— From EF —

The ocean welcomed us again today, although it was so enthusiastic that we had to have our picnic in the car. It was sunny, yes, but the wind was beyond energetic. Opening the car door to get the picnic hamper out of the back was nearly a demo derby. But it was spectacular sitting near the verge of the high bluff, watching the white stallions galloping in, side by side in their breathtaking rows. Wow, the muscle.

It wasn’t so nice for the brown gull sitting on the parking lot, a hopeful distance from our meal. Initially, she was back to the wind. It made all her feathers go the wrong way and nearly tipped her forward onto her beak. She tried sideways and performed an astonishing soft-shoe routine in order to stay upright. Finally, she faced it head-on and had a fighting chance.

Seagulls have nice sleek bodies, with an admirable compactness until you get to the legs.   It’s sort of like balancing a baked potato on toothpicks, not really elegant. She did her best but still looked silly and wobbly.

Finally she tried another tack and sat down flat on the tarmac. That initially looked like a wise choice, but the aerodynamics of the fierce wind were stiffer at the surface level than six inches further up, and she nearly got rolled like a nerf football.

Eventually she decided that I wasn’t going to throw her a morsel out the window (it would have been in Napa County in five minutes) and figured that this location was a loser. Off she went, slipping and sliding and tacking her way down toward the beach.

What could she do? She’s in a strenuous situation, buffeted by forces she can neither control nor comprehend. She has limited options, none of which seem to provide any better security, but there is one overarching mandate — survival.   So she flounders like a clown and surrenders all her dignity.

If I were in a refugee camp, would I be any different?

— From the Fool —

It’s good to know guys who have money. It’s a different perspective. How people think about money if they’ve got some is different than what I’m used to. I think how to get some, they think how to keep it.

My friend Ronald talks about “those less fortunate than me.” Not that he gives handouts. He’s glad that he’s more fortunate and wants to keep it that way. He just likes the phrase. “Not everybody has what it takes to be a billionaire,” he says. What does it take, I ask. ‘”Money.”

But he saw this thing on the Web: the Crash is coming. They were selling a book about it, how pretty soon he might be less fortunate than those less fortunate than him. He thought about buying the book but it was twenty bucks. “There’s only so many ideas,” he said, “so why not google them for free?”

Now he’s trying to figure where to keep his money safe. Stocks and bonds are out, and there won’t be any banks and businesses, he says. Sticking it under the bed, it depreciates, plus he’s got mice.

He thought of buying up a pile of stuff and then selling it off, like blue jeans maybe. “But that depends on your average Joe having money,” he worries, “and what if Joe’s ass is in a sling?” Even gold or diamonds or Andy Warhol soup cans, the value is all in your head, and what if everyone’s head is up the one-way street?

What he finally came up with: plutonium. Course he’d only sell it to governments or people with bucks enough to have a sense of responsibility. “The Feds are stuck with storage, so they’ll sell it cheap.” And he thought it’d be pretty safe from burglars or mice: “They’ll die like flies.” To keep it, he has a spare room he was going to rent out to Airbnb. “No way the market will tank,” he says. “There’s always a need to blow people up.”

He’s got eight hundred bucks free and clear. He’s not sure if that puts him up in the one-percent. He always hated math.

— From CB —

Inclusion. It drives us, even drives us away from ourselves.

We’re tribal animals. No matter how individualistic, we yearn for connection. Even in utter isolation, we imagine ourselves part of a tribe of isolated artists, saints, or cranks who, though they’ll never see one another and wouldn’t know what to say if they did, are joined like siblings on the astral plane.

Now we see a line of angry young men, stretching into the distance, set to take up a gun or a bomb to make their mark, to join the corpse line of their brothers who’ve already blazed the trail. Ascribe it to unemployment, racial exclusion, hate speech, religious fanaticism, or video, but at the heart of all is the need to find tribe.

If I’m hired, I belong. If I marry into family, I belong. If I find a secure place to pitch my tent and friends to hang out with, if I’m on the team or in the Marine squad doing my part, I belong. If I’m part of a gang fighting for drug turf or for the words of the Prophet, even if my body is blown to bits, I’m part of a tribe, I exist, they’ll remember me. If I replicate the latest mass shooting, yes, I’m alone, but I belong to that archetypal tribe of loners who are branded into the collective nightmare.

The tribalism of others threatens mine. A circle of women finding common ground excludes me. A rally of blacks or browns, celebrating their unity, condemning my so-called privilege when I’m working part-time at Walmart, sends me into fits. Clusters of fellow students laughing — they’re laughing at me, or they would be if they knew me. Politicians doling out nostrums, couples the other side of the restaurant windows, the cock-teasers on TV, the ad men driving us batshit with longing — they don’t have a clue who I am and they don’t want to know.

If I’m young, I have the energy to get a gun or a bomb and do the deed that makes me part of the team. Blown apart, but part of something real. If I’m older, I can only shrink and wither and die, making the experts wonder why, so better do it now.

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Speaking as myself. There was a time in my childhood when, if I’d had the power I would have beaten up any kid weaker than me at the slightest provocation. I was pretty bad at fighting, and I never found the right kid. But I can intuit what impels the cop to give thirty taser jolts to a helpless, handcuffed guy. It’s not intrinsically entertaining, but at that moment it fills a deep, deep need. To know that you exist. That you’re acknowledged — at least by this pitiful, enraging wretch — to exist. That some day others will see it too, and welcome you into the fold.

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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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