thought the whole thing was a joke.

I,Ted Kazinsky, do solemnly swear to treat you like the hottie princess you are, to always know that you are probably smarter than me, to treat you as an equal, a partner, a friend – and to never send letter bombs through the U.S. Postal Service or suggest that we move to an off-grid cabin in Montana – although, I haven’t taken an off-grid cabin in Hawaii from the equation. I promise to love, cherish, respect, and listen to you until death does us part or you kill me – whichever comes first, but come to think of it – that ends up being the same thing.”

So do you take her to be your wife?”

I do- I definitely do.”

Elivii had some remarks prepared in case they had needed to stall a bit while they waited for 1:59 pm but their timing had worked perfect. “By the power invested in me, on this Pi Day at 3.14159 – I hereby announce you as man and wife to the world. Unabomber, you may kiss the Führer.” Again, Adell had insisted on this.

She melted into his arms and the crowd erupted into roaring cheers as their lips met.

Let them eat Pi,” Adell screamed. And with that liveried waiters began walking through the crowd handing out pieces of chocolate banana coconut cream pie. Adell and Ted were each handed a piece – and of course without waiting for a moment – she smashed hers into his face. Ted did the same. The audience went crazy and the biggest pie fight in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area erupted into complete and total chaos. It might have been the biggest pie fight in the history of California, the United States, or the world – but since people rarely keep detailed notes about such things, we’ll just call it the biggest pie fight in the history of the Bay Area.

Adell, grabbed the mic “Is there anyone else who wants to get married today? Speak now or forever hold your peace.” A dozen couples made their way to the stage and each had their own moment. After that, there were more and more people lining up to get married. Not just the homeless, but tons. Marriage Fest was a hit.

When the weddings had finished – Adell grabbed the mic again and announced that it was now time to bring the inductees into the first ever annual ‘Hall of Name’.

It’s our day, you guys, and since you all know us already, we won’t make a big deal about being the first inductees into the Hall of Name. Elivii – will you please read the entire list?”

Elvii moved to the podium and began to read. “These people, these kind people, these bright people, these mostly good people – have endured a lifetime of hardships because of the names their parents gave them – please give a warm round of applause after each name is read.”

Adell Fitler”

Ted Kazinsky”

Elvii Pressman”

Lee Vamile Oan”

Tim Burr”

Charlene Mansoon”

and we’d also like to bring in a couple of postumous inductees

Yogi Berra”

Ima Pigg”

Ura Hogg”

and last but not least the famous NFL running back,”

Dick Felt. We are aware that there are many more deserving inductees, but these are the inductees for Year One of the International Hall of Name.” They had actually built a small shrine – a hall where each inductee was honored with a plaque and a picture. It would become a thing – just like Marriage Fest and just like Pets Hitter.

Chapter 28

Shitstorm

Revolutionaries should not try to acquire political power until the system has gotten itself into such a mess that any hardships will be seen as resulting from the failures of the industrial system itself and not from the policies of the revolutionaries. The revolution against technology will probably have to be a revolution by outsiders, a revolution from below and not from above.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

It had only been a matter of time. They had all known it. You can’t build a house of cards and expect it to stand forever, especially when it is constantly being pulled and shaped higher into an even more unstable form. Perhaps the best wedding present that Ted and Adell received was the knowledge that they were completely and totally absolved and expunged from Pets Hitter.

Like everything in Silicon Valley in 2019 and the early months of 2020, Pets Hitter was valued at an absolutely insane level. The news that they were moving into turning human waste into a valuable commodity had driven expectations of the company to levels not seen since the last days of the Tulip and spice bubbles in the 1700s. The difference was that instead of dealing with expensive flowers and plants coming from far off locations – Pets Hitter made people think they were walking gold mines. The idea that every human could produce and sell their own shit was a bizarre and utterly twisted take on what Ted and Adell had started building with Pets Hitter.

Their initial idea had been to get poop off the sidewalks and maybe let people make a few bucks for cleaning up the mess. Admittedly, they had taken a bad turn when they let Tim Burr and Big Al convince them to set up a multi-level marketing ponzi scheme. They’d also made a mistake getting into bed with Victor White and Larry Ellison. But let me rephrase all of that – they’d left the path of doing something with good intentions for the good of the planet when they’d made those decisions – the fact remained that those decisions had earned them a billion dollars and they were at least doing some good with it – but – if they had stayed with the ponzi scheming and the morally corrupt venture capitalists – they would have been fucked – and probably would have gone to hell. Instead, they’d taken the money, turned their backs, and walked away.

There were plenty of trade publications in the valley calling them idiots after they left Pets Hitter. From the outside, they’d taken a billion dollars for a company that was worth a hundred times that – or more. They hadn’t even kept any stock. They were being heralded as the worst business people of the century. CNBC and Bloomberg openly mocked them and started using the phrase ‘pulled a Pets Hitter’ to mean walked away from a fortune. Adell ignored it. Ted didn’t care. They were rich, they were happy, and they knew that it was just a matter of time before the collapse came…

It hit on April 1st – amidst all of the not very funny any longer pranks and fake news stories that the big tech companies felt obligated to put out to hearken back to a time when tech was actually a small community of fun and forward thinking people.

In Canada, the Royal Mint announced they would be putting Bill Gates on the Looney. In Britain, the BBC had published an expose’ about how Brexit had inspired a whole new series of art movements. Google claimed to have developed a time machine that allowed you to send emails and texts backwards in time. Facebook announced that they had a new section devoted to lunar cycles and fertility. Twitter claimed that they would now only accept advertising in Litecoin.

At 6 am, an anonymous blogger posted a leaked story that claimed that for the past eight days – an internal virus at Pets Hitter had been causing the “Ship to” section of the labels to address every package of pet turds that was supposed to be sent to the Pets Hitter processing plants to instead be sent to congressional offices, corporate headquarters, and even 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. News sources were able to confirm that multiple political and business addresses had been inundated with boxes upon boxes of shit over the past several days.

At 7 am, the US Justice Department announced that they were looking into allegations of fraud, tax evasion, and other high crimes at Pets Hitter. No one was able to ascertain if the investigation was the result of a box full of shit being sent to the Attorney General.

At 8 am, Tim Burr, the CEO of Pets Hitter issued an apology to distributors of their bio bags for perpetuating a ponzi scheme and suspended the buying of all doggie shit until further notice. It was a Wednesday and so the markets were open – nobody really likes to trade on April Fools and Pets Hitter wasn’t a public company – but the entire tech sector began bleeding as investors realized that the situation at Pets Hitter was going to have broad consequences across the entire tech industry.

Share of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, AMD, Intel, Tesla and every other tech related company dropped more than twenty percent in the hours that followed the apology. Pets Hitter, tried to do damage control. They claimed that Tim Burr had been removed from his position and was solely responsible for all the wrong doing that had been brought to the public’s attention. Mug shot looking photos of Tim, Big Al, and some of the top distributors were flashed on the screens of America.

The famous investing guru, Jim Cramer put it best when he got up close to the camera and yelled “Tim-Burr!” And then backed up and had an axe that he swung at an imaginary tree. “This company is coming down fast and taking everything that get’s in the way with it. Timburrrrrrrrr!”

It was the single biggest loss on the Nasdaq since the 2008 financial crisis. Nobody knew when it was going to end – but no one wanted to stay in the markets and be part of the ongoing bloodbath. The fallout started to move beyond the tech sector as politicians, executives, and celebrities tried to distance themselves from the disaster taking place around them.

A reporter seeking comment from Victor White caught him on camera getting out of his limousine and saying into his phone “…I’m not going down because of that homo <n-word>”. The video went viral – suddenly any company associated with VWA was considered a toxic asset.

Chapter 29

Wasp Hive

The industrial system should be attacked in all nations simultaneously, to the extent that this may be possible. True, there is no assurance that the industrial system can be destroyed at approximately the same time all over the world, and it is even conceivable that the attempt to overthrow the system could lead instead to the domination of the system by dictators. That is a risk that has to be taken. And it is worth taking, since the difference between a “democratic” industrial system and one controlled by dictators is small compared with the difference between an industrial system and a non-industrial one.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

Reporters finally got around to asking Adell why she had left and whether she had known of any sort of impropriety. Her answer was good enough to keep the storm buzzing:

Suffice to say that part of my exit from Pets Hitter was to sign a comprehensive NDA. The only way I would do that was if they signed documentation that certified that my tenure was free from any sort of wrong-doing and that guaranteed that I would not be held culpable for any actions the company had taken, might take, or considered taking. My agreement to exit was only one possible course, the other was to dismantle and systematically dismantle the company – a move that I suggested and which caused me to be removed from my position as CEO, taken off the board of directors, and forced out of the company. All of that is on the record and at the end of the day, everything else is covered by the NDA.”

Ted more or less gave the same answer and the reporters decided that they weren’t worth following up on. This might not have been the case except that the whole VWA culture was unraveling at the seams. Tim Burr had signed no such NDA and when he found out that White and Ellison were trying to throw him under the bus, he and Big Al both gave explosive interviews. Tim talked about how White had repeatedly referred to him as ‘boy’ and at times even called him ‘lady-boy’, presumably in reference to his sexuality and race.

Both Ted and Adell gave Tim Burr and his uncle credit though because even though they had betrayed them on the board, neither of them ever said anything that would connect Adell or Ted to the ponzi scheme, the MLM, or any of the other shenanigans that had gone on while they were in charge. From the story Tim told, it would be easy to believe that Pets Hitter was doing everything legitimately until the moment when her tenure ended. It was only then, according to Tim, that Ellison and White had begun to stack the board with people who harbored what he called ‘criminal intent’.

Big Al turned state’s evidence and said that the entire plan to begin turning human waste into energy had been a ‘scheme’ concocted by Larry Ellison and his ‘Hawaiian Mafia friends’ he swore under oath on national television that Larry Ellison, Victor White, and the whole Silicon Valley tech-elite were engaged in a conspiracy to undermine the power and sovereignty of the United States of America. In short, it was a big fucking mess and somehow – they had managed to be clear of it.

Phil called to make sure they were doing okay and suggested that they all meet down at a local co-working space in Mountain View. Ted and Adell were still living the ‘hashtag vanlife’ even though they had gotten married. Their honeymoon had been a van trip to all of California’s national parks. During the trip, Ted had realized that he wasn’t entirely discontent living in a van – and when they needed to have space – it was easy to rent a suite at a hotel – they never rented regular rooms any more.

They’d only been back in town for a day or two when the shit hit the fan.

Phil had rented an office at the co-working space. It wasn’t a ‘We Work’ property so it still had relatively happy and helpful people working there. The receptionist showed them back to Phil’s office. The walls of the space were covered with interesting art and lots of photographs of smiling people. A couple of people walked around the office drinking beers or coffee. It was 10 am – but no one else seemed to mind. Everyone was their own boss here. It was as it should be, but Ted wondered if there were 3 pm drunks who made it hard for others to get end of the day work done.

Phil’s office looked like a college professor’s cubicle. It was filled with books and stacks of papers.

Did you see fucking Tim attacking Victor White on network news this morning?” Phil asked as they walked in. He was turning from the computer where he had paused the scene.

Adell hugged him and Ted grabbed his hand in a firm shake. Phil turned back to the computer. “Look at this shit…the entire internet which was built so that universities and government think tanks could share ideas and information – it’s just turned into a worse version of the ‘boob tube’ we all used to complain about.”

Ted didn’t really have anything to say. It was true. Adell, not one to keep quiet in most situations seemed pretty subdued “Yeah,” she said “Too bad we can’t bring back the good old days.”

Oh,” Phil said in a very matter of fact voice “We can, actually.”

Ted instantly knew what Phil was talking about and why he had brought them there. “It’s done? You finished the wasp’s nest?”

Phil turned smiling towards them. “Yeah, it’s done. That bit you gave me about the WeChat internet actually helped me put in the final piece. The whole thing should get digested now but it will leave the walled gardens in place and whole.”

What are you guys talking about?” Adell asked “Is there something I should know?”

Phil motioned to the keyboard and pulled up a command line. He typed in the words “Run Waspnest” and said “Hit the return key Adell.” She did.

At first nothing obvious happened. Then they started hearing things from outside the cubicle. “Shit” “Fuck” “What the fuck?” “Hey, do you guys have a connection?” and more.

What did we just do?” Adell asked the two grinning men in front of her.

We just killed the world wide web,” Ted told her. “The internet is dead.”

Holy shit!” Adell exclaimed in delight “You really are a terrorist!”

Chapter 30

The End of Civilization As We Know It

The anarchist too seeks power, but he seeks it on an individual or small-group basis; he wants individuals and small groups to be able to control the circumstances of their own lives. He opposes technology because it makes small groups dependent on large organizations.

-Industrial Society and Its Future

The Chans invited them over for lunch a few days later. Mark met them at the gate and escorted them in. He was in high spirits – which meant that he looked almost like a human. Priscilla was working in her garden when they arrived and he led them out to where she was working.

Nice work, you two!” she said, looking up from the row of flowers she was working on. “I knew you guys would make fireworks, but honestly, I had no idea they would be anything like the firestorm you’ve created. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it to your wedding, but we did get you a present – Mark will tell you about it later.”

Adell had a million questions to ask but the first one needed to be asked right away “Priscilla, did you put us together because of our names?”

Priscilla sat up, pulled her sun bonnet back and daintily pulled her gardening gloves off. “Of course I did – but that wasn’t the main thing. I’m a pediatrician, but I’ve always been fascinated by the social dynamics of relationships. Did you know my grandmother was an actual match maker in China? Anyway, I saw that the two of you shared something – not just your names, but your brilliance, your passion, and your ability to get things done.”

She looked at Ted “Theo – oh, sorry, Ted – when I met you, I realized that you had an intellect that was really only like one other I’ve ever encountered.” She gestured over towards Mark who was down on his hands and knees watching a line of ants carrying gear to their nest.

And Adell, you’re such a beautiful woman but you have what this world hates – drive, ambition, verve, and the ability to change everything. Look, I’m not sure if you know this or not, but if it weren’t for me – Mark would be some really smart guy working at someone else’s company. I didn’t make him, but he needed me to complete who he was. I saw the same thing in the two of you.”

They were beautiful words. A beautiful sentiment. Ted could see that they were true. He was touched and felt a deep debt of gratitude. Then he felt guilty for potentially destroying their life’s work until he remembered that the walled gardens were fine. Facebook was still there. Instagram was still there.

Adell had another question “Why didn’t you return any of our calls? What’s really going on?”

Priscilla smiled a grandmotherly smile even though she was actually younger than both of them.

You’ll learn this, Adell. It’s not an easy thing to accept but it’s true. You simply can’t be friends with normal people when you have as much money as we do. You can’t invest in friendships with the normies.”

But isn’t that what you’re doing now?” Ted finally piped in, trying not to get sucked into Mark’s intense concentration on the ants.

Not at all,” Priscilla told him. “You stopped being normies when you became ultra-rich and the moment you destroyed the internet – you were no longer normal people in any sense of the word.”

Are you guys mad about that?” It was Adell asking, there was a bit of uncertainty in her voice.

Mark sat up now. “Not even a little bit. The internet totally sucked. I hated it. My whole purpose in building Facebook was first to get laid, then to get rich, then to make a better internet, then to take over the world,” he looked like maybe he had gotten ahead of himself in his enthusiasm.

Priscilla gave him a withering look but then smiled “It’s okay dear, their our friends. You can tell them.”

Mark went on. “The fucking baby boomers ruined everything and for a while I thought that maybe the millennials – our generation,” he motioned to Priscilla and him and almost to Adell but not toTed who was actually Gen X “…would fix it or take over, they just won’t get out of the way. So anyway – Waspnest more or less trapped them all on my platforms. I’ve got way more power than before. They’re like these ants. I can watch them, see what they are doing, and even burn them with a magnifying glass if I want to…”

He’d gone too far “Mark…” Priscilla stopped him.

Ted might have been discouraged to hear this, he might have been upset that the control system had been strengthened over humanity, he might have been bothered by the futility of it all – but he wasn’t. Waspnest had created a new way for information to be shared. It had been a spark to create innovation. It had wiped away an entire system of doing things which meant that an intense period and culture of radical change had the breathing room to grow and blossom into a world that no one could even imagine at the moment.

And as for the walled gardens – he and Phil had already started working on Hornet’s Nest. They’d never see it coming.

What You Need To Know Before Booking Your Next Fishing Trip

 

 

When it comes to fishing holidays it doesn’t get much better than the United States. From wahoo, to amberjack, to marlin; the beautiful blue waters are filled to the brim with a diverse array of fantastic species for you to challenge yourself against. Nevertheless, when it comes to booking the vacation of your dreams this is not something you should dive right into. This post provides you with all the information you need prior to booking your fishing holiday.

 

Where in the U.S. should you go fishing?

First, you need to decide whereabouts in the United States you would like to take your trip. There are lots of great fishing areas. This includes the likes of Hawaii, Texas, Wisconsin, and Michigan. However, none of these places come close to the fishing Mecca of Miami. When it comes to fishing, a day out on one of the boats in the Miami area is assured to be full of fun. This is because you get to try your hand at hooking anything from wahoo, to amberjack, to swordfish, to grouper, to kingfish, to skipjack tuna, to marlin. Where else will you find fishing as varied as this? If that wasn’t enough, Miami itself is a stunning city, brimming with a vibrant personality. Accommodation is in its plentiful and there are lots of delicious restaurants too. 

 

What else is there to do while visiting Miami?

Here are some of the other things you can do in Miami while you are on your fishing trip…

 

  • Enjoy the famous and stunning South Beach
  • Head to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens 
  • Check out the New World Center 
  • Check out South Pointe Park 
  • Go on a speedboat tour if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush
  • Visit Monkey Jungle
  • Head to the Venetian Pool
  • Marvel over the mystery of Coral Castle
  • Take a trip to Miami Seaquarium
  • Check out the galleries, showrooms, boutiques, and shops at Design District
  • Visit Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
  • Go on an Art Deco walking tour

 

Choosing the best fishing charter company for your trip

Choosing a company for your fishing excursion is just as important as selecting a destination is. You need to put in the hard work and effort. There are lots of companies offering this service yet you want to benefit from the best boats in Miami, the most experienced crew, and altogether the best day possible. 

 

Read reviews that have been left by previous customers in order to get an honest assessment of the excursions provided. Don’t be afraid to call the company in question either. They will be able to tell you how the day goes from start to finish. 

 

Make sure their service is not limited. Beginners and experienced anglers alike should be able to find something that suits them. You should be able to try your hand at catching all of the fish that were mentioned previously. From the mighty amberjack to the speedy marlin; the company should give you the possibility to catch them all – and the information and advice to enhance your chances of hooking them. This includes regular fishing reports on the company’s website so you know the best time to go fishing in Miami.

 

What fish can you expect to hook whilst enjoying fishing in Miami?

If you read reviews online you will struggle to find a negative one about the diverse fishing experience in the United States. Practically everyone states that they loved their experience in Miami especially. There are, of course, many reasons why this is the case; the glorious weather, the stunning surroundings, and without doubt the species of fish on offer. This is something worth elaborating on further.

 

What type of fish can you try and hook when enjoying your Miami fishing experience? Well, there is everything from wahoo, to marlin, to mutton snapper, to black grouper, to Atlantic sailfish, to yellow-eye snapper. This is great because it means that there is a challenge for everybody; from beginners to the more experienced anglers, from those who prefer fast fish (such as marlin) to those who want to hook a beast (such as kingfish). 

 

If you are really looking for a challenge you won’t be short of options. Tarpon tends to be the highlight of most people’s Miami fishing breaks. However, wahoo and marlin are extremely fast. You have to be super quick if you are to outwit these fish. So, why not give it a go? Try your hand at some of the fastest and most intelligent fish in the world against one of the most magnificent backdrops you will ever lay your eyes on.

 

When is the best time of the year for snook fishing in Miami? 

If you are looking to experience the best of fishing in Miami you should definitely try your hand at snook fishing. This is a fish that will provide you with a lot of fun and excitement, as they put up an excellent fight. Their violent headshakes will give you a great adrenaline rush!

 

What is snook? Well, this is actually a species that contains a wealth of different types and comes in a selection of colors; from gold, to black, to green. Nevertheless, when enjoying snook fishing, there is a distinct feature that will help you to spot snook. This is a clear lateral line in a distinct black shade that is situated on the side of the fish. In addition to this, snook boast a big lower jaw and two distinct dorsal fins. 

 

Nevertheless, knowing what to look out for is one thing, but when is the best time to enjoy inshore fishing in Miami for snook? All experienced anglers situated in Miami will tell you that snook is usually in warm waters, meaning from spring to early fall is a great time to go fishing for them.

 

A fishing holiday comes highly recommended. However, because of the popularity of this type of vacation, it can be very difficult to find the perfect destination and excursion package. If you use the advice provided in this article you shouldn’t experience any problems.

 

Happy May Day! A Short History of Labor in Hawaii

Shrimp Trucks OahuHawaii has a long history of exploiting labor of the many for the profit of the few. In the days before European contact, the common people, the maka’aina worked the taro patches and fishponds for the chiefly class – the ali’i. And yet, despite the feudal nature of this relationship between worker and master – the labor was not exploited. There was no hunger unless there was famine and no one was left out in the ancient Hawaiian society. The ali’i used their power to take care of the land and provide for the people – it wasn’t perfect but the average Hawaiian needed to work only 4 hours per day to get everything they needed to live and took 4 months off for the festival of makahiki when warfare and work were replaced with celebrations and games.

The exploitation I refer to came after contact. Missionaries established small farms and plantations. The Hawaiian system of responsibility of those controlling the land towards those living on it disappeared and was replaced with the exploitive practice of bosses and workers.

North Shore Soap FactoryWorkers were brought in for nearly a century – waves of migrant workers brought from places where no language was shared and put against each other – the ruthless exploitation of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Filipino, Puerto Rican, and other workers was brutal and violent. It was not chattel slavery, but the so called ‘contract labor’ was just a step above it. In some cases wives of some workers were sold to other laborers – stolen from their families and given to others. This was the basis of the vast fortunes of the upper classes in Hawai’i.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that labor in Hawai’i began to organize. The 6-month longshore workers strike of 1949 crippled the Hawaiian economy and turned the tide in favor of workers. For three decades, workers fought bosses to establish fair wages and better treatment. By the 1980s, sugar had become a still hard job but one that provided a living family wage where a worker could buy a house, raise children, send them to college, and retire.

WaipahuIt was then that sugar and large agriculture pulled out of Hawaii – they reversed the victories of the workers and left the Hawaiian economy completely. In less than a decade, big agriculture had left the Hawaiian islands and gone to where labor was less powerful and workers could still be exploited for big profits. The Hawaiian economy was left in a shambles.

Today, tourism has replaced agriculture. Gone are the days when workers could afford to buy a home, send kids to college or retire. Instead, the children of those sugar workers now work as I-9 wage slaves to avoid employers having to give benefits, they work as low paid cleaning and maintenance people, they work as underpaid waiters, drivers, guides, bartenders, or desk clerks. The bulk of most of their wages don’t come from the employer, but from the tipping customer. While there have been some small victories with tourism wages (the big hotel strike in 2018) – mostly, workers have lost. Those who have money have always been fine in Hawaii. Those who do not either move away or become homeless eventually.

Workers in Hawai’i – regardless of industry generally earn 10% less than they would in an equivalent mainland city. They generally pay at least 10% more for rent, food, gas and everything else. Hawaii is paradise – but you only get to enjoy it if you are wealthy, subsidized by the military, visiting for a short time – or if you’ve given up on making it in the capitalist system and have decided to live the life of a homeless person in paradise.

 

A Very Good Novel (Coronavirus) by Christopher Damitio

(Author notes have been moved to the bottom since I’ve finished the novel)

If you prefer to listen to novels instead of reading them, here’s the link to my podcast on iTunes – Vagobond Podcast Adventures

 

 

A Very Good Novel (Coronavirus)

by Christopher Damitio

 

Prologue – A History of the World and Her Apes

Once upon a time there was a beautiful planet filled with chaotic and beautiful landscapes, flora, fauna, and amazing oceanic and geologic events. Things pretty much went the way things go on any planet with life – there were good times, there were bad times, there were mass extinctions, there were cataclysmic events that included but were not limited to meteors, tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, ice ages, and much more. And so it went…

The planet produced life in abundance – and killed that life in abundance. Sometimes the planet used one form of life to kill other forms of life. Sometimes, the planet took a break and simply enjoyed a necessary state of homeostasis.

It was during one of these periods of restful equilibrium that the monkeys and apes started fucking things up. It’s a long story and it’s been told many times – I don’t want to bore you with all the details so I’m going to summarize it in as little space as possible.

Purgatoria were built to fuck. They fucked and they fucked and they fucked. As a result of always fucking and always looking for something else to fuck – these little fuckers spread throughout Eurasia and Africa and became the common ancestor for all of the family of animals known as primates. The primates all kept their ancestor’s proclivities for making new descendants and also for filling pretty much any unoccupied ecological niche they might come across. This led to the diversity of primates knows as lemurs, lorises, bush babies, tarsiers, old world monkeys, new world monkeys, and apes. While each of those branches is interesting, it’s the apes we will focus on because they also kept doing what they did best – which eventually led to many different  species of ‘human’ living at the same emergent time. This was all in the blink of the planet’s eye, so she didn’t really notice.

The human species interbred, migrated, adapted, and began to fight for space. A particularly nasty branch of the humans fucked, killed, ate, and exterminated all the other branches. Bye bye Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo rhodesiensis, Neanderthal, Denisovan, Homo florensis, and Homo luzonensis – and hello Homo sapiens – the one and only survivor of the great human wars. There can only be one – at least there can only be one if the winner is Homo sapiens because these things were the most illogical and selfish creatures that planet had ever spawned.

Oh, I can hear you right now…but wait, I’m one of those – you (me) you’re one of those! We’re not so bad. Think about Martin Luther King and Jesus and Helen Keller and ….

Okay, yes, I admit it. Some of us, some humans are good – but unfortunately, that is a weak aberration from the species norm, not the default setting. Those good humans – they deserve to be worshipped, revered, and treated with respect – listened to. It’s true, there are some very very very very very good humans – and they usually get killed by the others, then, when they are dead their message or their life is twisted around and used to help some other human either literally or metaphorically fuck as many other humans as possible. In truth, the only thing that kept the human species going was the fact that they loved to fuck so much – and the natural result of that was more humans and since they didn’t blink at incest for most of their existence, they didn’t blink at any atrocity that most other animals avoided – in fact – they became progressively more and more brutal, vicious, and conniving, while also becoming completely insane and – frankly – fucking evil. Humans were evil.

In the space of a few thousand years they wiped out the other human species, created huge tribal empires, dehumanized each other, normalized enslaving and committing genocide upon one another, and developed mad genius processes that included but were not limited to chemical warfare, nuclear warfare, wage slavery, corporate capitalism, and industrial production paired with military conquest. These were things that no sane animal would think of – but, as we’ve established – these were not rational animals – they were completely and totally fucking insane.

So, moving on – they poisoned rivers, lakes, oceans, the sky, the land, and each other. They literally shit where they ate over and over and then coined phrases of remarkable wisdom such as ‘Don’t shit where you eat”. They leveled mountains, flattened forests, exterminated entire species, caged everything they could, enslaved each other using chains, whips, guns, technology, and psychological techniques – and – and this is the amazing part – the whole while they were doing this they were patting themselves on the back and congratulating themselves on ‘progress’.  They wrote declarations and manifestos and they declared human rights and universal brotherhood – and all the whole they came up with new ways to stick it to each other.

Jesus and Buddha and others came and said wise things that generally came down to “Don’t treat each other like shit because you don’t want to be treated like shit and neither does anyone else”. Jesus got nailed to some sticks and Buddha got fed some rancid meat. JP Morgan came along and said “Hey, these guns are really cheap and they blow up in your face if you try to shoot them, but I can buy them cheap and sell them to the people fighting against slavery (but really most of them were probably fighting for other reasons – but let’s not go there) and make a huge profit.” And he did, and the people worshipped him for it, just as they had worshipped the slave owning traitor who founded their country and all the tyrants, kings, dictators, and despots of the past.

Yes, I hear you again “Slave owning traitor? You mean the founder of the United States? General George Washington?” Yes, a man who bought and sold other humans and swore an oath more than once to support the King of England and then betrayed that oath and led an uprising so he could make more profit and buy more slaves.

In any event, I don’t mean to pick on ‘General’ Washington. He was no worse than most of the other power hungry men around him and considerably better than many – depending on how you define the term better.  In any event, he started a country, defined a way of rule and made sure that the power stayed in his court – until he was pretty sure that the power he had was secure – then he nobly stepped away.

For the next two hundred and forty four years his country ran with a charade that they were the defenders of man, the beacon of liberty, and the bastion of hope and democracy. All the while, his country was enslaving, committing genocide, breaking treaties, stealing land, raping, pillaging, and figuring out new ways to do all of the above without sounding like the bad guy. If ever there was a winner of the war on hearts and minds, it was the United States of America from about 1776-2016. Even when they fought wars for made up reasons or invaded countries to take their resources – the USA always was able to justify itself as the ‘policeman of the world’ or the ‘defender of democracy’ – which is pretty funny if you think about it and ignore the millions of dead and suffering that came from it. The USA developed the atomic bomb and even though the war was more or less over – dropped a couple of them on Japan, just to make sure they knew they had lost – the 100,000 killed in the firebombing of Tokyo just wasn’t enough.

I could go on – I could justify what I am saying, I could point to sources and references – but justification is one of the things we do best and if you don’t want to agree with me, I have confidence that your ability to justify your position will be at least equal to my ability to justify mine. Humans can steal from a poor person (a person much poorer than themselves) and then find a good reason for why that was the right thing to do. It’s amazing and it’s true – so I will quit trying to justify. I don’t want to get bogged down in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan – I want to tell my story.

Technology and corporate capitalism created a perfect storm for total human control. It was easy to convince almost all of the humans that they deserved to have a better life than all of the other humans. It was easy to convince almost all of those humans that they had a chance to have a better life than all of those other humans. And with that done – it was easy to get all the humans to point their fingers at each other and blame those with less power than themselves for them not having as much power as they wanted.

Social media and data analytics made it easy to manipulate huge swaths of the population. The bizarre result was millions of poor people voting for an exploitive billionaire, millions of ‘business people’ voting for a business person who had lost far more than he had created, millions of ‘Christians’ to vote for the least Christian person ever, millions of Jewish people to vote for a guy who repeatedly made Nazi references, and millions of women to vote for a rapist.

In truth, Donald John Trump, was the pinnacle of human evolution. He was everything that humans had been heading towards since those long ago days when multiple human species were clubbed to death by Homo sapiens. If ever there was a perfect example of humanity, Trump was it. And after the election of 2016, he finally took his place as the most powerful primate in the world. One thing was certain, he was never going to let go of that power.

Chapter 1 – The Pinnacle of Human Evolution and Conceit

Donald Trump was sitting on top of the world. He was the most powerful human being in the history of planet earth.  He controlled enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet hundreds of times. He had created his own branch of the military – Space Force. He had vanquished his enemies, never apologized for his wrongs, and most importantly proved everyone who had dissed him in the early 2000s as completely and totally wrong.

There was one reason he was at the top. It was pure and simple. Just one thing and one thing only: hatred.

His father had taught him from the beginning, there was no force more powerful than hatred. You had to hate the people above you and you had to hate the people below you. You had to hate your enemies and you had to hate your friends. When you could embrace your hatred and harness it – there was no place it couldn’t take you.

He had always wanted to be at the top. The definition had changed through the years. He wanted to be the most eligible bachelor, to be the youngest casino owner, the youngest NFL team owner, the king of steaks, the greatest deal maker – he’d gone after each prize with gusto and when he was denied, he filed it away in his hate category. He hated women, he hated people of color, he hated poor people, he hated working people, he hated those wealthier than him, he hated loyalists, he hated enemies, he hated friends, he hated colleagues – there were very few people he didn’t hate – but there were a few. These treasured few he looked up to – these were the men (only men) who did whatever they wanted, however they wanted, whenever they wanted. He told himself and others that he was one of them, bragged about being able to just grab a woman and kiss her or grab her by the pussy – but he knew he was lying to himself. In actuality, he knew he was limited – but he never wanted to admit it.

Then, one night in 2011, just when he thought that he might finally be approaching that peak he had wanted – he was sitting with the global elites, he was surrounded by the press, enjoying the attention of the paparazzi, and invited to a gala by a sitting U.S. President that he had been denigrating and questioning the authority of. There he sat, in his tuxedo, already a seething mass of hatred, but admittedly one that was feeling a particular type of satisfaction at having become a celebrity, becoming famous, slept with women of all ages, been the guest and helper of kings and presidents – there he sat in all of his glory – and then it happened.

President Obama decided to take his revenge for the whole ‘birther’ movement that Trump had fanned from a ridiculous conspiracy theory to a full fledged political movement.  Obama was merciless – mocking Trump’s hit television show ‘The Apprentice’ and his ability to be a leader:

“But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’John or Meatloaf. You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that keep me up at night. Well handled sir. Well handled.”

Oh there was more, there was so much more. The laughter, the mocking, the shame in having to sit there, face turning red, and grimace his way through it. He’d thought he knew what hatred felt like, he’d thought he might be achieving a level where he could find some satisfaction, but no. Not now. Now he was on a mission. He would destroy everything that Obama had built. He would destroy the media that was laughing at him. He would destroy the country that both represented. He would destroy everything. He would wipe out the environmentalists, the casinos, the NFL, and every country that had ever offended him. He would ruin everyone and everything. There was no one better to do it. He was a unique product of total hatred. The world was going to pay for making him feel bad.

Trump’s family history publicly said that his father was born in New York City and his mother was a Scottish immigrant. It claimed that they were descendants of the German Drumpfs and had been in the USA for a long time, but it was a lie. Fred Trump and his wife were both German and they had come to the USA towards the end of World War II when it became obvious that Germany was going to lose. Charles Lindbergh and Evander Bush had helped find a look alike in New York City while Nazi loyalists had put ‘the bunker plan’ into action with two more look a-likes.

Replacing Fred and Mary Trump with the Fuhrer and his wife wasn’t difficult. The Fuhrer liked that Fred’s middle name was ‘Christ’ and he never let his children know that he was the ‘chosen one’. The children were still young and after a short while, they came to believe that the Hitlers actually were their parents – albeit more strict and with accents they didn’t remember. Donald, and Robert were the only actual biological children of the new ‘Trumps’ but Elizabeth, Maryanne and Fred, Jr. never knew that. All they knew was that they were becoming incredibly rich and their parents were more distant than they’d been before.

So there is the dirty secret. The pinnacle of hatred. The product of Nazi genetic breeding. The child of the most evil human to ever walk the earth. And a person who was indoctrinated into a way of thinking that contained none of those sparks of humanity that make it worth saving – no compassion, no humility, no understanding, no forgiveness.

Those that knew his secret history poured their resources into supporting him both behind the scenes and in front of the cameras. Those who shared his hatred joined with him and rallied behind him. Every string that could be pulled was pulled, every favor that could be called was called, every remnant of fascist power and every back handed move that could be made was made. People died, people lied, algorithms did their work, and defying all expectations and all rational explanation, Trump won.

Donald J. Trump became the 45th (and last) President of the United States of America. Even at that point, it wasn’t too late – but there was no play in the playbook, no precedent, no thought experiment that had been laid out for a situation like this – and the plan, the plan had been being prepared for more than sixty years. Every eventuality had been thought out, every detour or deviation had been thought of, every detail had been considered. Trump was almost as clueless as everyone else – but his handlers knew what they were doing and they knew how to make his actions lead to their desired outcomes.

 

Chapter 2 – Viral Apes on Parade

 

Yes, things were going very well for ‘The Donald’ and his entire cohort – those white Americans born between 1945 and 1965 – also known as ‘The Baby Boomers’. Through the years, there had been an effort to include people of color in the ‘baby boomer’ cohort – but everyone knew, at least on some level, that it was a lie. They might be ‘of’ the generation but they were no more a part of it than they had been a part of the white classrooms that were integrated during that period.

Under the Trump presidency, things went very well for the baby boomers, just as it always had. They were given more benefits, their savings grew in value, their homes (bought for a fraction of annual income) grew in value to the point where they were worth much more than the same annual income adjusted for inflation. A series of ‘tragedies’ allowed them to use their fluid wealth to hoard what should have been that of later generations and then to scoop up whatever gains those generations might have made. As the next generation ‘Gen X’ came of age, started earning, and appeared to be poised to profit greatly from the boom in technology – a series of lawsuits, anti-trust cases, and mergers ‘releveled’ the playing field and allowed the boomers to ‘reclaim’ their position on top before it was even lost. When protests and a movement for environmental and social justice in the late 1990s threatened the status quo and the power structures, the boomers began attacking the same freedoms they had been granted by their elders – the right to peacefully assemble, the right to protest, the right to demand change.

When tragedy struck on September 11th, 2001, the same boomers who claimed to have protested against the Vietnam War, piled into attacking Iraq and Afghanistan and sending two generations into a state of permanent post-traumatic-stress-disorder. They bought Krispy Kreme donut stock, rallied around war as being good for the economy, and proceeded to use easy credit to buy up everything on every block. A few years later, seeing that Gen X and minorities in their own birth cohort were also using the same easy credit, they engineered credit default swaps, ballooned the real estate market, and exploded the economy. Generally white baby boomers had enough to weather the storm and equally generally Gen X and minorities did not – their ‘assets’ i.e. homes were scooped up and turned into vacation rentals.

There was another period – from 2008 to 2011 where it looked like they might be losing their grip – the ‘sharing economy’ the ‘startup culture’ and ‘social media’ all seemed out of baby boomer grasp – but, using their superior buying power and the ‘unfortunate’ circumstances of Gen X and Millennials, they bought them – everything from the experts to the businesses themselves. In cases where money wasn’t the goal such as a bizarrely successful experiment called ‘couchsurfing’ they monetized the same concept by investing in AirBnB. It was a baby boomer owned and operated business now. At this point the boomers started buying up what had been reasonably priced rentals and turned them into illegal over-priced holiday houses It was a huge win for the boomers – not only had they ruined couch surfing but they had become the majority stakeholders in the ‘sharing (ha ha)’ economy, managed to buy most of the housing inventory, and raised rents at the same time. They were the land lording generation and just like their fearless leader – they profited the most from the Trump presidency.

As with Trump, the whole generation operated on a ‘plausible deniability’ concept that allowed them to do whatever they wanted and deny it later. There were no better deniers than the baby boomers and there were no better baby boomers than Donald J. Trump.  From the time he was elected his people made moves to shore up his power and make sure that he kept it. Meanwhile he set about dismantling the Obama years, destroying the media, punishing his enemies, and engaging in what can only be called madman diplomacy as he alternated between trading insults and gifts with the world’s despots, created key imbalances in the U.S. Federal bureaucracy, and manufactured stock market booms and busts while his investment team reaped all of the rewards.

Look, I could go on, but this is all history – so you can look at it from whatever perspective you want. By the end of 2019 Trump was one of the five richest men on the planet but on paper he made sure to rank far lower. His attacks on Amazon were dual purpose – he drove prices artificially down and then bought shares before driving them to new artificial highs. He wanted to destroy and dethrone, Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man – but at the same time, he wanted to profit from his company and harness the power it wielded. Gradually, the true oligarchs of the world realized that Trump was in charge and they stopped attacking him – there was a tacit truce that was finalized when the richest companies in the world were symbolically arranged into Trump’s campaign acronym MAGA which stood for the openly racist Make America Great Again or the trillion dollar companies he had made truce with Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon.

Those who paid attention already knew that Trump wasn’t going to step aside even if he lost the election of 2020. The other side of that equation was the simple fact that Trump was not going to lose the election of 2020. All of the necessary ‘winning’ components had been put in place before the end of 2019. An artificially pumped up economy (that only benefitted the top 1%), all time low unemployment numbers (combined with all time high debt and all time low buying power when wages were adjusted for inflation), and a political machine that had control of the electronic infrastructure of America. Amazon had finally come on board with the plum of the Pentagon JEDI contract being dangled in front of it. Trump had everything to gain and nothing to lose because it was all completely rigged.

Obama had been castrated and his policies had been dismantled. State and Federal courts all over the country had been stacked with Trump loyalist judges. The foreign service and justice departments had been gutted. The military had been neutered and all the prominent voices within it had been discredited. The Democratic Party had effectively been split into two – one side far left and the other side closer to far right. The Republican Party had been purged of anyone who didn’t have complete loyalty towards The Donald. Trump had destroyed trade relationships, isolated and offended allies, walked away from treaties and agreements – and whipped his country into a frenzy of conspiracy theories, xenophobia, and (for those who truly believed in things like social or environmental justice) despair. He was pro-pollution for profit, pro environmental-degradation for profit, anti-science, anti-truth, and made himself more orange in every appearance just to fuck with people.

Nothing could stop him. He was indomitable. He was large and in charge.

There was only one problem – the planet had begun to pay attention. The apes had become a toxic infestation. She’d been working slowly, trying to change them, trying to encourage them, trying to reach them. Some of them were evolving – they were seeing themselves as part of a bigger picture, they were noticing the interconnectedness of everything, they were breaking down the walls that separated them from one another, from other living things, and from the totality of her many systems and processes. Given a thousand years, she would have been able to gently mold them into a healthy synergy – but starting in about 2016, she realized that she didn’t have a thousand years. If she wanted to save the apes (and the bears, and the elephants, and all the other mammals, marsupials, birds, fish, and reptiles..) she would have to be more drastic. She didn’t have time to mold her chosen into a new way of being – the work would continue, but in the meantime – there were two things that had to be eliminated: baby boomers and capitalism.

Chapter 3 – Sweet Sugar Magnolia

The planet’s name was Gaia.

She was a beautiful planet and considered to be among the most intelligent by all the other planets, though most of them wouldn’t admit it. While other planets had focused on creating dramatic geologic features, gaseous rings, or amazing temperature physics – she had focused on using the tiniest particles to create the most dramatic change.

She was patient. Over 4.5 billion years, she had cobbled together something called life – an insignificant recipe of basic elements and then utilized it to reshape the land, the air, the climate – everything. Gaia was a beautiful genius.

Technically, it’s not quite correct to say that she was a planet – the planet was more like an outward manifestation of who she was – much like a person can be seen by the world as being represented by their body, but actually, they are a complex series of systems that result in a particular consciousness that interacts with physical reality.

It was the same for Gaia. She was a complex series of systems that resulted in a particular consciousness. I can hear you again…I hear you becoming skeptical of my hippie talk. I understand, I hear where you are coming from – but look, before I lose you – let me give a quick explanation. Here’s why you have never met Gaia (even though you have), here’s why you never heard her speak (even though you have), and here is why this just sounds like hippie dippy bullshit – because it is hippie dippy bullshit.

Bottom line is this – Gaia is too big for you to see. Your brain cannot comprehend her. Even if you were to have a face to face conversation with her, you would not believe your senses. Let me put it another way…have you ever had a conversation with your mitochondria? Have you ever tried to explain something to your DNA? Or, on a totally bigger level – do you think it’s possible to reason with your pre-frontal cortex?

You are simply a tiny little part of Gaia. You, me, and even Donald Trump – we’re all little bits of the same mega-consciousness. That consciousness is Gaia – and unlike you and your mitochondria or you and Gaia – she actually has the capabilities to recognize us, see us, communicate with us, direct us, and even kill us. Gaia. If you haven’t been before, it might be time to start paying attention to that name.

The planet’s name was Gaia but she preferred to think of herself as Sugar Magnolia. Yes, Gaia was a Grateful Dead fan.

She’s got everything delightful, she’s got everything I need,
A breeze in the pines and the sun and bright moonlight, lazing in the sunshine yes
indeed.

I told you this was some hippie dippy bullshit (but it’s not) and here is the proof. In general, people were incapable of recognizing her – but there were those who did. Astronauts looking at her from outer space – they felt the connection and the loss at being disconnected. Their vision broadened and gave them the chance to see her, they learned where home really was (and what it was). It wasn’t just the astronauts though – psychonauts frequenty met her.

I mentioned early that Gaia was patient, that she worked with life, that she used her creations to shape her creation – Gaia is the true intelligent design master. I also mentioned earlier how awful the baby boomers were – an entire generation that turned to the dark side – except they didn’t ALL turn to the dark side. There were plenty of baby boomers who met Gaia and then moved forward – they tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. They ate mushrooms, consumed LSD, smoked weed, practiced free love, and reshaped their own DNA and more importantly their consciousness got bent into new forms.

Here’s something the scientists won’t tell you (because how could they) but consciousness transfer is every bit as important as genetic transfer. A parent’s consciousness is every bit as inherited as their DNA but here’s the biggest kick – consciousness transfer is a never ending process and it isn’t reliant on blood relation. Have you ever noticed that when you are with a group of people who think differently than you do, that your opinions start to change and form into a form more like theirs? That’s the consciousness pool. Your reality is shaped by the reality of those around you – that’s the reason that religious movements are born and spread (among other things). It’s the reason why good ideas happen simultaneously at distant points – the consciousness pools aren’t exactly ‘physical’ and so they are not constrained by the same physical properties.

Gaia wasn’t a tyrant. She gave her creations free will but she also shaped and encouraged them towards her overall plan and design. Mystics and hippies have been tapping into that shit for centuries. The aberrant consciousness pools were never really a problem because they were geographically limited and  overall not too damaging to her end game. That started to change with the baby boomers though.

Technology allowed them to form much bigger consciousness pools, the rogue consciousness’ got bigger and bigger – this led to problems. Around the time of World War I, she saw the problem beginning – roads and efficient transport were shrinking her working consciousness pools and growing the rogues. Simple enough, she tweaked one of the smallest life forms, a virus, and killed millions while the humans killed each other.

Gaia took no pleasure in watching her creations destroyed. Once the process began however, it was difficult to stop – the rogue pools were impossible to destroy. They could go dormant but all it would take was a new charismatic human to open them up again. The World War II propaganda machines caused her to take note and then the increasing use of radio and television to create huge negative pools of greed, envy, lust, and pride. These were not helpful to her.

She had encouraged Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, and scores of other mystics – she had talked with them, taught them, given them charismatic boosts of energy – and then watched as their movements and teachings were perverted, twisted, and used for the opposite of what she had intended them.

In the chaos following the Second World War, she brought the teachings together and encouraged the use of psychedelics, opioids, and marijuana to open humans up to her message. Many of them heard – from the commune makers to the back to the lander to the hitchhikers and the American Hindus and Buddhists – they heard. They saw. They responded. By the middle of the 1960s children were being born with drastically rewired consciousness – they were permanently connected to the Gaia pools.

The children of the elders and boomers were not the same as their parents. Many of the boomers themselves were no longer the same as the rest of their cohort. They watched in disbelief as their fellows tuned out, turned off, and climbed back in the god-awful machine of capitalism that the rogue pools had created. The children, as they grew suffered from a complete and total cognitive dissonance as their parents turned away from the values they were given and became ‘the baby boomers’.

So, it’s not really fair to call the Grateful Dead a bunch of baby boomers. It’s not fair to refer to those who are still woke (or even those recently re-awoken) as baby boomers. Just as it is not fair to refer to those younger gens absorbed into the Chaos pools as anything other than boomers. The words simply don’t exist to make sense of it – so, we must adapt the words we have.

We will simply call them what we have already been calling them – those absorbed into the Chaos pools, we will call ‘boomers’ regardless of age, race, religion or other physical data. I understand that this will be offensive to many, but I don’t really care. At this period in time, it makes sense for ‘boomer’ to be an offensive insult. So, on the one side of things you have boomers and their God-King-President Donald J. Trump.

On the other side you have those in the Gaia pools whom we shall call Gaiaists. They too were made up of people from all generations, walks of life, religions, and races (but really they were all of the same race, the human race). The Gaiaists didn’t have a leader, there was no flag to rally to, there was no military ready to kill for them – but they had Gaia on their side as well as many children and a guy named Bob – and that was really all that mattered.

 

Chapter 4 – A Sack of Potatoes

Bob was shaped like a sack of flour, had skin that was about the same color as the flour bag, and had hair that went from long on his ears and body to missing on top of his head. Bob didn’t like having ‘jobs’ and was generally considered to be a pretty good guy by those who knew him. He wasn’t handsome, ugly, or remarkable in any particular way. Bob was neither alpha nor beta. Like his name, he just sort of was. Maybe if he had been Robert or Bobby, there might have ended up being something interesting about him, but no, he was just Bob.

Perhaps it’s not fair to say there was nothing interesting about Bob. Bob had lots of ideas. Bob generally saw connections between things that a sane person would never connect. Bob was also very good at figuring out how to get through life without having to do much that he didn’t want to do. On the one hand, Bob was like the most privileged royalty to have ever walked the planet in that he didn’t have to scrabble for his sustenance, bow to anyone (nor kiss the boot), nor spend his life doing things he didn’t want to do only to die having done nothing that he wanted to do. On the other hand, Bob was a nobody – which was part of his secret of success. No one really noticed Bob. No one offered him promotions or opportunities, he wasn’t pursued by beautiful women, and he only rarely was fucked with by anyone – because he wasn’t the type of person people fucked with, he was the kind of person people walked by without ever having noticed they walked by.

On the rare occasion that anyone did fuck with Bob, it generally ended bad for them. Even though he drove a shitty car, didn’t have any real money to speak of, was completely devoid of any sort of functional power in the world, and for all intents and purposes was just one of many on the bottom tiers of society – he walked the earth as if he owned it. Maybe it was because he was ignored most of the time and allowed to do whatever he might want or maybe, as he had thought a time or two, he was the reincarnation of Caesar, Napoleon, or Genghis Khan. Reincarnation was a tricky subject though – because he also felt like he might be the reincarnation of a slave, an abused woman, or a hanged criminal.

All of that reincarnation stuff aside (because Bob wasn’t even sure if he believed in such a thing, he was pretty sure he didn’t in fact, but not so sure as to be sure it wasn’t a thing after all – so maybe he sort of believed in it – sometimes) – but, yes, all of that aside – it didn’t go well for anyone to fuck with Bob. Imagine what happened when you fucked with Genghis Khan….you’d get your head lopped off or be drawn and quartered, but since Bob wasn’t Genghis Khan and didn’t have horses, an army, or minions – he just had to figure out how to ruin people.

Now I want to be clear here, Bob wasn’t a bad guy – in fact, he was a good guy. Bob helped people, took care of people, tried as hard as anyone to avoid any kind of conflict whatsoever. Bob was more likely to be correct in a disagreement over something but defer that he was incorrect just to avoid a conflict, because conflict never led to anything good. So, if you wanted to tell Bob that Ben Franklin was a homosexual and Bob knew for a fact that Franklin was actually a straight or bisexual person – Bob would probably gently correct you. If you were the kind of person who then let it go then that was that. If you were the kind of person that continued to argue -the kind who had to be right – well, then Bob would let you be right and you would be able to walk off and feel superior for being correct even if you were wrong. However, if you were the kind of person who would then mock Bob or lord over him that you were right and he was wrong or push things even further – well, then, that meant you probably would get what you deserved – and in a situation like that – Bob was the arbiter of both judgment and punishment.

What would that punishment be? It really depended. He wasn’t above leaving hard core pornography with some asshat’s name on it in a place where their wife or business associates might find it. He had been known to use profiles linking to his perps in forums where that was sure to lead to their identity being stolen. He’d once met a racist asshole who insisted on spouting his views publicly even when asked politely to stop – it was no fault of Bob’s (but really it was) that the racist was later reported to the Department of Homeland Security as being a member of an Islamic terrorist organization. And once in a while, if the circumstances were right and the punishment were called for, Bob would go ahead and up and kill a motherfucker.

So that was Bob.

Oh…one more thing that I really should mention – Bob had met Gaia. In fact, it was Bob who first called her Sugar Magnolia.

Bob was an old time dead head. He’d been born just a bit to late to enjoy the heyday of the hippies but the good part about that was that he missed all the freaky Charles Manson bullshit. So, he wasn’t a hippie but he grew up listening to the Grateful Dead, caught shows when he could, cooked grilled tomato and cheese sandwiches in concert parking lots once in a while – and generally did a lot of drugs – at least until he didn’t.

Bob took shitloads of LSD, ate crates full of magic mushrooms, and smoked at least as much weed as Snoop Doggy Dogg – okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration – he smoked a lot of weed, but no one has smoked that much. Anyway, he was so tuned in, turned on, and dropped out that there was nowhere else for him to drop out of. In fact, he’d tuned in and turned on so much that it was starting to get boring.  Bob could dose LSD through a convention and eat shrooms like they were corn chips. It was starting to get boring and he was wondering when he was going to die so he could find out if the reincarnations shit was real or just a myth.

That was when he met Doctor. Doctor doesn’t really play much of a role in this story, at least not yet and he didn’t play much of a role in Bob’s overall story either. Bob was sitting on a bench, tripping out, listening to the birds in the park. He noticed a guy in a funny hat was suddenly sitting next to him.

“LSD is done” the man said.

“Excuse me?” Bob was pretty certain he had misheard and maybe let his trip rearrange the words.

“I said LSD is done. That shit is over. It’s boring. It doesn’t do any more than what it’s done.”

“Who are you?” Bob asked. He wasn’t really one to mince words and he was tripping balls.

“I’m Doctor.” the man said. His hat had a propeller on it. Bob was sure he wasn’t tripping that.

“Doctor who? or maybe Doctor of what?” Bob asked.

“No, Doctor Who is a TV show and I’m not a Doctor of What. I’m a Doctor of Which.”

“A Witch Doctor?” Bob hazarded. The propeller didn’t seem to be connected to the hat after all, it just sort of hovered over him.

“No. Which way. Never mind. It doesn’t matter. LSD is done. You need to move on.”

“Where?” Bob looked around, seeing the trail and wondering where this strange apparition was sending him.

“No, which. Which drug. Which drug? Salvia divinorum. Go smoke the shit out of that. LSD is done. Go smoke the shit out of some salvia.”

Bob had heard of Salvia divinorum, but he didn’t know where to get any. He wasn’t really sure what it did or where he could get it.

“Where?” Bob wasn’t really monosyllabic, but he was tripping balls, remember? He wasn’t even sure that Doctor was real. “Where get?” He managed to get the second syllable out.

“Here.” Doctor reached up into the propeller, which Bob was happy to see, didn’t slice off his hand and spray blood everywhere – though as he thought about that it might have been interesting to see the droplets glistening in the sun. Doctor pulled his hand down and now it had a bag filled with dried green herbs. Doctor handed it to him.

“Smoke the shit out of that. She want’s to meet you.” Doctor got up and Bob looked down into his hand to see if the herbs were still there – they were. He looked up to protest or say thanks but Doctor was gone. He looked down the trail in either direction – and he saw no one. He checked to see if the herbs were still in his hand – they were.

Given the circumstances and everything that had happened, Bob didn’t feel like he could do anything except wait for the LSD to wear off and then go home and smoke the shit out of the Salvia divinorum that Doctor had given him.

 

Chapter 5 – Mystic Dimensional Smoking

Bob didn’t know Gaia, he couldn’t give two shits about Donald Trump – or any other politician or celebrity – and he didn’t really care about anything at all. None of that meant he was a bad guy or wasn’t a decent human being – he would help old ladies carry their groceries to their cars (and refuse any tip that might be offered) and do other nice things – he genuinely liked helping people. He simply didn’t really care about anything that was outside of his immediate personal experience. Sure, he thought it was terrible that people should suffer for any reason but in general they were outside of any sort of range he might be able to make a difference in – or that was what he thought. All of that was about to change.

Bob went home to his little sub-basement studio apartment, sat down on his old shitty brown cloth sofa and pulled out the bag of herbs. They had a vague licorice smell and he wasn’t entirely sure that what he was about to do was a good idea – he got out his old pipe, filled up the bowl with salvia, and sat there with it in his hands – wondering if what he was about to do was the stupidest thing he had ever done. That would be a hard truth to find, Bob had done lots of stupid shit in his life.

He looked around his crappy little apartment. Not filthy, he kept it clean, just old and crappy. It had seen better days. He pulled out his phone and looked up ‘Salvia’.

He found that it was a member of the mint family and was said to cause intense hallucinations. there had never been any reported deaths or overdoses from it. That was all he really needed to know.  He held the pipe up to his mouth, lit the lighter, and then decided he would go somewhere else.

Bob liked being outside and in relative solitude when he tripped – so he hiked up the hill through his suburban neighborhood until he reached the dirt road that wandered off through the valleys – it had been an old logging road but the suburbs kept pushing back on it. A half mile outside of the suburbs, he got past the ‘beauty strip’ the trees that had been left standing so citizens wouldn’t get upset about the clear cutting. Once past the beauty strip, he walked through the clear cut which was about two miles wide and twenty years old – small growth was coming back. He found a huge old stump and sat on it.

He was looking down on the entire clearcut valley, miles and miles of earth that had been stripped of trees. Limbs and stumps thrust upwards like bones of long dead warriors who had fought and died on this battlefield. Once again, Bob pulled out the pipe.

He looked down the valley, made sure there was no one else within his field of vision. He listened to the birds calling. He lit the lighter, brought it to the pipe, and took a huge fucking hit. It was strong, acrid, and bitter. He held it in his lungs for about forty seconds before exhaling it into the gentle breeze that was blowing from behind him and into the valley below. The smoke wafted upwards on the breeze and began to dissipate and then…

Bob felt a melting-whooshing-blending-motion sort of feeling, he heard a sound that could only be described as shwoenge – that was sort of what it sounded like but it actually encompassed all sounds and suddenly there he was at the bottom of the valley looking up at himself nearly a half mile away. He was on a different stump, this one with lots of small trees growing out of it and an old coke can smashed into what had been the bark. Bob looked at the can, looked at his hands, looked up at himself a half mile away, and stood up on the stump.

“What the fuck man?” He reached down and pulled the coke can out from between the bark and the stump – he was looking at it intently and then shwoenge – he was back up at the top of the valley looking down at where he had just been. Bob had been a tripper for a long time, but he had never had a trip like that…he looked at his hands – still holding the pipe. They began to shake…

And then they stopped…it was roughly five minutes after he had taken the hit and he was now feeling no effects from it whatsoever.

He stuck the pipe into his pocket and began the long walk through the clearcut down to the stump that he  had hallucinated he was standing on. It took nearly forty minutes to get there, he had to navigate around brush and detritus. He didn’t expect to find anything there, but he had to see. He had never hiked down this valley before.

When he got there, he was surprised to see the stump just as he had imagined it. He began to wonder if maybe Salvia didn’t vastly improve vision and then induce hallucination that way. Closer to the stump he stopped. The flattened old coke can was there – and it was clear that it had been removed from between the bark and the stump. Heightened vision didn’t explain this. Bob didn’t know what explained this. Bob was now tripping the fuck out with no drugs involved.

Bob went back to his apartment and did just what a normal person would not have done – he loaded his vaporizing bong full of salvia and began to smoke the shit out of it.

The first hit was a triple and he felt himself fall into the brown and tan fabric of his couch. The pattern began swirling around him and he felt like he was in a vortex – again, a normal person would have reacted one way, but Bob went the other. Where a normal person would have freaked out, grasped for control and tried to climb out of the couch vortex, Bob didn’t do that – he calmly reached to where he knew the vaporizer was, picked it up and had another triple hit. The party bowl on it would be good for at least ten hits.

The vortex became faster and he walked out onto a grassy field where a black haired woman in a simple white dress was standing, looking off into the distance – he felt himself being sucked out of the vortex and forced himself to hit the vaporizer again. He walked to her. She turned and gave him the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. He could smell every bit of her – her smell was the best thing he had ever experienced – it was like waking from a bad dream and realizing you were at home in your bed but a thousand times better.

“Hi Bob, I’m Gaia,” her voice was the same sensory overload as her smell and the sight of her, it was as if she were the first real thing he had ever seen. He remembered the vaporizer and reached to hit it. Her voice stopped him “You don’t need to do that now, I’ve got you.”

“Sweet Sugar Magnolia,” Bob said. It was more of an exclamation of delight and surprise than anything else.

“You can call me that if you like,” she said and looking thoughtful, “In fact, yes, call me that, I really like it. Call me Sweet Sugar Magnolia.”

Bob felt an intense sense of clarity – so much so that he didn’t feel any need to ask who she was or what he was doing there. He did, however, need to know one thing. “Is this hallucination?” he asked her. “Is this the salvia?”

She laughed – it was the sound of a silver bell symphony. “No. I’m real. You know who I am. The salvia was just a way for you to get here – most never manage, but you pulled it off very quickly. I knew you would.”

“What does the salvia do?” He asked her. That was something which he was not clear on at all.

“It’s full name is salvia Divinorum,” she told him. “It is the divine sage. I made it purely and simply as a way  to communicate with you … and other creatures. Salvia erases the artificial barriers between dimensions. There is only one dimension, of course, but to give your world the experience of causality, we have split the dimensions and when you do that, the barriers are a natural by product.”

“I don’t understand.” Bob never had a problem admitting he didn’t know something. He didn’t know almost everything. He could never figure out why anyone would pretend otherwise.

“In the clearcut…” she began.

“You were there?”

She smiled warmly. “Of course I was there, salvia was there and besides, there really aren’t any places that I’m not – at least on this world. So, in the clearcut, you managed to erase the second dimension – you were suddenly able to be at many points at the same time – just as an electron.”

“But wait, I wasn’t at many points at the same time, I was in one place and then another…”

Gaia looked at him “Yes, of course, I forgot – your kind are trapped with the 4th dimension…there is no escaping it. However, trust me Bob, you were in many places at the same time but because of your own brain structure and the observation principle – you can only rationalize that you were in one place, then another, then back again. You were Schroedinger’s Ape.”

“Why am I here?” He didn’t know if he was asking a positional statement or a deeply philosophical statement because he was asking both at the same time.

“I made you,” she told him. “I made your world. I created and then created the impetus for life to create itself – and I set life free. This has been a wonderful process – but unfortunately, I made a couple of mistakes…and now they are either going to get taken care of or they are going to destroy everything we’ve created.”

“We’ve created?” Bob was confused, she had just said that she created everything.

“Of course. I created and then I set my creations to create in the impetus of what I had created and what resulted from it. I didn’t create bird nests…birds created those.”

“So what’s the problem?” he asked her – for some very strange reason, he felt confident that he understood what she had just explained. Bob never felt like that – he nearly always had questions on questions on questions.

“The problem is that I created a backup system to save all the work that gets done and somehow that backup system got cloned, corrupted, and is now saving data in a way that goes against all of the original principles of my design.”

“This is all a computer program?” Bob was starting to have questions again..

“No, I’m just trying to give you a metaphor you can understand. Imagine that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak create a perfect Apple computer. They share it with the world. Slowly the board of Apple is infiltrated by people who want to exploit user data, brainwash users, and turn them into Windows users. Finally, they fire Jobs and Woz and hire Bill Gates to run Apple. At that point, if you buy an Apple are you buying an Mac or buying a PC?”

Bob made the ‘mind-blown’ gesture with his cupped fingers pushing outwards from his head.

Gaia went on “So, here I am with my creation – let’s just call it an apple. Everything was going along just fine and then I began paying attention and it seems that some ass-hat is trying to turn my Macintosh into a fucking PC!” The intensity of her anger as she explained this could only be felt as flames erupting from her eyes, ears, mouth, nose, fingers, toes, and head. “I need you to stop him before he turns Apple into Microsoft!”

“You want me to kill Bill Gates?” Bob wasn’t offering – he was baffled and feeling the power of listening to an all knowing, all seeing, all there is being as she tried to explain a complex universal situation to an acid dropping, sub-genius, fire-making ape.

The flames disappeared and she was laughing. “No, no, no. Not at all. Bill Gates is one of the good guys – I mean, not always but he’s coming around and really making the change. No, Bill Gates isn’t the ass-hat. It’s not him. And besides, I don’t want you to kill anyone -”

Bob felt an intense sense of relief. He didn’t want to kill anyone.

She continued “…No, I need you to build the army of light, lead them to the battle where they will struggle with the army of darkness, and then…after your army has defeated the dark – then I want you to  obliterate Donald Trump’s soul, but killing him won’t be a good enough solution.”

There was a beautiful silver tone, deep and resonant. Bob felt everything shake. Sweet Sugar Magnolia/Gaia looked at him with love and said “I can’t keep you hear any longer – don’t worry, you’ll figure out what to do. If you get confused or tripped up – remember that moving towards your opponent is often the best defense.”

Bob was on his couch holding the vaporizer – it was still smoking. He looked at the clock on his stove and realized he had been gone for three minutes. He had never felt more rested or alive in his life.

Chapter 6 –The Dread Postman Roberts

The postman was the messenger of anxiety and fear. Generally, Bob wasn’t a nervous sort of person, but when he saw the postman getting out of his mail truck and walking up the porch steps to put mail in the post box, it never felt good. All of his deepest hidden turmoil would rise to the surface and roil his consciousness in an avalanche of loose stone and broken vicissitude. Bob had never trusted the post office.

The United States Postal Service was more than just a government division that delivers letters from one place to another. The USPS by itself stood as one of the top one hundred economies in the world and generated more income than all but the largest companies the world had ever borne witness to. The USPS maintains a fleet of a quarter million vehicles, an army of more than a million employees and retirees, as well as airplanes, big rigs, base-yards, and a network of more than 31,000 post offices and 10,000 private contractor mail shops. Mail is a big business and big business means big money. When there is big money, one should know that exploitation, greed, graft, and violence will follow. In a business pulling and pushing mountains of cash, there was sure to be both corruption and bosses.

The Postal Employees Union was one of the most ruthless mafia syndicates on the planet and the postal inspection corps were their gestapo. It was no easy thing to prevent postal workers from blowing each other away in one of the highest stress business environments the world had ever seen – and sometimes, they had to take side-jobs in order to make sure that everyone kept getting paid and the illusion of domesticity prevailed in the “free” world. Only the Federal Government and Walmart employed more American civilians than the USPS…think about that for a moment.

Bob had spent far longer than a moment thinking of it. The result was a deep seated dread for both the post office and mail carriers. Nothing is so dangerous as the truth and it meant that he was never able to enjoy banal flavored thinking such as considering an everyday postman as some friendly and harmless bozo in short pants and a doorless truck.

The post-office was the the victim of government mandated shake downs for more than a century, all while being forced to fund its own operations and pre-fund retirement and healthcare for an army of workers. This required more than just good business sense and fiduciary responsibility – it required ruthlessness and the ability to diversify and hide in plain sight while being regarded as harmless. Far from being harmless, the USPS holds more true power than any U.S. government agency in that it is ruled by a ten-member board who appoint a Postmaster General and make decisions with sovereign immunity, eminent domain powers, the ability to negotiate postal treaties with foreign nations, and an exclusive right to deliver 1st and 3rd Class mail. It is also in a unique partnership with all branches of the U.S. Military and jointly operates both the Army Postal and the Fleet Postal Offices – giving it immense power to influence military decisions and leadership. The US Post Office is not subject to antitrust laws and operates independently of the U.S. Government.

The U.S. Post Office is a deadly serious business – and Bob knew it. This is why the methodical approach of postman Zeta Roberts as he climbed the steps to reach Bob’s porch and slid several letters through the slot in the door drove Bob to do something he didn’t know he was capable of in the face of such a horror inspiring moment. Usually, Bob would pull the blinds, shut out the lights, and listen for the steps to fade as the postman went away – but not today. Today was different. Bob was different.

He opened the door.

Zeta Roberts, the postman, looked at Bob in surprise. This had never happened before. Bob had always pulled the blinds and pretended not to be home. Zeta was a non-threatening African American man in postman shorts and white trainers. He was clean shaven, his uniform was neatly pressed and cleaned, and he was quick with a smile. The power of the uniform was that white people generally didn’t notice Zeta when he was wearing it – or if they did notice him, they didn’t notice him as a man or more specifically as a black man or even more specifically for most white people – as a threat to their property, women, or safety.

Zeta knew for a fact that it was the uniform because on his days off, he was treated completely differently – in many cases by the same people! Zeta had frequent interactions with the people on his route while he was in uniform – always friendly, always good natured. He had walked the same route on his days off and the experience was totally different. Several times people had called the police on him – saying there was a suspicious person prowling around. More than once, dogs had ‘accidentally’ been released from the yard. Worst of all were the looks of suspicion and violence he received from guys working in their yards, looking out their windows, or walking with their wives. No friendly waves or banter from them. Out of the uniform, none of them recognized him. Well, that wasn’t exactly true – Bob was the one person who had recognized him and suspiciously asked “Have they got you doing undercover work?”

Zeta felt a connection to Bob because most of the letters that came to him were addressed to ‘Robert’. They shared that name. Zeta didn’t think Bob had ever noticed the color of his skin. Bob simply saw the uniform and Zeta’s impression was that he didn’t like it. So, when Bob opened the door, it was a surprise.

Zeta smelled marijuana smoke wafting out. He looked at Bob.

Bob considered what to say, but since he was a little bit stoned, he considered it longer than was comfortable.

Zeta held the three pieces of mail out to Bob. Bob took them, looked at them and then looked back up at Zeta. Both men’s eyes widened at what neither of them knew was about to happen. Eyes do that sometimes, reflect the future before the future is the present.

“I’m terrified of your organization,” Bob said. “I understand the scope of what you people do.”

There was a specific response that postal workers were taught for dealing with this type of question.

“No need to fear, Sir. We deliver the mail. That’s all.”

“Bullshit, I know they tell you to day that,” Bob responded. “The USPS is an army and I need your help. Donald Trump has to be stopped.”

Zeta was used to hearing some bullshit from the people on his route, but this was truth. “Yeah, Preach.”

He waited to hear more from Bob, but Bob didn’t seem to have words ready to speak, and that was okay. Zeta had been waiting for this moment since Trump got elected in 2016. Not one person on his route had ever asked what he thought about Trump or given him the ability to speak the words that came out of his mouth next.

“He’s going to kill us all if we don’t stop him. That motherfucker is pure evil.” That was that, simple words between a postman and a stoner on the porch of a not so great house. In that moment, more than a friendship was born – the tides of history shifted. No longer was it a one sided war being played out for an audience unaware they were a part of the performance. Things were happening on all sides now – heading towards an inevitable confrontation that would determine the fate of all mankind.

Chapter 7 – A Very Good Novel Coronavirus

We all know what happened in 2020. A coronavirus emerged and became a pandemic changing the world forever. We know what happened but we have not been told the details. Allow me now to enlighten you on the complete and total history of the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Russia had been developing a deadly coronavirus that would uniquely target American weaknesses such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart conditions. China had been working with several strains of coronavirus in an effort to create targeted viral attacks – something that would hit Tibetans or Taiwanese without damaging Han Chinese. The United States of America was also working on several virus strains that had the potential to tilt a global conflict in whatever direction they wanted – without the media circus of another never ending war..

Meanwhile, the flu virus and several wild coronavirus strains were doing their own thing in nature. Mutating, spreading, developing, changing, and killing. I’m not going to give you a textbook course here – viruses are not exactly alive…they lack cell structure among other things, but like living creatures, they carry genetic material, reproduce, and evolve.  Viruses are better described as a different kind of living thing – one that is both helpful and deadly to the living. Viruses are fascinating because they are so close to being living things – but just don’t quite fit. Essentially, a virus is a parasite to living things because it requires living things to live (or whatever it is that a virus does).

Not all viruses are deadly though – some of them are neutral and others actually are beneficial. There are trillions of viruses in every human body (yes trillions with a ‘T’). Viruses are a driver of evolution and they sometimes even protect a host. A quick word on hosts, no virus can survive without a host – the virus needs an actual living thing to reproduce itself – that thing is the host. Some viruses protect the host such as phages which are viruses that kill harmful bacteria. There are many, many viruses and not all of them are bad. Some viruses are good.

Essentially, this is the story of a very good coronavirus.

Late in 2019, Gaia realized that genocide was coming. It might come from the Chinese, it might come from the Russians, it might come from ISIS or it might come from the USA, but the bottom line was – it was coming. Gaia didn’t want to see any of her creations destroyed, not even the apes – and especially not in hatred. She knew the power of hatred and how it could quickly grow and spiral out of control while killing everything in the path it took. Hatred was a kind of virus as well, it needed a host and was generally toxic to all who encountered it.

Gaia saw the hatred – it was like a very funny broadway play that everyone liked and then the theater caught on fire and everyone died. Except it wasn’t funny. It was leading to dramatic climate change, mass extinction events, and a destruction of her work. Someone was going to release a virus and it was going to be awful – imagine something that would let every person that got it spread it to three more – and then would kill 60% of those who got it. A disease that would kill 2/3 of the human population in a matter of weeks. That was what the US Government was working on.

Trump and his cronies had created a virus which they would release in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia – then they would bring it home and release it in areas where voters weren’t ‘loyal’ to Trump. I’ve mentioned previously that Trump wore orange makeup just to annoy his detractors – but at the root of that was something else – he was pumped so full of experimental vaccines that his cellular structure had actually changed. A part of his orangeness was just him – he was an orange man. An evil orange man. An evil orange motherfucker of a man.

Trumps initial plan was to release it just prior to the 2020 election and then in the midst of an emergency global pandemic – to call off the elections. It was an awful plan if you were human, it was a wonderful plan if you were orange and named Donald Trump.

Gaia decided to do something – the best thing to do would be to beat him to the punch. Trump’s virus was a coronavirus with elements of Ebola that was air spread and used rats as a vector. It was terrible – she couldn’t let it do what it was designed for. Meanwhile, the Russian’s were continuing to sew the threads of American destruction. They planned to introduce their own coronavirus in New York City.

She worked her magic. A coronavirus in Asian fruit bats had been getting ready to jump species so she brought the bats into contact with a pangolin. The pangolin is a cute little armadillo type of animal that many Chinese people believe has magical properties that make its body parts into medicine – it is also believed by some Chinese men to be a dick enlarger. As a result, the pangolin is one of the most heavily trafficked  animals in Asia.

Now, here are some fun facts – pangolins and armadillos are two of the only animals in the world that can cross infect viruses to humans. Here’s another fun fact, animal parts don’t make your dick larger. If you have a small dick, you are stuck with it. Armadillos can contract and spread leprosy. Pangolins can carry coronavirus.  The bat coronavirus was harmless to the pangolins and it spread through the population quickly. Before long, a number of infected pangolins were captured by humans to sell to guys who were ashamed of their genitals. They were taken to Wuhan where they were sold in one of the ‘wet markets’ and subsequently infected the rest of the pangolin in that area. This was all according to Gaia’s plan because Wuhan was where the Chinese were developing their viral weapons. It was the type of misdirection which gods and conscious planets typically engage in.

It’s easy for a virus to jump from Pangolin to human but it would have been harder for it to jump from bat to human – that was why she used the pangolin. At the same time as this was happening, the Russian virus was being released in Southern Europe and New York. The U.S. was releasing a time limited version of their virus in Iran and Wuhan before unleashing it on Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East.

By design, Gaia’s virus was far faster to spread. You might be thinking “What the fuck? How is that a good coronavirus or a very good coronavirus?” Here’s the answer. Gaia’s virus conferred immunity to the Russian, Chinese,  and the US viruses – which were far deadlier than hers. You were there, you know how it played out – the Wuhan virus came on quick, it looked like a nightmare for China – then, from out of nowhere – suddenly Italy, then Iran, Spain, France and New York City blossomed into deadly hot spots with much higher mortality. It was the Russian and American virus doing most of the killing.

Gaia’s virus flew from China to the world. It spread quickly and invisibly from September to February. It went from Wuhan to all of Asia, then to Hawaii, California, British Columbia, Washington State, and Australia. The infection rate was insanely high – the symptoms for most people consisted of the worst case of influenza they had ever experienced – and then they were okay. Meanwhile, the Russian and US viruses (which I’ll just call viRus) moved slowly west into Europe and the Middle of the USA – where the viRUS met Gaia’s coronavirus (we’ll call it Gairus) – there were far fewer infections and deaths than where the viRus spread alone. It was a lifesaving virus – and yes – the worst flu of your life sometimes kills you – but if you survived it – you were immune to the viRus. If you caught the Gairus, you were immune to other coronavirus strains if you survived, but if you caught the viRus you could still catch the Gairus but if you caught the Gairus first, then you were good to go.

That’s the story you haven’t been told before – COVID-19 is not a single coronavirus – the pandemic was actually three pandemics happening at the same time – one started by Russia, one started by the USA, and the third started by Gaia. Since all the major players felt they had something to hide – none of them shared information effectively and as a result, none of them figured out what was going on. They all simply had to react. They had to act surprised, they had to downplay, they had to hide their own culpability (because the Chinese thought the Gairus had escaped from their lab, the US thought it was the virus they had released in Iran, and the Russians thought it was their New York virus unleashed.)

Some seemingly crazy decision-making starts to make a lot more sense when you recognize what really happened. The U.S. virus was supposed to be a quick hitter and then mutate to a form that would not survive – which is why the Trump administration continually downplayed the virus until the numbers were such that they could not ignore them any longer. The Russian virus wasn’t supposed to affect people  of Slavic descent which explains why Vladimir Putin acted with such disregard for the virus reaching Russia. The Chinese virus (never actually released) had not been a planned event. So all three major powers had more than a little to hide – or at least thought they did. Each thought they were responsible for the pandemic, each scrambled to keep the rest of the world from discovering the part they either played or thought they played.

Without the Gairus – the death toll would have been in the tens of millions in a very short time. As it was, the Gairus did what it was supposed to do. First, it gave immunity to all coronavirus’ to those who survived it, second it shut down the world’s industrial civilization – everything from commuting to industrial farming to air travel – shut down completely or dramatically. The air cleared, the animals had a holiday, the environment made massive reversals against a century of hardcore damage from industrial civilization. Finally, Gaia usually stayed out of ape politics – but because of the rise of Donald Trump and chaos pool ideologies – the entire balance of her planet had been destroyed. As we know, this was one of a few times she decided to step in and put her weight on one side. The coronavirus shutdown was meant to show the apes (humans) that they had been lied to. This was an opportunity for all of them to stop, observe, learn, and discover the truth. They had been lied to about the benefits of their ‘civilization’, the limits of what could be done to make life better, the ability of ‘business’ to stop making bad decisions and start making planet positive ones, and most importantly that their leaders were corrupt, ignorant, and filled with hatred for their own kind (and all other kinds).

COVID-19 was a tragic event that killed far too many good people. The viRus’ unleashed by the US and Russia were responsible for the majority of those deaths. The Gairus, on the other hand, also killed far too many in China, the West Coast of the USA, Japan, and other Asian countries – but the lives it saved from the viRus were in the billions. This is why we refer to it as ‘a very good novel coronavirus’.

 

 

Chapter 8 – The World According to Trump

The coronavirus pandemic was as welcome to Donald Trump as the proverbial turd in the punchbowl.  If you aren’t familiar with that particular metaphor, it should be easy to put together. In any event, 2020 started with Trump feeling amazingly triumphant – and at first he thought COVID-19 was going to add to that.

To understand that, you need to understand exactly how Donald John Trump viewed the world. It wasn’t a complex worldview but unless you understand it, you can never understand the motivations that drove Trump to the seemingly insane decisions he frequently made.

Trump was the original ‘Daddy’s Boy’. Some people say that isn’t a thing, but in Trump’s case, it actually was. Donald John Trump was created in a laboratory. His mother’s egg was removed from her body, the nucleus of it was removed, and that nucleus was replaced with a strand of his father’s DNA. ‘Fred Trump’ and his son Donald shared almost identical DNA. As a result of this, ‘Fred’ (I’ll stop using ironic quotes since we all know who Fred really was) put a huge amount of pressure on little Donny.

From the beginning, Donald Trump was told that he was the best and if he didn’t live up to that it was because he wasn’t trying hard enough. There was one person in the world who needed to be pleased with him above all others, his father. Young Donald Trump was encouraged to walk all over his siblings to earn his father’s love, he was praised only when he did something that made his father proud. In general, this meant earning power, prestige, and at the same time – taking power and prestige from those less deserving of it – i.e. everyone except Fred Trump -especially those who were not of the same Germanic heritage.

You would think that the death of Fred Trump would have taken a lot of pressure off of Donald, but it wasn’t the case. Instead he felt like his father was now aware of his past transgressions and there was nothing he could do to hide himself from the ever-judging eye of his deceased dad. Many were and are the evening when Donald John Trump stares into the mirror, looking for the image of his father, hoping that he can finally get a proud word of praise. Trump would sometimes try to speak in his father’s voice and heap compliments on himself – but this always failed and ended with him berating himself for his many failures and finally weeping into the mirror “I’m sorry Papa, please forgive me. I’m sorry I’m such a piece of shit, Papa. Please Papa, please – just kill me, I don’t deserve your love, I only deserve to suffer for being such a dumpkoff of a Trumpkoff.”

When there is only one person (a dead person, no less) who matters to you – that pretty much opens the door to doing whatever you want to the rest of the people in the world. In his world, Trump stood at the pinnacle of a bunch of sub-humans and his dead father stood above him as a sort of unappeasable sun-god that demanded more and more sacrifice. Trump was eager to sacrifice all of those below him – not only was it easier than sacrificing himself, it was fun.

The Russians had video tape of him sodomizing and urinating on prostitutes ranging in age from twelve to sixty – but they would never use it. Trump had tapes of his own and the one thing the Russians would never forgive was learning that their leader was a homosexual. It had taken him time to acquire it, but the U.S. Presidency allows you more power than any other position on the planet. Once he had it, he ‘reset’ the relationship with Russia very quickly. It had freed him from being Putin’s puppet.

It was that action and the helter-skelter series of bizarre diplomatic decisions that followed which led the Russian president to decide on ‘Operation New York’.  Trump in the meantime had acquired a weaponized coronavirus from his friend Kim Jong Un with the intent to release it in Iran. His ridiculously still-principled generals, however refused to deploy the virus without a safeguard – this was why the half-life of the virus had been chemically shortened in the American version. His plan was that later in the year, they would release the virus in the USA and throw the elections into turmoil.

Trump’s plan was simple – his operatives would release the virus in Iran and in Wuhan. Trump and his people knew about the weapons virus lab in Wuhan and by releasing the virus there simultaneously with the release in Iran, they were able to create a situation where the virus could be painted as a ‘Chinese virus’. All eyes would turn to China. With that, the ‘Chinese Virus’ would be on the loose and no one would look twice when he released it in blue states.

Trump hated China more than anywhere (except Hawaii, he hated Hawaii more). He hated himself for desperately desiring the approval of Chinese President Xi Jinping – and he resented the hell out of it. The Chinese had risen out of nowhere from a backwater country full of what he considered worthless peasants to become a challenge to his world dominatory plans. He’d already been sticking it to China with his trade war, the currency war was on the way, and now he was going to halt their economy.

So, as we’ve seen – the Gaia virus was already circulating in Asia and the Western U.S. – which people thought was a particularly bad flue season. The Chinese had already figured out that it was something more and it was around this very moment that both Trump and Putin independently decided to strike. Trump’s virus was staged in Wuhan first and then after a week, agents released it into the cafes of Tehran. Seeing that a virus was loose inspired Putin to pull the trigger because he could easily blame it on the Chinese. His virus was planted in New York, Milan, Paris, and Barcelona several weeks after the Chinese noticed the U.S. virus- and the casualties began piling up immediately.

Trump and his people had expected that their virus would kill millions in China. He absolutely loved the moment when he was able to kick them in the teeth by shutting down air travel from China and other Asian countries. He expected a virus that would last a couple of weeks at which point he would get to offer Xi Jinping a welcome hand from the USA.

The U.S. stock markets were on fire as Trump had his federal reserve pump billions into them. He had effectively manuevered the Democratic Party into nominating Joe Biden as their candidate – a demented old man who only had to speak to discredit himself.  Much like Trump himself but without the power of Trump’s hatred to propel himself forward nor the power of the presidency to cheat and win. Trump was on top of the world.

But at that point, Gaia’s virus started fucking things up. Instead of millions dying, the Chinese seemed to be getting the virus under control. The immunity wasn’t complete – but 4,500 deaths were just a tiny number compared to the millions that were expected. The Iran virus met with less resistance but Gaia’s work had spread there as well – economic, political, and familial relationships between the two countries have been friendly for generations – and as a result, a limited amount of immunity was there from Gaia’s work. 5,700 Iranians died – but the cost would have been millions if Trump’s plan had succeeded.

Putin’s plan, on the other hand – was working far better. The Russian virus had very little competition in New York and Southern Europe – since it was tailor made for fat, diabetic Americans – it worked well on fat, diabetic Europeans as well.  Trump had no idea what was happening.

First, the virus he had sent to China and Iran didn’t do the job it was sent to do – and then it started killing people where he hadn’t sent it. Trump resisted calls to close borders, shut down airlines from Europe, or take any other precaution – he was sure this was his virus and it would die out in a few weeks.  But then, it didn’t. He was losing political capital faster than he could keep it. He was also losing money that he had fought hard to cheat from the American people – the stock markets were crashing – that was ultimately what led him to act.

Trump ordered his evil  Vizier, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to start printing money and spending it in the stock markets as fast as possible. He was damned if he would let his ill gotten gains fall into the hands of some other villain. He shut down flights from Europe, ordered governors to shut down their states, and began looking at ways he could use this crisis to shore up his power.

The triple virus whammy had way more staying power than he had expected and powerful blue state governors were using the absence of Trump to speak to ever larger audiences. Trump had to get in front of this – so he gathered up the smart people he hadn’t yet fired or discredited and forced them all to stand on the stage with him and look like hypocrites as they made recommendations that none of them followed.

The American people were glad to see their leader standing in front of them, but quickly realized they were watching a madman as he praised a meme of himself playing the fiddle while the country burned, made impossible proclamations like “We will be open by Easter” or “The power of the President is absolute power” or “Isn’t there some way we can spray sunshine or disinfectant on the victims?” It only got worse from there. His orange face (made orange by experimental vaccines and makeup) got oranger and oranger and the American people became more and more aware of just how insane he actually was. Even his diehard supporters, the ones who had cheered when he said he could go out in the street and shoot a stranger and they would still follow him, began to have doubts.

Still, they took his lead and started gathering in churches, having protests, and refusing to wear protective gear. No one could accuse them of being smart, but they were loyal to their racist ideologies, that was for certain.

Trump’s Russian handler (and wife), Melania told Putin that Trump had totally gone over the rails and there was no more handling him. He was a madman on the loose and no one was in charge of him any longer. She tried to weather the storm and protect their son Baron (who also carried some Stalin DNA, by the way) – the heir apparent of the entire Trump empire. Ivanka knew this – which was why she had worked so hard to build her own brands and marry into another fortune. Don Jr. and Eric had no clue – they thought they were going to be in the will but they were essentially in the same boat as Fred, Jr. and Robert had been in the earlier generation. Tiffany, like Trump’s sisters – had seen the writing on the wall early and did her best to make a life on her own.

The coronavirus was fucking up his plans – he was losing money, he was losing respect, and his enemies  Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk were all getting richer while he lost money – showing once again that they were better than he was. Trump once again started attacking Amazon – this time through the post office. He would destroy the post office if it meant he could knock Amazon and Bezos down a few notches.

The world according to Donald J. Trump was that he was the chosen one and the whole world was out to get him. He wasn’t chosen to save anyone or protect anything – he was chosen to be the best – that was it and if it cost everyone else so that he was alone, just one big orange man that was incapable of zipping his own pants – that was fine. He was going to win.

There were just a couple of problems – he’d pissed off the planet, she’d recruited Bob, and Trump made a terrible miscalculation late in April that changed the odds considerably – he decided to start fucking with the post office. Nobody fucks with the post office.

 

Chapter 9 – Don’t Mess with the Post Office

 

On April 24th, Donald Trump said “The Post Office is a joke.” It wasn’t the first time he had said such things but this time, he had gone too far. In his quest to one-up Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and The Washington Post (a paper that was notoriously critical of him), Trump was going after the U.S. Post Office. “Every time they deliver a package for Amazon, they lose money.” Again, it wasn’t the first time he had said such things – but it was the context.

The United States was in a self-induced  financial crisis over shutting down the entire country in an panicked effort to control the spread of Covid-19. Bailout money was being handed out on an unprecedented scale. Trump was not against bailing out companies that he or his family had invested in – but when it came to bailing out the post office, he refused. Bailing out the post office was the same thing as handing Jeff Bezos a big fat check. A check that would make him that much more successful and wealthy than Trump. Unthinkable.

Technically, his advisors had told him to leave Bezos and Amazon alone. Hanging the U.S. Pentagon’s JEDI contract over in front of Amazon had finally gotten them to sign off on the MAGA pact – but things were still tenuous. Technically, the JEDI contract had already gone to Microsoft’s Azure cloud division – but there were deals in the works to strip a large portion of that away from them and hand it to Amazon. Trump hated the whole thing. He was trying to find a way he could attack Amazon and then any he had done so.

He’d attacked Amazon with some success in 2018 which had gradually eroded away. He’d forced ‘his generals’ in the Pentagon to give the JEDI contract to Microsoft instead of Amazon and he never missed an opportunity to take a swipe at The Washington Post. None of it had impacted Bezo’s portion as the richest (and most successful) man in the world which Trump took as a direct insult.

So, when the post office approached the treasury and requested financial assistance to continue paying pensions, delivering the mail, and doing everything else the post office did – Trump didn’t see a foundational institution of U.S. history – instead he saw a chance to stick it to that fucking Bezos.

He had a secondary reason, that actually might have been more compelling than the primary but which carried less emotional ammunition – the Democrats were increasingly clamoring for a mail in vote in the 2020 election – something that would hurt all the ‘traditional’ election rigging that all of his cronies were engaged in.

The USPS Postal Union almost immediately began a counter campaign “US Mail Not For Sale.” Postal workers across the nation began mobilizing and organizing on a scale not seen before. The Postmaster General (incidentally, the second highest paid Federal employee – second only to the President himself) unsealed the plan which had been prepared for a moment such as this. The plan had been started by Ben Franklin himself and further developed by every Postmaster General since – it was simply called ‘Re-Orientation Plan 1-75″  or ROP-1-75 the 75 stood for each term of a Postmaster General. Megan J. Brennan was the first female Postmaster General, but it was the 75th term of the office. Ben Franklin had been first.

Within 24 hours, the post office was on the largest hiring spree in the history of the USA. The majority of new hires were military veterans with combat experience. The justification for this hiring spree was to deal with increased home delivery as a result of stay at home orders and people using services such as Amazon, Ebay, etc.

The Union presented a petition to congress which demanded “urgent and ongoing financial support from the federal government during this public health and economic crisis.” In the petition, they documented the extremely high number of veterans who relied on the post office to take care of their families. It was a threat, but congress (and no one else) actually saw it as such.

Trump was holding a $10 million dollar loan over the post office while he tried to get them to hurt his rivals. The Postal Service was having none of it. Postal training took on some new and unique characteristics. It was customary to train new postal workers in how to deal with an active shooter, dogs, or other dangerous situations – but with the new situation on the ground – a whole new threat level was included under the justification that stay at home orders were making people a little stir-crazy.

Tax day had been pushed back from April 14th to July 14th. While a large number of Americans filed electronically – there were still a majority who used the post office to send in their taxes. This little fact might have been an important one for Trump to remember when he began to attack the post office – that and the fact that all of the campaign materials he was using the pandemic as an excuse to send out to voters on the government’s dime – they were all supposed to be delivered by the post office as well. He would have been surprised to find that most of the cards with his name and picture on them were still sitting in bags marked ‘delivery delayed due to COVID-19’.


After that first encounter on Bob’s porch, Bob and Zeta became good friends. In the early days of the pandemic, before social distancing came into play, Zeta would come over on his off days and the two would smoke weed and talk about the state of the world. Zeta had been a psychonaut before starting to work at the post office and much to Bob’s surprise – he knew quite a bit about salvia.

“She’s pretty well documented, man.” Zeta said to Bob after hearing about his salvia experience with Gaia. “She appears to people either dressed in white or green. Some people think she is the Virgin Mary while others claim she is a Mazatec goddess. I thought I saw her once, but every time I’ve smoked salvia – I’ve felt her there. Tell me more.”

Bob told Zeta everything. When he finished, he waited to hear his new friend express either concern or a desire to no longer be friends. Instead, Zeta was all in.

“Yes. I knew it. I knew that motherfucker was the antichrist. I could feel it in my bones. To be honest, all black people, we all know it. Maybe all brown people – or all people. The people that choose to follow him – they aren’t just delusional man, they’re fucking evil. It’s like they aren’t even real people anymore – it’s like they’ve given him their souls and now they can only do what he tells them to do.”

Bob wasn’t surprised to hear this, but what came next was a shocker.

“She gave you a mission man. You have to take it. We have to do this. We need to clean you up and get you presentable, man – because no one is going to follow the lead or take orders from some dirty hippie,” Zeta looked at Bob with something like shock at his own words. “Sorry, I mean, you do kind of fit the bill for the dirty hippie thing.”

Bob had never influenced anyone else to do anything in his life. He had a shocked look on his face which Zeta had misinterpreted – he wasn’t shocked at being called a dirty hippie- that was how he self-identified. He was shocked at the realization that he was no longer a lone unit in the world. Zeta had joined him, he was part of a team – and not only that – Zeta had acknowledged him as the leader of the team – and seemed to think he had it in him to lead more people. This was shocking!

Bob didn’t know, but he had been changed in many ways by his encounter with Gaia. She had dosed him with a huge level of charisma and an infectious ability to influence other people. If Bob had come out of the trip and engaged in becoming the best vacuum or used car salesman in the world, he would have succeeded. If he would have entered politics or religion – his success would have been astounding. Bob was a slacker though – and that was part of the reason she had chosen him. Most leaders lead by shaping the views of their followers but Bob would lead by letting his followers shape the views of their movement. He was charisma without an agenda – something that is so rare in the world that it doesn’t even have a name. There were leaders who had tapped into it before – but none of them had the same historical circumstances, nor true urgency that existed in the world Bob was in.

“Cleaned up?” Bob asked. “What sort of look should I go for?”

“Let’s workshop this,” Zeta said. “I’d like you to meet some friends of mine.”

When Gaia set Bob loose in the world, it was a dangerous gamble. She knew that he was a ticking time bomb and if he had been recruited by racists, religionists, or any other group with a negative political agenda – he would have become a powerful force for evil. Gaia, however, knew a thing or two about balance – the world was far too heavily weighted towards the negative at the time she met Bob. The universe always sought balance and a sense of equilibrium. Gaia had high confidence that Bob would end up being a heavy hitter on the side of the light. The world would bring Bob to where he needed to be and he would act as a weight on the side of goodness. She knew this was the outcome, but at the same time – even when you are a conscious planet – it is impossible to know the future. Playing dice with the universe is always a gamble because there are no known outcomes – only probabilities.

 

Chapter 10: Our Dear Leader

Zeta’s friends were mostly postal workers. They instantly clicked with Bob – as just about anyone would do now that he was a charismatic magnet. In the early days of the pandemic, they met in cafes and restaurants. One of them suggested they should start taking walks together, an idea which Bob liked. Once Bob liked it, they all liked it. You might think that a postman wouldn’t want to do more walking when his route was done, but the truth was, most mail deliverers loved the long walks that the post office afforded them and they were ready for more. Bob met dozens of new friends who introduced him to dozens more. The daily walks became more like group outings.

Bob’s makeover wasn’t extreme. His hair and beard were trimmed to an ‘older hipster’ style. As for his clothing style- which had tended to be shorts, jeans, or tie-dye t-shirts – that had to go away – but it didn’t change into Brooks Brother’s suits. Bob now wore chinos and black t-shirts and if it was too cold for a t-shirt, he would throw on a stripped down Eisenhower-style postal jacket that lacked all the mail man insignia. It was a vaguely military look that hinged on a Northwest back to the earth theme. His Birkenstocks had been replaced with a pair of black sneakers.The daily walks started shaping his body into something that looked less like a sack of potatoes and more like a middle-aged man.

Just weeks into his friendship with Zeta, Bob realized that he didn’t want to smoke weed any longer – he preferred to have his mood and thoughts sitting in a more transparent part of his brain – he didn’t feel the need to cloud his thoughts and his daily spikes of inspiration were far more powerful now than the surges of color that used to pass for thinking.

In the weeks before stay at home orders were put into place, Zeta suggested that they set up a Discord server where Bob could meet and interact with more friends and friends of friends who were being brought into his orbit of influence. Zeta called it ‘PostBox’. Bob was having fun meeting people, sharing ideas, and most importantly – having ideas shared with him. The best part about it was that ideas would come to him and then in his mind they would be blended together into a sort of cosmic idea smoothie which he would then share with others and then the process would begin again. It was non-stop but here was one example of how it went.

“What if we all just stopped paying taxes?” someone asked in the Discord group.

Bob liked the idea “I’ve never paid taxes,” he told the group. ” Still, it’s always bothered me that all that money that other people are paying would go towards institutions, and people that are enslaving us.”

“Yeah, it would be great if we could send the money from taxes to where we wanted to send it.” This came from a woman named Dee who was a postal worker in Denver – about a thousand miles away from where Bob and Zeta were in Sacramento. The Discord group had grown to about 1200 members and each of them kept inviting more. Bob would login to group voice chat each night and look at the numbers as they got bigger.

“Well, you do work for the post office,” Bob joked. “Can’t you send it wherever you want?”

Everyone laughed but it inspired a comment from Reggie, a postal clerk in the Greater Boston Area. “You know, we had a clerk who accidentally mis-spelled the street on a change of address form – for three months we were printing out and sticking labels that said Peach Street instead of Peace Street. I’m pretty sure those kind of mistakes happen all the time.”

“That’s hilarious,” Bob laughed. “Too bad we’re not hackers – we could hack into the servers and really cause some chaos.”

To be clear, at this time – no one was plotting revolution. They were just a big group of people who all really liked Bob and enjoyed spending time together – with him. It wasn’t like Bob had told everyone about Gaia and Salvia and his mission to destroy Donald Trump – he’d told Zeta and a couple of other ‘woke’ new friends – but mostly no one knew why this had become their new favorite time of the day, it just had.

A guy who hadn’t said anything before suddenly jumped in on the text boards. “Hey guys,” screen name postalnerd typed “That’s not funny – it’s hard enough for those of us in the USPS technology division to make things work the way they are supposed to. We don’t need you hacking into our systems. If you did that, we might have to restart the COBOL mainframe – lol \_O_/”

“Hey postalnerd, there are actually people in the Postal IT division? I thought it was all run by robots. Lol. ” Dee asked. “My nephew is the tech lead at a startup here in Denver – can you get him a job in your division when his startup fails?”

“Sounds good to me,” postalnerd wrote “Geeks need to take care of each other. You should invite him to the boards here. As a matter of fact, maybe we should start a special IT section.”

“Oh, I’d invite him but he doesn’t work for the post office (yet)” Dee responded.

“You don’t have to work for the USPS to be here, do you?” Bob was genuine in asking – genuinely naive because they were all there because of him. He was concerned he was going to get kicked out though “I mean, I don’t work for the post office.”

This inspired a lot of LOLs on the boards and then a fairly serious debate about whether there should be any sort of restrictions on who could join. Ultimately, it was decided that the boards should be open to anyone that was invited by a member of the boards. postalnerd set up an IT section which he/she called ‘GeekBox’. Dee’s nephew and quite a few more tech minded folks were invited to it. Generally, postalnerd ran GeekBox and took it upon him/herself to come and update the regular group (and Bob) in the PostBox. The success of GeekBox inspired the creation of a dozen other ‘divisions’ under PostBox.

PostBox now had GeekBox, MoneyBox for finance professionals, VetBox for those who had served or were serving in the military, MedBox for those who wanted to discuss healthcare or medical issues, LunchBox for the foodies, and even SchoolBox for people to talk about kids, schools, college, and education. There were many more boxes and each of them formed independently and for some reason – probably because it was what postalnerd had done – they all came and reported what they were doing, news, events, ideas etc to Bob. Bob never asked them to – it just happened, organically.

Since there was a lot of ‘noise’ in the main group as thousands began to join every day, postalnerd set up a private server called ‘BoxTops’ where box leaders would present any developments – to Bob who was invited to the server as ‘owner’.

When the stay at home orders began to be issued – Bob had around twenty new friends in his Sacramento neighborhood of Arden Arcade. Somehow, they had overcome his fear and distrust of the USPS and made him a brother-in-arms. When every other person in the country was told to stay home, the postal workers were still going out, door to door, delivering mail and gathering news. It wasn’t always Zeta who came to Bob’s porch, sometimes it was Phil, other days it was Mae – but they were all friends now. Behind their masks, they smiled when Bob came out to greet them. They stood on the stoop and updated him about local politics and developments in the lockdown orders. He heard firsthand about Governor Gavin Newsom’s plans for the State of California. Bob didn’t realize it, but he was one of the best informed people in the world in regards to new developments in the pandemic, politics, and power. People don’t think about it, but the post office is everywhere.

With the advent of the stay at home orders, the Discord Server exploded. Bob found it harder and harder to interact with everyone who sent him messages – but he tried to respond to as many as he had time for. Some of these were friendly hellos, more and more started to feel like fan-letters, and a few of them crossed the lines to become either terrifying or inspiring. On the general PostBox board – users gave a name to when Bob would respond to a new user’s comment – they called it a ‘BobFlash’ and it was a sort of badge of honor as in:

Congratulations PenguinGirl, you’ve been BobFlashed!

Bob thought the whole thing was silly, but it made him more considerate and careful in his replies and responses. Gradually, his time on the Discord came to be spent more on the BoxTops section and less on the general board – but he always tried to spend at least twenty minutes to an hour on the general boards, responding to newbies, talking with online friends who hadn’t migrated to the Box Departments. The growth of PostBox was astounding, but more astounding was the organic way that it came to be organized. The BoxTops assigned users to scour the general boards for new recruits, each BoxTop head found themselves in the position of managing hundreds or thousands of users – and as such they had to appoint captains, lieutenants, and sergeants-major. – this rank structure came from VetBox.

The head of Vetbox was a Seattle postman who called himself ColonelPotter on the boards. He shared his organizational structure on the BoxTops board.

“Since I’m the Colonel, my second in command will be a Lieutenant Colonel. Captains will be in charge of specific sections and lieutenants will act as their secretary and assistant. Sergeants-Major are in charge of moderation and ‘boots on the ground’ operations. I know that this might be difficult for those who served in different branches to get used to – but you’re going to have to.”

A surprising number of the BoxTops had been U.S. Marines and found this system to be comfortable. Those who didn’t have a military background – learned it. Those who didn’t like it – quickly changed their mind when Bob said “That’s so cool. I’m a general conscientious objector to war – but this seems like a good way to organize.” His comment inspired a lot of laughter and the BoxTops all agreed that from that point forward Bob would carry the honorary rank of CO General which was short for conscientious objector general and was shortened further to the honorific Cogen.

In a little less than five months, Bob had gone from a tripped out hippie to the leader of an Army – but he had no idea. Bob was enjoying what was happening, he knew that it felt good and he had never felt so happy, but if you had told him he was the leader of a movement, the commanding general of an army, the father of a revolution – he would have laughed merrily and told you that you were crazy.

There were wheels in motion and events were moving faster and faster. It was at this point, on April 24th, that Donald Trump insulted the post office and pushed the process into high gear. Bob’s work was already moving forward (mostly without him noticing) but when Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan instigated ROP-1-75 – things moved into high gear.

 

Chapter 11 – The Power of Human Contortion

The first months of the pandemic were a surreal journey for everyone who survived them. By May, there were over three million cases in the world and nearly a quarter million of those who had caught it were dead. The entire world went on lockdown (except for Sweden where people responsibly did that which they needed to do despite the lack of a Big Brother telling issuing and enforcing orders). Schools were closed, billions of jobs were lost, martial law was enacted in many countries – and not surprisingly, those countries that were heading towards totalitarianism – accelerated their fascist march.

There were many tragic and beautiful moments. An Italian city on lockdown coming together and singing from their windows, healthcare workers without adequate protective gear flying to distant regions to risk their lives saving strangers, and the U.S. Navy Captain of an aircraft carrier who sacrificed his career so that his men wouldn’t be abandoned as the virus ravaged them in the confined quarters of the ship. There was the public tragedy of the dying and dead – especially in places like the Lombardy region of Italy and New York City, where mass graves were dug in parks and loved ones corpses were stored in refrigerator trucks when graveyards, crematoriums, and morgues exceeded their capacity. There was also the semi-private tragedy as students were suddenly denied classrooms and parents were fired, laid off, furloughed, or just ‘let go’. And there was the private tragedy as families decided which bills to pay or not pay, who would venture out to buy food, and in many cases who would eat and who would go hungry.

In places like India and the Philippines, a lockdown order essentially meant a starvation order. In the United States – people complained far louder and for less reason – generally. The U.S. and Australia had food and supply shortages in the early days – things like protective masks, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper flew off shelves and were hoarded by the scared and the greedy. Profiteers marked prices up as high as they could and sold their goods on Amazon, Ebay, and Facebook. As the dying continued and grew in scope, governments made a show of cracking down – but really the only cracking down that initially needed to be done was amongst the most desperate – those who needed food or medicine.

Trump had initially called for the American virus to be a genocidal killer but heroes in the lab, just a few of those many who silently resisted his evil and perhaps saved us all, engineered the virus to affect only those who had reached adulthood. The American virus was designed to spare children – despite Trump’s wishes. The Russian virus also functioned that way – not by design but because it was built to attack the obese and infirm, which generally meant it bypassed children. Gaia’s coronavirus infected all who came in contact with it, but the mortality rate was low because a healthy immune system generally survived the harsh viral attacks.

Months into the pandemic – some of the benefits became clear. People noticed deer and foxes walking through their neighborhoods, polluted air cleared up in cities where commuters usually drove gas guzzling cars to stressed out work places, the oceans and lakes turned clear. Wildlife was thriving. Bees which had been on the verge of extinction reproduced in fantastic numbers. Manatees, dolphins, and whales again felt free to explore areas that had been death traps before. A couple months of reduced human excess was all that it took for the planet to begin recovery. The humans too felt something shift. Parents who had only seen their children between work and school suddenly were faced with the people they were responsible for. Parents had to become teachers. People had to stay at home, they had to look at themselves and each other.

Sociologists said that a record number of divorces, domestic abuse, and other family atrocities would result from people being on lockdown – and to some extent, these predictions proved true but not to the levels that the scientists had expected. In fact, most relationships improved. A big part of this was because capitalism itself had been shut down. Humans, who are, after all, just brilliant apes – had months to rediscover that. Just as the dolphins were rediscovering inlets, bays, rivers, and coves – the humans were rediscovering their own nature which had been twisted and bent into a perverse eat-work-sleep-die form. Mothers and fathers rediscovered their children, children discovered their parents (often for the first time) as they embraced art, music, creativity, and finding ways to enjoy their time together instead of simply marking calendars and looking at clocks.

There was astounding unemployment. Trump, of course, used the pandemic as an opportunity to promote himself. He made sure that his name was on the relief checks sent out to help people while also making sure that the checks were the minimum amount possible – the big bucks went to bailing out his companies and the companies of his donors and supporters. Not content to have his name only on the checks, he also had the treasury modify form letters that made it appear as if he had personally sent the money to taxpayers. That was how he felt about it, so he might as well make it reality. The letter was a formality that had to be sent in order to detail the payments and where they came from.Trump saw an opportunity to ingratiate himself to the voters and over the objections of his lawyers inserted several phrases containing the word “I” which very much made it seem as if he were sending money from his own accounts. Something, by the way, which he would never do. He would rather watch people die.

Those ‘stimulus’ checks were a lifeline for many families. Rent still had to be paid and groceries still had to be bought. It wasn’t enough for more than a month or two at most though. State unemployment systems floundered and failed. Many of them were still running on software from the 1980s and the influx of millions of claims were impossible to process.

Financial concerns were undermining the joy of being human that many people were rediscovering or as was often the case – discovering for the first time. Capitalism had always been a tricky master. On the one hand, it raised the ‘standard of living’ for broad swaths of the population but on the other it took away broader liberties and freedoms. “Have a car,” the banker said “Enjoy, we’ll help you finance it.” And with a single step – the worker was locked into the system. The capitalization of medicine created a similar trap. “Have a baby,” the doctor would say. “Buy a house,” said the realtor. Family, home, and career had all become ways to keep workers in the system, too busy to complain, and too sedated with gadgets and stress to mount a viable resistance.

Apes weren’t made to operate on a system of non-stop productivity. During those first three months of the pandemic, people learned that without overtly knowing what they were learning. They found the time to play, learn, sit, contemplate, exercise (without the frenetic anxiety of a gym), and love one another. It was a horrible time but for many, it was the best of times. There was an internal confliction they could not understand. They were happy at a time that they shouldn’t have been and they couldn’t admit it.

And of course – it couldn’t continue. Capitalism thrives on busy-ness and business requires devotion and attention. The economy had to move back into action or it might never recover. Everyone knew that and everyone said it, but no one thought to ask “Why should it? What happens if it doesn’t?” That was unthinkable in a society built on greed and profit. Behind the scenes forces went into play – not just to restart the economy, but also to restart the Russian virus.

Putin hadn’t expected his country to be hit by coronavirus and when it did, his first reaction was panic. Gradually, as the Gaia virus spread, he realized that it wasn’t going to be another Russia or New York situation in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Looking at the situation in the USA, his scientists explained that the lockdown procedures were working. Americans were flattening the curve by staying home, limiting exposure, and taking precautionary measures. It had to stop.

“What can we do?” he asked the head of his foreign intelligence.

“Let’s use the Trump voters,” was the unanimous suggestion. If Donald Trump had still been his puppet, Putin would have objected. Using Trump voters was a dangerous tactic that would almost certainly result in Trump losing the popular vote (again) when the elections of 2020 happened.  However, since Trump had gone rogue, was no longer in control of the Kremlin, and his election wouldn’t necessarily benefit Putin or his oligarchs any further – it seemed like an easy fix. At heart, Putin was a communist (though one corrupted by power and wealth) so the idea of killing a huge number of pro-capitalist buffoons was appealing on more than one level.

They dubbed it “Operatsiya Amerikanskaya Svoboda” or, in English “Operation American Freedom.” It was exceedingly easy to put into place. Using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – Russian cyber trolls created and promoted conspiracy theories about how the lockdowns in American cities were violations of constitutional rights and the erosion of American freedoms. They created fake movements and protests where people demanded the right to return to work and the right to return to how the world had been. It was MAGA all over again – sometimes using the same slogans and operatives. They promoted racism against Asians, Latinos, and Blacks by spreading stories about how the Chinese had started the virus, illegal immigrants were bringing the virus across borders, and African-Americans were more likely to spread the virus. They handed off protests to actual local organizers who were more than eager to call the lockdowns a conspiracy. They called it Q, 5G, and Article 21 – among other things. Since the campaign was rushed – they utilized old tired slogans, in some cases recycling leftist slogans into right wing slogans such as “My body, my choice” which had been a left wing feminist rally cry and now was coopted into a right wing rally cry.

The Russian campaign exceeded expectations with tens of thousands of ‘lockdown protestors’ crowding into spaces without social distancing. While they didn’t have enough active agents to introduce the Russian virus into every crowd, they were able to get it into many. Fat American MAGA patriots crowded around state capitols all over the country while Putin and his advisors laughed and ate candy corn (Russians love candy corn, a fact that no one can explain).

The best part was that Trump and Republican lawmakers, always ready to pander to their base, picked up the rally cries and amplified them. As a final insult that almost caused him to choke on his candy corn, Putin suggested that they set the largest rallies for May 1st. May 1st, commonly called May Day around the world is International Workers Day, the most important holiday in Communism and Socialism.  The United States had banned the holiday and created a watered down ‘Labor Day’ in September because of riots and deaths associated with it during the early 1900s. Putin was bringing it back with a little help from social media and a bunch of stupid fat capitalist dogs.

 

Chapter 12 – An Army Assembled

At this point in our story, there is a lot going on. The entire world is under lockdown, three strains of coronavirus are attacking the human population. The Russians are trying to destroy America. Donald Trump is trying to pull himself further up while using the combined wealth and magnitude of the United States of America, the MAGA companies, and his own ruthless organization – while trying at the same time to destroy the heads of the MAGA companies, the poor people, people of color, non-Christians, and  many more with their own power. Bob was stumbling his way into becoming a revolutionary leader, the U.S. Post Office was covertly assembling the largest guerrilla army ever conceived – and the planet’s consciousness was trying to prevent a climate change/mass extinction by becoming involved in a fight against fascism, corporate capitalism, and negative consciousness pools that were turning humans from a pretty terrible species to an even worse one.  Yes, there’s a lot going on…

But wait, there’s more…

The first months of the pandemic made it impossible for any of the politicians and power figures in the United States to ignore a truth that had been staring them in the face for almost four years – Donald Trump wasn’t going anywhere. It didn’t matter if he lost the electoral college, the popular vote, or both – he was not going to step aside. While Democrats had impeached him, he had shored up his defenses in the Republican Party, the courts, and the departments of Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Treasury, Energy, Agriculture, and Homeland Security. He had gutted the leadership in the Departments of Defense, the State Department, and Labor. The Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development were all but meaningless at this point as his appointees destroyed them without his even having to suggest anything. He had unconfirmed appointees running most things and when they displeased him, he could fire them without notice and put another loyalist in their place. The Post Office was outside of his control – as it had been taken down from the cabinet level in 1971 by President Richard Nixon who had been afraid the Postmaster General was spying on him.

Within the Armed Forces of the United States, there was a growing discontent among the non-white troops as they recognized that their communities were being discriminated against. Promotions had turned subtly racist after the first year of Trump’s presidency with white soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines being raised up with more and more frequency. This, led to an interesting situation as more and more troops of color were subtly encouraged to leave the service. Without ‘hot’ wars going, the mostly white upper leadership had little use for cannon fodder. None of this was said overtly, of course, but the troops knew what was going on.

For those who were dedicated ‘lifers’ working towards a retirement at 20 years or later – this was problematic. Many of them were offered early retirement while others were encouraged to leave the active duty military and become part of their state’s National Guard. Even after the deployments of the past 30 years where reservists had been activated for longer and longer periods – there was still a feeling amongst active duty service members that the ‘weekend warriors’ were an inferior part of the armed forces. So, when guys who had served 18 years or more were ‘encouraged’ to finish up their terms of service in the guard – it built a shitload of resentment. A lot of them left the armed forces all together and served the last couple of years in federal civilian jobs – like the post office, the FAA, or working in the prison system as correctional officers.

An interesting division of power lies between the states and the federal government in the USA. Governors have a huge amount of executive authority within their states and while federal law is the ‘law of the land’, states are not under obligation to comply with anything that isn’t written into the constitution of the United States. A leftover from the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars was a deep distrust of federal power and thus – each state was actually an autonomous entity within a confederation of states who agreed upon a shared set of rules.

The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. armed forces. Each Governor is the Commander in Chief of their states National Guard.  This strange state of affairs came about in 1878 after governors of the former Confederate States of America used their political clout to have the 7th Cavalry (and all other federal troops) disempowered to enforce the constitution within the confines of the United States of America. Essentially, the 7th Cavalry had been created to make sure that African Americans in the former confederacy were not being treated like 2nd class citizens. The law that ended it was called the Posse Comitatus Act.

It was the later ‘Dick Act’ (I”m not joking) that allowed Governors to use state militias, now called National Guard within their own states. An agreement between the states and the federal government allows the U.S. government to ‘federalize’ National Guard troops in return for paying for the training and equipment of those troops – an expense which used to fall on the states. This is the reason that state troops ‘reservists’ go through the same training as federal troops ‘active duty’.

Every day, Donald Trump demonstrated just what kind of human being he was, just how much responsibility he felt towards states that weren’t ‘loyal’ to him, and where his loyalties really lay. No surprise that during this chaos there were those who were looking at what it would mean to secede from his country. If Donald Trump was going to continue to rule, there were more than a few governors who began looking at alternatives to remaining a part of the United States.

One of those governors was Gavin Newsom of California. Newsom was part of a political dynasty which some called a political mafia. Four San Francisco families have controlled California, the world’s 5th largest economy, for most of the past fifty years. Newsom was the former Mayor of San Francisco and inherited the governorship from his father’s good friend Jerry Brown, who had taken it from Ronald Reagan back in the 1970s after his father Pat Brown was displaced by Reagan. Newsom’s aunt, Nancy Pelosi was the powerful Speaker of the House – third in line for the Presidency in the event that something should happen to Donald Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence. The three families were also deeply entwined with Senator Diane Feinstein – heiress of another family that had gotten wealthy from their political connections. It was the Newsom, Brown, Pelosi, and Feinstein families who had controlled California for decades. They were not about to let some third rate carnival barker like Trump take any part of their sovereignty. Newsom was making plans.

California has always maintained armed checkpoints between neighbor states. These are called ‘Agricultural Inspection Points’ but in truth they are militarized borders. As Pelosi and Trump came into more and more conflict in Washington, D.C., Pelosi had briefed her nephew and the other families about the danger that Trump posed. Trump had never managed to get a foothold in California – but he wanted one. Every time he came to the state, embarrassing situations. Trump had managed to buy 30% of the Bank of America Center in San Francisco (his share valued at almost 1/2 a billion dollars) but he still wasn’t welcome in the city and despite owning a mansion in Beverly Hills and the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles – he was still greeted with jeers and boos when he set foot in the city. Donald Trump hated California and he wanted to bring it to it’s knees – the problem was, California as a state was more powerful than he was – even as the President of the United States.

When Trump began to go full dictator, Newsom’s California was going to be ready. In addition, his administration had been engaging in good old fashioned state craft by developing agreements, treaties, and working relationships with the governors of Washington, Oregon, New York, and Nevada. He’d also managed to make inroads with Alaska’s Republican Governor as Trump began to trample on state rights during the pandemic.

Newsom had three planned prongs of attack. First, the tech gatekeepers in Silicon Valley were Californians first and Americans second (with the exception of Larry Ellison and many of the venture capitalist firms). Second, Newsom cultivated powerful relationships with the leadership of the California National Guard. Finally, California had independent trade and immigration agreements with Mexico, Canada, Japan, and China – and these opened the door to other agreements.

When Gavin Newsom activated the California National Guard, he had no intention of ever deactivating them – in fact, he planned on expanding them.

Chapter 13 – The Invisible Fleet

There’s not much that is more invisible than a postman. Like other delivery drivers, taxi drivers, and utility workers, they can go anywhere and do anything. No one really pays attention to the invisible fleet as it moves around the country at will and does the essential work that keeps things going. During the pandemic there was a lot of talk about ‘essential workers’ and it was no surprise to the USPS that people usually mentioned store clerks, healthcare workers, plumbers, cops, and firemen – and completely forgot about the postal service.

Megan Brennan, the USPS Postmaster General didn’t mind – in fact, she liked it. She was a tough as nails woman who had put in her licks over 33 years prior to moving into the executive leadership of the world’s largest private logistics organization. The Post Office had been shadow banking for years and during that time had made some rather peculiar investments from the sidelines. The Postal Union was one of the largest private investors in Academi, formerly known as Blackwater – a mercenary for hire security contractor. This gave Brennan unique access to a level of intelligence that was usually reserved for heads of state. The USPS was also a major investor in other security contractors such as Triple Canopy, Aegis Defense Services, Defion International, Andrews International, International Intelligence LTD, as well as Pinkerton, Brinks, ADT, Securitas, and Booz Allen Hamilton. All of these companies provided paid on demand services to the private sector that were equal to or better than those provided by their government counterparts.

The USPS pension fund is gargantuan – especially since a 2006 law had required that it be funded 75 years in advance. Since that time, Brennan had been building a shadow fund that was heavily invested in private sector security contractors while building a public fund that was more traditional. While the traditional pension fund did what it was supposed to, the shadow fund bought influence, information, and favors.

The USPS postal fleet of delivery vehicles consisted of mostly Grumman LLV (long life vehicle) that people usually associate with the post office. Like mail carriers – people tended not to notice the LLVs and when they did they thought of them as odd, funny, and quirky – but in truth, these were serious heavy duty vehicles and Brennan had spent years working with engineers to develop a plan to turn them into military grade vehicles. If there was an apocalyptic event, the postal service was prepared. Changing a mild mannered LLV into a Mad Max vehicle wasn’t the stretch you might think. The LLV was built on a Chevy S-10 Blazer Chasis and had a workhorse GM Iron Duke engine, an exceptionally tight turn radius, and low gearing that was made to haul cargos up to 1000 pounds in any conditions and any grade. If one were to add light armor, gun ports, and tire shields – they would be more efficient in a gorilla war than the average hummer. Of course, it wasn’t an everything type of vehicle so in 2015 Brennan had put out an RFP for new designs and then selected a number of private engineering firms to build the new fleet. By the time COVID-19 entered the picture she had selected two amphibious units, three motorcycle units, an autonomous big rig, and Tesla’s Cybertruck which was slightly modified for postal use.

The USPS didn’t have a navy or an Air Force, but when it came to an army – the ranks of the post office were filled with veterans who had done it all. And besides, what was the point of creating a private Air Force when you could just buy into one? Actually, Brennan and the USPS had bought into two of them. Air USA, owned by Megan’s friend Don Kirlin had the largest private fleet of fighter aircraft in the world. With everything from Russian Mig aircraft to a fleet of state of the technological art FA-4 Hornets that were acquired in early 2020 from the Australian RAF which was upgrading it’s entire Air Force. Her brother-in-law, Joe Ford was the Chief Executive of another private Air Force, Draken International out of Lakeland, Florida with over 70 tactical military aircraft. Both Draken and Air USA were more than 40% owned by the shadow USPS pension fund which meant that Megan was the majority voice on both.

The reason both companies existed was to engage with Airborne Adversary Support for the US armed forces – they played the bad guys in training exercises. It was called Joint Terminal Attack Controller training known as JTAC for short.

The USPS had always preferred to contract out to other companies with airplanes and had routinely been using passenger airlines to transport mail for decades. In fact, far from competing with UPS/Fedex – the USPS was actually their largest customer and the shadow pension fund was a huge investor.

One problem with the shadow fund was that the money had to be accounted for – which was the reason that the post office looked like such a huge bleeder when the books were examined.

So, as you can see, the USPS had an army and an Air Force – but as for a Navy, Brennan’s father had been a Navy Commander and one thing he had always told her was that the Navy was a leftover from an earlier age. In the event of a real conflict, logistics would need to be done by air and ships would be sitting ducks to any enemy with advanced enough missile or air capability. She wasn’t worried about having a navy.

Why was she doing it? Why was she building this invisible army and shadow military complex? The answer was simple. Brennan was a patriot. She’d always believed that the only thing that would save the United States from eventual tyranny was a well armed militia. She wasn’t some 2nd Amendment gun nut – though she did have a huge collection of firearms. No, government forces would always be able to outgun even the most heavily armed militia because private citizens or groups who armed themselves to the level required for self defense, would immediately be identified as a threat and eliminated. It happened in Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Antelope, Oregon when the Rajneeshis began arming themselves. It happened in hundreds of other little enclaves that you never heard about as well.

No, the 2nd Amendment wouldn’t save America, but the USPS might. Megan Brennan would be ready if her country needed her. Even more impressive than the armed postal service was the Postal Intelligence Service. Think about it – the Post Office, knew EVERYTHING. Mail carriers go everywhere and everyone gets mail. The USPS had a larger fingerprint database than the FBI – in fact, they had the fingerprints of just about everyone in the FBI – because everyone uses the post office and no one thinks about leaving their fingerprints on a piece of mail. The intelligence section routinely read the mail of the most important people in the world – they didn’t have to do any cloak and dagger routine to get it because it was freely given to them!

During a cash crunch in the 1980’s the Post Office had developed very lucrative contracts with the drug cartels. Yes, sending drugs through the mail is illegal and if the postal inspector finds you, heavy fines and jail time will result – but the postal inspector works for the post office. There were countless ways that the USPS was able to generate money for ‘side-projects’.

Hopefully, by this time, I’ve made my point – the United States Postal Service is a dangerous organization and in the wrong hands – it could easily topple governments. Bob’s paranoia of the post office hadn’t been misplaced – in fact, he was one of the few seeing the forest for the trees. By May Day, however, Bob was a fan – he had been warmly embraced and welcomed by legions of postal workers. So many, in fact, that he had repeatedly popped up on the radar of the Postal Intelligence Service.

Megan had been advised that there was some strange activity happening online centered around a relatively unknown figure in California. Relatively unknown because Bob had stopped using his last name in 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected. He didn’t pay taxes, he paid his rent in cash to the woman who lived in the other half of the duplex he occupied, and since he was paranoid about the post office for decades – he had routinely worn gloves when he did anything having to do with the mail going out.

You can imagine Megan’s reaction when she was told that an unknown person was building an online army composed mostly of USPS employees.

She picked up her phone and buzzed her secretary.

“Richard, book me a flight to San Francisco and a meeting with Governor Newsom in Sacramento,” she told him. Then to herself “Let’s see what’s going on with the Bob character…maybe we can use this.”

Chapter 14 – The Greatest Salesman the World Has Known

Bob was having the time of his life. For years, he had convinced himself that he was an introvert, but now, with a lockdown going on amidst a full scale pandemic – he was making more friends than he had ever thought possible – in the real world. Of course, almost all of his new friendships were online but such was the power of the internet that he was face to face with them, had long conversations with them, and even stepped away to do some actual work once in a while. That and he was quite happy now when the mail carriers showed up.

One issue was that there were a lot of questions that kept coming up about Bob’s past. People wanted to know about this person they felt compelled to follow. Using his newfound charisma, Bob usually deflected the requests with “That’s not important right now, we need to focus on …” whatever the next thing or the task at hand was.

What’s your last name, Bob?

Where did you grow up, Bob?

What kind of work did you do, Bob?

The questions kept coming and he knew that at some point he was going to have to give answers, but the truth was, he was pretty happy not thinking about those things – he had built a life around not thinking of those things. Those things were too painful to think about. He knew, however, that he was going to have to come to terms with them. He was going to have to start talking about them and that meant that he needed to think about them.

Bob grew up on the South Side of Chicago. There was nothing ordinary about his childhood although at first glance it may sound typical. Growing up he was surrounded by family – lots and lots of family. His father had a soft spot for Bob and wanted to bring him into the family business so Bob spent a lot of time going on runs with his dad, helping with the garage, and when he entered his teens – assisting his dad with odd jobs – and eventually earning enough trust that he was sent out on his own. That was when things blew up – literally.

Bob’s dad was William E. Dauber, called Billy by most of his friends and family. Billy was one of the most notorious Chicago mobsters of the post World War II era. Billy was known and respected far and wide for two things – running one of the most profitable chop-shop rings in the history of organized crime and also being one of the most prolific hitmen to ever pick up a gun.

Bob stole cars starting at age eleven. When he turned 14, his father took him along on a hit. It was Bob who pulled the trigger that day. Over the next three years, Bob lost count of the number of people he killed. He never liked it, but he wanted to please his father and like any teenager who looked up to his dad – he would do anything for his father’s approval.

It was September of 1986 when everything went wrong. Bob had become friends with a low level hitman and loan collector named John Ficarotta. Ficarotta was a known union leader but he had to earn his stripes. As such, Bob and he were often sent together to take care of problems with bookies, gamblers, pimps or upstart underbosses. Their job was easy, collect the money or kill the target and get rid of the bodies. The problem was that a couple of Ficarotta’s past jobs had been found buried in shallow cornfield graves. The evidence found with them raised a whole series of issues that threatened wide swathes of the Chicago family.

Bob and Ficarotta were assigned a routine juice squeeze from a small time bookie. Moments before this particular trip, Bob’s father pulled him aside and dropped this bombshell “Ficarotta is the target, don’t mess this up Bobby.” It was the only time Bob had ever been called anything but Bob – it felt like a rite of passage, it was his moment, his coming of age. As they pulled up to the bookie’s shop – Bob pulled out his .38 and put a shot into Ficarotta’s head. Ficarotta was driving and his window was down which should have made this an easy no mess hit. Bob would dump the body on the street and the bookie would get the blame.

But something went wrong. Ficarotta didn’t die, he didn’t even go unconscious. The bullet had somehow gone straight through his head without doing life ending damage. Realizing now that he was the hit, Ficarotta got out of the car and began to run. Bob chased after him getting off two more shots. Even back then, Bob wasn’t known for his svelte body or athletic abilities – Ficarotta easily outran him despite having one bullet in the head and two in the body. Somehow, he managed to lose Bob and in the meantime, Bob had been seen in broad daylight chasing and shooting a known union under-boss. Ficorotta might die of his wounds, but Bob was a dead man. A series of car bombs in the following weeks were the heralds of a full gang war. One that he had started.

Bob had been running from that day for 33 years. As soon as he realized that Ficorotta had gotten away from him, Bob ditched his gun and caught a taxi to Union Station. There was no going back. Bob knew that nothing could save him from death after screwing up this job. Nothing but disappearing.

He bought a train ticket to Denver and never looked back. In Denver he changed everything about himself – he grew out his beard, got rid of his tailored clothes and started dressing in youth casual street clothes. Looking around Denver, he decided that there were two directions he could go – he could adopt the gutter-punk street style or he could fall in with the neo-hippie deadheads he saw walking their dogs, hanging out in cafes, and sleeping in overcrowded flop houses. The hippie ethos fit more with his sloppy manner (which had largely been held in check by his upbringing). And that’s when he became the Bob we know.

Surrounding himself with hippies, he was almost immediately drawn into their consciousness pool and truly became a different person than who he had been while surrounded by mobsters. The over-riding rules he kept were not using his last name, not filling out paperwork, and staying away from any kind of union – including the postal union. Bob began to go to local shows, started smoking dope, and developed a variety of small time methods for generating enough money to live on. New ‘Deadhead’ friends encouraged him to join them on a pilgrimage to Oakland, California to see a series of live Dead shows in December of 1986.

Once there, he was hooked. Living amongst the Dead was the perfect way to disappear since there was almost no overlap between Deadheads and the Chicago Mob. Bob peddled LSD and magic mushrooms, sold weed, made grilled cheese sandwiches, and scalped tickets to earn. He was smart enough to realize he could arbitrage multiple items between cities and make more than enough to live on. He didn’t have a bank account, a telephone, a mailing address, or a driver’s license.

As the years passed, he followed the dead nearly everywhere they went – but not to Chicago, never to Chicago. That was the reason he missed their last two shows. Frontman Jerry Garcia died after performing at Chicago’s Soldier Field in July of 1995. Bob had spent nearly a decade of his life being a deadhead and with the death of Jerry, he was at a loss as to what to do with his life. There were new bands and new groupies but he was getting too old for the life he was living. He had a box filled with money – enough to retire on if he did it right – so that was what he decided to do.

He’d enjoyed California far more than anywhere else so he decided to hang his hat there and hoped that nine years was enough that the heat from Chicago would have died down. During all of his time away, Bob had followed as the Chicago outfit was tried, sentenced, and murdered. Much of the subsequent violence was a result of his fuck up with Ficorotta – but he never saw mention of his name or family in any of the stories.

Settling in San Francisco would have eaten through his box of cash in a couple of years, so instead he went inland to Sacramento. He liked the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter – it was like Chicago but without the humidity. He found a widow willing to rent to him for cash and moved into the apartment where he lived at the beginning of this tale.

After 33 years of hiding, Bob was out in plain site – but he hadn’t given up all of his secrets yet. He agonized over whether to use his own name – it was something he desperately wanted to do, but it was too dangerous. People had already asked if he came from Chicago because of his accent – he’d tried desperately to get rid of it over the years – but when you’re from the south side of Chicago, you can’t ever really get rid of your accent – it will come through.

During the 1990s, he’d been introduced to the Church of the Sub Genius by some Deadhead acquaintances. It was a spoof religion founded by ‘the greatest salesman the world had ever seen who has cheated death several times’. All of the church’s tenets were pushing the limits of silliness – but there was some deep truth in it that Bob had liked. He had also been amused by the name of the fictional founder because it was so close to his own. He was Bob Dauber and the founder of the Church of the Subgenius was J.R. “Bob” Dobbs.

It was with amusement that he decided to adopt the name as his own. If people wanted to know who he was, what he had done, and where he was from he would be pleased to tell them that he was Bob Dobbs, the greatest salesman the world had ever known, and he came from Peoria, Illinois. There were plenty of people who would get the joke, but the majority of the world would miss it – and he was going to play it straight.

 

Chapter 15 – The Three Rs

The May Day protests were a huge flop despite the valiant efforts of republicans, racists, and Russians. All three groups had tried to bring crowds out – but for different reasons.

The Russians wanted the chance to spread fear, doubt, and more cases of their COVID-19 virus.  Using their huge troll farms in Siberia – they built huge social media groups, sponsored movements from thin air, and did their best to make the posts go viral. Unfortunately, the big social media companies were under intense pressure to identify and weed out Russian bots and propaganda – their algorithms largely did a great job of censoring the Russian operation – along with also censoring a huge number of actual people who were trying to share valuable information about government abuses of power during the lockdown.

Republicans were taking the lead of their mighty orange leader ( the Orange-u-tan?) and pushing hard for cities, states, and counties to reopen right away. Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming all decided to open their states back up on or around May Day (some of them pushed for the Monday following on May 4th). It was no coincidence that all of these (except Montana) were states with Republican governors. Montana is the outlier but their governor, Steve Bullock is largely a Republican in Democrat clothing. The order had gone out from Donald Trump, the federal government was not going to renew the stay at home orders in May and any Republicans who did not follow his lead, would have their loyalty questioned. A number of Republican governors in the Northeast chose to keep their states on lockdown because the virus was raging in them. Trump vowed to have his revenge on them for not ending their lockdowns.

The governor of Vermont extended his stay-at-home order but ‘vowed’ to get many people back to work on May 4th – he was trying to dodge a bullet, but Trump would never forgive him. He knew that he would have a Trump backed challenger in the next election – as would all the governors who hadn’t complied with orders.

The racists were the third R in the protests. Early on the racists and neo-nazis had been trying to use the virus as a weapon against communities of color. So called Nazi ‘martyrs’ had voluntarily contracted the disease and then traveled to black, Latino, and Asian owned businesses is cities, towns and neighborhoods that were largely non-white. Now they were trying to militarize protests. They showed up with guns, MAGA gear, and the hope that they could pick a fight with anyone. They engaged in what can only be called ‘virus macho’ by refusing to wear masks, insisting on shaking hands and hugging, and defying stay-at-home orders. Their macho can only be described as foolish because the virus didn’t notice their bravado and if it had wouldn’t have cared. Later, they were to die in large numbers – not only because of the Russian virus but also because of measles. A large number of those who showed up to the May Day protests were anti-vaxxers who carried the measles virus – something which a lot of the younger racists had never been vaccinated for because there were conspiracy theories which claimed that it had been developed from a young African man who had contracted the disease and survived. No self-respecting hate-mongering racist is going to voluntarily have African DNA injected into them (which, by the way, is not how vaccines work or how the MMR vaccine was developed.)

The protests were largely a dud because people were rightly frightened to assemble in large numbers. Only the thickest of people left their homes and gathered around state capitols. In Hawaii, several hundred white people gathered with signs demanding their freedom and liberty – which was amusing to the Native Hawaiians who had had their freedom and liberty stripped and overthrown by America a century before. In Michigan, militiamen showed up with guns and made great photo ops for the news services who were desperate to find new stories to keep people doom-scrolling on their electronic devices. In California, white people from the interior of the state gathered in beach towns and defied the beach closures while coast residents watched them get sunburned and dehydrated. None of the protests did anything that encouraged anyone that wasn’t already out protesting.

The funniest part was that they were gathering on a day that celebrated the rights of workers and they were demanding to be exploited during a pandemic and sent back to work. The protestors showed up with swastikas, confederate flags, MAGA hats, Trump flags, and assault weapons. Trump quickly tweeted that they were ‘very good people’.

Of course there were plenty of Christians sporting signs that said things like “Jesus is my vaccine” and “Only Christ Can Save You from COVID-19” or even “COVID-19 is the Antichrist and the Vaccine is 666”. Of course, there were some less than clever gymnastics such as “Cleared of Virus I.D. = COVID – universals government tracking.”

The protests in Sacramento were among the strangest because they were largely organized and dominated by anti-vaccination organizations. It was a bizarre mixture of tea party activists, old hippies, and gun rights groups – not typically three groups you would see together. Somehow, chanting along with the NRA and Tea-Party activists – there were a large number of PETA (people for the ethical treatment of animals) who were there protesting the animals that would be used to test any potential vaccine. COVID-19 was building an absolutely bizarre assemblage of bed-fellows.

All in all – it was a massive experiment in human sacrifice – and it was about to get even more bizarre.

 

Chapter 16 – Idle Hands are the Devil’s Work

From the beginning, people thought that the Pandemic was going to be the worst thing to happen in 2020. They were wrong. There were going to be far worse things. After the first few weeks of the emergency, those in charge started to realize that there was a cascading effect that was impossible to stop – they had to engage in serious ‘perception management’ to keep the world from exploding.

First of all, as every child of a religious grandmother knows ‘Idle hands are the devil’s work’ and what that phrase means is that if you don’t keep apes busy – they turn their attention to causing mischief, problems, and in many cases creating problems.  With more than 60 million unemployed in the USA and another 50 million now ‘under-employed’ there were a lot of idle apes looking for something to do. The first weeks it was fairly easy to keep them occupied with Tiger King, a scandalous big cat documentary on Netflix. That was good for the first couple of weeks. Binge watching other shows and movies kept many occupied.

The lockdown meant that all the things that government/industry had used as control systems to keep the apes busy were no longer available – gyms were closed, malls were closed, beauty salons and spas were closed, parks were closed. Most importantly – work was shut down. With work shut down it was impossible to keep humans busy and when humans weren’t kept busy – they usually started planning how to take what wasn’t theirs (but should have been) or destroy what kept them busy in the first place. No one had ever bothered to see what humans would do if they managed to get free of the control systems – because that would have meant destroying the control systems and destroying the control systems would have ended the control of the vast majority by the powerful few – something that had been a danger in the past, but had never actually come to pass.

The American Revolution had never been about ending control systems – it was about replacing the controllers with new controllers. The French Revolution was a nearly successful destruction of control systems – but they were quickly restored. The labor movement, Marxism, and actual true socialism were huge threats to the control systems at various points in history – but they were absorbed and co-opted by those who controlled the control systems. The rise of cultural revolutionary movements in the 1960s, 1990s, and after the financial crisis of 2008 were all dangers to the control systems – that had been dealt with by the same methods – infiltration, subversion, subjugation, absorption, and cooption.

The best control system of all was a classic. “Look at all the bright shiny things you can have – and all you have to do is work and be a good citizen.” COVID-19 stripped that away as people suddenly realized – ‘Hey, wait a minute – they can just spend three trillion dollars and send everyone in America a couple of grand at the drop of a hat?” and “Why are they willing to keep me from becoming homeless now, when before it was impossible?” and “We can offer free healthcare to everyone, but we just don’t?”

A great many apes were at home and deciding “If the landlord wants me to move and I can’t pay the rent, I’m just not going to move.” This quickly led to “I’m not going to pay the rent and I’m not going to move.” And finally “This is my house and I’m not leaving it unless they kill me.”

Other apes were realizing “Why am I going to work every day for minimum wage? Unemployment pays more and there is plenty of food being handed out.” Still others were enjoying their time away from work and realizing just how much they had been promised by the control systems through the years and just how little had been delivered.

The idle hands were feeling the pull of the devil’s work – or more aptly – the exploited hands were discovering what liberty might look like.

Even worse, the biggest control system of them all had been completely shut down and there was no indicator that they would be opening soon. Schools and universities were shuttered and students were at home, being given time to share ideas and worldview on the internet without teacher supervision or the heavily utilized ‘peer shame’ that schools had developed to discourage critical thinking and independent thought. Depending on how long society remained lockered, the damage to conformity and normalization could be immense.

The global economy was the most imminent of the real problems. With the economy crashing and governments either showing their hand by the fact that they could give their populations better lives, or showing their hand by their inability to protect or give better lives – either way, the power of governments to sway the masses was being diminished.

Unemployment numbers went ever skyward and mutual aid societies formed in towns, neighborhoods, and apartment blocks. As the threat of dying from the coronavirus went down (never mind that the threat of catching it had gone up) people began to gently defy stay at home orders. They talked with neighbors, met with friends, and began to re-socialize in a totally different way than before.

These weren’t the lockdown protestors waving their flags and carrying their guns – these were just people visiting with parents, friends, and neighbors. These weren’t huge gatherings of strangers, these were known people who had been in known lockdowns. There were some cases of community spread – but mostly just of the Gaia virus.

Landlords went bankrupt, homeowners went underwater,  and banks waited impatiently for the all clear to send out foreclosure and eviction notices. Little did they know that they would be met with a stark refusal to vacate properties. Mega-corporate businesses waited to re-open the economy so they could restart tourism, start collecting credit payments again, and start the consumer low self esteem binge buying again – but that would never happen.

People had realized that they didn’t have to pay their credit cards off, that they could bake their own bread, and that buying things just filled their house with useless crap they wouldn’t need if the end of the world should actually come around.

The control systems were becoming obsolete. It was a terrifying reality for the power masters. They went into overdrive to create political controversy, to factionalize people, and to drive people into opposing camps again – but one thing that the prospect of the coronavirus killing everyone had done – was to make I much harder to tribalize the poor against the middle class because suddenly they realized just how far down the totem pole they all were. They were all fucked together and they could all look upward from any point on the planet and see all of those who were not fucked with them.

Chapter 17 – The General Rides Alone

Megan Brennan was the only person on her Delta flight. She flew first class, but she had never enjoyed a flight like this before. The crew celebrated having a passenger – it turned out that many flights had been making trips sans passengers but with more cargo than usual. The mail, after all, had to be delivered – as did meat, fish, milk, eggs, and other perishables. Prior to speaking with the crew, she hadn’t known exactly how much commercial airlines relied on cargo to make their daily revenue – of course, none of them were making money at this point.

Landing in San Francisco, she was cognizant of how massive SFO really was. Without the people – it was huge. She was met at the gate by a delegation of Bay Area postmasters. They loaded her in a waiting golf cart and ferried her to a waiting Lincoln Towncar. She didn’t have to ask about her bags, she knew they would be gathered up and brought to her hotel.

The postmasters were clamoring for meetings. She was in California for two major things  – first to meet with Governor Newsom and formulate plans to deal with the Trump situation and second to find out about the mysterious Bob situation and deal with that. However, the Postmaster General couldn’t come to California and not have meetings in San Francisco. There were major policy decisions that had to be made in terms of masks, social distancing, handling the mail, and handling retirements and playing politics with union leaders and career postal workers.

She would be in San Francisco for the first day, head to Sacramento for two days, and then return to San Francisco for two more days before flying back to the East Coast. She was confident that she would be able to take care of everything in the time she had allotted. Megan was always confident.

The first day’s meetings were routine. The next day her Lincoln transported her to Sacramento. The drive from San Francisco to Sacramento always amazed her. It was easy to think of California as nothing but a bunch of cities -San Diego, Los Angeles, Hollywood, San Francisco, Oakland – but when one actually got in a car and began to travel between them – the vastness and diversity of the state became apparent. The relatively short two hour drive from the Bay Area to Sacramento was filled with farmland, rivers, foothills, and lakes. California was a vast state – larger than most countries in the world. Built on fortunes made of gold, oil, and dreams – there was no place like it.

As her car came into Sacramento, the feeling of awe was replaced by one of confusion. Given all that California was – Sacramento, the capital, should have been a combination of New York City and Washington DC – but it wasn’t. This feeling always came to her because Sacramento was more like a small midwest city. Yes, once one went into the capital district it became more impressive – but she had always felt like the buildings should be taller and the crowds should be larger – and more fashionable. Of course, Sacramento was a compromise – it was the seat of political power between the economic interests of agriculture, resource extraction, film, tech, and transport. Also, Sacramento had to toe a fine line between showing power and not offending the federal government with such a display. She understood it, but it still left her with a feeling of confusion.

The meeting with Governor Newsom went about as she had expected. He didn’t lay all of his cards out on the table, but it was clear he was preparing for big moves. Everyone knew that he planned on throwing his hat in the ring for President of the USA in 2024, but that was a long way off and with Trump and Coronavirus creating chaos at scales the country had never seen, there was no guarantee that there would even be a United States in 2024.  Newsom was building alliances and making alternate plans, just in case. There was no better ally to have than the United States Post Office – though, the same could also be said of the State of California.

“I recently heard that the Postmaster General used to be a cabinet level position, ” Newsom said after the pleasantries had been exchanged. “Why did that end?”

“It was Nixon,” Megan explained. “He was terrified that the post office was going to mount a campaign against him. He didn’t want the PG to have any extra information or influence. Did you know it was Nixon that first suggested that postal workers could wear shorts? It was part of a smear campaign to delegitimize the post office, to make people take the power of the mail less seriously.”

“Were his fears legitimate?” Newsom looked searchingly in her face. “Do you think the post office could really be a threat to the most powerful person in the world?”

Megan saw it as a trick question. “Do you really think the President is the most powerful person in the world?”

“Who else would it be?” Newsom seemed interested in her answer, maybe it hadn’t of been a trick question.

She picked her words carefully. “It could be any number of people, depending on the needs and circumstances of the world,” she said. “And besides, power requires the consent and agreement -or at least fear, of those who give it. I’m not sure that the current President is nearly as powerful as he thinks he is – but his sycophants certainly don’t tell him that.”

Newsom laughed. “I guess we are narrowing down to the heart of the matter. Let me rephrase my original question – let’s see, how can I say this?  Uhmmm…would the post office ever consider moving their headquarters to California?”

Megan smiled “I’m afraid the needs of the postal service require that we keep our corporate headquarters close to the halls of power, so as long as power resides in Washington D.C, we will need to keep our offices there – but we do have quite a large footprint here, Governor. In fact, some of our contingency plans involve just such a move. In the event of an East Coast invasion or if Washington DC were wiped out by a nuclear bomb – we actually have a backup HQ in San Francisco that would be ready to roll out.”

“Interesting,” Newsom looked at her nodding. “I wasn’t aware of that. God forbid that anything like that should happen though. I’m curious about the post offices relationship with the IRS…how close is that? ”

She kept herself from spitting, barely. “The treasury has been abandoning us for years. Ever since electronic payments became normalized, they’ve been waiting for the day they could tell us to go shove it. Still, that day is a long way off…roughly 30% of Americans still pay taxes by mail – although the lions share is automatically deducted from paychecks. Still – that’s tens of millions people sending checks that    average to about $1200 each – so that’s a lot of money.”

“Yes, indeed. A lot of money. That’s a big responsibility. But back to my original question, do you think Nixon was right to feel threatened by the post office?”

“Absolutely,” Megan said. “Never underestimate the power of the mail.”

“I will remember that, Postmaster General,” Newsom suddenly remembered that it was she who had arranged this meeting. “I’m curious as to why you wanted to have this meeting. What can I help you with?”

For Megan Brennan, it was already clear that their interests were aligned, there was no need to continue to play coy “On behalf of the United States Post Office, I’d like to invite the State of California to secede from the United States of America. If you choose to accept this invitation, you can expect the full support of the USPS and, going back to our conversation previously – we’d be happy to move our HQ to California – as long as California were to become the seat of North American power.”

Newsom’s jaw had dropped. He was a politician and politicians never laid out their tits on the table the way that Postmaster General Brennan just had. He couldn’t even conceive of how to answer her.

Brennan stood up. “There’s no need for a response. I just wanted you to know where we stand. I have another appointment that I need to keep this afternoon. Thank you for taking the time to see me Governor. I look forward to working closely with you in the future.”

Brennan walked out of the Governor’s Mansion and got into her car. “Take me to the address in Arden Arcade,” she told the driver. “I need to meet someone there.”

Chapter 18 – Wheels Within Wheels

Bob was looking at the daily ‘Box Tops’ reports when he got a ping marked urgent from PostalNerd, the head of GeekBox. 

Urgent: Just found out that the Postmaster General – Megan Brennan is on her way to see you. I have no idea what this is about, but you should be careful. She is one of the most powerful people in the country and for some reason – she is heading your way with an ETA of about eight minutes. 

This message demonstrated the power of Bob’s new network. Brennan hadn’t told anyone outside of her secretary and her driver that she was heading to see Bob. Rather than the surprise visit she had expected it to be, when she arrived, Bob was waiting for her.

The black Lincoln Towncar pulled up and Bob was on the porch. He gave her a friendly wave as she stepped out. When she began walking towards the porch, he stood up, looking rather smart in his Eisenhower postal jacket (without insignia of course). He stepped off the porch and walked towards her.

“Postmaster General Brennan, I’m so glad to finally meet you. It’s a real honor to have you here at my humble abode.”

Bob was trying to be friendly and had no idea how off-putting it was to her that he had just called her out. She couldn’t figure out how he knew who she was. She still didn’t know who he was. This was not how she had pictured this meeting going. She had pictured it more along the lines of she swooped in, dominated the conversation, found out who this guy was, and knocked him out of the picture. That idea, however, was suddenly out the window. Bob put his hand over his heart and gave a small bow. She returned the gesture, which confused her as it was a new gesture to her. It was something Bob had started doing since the pandemic had started. As she did it, she realized that it made sense. It was a good thing.

“If you’d like to join me on my porch for a cup of tea, I’d love to get to know each other.”

Megan was completely thrown off. Without meaning to, Bob had completely unsettled her and taken the lead in a meeting that he was supposed to be surprised with.

“That would be nice, Mr. Uh…I’m sorry, I don’t know your last name.” Despite digging, she had been unable to come up with anything other than Bob, Robert, or Bob Current Resident. Bob had done well keeping his identity on the downlow from the Chicago Mob. Fear had been a great motivator. Since his meeting with Gaia, however, he no longer was afraid – but still, he was cautious. That was why he was sticking with a pseudonym.

“It’s Dobbs,” he told her. “Robert Dobbs. Please excuse my manners, I just feel like I already know you. You must have that effect on a lot of people”

In fact, she did not. Megan Brennan had quite the opposite effect on people. Even her family often struggled to feel connected to her – she was a stranger to the world – even those who knew her best. There was no room for vulnerability if you were going to be in charge. She was always in charge, except for now – for some reason, she had lost the initiative and she wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it.

“Mr. Dobbs,” she said, trying to reassert herself. “I’m sure you know why I’m here. I hope that we can work things out. As the head of the Postal Service, I’ve been made aware of some unsettling things and you seem to be at the center of it. I’d like to understand what is happening – because frankly, I’m not sure what your intentions are.”

Bob was leading her onto the porch. “Please, call me Bob. Do you mind if I call you Meg? I’ve always like that name. It’s strong. Did you ever read Little Women?”

She had. It had been one of her driving motivators in making sure that people knew her name was Megan. As a girl, she had been charmed by the idea of being named after Meg (she was). Meg was the prettiest, most charming, and most perfect of the ‘little women’. However, as a young woman, she realized that Meg was a symbol of the powerless domesticity of women and she vowed to never be led into the trap of becoming ‘Meg’ the domestic housewife, mother, and servant to her own role.

“I have,” she said, again trying to assert her authority in this conversation . “I prefer to be called Postmaster General.” Despite a lifetime of resisting when people tried to call her Meg, she had almost succumbed and told him he could call her Meg. She had never felt such charisma before. The closest she had gotten to it was with Bill Clinton. Clinton had a way of making everyone in a room agree with him – even if they didn’t. She didn’t feel any sort of attraction to Bob, it wasn’t that kind of thing, it was more like she wanted him to give her his approval – despite having just met him. This was a dangerous man and she needed to be on her guard.

“Oh, okay,” Bob said cheerily. “I’ll be right back, I put the kettle on when I found out you were coming.” Again, she was completely thrown off. How had he known she was coming? This was supposed to be a surprise drop-by. She sat in one of the faded wood Adirondack chairs on the porch. It was a craftsman style house probably built in the 1930s that had been split into a duplex at some point in the 1960s or 70s.

When he came back out, he had a battered teapot that gave off an aroma of Earl Grey tea – the smell of Bergamot was strong. It was her favorite tea. Bob hadn’t known this, but it just happened to be his favorite too. Megan was sure that somehow he knew. She had to get the initiative back. “We’ll have to take our masks off to drink the tea,” he said to her “But I’m not sick. Are you?”

“No,” she replied. “I think we should be okay, but let’s not share a cup, alright?” She laughed lightly and Bob gave an appreciative chuckle. Unmasked in front of one another, it was time to get down to brass tacks.

“Mr. Dobbs, What is your interest in the post office?” She was going to take control.

Bob set the tea down on the small table between them and poured it into two mismatched and chipped teacups before he sat down and answered.  He looked directly at her. The blue of his eyes had the intensity of a laser but also exuded a sort of warmth that caused her to relax even though she didn’t want to.

“To be perfectly honest,” he began “I’ve been suspicious of the post office for years. I always felt like it was the basis for a huge sort of illumanatus conspiracy. It just has too much power, too many moving parts, and controls too many things that people aren’t aware of. The USPS is the perfect shadow government.” He took a sip of tea. Megan felt herself tensing up. The post office had always had it’s share of conspiracy nuts, but she needed to remind herself that this one had somehow taken control of a part of the actual machinery.

“Recently, however,” Bob continued, “I’ve had my view shifted considerably. It seems like a lot of my suspicions were true but I was missing key information that caused me to fall to the wrong conclusions.”

“I’m glad to hear that you’ve seen the error in your ways,” Megan said. It probably wasn’t the right thing to say, but she needed to keep him going – she had to understand what was motivating this man.

“You see,” Bob went on, “I always thought the post office was part of some dark conspiracy to enslave humankind, to control the levers of power, and to destroy democratic rule – but that was wrong. The truth, as it usually is, is much more complex. The post office is the ultimate safeguard. When the founding fathers set up the country, they weren’t trying to create a democracy – they were trying to shift the power from one elite class to another. Franklin, who set up the post office, he knew this – he was the first Postmaster General and he never really agreed with the slave-owning founders about how they were doing things. He built the post office to act as a counterweight and in the event of dictatorship or a fall, the post office was designed to save everything.” Bob was excited as he explained and then as he looked at her, he suddenly recollected to whom he was speaking…he began to blush…

Megan J. Brennan had not expected to be shocked on this visit. She had not expected to be surprised. She had expected to knock on the door, find out who this person was, and then put him in his place. Instead, she was sitting with a cup of tea and listening to a man that had no possible way of knowing tell her the deepest secrets of the United States Postal Service. Even when she saw him blush and realized that it was her chance to take control of the situation, she found herself unable to do so. In fact, she found herself wanting to ease his embarrassment.

“It’s okay Mr. Dobbs,” she said soothingly (which was not a tone she used very often), “Please keep going. I’m curious as to how you learned this information and what you propose to do with it.”

Bob overcame his embarrassment and looked at her. “I’m sorry. You’re the Postmaster General and I’m telling you things that you obviously already know – I’m sure you know the answer to these questions already.”

“No,” she said, uncharacteristically revealing her hand “Please keep going. I want to know more.”

“Well, I don’t want to freak you out with the details but suffice to say that in the past few months, I’ve learned just how important and powerful the post office really is. I don’t think that would particularly matter except for the fact that Donald Trump is trying to destroy it. If the USPS falls, the United States of America falls with it. If the United States falls, there is no telling what he will do with that power. You asked what I intend to do and the answer to that is truthfully ‘I don’t know’ – I just know that he has to be stopped. We’ve been working on a couple of different ideas that might have some merit…” At some point in this meeting, the new Bob had decided to trust Megan J. Brennan. The old Bob would never have revealed any of this to her. He would have seen her as a powerful piece controlled by the U.S. Government and the dark forces that hid in the shadows and made moves against all that was good. This was not the old sack of potatoes Bob, however, this was Bob Dobbs, the Conscientious Objector General.

Megan latched onto a data point “We? Who are you working with? That’s what I’m trying to understand. I don’t really understand where you fit in any of this? Who are you, Mr. Dobbs?”

Bob didn’t have any intention of deceiving her, but neither did he intend to reveal who he really was. “I’m nobody, Postmaster General and as to the ‘we’ – I’m talking about a bunch of my friends on the Discord server – in the PostBox.”

For just a moment, Megan heard the ramblings of a crazy person ‘friends on the discord server in the post box’ sounded like the ravings of a lunatic. She momentarily flash-considered that she was sitting on the porch of a madman, drinking tea, and engaging in what the post office had always condemned as conspiracy theory. She had to remind herself that somehow Bob had known she was coming and somehow he had just told her the most closely held secret of the USPS. She couldn’t afford to discount him as a nut job but neither could she afford to trust him – even though she deeply wanted to.

“The discord postbox?” she queried, not quite getting it right.

“Oh, sorry. Our message board. I can invite you if you want. I’d love to have you on it – I mean if you don’t mind being part of something that so many of your lower ranking employees take part in..I can see where that might be problematic.”

He was right, it would be problematic. Megan was no longer entirely sure what she was doing or why. “Co-workers, Bob,” she said to him, using his first name for the first time. “They’re my co-workers, not my employees. No one owns the post office. Yes, I’d love an invite. Do you mind if I use a fake name and email though? Because you’re right, it might cause some issues if people knew I were there.” Not the least of which would be with the federal government.

“Sure,” Bob told her. “Let me get a pen so I can write down your details.” Bob got up and went back inside. While he was inside, Zeta arrived with the days mail. She knew who he was because she had studied Bob’s route before coming but she didn’t introduce herself. Zeta looked at her through his mask.  She had pulled her mask back up when she saw him approaching.  He’d noticed the black car and driver as he walked up – the curiosity was deep, but he would wait to find out from Bob until later. He nodded in her direction. She nodded back. She looked familiar to him (as she should have since her picture hung in every post office in America) but the mask made it almost impossible for him to recognize her – that and the fact that the last thing he would expect was the Postmaster General to be drinking tea on Bob’s porch. Zeta slid the letters through the door and continued on his route.

Bob came back out, still not wearing a mask “Okay,” he said with pen and pad in hand “What’s your email?”

“It’s fuzzybunny272@protonmail.com she told him,” Bob didn’t even show a hint of a smile as he wrote it down.

“Like this?” he held it in front of her so she could see it.

“Perfect,” she told him “Please keep my identity between the two of us.”

“Sure,” Bob said innocently “I’ll need to let my Colonels know, but we’ll keep it on a Top Secret level – need to know only.”

Megan couldn’t show the alarm she felt when he mentioned his Colonels. Until that moment in their conversation, she had somehow convinced herself that he was just a well-meaning kook who had stumbled upon secrets he shouldn’t have known. When he mentioned Colonels and ‘need to know’ it reminded her of why she had come – this man was building an army and it was largely from within her organization.

“Can we get a selfie?” she asked him

“We’ve already broken the distancing protocols, so I don’t see why not.” She stood up, pulled her phone from her pocket and leaned in for the classic two person selfie. She would have his picture run through multiple databases before the day was done. As she looked at her phone she realized that she had received multiple text messages while her ringer/buzzer had been switched into meeting mode.

As she left, she wasn’t sure what she felt. It was a range of emotions that ran from panic to happiness – but over all of it was a feeling of dread that she was losing control of more than just the meeting she had just had.

Back in the car with meeting mode turned off, her phone began buzzing – multiple texts coming in all at once.

This was on May 6th – technically, she had offered her resignation back in October of 2019, but the Board of Governors had been unable to agree on a new Postmaster General because it was split between three Trump appointees and three Obama appointees. It was a evenly split board and the Obama appointed side refused to give the position to a Trump appointee and the Trump appointees refused to allow another liberal postmaster from a blue state.

The first of her texts came from Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman – one of the other Obama Appointees

“Just found out that Postmaster Inspector David Williams has resigned…which means we are officially outnumbered on the Board of Governors.”  

Williams had been the vice-president of the board. He was an important ally. He was in charge of the intelligence division. Somehow, they had gotten to him. She’d ignored her phone while she met with Bob. It wouldn’t have made any difference, this was all done because she was two thousand miles away.

They’re calling an emergency meeting!!!” Strohman’s texts sounded like the panic he must have felt.

She was feeling the panic as she read through the texts but she wasn’t going to call anyone before she knew what was happening.

They’ve done it,” Strohman wrote. “They’ve made Louis DeJoy the new Postmaster General. Vote was three to one with one absentee. They tried to make the position effective immediately but I brought up the protocols, Senate confirmation, transition period, etc. I’d guess we have two weeks maximum to put things in order.

“Motherfucker,” Megan said. “Mo-ther fuck-er.”  She thought she had been angry before, when she offered her resignation in October, but that was nothing compared to this. She wasn’t ready for this, but thank god she had made this trip and laid the groundwork she had. They might be able to delay things until the end of the month but in all likelihood, that son of a bitch Mitch McConnell would be pushing this thing through within days instead of weeks.

The rest of the texts were either gloating from the other board members, notes from her secretary, and other concerned parties.

The first call she made was to David Williams. He probably wouldn’t be able to tell her how they had gotten to him, but he would have taken the proper precautions. He was a careful man and they had planned for an eventuality of some kind, even if it wasn’t this.

He answered on the first ring with no greeting. “I guess you got the news…”

“Yes, I just heard. David, I’m calling because I want to make sure everything is okay. Are you alright?”  This was bullshit and they both knew it. “What happened?”

“I just felt like it was time to stop beating myself against the wall. The past nineteen years have felt like twenty seven and I think I’m getting old. I just want to relax with my grandkids when Christmas comes and enjoy some eggnog.”

They both knew her job had just gotten more complex.

“Okay Megan. It was nice working with you. Maybe I’ll see you at one of the company parties.”

That was it. She had it. “Well, I just wanted to make sure you are okay. It looks like I’ll be able to enjoy myself soon too.”

They both hung up.

She wrote the password down “19eggnog27parties.”

The post office had just been fucked but it wouldn’t go down without a fight.

 

Chapter 19 – Coast to Coast

The pandemic restrictions were being lifted faster than the virus was contracting. Bob followed the case count and was shocked to see that not only were the number of deaths per day going up both globally and in the USA, but also that doctors were logging new symptoms. One of the most curious aspects of the new deaths was the fact that a majority of new intakes to most major hospitals seemed to be coming from sheltering in place in their homes.

At first, this data made him think that maybe lifting restrictions was a good idea, then he took a trip to the grocery store. Bob clearly saw where people were getting infected. At the store, shoppers were lined up in a winding stanchion that put them into close contact and proximity with hundreds of other shoppers for an extended period. Bob stood in the line for over an hour and counted how many of his fellow shoppers he was within a dozen feet of by the time he got to the front door – 162. Yes, the guidelines called 6′ a safe distance, but that number seemed arbitrary and when he asked the MedBox about it they said that those guidelines had been set in the 1950s and 12′ was considered a likely infection zone. Inside the store, Bob was forced to be in far closer proximity to right around fifty other shoppers just walking through the aisles. This was where people were getting sick. He was sure of it.

There was something else that was off though, the more he looked at the data, the more he was sure of it. The number of deaths in the USA stayed right around 2000 per day from the moment the President started talking about re-opening the country. It ranged from 1700 to 2100 on a non linear basis. There was monkey business going on somewhere – Bob was sure that the actual number of deaths was being mis-reported but since the data was coming from so many places – that seemed like a particularly hard conclusion to validate.

Then, someone on the Postbox mentioned that their county coroner had been sacked and replaced because he had been appointed by a previous administration. That was when it hit him – city and county coroners were political appointments. So were state medical examiners.  The job of both positions is to log the deaths in their jurisdiction with the cause and if foul play was suspected – to get an inquest into the circumstances. That was it. The political appointees were doing what they were told.

It was a powerful epiphany. Bob put out a call through the message boards to find the party affiliation of the coroners and medical examiners in the largest jurisdictions across the country. Next, he and a team of data scientists who were finding themselves particularly bored with being locked down correlated the death rates in counties across the country with party affiliation of the coroners and medical examiners. The results were shocking – Republican counties and states had around the same number of deaths as their Democrat counterparts but the causes of death were highly divergent. Red states and counties had far higher cancer, ‘natural cause’, and other non-pandemic illnesses than blue states. Blue states and counties had far higher pandemic related deaths. Looking at the numbers, one could easily deduce that the pandemic was less deadly in Republican controlled areas – or that the books were being cooked. Diving deeper, they found that since the calls to ‘re-open’ had begun – the number of deaths from non-pandemic causes had been skyrocketing in red areas. The result was that daily COVID-19 deaths were staying within the range of 1700-2100 deaths per day.

It was a lie that was becoming harder for the administration to keep as the numbers continued to grow. Bob and his crew were estimating the number of deaths per day in the USA were closer to 4000 in the beginning of May. The Trump administration was also having a hard time keeping the lie and began to soften the public with gradual incremental increases mentioned in each briefing. The master of lies said “We can expect the daily death toll to rise up to 3000 deaths per day by June,”  on one day and then the next “We’re looking at around 3100 cases every day after the economy opens but we think it’s worth it.” Meanwhile, he had chosen the Guns n Roses tune “Live and Let Die” as his theme song. A choice that Bob found to be more than a little disturbing, but one which the president’s fans embraced. Bob assumed that it was the rich who would live and the poor who would die. The president’s supporters must have thought it was a different split – maybe us and them.

The Russian virus was doing an amazing amount of damage and the shelter in place orders were actually restricting the spread of the Gaia virus in dense urban areas. It was a perfect storm of tragedy for those in the Northeast and probably for those in Southern cities as well – but those numbers were more difficult to suss out.

Back at home, Bob heard a knock on the door. It was Zeta.

He opened the door and Zeta came in and removed his mask.

“Aren’t you afraid you might have the virus?” Bob asked. It was the right question. People thought they were protecting themselves with masks but in fact, they were protecting others. Zeta was putting Bob at risk by taking off his mask.

“Oh man,” Zeta said, realizing his mistake and grabbing for his mask, ” Sorry Bob.”  Bob reached out and stopped him before he could put the mask on.

“No problem, let’s take the chance – I need to talk to you.”  Bob wasn’t worried about catching the virus. He wore a mask when he went out, but that was to protect others in case he did have it. If someone was comfortable going maskless with him in his home, he was fine with it too.

Zeta flopped onto the couch. He wasn’t in his postal uniform, so this must be a day off.

“I had a visitor yesterday,” Bob started.

Zeta couldn’t help commenting “Yes, I saw your lady friend on the porch. Are you in love buddy? You going to ask Dr. Zeta for some love advice?” They both laughed…

“No,” Bob finally said, “It’s more complicated. That was Megan Brennan, the Postmaster General of the United States of America.”

“What???” Zeta was flipping his wig now. “That lady on your porch was Megan Brennan? What the fuck was she doing here Bob?” Zeta didn’t know if this was good or bad – but it couldn’t be anything in between. “What was the US Postmaster General doing on your shitty ass porch Bob?”

“I’m not really sure, it turns out.”  Bob had thought about the meeting and debated whether to invite fuzzybunny272 onto the servers. “She was concerned with my interest in the USPS and after I told her about the Discord servers, she wanted to be invited onto them. Mostly though, she seemed like she wanted to know who I am.”

“Wait, wait, wait. Let me get this straight – the USPG came to your house to introduce herself to you and get an invitation onto your message boards? Is that what I’m hearing?” Zeta didn’t know what to think of this information – she was his boss, but a boss so high up that he had never expected to see her.  Or her to see him, she’d seen him delivering the mail. That was when he remembered the news he’d heard that morning at the depot.

“She got replaced yesterday,” he told Bob. “I wonder if that has any connection to her coming here. Holy shit Bob, did you get the PG fired?”

Bob didn’t think that was likely – but he was shocked to hear that she had been replaced. “She got fired?”

Zeta explained the whole situation – one thing postmen were good at was the transmission of scuttlebutt. It wasn’t just the mail that the USPS delivered. “I heard the whole thing is because Trump wants to use the USPS to fuck with Amazon and she had refused. I mean, she resigned back in October and they announced they were seeking a replacement, but it seems weird that it would happen the same day she came here.”

“So she’s gone?” Bob asked. It made him sad. He had liked her.

“No, it’s a government thing so the transition can take a while. There will be at least some period where the new boss takes over and the old boss transfers out.”

“Should I invite her to the PostBox server? What do you think Zeta? I’ve been debating this by myself for 24 hours.”

Zeta nodded enthusiastically “Yeah, you definitely should. She’s an old school hard-ass though. If she were staying in post, I would advise that you think about it but since she’s leaving and obviously the enemy of our enemy – I think she’ll bring a lot to the table. Definitely bring her in.”

“Good,” Bob said “I wanted to, but I didn’t want to jump the gun on this.” He walked over to the kitchen table and sat down in front of his laptop. Looking at the note with her email address he subvocalized his actions “Invite new member, enter email, fuzzybunny227@protonmail.com, and send invite.”

Zeta was laughing “The most hard ass woman on the planet has fuzzybunny227 as her email? That’s some funny shit.”

“You want to hear something really funny?” Bob asked. “Gaia prefers Apple to Microsoft…” Both men collapsed in laughter.

Zeta squeezed out “Of course she does but does that make Steve Jobs the snake in Eden?” They both laughed for a moment more before realizing how weirdly profound that statement was.

The PostBox community had ballooned – it now included nearly a million members. The newly hired veterans were flocking to VetBox and it had been compartmentalized into several divisions consisting of regiments which were made up of platoons. The organizational structure was proving to be a lifeline – but one big problem was that a lot of the newly hired vets were Trumpists.

With an open invitation system, they had known that this might become a problem but with the explosion in members there was also an explosion in those who supported the president. ColonelPotter, who now had the rank of Sub-General had wisely suggested that they create ‘Trump Regiments’ and other ‘pro-Trump’ sections within the major divisions. This idea allowed the Trumpists to largely self segregate and exist within their own bubbles. The Trump areas of PostBox were ecstatic at the news that Brennan was on the way out. Those sections of the server were filled with badly photoshopped porn and crude memes along with sensationalist conspiracy theories that seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with vaccine conspiracies, child molesting conspiracies, and Bill Gates.

The BoxTops were all careful about who they brought into trusted circles. There was danger of infiltration in the bottom tiers, but the top of the pyramid was a safe zone. As long as everything was filtered downward in the proper way, there was little danger from within.

FuzzyBunny272 quickly moved up the ranks. Had she been staying in her job, she would have been alarmed at the complexity and depth of the PostBox organization, but since she was leaving, she found it exhilarating. While she hadn’t identified herself, the power of her voice was quickly identified by group commanders and she was promoted to moderator, invited to the next level, promoted again, and so forth. In a relatively short period of time (5 days) she was attending meetings of the BoxTops and making suggestions. They all knew who she was and while it may have contributed a small amount to her incredibly rapid rise, mostly it was the force of her own personality that had brought her there.

“I’d be fired for telling you all about this,” she wrote “But have you ever heard of RoP-1-75 ?”

This was when they learned the truth about the post office. She was telling a handful of people that she mostly only knew by screen name about the most heavily guarded secret of the post office. At this point, there were two reasons for that. First, if she was going to use it – she only had days and she would need their help. Second, if she wasn’t – she was damned if she would let Trump and his stooge DeJoy have it. She had decided to break with tradition and not inform her successor about the protocols. He would be the postmaster, but only the postmaster who had the publicly listed duties, nothing else.

There was another reason she was spending so much time and energy on the PostBox. It was the perfect place to plan a postal strike.

 

Chapter 20: The Great American Re-Opening

Using a steady stream of positive spin, a confusing story of a weakened virus in the face of the death toll and virus count both rising, and the rallying cry of “Work is a right and Prisoners are not Free!” the Trump administration somehow managed to force large portions of the country to ‘re-open for business’ regardless of what the experts suggested, the governors wanted to do, or the people were in favor of. American’s felt they had no choice but to go back to work and so they filled the offices, streets, movie theaters, restaurants, and everywhere else even as their countrymen died in ever greater numbers.

Rather than focusing on the depressing news – the mainstream media began increasing coverage of the amazing stock rally as the economy responded to people going back to work. Never mind that there was a complete and total disconnect between people working and stocks rallying. The main reason that stocks were rallying was because the Federal Reserve was pumping trillions of dollars into it. The people going back to work didn’t have the extra money to pay for Uber, restaurants, or luxuries of any sort. It was a hand to mouth existence for most workers and with the added exposure to the virus – a sometimes deadly one.

By mid-June, the states stretching east from Washington, Oregon, and California  all the way to New York and Pennsylvania were all open. The south was completely open. Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New England were all still in lockdown as they tried to deal with the continued body count that was piling up in trucks, parks, and walk in refrigerators.. The three west coast states plus Nevada and Hawaii were slowly easing restrictions but generally discouraging people from leaving home – it was a more cautious approach than the rest of the country was taking. Alaska was pretty well on its own and as open as it had ever been – just not to tourists. The Governor of Alaska put a moratorium on cruise ships.

The rest of the country from Arizona to Florida to Ohio, North Dakota, and Iowa – they all just threw caution to the winds and latched onto the Trump agenda and began screaming about the success of the Great American Re-Opening. During the day, people filled the beaches in the Carolinas, Florida, and Texas.  Nascar was the first event to make a comeback and the crowds were thick. Bars and restaurants filled with people and the shopping malls from Memphis to Phoenix to Atlanta were all filled with happy throngs of people.

The stock market really was booming and with the lockdowns lifted, credit card companies and banks began offering increased lines of credit, special cash advances, and easier approval for rewards cards.

The rest of the world watched in shocked awe as Americans in the re-opened areas ditched social distancing, masks, and any sort of pandemic protocols.The American gamble appeared to be paying off. The first day of summer in mid-June was an ecstatic holiday. Trump’s approval rating in these areas hit the highest marks of his presidency.

Behind the scenes, the Russian and American viruses had now met and were figuring out how to interact together. It was a classic love story – where two strangers meet and soon, a baby follows. The evolved virus that came from that meeting was deadlier than ever – it used existing health conditions to infiltrate and occupy a host with an incubation time of 25 days, when it began to spread – the mortality jumped from 4% to 70%. When the virus became active 7 out of 10 who got it would be dead within 48 hours.  Thankfully, it was only transmissable starting about three days before it became active in the host. Those who had already been exposed to the Gaia virus, were still immune.

The problem was, the parts of the country that were ecstatically re-opened were the exact parts of the country that hadn’t been exposed to the Gaia virus – the wide open spaces, the rural communities, the small towns where people thought they had dodged a bullet. The cities and urban areas were actually going to be alright with this second wave – but the countryside was devastated.

It started in Galveston, Texas and spread upward into the country like a reverse Mississippi River. From June 1st to June 26th – eight million people caught the new strain – by the end of June nearly five million of them were dead. The same people who had been celebrating winning their freedom back were now either being weeped over or weeping over their own dead.

Trump continued to play “Live and Let Die” and screamed blame at the Chinese, California, and Canada. “It’s the three C’s, he yelled into his podium’s microphone. They’re out to get me. They’re all out to get me. I’ve done everything, I’ve handled this perfect, but it will never be good enough for California or their friends in Canada and China.”

The entire country went back into lockdown, this time a huddled down and terrified lockdown as the new strain continued to rip its way through the mid-West and into the Rocky Mountains and the South.  Trumps ‘smart doctors’ abandoned him during his daily briefings and he now had a rotating cast of white people in white coats who made pronouncements that usually included a phrase similar to ” …if we had listened to the President…”

In truth, those who had continued to ‘hunker down’, worn masks, and kept proper social distancing were largely unaffected by the new strain – so one might draw some conclusions from all that death. 7 out of 10 of those who had not taken precautions were either dead or soon would be.

Trump ignored the pain and suffering and promised that there would be an ‘amazing’ 4th of July celebration for the country. The ‘Great American Re-Opening’ turned out to be less like a celebration of a return to normal and more like ripping the scab off of life threatening arterial wounds. America was re-open…for infection and death.

 

Chapter 21: The Grand California Tax Scheme

Federal and state taxes had been pushed back to July 15th – it was an unprecedented move, but one that had seemed necessary at the height of the first pandemic scare. As the second wave of death screamed across the nation, politicians used their media allies to remind people that America could only keep running if everyone did their part – and a big part of that was paying taxes.

Essentially, the first relief effort of the US government had given trillions of dollars to corporations with virtually no limitations, no means testing, and no oversight – this right on the heels of $2 trillion dollars in corporate tax cuts. This huge theft was approved by the American people in return for a $1200 per adult payout which came from the taxes that the bottom half of Americans pay. The average American felt grateful for a deal that had ripped them off – and most of them never even realized they had been scammed.

In any event, the country and the states were now in the deep red and it was bad policy to stop collecting taxes – so word went out that despite the new waves of death, taxes would be collected. One big problem, however was that the IRS was as devastated by the pandemic as every other federal agency. The U.S. government had a policy of keeping those kinds of numbers a secret, but in this case, there had been far too many government accountants who lived in DC, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware – some of the hardest hit areas.

As a result, the federal government enlisted the states to assist in the processing of federal returns. The scheme was pitched as a way to increase state employment, put the country back to work, and take care of business at the same time. In fact, it wasn’t a bad idea – but it did open the door to several possibilities that the government missed.

The scheme worked like this – electronic federal returns would be processed by the IRS. Returns that were mailed in would be diverted to state tax offices where they would be processed, logged, and electronically forwarded to the federal IRS offices. Tax payments from checks or money orders would be deposited in federal IRS accounts by state agencies.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Governor Newsom of California decided to make his move. The California State Tax Board opened up an account through Wells Fargo (a California bank)  under the name ‘Internal Revenue Service – California’ doing business as ‘IRS-CA’ and ‘IRS’. As federal returns were filed and documented, California’s top state accountants deposited the checks and payments made out to the IRS into the new account. This was not the way the federal government had detailed the process.

Furthermore (thanks to Bob and the PostBox), huge numbers of tax returns from other states were ‘accidentally’ forwarded to the California tax division. For those working in the newly quadrulpled in size tax board, the process was relatively simple – and since these were mostly new hires from other diverse fields – there were no questions asked. Returns from all over the country were pouring into Sacramento.

Every envelope was opened. Check payments were entered in a database with social security numbers and amount of tax due, regardless of state of residence, and then the checks were turned in to supervisors who deposited them in the IRS-CA account. Returns without checks were forwarded to the federal IRS offices, and returns from other states were forwarded to ‘red state’ offices – often the wrong state. The purpose of all this forwarding and mistake making was simple – the federal IRS needed to be kept unaware of what was happening for as long as possible.

In order for the huge volume of returns to be shifted to California, the USPS needed to bring large numbers of postal fleet vehicles into California from neighboring western states. Newly purchased vehicles from the South and South-Eastern seaboard were also shipped into California to help with the mail glut. All of these arrangements had been made prior to Postmaster General DeJoy taking over and since he was largely engaged in doing the administration’s business – it all flew under his radar.

The truth was DeJoy was a good businessman but he didn’t have the knowledge necessary to be a Postmaster General and his predecessor left without giving him any of the usual guidance on what the job entailed or how to do it. Shortly after he had taken over, all of the liberal members of the Postal Board of Directors had resigned – there was a distinct lack of experience and knowledge in postal HQ – at least experience and knowledge that DeJoy or the administration could benefit from. DeJoy was kept busy by orders from the administration.

Due to the rolling death tide of the pandemic smashing its way through the South and Midwest, California took the unprecedented step of sealing her borders. Governors Inslee and Brown of Washington and Oregon quickly followed suit. Nevada began taking measures to begin the same process. The only vehicles allowed into California were postal vehicles and cargo transport. California residents living abroad or in other states were informed that if they were to return to the state they would be placed under mandatory 30 day quarantines. The state closed its borders to tourists, non-residents, and non-essential business.

California’s connections to the outside world were now either through the USPS or electronic.

Newsom activated the entire California National Guard to assist in closing borders. The California Highway Patrol, state and county sheriffs, state and local police departments, and other state agencies were activated at the highest level and hired as many as applied. Out of state prisoners were furloughed if they accepted free passage out of the state on Greyhound buses to Idaho, Arizona, or Utah. Prisoners from Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, and Hawaii were kept as a courtesy to neighboring states.

This state of affairs began taking place in the last part of June and accelerated in the days leading up to the 4th of July. Trump’s Independence Day celebration of a re-opened America was shaping up into the worst disaster the country had ever witnessed – millions were dying and yet, the red state governors and Trump supporters continued to re-open, they continued to listen to (and believe) his lies, and when he said the deaths were a conspiracy theory put on by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos – they began to burn effigies of the billionaires in the streets.

Through the National Guard, Newsom and his supporters were able to infiltrate the high commands of all the U.S. military bases in California. California has thirty-two U.S. military bases covering all branches of the U.S. Military.  The US Air Force had Beale, Edwards, Travis, El Segundo, March, McClellan, and Vandenberg. The Army had Forts McClellan and many more. The Marines had Camp Pendleton, 29 Palms and more. The Navy and Coast Guard had installations stretching from San Diego all the way to Eureka.

The Governors of Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Nevada followed similar tactics. They weren’t planning insurrection – they were simply taking steps to protect their states from the ‘stable genius’ in the White House and whatever mad plans he might formulate. Far off Hawaii had the trickiest time of it – with a civilian population of just over 1.1 million and 12 bases housing up to a quarter million troops, their families, contractors, and non-uniform personnel. Despite it not being his state, this was a problem that Newsom spent a lot of time considering.

Despite the chaos outside of California’s borders, the tax returns kept flowing into the state and the tax payments kept piling up in the IRS-CA accounts. No one outside of those who had set it up seemed to notice.

On the 4th of July, President Trump finally was able to hold the huge military parade he had been clamoring for since coming to office. Tanks and missiles were paraded down the streets of Washington DC, jets spewing red, white, and blue left trails in the sky, and Trump stood on a dias at the Washington Monument standing tall, looking regal with his orange chin held high watching his military show the world its might.

His speech began well.

“My friends. My fellow Americans. We have suffered greatly. No other people have ever suffered so much and with so much bravery.”

And of course it veered into self-aggrandizement.

“No other president in the history of this country, no other leader in the history of the world has given as much or sacrificed as much as I have. The greatest economy the world has ever known, the greatest military, the world has ever seen, the most beautiful people,” he looked at his daughter Ivanka with what could only be described as lust, “the world has ever known.”

He trailed off, lost in fantasy or thought but then picked up the thread…

“We deserve better than we have been given. We deserve a better system. We deserve better leaders. We deserve better media. The media has been on a crusade to demonize me, to make me a mockery, to turn you – my people – against me. The media and the democrats in the House and Senate have made fools of the American people – they dared to impeach me in the house, they wasted billions of dollars trying to turn you against me. I am you and you are mine – we are one. The failed New York Times, the awful Amazon Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC – they have all failed you. They have given you lies when you needed hope. None of them have mentioned the plots and conspiracies of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos to destabilize our great country.”

It was like no other 4th of July speech in the history of America.

“I won’t fail you. I will sacrifice everything for you. God Bless America. I’m going to fix all of these problems for you. I will make the stock market rise like a rocket. Our 401ks will be bigger than ever. We will defeat the Chinese and Make America Greater than Ever Before!”

No mention of the pandemic, the people who were starving, the tens of millions of unemployed, no mention of the destroyed relationships with Canada, the European Union, Australia, Asian, and African countries. Just the usual dreamy self-promotion – until it wasn’t.

“My fellow Americans,” Trump’s voice became serious. “We face unprecedented challenges. Our amazing intelligence officers in the Secret Service have uncovered a number of plots to overthrow our great country- you know about some of them. Working with ICE and Border agents, we have unearthed plots against our government and against me, your glorious leader. I don’t want you to worry, however, as we speak ICE agents are arresting both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. We’ve discovered that they were conspiring with Mexico and China to destroy our election process with vote tampering and fraud. I don’t know if former President’s Obama and Bush were a part of this – but for their sake, I hope they were not. We are looking into things and I want you to know that we are discovering some very dangerous things about our country – believe me, we will not leave any stone unturned.”

He again began to sound casual and breezy “I want you to know that we are doing everything we can to defend our democracy and to protect our country. We will be postponing elections until 2021 while we work to find the rat’s nests of conspirators and traitors who tried to take all of this,” he motioned his hands “from me – and you.”

“We are working with the newly re-organized post office and the bureau of elections to set up national voting by mail which should be ready to implement in early 2021. The post office is declaring its own independence from Amazon today and will no longer be giving free shipping to that billionaire traitor Jeff Bezos. I’ve appointed Roger Stone, the man I recently pardoned after he was unfairly arrested and imprisoned by Democrats, to head a media inquiry board with the power to nationalize and take editorial control of subversive media organizations. Inspector Stone has recommended that we immediately nationalize and take control of the New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC. Our agents have been working quietly this morning to take control of the situation.”

“I don’t want you to worry, America. We will have fair elections, an end to fake news, and a better future. Our founding fathers would be so proud of the job I’m doing here. I just wish that my own dear father could witness this moment. God Bless America and God Bless you, Americans. Happy Independence Day.”

The crowds roared as bands began to play and jets screamed overhead at altitudes that Trump had insisted on despite the safety concerns of the pilots and the FAA.

CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, and the New York Times all published and aired glowing reports of President Trump’s glorious speech. Taking the hint, other media outlets followed suit with only a few daring to bring up the fact that Donald Trump had just arrested his political opponents and taken control of the media.

There was panic in the military, panic in the editorial rooms of the media, panic in the post office, and panic in Mexico and China. Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, the two richest men in the world, didn’t panic. They activated their private security forces. Former Postmaster General Megan Brennan also did not panic. She had already activated RoP-1-75 back in May, now she brought it online.

Chapter 22: The Foreclosure and Eviction Pandemic 

On the 6th of July, the Trump administration passed word to state and local governments that any moratoriums on evictions or foreclosures had to be lifted. Most states had put measures into place back in April that made it illegal for landlords to evict tenants for non-payment of rent and which made it illegal for banks to foreclose for lack of mortgage payments.

The banks and landlords had been clamoring to get eviction and foreclosure authority back. Trump believed that it made sense to end all of the pandemic measures. He declared the country ‘open for business’ and demanded that California and other states re-open their borders, theme parks, and airports.

Tens of thousands of eviction notices went out across the Southeast, the South, the Midwest, and the Southwest. Foreclosure proceedings were started in numbers that hadn’t been seen since the Great Recession back in 2008 and quickly exceeded those numbers. If all of the eviction and foreclosure notices that were generated in the following two weeks had been complied with – there would have been millions of newly minted homeless across the country.

California and the block of states who stood with her, chose not to comply. Governor Newsom had been referring to California as a nation and a nation-state for quite a long time. In his daily briefing, Trump demanded that the states comply.

“Failure to comply will be seen as treason,” he declared. It was the moment Newsom had been waiting for. He called a news conference – it was ignored by the Trump controlled media but live streamed on Facebook, Twitter, CBS, and ABC. Most of the world got it.

He began by reading the the opening lines of the American Declaration of Independence –

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

With that, Newsom got to the heart of the matter.

“We in California have watched in horror while the President of the United States has imprisoned his political opponents, alienated our allies, put children in cages, enforced racist and misogynist policies and destroyed the very heart of the United States of America. We, and our allies, in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Hawaii among other states have borne witness to the tragedy and sadness as our nation has been ripped apart by the pandemic, extreme wealth disparity, racism, and hatred for our fellow human beings. We can watch and hope for this horror to abate no longer.”

“From this moment, California is declaring her secession from the United States of America. We are breaking from the union. The California National Guard has secured all military bases and equipment within our borders. All United States federal employees, troops, and equipment have been conscripted into the nation of California’s service. We call on all states who share our cause, to join us in a new confederal union. For those who choose not to be citizens of California, we offer free passage to you from our country. We do not seek war and we hope that our differences with the United States can be resolved peacefully and with diplomacy, but we can no longer trust that the intentions of the United States government represent the best interests of our people.”

“The California treasury has decided that it is no longer appropriate nor safe to use American currency and we have converted all of our dollar holdings to Bitcoin because we have evaluated it and consider it safer than any other monetary unit. Over the next 30-days, Californians are encouraged to exchange their U.S. dollar holdings for Bitcoin through the treasury, Coinbase, or other California controlled exchanges.”

“For those Americans outside of California who have family serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, we do not want you to worry. We are giving service members the choice of continuing to serve in return for citizenship in the Nation of California or safe passage with their civilian belongings to our borders.”

Through a series of secret negotiations with high ranking U.S. military officials not friendly to the Trump regime, Newsom had come to this arrangement. Those officers and high ranking enlisted who were unwilling or known to be Trump supporters, had been rounded up and incarcerated in the hours before Newsom’s announcement. There were surprisingly few of the educated officer elites who were not alarmed by Trump’s actions on the 4th of July – and for most of them, California offered a lifeline that far exceeded the risks of continuing to serve a deranged and power mad President Trump.

Newsom motioned to the sidelines, off camera. A number of Generals and Admirals joined him on the stage. “I’d like to introduce our California Joint Chiefs of Staff – who are currently in control of every military installation in the State of California. This, by the way, was a bloodless transfer of power.” One of the Admirals stepped forward and whispered in Newsom’s ear. Newsom smiled.

“I have good news,” he said. “Our allies in the Kingdom of Hawaii and the newly formed country of Cascadia – which was formerly the states of Washington and Oregon – they have joined our cause. Admiral Yoast tells me that all military installations in Hawaii and Cascadia have also undergone a peaceful change of power.”

Newsom became serious “These are unprecedented times. The President of the United States has called us traitors and rebels, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our loyalty has never been stronger but it is not to the bankers, the corporate elites, or the blood sucking leaches who have sent people to their deaths for the cause of profits. Our loyalty is to our people. The Trump decrees which would have turned tens of millions of Californians, Hawaiians, and Cascadians out into the streets, and which would have made our citizens homeless and put them in unfathomable danger – these were unconstitutional and unjust. It is our hope, that someday, the great nation which was the USA can be re-united and leave behind the legacies of slavery, racism, genocide, greed, theft, and economic injustice behind. Perhaps it is no coincidence, that the states that fought for slavery now stand with Trump and his cronies. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the plains states where government genocide was used as policy against Native Americans stand with Trump. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Nazis and racists flock to his banner.”

“This is a sad day for America,” Newsom said “The Experiment has failed. However, take hope in the fact that California, Cascadia, and Hawaii stand ready to right the wrongs of the past. As we look to the poor, the exploited, the tired, and the hungry who are being exploited and used – we Californians will continue working to defeat the pandemic, to defeat racism, and to defeat poverty, hatred, injustice. It is with great hope that we look to the future when we can once again open our borders and declare to the world “Give us your poor, your tired, your hungry.”

Newsom ended the conference with the former heads of California’s FBI, CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies bringing him documents, shaking his hand, and chatting with him. All of this was planned theater meant to show the Trump regime that it no longer had any sort of legitimate power in California. As the country where Hollywood lives, California, there were no shortages of talented propagandists – and Newsom was quick to put them all to work.

With almost no exceptions, the leadership and Trump supporting rank and file of ICE, the Border Patrol, and the other armed services were taken into custody and housed with other high ranking Trump loyalists at the former Tule Lake Isolation Center, Alcatraz, and ICE immigrant detention centers throughout the state. The immigrants being held in detention centers were immediately released regardless of nationality.

Trump’s reaction was, of course, outrage. He demanded that nuclear missiles be prepared – only to be reminded that California, Cascadia, and Hawaii were also in control of nukes. Trump raged for days about how this had been allowed to happen. He vowed that it would not continue and began purges within the military within days.

There were a mass of defections of high ranking officers and enlisted within the first week of California’s independence, not from California, but to it. Troops who were originally from California deserted almost immediately and set off to their home state using military equipment and transport. Newsom had debated calling California troops back or getting word through the troops before declaring independence but the risk of word being leaked was too high.

California troops concentrated on the desert counties in Southern California first, rounding up known Trump supporters and those with white-nationalist or militia sympathies. Newsom knew that the more sparsely populated counties in the far north of California would be a future mess that would have to be cleaned up. Within days, the ‘State of Jefferson’ spanning the border between Oregon and California had declared Independence from California and sworn loyalty to the United States. Newsom didn’t want a shooting war and coordinated with Oregon to set up a blockade around ‘Jefferson’. In Oregon and Washington the Governors faced similar issues east of the Cascade Mountains. There were some skirmishes, but for the most part, Newsom and the other governors had done a good job of taking care of outliers before they knew what was happening.

Nevada requested annexation to the Nation of California. California troops moved in and fortified the new Eastern border pushing into Arizona as far as Mesquite, Kingman, and Yuma. This fulfilled a couple of security features including bringing the Marine base in Yuma into California’s borders. There was no resistance from the troops stationed there. It also put Lake Havasu under California control and created a border composed mostly of Native American Reservation lands.

The countries of France, Germany, Italy, China, Canada, Mexico, and smaller countries from Latin America, Africa, and Asia quickly offered recognition and began negotiating for trade and diplomatic relations. Russia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Brazil, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan all condemned the secessions and refused to have any dealings with the new nations. It didn’t really matter – the world was mostly shut down.

Meanwhile, in what was left of the United States, evictions and foreclosures were moving forward on a mass scale while the revived pandemic spread like fire in a newspaper factory. Trump raged behind closed doors, powerless to take revenge. His fast reaction with the purges, however, had saved him from similar uprisings in the Northeast, Michigan, and Illinois. There were still 45 states in the USA, but just barely.

Chapter 23: Walk, Don’t Run!

Things were happening faster than anyone could have predicted, but if the pandemic taught us anything, it was that people were capable of adapting to any situation much faster than they thought they could.

On the heels of the California secession, the USPS declared a general strike and walk out. On the surface this was a demand for higher pay and more PPE (personal protective equipment) to be issued. Beneath the surface, it was RoP-1-75 being put into play.

RoP-1-75 had several purposes and layers. The most important was the re-headquartering of the USPS. This had been put into play after the threat of Washington DC or other major cities being destroyed by a nuclear weapon materialized. The entire command and control structure of the USPS could be easily replicated in multiple cities. There was an entire secondary and tertiary command structure set up. The new Postmaster General had no idea that any of this existed since Megan Brennan had not updated him. Using the password she had gotten from former Chief Postal Inspector  David Williams, Brennan activated the emergency system.

She logged into the RoP-1-75 emergency command center. Her credentials were still good and no new super-user had been created since she had decided to stop the chain of custody.  The entire emergency command center was something else DeJoy was unaware of. She ticked the box labeled ‘REHQ’ and entered the password “19eggnog27parties.”

She was asked multiple times if she was sure, which she was and finally the screen gave her a choice of where she wanted to move command and control of the USPS. The options were New York City, Denver, Austin, Chicago, and San Francisco. There were also options to ‘split’ and ‘disperse’ command and control. Each city had a command team that had been put in place and approved by herself and David Williams at the beginning of her tenure as Postmaster General. DeJoy had not been in his new office long enough to start changing up the regional branch leadership teams, although he had fired nearly all of Brennan’s team in the DC HQ. She selected ‘disperse’.  Effectively, the USPS had just been carved into five fully functional organizations. Since she had already accepted the role of Postmaster General in Newsom’s California – she still held authority.

Despite the revolt, the USPS had kept operating in both the United States and the breakaway countries. Trump, Dejoy, and the rest of the Trumpist organization still hadn’t realized the threat that the postal service represented. They were about to learn.

Next she selected ‘walk out’ from the drop down menu. Under cause she wrote ‘Better wages and more PPE issued’. The pandemic was still raging – so it made sense.  As an afterthought she wrote ‘Solidarity with Evicted Residents’. She ticked one more box before logging out ‘Arm’. This action was perhaps the most significant – under the cover of a walkout, postal vehicles would be upgraded to military standards, sidearms and weapons would be issued from postal armories, and all postal workers were authorized to carry weapons and use deadly force. Standing contracts with the mercenary armies were activated. The main purpose of this was to protect postal interests, but essentially, it gave each regional Postmaster General a standing army. In effect, she had just created five armies. The DC HeadQuarters was left out of all of these decisions since the disperse order was supposed to only be initiated if DC was destroyed. This was fine, because it was now filled with DeJoy’s cronies and they would not have complied anyway.

When she had learned that she had been displaced in the USPS, Brennan had decided to stay in California. It was a good decision, her San Francisco office was an upgrade from the dump she had worked from in DC and the upgrade in technology she got by coming to Silicon Valley was like living in a new century.

Things happen fast in Silicon Valley. Within days of Independence, a San Francisco Stock Exchange was up and running. The entire systems was run on the ‘0x’ blockchain. California based companies (and those that wanted to continue doing business in California) were required to convert shares to the ‘0x’ platform. These shares were issued into blockchain wallets of customers or if the customers didn’t have wallets, were held in trust on the public blockchain.

The US dollar to Bitcoin conversion had issued crypto wallets to every registered California citizen using the social security number to create public keys. By the end of July, Wells Fargo had brought their crypto division online and all California funds and California accounts had been converted to Bitcoin which were held in conservancy by a joint venture of Wells Fargo and Coinbase with the Nation of California.

The opening of the San Francisco Stock Exchange (SFSE) and the conversion to ‘0x’ shares caused panic in the equities markets on the East Coast. There was a rush on cryptocurrency companies and California based corporate valuations went through the roof. Amazon shares had plummeted on the news that the USPS would no longer be subsidizing shipping but the SFSE gave a boost to Amazon and other Cascadian companies as well – among them Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco, Nike, Boeing, and T-Mobile. Shares were still trading on the NYSE – but power was shifting to the west.

Trump’s attempts to have ‘rebel’ held companies blacklisted failed as no one wanted to give up their shares of Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft or the hundreds of other tech and logistics companies that were headquartered in California, Cascadia, or Hawaii.

To put things in perspective, it makes sense to throw some numbers at you. The United States is the world’s largest economy – this didn’t change when the five states left. Prior to the split, the USA represented about 24% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). China, the number two economy represented about 15% of the world’s GDP. California, Cascadia, and Hawaii represented  about 20% of the U.S. gross domestic product – so, when you factor those numbers out of the U.S. GDP, you are left with the U.S.A still being the world’s largest economy – but instead of leading by 9%, the USA now was within spitting distance of China – Here were how the new world order stacked up.

#1 – USA generating 19% of the world’s economy

#2  – China generating 16% of the world’s economy

#3 – Japan generating 6% of the world’s economy

#4 – California, Cascadia, & Hawaii (CC&H)  generating 5% of the world’s economy

#5 – Germany generating atom 4.5% of the world’s economy

Followed by India, the UK, France, Brazil, and Italy.

CC&H was now the 4th largest economy in the world and in terms of military powers it ranked right around the same area because of the navy it had commandeered in San Diego and Hawaii and the nuclear arsenal and Air Force it now controlled  in California, Hawaii, and Washington. The entire balance of world power had just shifted. Russia had been knocked out of the top 10 economies. Putin was pissed but as the coronavirus ravaged Russia, there was nothing he could do but watch from afar.

One of the first things Newsom had done upon taking power was shutting down the Russian spy operation. Russian owned and influenced conservative networks were nationalized, Russian troll farms were shut down on the social networks with rapid executive legislation, and known Russian operatives were rounded up and interred with the Trumpists or released into Arizona or Utah.

By the end of July, the Post Office had been divided and the USA central command of it had been neutered thanks to the disperse order. Since the walkout had been ordered, Dejoy and Washington DC were still oblivious to the fact that they were no longer in control. CC&H had signed non-aggression treaties with Japan, China, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and most of the European nations. The IRS was scrambling to make sense of the confusion that had come from delaying tax payments, the revolt of CC&H, and the chaos of COVID-19. Eviction and foreclosure notices were flying out of courts and sheriff’s offices across the remaining 45 states. Mostly they were being ignored, but the number of homeless in places where they were being enforced doubled, tripled, and quadrupled rapidly.

The number of unemployed and homeless was impossible to count due to everything that was happening but the last numbers in the old United States (representing June) were released and showed that unemployment had reached right around 40% of eligible workers and nearly 50% when including those who stopped looking for work.

Military fortifications had been quickly constructed along the borders of Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. Arizona had lost some territory to California before anyone had really understood what was going on. Tribal zones in Arizona and former Nevada became quasi neutral zones where citizen exchanges took place as CC&H citizens made their way home and non-CC&H citizens headed back into the USA. Tribal organizations were enjoying an economic boom and because of the pandemic were exercising more autonomy than at any time in the history of the USA.

While many expected that the citizen exchanges would cause yet another wave of the deadly pandemic that had swept through the heartland of the USA, it never happened. Instead, Gaia’s virus spread faster than ever to the areas where it had not yet been exposed. As August began, the deadly pandemic started by Russia and Trumpists had largely been neutralized – but the changes it had caused would never go away.

Bob watched everything that was happening with a sense of powerlessness. He was a bigger part of everything than he knew – the Postbox and the organization he had spawned had made it possible for the Post Office and Newsom to do much more than even they understood. It wasn’t over for Bob though. He still had a role to play.

As he watched news footage of people being evicted from their homes and postal workers marching in strike lines, he had the most important idea of his life. Thankfully, he immediately posted it onto the  PostBox server.

“What if we used postal picket lines to keep people from being evicted? What if we harnessed the awesome logistics power of the post office to deliver food, medical supplies, and end hunger? What if we turned the postal service into an army for the betterment of humanity? ”

In truth, every postal worker is a hero. It was no surprise that his ideas exploded on the PostBox and spread like wildfire through the striking postal workers. Everyone from leadership (but not in DC) to the lowest ranks loved the idea. Their energy fed Bob’s energy. He was fired up.

“I’m going to leave California and walk across America to end poverty and homelessness,” Bob virtually screamed onto the server. Gaia’s words came back to him, ‘Sometimes the best tactic is to move towards your enemy.’

“I’m walking to Washington D.C.” Millions of his followers decided that they would take part too. It was a literal movement – of people from one place to many other places.

Chapter 24 – The Virus Defeated and Gaia’s Blessing

Bob’s journey started in mid-September. He crossed the border in Mesquite, California which had previously been Mesquite, Arizona. Arizona itself had wavered with requesting annexation as a huge number of residents had been Californians originally but had moved to Arizona to escape higher taxes and to have a lower cost of living. They were, for the most part, too old to move again or too poor. Ultimately, the conservative leaning government of Arizona had decided to remain where they were while understanding that was a precarious position between a rock and a hard place. Mesquite itself had been cut in half with a part of the town on each side of the border.

Zeta drove Bob to the border town in a postal jeep. Zeta and many others had offered to go with Bob but he had refused. He thought it was better for him to start this journey on his own. In Mesquite, the California border guards made sure that Bob understood that the borders of California were still sealed by the quarantine and if he wanted to return, he would need to quarantine for 30 days. Bob signed the agreement.

He walked into Mesquite and was met by a Postbox delegation of about a dozen people. They helped him navigate through US customs, a situation that had become tricky if you had a California driver’s license. The entire experience was a bit nerve wracking because by necessity, social distancing was difficult at borders. The group that met him offered to drive him to wherever he wanted.

“Are there any evictions due to happen today?” he asked. There were three physical evictions that were meant to take place that day. Arizona sheriff’s were assembling now to physically remove one family.  The papers were going to be delivered today to a dozen others.

“Let’s go to the eviction,” Bob said “That family needs our help.”

I don’t want it to sound like Bob was alone in this. The PostBox community had become overwhelmingly enthusiastic. They had made signs and banners. They had assembled the PVC pipes, handcuffs, and ropes they would need to do an effective sit in and blockade. Also, there were armed postal workers standing by in case things became violent. The idea was to have non-violent protest but if things did turn violent to keep the upper hand and protect the protestors.

There were about thirty people assembled at the house.

Bob didn’t know it, but when he had met Gaia, she had infected him with a super-bug. The super-bug was a mutated variation of Gaia’s coronavirus that boosted immune response, created proteins that nullified the virulent nature of any coronavirus, and massively boosted the ability of the body to create Vitamin D from sunlight. Bob was, in effect, a walking vaccination. Anyone who came into contact with him, became immune from coronavirus. Bob was incredibly contagious. He was the virulent vector – but in a good way.

The striking postal workers began picketing on the sidewalk with a couple of different signs.

“Better Pay, More Protection”

“Postal Workers Love American Families”

“The Post Office Works for Families”

and

“No Evictions, No Foreclosures”

“USPS vs. Homelessness”

“Hell no! Not on my Route!”

That last one had been Zeta’s idea. Actually it had been his words when the evictions were announced. Bob had suggested they be used on a sign.

Within an hour there were over a hundred people gathered. The other residents of the neighborhood soon joined them. Social distancing just wasn’t going to happen, no matter how hard they tried. It went against human nature. Humans were a hugging, touching, stroking, kissing, and embracing species at heart. When humans’ actually touched one another, the violent urge left them. It was a part of why things had gone so wrong – modern human society before coronavirus was too distant, too cold, and too disconnected. People needed warmth from other people.

In this case, there were two people in the crowd who were carrying the deadly virus but didn’t know it. It jumped from them to others and from those others to others. In two weeks time, a large number of this crowd would have been dead – except Bob was there. Bob smacked people on the back, accepted a hug from the home owner, and had to shake hands multiple times with PostBox members who came to meet him. It’s easy to condemn people for not being cautious, but the truth is, social distancing goes against our every instinct.

Protests sprang up in front of the other houses due to be foreclosed or served eviction notices. The sheriffs were told that they would not be allowed to do their job. Looking at the crowd and seeing the openly armed postal workers watching from the sidelines, the sheriffs decided that discretion was the better part of valor. They didn’t want to go into that crowd of people and risk their lives. They didn’t know that Bob’s super-virus was spreading like wildfire through the crowd. It was an extremely sturdy virus and was transferred by touch, air, and possibly even by smiles.

Bob was ferried between the protests and in each place he closely interacted with everyone he came into contact with. The media came out and social media influencers shot phone footage and shared it to their networks. There was a lot of condemnation for the unsafe distancing and breaking of protocols, but  such was the exuberance at the sites that those who were there decided it was worth it, whatever the cost.

The truth is that humanity had mostly reached a place where life was no longer worth living if it had to continue on the way it was. People wanted to either get their lives back or end their lives.  There was also a hidden factor in that Bob’s virus had a narcotic effect on people who contracted it. They became happy and carefree in regards to life or death. Their brains were flooded with dopamine.

Over the course of the day, the protests turned into more of a street party. Those who came outside and joined caught Bob’s virus. In many cases ,they then took it to the people they cared about. Only those who were the most rigid, the most scared, and the most socially distant avoided Bob’s disease. This ultimately resulted in two scenarios – they eventually caught the deadly coronavirus and died awful deaths or they remained isolated until someone brought them Bob’s virus which created a desire to touch and be close to others – but not in a creepy way!

The movement spread quickly – as did Bob’s virus. Postal workers and neighbors across America began to blockade evictions and foreclosures. Governor’s threatened to use the National Guard but found that when they tried to activate them, they didn’t show up. Trump declared that he would be bringing U.S. troops into the situation but his commanders and officer corps accurately gauged that their troops would mutiny if forced to evict children and seniors during a pandemic.

Bob’s original plan of walking across America had to be thrown out the window – it was too big and it would take too long. Instead, he was carried like a package by the United States Post Office from city to city and town to town. From Mesquite he went to Phoenix, Tucson, Green Valley, and Prescott.  Up into Salt Lake City and then to Denver,Colorado and Lincoln, Nebraska before heading directly to Chicago and then into Michigan. In Detroit and Flint, Bob was met by huge crowds. Bob’s virus exploded into African American communities and created a soaring joy that was like nothing that had been felt since the Emancipation Proclamation. It wasn’t Bob that caused this, it was the empowerment of standing together and taking control of their communities.

From Michigan he traveled to New York. New York, the original American epicenter of the virus was a shadow of itself. The streets were empty, those who ventured out wore masks and moved with a caution borne of great calamity. Bob and his entourage walked across the Manhattan Bridge. At this point, there were hundreds who had traveled with him and as they walked, people came to their windows, ventured out of their doors, and slowly and with caution joined the procession. At first they followed and kept to the edges but as they became infected by both Bob’s virus and the spirit of the moment – they fell in together.

Over the six weeks since he had begun, the signs had grown and changed. The originals were still there but now they were joined by

“People over profits”

“Not my 1%”

“End Billionaires”

“My Home NOT Your Dividend”

There was a shared sense of solidarity and common purpose as they marched into Manhattan. As they came upon wall street, trucks filled with workers moved to the famous bronze bull and began to dismantle it. The windows of the New York Stock Exchange were painted over with pictures of flowers and children. The ‘Mighty Girl’ statue was joined by statues of a ‘Mighty Boy’, ‘Mighty Mother’, ‘Mighty Father’, and ‘Mighty Grandparents’. This was not a destructive riot. It was calm and deliberate work. The graffiti artists weren’t tagging gang names, they were tagging messages of empowerment.

During the course of Bob’s trip across America, he had become famous. The media interviewed him about why he was doing it, what he was trying to accomplish. In the South and many deep red states ‘Anti-Bob’ sentiment was running riot. Red state governors were threatening to arrest or kill him on the spot if he entered their states.

In Chicago, he had avoided doing any interviews – but it was already too late. He had been spotted and identified. People knew who he was. Bob centered conspiracy theories rose from everywhere. Who was Bob? Was he a revolutionary? Did he work for Newsom? What was his connection to the post office?

While Bob was celebrating with the people of New York City, word came from the Attorney General of the United States that an indictment and arrest warrant had been issued for Bob ‘Bobby’ Dauber, a murderous mafia boss from the south side of Chicago. The U.S. Justice Department gave a big upgrade to Bob’s mafia resume and made him sound like some kind of Al Capone. Just about everything they claimed to be truth were lies. According to the indictment, ‘Bobby Dauber’ had been the head of the Dauber crime cartel and was responsible for the gangland executions of hundreds of his family’s enemies. The only victim listed on the indictment that Bob had actually killed was John Ficarotta, but the U.S. Justice Department has never been shy about truth getting in the way of an indictment.

The Justice Department wasn’t stupid and they had noticed that something was off with the U.S. Post Office and that there was a big connection between the USPS and Bob. According to them, Bob’s gang had infiltrated the Postal Union and taken control of the nation’s mail to deliver drugs, weapons, and other contraband. Taking things even further, the indictment made connections between  the ‘Dauber Family’ and such notables as Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsom, Bill Gates, and of course Jeff Bezos. One could see the hand of the president all over the new conspiracy theory.

First Bob had become a hero and now – he was public enemy number one.

Very little of it was true and Bob’s followers would have defended him to the death but when a troop of FBI agents walked up to Bob and informed him that he was under arrest, Bob held up his hand hand and told his followers and friends that it was okay.

He had intended to go all the way to Washington, DC, but it wasn’t going to happen now.

“This is what is meant to happen,” he said. In truth, while much of what they had accused him of were nothing but lies, it actually was a relief to be able to acknowledge who he really was, who he had been, and who he had become.

The Trump administration used Bob’s arrest as an excuse to immediately begin purging the Post Office, starting with the unfortunate Postmaster General DeJoy. Bob was transported to Ryker’s Island and placed in maximum security. In the process of being arrested and transported, he infected members of the FBI and once in the prison, he was patient zero in a prison wide outbreak – of the Bob virus.

The Trump purges were largely successful at arresting and disempowering those who actually supported Trump. As for those who were against him and/or ‘with’ Bob, they were no longer easy to find, easy to arrest, or willing to allow themselves to be taken as Bob had.

California at first unequivocally denied any association with Bob. The leadership of the Post Office (in the USA) and the Postal Union both denied having ever heard of Bob. Reports came out of Chicago that the Dauber family had never been ‘bosses’ in any sense of the word. The news had brought the movement Bob had started to a screeching halt – but then, something amazing happened.

People started to lie.

Former President Barack Obama claimed that Bob had been a key intelligence resource under his administration and had made it possible to end the mafia rule of Chicago. No one knows why he decided to do it, maybe it was just to get under Trump’s skin or maybe he just saw an opportunity to undermine the Trump regime.

In any event, New York Governor Mario Cuomo followed suit and said that Bob had been responsible for New York cleaning up gangland. At this point, it was becoming cool to support Bob. Plus, his disease was spreading like oil on water. Everywhere it went, people felt a renewed sense of hope and a sudden desire to help and interact with other people.

President Newsom was the next to join the party, releasing what he said were ‘classified’ documents that detailed how Bob had been working with the former State of California to root out white supremacists, Mexican cartels, and methamphetamine rings.

The Trump controlled media didn’t share any of this information but it rolled out to people through text messages, social networks, and underground networks.  Bob’s jailers began treating him with a lot more courtesy and respect than prisoners at Ryker’s Island usually get. So much so, that it was noticed by their superiors who were monitoring the situation from Washington D.C. by video link. As Bob’s virus spread through the general population, Rykers Island became a very different place with both guards and hardened criminals helping each other whenever they could.

The cities Bob had visited were re-opening without anyone’s permission. The social distancing guidelines were being ignored. Life was returning to what it had been  before and the evictions and foreclosures were either ignored or legislated out of existence. The southern states remained in lockdown, borders were tightly controlled, and the Trump purges continued in the military, the post office, universities, and police departments. Non-white neighborhoods and cities were cordoned off. As October ended there was a clear divide between the North and South United States. The South, the Midwest, and much of the Rocky Mountain States were still fiercely loyal to Trump and the god awful things he stood for.

On a dark and moonless Halloween night, a black helicopter landed on Ryker’s Island. Bob was shackled, hooded, and led out of the prison and loaded into the chopper. One would have thought he was Osama Bin Laden given the security precautions that had been taken – not just some deadhead who had been forced into a life of crime as a young man but who had escaped to eventually embrace a life of love.

I do want to be clear about something here. Bob wasn’t a hero. In fact, Bob had done some seriously awful things right up to the time he met Gaia – sure, maybe he had done them to people that deserved it, but the fact that he had done those things at all showed what kind of a human being he was. It was only when he met Gaia that Bob truly embraced a life of love. She flipped the switch in him. She taught him the universal lesson that all humans can learn, but that most never understood or bothered thinking about – it was this.

A human soul consciousness can never find satisfaction until it is working for the satisfaction of all human souls and the consciousness totality.

That was it. That was the meaning of life. It was the complete opposite of what experience in ‘the world’ taught a person to go after. Experiencing the world taught people that the only way to succeed was to look out for yourself and your own. Only if you took everything that you wanted or thought you deserved could you find true happiness and satisfaction. That was the big lie the world told everyone.

The truth was hidden but for those who found it, it became obvious. The only way to move forward was to become a part of the whole. As long as you were an isolated unit – you were trapped in an unsatisfying existence – no matter how much you took, controlled, or owned. It was why Trump, Bezos and all those other billionaires kept taking more and more – because they were still focused on themselves.

Hopefully you understand that.

The helicopter flew off into the Darkness taking Bob to his fate. He was on his way to Washington DC.

 

Chapter 25: A Capital No More

Bob couldn’t see it because he was in a black helicopter on a black night wearing a black hood, but Washington DC was a mess. The streets had been destroyed by Trump’s military parade and the city was in lockdown from the virus and siege mode from the evictions. The eviction notices had gone out in DC and the police and District of Columbia National Guard had gone out to enforce the evictions.

It was not a good idea. DC was the one place in the nation where the post office was not on the side of the people. Sure, there were plenty of individual postal workers who went out to picket and protest and stop the evictions, but the DC HQ was not behind them. Hell, Trump had turned the old DC post office into a hotel. As a result, those who attempted to blockade evictions were met with force and had two choices, fight or run. They chose to fight.

Fires sprang up all over the city. Snipers began firing at police and guard units. The whole city was declared under martial law. The White House was surrounded by tanks and concertina wire. Trump had already fled to Florida with his entire family. Business would be conducted from Mar a Lago, the so called ‘Winter White House’ even though it was only the first of November.

The black helicopter flew over DC and landed at Dulles and Bob was transported to a black SUV which took him to 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the headquarters of the FBI. He was led inside the building, taken down an elevator, and pushed into a cell. The hood and handcuffs were finally removed. After his eyes adjusted to the dim light, Bob realized he was in a sort of dungeon.

An old man and old woman sat huddled together in the next cell with an army blanket draped over their shoulders. Bob looked to see if there were any guards but they appeared to have been abandoned and left on their own.

The old man began coughing. The old woman didn’t say a word or make a move.

“Are you alright sir?” Bob asked. “Are you okay? Should we call for help?”

At this the old woman raised her head and began to cackle. Her laugh was brittle and on the edge of a hysterical madness. “Who you gonna call? Nobody is coming to help us. What do you think this is, the Hilton?”

Bob recognized her voice. It was Hillary Clinton.

The man next to her began coughing again and then started to mutter “If you wanna be the champ, you can’t stop fighting. You have to keep going. That’s what I said to her and then she got in the car and I never saw her again. It was the saddest moment of my whole damn sad life.” His voice trailed off. He wasn’t talking to anyone, he was just talking.

“It’s okay, Joe,” Clinton said to him. “It’ll all be okay buddy. Don’t worry, Bill’s coming. He’ll come.”

Bob had been thrown in the deepest darkest hole the United States of America had along with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. There were other doors, other prisoners, but none of them spoke or could be seen in the dark.

Gradually, however, things began to change. The mood inside the room lightened. Bob, after all, was the vector for the Bob virus and it tended to make people see the bright side of things. Those who had been suffering from Covid-19 symptoms, began to feel better – it wasn’t an immediate process, but it was an immediate effect on the consciousness.

“Do you really think Bill is coming?” Bob asked. He had forgotten that they had no idea who he was.

“Sure, he’s coming,” Hillary told him. She stared daggers at him. She tightened her arm around Biden. “He’ll be here buddy. He’s coming.”

Bob shut up.

The sound of the elevator doors opening caused him to turn. A beautiful white light spilled into the room and a female figure marched purposefully forward. Bob couldn’t see her features because of the light behind her. As she got closer, Bob realized he knew her, he knew who this was.

She stepped up to the cell he was locked in and used a key to unlock the door.

“Come on Bob,” Megan Brennan said to him “You’re not done yet.” She turned and began to walk away.

Bob stopped her “Wait, Megan..” he motioned to where Clinton and Biden were sitting in their cell, “What about them?”

“They’re not my priority,” Brennan told him, “but here.” She handed him the ring of keys she had released him with. Bob found one stamped with the numbers on the cell door. He unlocked it.

“Come on, Bob.” Megan said to him. “We don’t have time for them. Let’s go.”

Bob waved goodbye and rushed to follow Megan J. Brennan, the Postmaster General of California, Cascadia, and Hawaii who was rescuing him from a cage in Washington, DC – for some reason.

As the elevator climbed to the ground floors, she briefed him. “Some of our people saw you get taken. I still have friends in high places in Washington DC but there was no way they were going to let anyone besides me take you out of here.” As they walked through the building, they were ignored. It was like they were invisible.

Bob waved his hand in front of his face. “They don’t see us?”

Brennan laughed. “The FBI only sees what they are supposed to see. Everyone here saw you taken into a deep dark hole – but that’s all they were ordered to see. Anything else is just extra paperwork.”

Walking out the front door, Brennan was met by a team of tactical mercenaries.

“Ma’am, we need to get you out of this city. It’s not safe and our window is closing.”

“Fine,” Brennan said. “Say goodbye Washington, DC, Bob.” They were about to load into a black SUV but Bob hesitated.

“Wait,” he said “I can’t leave. I have to stop Donald Trump.”

“Too late,” Brennan told him. “He’s already flown the coop and is running things from Florida.”

As they drove past burning cars through streets where clashes were intensifying by the minute, Bob had his first and last look at Washington, DC. Crowds were pushing closer to the White House and the sound of automatic gunfire rang out. The caravan of black vehicles sped up.

“I can help them,” Bob said.

“No,” Brennan told him. “You’re needed elsewhere. Trust me, this city will take care of itself and I feel bad for anyone who gets in the way.”

The majority of the population in Washington, DC is African American. You would never guess that if you were watching films or news though because outside of DC, the only neighborhoods that people see or hear about are the affluent neighborhoods – because of social inequality and the injustice of wealth distribution as well as the racist nature of American life in the first place. The majority of the citizens of Washington, DC were tired of being treated like second class citizens.

The White House and many of the most iconic of the monuments in Washington, DC had been built with slave labor. The citizens of DC had never forgotten it though the rest of the USA and the world seemed okay with forgetting about it. Today was the day of reckoning.

Before the night was over, Washington, DC would collapse and the White House would be on fire. It would be Hillary Clinton who struck the match. She emerged from the FBI dungeons on a mission. She was fully infected with the Bob virus and the smile never left her face. Her natural charisma was enhanced by the feelings of positivity the Bob virus created and the long crippling fears of overstepping her power or underplaying her authority were gone (the same fears, by the way, that had caused so many to view her as insincere or untrustworthy.)

When Hillary Clinton stepped out of that dungeon with poor Joe Biden and a ragtag band of Donald Trump’s political enemies trailing behind her, there was nothing anyone could do to stop her.  “Let’s burn this motherfucker down!” she screamed. The city’s population quickly declared “I’m with her!”

By that point, Brennan was on her way back to CC&H and Bob was in a convoy heading to Florida. The drive would take somewhere around 16 hours with no stops and perfect conditions, but because they had to avoid certain hazards on the way, Bob would arrive on November 3rd – which would have been Election Day, if there were going to be elections.

Chapter 26: Election Day 

By the time Bob reached Florida, the deadly virus had been mostly defeated in California, Cascadia, and Hawaii. The Bob virus had spread through the new nation quickly bringing hope, a renewed sense of energy, and a true desire to work together as a species to overcome the challenges that had for so long kept us apart. The pockets of resistance, like the State of Jefferson and those areas east of the Cascade Mountains had been devastated by the deadly virus and with no human connections to the Bob virus, mortality was on display as the corpses piled up. CC&H offered to send humanitarian aid, medicine, and medical equipment but those offers were refused. Groups like Doctors Without Borders tried to infiltrate and were either shot at, or in the case of one unfortunate delegation – were captured, lynched, and left hanging as a warning to others.

East of CC&H, the deadly virus did its work through Montana, the Dakotas, bloody Kansas, Ohio, and the states of the former Confederacy. The Bob virus entered pockets of the South as people from Chicago, Detroit, Flint, New York City, and DC  braved the deadly virus to take care of or rescue family members in Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama. These were mostly African American communities and since the rise of Trumpism had coincided with a rise in racism and an isolation and new segregation of black from white – the Bob virus was generally only benefitting people of color in the red states. As for the white people – just like in the State of Jefferson – they died in droves. Their increased mortality rate only drove them to further extremes of fear, hate, and anger. They didn’t have the cure but they had enough blame to last until Judgment Day.

The Bob virus had also moved from Mesquite to Native American tribal lands and Latino communities in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. A funny thing about Texas that many people outside of Texas don’t know – despite the deep Southern drawl, Texas tends to be one of the least racist places in the former USA. Sure, there were pockets of elite whiteism and pockets of backwoods ignorance – but for the most part, the average white Texan has too many non-white neighbors, co-workers, and family members to ignore the fact that people are just people. As a result, the Bob virus spread pretty heavily through Texas sparing much of the population.

Not so with Florida. If there was a capital of the Deep South, it was Florida and with the fall of Washington, DC and Trumps move to Mar a Lago, Florida had become the de-facto capital of the United States of America. Crossing the border from Georgia, Bob was astounded by the number of military vehicles and checkpoints they had to go through. At one point, they had to stop in St Augustin and transfer out of the black SUVs and into a green Lexus. Bob was given new identity papers that identified him as Robert Jordan of Jupiter, Florida. His escort didn’t engage in conversation with him. They didn’t answer his questions and they didn’t ask him what he wanted. They had been hired by Megan Brennan to get Bob to Mar a Lago – and that was all they were interested in doing.

“Robert Jordan was a major donor to the Trump campaign and is a longtime member of the Mar a Lago Country Club,” his handler told him. “You look enough like him that you shouldn’t have any issues unless you are introduced or run into someone who knew him and they hear your name.”

“What happened to him?” Bob asked.

“You don’t need to know that,” he was told.

Mar a Lago had military checkpoints set up. Ever since a crazed opera singer had tried to run the gates back in 2019, it was treated the same way as Camp David or other Presidential Retreats. It had not yet moved to biometric security however and since it was an active country club, members were allowed to access all but those areas now designated as ‘Presidential’. Using his membership card, Bob’s handler was able to drive Bob right in. He dropped Bob off at the clubhouse and drove away.

Bob had no idea what he was supposed to do. He had no idea what was expected of him. All he knew was that he was here and somewhere Trump was here. That just left finding him. Bob didn’t have a gun or any sort of weapon. He was wearing a pair of eyeglasses with clear lenses and ‘golf attire’. He certainly didn’t look anything like himself – but it wouldn’t be long before someone was bound to recognize him.

As I’ve mentioned, it was Election Day. November 03, 2020. President Trump was preparing to address the nation. It was on every TV in the clubhouse. Bob had no idea where Trump might actually be, but he figured he would watch the address.

As usual, Trump’s speech sounded almost normal as it began.

“My fellow Americans, great great really truly wonderful Americans…” but quickly became Trumpian. “Our nation faces unprecedented challenges and while I promise you that we will overcome these challenges because as we speak I am massing our military in Florida so that we can take back what is ours…but I won’t be giving away any military details like that idiot Obama or evil Hillary Clinton did, we won’t be discussing our war plans on television for the enemy to prepare.” It was like he had two sides of his mouth and they didn’t work together to coordinate his ideas – one gave the plans away while the other denied it. “Our beautiful white city has been destroyed by black hordes. Washington, DC is gone but let’s be honest, it was a dump anyway – not a beautiful place like this. Mar a Lago is the most beautiful place on earth and I bought it for a song, one of the most amazing deals in history, better than the purchase of Alaska or the Louisiana purchase, because have you been to Louisiana? Not nice.”  As usual, Trump’s knowledge of history (or lack of it) was irrelevant – it was only what he felt or wanted to say that mattered. “So, Washington, DC is gone. We’re thinking about nuking it to just really clean it up and completely sever the connection, but some people…” he looked menacingly off camera “still think we need to wait.”

There had never been a speech like it. “Today is Election Day and I know that we have postponed our glorious election but I have a special treat for you, a real surprise that is going to blow your minds. The people are going to be so happy, so, so, happy – just the happiest people. Since the other candidates had to be arrested, we’ve disqualified them. That means, actually, that we no longer have to have an election because – get ready for it – I’ve won! You’ve elected me President again and with the largest majority of any president in history. Bigger than Washington or Lincoln and better.”

“So, it’s a day that is filled with many challenges which I can assure you we will overcome. First of all, I’d like to assure everyone that we’ve uncovered information that definitively proves that the pandemic was a liberal plot all along. There was no pandemic – this is literally just the worst flu season that we’ve ever had. I’ve had the entire Coronavirus task force arrested and they will likely be court-martialed and executed within days for enabling the breakaway states in the West to disrespect me and our country in this way.”

Even judging Trump’s speeches by his previous speeches – this one was beyond the pale.

“The good news though, is that the pandemic is over. We have the green light to completely and totally reopen our country. And the good news doesn’t stop there. Our country is still the largest and greatest country the world has ever known,” which technically, it wasn’t since a few months earlier it had been larger and greater by far, but never mind – he went on. “The USA is the greatest country in the world with the greatest leader in the world. Because you’ve given me your confidence and approval with 100% of all the votes cast going to me,” no votes had been cast, so he technically wasn’t lying – for once. “I’ve decided to take your mandate and your trust and use my executive powers to make this country even greater. First of all, I’m sorry to tell you that Vice President Mike Pence has died. He was a great man, but you don’t need to worry – I’ve appointed my son in law, Jared Kushner to replace him. Jared come on out here.”  Pence had died of coronavirus a few days before. The news had been exciting for Trump because he could now make this announcement.

“As you know, Jared is the very lucky man married to my gorgeous daughter Ivanka.” He motioned for the camera to point to Ivanka. “Isn’t she gorgeous? So sexy. It’s hard to believe she’s had kids with that body.” He called the camera back to him and Kushner on the stage. “As you know, Jared created peace in the Middle East and solved the Palestinian problem. He’s the best kind of Jew and you know, the Jews are really really great. They’ve never really been the problem some people thought they were, it was just a matter of being able to make deals with them, to negotiate because let me tell you, they love money. They love money more than anyone, except maybe for me, but the Jews, they are really shrewd and great negotiators but not as good as Jared. And you know, I’ve always felt bad about Ivanka not taking Jared’s families last name – okay, not really because why would she give up such a great name but I did feel bad about Jared not being able to be a real part of my family. To me, he’s always been a Trump. So I want to use my executive powers to formally rename him right here in front of you all. Ladies and gentlemen, your new vice-president – Mr. Jared Kushner Trump.”

There were all kinds of constitutional problems going on with this circus, but Trump didn’t care. This was his moment.

He went on “Also, since DC is such a hellhole – especially now. I’ve decided to use my second executive order of this new term to name Mar a Lago as the new capitol of the United States. Trust me, it’s much much nicer than DC was. We only let the best people in this place, really and truly exclusive.” Bob looked around. There were a couple dozen old white people in the clubhouse with him. They were all dressed in golf attire, they all had cocktails in their hands despite it being 10 am. He noticed there were now Secret Service agents at the door, checking everyone who came in to make sure they had proper IDs.

Trump’s speech continued. “Also, as you know, I own this property and since it wouldn’t really make sense to have some future president live on property I own, it seems like the only reasonable way to fix that issue is to make myself President for life. The elections this year were really spectacular and had all kinds of issues with cheating and misleading the voters and we’ve come up with a way to fix that. The President for Life position solves all of these problems. No more cheating on presidential elections, no more electoral college – which wasn’t even a university but more like a community college. Instead of having these ridiculous elections, I’ll just appoint a successor to take over when I die. You won’t have to worry about voting ever again. When I die ( a long, long time from now), Jared and Ivanka will take over until Baron is old enough to be king.” Trump didn’t seem to notice his slip, or maybe he didn’t care. Eric and Don Jr. were both caught off guard by this announcement, but there was nothing they could do about it.

You might be thinking ‘the people would never stand for all of this, there would be riots in the streets’ but you have to remember that the only ones actually watching him were Trump supporters. They loved it. They ate it up. They posted to social media glowing messages like “Trump solves voter fraud” and “Finally, a capitol I’d like to visit” and even “I <heart> Prince Baron”. They were ecstatic. They cheered at all of the watch parties and spread the deadly virus to each other with high fives and hugs. Finally, America had its own aristocracy.

“So, my fellow Americans and Trump supporters, our country is greater than ever before. We’ve won. I bet you never thought you could win so much before Donald Trump came around. I once told you that we’d win so much you’d get tired of winning – but guess what – we’re just going to keep winning. God Bless America and especially God Bless me and my family.”

Trump walked offstage and the news switched over to glowing commentators on the USA owned and controlled networks who talked about the ‘masterful use of power’ and the ‘amazing new USA that was born today’.

Bob was simply confused. There was no way he would be able to get to Trump. The people around him were ecstatic – partly because of the news, but mostly because the Bob virus was spreading to them. It didn’t discriminate. Bob had probably saved them from a horrible death, but again, he didn’t know he was even carrying or spreading the virus.  Even if Bob could reach Trump, he wasn’t going to kill him. That just wasn’t who he was anymore. It was pointless, there was no reason for him to be there. Bob sat nursing a drink for the next hour – not sure what to do. He was at a complete loss.

Still here he was and Gaia’s advice was all he had – move toward your enemy. Bob walked up to the secret service agent at the door. “I’d like to speak with the President. I have information about California that will help him.”

The agent looked searchingly at him for a moment and then asked with a bit of suspicion “What’s your name?”

Bob took off the clear lens glasses “Dauber. Bob Dauber.”

The agent pulled his gun “I knew you looked familiar.” Bob was handcuffed and led away. The agent he’d spoken to was on his walkie talkie reporting the situation. He listened intently into his earpiece and then stopped the agents leading Bob away.

“The boss wants to see him. Right away.”

Bob was put on the back of a golf cart and driven to Trump’s palace. He was strip searched and hosed off with bleach water before being given an orange prisoner’s jump suit and led into the Presidential Office.

Trump was there. He was more orange than he appeared on TV. The experimental vaccines he had been given were turning him more orange by the day, Bob could see where he had washed the ‘not so orange’ makeup off after his address. Even for Trump, the color had become too much. It was unreal.

Bob was shoved into a seat.

Trump turned his back to Bob and looked out the window at the rolling green hills of his golf course. Finally, he turned back to Bob.

“You must think I’m pretty stupid,” Trump said. “You’ve caused all kinds of problems for me  with the eviction protests. Why in the world would I believe that you had come to help me?”

Well, that was that. Bob didn’t have an answer so he decided to just be a smart-ass.  “I was really inspired by your speech. ” Never mind that he had snuck onto Mar a Lago disguised as someone else or escaped from the FBI dungeon.

To his surprise, Trump ate it up. “Yes, it was very good wasn’t it. Probably the most important moment in the history of the world. I’m not surprised it inspired you.”

Bob had no words.

“Well, out with it then. What do you know? How can you help me?”

Bob was still speechless. He didn’t have anything planned. He didn’t actually have any sort of information. He searched the furthest reaches of his mind for anything that he could say and he suddenly remembered a book he had read back in the 1980s called Ecotopia by a guy named Ernest Callenbach. In the book, the Pacific Northwest secedes and plants nukes under major US cities in order to retain their independence. It was a good book.

“California has planted suitcase nukes under all of the Trump properties in the USA,” Bob said. “As soon as you begin the invasion, they plan to blow them all up.”

“I already knew about that,” Trump lied. “We’re never going to invade we just wanted them to waste a bunch of nukes.” Bob was lying, of course – he’d just made it up. Stolen a plot line from a book. “Do you have any new information for me?”

“That was it, Sir.” Bob added the sir at the last minute. He knew that Trump would eat it up.

Trump did. He sat just a bit higher. “Thank you for trying to help.”

Trump called out to the two agents at the door “Get this man off my property. Give him $10,000 and dump him at the gate.”

“Sir, don’t you think we should question him? He may have more intel…” the agent looked at his partner dubiously.

“No, he tried to help but he doesn’t know anything else.” At this point, like all liars, Trump was more concerned about his lie being discovered than anything else. He’d told Bob he knew about the nukes and now it was only Bob and more information that could reveal that he didn’t actually know anything about the nukes. “Get him out of here and do what I’ve said.”

Everyone around Trump had learned the lesson of not doing what he said. Bob was led out of the room. As he walked out the door Trump said to him “I appreciate your gesture of trying to tell me something that you thought I didn’t know but which I totally did already know about. Now get out of my country.”

The last thing Bob heard before the door closed was Trump picking up the phone and saying “Call the Joint Chiefs of Staff immediately, get my generals in here right away.”

Bob was taken to the gates of Mar a Lago and given $10,000 US dollars. It was really weird. Since the US was now ‘completely re-opened’ he was able to buy a used car and drive back to Arizona, stopping along the way in New Orleans, Texas, and Albuquerque. Bob’s story was done, he was ready to go home, he was ready to move to the next phase of his life.

Chapter 27: Aftermath

Gaia’s revenge was slow and painful. The experimental vaccines that Trump had taken had not only protected him from the deadly virus but also caused his body to react in a particularly nasty way when it was exposed to the Bob virus. Trump’s body began to strangle itself on a cellular level. Oxygen and nutrients that would have usually fed cells were instead locked out. Trump’s body began to waste away from the inside out.

After his meeting with Bob, Trump and his military advisers had called off the planned invasion of California until such a time that they could ascertain whether or not there were actually nukes under all of the Trump properties. The joint chiefs and generals were all relieved to have an excuse as a second civil war was the last thing that anyone besides Trump wanted.

During the following weeks as Trump’s health worsened, Jared, now called Trump II by most of those around him stepped up and began to have a much more important role. The Bob virus had all but wiped out all of the coronavirus’ in the USA. As much as it could, life was returning to normal. The hardest hit areas tended to be those like the State of Jefferson where there was little contact with the outside world and people were white, racist, and not very healthy.

Throughout the former United States, millions upon millions of white baby boomers had died. All of the viruses had largely left millennials and younger generations intact. This was the great Boomer Death. Only in California, Cascadia & Hawaii were there any significant numbers of that generation left and those were – can we say – the good boomers.

The CC&H renamed itself “The Bear and Salmon Republic” when Alaska asked to join. There was nothing that the former USA could do to stop it. The Bear and Salmon Republic flag was a bear with one paw on a salmon looking up at a Big Dipper composed of seven stars on a dark blue field. The stars represented Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and two additional stars representing the Native American nations within the country – the consolidated tribes of the mainland and those of Alaska. The State of Jefferson simply disappeared as if it had never existed in the first place. American Samoa, Guam, and the Solomon Islands were absorbed into the state of Hawaii.

Donald John Trump died on New Years Eve just two seconds before the dawn of 2021. He was among the most satisfied humans to have ever lived for he had achieved his dream of creating a kingdom, destroying his enemies, and being the most important person in the history of planet Earth. Even if there were holes in that story he told himself as he lay dying, he refused to see them and no one was going to correct him.

Jared Kushner Trump was sworn into power as Trump II on the 1st of January, 2021.  His first official act was to rename the office of First Lady to Empress. By this act, he came to be known as Emperor Trump II, even though his official title remained ‘President’.

Within hours of his taking power, the states of New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois , Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and all of New England had left the United States and declared themselves the real  ‘United States of America’ with a co-Presidency of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton and Philadelphia as the capital. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands joined the new union as full states almost immediately. The country was immediately recognized by The Bear and Salmon Republic, Canada, Mexico, China, Europe, and the rest of the world except Russia.

Emperor Trump II (previously known as Jared) saw a great opportunity in this and before the first week of 2021 was through declared that the remaining states under his rule would now be known as Trumpland in honor of his dear, departed father-in-law. Most of the states in Trumpland were very happy with this arrangement. African-Americans in ‘Trumpland’ almost immediately began a second ‘great migration’ to the north and the west. They weren’t going to stick around and see what life in Trumpland would be like – they’d already experienced slavery, Jim Crow, and now four years of hell in Trumpland-lite (aka The USA from 2016-2020).

Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado provided one last geo-political surprise when the block formally announced a request to be annexed by Mexico. Mexico wasted no time tearing down Trump’s flimsy border wall and moving in to protect and claim her new states.

There was now a five state North America that no one had seen coming. Like the fall of the Berlin Wall, events had taken a life of their own and change had happened (as real change always does) faster than seemed possible.

As 2021 dawned North America consisted of The Bear and Salmon Republic, Canada, Mexico, The USA, and Trumpland. The balance of power had shifted in the world. China was now the dominant power on the planet followed by the Trumpland, the Bear and Salmon Republic, Mexico, and the the USA. There was no telling what the future held, but it was brighter than it had been at the dawn of 2020.


Gaia looked at the world. She had failed to destroy the chaos pools. Despite the death of Trump and the defeat of the baby boomers, she had failed to destroy capitalism as well. Still, the world was a better place. Mexico was now a world power representing Latinos within the family of nations. The power of the former USA and corporate capitalism had been broken with finance being split between New York and San Francisco. The New USA and the Bear and Salmon Republic were both much more to her liking than the old USA had been and she expected that once the recovery from 2020 began both countries would take a more measured approach with an understanding of the delicate balance the planet required to provide an ecosystem for all who lived on it. 

Trumpland sat like a red blight on the continent but it was surrounded by Mexico and the Caribbean to the south, the New USA and Canada to the north, and the Bear and Salmon Republic to the west. So, it was contained – and it kept the new nations from going at each other’s throats.

Gaia was happy, despite not succeeding at all she had sought. A year of humans being sidelined by the virus had given the planet some much needed recovery time and breathing room. A year of no war, limited pollution, and limited manufacture and busy-ness was a great start. Gaia was happy. She still had work to do, but this was a great beginning. 

The End of Book 1

 

Notes from Real Life

I’ve written this book in lockdown as the world reels from the real life coronavirus. I recognize that hundreds of thousands of people have died from this pandemic even as I write this. I don’t mean any disrespect to those who have or may die or those who have lost loved ones, friends, or colleagues during this tragedy. I realize that my book may be offensive to those who hold different political views than me. That’s the world we live in. Hopefully we will, as a people, recover from this madness and hopefully, we will learn to make better decisions about what kind of future we apes want to live in.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my book.

Christopher Damitio 05/11/2020

 

Update 5/11/2020 – I’ve completed the first draft. The book stands at a little over 50,000 words and the narrative is complete. I’m sure many of you will be offended by this – my only advice is to share it with your other friends who will be offended so you can share the outrage together.

Update: 5/8/2020 – I’ve been writing this novel for just over three weeks now. It’s up to nearly 40,000 words. One of the big challenges has been fitting real world events into a narrative structure that runs on real world but with some alternate

4/16/2020 I’ve decided to write this novel – so I might as well write it in public. I’ve stuck it to the front page of Vagobond.com and we’ll see how it goes. I’ve just set it up so you can type in aVeryGoodNovel.com and it will bring you here. This is a work in progress – as I write this, it’s not even really much of an idea – just something I’ve decided to do. I don’t have any characters, situations, or anything else in mind. What you are seeing is my live draft written while sheltering in place, living in our tiny apartment with my wife and daughter, and generally just going through what everyone is going through right now.

The Most Unmissable Things to Do in New York

New YorkTravel is different today than it has ever been. Things are crazy right now with lockdowns, quarantines, and more. One of the hardest hit places in the world is New York City. We, here at Vagobond love New York, and who doesn’t? Our hearts and thoughts are with New York and we just want you to know – we know that you will get through this. We offer you the following with optimism and hope for the future. We know that we will get through this and when we do…travel will come back – different, for sure, but also the same – things will be slow at first and we imagine that people will be staying a little closer to home, not going abroad as much.

New YorkIf you’re travelling a little bit closer to home, New York is one of the most exciting destinations in North America. It’s a huge city with plenty to do and to see. However, there are some activities and places you simply shouldn’t miss.

During the day, New York has a rich selection of sights to see. The Statue of Liberty is iconic, and you can’t leave the city without seeing it. It’s also worth taking time out to visit Central Park (and if you’re with kids it’s a great chance to let them run off some excess energy), or taking the (free!) Staten Island Ferry for an extra bit of sightseeing. And of course, don’t miss the fantastic shopping opportunities New York has to offer right in the centre of the city, including the chance to see the famous Times Square.

In the evening, the one activity you shouldn’t miss out on is the chance to see a Broadway show. Famous around the world for exciting theater, often featuring film stars over from Hollywood, this is the best place to see the latest hit everyone is talking about. There are 41 large professional theatres on Broadway, meaning the choice of shows is wide-ranging and there is something to suit everyone, whether you are a couple, a group of friends, or a family. If you’re struggling to decide, take a look at the infographic below. It will help narrow down options through a fun quiz, and even suggest some shows you might enjoy based on your personality!


Infographic design by: broadway shows

What if the world never fully recovers from COVID-19?

I’m not trying to scare anyone here – but it’s something that we should think about. What if the world we knew a month ago never comes back? The world of seniors on cruises and millennials doing the digital nomad thing – the world of cheap travel, open borders, and easy access….

The truth is – all of that might be gone forever. We might now be living in a world now where you have to provide a reason for wanting to go somewhere, you have to quarantine for weeks when you get there, and the cost goes up exponentially.

I don’t think we are all going to die (but we might) and I don’t think that our entire civilization is going to crumble into some mash-up of Mad Max and Bladerunner (but it might) however, I do think it is likely that there will never be a return to January of 2020.

At the minimum, the next two months are going to re-arrange supply lines, change the habits of a majority of humans, force the adoption of digital socialization and digital work, and destroy the travel and hospitality industry as we knew it. Honestly, this has already happened.

I think the days of Spring Break and Gap Year Travel and Backpacker Trails are done. We are moving into something else at warp speed – but I’m not sure what form it will take. The days of Baby Boomers selling their house and starting a blog were already done, the days of millennials buying a van and driving around the country are now done, and my Gen X generations days of riding local transport to couch surfing hosts – well, those days were already done too. Hopefully, this will also be the end of the mega-rich doing whatever they want, wherever they want – but judging from this story, that is probably too optimistic.

Here we are folks. Something new is about to be born.

I don’t have a fucking clue what it is. We’ve got a whole lot of pain ahead of us – that’s for certain. If we are among the grieving instead of among the dead – we can figure it all out…I think it’s time we started thinking about the world we want to live in, instead of the world we were born into – because while we still have the limitations of the world we live in – we don’t have the world that came before us dictating how we move forward any longer

Namaste friends. Live long and prosper.