Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sherlock Holmes In Iowa & Other Stories

Sherlock Holmes In Iowa

He entered the train compartment politely enough, nodding to the bespectacled, black-haired, hatless fellow in tweed sitting to one side. The fellow was staring directly ahead alertly, but inert to all surroundings. His nod got no response. He sat down on the other side of the compartment and checked his pocket watch. He pulled the New York Times out of the soft leather case on his lap.

The fellow continued to stare directly across the gap between them without seeming to look at him at all.

He held up the newspaper between them and tried to read.

After some minutes, he lowered it and said, “Are you all right?”

There was no response.

He raised the newspaper again.

The train rumbled and swayed across open plain fat with corn.

Wind rippled in waves through high green. Between glances at the scenery and pretending to read his newspaper, he began to grasp the immensity of the country and the monoculture that now dominated and supported it.

He lowered the newspaper once again.

“Pardon me for disturbing you. Are you meditating”, he said, “Or is it a kind of self-mesmerism?”

No answer. He tried to stare back for a bit, unsuccessfully, then raised again the newspaper and went back now and then to glancing at fields flying by.

The train seemed to be somewhere on the far side of Indiana, Illinois—and Iowa was it?

The first referred to Indians—that was obvious. The next two were ultimately derived from the names of tribes.

He recalled the quip of the president of Radcliffe who greeted one of her new charges as “from Ohio.” “No, M'am”, said the fresh new student, “I am from Iowa!”. “Here, my dear.” said the President, “It is pronounced Ohio.”

Periodically they passed through small towns with  rails running right down the middle of the asphalt main street.

Whistles blew but there were no stops. It was an express.

Lowering the newspaper, he said, “Pardon me again, but have you any idea where we are exactly?”

In response the same stare, far from vacant but unmoving as stone and with not the slightest reaction.

Well, he thought, if the fellow wishes to be treated as an immovable object, so be it. At least he looks alive, if with an immobility I have never seen before at such close quarters—or have I?

Impassive, wooden indigenes still as the replicas in front of tobacco shops? But the fellow did not look at all an aboriginal.

Suddenly it struck: of course, he is a mime! He almost said it aloud.

He had seen such creatures on street corners and at the occasional state fair. But where, he asked himself, is his make-up and begging bowl?

“I see you are a mime,” he said finally, again lowering the Times, “and quite a good one at that.”

Through the spectacles black eyes flashed.

“Not a mime, then,” he said, “but you hear me and understand English, obviously. Your eyes flashed.”

He raised the newspaper and commenced actually to read it. The scenery resumed its monotonous drone.

The man across from him remained wondrously impassive. He read an article treacly with a tone of charitableness and good works about some new program of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Temple On Planet XXIII

The temple was a labyrinth of closed doors through which ghosts danced brandishing keys. Suddenly during a double lunar eclipse all the walls disappeared.

The ghosts didn't seem to notice. They jangled their keys. They evanesced through doors in free-standing frames.

Their conclaves continued  behind closed doors but were at least as mysterious as they were before. Formerly nothing was known of what transpired. After the walls disappeared, much was heard and seen but was uninterpretable.

The conclaves appeared to commoners as masses of jellyfish swinging and gurgling rhythmically like a chorus of thickly tressed pendulums bathed in chemically generated light.

Raging bulls emerged periodically through the doors. On the inside they too looked like jellyfish. As they moved through to the outside surface of the door they became black-furred and monstrously horned, snorting and bellowing, hoofs clattering on the stone floors.

Or were they buffalos?

The bravest of the brave and the drunkest of the drunk ran ahead of them in the streets to the slaughter ground.

In retrospect the strangest aspect of the disappearance of the walls was that no one inside or out, earthly or ghostly, bothered to look up to see if roof and ceiling had disappeared as well.

The Blank Sea

It was Commander Ustinov of the 77th Lunar Mounted Driller Gorillas.

“Ustinov here, Sir, on the second moon of Erewhon--we just broke through the frozen methane shell.”

He could hear the screeching and whining of quantum drills in the background.

“And?” he said.

“Just as you predicted, Sir”, said Ustinov, “an absolutely blank sea of pure liquid H20—transparent, odorless, colorless, tasteless--kind of like window glass or an empty aquarium.”

The Host

The building was two storeys. Most of the employees on the first floor were Roman Catholic. The second floor was manned mainly by Protestants. One exception was the Chief Executive Officer and founder, who described himself as a “cafeteria Catholic.” The other was a Puerto Rican woman. She was Roman Catholic and director of personnel.

The vault was some distance behind the tellers' counter on the first floor.

When first-floorers crossed in front of the vault they invariably went momentarily breathless and near imperceptibly bowed their heads to some unseen third eye.

No one was ever seen actually to kneel and cross themselves.

It was a bank after all.

Operatic ritual would surely have led to dismissal, especially if there were customers present. 

Second floorers, whenever they came downstairs, were more expansive, managerially swelling chests behind vests and puffing on imaginary cigars.

The cigars were imaginary because the municipality had recently gone smoke-free.

The expansiveness included the director of personnel, who often wore white shirt and black bow tie under a vest, sometimes with a black skirt, sometimes as part of a pants suit.

At an after hours office celebration when the bank first opened she had actually sported and smoked a Havana brought across the border from Canada.

That was before the new ordinance.

There was also no alcohol allowed on the premises.

The CEO had put a wrought iron table and four chairs on the roof of first floor, where the rear of the first floor jutted out perhaps ten feet farther toward the back parking lot than the second floor. The patio was accessed by a door on the second floor. Every morning a large cooler filled with ice and Mexican beer was set out by the table. Sometimes visiting investors, important customers or Board members disappeared with the CEO to the patio.

Everything else in all corners of the building, inside and out, was recorded by security cameras.

E. A. Costa December 21, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua.
 All of the above copright by E. A, Costa. Not to be published elsewhere without permission of the author, except for the purpose of limited quotation or reviews, and for non-commercial educational purposes. Digital copies allowed for private use on personal computers only. Not to be republished in any form on the internet, with links allowed only directly to the site and posting. Individual stories quoted to be accompanied by author's name and copyright as well as their individual titles.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Deconstructing Willie Sutton


It is time to start taking the near absolute perversity of both Protestantism and Capitalism more seriously as a matter of language, which is also a matter of linguistic and psychological domination.

They manifest themselves in the United States in seemingly mindless anti-slogans like, "I never got a job from a poor person."

This has been repeated so often it becomes part of the Calvinist Capitalist landscape, and in effect constructs that landscape psychologically.

No doubt the vast majority who voice it are merely repeating what they see as an economic insight--to wit, that "jobs" mean money and obtaining money means working for those who have money, to wit, rich people.

As a matter of grammar and semantic reference it is not far from Willie Sutton's legended answer to a reporter who asked him why he robbed banks. According to the reporter Sutton answered with the famous and obvious, "Because that is where the money is".

"Why work for rich people", the radical Leftist asks. "Because that's where the money is" answers the petit bourgeois eager to have a "job" that pays money, or rather answers the Capitalist anti-sloganeer who crafts or disseminates this response for him.

The putative obviousness of Sutton's answer later became a diagnostic rule of thumb in symptomatology, to the effect that in diagnosis one first investigates the more likely causes of a collection of symptoms, and, until those have been ruled out, leaves the least likely to hang fire.

Using Sutton's law, then, is to discount the unlikely until the likely has been disproved. This advances the hypothesis, therefore, that in any particular case the likely and unlikely can be known, and urges diagnostic action on the distinction as a matter of common sense.

A patient appears with all the symptoms of morning sickness. It is a good bet, reasons the doctor, that if the patient is female and fertile, she may be pregnant.

If the patient is male or female but prepubescent or octogenarian, all such bets are off.

In that case the modern physician may very likely consider "sympathetic pregnancy" the most likely and call in the psychiatrists as the first application of Sutton's law.

The same Sutton's law is also now a rule of thumb in the diagnosis of problems in computer hardware and software.

If the computer, for example, has lost power, it is best to see if it is plugged in before investigating other possibilities.

Another application is Activity-based Costing--”ABC”--in Management accounting, where Sutton's Law provides that ABC be applied "where the money is", that is, where the highest costs are incurred, thus where the potential for the highest savings are.

In most businesses the highest costs are invariably labor and wages.

Application of Sutton's law, therefore, often results in huge layoffs and firings as the first response to any attempt to cut losses or invigorate the profit margin.

This only shows how rustic and informal is modern diagnostic reasoning and investigation.

In practice, actually, the physician, who in the United States is also mainly a businessman and works for personal profit, will apply in his diagnosis any one of a score of automated technical tests, whatever the symptoms may be.

Another likelihood is that, again motivated by profit, whatever the diagnosis turns out to be, and curable or not, it will be treated, usually by drugs or surgery or some other far from inexpensive prescription.

Noting this, by the way, is just another application of Sutton's law, founded on the principle that the best diagnosis of physicians in the United States is the profit motive.

In the US in particular, the only industrial nation without national health care, the businesses which are physicians and hospitals have the luxury of another perversely profitable rule, that is, to be paid for treatment not cure.

If, say, plumbers enjoyed the benefit of the same rule, when they treated your toilet, they would be paid their high hourly wage whether or not the “treatment” worked.

The real irony is that Sutton's law is a complete failure when applied to what Willie Sutton said or did not say in response to the reporter, a certain Mitch Ohnstad, who reported his repartee.

In fact, Sutton himself denied the story, though his denial is at least as interesting as the legendary response:

"The irony of using a bank robber's maxim as an instrument for teaching medicine is compounded, I will now confess, by the fact that I never said it. The credit belongs to some enterprising reporter who apparently felt a need to fill out his copy...

If anybody had asked me, I'd have probably said it. That's what almost anybody would say...it couldn't be more obvious.

Or could it?

Why did I rob banks? Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life. I enjoyed everything about it so much that one or two weeks later I'd be out looking for the next job. But to me the money was the chips, that's all.

Go where the money is...and go there often."

Notice Sutton's use of "job" to describe robbing banks.

In American English, when a member of the criminal class, says he is “on a job”, it usually means he is robbing or killing someone or something.

Damon Runyon made a whole new genre and a career using such a vocabulary, some of which he invented out of whole cloth, and which criminals, taking fiction for fact, imitated.

Notice also Sutton's recognition of the irony that a law named after him is not founded on what he said, but on what a reporter wrote, and at best what he might have said had he been asked the question.

This confirms beyond much doubt that the original question, "Why do you rob banks", was never actually asked of Willie Sutton but was invented and answered for him in absentia, so to speak.

It is scarcely encouraging, either in a rule of diagnostics and symptomatology or in a historical investigation of a now often quoted dictum, that Sutton himself allows that it is what he would have said had he been asked.

But this is just the surface.

Stylistically the reporter who invented the story seems to have been playing on the ambiguity of the question.

Ohnstad prefaced the question so: “Willie, tell me something ... I'm looking for a motive, you understand. Why do you rob banks?”

The ordinary understanding would be, "Willie, whatever came over you that you became a bank robber and robbed banks?"

Instead, the question is answered with a quip to the effect that Willie Sutton was after money by whatever means necessary and therefore found banks the most promising depository for what he was after, sometimes with a pistol, sometimes with a Thompson submachine gun.

Was Ohnstad a fan of Damon Runyon?

Sutton later claimed that in all his robberies his weapons were unloaded, "so no one would get hurt."

Why in the world anyone would believe this testimony, unsupported by other evidence, is a mystery of journalism and naivety only Americans can explain.

In the end, Sutton's law is just another way of saying, in answer to question X or question Y, "Stupid question--it is patent on its face”.

But to American culture, such as it is, P. T. Barnum is mother's milk.

Is the proposition about jobs and working for the rich, as phrased, an empirical observation by an "individual" (the "I")?

Or is it not rather a finely crafted act of reactionary anti-sloganeering designed to keep both the poor, and more importantly, also the petit bourgeois, working for the rich?

Likely it was not a chorus and only one person said it originally, so the act of repetition by others suggests it is the latter.

Except for Guy Debord and the Situationists, who rightly made a philosophic and poetic exercise out of responses in graffiti, the Left has ignored the Capitalist and bourgeois use of just such anti-slogans, or, when confronting the person who uses them as an insight into universal reality, often goes off on some long-winded dialectical tangent, valid enough perhaps theoretically, but lost on the likes of those mesmerized by the deceptive logic of an “I” that “never got a job from a poor person.”

What they do not do is bother to deconstruct, not for the speaker or his audience, but first of all for themselves, the anti-slogan and how it works semantically and psychologically.

“Anti-slogan” is defined as the antithesis of a slogan, not in the sense that it is a response to another slogan, but in the sense that, whereas a slogan is a battle cry or call to action, an anti-slogan is a call to inaction and futility.

It has not been noticed hitherto how much Capitalist propaganda is psychological warfare and also of the nature of anti-slogans, directed, obviously, at keeping workers and poor and other malcontents inactive and passive, and resigned inevitably to “working for the rich.”

Actually, this particular anti-slogan, which one saw for the hundredth time recently, appeared in a comment on an article about how to stimulate an economic recovery in the crypto-Neo-Conservative newspaper that now goes by the name of the Christian Science Monitor

Note that the form--the statement of an individual "I" about his or her supposed "experience"--is unanswerable except by concluding that the statement about individual experience is false.

This might work factually as an answer in a biographical context: "What you say is untrue," the biographer answers, "five years ago you worked for a group of poor people, and cheated them out of their eye teeth."

But, as said above, repetition by many different voices shows that a biographical critique based on the statement of an individual about his own experience is misdirected.

Did Willie Sutton rob banks because he enjoyed it, and the money was just “chips" in a game, or did he rob banks because that is where the money is?

The value of the statement about jobs and the poor to the Capitalist anti-sloganeer is that it is repeated by many different people as a supposedly plain and incontrovertible proposition about their own individual experience.

Actually Debord's "Ne travaillez jamais"--"Never work" happens to be a brilliantly crafted answer. Why? Because in working as commoditized labor, one actively contributes to one's own economic exploitation.

Interestingly enough, however, another of Debord's slogans, "Boredom is always reactionary" also jibes nicely with Sutton's revisionist implication of excitement and enjoyment, and also with Abbie Hoffman's "Revolution for the hell of it".

But perhaps another, distinctively American and radical response is possible.

"I never got a job from a poor person," the born Capitalist factotum says.

"That's what Willie Sutton didn't say about banks" answers the American radical.

But this is still skimming the surface.


In fact all "jobs" in the Capitalist system are founded on exploiting the poor, including "workers", who have no other possibility of earning a livelihood in the system except to sell themselves and their time in wage slavery to the "rich".

Or do they?

That puts into a different context, not only Willie Sutton, but Josef Stalin, who began his career robbing banks for the Communist Party.

Is there anyone with any insight at all who will deny that Stalin was patently not after the money obtained for himself or his gang, and that he enjoyed what he did enormously?

Moreover, Stalin did not pretend he robbed banks with unloaded firearms or that nobody got hurt.

So enthusiastic was Stalin about robbing banks as a way to raise funds for the Party that he continued to do so for some time after the Party ordered him to stop.

This was a man, plainly, who loved his job.

It is only a short step from that to Che Guevara in the Cuban mountains.

In fact, rich people have money exactly because the "jobs" they offer not only exploit the poor and jobless, but systematically keep them poor, with or without a job.

That is all already obvious in Ricardo, though unlike Marx, Ricardo was part of the system and merely an honest witness of how he and the other Capitalists operated and why.

This is no doubt why reading David Ricardo is not a popular past time among the Capitalist economists nor even the supposedly antiwar but hyper-Capitalist “free market” Libertarians.

The simple fact of the matter is that Ricardo, too wed to truth, gave away the game.

One of the cliches in various American newspaper articles and books about Willie Sutton is that he robbed American banks of around two million dollars and spent thirty years in prison.

Adjusting for inflation, the amount Wille Sutton robbed from banks may range beyond $200,000, 000 in currently valued USD.

It is not now easy to derive the original source of the play on “spent”. The more interesting question, always left unnoted, is what he spent the money he made on, not how he spent thirty years in prison.

Another interesting aside is that Willie Sutton twice escaped from prison, and was sent up for the last time because he was spotted on the New York subway by an amateur detective whose report to the police led to Sutton's capture.

Arnold Schuster, the amateur detective, was shot down outside his home on March 9, 1952.

The story goes that Albert Anastasia, enforcer for the New York Gambino family, saw Schuster's appearance on a television show celebrating Sutton's arrest, interpreted “amateur detective” as “squealer” or “stool pigeon”-- that is as police informant--and ordered the amateur detective whacked.

The popular portrayal of Willie Sutton in the American media of the time leaned toward the picture of a twinkly-eyed, polite, non-violent criminal, who just happened to like to rob banks.

The Outfit connection is usually portrayed as coincidental, to the effect that the likes of Lucky Luciano and Al Capone also found Sutton fascinating and likeable and had him protected during his earlier stints in prison.

This is very likely another media legend. Sutton, as these matters usually transpire, probably paid the Outfit a doing business fee in their territories, and this was perhaps also the source of his being protected and even avenged.

Schuster was a distant cousin of the Schuster in Simon & Schuster, the New York publishers.

He was shot at close range once in the groin and once in each eye.

Frederick J. “The Angel” Tenuto, was eventually identified as the likely killer. He had escaped with Sutton in one of his prison breaks and was also, like Sutton, on the FBI's “Ten Most Wanted List.”

Joseph Valachi, the government informer, later testified that Anastasia had ordered Tenuto to kill Schuster and later had Tenuto killed to erase any trail to the Outfit.

Some speculate that the Schuster murder may also have led to Anastasia's assassination in 1957 because of the bad publicity it generated, establishing to other members of the Outfit that Anastasia was out of control.

The Outfit's rule here is simply stated, “Killing civilians is bad for business.”

It was apparently Schuster's appearance on the television show, “I've Got A Secret”, that led to Anastasia's ire.

Schuster's estate eventually won a landmark ruling in Schuster versus the City of New York (1958), allowing them to sue the city for failing to protect a citizen who had furnished the police with information in a dangerous case. The city eventually settled for damages of $41,000.

Fingered by Schuster, Sutton was sentenced to thirty years for one bank robbery, with additional sentences for others. In the end he served only seventeen years and through the efforts of a New York lawyer, who got Sutton's sentences reduced, was released from New York's Attica Prison on December 24, 1969.

Public contrition, religious and economic, also as American as P.T. Barnum, was an integral part of the release.

Suffering from emphysema, Sutton broke down in tears and told the press that all he wanted to do was serve as an example to the youth:

"Any kid who wants a life of crime can look at me and see what I have. I'm the best living example of the fact that crime doesn't pay."

To reinforce the point it was noted Sutton now had only a few hundred dollars from his wages in prison.

With contrition came also an ode to the Protestant work ethic, even in a life of crime, and all the more impressive as coming from an American Irishman and professional:

"Times have really changed. In my time, you had to get up at 5 AM or 6 AM on cold winter mornings and case a job for a month or two. People don't seem to want to work hard for anything anymore....These young kids, they don't believe in hard work. All these kids want to do is run into a bank, grab the money and run out."

So were Capitalism and banks, the work ethic, and the law, along with the mercy of the American justice system, validated by the wheezing pale criminal, without the courage of his convictions, and on Christmas Eve to boot.

Is there such a thing as chronological irony?

On December 3, 1969 the Black Panther Fred Hampton was executed sleeping in his bed and drugged by an undercover police agent in a predawn raid by the Cook County State's Attorney and the FBI. In the raid, another Black Panther, Mark Clark, was also killed.

"We expected about twenty Panthers to be in the apartment when the police raided the place,” noted FBI Special Agent Gregg York, and without even 'but' continued: “Only two of those black nigger fuckers were killed, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark."

Hampton's crime?

To this day, as far as ever has been established in a court of law, mainly being Marxist-Leninist, a gifted and effective organizer, and worst crime of all in those years, being black into the bargain. Wounded but sill alive in his drugged sleep, Hampton was polished off still in bed with two shots point blank to the head.

Though Hampton's and Clark's families finally won a civil suit in 1990 and damages of more than a million dollars, and though later testimony all but established a premeditated act of murder, neither Hanrahan nor any of the police or FBI were ever prosecuted.

Hanrahan, a graduate of Harvard Law School, lost the endorsement of the Cook County Democrats in his run for reelection as Cook County State's Attorney, won the primary anyhow, but was defeated in the election.

He ran unsuccessfully twice for mayor of Chicago in later years, and also failed in a run for Alderman.

He died at 88 in June, 2009 still practicing law.

Is there such a thing as economic irony?

Willie Sutton lived another eleven years after his final release from prison.

In October, 1970—less than a year after his release from prison--Sutton appeared in his first television commercial, hawking a Connecticut bank's new Master Charge credit card.

“They call it the Face Card,” says Sutton showing the card with his photo on it, “Now when I say I'm Willie Sutton, people believe me.”

The commercial fades out to an announcer saying, “Tell them Willie Sutton sent you.”

The commercial was produced by a New Haven advertising agency. Sutton was paid $1500 dollars for a few minutes work.

Said Sutton about the commercial, “It's an unusual relationship, all right, but it's a very pleasant way to make money.”


By far the most revolutionary work, in the West at least, about the young bank robber Josef Stalin, is that of the Britisher Simon Sebag Montefiore under the title, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar.

Montefiore, who is the first biographer to have full access to the old Soviet archives and even Stalin's personal notes, concludes, ''It is no longer enough to describe him as an 'enigma.' . . . The man inside was a superintelligent and gifted politician for whom his own historic role was paramount, a nervy intellectual who manically read history and literature.”

One of the more interesting items in the book is that Stalin often told the same hunting story about himself when he was exiled in Siberia.

The story goes something as follows.

Out hunting one day, Stalin ran across birds in a tree. He opened fire and killed a number of birds but ran out of ammunition. He then walked back to the village, got more rounds, and returned to the tree, where the remainder of the birds were still perching.

He finished them off.

After telling the story, he would laugh uproariously, eyes twinkling, especially when drinking or pretending to drink (as he often did).

Many of his inner circle, including Nikita Khrushchev, listened politely to the same story over and over, and often discussed it among themselves, all agreeing that it was fantastic and could not be believed.

Was it a Georgian folk tale? Was Stalin testing them or trying to tell them something?

It is not known how much Stalin raked in during his bank robbing days. Some have even expressed doubt whether he was ever personally involved in the action.

One story has it that sometime in June, 1907, after the Party had ordered bank robberies to cease, Stalin was present nearby with a Mauser pistol when his outfit expropriated a shipment of close to a million rubles on the way to the State Bank in Tiflis.

Scores were killed and scores more were wounded, including the Cossacks and police guarding the shipment.

The leader on the scene was Kamo, but it is universally agreed that Koba ('the pock-marked one”) was the organizer and director.

Stalin never denied his career as a bank robber for the Bolsheviks, and stopped only when personally confronted by Lenin.

It is known beyond any shadow of a doubt that Stalin was never fingered by an amateur detective, was, like Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, never on the FBI's “Ten Most Wanted List”, and also never did a lucrative television commercial advertising a credit card for a bank.

Did he later in life aspire to be an example to the youth?

How did Willie Sutton spend the millions he robbed from banks? The question keeps recurring.

The answer is simple as ABC: from all available evidence he spent it just like a banker or a Finance Capitalist, that is, selfishly and even worse, unimaginatively.

He was, for example, when out of the joint at least, and like most bankers and Finance Capitalists, and also like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Albert Anastasia (as well as Arnold Schuster, who was a clothing salesman when he was not an amateur detective)--a dapper and expensive dresser.

His taste in firearms, including the Thompson submachine gun, was also an expensive addition, loaded or unloaded, and especially on the black market.

Did he not earn his wages then, in his various enterprises, from robbing their banks to doing television commercials for them, in the much the same fashion, if a bit more openly and blatantly?

At this pass occurs an intriguing question no reporter ever asked or invented about Willie Sutton.

It might be phrased as follows, “Willie, how and the world did you, a bank robber, become a media celebrity and hireling of the very bankers you robbed from?”

The answer is also as plain as ABC. Because Willie Sutton perversely but, still very effectively, validated money obtained by whatever means necessary by a self-interested, autonomous individual outside the law as the very essence of how Capitalism operates psychologically not only on the rich and not so rich, but also on the poor.

About the only distinction is that Sutton did indeed never get a job from poor people.

And what of Fred Hampton and Josef Stalin?

(copyright E. A. Costa, 2010)

E. A.Costa 25 September, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua

At The SuperSonic

When he left the hotel the manager marked a large brown envelope with his name. Whatever mail still came to the hotel would be put in the envelope. He could pick it up when he stopped by.

A few weeks later he stopped by the hotel. The young desk clerk  with whom he had had some long conversations, especially on Sunday nights, looked in the envelope. There was no mail.

“Got a job yet?” the clerk asked.

“No,” he said, “but looking high or low. It’s going to take time. Have my resume out. Have been applying for temporary work anywhere and everywhere. Did Steak and Shake call yet?”

The clerk laughed. He was born and raised in Chicago. His father was Mexican. His mother was Lithuanian. They had never married. They had had four children together while they lived apart in separate houses. The clerk was the oldest. He had moved to the suburbs with his mother. He saw his father when he went to Chicago.  He was in his last year of High School. He was thinking of going to Junior College. He had diabetes.

“Hey, “ the clerk said, “a friend of mine told me the SuperSonic Station on the corner of Aurora and 59 is hiring. They pay $12.50 an hour.”

“$12.50 an hour? You don’t mean Super Marvin’s or whatever it is called.” he said.

“No, “ said the clerk, “It’s the big new one kitty-corner across the intersection. I  was thinking of applying there myself. This job is going nowhere. Christian wouldn’t let me off to go to my doctor last week. $12.50 an hour!”

Christian was the manager. He was from India. He dressed very British.

The clerk got $8.00 an hour, nights and weekends.

He began to walk out.

“What are you going to do about the SuperSonic Station job? $12.50 an hour,” the clerk said.

“I’ll check it out,” he said.

The SuperSonic Station was about two miles down the road. It was on at least an acre of land on the corner diagonally across from Marvin’s SuperStop, a much smaller and older station that was at least five years old.

The SuperSonic Station had twelve gas pumps outside, all self-service, under a large reinforced steel canopy.  There was a separate structure for car washes in the rear. Another glassy garage-like structure to the right bore a large sign: DETAILING.

He did not know what detailing was.

The main building was airy, spacious and large. Inside there was a cashier counter in the round in the center of the floor.

Background Rock music played.

 Shelves lined the far walls to the left.  Freezers and coolers lined the walls to the right.

There was a separate coffee island with clearly labeled varieties brewing in urns.

Nearby by was a donut and pastry station. There were bins of music CD’s and videos,  racks of apparel and magazines, toys, games.

A woman in a striped company shirt stood at the register inside the cashier island.

About six feet to the right of  her stood a pale unsmiling middle-aged man in glasses wearing a company jacket.

The man was holding a clipboard. He eyed the shelves to the front and looked at the clipboard.

He went up to the counter and stood in front of the man in the jacket. The man ignored him. He stood for three minutes. The man moved toward the woman at the cash register.

He followed the man to the left and stood in front of him on the opposite side of the counter.

The man continued to avoid eye contact.

Customers go to the cash register, he thought to himself.

“Excuse me,” he said to the man in the red jacket.

The man looked up silently and said nothing.

“Someone told me that you are hiring and that you pay $12.50 an hour.”

“You have to fill out an application,” the man said.

“Yes,” he said.

“But before you fill out an application,” the man said, “you have to watch a video presentation in the back.”

“Yes,” he said.

“Follow me.” He handed him two sheets of paper.

He followed the man down a long corridor to the left. At the end of the corridor was a television monitor on the wall about seven feet off the ground.  He looked up at the monitor. The man reached up and pushed a button, then returned to the front.

Music played and a voice off screen said, “Do you have what it takes to join the SuperSonic Station Team?”

“SuperSonic Station workers are Team Players!” said the voice while the camera panned a station on the screen nearly identical to the one he was in.

Cut to a smiling SuperSonic Station worker in the company striped shirt.

“Here at SuperSonic Station,” the worker said, “We are all Team Players. When one person doesn’t do his job, everyone else has to work harder. If you aren’t a team player, you will not be at SuperSonic Station long.”

“SuperSonic Station workers have Enthusiasm and Positive Mental Attitude!” said the voice off screen.

Cut to another smiling SuperSonic Station worker in the striped company shirt.

“SuperSonic Station employees have Enthusiasm and Positive Mental Attitude!” said the worker on screen,  “If you don’t have Enthusiasm and Positive Mental Attitude you will not be at SuperSonic Station long.”

“SuperSonic Station workers follow a  Dress Code!” the off screen voice said.

He had noticed the striped shirt and the red jacket. Cut to a smiling SuperSonic Station employee with an earring in one ear.

“SuperSonic Station workers wear uniforms and follow a Dress Code,” the worker said, “Personal jewelry on the job is limited to one small earring in one ear only.”

The SuperSonic Station worker on the screen modeled his earring for the camera.

If you cannot abide the SuperSonic Station Dress Code, he said to himself, you will not be at SuperSonic Station long.

“If you cannot follow the SuperSonic Station Dress Code,” repeated the worker in the video, “You will not be at SuperSonic Station long.”

Over the course of the next few minutes he learned that SuperSonic Station workers were also Honest, Drug-free, and Courteous.

“If you are a Team Player, have Enthusiasm and Positive Mental Attitude, and can Follow the SuperSonic Station Dress Code,” said the off screen voice in a clearly conclusional tone, ”and if you are Honest, Drug-Free, and Courteous, you too can join the SuperSonic Station Team!”

Upbeat Sesame Street music followed. The screen went blank.

He walked back along the corridor and stood at a small counter. He filled out the application. Along with the usual request for social security number and authorization to do a credit check, it had spaces for three references.  Unlike other applications it asked in regard to references only name, position, years known, and telephone number, omitting address and zip code.

Were SuperSonic Station workers not voluminous letter writers?

He went to the front counter. The unsmiling middle-aged man in the red jacket was again eyeing the shelves, now without a clipboard.

He handed him the form. The man took it silently.

“It seems you are mostly interested in hiring young people here at SuperSonic Station,” he said.

“Not necessarily,” said the man in the red jacket.

He turned and walked out to his car.

He had been at SuperSonic Station about half an hour. He wondered to himself where all those who had not been at SuperSonic Station long congregated.

(E. A. Costa copyright 2005)

E. A. Costa 25 September, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Joe Gould Signs The Poet's Menu at La Casita

                                  I'm not at all sure that the concept of the readymade
                                  is not the most important single idea to come out of my

                                                                                         Marcel Duchamp

                                 Sale pays! Une Suisse encore plus inhumaine,
                                 plus mercantile, plus mécanique, sans bonhomie,
                                 rigide, protestante, anglicane, puritaine.

                                                                                         Blaise Cendrars

                               I have created a vital new literary form. Unfortunately,
                               my manuscript is not typed.
                                                                                          Joe Gould

I. Sandwiches

Fried Egg                 .15
Cheese                     .15
Lettuce & Tomato    .25

At the wasp waist of one-armed continence
between the two great oceans and colonialisms:

a second birth canal with seven thousand year old eggs,
one for each Uncle Han:

(apellido now held by sixteen million sandals more or less)

II. Beverages

Coffee or Milk        .10
Ginger Ale              .25
Lemonade               .20

A man, a plan, a canal Nicaragua!

To which will be added brown and green teas, wonton,
freshwater shark fin soup (canned & warehoused since
the last Somoza on the banks of the Pearl River), dimsum,
moo goo gai pan, all around carp, & new eventful plum wines--


Augaracin lana canal Panamá!

(which is any ancient curse in Nahuatl,
translated roughly as, “Costa Rica, ahora tú estás jodido").

III. Also

Queque casero   .10
Tarta        “       .15
Sandía Fría        .15

Mon oncle, tu as disparu durant le cyclone de 1895

J'ai vu depuis la ville reconstruite et je me suis promené au bord de la mer où tu menais les bêtes saignantes

Il y avait une fanfare salutiste qui jouait dans un kiosque en treillage

On m'a offert une tasse de thé

On n'a jamais retrouvé ton cadavre

Et à ma vingtième année j'ai hérité de tes 400 dollars d'économie

Je possède aussi la boîte à biscuits qui te servait de reliquaire

Elle est en fer-blanc

Toute ta pauvre religion

Un bouton d'uniforme

Une pipe kabyle

Des graines de cacao

Une dizaine d'aquarelles de ta main

Et les photos des bêtes à prime, les taureaux géants que
tu tiens en laisse 

Tu es en bras de chemise avec un tablier blanc

Moi aussi j'aime les animaux....

Yours truly,

Joe Gould.

Service at any time desired.
La Casita
100 Bedford Street
Greenwich village

(Circa A.D. 1920.)

E. A. Costa  26 July, 2015  San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Image of Joe Gould's signed Poet's Menu here: 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Oak

                 "For the free-moving life of the animal is struggle,
                 and nothing but struggle, and it is the tactics of its 
                                                 Oswald Spengler (tr. Atkinson)

Out the blue under azure sky
the three hundred year old oak,
still green comrade of ten years,
exploded at the trunk.

Time and breath ceased.

A body eased a few feet left.

Leaves caressed black boots
standing rock fast.

There was no fear.

There were regrets who was so old
and living still had gone at last.

It takes three weeks
to cut up the cadaver.


And a threshold half
a century in the making.

E. A. Costa 3 May, 2015 San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Canon For Time War—Pars I: The RR Xing.

                               “I want to make a film in which
                                 the audience is hunted down and killed.”

                                                                Aaron Zomback

Changing tempo is not changing time.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

Changing tempo is not changing time.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

In changing tempo time remains the same.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

In changing tempo time remains the same.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

Clocks are lobsters.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

Clocks are lobsters.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

Shoes talk and see.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

Shoes talk and see.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

You left your feet in the automobile.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

You left your feet in the automobile.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

Your eyes are televised.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

Your eyes are televised.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

You whirl around the second hand.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

You whirl around the second hand.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

The hour remains the same.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect.

The hour remains the same.

Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect....

Doppler Effect....

E. A. Costa 8 April, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua