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So yesterday a friend decided to pick a fight with me on Facebook over – of all bizarre things – the Wikileaks CIA exposures.

I dislike the CIA intensely and have since 1969 when a CIA-backed military junta overthrew the Greek government two days before the elections.

To that, one can add the overthrow of Prince Sahounek in 1970, which plunged Cambodia into the civil war that led to the rise of Pol Pot and the deaths of a million and a half civilians; the Watergate break-ins (the burglar team all had extensive CIA pedigrees); the CIA-backed guerilla war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua; the Iran/Contra connection; the assassination of Salvador Allende; and the rise of Saddam Hussein, a CIA creature entirely, at least at the onset, whose costly war against Iran in the 1980s was completely underwritten by the CIA.

The fact that I don’t know for sure what atrocities the CIA has been involved with since the 1990s – though I have my suspicions – only reflects the fact that the historical documents have not yet been declassified.


News stories about the Wikileaks documents emphasized the way that the technology built into devices like your smartphone, your computer, your television, and your car can be used to spy on you.

Not that the CIA would ever spy on you, of course. (Uh huh.)

The CIA only spies on bad people.

Most interesting has been the tech companies response to the Wikileaks revelations as they announce they will look for ways to patch these “vulnerabilities” (another Uh huh.) C’mon, c’mon, c’mon: they’re design features.


Anyway, I headlined my FB link with something innocuous like, I always knew it was a good idea to turn my iPhone off when I wasn’t using it.

And further down the comment screed, I offered the rather innocuous thought that with the decline in American manufacturing, the U.S. needs more service industries, and of course, security is a huge service industry, so one must expect it to get bigger and bigger and bigger even as actual threats diminish, at least in their statistical significance.

And this friend just flew into a rage!

Began berating me for not taking security concerns seriously enough.

We’ll have to agree to disagree, I wrote politely. In no universe ever invented am I inclined to see the CIA as aggrieved good guys.

She wouldn’t let go! She was like a pitbull with a cat toy.

And then she started insulting me! I am having a hard time keeping civil… You and your vivid imagination…

My vivid imagination? Uh-huh. Clearly this friend did not know her history.

I had a choice here: I could burble a bunch of dates and events, in effect following her down this rabbit hole of mounting indignation, vituperation and rage.

Or I could disengage.

I did the mature thing: I dropped her and blocked her.

I like this person, understand. And actually, I wondered whether something else might not be going on with her. In the days of the Internet, when we’re upset, we no longer have to go out to bars and insult the first 250-pound [your insulting ethnic stereotype of choice goes here] that we see. We merely have to cozy up on the sofa with a glass of wine and set our browser to Facebook.

This particular person has numerous good qualities, but she also has a propensity for self-righteousness, and when she’s inflamed, she becomes a bully. I’m not sure she’s aware of that in herself, and of course, there’s no way for me to point this out to her.

Anyway, I’m sorry to have lost the friendship.

Does make me wonder about the strength of friendships that are conducted primarily online.
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I've spent much of the last 10 days or so channeling the Red Queen. Running very hard to stay in the same place, but in fact not staying in the same place. In fact, slipping backwards.

"I just feel like somehow the world would be a better place if I weren't in it, you know?" I said to Max. "Like if I wasn't around, Kim Jong Il would immediately open those vast North Korean granaries and feed the people, and the Cardinals would elect a Pope who wasn't a Nazi pedophile, and Mayor Bloomburg would see the wisdom of 72 ounce Super Gulp sodas. I guess I don't have a very strong ego."

Max snorted. "Are you kidding me? That's egoism in the extreme. To think that the presence or absence of you could affect any of those things."

"I suppose that's true," I said.

"It's totally true. That's totally egotistical."

"You know back in the days of the Little Store, in slow days when no tourists were coming to Monterey, I used to make this joke," I mused. "I used to say tourists weren't coming because I was singularly repulsive. Not in the personal sense – although that too, of course – but more like the opposite pole of a magnet. I literally pushed people away. I literally prevented tourists from coming to Monterey through the sheer repulsive force of my character. That was a joke, of course, but part of me believed it –"

"Total egotism," Max said. "In fact, you have no influence whatsoever outside of the a small circle of people who love and cherish you. But you do have that very small people who love and cherish you. Which includes me. So don't talk like that."


I'm reading the bestseller Gone Girl. It's pretty entertaining. A very well written chick lit murder mystery. Halfway through the third chapter, I remembered that Gillian Flynn used to work for Ty when I was writing most of my stuff for Entertainment Weekly, and this also gave me an odd feeling. She figured out a way to slip off the conveyor belt and run nimbly ahead, while I stayed on it, running hard, without realizing that the conveyor belt was going in exactly the wrong direction. No wonder I didn't get anywhere.

Not only do I know the Entertainment Weekly pop culture writing scene Flynn writes about extensively, I also know the resignation (and relief) that comes from giving it up and starting a real business, a business with four walls and a counter (in Nick Dunne's case, a bar) behind which you can hide.

I also know Carthage, Missouri.

The circus stopped in Joplin for several days, and I spent several days exploring Carthage, Missouri since I'm totally obsessed with the role Missouri played in the Civil War. Really, Carthage itself probably hasn't changed all that much since the Civil War, at least not the parts I explored.

Could I write a book like Gone Girl?

I could, actually. Not easily exactly. But first person narration always flows for me, which – of course – is why I always write fiction in the third person. Gotta stay on that conveyor belt and run to keep in place, y'know!

Anyway, I pulled out the Steinbeck manuscript last night and started working on it again. I do think it's highly commercial, although the central image – the naked Chinese girl floating face up in a bed of kelp – has to be worked into the plot better.

Alfred Hitchcock worked imagistically. Really! He would come up with a list of compelling visuals, and when that list was long enough, he would devise a plot around them. And it didn't matter how flimsy the plot was, because it basically existed to showcase the images and their effects on the frail human psyches of the protagonists.


I've had a few adventures in the last 10 days as well. Wednesday I went to Southhampton to visit a very strange man I know. This guy – we'll call him Frederic March, which fits for all sorts of reasons – is sort of a pastiche of Geoffrey Firmin and the protagonist of the brilliant Elizabeth Hand short story, The Erl King.

Frederick March is a very brilliant, very dismissive and marginally functional alcoholic. I knew I would spend a lot of time being chased around various beds and couches (figuratively, figuratively), which, in fact, I was.

I had no intention of sleeping with him. Oddly enough, despite his constant drinking, he has no problems sustaining an erection. The problem was that he has never found me particularly attractive, being someone who in his heyday was kind of a play-uh who set his sights on status chickies. Was I ever a status chickie? I guess maybe 40 years ago. Anyway, I'm definitely not one now. He was chasing me because a man has his needs and I was there, sitting in his living room, listening to his anecdotes about his Wall Street career (crashed and burned), and his problems now wresting his inheritance from the grasp of various greedy relatives.

Frederic March is very brilliant, so it's always entertaining to talk to him. Really, I wish I could follow him around with a tape recorder for a couple of days. He is that witty.

He lives in the poor part of Southhamton. In a five bedroom house that was designed to be a summer cottage and therefore has no insulation. He spends $800 a month on heating bills.

These days, he makes his living renting out rooms to the summer tourists.

I slept in one of the guest bedrooms. Barricaded the door. Left early the next morning to explore the town. Frederick March only leaves the house to creep to a gas station about a mile down the road to buy cigarettes and Snapple to mix his rum drinks.

I'd never been to Southhampton before, but of course it's like the Holy Land for those of us who are hard core Bravo TV reality fans. Everywhere you can revisit actual scenes that were used as backdrops in the Lives of the Real Housewives. It's like the Stations of the Cross.

There's still one store on Main Street that's not an overpriced restaurant, or an antique shoppe, or a designer dress boutique that's not shuttered up till Memorial Day when the great hordes begin descending upon the town. It's a hardware store, of course. Hardware stores are kind of like the cockroaches of the retail universe. In every gentrification phase change I've ever run across, hardware stores were the very last retail outlets to go froufrou.


I also got very drunk with the Crazy Israeli Neighbor last weekend, and extracted her complete life story, which is truly fascinating. But recounting that one will have to wait for another day, because now there is Work To Be Done.


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Every Day Above Ground

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