And A Fine Happy Birthday To Ya…

Saturday, 8:44pm
Reno, NV
They’ve all gone to look for America…” (Simon & Garfunkel)


I’m republishing this post from last summer, because it’s just too damn good to allow it to languish in the archives. Enjoy:

I want to wish the country a happy birthday on this fine July 4th.

She’s looking not too shabby for 235 years old.  I’ve been here for a lot of those b-days, too… and here are a couple of random thoughts (before I get drowned out by fireworks):

Random Thought #1: I’m not gonna discuss politics, and I hope you have the presence of mind not to start in on it yourself in the comments.  However… as far apart as we seem today on the multitude of problems faced… I can tell you it has ever been thus.

At our very best, the country has always been like a dysfunctional family forced to co-exist at a perpetual holiday dinner.  My own family shows signs of it occasionally — somebody gets hot about some subject, voices rise, someone gets called an idiot, feelings are hurt…

… and then, minutes later, all is well and we’re laughing about some story from the family archives.  (I had uncles who couldn’t get through a game of gin rummy without throwing cards across the room and giving us kids an excellent lesson in swearing like a sailor before the aunts corralled them back into some semblance of civilized behavior again.  I miss those old farts, and a whiff of beer and cigars can take me back instantly…)

I was doing “Duck and Cover” drills under my desk in grade school, back when we were pretty sure the Commies were about to rain nuclear bombs on us.  My first notice of politics was when Kennedy was shot, and I was stunned to learn that the first congressman I met (at a high school event) was a total brain-dead tool.

We’ll never get along completely as a country.  One man’s sensible solution is another man’s call-to-arms, and it will never change.

I realized this permanent division of political thought early on… and it’s helped (a bit) to alleviate the frustration.  I’m a political junkie, but I stay out of the public cat-fights that so many others love to start and never seem able to finish.

Like that dysfunctional family, you just gotta hope that — at the end of the day — we can put our differences aside and remember that we’re all in this crazy experiment in self-governance together.

Random Thought #2: Probably because I don’t wear my politics on my sleeve, I’ve got friends all over the political map.  Right-wing nutballs, liberal chickenhawks, dudes with loaded guns in every room, feminists on edge, Bible thumpers with an eye on the school board, deniers, accusers and nervous paranoids…

… you name it, I’ve got a pal somewhere walking the walk.

And I never discuss politics with most of them.  And we remain friends by ignoring the occasional outburst, and never, ever trying to change anyone’s mind directly.

It’s my experience that no one’s mind has ever been changed (I suspect in the history of the world) from an argument.  Facts won’t do it, personal experience won’t sway anyone… and you sure as hell won’t accomplish anything by insulting your opponent.

Alexander Hamilton — one of the Founders — was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr over… politics.  Nice work, guys.  Both were hugely influential (Secretary of the Treasury, and Vice freakin’ Prez), and both careers ended instantly — one dead, one done forever as a politico.

I know what it’s like to get so mad… so full of rage and so damned sure that I was on the side of the angels (while the other guy was obviously in league with pure evil)… that violence seemed like a dandy next step.

But long ago, I also learned how easy it is to let that rage go… and let the steam just dissipate, while rational thought returns.

You ain’t gonna change his mind.  And he ain’t gonna change yours.  And guess what?

That’s why this whole experiment in self-governance got rolling in the first place.  There was never gonna be any unanimous decisions, on anything.  So you vote for a representative, who does the job or gets voted out.  Three separate branches will hash it out, legislatively, legally, and (hopefully) leadership-ly.

The one constant I’ve seen over my decades of being addicted to watching politics (best reality show on the planet, BTW)… is that the loudest and meanest voices belong to folks who haven’t got a fucking clue how the government actually runs, or why the machinations of the beast works as it does.

There are no simple answers, just like there’s no simple way to shut up your dumb-ass brother-in-law with all his weird “fix the world” solutions.

Yes, it’s frustrating.  But it has ALWAYS been frustrating.  We had a civil war over it.  Assassinations.  One long, chaotic and maddening intellectual (and too often, physical) brawl that will never end.


Random Thought #3: As infuriating as it can be to try to coexist with so many fellow obviously-bonkers countrymen…

… I have a secret weapon against sinking into a funk about it.

And that secret weapon is nothing more than this realization: It’s a safe bet that — at most — maybe a few of my ancestors ever felt free to speak their minds.  At any point in their lives.

I come from solid working-class stock, as far back as the meager family tree has been tracked.  And I can easily imagine some distant Carlton… wracked with the same anti-authoritarian tendencies I have… spending his entire existence biting his tongue to avoid the gallows.

And wondering, desperately, why his thoughts and beliefs weren’t just as valid… and just as worthy of being aired… as the jerk-wads in charge.

It would blow his mind to know that I can pretty much write about whatever subject I like… and spout whatever nonsense pops into my head… whenever I feel like it.

Blow.  His.  Freakin’.  Mind.

Yeah, sure, there still are lines you can’t cross publicly.  Sedition, yelling “fire” in a theater, provable slander… the First Amendment is still a work in progress.  Not too long ago, they threw comics in jail for saying what you can now hear on regular cable stations 24/7.  And it kinda twists your gut when fanatics get a pass to offend people at funerals.

And what the heck is up with cash now equaling free speech in elections?  I wish more of the budding plutocrats out there would remember that Ben Franklin (among others) mostly distrusted the common dude’s intellect… but figured the vote was still the best of all paths to take for self-governance.

Every Fourth, I take a deep breath and give serious thanks that no one’s boot is on my neck censoring the crap that flows through my brain… as it was for just about everyone else in history.  What we’ve got is imperfect, it’s a legal mess getting messier all the time, and even constant vigilance is no guarantee it won’t be snatched away tomorrow by The Man.

But right now… for at least this 235th birthday… the rickety allowances of free speech is (as far as I’m concerned) still the crowning glory of my homeland.

Last Random Thought: We’re pretty spoiled.

Back when I was dead broke and living out of my car… I still enjoyed privileges and cool shit that past kings would have eaten their own arms for.  Plenty of inexpensive nourishment for body and soul, and even as a edge-walker in the economy, the means to enjoy life on a level unimaginable to my ancestors.

In that beat-to-shit ’81 Celica fast-back — both the ugliest and the most fun car I’ve ever owned — I had shelter, enough comfort to occasionally have sex in, a vast range of travel, free radio, piles of tapes, books, newspapers, a guitar, clothes, food, even my old typewriter and reams of paper.  And well-kept roads under the wheels.

One night, sitting on the hood watching the stars as the ocean boomed on the rocks directly below me… well-fed, guitar in my lap, a snug night’s sleep in the car ahead of me… I remember thinking I wouldn’t trade my life for any of the most privileged existences I knew about in history.

Drafty castles, Huns swarming, a mouthful of rotting teeth, no pizza or cold beer, lucky to make it past 30, a world teeming with ghosts and superstition, no TV or radio or media entertainment of any kind (except for poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio…)…

Screw that.

We live in interesting times.  And we have a catbird seat for monitoring the action (if you’re paying attention) as the country blunders forward.

As annoyed as I am sometimes with the old broad, I’m tipping my hat to her on her birthday and wishing her many, many more.

And my love for her is genuine.

Stay frosty,


P.S. Have at it in the comments… but no political-troll bullshit, all right?  You’ve got ample other places to do that to your heart’s content.

Tell you what.  Just for today… let’s celebrate what we have in common, all right?

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  • John Lloyd says:

    Very nice John.

  • Pete Hudson says:


    You always cover things so well, I often find it hard to comment in a way that actually adds to the conversation.
    So, as a fellow political junkie who also likes to stay out of the public fray (for the most part), I’ll just say – thank you for sharing…
    …and Happy Birthday America!


    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for the note, Pete. One of my favorite subjects, the First Am. And how could you be aware and awake in this nation and NOT be a political junkie? Best entertainment around. Best writers, too — Hunter S. Thompson, PJ O’Rourke, and on. Strange world, scary and funny and wild, all at once…

  • Jen McGahan says:

    I would buy you a beer and a sparkler for this post, John. Thank you. “Blow. His. Freakin’. Mind.” (How spoiled we are!) I’m a lifer now… By the way, I heard you first on the CopyBlogger interview not too long ago. Great stuff.

  • Devin McMahan says:

    Thanks for the reminder just how good we have it here where we can concentrate our stress on mundane bs instead of survival

    We really do have it better than the kings and privileged throughout history could have imagined, even broke. It’s good and bad.

    Kinda makes you wonder what life will look like a few more hops down the road.

    Aloha, Devin

    • John Carlton says:

      I’ve never been disappointed by living through another cycle of upheaval and turmoil in this country. It’s hard on the gut when the saber-rattling and edge-walking gets too intense, but it still forces you to live life in a more aware state. I’m a junkie for that kind of consciousness.

      I can’t even imagine yet what the country will look like in a few years. The tech changes alone are causing massive socio/politico/economic chaos. And we don’t have a clue yet what the side effects of virtual living are.

      I’m just still hoping for a damn flying car soon… as I was promised back in the 1950s from Mechanics Illustrated and DC comics…

      • Jack Taylor says:

        Even though its a rerun this is still a great post. I like your perspective of watchful neutrality , and its refreshing as a frustrated observer of American politics here in Canada (where we certainly have our own crazy politicians) …and i too dream of a flying car and have for many years like you ..heres the best version so far …no jets yet but you never know whats coming down the road next 😉

  • Michael Caruana says:

    As usual, very well written and covers the gamut of what’s necessary to keep us focused on what really matters.

    I also have a policy not to engage in political shitstorms on Facebook or the web (add religion and sports to that too).

    • John Carlton says:

      “Focus” will become, more and more, a super-valuable attribute for anyone wanting to live life large. And while working toward actionable ends, it may pay not to waste too much time bitching and moaning (hard for me to do). I’m also stunned that so many people think everyone else on Facebook shares their cliched politics…

  • JC,

    Brilliant, inspiring, and grin-inducing, as usual. Sums up a lot of my thoughts about this country.

    I have an out-of-the-blue observation: It’s our pervasive inability to get along and agree about shit — except, maybe, when we get attacked as a nation, or when we win a world athletic championship — that is the underlying secret of our greatness as a country.

    Because, what’s really great and unique about America?

    Freedom, such as it is, such as it lasts, sure.

    I’d hate to see it diminish one bit, or go away entirely.

    Still, most people don’t use the freedom they have.

    And so…

    Much more important than the abstract freedom itself is the raw innovation and creativity — business, cultural, social, and absofuckingpositively useless creativity and innovation — that sets us apart in the world.

    Now, to be sure, without the level of freedom we have now, it would not be possible.

    But I don’t think it’s freedom that causes it. I think freedom is the Petri dish that allows the innovation and creativity to take place.

    Not just here in California, where I live, either.

    Remember a few decades ago when Jay Abraham gave the example of the Ketchup King — a guy who invented some doohickey that got the extra ounce and a half of ketchup out of the bottles at a diner?

    Ketchup King made millions on that thing. Was even written up in Time magazine, the way I remember it.

    Yeah, I think that fractious atmosphere that comes out in the open when one group calls another wingnuts (with real hatred), and yet a third group calls a fourth group pinheads (with intense disdain), and so forth…

    … that’s the atmosphere, combined with a few other unique American factors (upward mobility, rugged individualism, constant redefinition of our culture as a whole), that leads to all this innovation.


    Anyway, considering how many people of all stripes these days are down on America and very morose about the future, I really enjoyed your piece.

    As you can see, got me off on a mini-rant of my own.

    Happy Fourth, John!


    • John Carlton says:

      Excellent observation, Garf. The thing that makes us whole is the stuff that tears us apart. Sort of like the most intense love affairs are the ones packed with both good and bad passion. (I’ve experienced my share of these “emotional soup” kind of relationships, where you’re entirely sucked into the vacuum of desire, love/hate, obsession and passion… sounds kinda fun, doesn’t it? It ain’t, after the first few months…)

      I love this country, but not in the same way the haters and shouters insist they love her. It’s complex, and hard to fit into a simple explanation, which is why we require whole rants to explain ourselves. But yeah, I’m friends with people who would recoil if they knew my real political positions, and I’m also friends who disagree with every nuance of political thought I hold who beg to get into arguments with me, cuz that’s their highest form of exhilarating entertainment. I’m happy to both stay mum, and get into it.

      And the fact that we can, and do all of this, is evidence of a greater good to the all the turmoil.

      Thanks for the note, pal.

  • mark grove says:

    I’m not much for patriotism John, and helping others. But I believe in our fellow man, and I too look back at good times with cantankerous relatives who didn’t know any better, but were harmless. And they’ve passed
    on and I still have those great memories of them.

    I’m from Canada but I believe in our society
    and it’s ability to come out ahead and for us
    who have a clue, still, but barely, help others and prosper.

    I can still see my uncle Fred using “Snuff”
    and drinking good old Molson Canadian Beer.
    Then getting pissed that the teamster’s union he’s with, back in the 70’s, are being swindled by the mob.

    have a good weekend.

    Mark Grove

    • John Carlton says:

      Ah, you’ve just reminded me of my own uncles — every one cantankerous and chomping cigars and dearly loving their cans of beer. God, I miss those old fools…

  • James Pader says:

    “”One night, sitting on the hood watching the stars as the ocean boomed on the rocks directly below me… well-fed, guitar in my lap, a snug night’s sleep in the car ahead of me… “”

    My dad says “All the things we take for granted”.

  • Janet says:

    Thanks, John. I’m hoping this will shut me up from my bleeding heart liberal ranting for a while. 😉

  • Carl Picot says:

    Hi John

    You are a poet that writes diligently within the lines of entertaining prose… a fantastic gift with the play of language that turns it in to a beautiful work of art!!

    I love the bit about the dysfunctional family, living like a king in your car and the ‘out of order uncles’ being kept in check by their wives!!

    I’m actually in the UK but do wish all you guys across the pond a very happy birthday … and YES I DO keep out of politics … very sound advice my man 🙂

    I LOVE what you write … you are indeed an inspiration to the masses!!



  • Thanks John,

    Your article puts a period on the ebook about the DREAM Act I just finished publishing.

    I see our world with all it’s pockmarks, red itchy bumps and battle scars, and half of me wants to offer up some salve, or at least some make-up to make it look a little better. But the other half of me knows, it’ll all just wash off in a day or two, so why bother.

    But, as always, I get off my ass and bother away, hoping that for at least one moment, when someone else is reading my small effort to make my world a little better, maybe I can reach them and make their world a little better too. Maybe with enough little efforts, one wound will begin to heal, or at least itch a little less.

    Thanks again. I didn’t know how much I needed someone else to remind me about hope, futility, and the American dream, until I read it today.

  • Mike says:

    As a foreigner I would urge all americans to have a good hard look at the constitution, then take a good hard long look at their politicians,and what they are doing in the name of the american populace.
    I think that would be a somewhat alarming experience….

  • Nancy Boyd says:

    Thank you, John. You know something? This should be required reading by everyone in all forms of governance. It’s a jewel.

    I appreciate your down-to-earth gut-level truths, spoken in a way that can touch everyone. Shows you what good writing is all about 🙂

    You just unraveled the mystery of why the USA is so beloved, even when we have conflicted feelings about who’s “in power.” The secret of it is. . . we all are. And that takes some deep thinking to really get.

  • Richard says:

    Love your writing – makes me feel a little more alive and glad to be that way.

    One of my recent dumb-ass observations is that for an eagle to fly it has to have a right wing and a left wing. And if one of them is stronger than the other, it will tend to fly around in circles….

    • Roxy says:

      When those eagles do alternate circles high in the sky, they form the infinity symbol. Many, many happy returns Old Girl!

  • Fazila Patel says:

    hope is was a great day…
    The aliens didn’t invade
    & didn’t rain like it did in UK 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      How do you know the aliens didn’t invade? Have you met my neighbors? I’m almost positive they’re communicating with the Mother Ship behind the moon…

  • Jeff says:

    After spending 3 years, 10 months, 17 days and as close as I can figure it our an hour and a half in the military, (what is now almost 2/3’s of my life ago),when many were using lost of recreational drugs, I was “high” on just being back in this country. I had the opportunity, and took it, to see some of the history of the world, but when I returned home it was clear that I had not seen any part of the world that came close to having the benefits and opportunities we have in this country. Like the proverbial “they” say: We have the worst form of government, except for all the rest.
    Thanks for bring back some reality.

    • John Carlton says:

      Nam? Anyway, thanks for the perspective. I, too, have seen a bit of the world, and there are definitely places I “could” live in… but my friends and family are here, and so is my heart. I hate what developers are doing to so much of my treasured West Coast, but that drive up Hwy 1 still takes my breath away…

  • Faith Nelson says:

    Thanks for this moving piece. America is, so far, the best experiment in freedom. There are lots of misfires and explosions going on in the lab but great discovery too. I wish more people could read your articles. They are movie shorts for the mind, the types that still allow our imagination some freedom to build and riff on the pictures you are creating with words … a fine democratic process. And yes, politics is the original reality tv show … Jersey Shore, Housewives of the OC and the Soaps will never have more mafiosos, prima donnas and funny folks … well angels too. A few politicians have been hmmm very helpful. Thanks for keeping the words coming. It’s a beautiful thing.

  • Just one thought – as an ex-pat Brit, naturalized US Citizen, can we please note that freedom of speech exists in many other places in the world?

    Perhaps it’s the lack of foreign travel, but many Americans express that nowhere else in the world can you say what you think, at risk of being persecuted, locked-up, or worse. Not true! E.g. in England, just go to Speakers Corner, and listen to the people (but free speech is in many other places too).

    Just sayin’

    • John Carlton says:

      Noted, Alan. I’m certainly not saying the US is unique in this… but we were the first to codify it in our founding documents (as an “up yours” to the royal rule of Britannia, by the way). And my main point is to realize how great I have it, here in my home country, as compared to all my ancestors. And, how easily that privilege of free thought and free speech can be crushed. Again, during my own lifetime, here in the US, free speech has been pilloried, beat up, assaulted and despised by power-mongers and the raging ignoramuses roaming the joint.

      To take it for granted anywhere is to ask for intellectual suicide.

      Thanks for the reminder, Alan.

  • Les says:

    Well said John.
    As much as we all get frustrated about the opinions and actions of those in charge, we have it good.
    Having lived in countries where you had to watch everything you said for fear of spending time in the slammer, I appreciate the freedoms we have every day…

  • Peter Wright says:

    Good stuff John, it is such a pleasure to hear someone say something good about the USA. I am decidedly pro-American in a (to me) surprisingly anti-American, Canada.

    Having seen my own peaceful country on another continent destroyed and suffered some of the nasty stuff you mentioned myself (escaped the gallows though) I wish I could send some of the whiners over there to see how lucky they really are to be living in N.America.

    The rest of the world needs to wake up and realise how much better things are with a powerful and successful USA – with all its warts and dysfunctions – than it would be without.

    • John Carlton says:

      Always good to hear from someone who’s had to walk plundered earth, and who can appreciate what we tend to take for granted. Thanks for the note, Peter.

      Real gallows, you escaped?

  • John Van Epps says:

    Perhaps we’d be more civil if we returned to dueling over insults… Not to mention, it might give us, in a roundabout way, and end to career politicians…

  • Mark says:

    John, brilliant “Ode to Civility.”

    I think it’s clear, that without our codified system of dissension and embracing of outsiders the US would never have risen to the heights it has.

    Over the past decade I’m increasingly alarmed by the subtle erosion of certain “unalienable rights” and wonder the consequences it might have for future innovation and progress.

    We must be vigilant… “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” (Nor prosperity I might add.) ~ Ben Franklin

  • Dave Bross says:

    A sense of balance and knowing when to keep your mouth shut are fine survival skills anywhere…along with knowing when and how to quietly throw a monkey wrench into the gears if necessary.

    The freedom of speech here is an incredible bonus to a great place to live.

    The balance I enjoy watching/reading about is the one between the elites with bad intentions and the rest of us. Some good reading this week on that:

    This months issue of Wired magazine, the article about the group “Anonymous” and the article about hobby drones. The concept of the Do-ocracy in the anonymous article is great. Most reading this probably operate in that mode anyway…in the sense of if it needs doing it just gets done.


    Gone to Croatan
    Origins of North American Dropout Culture
    Ron Sakolsky & James Koehnline

    It’s a series of essays by alternative historians on the real/alternative history of the USA. It’s been carefully hidden, but we have a long history of very active resistance against evil tricks attempted by the rich and powerful. There’s some eye openers in there.

    Rules for Radicals
    Saul Alinsky

    The antidote to Machiavelli.
    The essence of this book is up on Wikipedia. The 12 rules are a classic. You’ll recognize them at work today as you read them.

    And a joke the “king” comment reminded me of…

    They’re redoing the lettering on the L.A. police cars in memory of Rodney’s passing…

    “We treat you like a King”

  • Aaiyn Foster says:

    ‘jerkwads’ ~ now there’s a catchy title * it could the near-complete opposite of Seth Godin’s wprl . . . or is it a jc computer game – then a film ? ! in deed a veritable branding pop quiz –

    . . . and the kings eating their arms off for a – whatever ! flash hilarity – !

    ever entertaining – thank you for your utterly seriously playful riffing – and for your rambling by and around the eddies of possibly rather deep concerns and/or questions.

    bio-individuality . . . i like to imagine that now with a clinical description on the table, that we are nonetheless; allthemore ambling into the sacred anarchy which may just
    be the future. sacred being the operable term. . . .after cleansing the waddyjerks, right ?!

  • Christine says:

    I second Mike’s comment (#12): “John,
    As a foreigner I would urge all americans to have a good hard look at the constitution, then take a good hard long look at their politicians,and what they are doing in the name of the american populace.
    I think that would be a somewhat alarming experience….” I think a lot of the politicans will be exposed, just like the bankers are being exposed, today. We certainly do live in interesting times.

    • John Carlton says:

      Not sure I agree with this, Christine. First, even the early politicians we had were very human, very susceptible to corruption and bad decisions. After George Washington, there hasn’t been a single president who got through his first term without being despised by a decent chunk of the populace, which proves how freakin’ tough it is to referee the competing intellectual camps of our society. You can NOT please everyone. Second: I’ve read the Constitution many times, even studied it back in civics class. It’s not a black-and-white document — it was carefully written with many gray areas to get as much done as possible without ruffling the feathers of needed allies (specifically the slave-holding states), and as much as we crave clarity, it’s really a Rorschach test — you can interpret much of it in varying ways. It’s simply not as crystal clear as some would have you believe. This is why we have lawyers, a judiciary independent from the executive or legislative branch, and a need for a Supreme court to just call the close ones so we have a decision. (This nuance of meaning is consistent with everything else in the universe, by the way.)

      Lastly: There isn’t an alien race here called “politicians”… they’re citizens, human, and voted into a job. We get the government we elect. Most people just never look very closely, and vote on knee-jerk emotions, or let others decide for them (the parties). If they’re corrupt, and hid it well, then vote them out. If they’re corrupt, and obvious about it, and you vote them in anyway, then shame on you. But there’s no way to alter the process, other than the vicious back-and-forth we’ve all seen our entire lives. Recalls, primaries, elections, amendments, executive signing statements, propositions and laws. Not simple.

      Watch “Mr Smith Goes To Washington”. At first glance, it looks like a “good guy vs the bad guys” story, but it’s not. In fact, Mr Smith can be seen as a bully just as easily as a hero, and his anti-progress stand is idealistic, selfish and will hurt people… in exchange for a very vague and ill-defined benefit. And that’s 1939, with the world on the cusp of war, still hurting from the Great Depression.

      Or, you can look at it in an entirely different way. We crave clarity, and we’ll never find it in politics. I’m not excusing the crooks and idiots and corporate douchebags swarming around the seats of power. I just try to look at it through a Reality Check lens… and I’ve yet to see an easy solution to any of the problems we have…

  • Mark says:

    Thought provoking post John!

    The only comfort I find in the madness is I’m a sovereign individual given that right from God…. Everybody does.

    Anybody against this fact can pack sand… I’m comfortable with that.

    Last thought; We have it good and don’t deserve squat. Life is what you make it – don’t let anybody take that right from you.

    Sorry, not trying to be arrogant or out of line, just sayin’.

  • willie says:

    kathy..I’m lost I said though I knew she was still sleeping.
    I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.

  • Ed says:

    Great. A beautiful bout of sanity

    Good on you my friend

    Now if only those goddam people who disagree with me about… could shadda da …. up I’ll be happy 😉

  • Dave Bross says:

    We’ve all come to look for America…

  • Scott says:

    From Australia, John. I’d like to wish America belated birthday wishes. And thank her for the life she has afforded us here. Without her leadership, vision, and fortitude to take enormous risk, we would not have the privileged life we enjoy.

    I am the proud owner of a beat up 86 celica. Paint peeling off, leaks water into the spare wheel tub. Goes like lightning. I’ve lived life in a car. And if my recent major blunder goes the way I really don’t want it to, I may be back there. But this time with my fiance’. Still, two in a rusty sports car in Australia is better than most other existences I can imagine or have seen. I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet.

    Thank you America. And thank you John.

  • Pete Moring says:

    “The one constant I’ve seen over my decades of being addicted to watching politics (best reality show on the planet, BTW)… is that the loudest and meanest voices belong to folks who haven’t got a fucking clue how the government actually runs, or why the machinations of the beast works as it does”.

    Democracy is a sham, an illusion offered to us all as a ‘Treat’ to keep us all placated and ultimately ‘controlled’.

    We all think we have ‘Freedom’ but like our forefathers we still ‘have’ to bite our tongues in order to avoid ‘The Consequences’.

    This blog is ‘great’ and I love reading it for it’s cutting edge ‘random’ approach, but even so, it’s relatively ‘tame’ because you John are in the same age bracket as me and you know that Truth is definitely stranger than fiction and that the ‘Thought Police’ wield the most power these days 🙁

    Just a thought – Pete.

    • John Carlton says:

      All of this is so, Pete, only if you choose to buy into it. Your “Matrix”-like theory is, however, just as unsubstantiated as all the other theories on the “truth” of our situation. I’ve hung out with conspiracy-loving folks, and I know there’s a vast psychological tendency for humans to latch onto otherwise implausible ideas, and find all kinds of supporting “evidence”. It feeds on itself.

      Yes, the corporate world holds more power than it “should” in a perfect world, but there’s the rub: We never have, and never will live in a perfect world. My entire body of work on the blog here is all about the value of living in reality — and reality isn’t pretty, isn’t idealistic, isn’t moored to any particular version of reality. When facts change, I change. And I don’t worry too much about the stuff way outside of my pay grade (like who’s “controlling” us). The key to a good, long life is to live each day fully. That’s all you get, is today, really. You can reminisce about yesterday, and try to predict tomorrow, but today is all that matters.

      For me, being able to live even ONE day with the freedom I actually have… and not sully that day with grief about what “might” be going on behind the scenes that will somehow ruin everything for me tomorrow… is a worthy adventure. Most of my ancestors never had a SINGLE day with the freedom of thought, the pleasures, or the awesomeness of modern life. Not a single fucking day.

      And I’ve lived 5 decades worth of them. I’m not ready to get my ticket punched, not by a long shot. I want more, right up until it’s ridiculous to live any longer. And I fear (in weak moments) that the world is slipping away from the free thinkers — the fascists have always known how to corral the frightened masses to get their hands on power, and they never stop trying. And people are very scared right now — our world may look very, very different even next year, and we prolly won’t like it at all.

      But I can’t control that. I can only tend to my own garden, and hope to maybe influence a few other people to keep an open mind about things. And vote. And hope that some small number of good people last in government and the media, and this shaky, fragile experiment gets another shot at helping us live so well.

      If you’ve got Thought Police in your head, though, I’m not sure there’s anything anyone can do for you. Sorry about that.

      • Pete Moring says:

        Hey John, I think you took the ‘Thought Police’ comment a bit too literally 😉

        My interpretation of the thought police is ‘political correctness’ – ‘health & safety beurocrats’ etc, etc, – The very people who’s ambition in life is to try to stamp on our freedoms of thought, speech and movement.

        I don’t know about in the US, but here in the UK you can’t Fart without the PC or H&S brigade pulling you up about it.

        Why are the Chines and Indian companies all getting the MAJOR road, rail and airport construction contracts all around the world these days?
        Because they have no ‘real’ health & safety laws. Workers survive and get the job done efficiently using their common-sense.

        I’ve worked in the construction industry all of my life up until about five years ago, and I just thank God that I was born at the start of the free era (just after the war) as I feel a real sympathy for the younger generations having to deal with all the restricting ‘crap’ that’s being piled up and flung at them every day by ‘the thought police’ 🙂

        Just a thought John.

        • John Carlton says:

          And I appreciate you taking the time to respond, Pete. Fuck the PC police — we can agree on that. As for the younger gen’s coming up… if they’ll listen, I for one will continue to rant. My generation didn’t have anyone willing to do that in the crowd ahead of us, and maybe there’s a reason they demurred from the job. Not much compensation, lots of grief, unwanted attention from The Man.

          But if we don’t speak the truth to the budding movers and shakers, who will? Life is one long Shakespearean play, with unreliable narrators, bad actors, and a constantly moving plot.

          If there was ONE single thing I wish I’d caught onto sooner in my career, it would be hearing out the old guys more clearly. I ain’t going into that good night with any semblance of gentleness, and I urge my peers to resist, too. But our foes are steadfast, bolstered by a defiant and zombified media. We lapse, and the idiots win.

          Once more unto the breach.

          Truth is a slippery, cantankerous bitch. It takes a real man or woman to buck up and face it, let alone wrangle with it. I’ve had my sleeves rolled up for a very long time now. The fight is never-ending. And we need tag-team volunteers, forever, to replenish the weakened ranks of fools willing to face The Man. You volunteer, you’ll lose. That’s all we can guarantee — you’ll lose.

          But, good god, it’s the only way to go. Spectacular futility. I raise a glass to you, old chum…

  • ken c says:

    And it’s that dose of reality, John, that keeps us all coming back here. You’re an anchor, a beacon of unvarnished “tell it like it is” that adds so much value, in compellingly colorful style no less.

    Politicians face challenging limitations that entrepreneurs largely don’t, in what they can and cannot do; I wish there was easy answers; I’ve met great local politicians and been disappointed with national-level ones; and everything in between. As long as we keep our freedoms that’s the main thing, I suppose.

    “the future’s uncertain and the end is always near” – Roadhouse Blues/Jim Morrison/Doors

    “the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades” – unk.

    The truth is somewhere in between.


    • John Carlton says:

      That’s Timbuktoo, Ken. I still vividly remember the damn video on MTV (back when it was MUSICtelevision, not tinylittlebitofmusicTELEVISION).

      Also: “Sit back and groove on a rainy day”, Hendrix, is a nice little medium spot to be, too.

      Thanks for the note, Ken.

  • Loved it!

    I wish I could say the same about Canada, the country my nation (Quebec) is stuck in.

    * * *

    Thanks John, you made me smile.

  • KJ says:


    This comment is not related to this post.

    There is an excellent article in the latest edition of Playboy (September 2012) titled “Death of a Salesman.”

    The article is about 90’s pitchman Don Lapre and the failure of his company (for some reason this guy reminds me of Ryan Deiss). The article starts on page 114. Lots of lessons to be learned. I thought you might enjoy it.

    Many thanks for all the shared knowledge on your blog.

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