Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where do We Get Our Ideas?

As the country (and the world) listens to the Nameless one in his last moments, it is like a washing machine stuck on the spin cycle. To listen to his version of his presidency is to understand why he will be considered the worst president in the history of our great nation. It is clear from what he says that he is either the greatest liar of all time, or, more likely, he doesn't have a clue about the damage he has done to the very fabric of our society during his imperial presidency. But, this diatribe is not about He Who Would Have Been King but is, rather, a query about how and where each of us acquired our ideas and understanding of our great country as we have grown up. Point One: Think back to your school days and try to recall any information you received about the role of slavery in our society as this country moved from revolutionary times to the true Civil Rights Era (circa 1965 and Martin Luther King). Looking back, it is clear that the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation were just the initial baby steps in the process which, in essence, has culminated in the election of our first black president. What has triggered this is my thinking this morning is an uncomfortable moment during a holiday Christmas party where a person I like very much stood with me and chatted for a few minutes and used the "n" word no fewer than five times. How this relates to this morning's theme is it indicates to me that many white people still have not owned up to the fact of life that black people are human beings too and not some inferior living things that arrogance and ignorance can relegate to a human trash pile. This likeable and funny and warm human being at the party got this idea from somewhere and it is my contention that the official story of our country, like Bushy's current spinning, has downplayed what for black people must consider a really bad joke; i.e. the notion that all men are created equal with the asterisk for a large part of our history that this concept did not apply to blacks. How could Thomas Jefferson, the owner of many slaves, sit down and pen these words is one question. But, to me, the greater question is how we as young kids and adults could listen and learn to believe that we are the greatest nation in the world because of our principles and completely ignore the question about Jefferson? I am, if course, only using Jefferson as an example because our history is replete with incidents of racism that if lined up side-by-side could only spell out a final historic conclusion that we have been, and in fact continue to be, a de facto racist society. One has only to drive along Jefferson Avenue from Grosse Pointe, Michigan into Detroit where, literally, in a few hundred yards, homes move from small mini-mansions to the ghetto, from white to black skin color, to have this point illustrated most dramatically. But, this diatribe is not completely about racism. My intention is to apply it to any number of other idealistic notions in our society such as dissent and minority points of view. As a nation, we, on paper, pride ourselves in our wonderful and historical guarantee of freedom of speech, but witness what we do to one or another who dares to express anything other than the dogma of majority opinion. We get these ideas from somewhere. We need to change them. We need to move from a nation that says "do as I say" to one that says"do as I do."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Death Penalty for Corporate Wrongdoers

In our capitalistic society, corporations are given the benefits of citizens in that they are treated legally as if they are persons. I am thinking about this quirkiness, that is what it is, in the law that allows a corporation to do things to other people that any live, breathing human being would be imprisoned forever or executed for doing. The first example that comes to mind is the damage that is caused to individuals (damage= death) by various drug companies that market products indiscriminately with inadequate and sometimes fraudulent testing which results in the deaths of users. A company that does such things should be put to death. A court should be empowered to dismantle a corporation that has done things that, if done by an individual, would result in the death penalty. The current means of inflicting punishment, the assessment of fines, allows a company to continue doing business in a manner akin to an elephant brushing a fly off its back. Another example: This Bernard Madoff business. While the story that he has been permitted to circulate is that he, alone, created and managed the Ponzi scheme and that no one, including his two sons, knew of the arrangement. When he was near to being caught, he apparently spilled his guts to his sons and they turned him in. It is a good story, but I don't think it's true. I think he arranged this so that they could continue in business and make their millions of dollars even after he is gone. While such familial loyalty is to be admired, think of how Mr. Madoff may have adjusted his conduct if he knew beforehand that his scheme would result not only in his imprisonment, but the total destruction of his company and the removal of all assets from the people who owned that company including his own family, rather than business as usual. The examples could go on and on, but the net observation is the same. We let corporations get away with murder and acts that ruin the lives of others. Unlike the individual human being, a corporation has no soul or conscience. We should not reward this amorality.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Gift to the America Public

What if there is a party and no one shows up? Impossible you say, yet that is exactly what happened in the running of several vital components of the federal government during the Bush tenure. Take the EPA for example;. this agency is empowered by statute to regulate greenhouse gases in the United States. In the eight years of the Bush presidency the EPA did exactly nothing to perform this function despite the near-universal recognition that greenhouse gases are a major component in global warming, the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation.
Global surface temperature increased during the 100 years ending in 2005. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that most of the temperature increase is "very likely" due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. This basic conclusion haa been endorsed by at least 30 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries. While individual scientists have voiced disagreement with these findings,[the overwhelming majority of scientists working on climate change agree with the IPCC's main conclusions.

Climate model projections indicate that global surface temperature will likely rise further and will cause sea levels to rise. Rising temparatures will also change the amount and pattern of precipitation, likely including an expanse of the subtropical desert regions. Other likely effects include increases in the intensity of extreme weather events, changes in agricultural yields, modifications of trade routes, glacier retreat, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors.

Most national governments have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, one of the first acts of the Bush administration was to withdraw its support of this project despite the fact that the United States is the largest contributor to the greenhouse effect.

Wait, it is worse than that. In 2007 the EPA chief issued a ruling that prevented California from taking action on its own greenhouse gas plan to limit emissions from autos and trucks. Not only has the U.S. missed the party, it has planned actively to hurt those who would benefit from attending. As an example, people suffering from asthma have their conditions chronically aggravated by the presence of noxious fumes.

On this Christmas morning, I submit that the American public and the world have received the greatest gift of all in the soon-to-be replacement of the Neanderthals in the current administration by morally responsible persons who are serious about changing things for the better. The damage done by the EPA is a good place to start. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gun Laws and Drug Testing

Who would ever knowingly take a drug that had no proof of its being effective against the disease for which it is being prescribed? What doctor would prescribe a drug without knowing whether it was safe or not, particularly when the available evidence showed that it may be fatal? These are the kinds of information, or lack of information, about the impact of weapons in our society that need to be asked and answered if intelligent gun laws, consistent with the requirements of the second amendment, can be passed. A study conducted by a group of mayors (Mayors Against Illegal Guns) has produced some profound results about the impact of weak gun laws of various states on the health and safety of the public. This discovery is akin to the discovery that insulin is effective in diabetes, or that penicillin works against pneumorcoccal infections. As reported in the New York Times on December 23, 2008; "The study analyzed trace data for guns used in connection with crimes during 2007. The data reveal a strong correlation between weak state gun laws and higher rates of in-state murders, police slayings and sales of guns used in crimes in other states.
"Many states have enacted strong gun laws to supplement inadequate federal ones, including mandatory background checks on gun show sales. States requiring the same background checks at gun shows as those required for store purchases show an export rate for guns used in crimes that’s nearly half the national average. This argues for Congressional action to end the gun-show loophole nationally. States with weak gun laws produce different outcomes. More than half the guns recovered in out-of-state crimes last year were supplied by Georgia, Florida, Texas, Virginia and six other states where weak laws make it easy for gun traffickers and other criminals to obtain weapons.

"Weak gun laws also put a state’s own citizens at risk. There were nearly 60 percent more gun murders in the 10 states where exports were highest than in the states with low export rates — and nearly three times as many fatal shootings of law enforcement officers."

The current U.S. Supreme Court has decreed that the second amendment grants the rights to keep and bear arms to all citizens of our society in overturning a law passed by the District of Columbia seeking to ban all handguns. The court in other cases has suggested that reasonable limitations can be placed on this so-called right in the interests of safety. The NRA has steadfastly resisted the imposition of any limits being imposed by legislative fiat (e.g. the opposition to assault weapons). A lawyer arguing for the NRA recently before a Pennsylvania court stated ""Most of my clients have machine guns," [he[ said. "They are absolutely lawful. Police already have the authority to seize weapons if they are being used unlawfully."

In my opinion, this contention is the moral and legal equivalent of claiming that a person has the right to possess cyanide (Drugs do not kill people. People do.) Or allowing druggists to sell drugs that do not work and are likely to harm. "Give your child this KoolAid laced with cleaning fluid for his cough. It'll stop it, guaranteed." When the focus is on guns, the situation meets the definition of insanity. Insanity is expecting different results from the same behavior. Thirty thousand people a year die from guns in the United States. Allowing individuals to possess these weapons of death without reasonable restrictions being imposed is insane. The impact on our society is too important to ignore. We need federal legislation modeled after the tougher laws in various states to create the uniformity that will lower this number. We have the evidence that the drug works. Let's write the prescription so that it can be used.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back to Square One

This Rod guy, the governor of Illinois, with the unpronouncable and unspellable name (thank God for spell check - Blagojevich) may be, and probably is, a total idiot. He may also be as guilty as hell. But, it is my prediction that we may never know what the truth is about this guy because the prosecutor and the Attorney General of Illinois have made an absolute mockery of our system of justice by denying him the most fundamental right of our system of laws; the presumption of innocence. We do have a long standing system that does work when the rules are followed. There is the right way to do things when a prosecutor decides that enough evidence has been made available to charge a person with a crime. One of the things a prosecutor shouldn't do is go public with accusations that have not been subjected to the rigors of our legal system, i.e. the right of confrontation, cross examination and weighing of the charges by an independent grand jury or magistrate. A prosecutor should not stand up and state publicly that Abraham Lincoln would be rolling over in his grave because of what Rod purportedly did (or said). By the way, it is not a crime to say things (unless it is yelling fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire). It is not a crime to think things. The guy in the spotlight here should be this prosecutor, Fitzpatrick, who has taken the law in his own hands and made himself the Grand Inquisitor. Someone needs to set this guy straight. The same goes for the Attorney General, Lisa Madigan. The whole process, a serious one, needs to step back, take a deep breath and begin again at Square One.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's a Black Thing

Or rather I should put it this way; if it was a white thing, it wouldn't be happening. For the past few years, people in Darfur (in Sudan) have been put to death because of the color of their skin (black). In the past year, the slaughter has continued with an average of five thousand people losing their lives each month, not to mention the raping of women and little girls. Four years after President Bush declared the mass killings there genocide, the horrors continue. As many as 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million driven from their homes. Genocide is the magic word, the trigger word, that is supposed to ignite the fire of indignation in the civilized world and band nations to together to stop it. But, this is a message to Bush as well as the rest of the leaders in the civilized world; words, fancy words, expressions of indignation, don't mean a damn thing unless you do some thing about it. There are two specific points I want to make about this human tragedy. The first, it is heartbreakingly clear that if the people who have have been murdered and are being murdered were white-skinned, this would not be happening. Our country would be present in a heart beat to stop the outrage. The second, Bush's toleration of this situation, in spite of his words, will be viewed by historians fifty years from now as his greatest failing as the leader of the free world. Think Pope Pius during World War II. His legacy is damaged by his passive acceptance of the knowledge of the Holocaust and staying silent rather than using the bully pulpit. Bush, on the other hand, publicly admits the existence of genocide, has the power and the means to address it, but has done nothing. It's kind'a like the international version of Bush's response to the victims of Katrina, yet much worse.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I have a confession to make; the reason I started writing this blog was that I was in the midst of the grip of writer's block. My first novel was completed in 1998 and soon after I began work on the second one. By 2005 I had a decent rough draft of an estimated 75% completed novel. Over the next two years, I found it nearly impossible to sit down and write because a sense of frustration had paralyzed me. In late 2006 I started take baby steps by the writing of my thoughts totally unrelated to the book writing process. Over the past 2 1/2 years I have written more than two hundred separate blog entries and recently, my writing soul has begun to re-awaken. The first thing I did was to sit down and read the unfinished novel and, in a word, it was boring. I spent months thinking about how to liven up the content so that the potential reader may find it more interesting or palatable. I came up with a couple of good ideas and I now work every day, trying to say things well and true.

Writing is hard for me, as it was even for the best wordsmiths. Ernest Hemingway said the most frightening thing he ever encountered was “a blank sheet of paper.” And Winston Churchill called the act of writing a book “a horrible, exhaustive struggle, like a long bout of painful illness.” That is exactly the way I felt during a period of dormancy which my blog-writing activity has helped to dispel (hopefully for the last time). I am "going public" by placing this information in this blog so that my commitment to accelerate my efforts to produce a work of value is on the record. In doing so, over the next few months I will also include certain selections from my ongoing work whhich I believe will serve as an added inducemnt to keep going, through thick and thin, so to speak. I appreciate the annention of anyone who takes the time to read from this point on, and I would certainly appreciate any comments that might arise as a result. Here is a just-completed example:

Richard Scrugg’s daily routine included reading the New York Times first thing in the morning. He read the online version of the newspaper because it was free whereas the print version was, as he put it, a drain on his economic resources. That and the afternoon delivery of the venerable paper when he would rather be napping were the two reasons he would give if anyone ever asked. No one had inquired so far, but he was ready if they did. He grumbled as he noticed on the screen that there was a rather prominent obituary section in the newspaper’s index. He hadn’t noticed that before. Why, he thought, did he happen to notice this for the first time this particular morning? He grumbled again. A lot of stuff like this was happening to him lately. His thrice weekly golf game was curtailed by Joe Emerson’s fatal heart attack while he was trimming bushes around his house two weeks ago. Some friend he was. The dollar bursting collapse of the housing market followed by the free fall of the banks and financial sector was another thing. He took these events personally.

“What time did you get up?”

His wife, Susan, stood at the doorway of his mall cubicle, wearing her ratty bathrobe and sipping her coffee.

He stopped reading, turned and rubbed his eyes. They were sore.

“Did you know the goddamned Times has a section on obituaries?”

“All newspapers have an obituary section. Why are you so interested in that?”

“Online? Why would they waste time to put something like that online? Doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“People, especially important people, who die are part of the news.” She rolled her eyes ceiling ward, then looked at him.

“I asked you what time you got up.”

Richard shrugged. “I don’t know. Early. I don’t look at the goddamned clock when I get out of bed.”

“Don’t get all huffy with me. I just asked a question.”

“Everything’s going to hell in a hand basket and you expect me to keep a stop watch on what I do. What do you want from me?”

“I know you haven’t been sleeping well. That’s why I asked.”

“What the ____ difference does it make as to what time I get out of bed?”

“I will not stand here and listen to that kind of language.” She turned and walked away.

“Crazy old bitch,” he mumbled as he turned back to the computer.


“Your wife says you’re having trouble sleeping.”

Doctor Edward Richter looked at Scruggs.

“She does, does she? That lady ought to mind her own damn business.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Doc, you’re as bad as she is. Haven’t you been reading the goddamned newspaper? The stock market is going all to hell and its taking every other goddamn thing in America with it. Let me ask you a question. Is there anyone with half a brain who can sleep with all this going on? Besides, I have to get up at night a couple of times to pee. If I stayed in bed, the wife would have me down at the Laundromat all day long washing piss out of the sheets. Instead she drags me here.”

Scruggs forced a smile through clenched teeth. Got you, you bastard, he thought. “Speaking of piss, the wife is just pissed at me for keeping her awake. Give her something for her goddamned snoring so I can get some sleep.”

Richter looked at the old man. His blood shot eyes were framed by dark circles underneath. His skin was pale and beads of perspiration trickled down his forehead.

“Your wife says you’re preoccupied with death.”

Scruggs sneered. “Hell, when you get my age what else is there to think about? Guys my age are dropping like flies, put them in the ground and two weeks later, no one remembers their ______ names.” He stopped to breathe, “They’re the lucky ones. Don’t have to worry about all the crap that’s going on.”

Richert studied the other mans face and waited. He looked into Scrugg‘s eyes.

“Have you had any thoughts about . . . taking your own life?”

“Is that what this is about? You’ve been dying to ask me that question, just beating around the bush until you could. Well, my answer is ‘hell no.’ It would make the wife too happy if I did.” He paused, “Can’t say it wouldn’t be a good idea.”

Richert thought about the recent visit to his office from the Upright salesman.

“I’ve got just the drug to help you sleep for the next couple of weeks. You’re right. A lot of people are having difficulty sleeping right now. I’ve had nothing but good results with this drug. Take one at night just before going to bed. Come back and see me in a month and we’ll see how you’re doing.” He reached for his prescription pad and started writing.

* * * * *

Scruggs took the Halycon pill faithfully at eight o'clock each evening. He bitched about it, but he was pleased that he was sleeping better. The past few years had been brutal. As long as he could remember, he thought, he'd spent a portion of each night laying in bed wide awake staring at a darkened room. He'd become accustomed to laying awake listening to the gentle snoring of his wife (if the truth were known, her deep breathing really wasn't snoring, but he would never let her know that.) As this happened, he'd think about things. All sorts of things popped into his mind; his children, middle-aged and married, who were to busy to bother with him much anymore. He thought that one through completely. Their neglect of him now was payback for his neglect of them during their formative years. He'd spent hours of sleeplessness ruminating about the Iraq war, his deteriorating golf game, the state of the economy, and the meal that his wife prepared for him which caused a certain abdominal pressure and too much gas. But, there was a downside to his new--found penchant for sleep. The fragility of the present, a sleep-filled night, took away cherished thinking time. Sleeping was robbing him of time as the days went by faster than before. His world had speeded up and he found this threatening.

"I'm thinking of stopping that damn pill," he stated to his wife over breakfast.

She looked up between coffee-sips and spoonfuls of strawberry-topped oatmeal. "You weren't sleeping. The pill is helping you sleep. Why stop?"

He hated it when she gave this kind of response. For once, why couldn't she just agree with him ?

"It makes me nauseated."

"You've been taking the drug for three weeks and now you say it's making you nauseated. I know you well enough to know that you would have mentioned it before now if it really did."

Scruggs pushed his bowl of oat meal away and stood.

"You're a bitch. I'm sick and you're telling me I'm a liar."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pettiness Personified

This Shelby guy from Alabama irks the hell out of me. It is not just that he is the champion of letting the American auto industry fall on its own sword, but he has to act like a bully in the process. A couple of weeks ago when the executives for the Big Three appeared in Congress Shelby made a big deal out of the fact that they arrived in Washington on private jets. The media loves this kind of stuff so rather than hear about serious issues that will affect about 10% of the American population in a real and meaningful way, all we heard from the results of that earlier meeting were the 15 second sound bites of this executive miscue. So what happened next was that each of the big three top dogs rode into town this time in a high mileage company vehicle. Showboating yes, but isn't this what Congress wanted? Shelby picked up his cudgel again and belittled these men for this show by delving into the various details of the trips. Did you drive? Did a chaffeur drive you? How many angels dance on the head of a pin? No, he didn't ask the last one, but someone very famous making the same point I am trying to make has done so in the past. America is slowly grinding to a halt. Various financial institutions are being handed money on a silver platter like there is no tomorrow. Real meat and potatoes families are going to bed each night throughout America wondering if the companies whose work ethics and ingenuity served us so well in World War II and saved the world from Nazi hegemony will be permitted a second chance. Being born and raised in Detroit, I am a product of my environment. Hundreds of thousands of people in this community, and others like it, have built their lives around one or the other of the Big Three. There are Chrysler, Ford, Chevy or Dodge families where generations of family members have loyally served, worked and purchased company vehicles. These families have grand parents who, while the husbands left the factories to serve in World War II, the Korean war and Vietnam, the mothers and wives took over the factory jobs and provided the engine that drove our national security. All this and this guy Shelby, all he can think about is belittling people because he is getting his fifteen minutes of fame simply because he happens to live in a state that is from all accounts still fighting the damn Civil War . . .or just maybe the major source of his campaign cash is from a foreign car company. Hmmm. Now that's a real question that deserves a real answer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Symbolism Is Important

Dear President-Elect Barack Obama: This letter is written and offered as the sage advice of one of your staunchest supporters in getting this country back on track as the beacon of hope for the rest of the world as well as right here in the United States. Many of those who voted for you (including myself) did so because of your recognition of what I will characterize as the politics of inclusion. We recognized that for the past eight years the federal government actually functioned to serve the masters of our country; the drug and insurance companies, the CEOs and financial market whiz kids who structured deal after deal that have led us into our current economic crisis, and other king pins who sought to use the power base of the federal government to line their own nests at the expense of the public.. The voices of little people everywhere in these United States, Michigan and New Orleans, as examples, were rendered mute by both systematic action and incompetency of the current administration in carrying out its ideologic warfare. Your stated approach appeared to offer to us a different kind of approach that make us believe that the needs of those who really need help, would be given a priority consistent with the stated and founding values of our government (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). As you put your cabinet together, I must say that I am a bit concerned that your selection of people, while impressive, creates a sense that we may be headed for just the same old, same old. While I admire the notion that you invite dissenting points of view, my concern is that the persons selected may suffer from the same malady which is thought to inflict the occupant of the White House after being in place for awhile; viz, the isolation and insularity of Washington invites a myopia. Stated another way, it is easy to forget where you came from. I offer a suggestion: create a new cabinet office of a cabinet member-at-large. Select a citizen of the United States without known political experience or ties to the major parties. Allow that at-large member of your cabinet to participate in policy discussions to provide the "view from the street", so to speak. It wouldn't have to cost much. Hell, I'd do it for nothing and I am certain that many well-meaning Americans would too. The inclusion of "us" would be a powerful inclusionary act which would symbolize what your administration is all about. Symbolism is important.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cat Hunting

This is the end of the story of my grandson's hunt for cat. I think you will find it informative, funny and, quite possibly, an effective appetite suppressant.

Sunday December 1st, 2008

Guangzhou City Airport

Disclaimer: the following contains graphic descriptions of differing cultures.

In the last 36 hours I did a day-trip to Macau, came back, and tried to finish off the previously mentioned quest.

Macau, returned in 1999 to China from the Portuguese, was a crazy place to be. I took a two hour bus from Guangzhou to the boarder city of Zhuhai and then walked through customs to the island. My first sense of the city went against my instincts, and for a second I felt like I had already been there. Every city has a different 'feel,' and similar cities feel similarly. For example, Paris feels more like London than Beijing, which feels like more like Shanghai than New York. What made Macau so interesting was that other than the street signs that were half-in Chinese and the people who spoke a dialect that was not quite Cantonese, I would have thought that I was in Europe. The streets were narrow and building's architecture was reminiscent of old European. Large cathedrals dotted the rolling cityscape and patisseries sold fresh bread on the corners. The smell of dirty restaurants and car exhaust was replaced with baking bread and fresh fish carried on an ocean breeze much like Barcelona. There was one major difference though: casinos. Macau is called the "Venice of the East." Casinos tower over the streets, everlighting up the landscape. Also, cars drive on the other side of the road, which confused me for a while. I seriously thought that the first car that I saw had no driver and that the woman in the passenger seat was driving! My hostel was right downtown, 3 minutes from the casino strip and quite noisy but cheap and simple.

Today, I woke up early to cross back to the mainland from where I caught a bus back to the Marriot Hotel in a part of the city that I was not familiar with. The sign for the airport shuttle was across the street and I would later wish I had written down the address. Having no plans, I picked a direction and walked hoping to catch a cab to the Orchid park (the home to 10,000 potted orchids, 5 of which were flowering). I happened to stumble upon it after 20 minutes and walked around before visiting a teahouse and finishing off a pot of tea as I tossed sticks into the koi pond, laughing as the fish tried to eat them. Satisfied and rested, I resumed my quest for cat. It was 2pm, and I decided that crunch time had arrived. I picked a direction and asked every store down the way until someone gave me a hint as to where I could find cat. Five stores later, a woman pointed me in the direction of a nearby restaurant saying she thought that they had what I yearned for. I crossed the street and stopped in to inquire. As I walked up to the greeter, my heart started to race. Would this be the end of my quest? Only 30 minutes after starting? It was too easy. Like all things that are that easy, it was not the answer. She laughed at me and I assured her I was serious. I needed to eat cat and I needed to do it within the next 4 hours. The customer standing next to her and polluting the world did know a place and he led me to the corner where he asked a policeman if he knew the address of the cat restaurant. He did, and wanted to know if I would wait an hour for him to get off work so he could go with me. I hesitated and he offered to write the address down for me. The one thing about handwritten Chinese is that everyone has their own shorthand; legibility is based on the speed of which it is written. Without letters and with some characters containing more than 20 strokes, a few shortcuts can easily mean illegibility. Thus was the case. I asked three cab drivers if they knew the address, none could read the note and all turned me down. Alas, I went up to another security guard who told me how to get there by bus. 20 cents later I was walking down a street that I would guess fewer than 100 foreigners have ever gone down before. Not only did people stare, but they stopped their work to gape. I split from my path four times down different alleys before arriving at the restaurant. The sign out front had the character for cat on it and pictures of cats on it (along with pictures of dogs, snakes, and goats). I walked in and the place was empty. Hung on the back wall was a yellow placard with their dishes; cat was there. Multiple times. For the second time today, my heart raced with anticipation. This was it, I could feel it. I weaved through the scattered chairs and tables while swatting away the flies unfazed, I needed to find a waitress. I found her in the kitchen, which in any other countries would have been called either a cave or a bunker. It was low ceilinged and wok smoke darkened the fridge and shelves. I spoke, "Cat, do you have it?" Surprised at first by my Mandarin, she smiled. "I am sorry, we are closed."

All my years experience of cajoling and wheedling my way into things culminated in the next five minutes. I told her my story starting when I was born under the star of dogs, sworn enemy of cats. I told her how I was raised with the one purpose, to eat cat in Guangzhou on the first of December, two thousand eight. I told her how I had traveled from Shanghai especially for this one moment and that I could not go back until I ate it and that she was now the only thing standing in my way. "The cooks are off work." I explained how I had worked in a restaurant and could do it myself; all I needed was the supplies. No, she refused again. I stepped into the kitchen and looked around in desperation. What were all of those pots on the counter? Cat? Yes. Why could I not eat that? It was not cooked yet. Microwave? Not here. She offered to let me take it home and cook it, but I had a plane to catch and no kitchen. "Sorry," she said, "I can't help you."

I walked away dejected. She knew of no other nearby restaurants that served cat so I crossed the street and asked the woman behind the counter of the tobacco shop. She pointed to the kitten on the sign across the street. "That's the only place I know," What to do? I had already spent two hours on this quest today, and time was running low. Finding another restaurant might take another two hours, and cabs were hard to come by at this time of the day. I decided to go ask again. I walked back to the kitchen and said I'd take the half-cooked pot that she had offered earlier. She refused on the condition that it was not cooked (which I respected, cat is notoriously dirty). What if I gave her a little more money? She looked hard into my eyes and sighed, "I'll go ask the cook." She came back shaking her head. "But if you really want it, go talk to him yourself."

I must have looked ridiculous as I walked into the room next door where the cook was eating. He stared as I approached, and I stared back. Unfazed and unshaven for four days, my white button-down safari shirt dirtied and half-way unbuttoned, I repeated my proposition. My hiking backpack with sandals hanging off and cinched around my waste and camera hanging at my side yelled tourist— translation: money. We walked next door and into the kitchen. That is when the haggling began. He started at 100RMB for a plate, which was ridiculous because the menu said 15. I haggled it down to 50 for a good sized portion, and sat down. Victory. It was mine; all I had to do was wait. Or not. He brought the pot of cat out right away and set it on a heater on the table. "Can I eat it now?" I asked, "Dig in." Slightly perturbed that I had been lied to about it not being cooked, I let it go and asked the waitress to take a video. She held the camera as I used the chopstick skills I have been developing over the last six months to fulfill the cliché of Chinese restaurants.

The meat was like all of the other meat in china, littered with bones that make any speed-eating impossible. I gnawed and spat and slurped and licked, savoring my victory. The meat itself was tough with large chunks of fat and blood vessels and bones running through it, making eating difficult. It had a slight smoky flavor but was not sour like I had been told. It was simmered in a stew with carrots, water chestnuts and pieces of wood cut into 4 inch pieces that I tried to eat thinking it was bamboo. It was not and I never quite figured out why it was there. The flies that swarmed threatened my food and I had to keep a watchful eye that they didn't land on my plate while I was taking pictures.

While I was eating, a police truck pulled up with its lights flashing and two cops got out. They stared right at me and approached. For the third time today, my heart raced in anticipation. Was eating cat illegal? Was I somewhere I shouldn't be? Fortunately they walked right past me, right into the kitchen where they stayed for at least five minutes. The waitress quickly walked back to talk to them and the cook straightened up chairs, covered some boxes with a tablecloth, and got something out of a drawer. Yelling ensued, and the police came back out, dragging the woman by the arm to the car. The cook (who I think was her husband) grabbed one of the policemen and tried to get his wife back to no avail. They forced her (pushing was involved) into the truck and drove away, lights still flashing. The cooked ran after the truck and whipped out his cell phone, but was left in the dust and returned, texting away. What's wrong? I asked him, looking from him to the kitchen to the cat as the dust from the police settled. "Oh, no problem." I nibbled on a few more hacked off pieces of cat and decided that I had had my fun, it was time to go. I paid, took a few more pictures, and said goodbye.

I walked back to the bus stop where I had been dropped off and caught a cab to a dim sum restaurant, where I ate the rest of my hunger away. The waitress told me how to get to an airport shuttle-bus, and I again wished I had remembered the address of where I had been dropped off earlier. I thanked her, paid, and headed to the metro. After waiting in line for 30 minutes for a token, I rode so far the best subway system that I have experienced in China. One of the problems with the metro here is that the once the doors open, people pushing on do not let people get off. I have seen very confrontational people almost get in fights just to be let out at their stop. Here both sides of the car open, one side lets people on, one side lets them off. Problem solved. Anyway, two lines later I escalatored up to a surprisingly familiar scene. For a second I could not place where I was, and then it hit me, the Marriot hotel. I had traveled full circle, eaten cat, and seen the city.

What a day.

I land in 30 minutes, seats up and tray tables back.

From China with Love,