Thoughts on the Meaning of Life, Ecotopia, the Free Range Human Movement, and Regaining the Lost Spark of Humanity Greetings and Sad Mutations to you all,
Here I am again, full of excuses, and reeling from my abject inability to carry off eventhe simplest of social interactions without causing some sort of international incident, be itreal or imagined.1 Though I write to you in a state of utter confusion, do not mistake thisdiscombobulated demeanor as a sign that I am utterly unhappy. I am merely moody,blithely diagnosed as clinically bipolar, and whatever other invented disease one wants touse to describe the condition of spiritually sensitive human beings in the miasma that is theearly 21st Century by time, and what will be called Late Capitalism by historical era.
You have all tolerated my rather incessant kvetching about Sacramento- that it is dull, thatthere is a large gaping hole in the personalities here, as if it were Invasion of the BodySnatchers come to life. Yet for all its social, economic, and psychological pitfalls, thenatural amenities in Sactown are quite spectacular. This is a great biking town. TheAmerican and Sacramento River Bikeways 2 blow away anything Austin has to offer withinits humid little confines. It is one of the best biking cities in which I have ever trundled orrambled, and I've trundled and rambled in many a city about this planet. In my humbleopinion, only Amsterdam surpasses Sactown in this area. I can bike for miles inSackatomatoes 3 without seeing a single car, much less encountering one. Often when I dosee a car, it is safely passing on a bridge overhead. The trails, levy roads, and bike lanes areas practical as they are recreational. With a little map study, these passages can get youwhere you need to go, and provide a good time getting there. 4 If this is not an amenableenvironment for the free-range human, I do not know what is.5 I don't miss the Texas humidity. The weather here is great, cool and breezy, despite theoccasional, and luckily, short-lived Summer bouts of 100-plus temperatures in the SacValley. The Delta Breeze quickly cools the air once the sun goes down on those hot days,and the bouts rarely last more than three days before highs in the 80's prevail again.
But this is not why I am writing this big open, overblown letter accounting "the show sofar." I am doing so because lately, I have begun to think that I've been conducting my lifewrongly, and I wanted to tell you about this stark discovery, and just what it means inregards to life, the universe, and everything.
This "living wrongly," does not speak of my external situation, but of my internal one. Ihave hardened. This is something that has not happened only recently, but in retrospectdates back to 1996 when the whole "paper that cannot be named" debacle thwarted mypatience.6 That imbroglio was pretty much the straw that broke the camel's back in respect Open Letter to All My Friggin' Friends, Basil Joe Rocker, 5/11/2003 to my opinion of more left-leaning sectors of the publishing media, and pretty much allself-proclaimed practitioners of the left in general.
I must admit herein that jumping into the legal field some 7 years ago was a reactionarymove on my part. It was out of fear, and not of some deeply felt fealty to law, justice, theconstitution and all that abstract idealism, or any sort of perceived syllogistic talent as Imay have led people to believe. It was deep visceral fear, a fear that if I did not join the"correct" or "powerful" side of the law, I would soon be slowly twisting in the wind on thewrong side. Forces in the normal course of my day were crashing all around me. Therewere the countless run-ins with employers- editors, general managers. The only way Icould go from my circumstances at the time was as far away as possible, if not physically,then attitudinally. A sea change was at hand. Plus, the idea of researching and writing allday long was not so bad.7 From about 8/96 to about 2/97, I was in a frantic state of paranoia. My paranoia even beganto turn circles on itself. There was paranoia of paranoia of paranoia. I was in a diredownward spiral. I became "Joseph K.," a man consumed with guilt for an undeterminedcrime, a crime that most likely didn't exist, but for which he was guilty for guilt's sake. 8 Iblamed those 'authority figures" around me, those who I felt were torturing me. I blamedthem for being small minds and not letting me live beyond the moral pale meant for meremortals and not an Ubermensch like me. They were fascist bastards, hypermoral ninniesand other nabobs of negativity as American's only Underground Man cum President wouldso aptly say. I was underground, and driving myself deeper and deeper into the darkness. 9The truth was - may life was too easy.
So here I am, quite naked, stripped bare of all the pretensions that led me here- thisphysical place, this state of mind. The fates graciously slapped me in the face in August of2001, perpetuating my boom-bust cycle of psychological well-being. I was sent back to thewoodshed for some soul-searching. To put it bluntly, as I am so apt to do, it was time tofind "the shit that really matters." This process has been slow, methodical, and oftenfrustrating. Now, after much gnashing of teeth, and utter wailing and moaning about thefact that I had been sent to this woodshed, I have recently calmed. If I have not yetdiscovered my deepest held beliefs, I have touched upon them, or rather, revisited them.
I have been thinking of when I was last trulyenjoying life, ready to wake up every day and seewhere it would lead. This was a period from about1991 to 1996. I wrote more articles, morefictional stories, more songs, and imagined morescenarios during that time than any other part ofmy life, and I was just insanely happy. Eightypercent of what I created back then never made itto the public, but only to a select few. 10 I did notmake a lot of money then. I was basically abarista, a caffeine vendor living on cash tips andminimum wage. I made a decent amount of extramoney from free-lance writing, rhapsodizing onthe virtues of this band, or that. I would get thechecks for those rants, and laugh hard aboutgetting paid for what seemed as natural and fun assex. I was a rather happy whore back then.
Open Letter to All My Friggin' Friends, Basil Joe Rocker, 5/11/2003, But then ego took over, and I was driven to do more and more. Finally the demands ofothers and myself, most of all myself, led to burn-out, frustration, arguments withemployers. I became a self-centered asshole. Everyone was wrong, except me. I knew whatwas best- no compromises allowed. I was being driven to control freakness by somevaguely defined inner force. I can only say that it was the dark forces taking over. I rodethose forces for five years until I crashed on that fateful day in August 2001. I had crappedout. I had ridden this singular darkness for so long, forsaking the other side of existencethat I couldn't go on anymore. Still, I pushed. I may have imploded if fate had notintervened. After almost two years, I am just now realizing this.
Now, looking back, I can see that I have been lacking balance between the light and thedark.11 Perhaps the rage of the darkness was brought on by way too much light from 1991to 1996. But how does one institute checks and balances of the soul? I have toyed with going back to la skool. I am happy to report that the state bar has writtenme a nice long, complicated letter that I paraphrase as "McGeorge was full of shit!" I spenthalf a day laughing. But right now, I don't care. I jumped at la skool for the wrong reasons.
I really wanted to be this big shot guy, head of a corporation, some studios, and have allthis juice and power, and have everybody fawning all over me - basically a narcissistic wetdream. The jump was a strained effort to feed the darkness, make it bigger, faster, stronger.
Dumbly, insanely, for I've been down this road before, I thought the only way to getattention was to do all this. Again, dumbly, insanely, I thought attention, fawning, worship,all that jazz, was what mattered. Narcissistic? Indeed. I was running from a rampant fearthat the light side was the weak side. Luckily, I was humiliated and sent packing to try it allover again. I was told to get "real." And I have.
My move westward to the Golden state is the culmination of some 35 years of yearning.
Now that I've regained my bearings, I know why I'm here- not just here in this place, buthere on this planet. In essence, I have discovered that I'm just some friggin' wannabe-Ecotopian wanting to hole up in some bucolic place and let my imagination run riot. I wantto take walks in the woods, build a nice big compost heap, bike everywhere, feel the beat ofmy heart, and forsake the pressures to keep up with the false idols of corporate America.
Though I live in a medium size and growing city, this is the closest I have been to that idealpastoral existence since those Austin "Days of Light" from '91 to '96.
In regard to Ecotopianism,12 I may not adhere to its doctrine in the strictest empirical sense,but I am definitely an Ecotopian in spirit. I'm that guy on the bike who gets greatsatisfaction out of being able to get everywhere he needs with his two legs. I'm the self-righteous bastard who pities the poor humans in their cars trapped on the freeway, shackledby the golden handcuffs of good paying jobs, mortgages, and car payments. Is that reallywhat life is about? Once you step back, the so-called "necessities" - the house, the kids, thenice cars, the high-powered jobs - are really just illusions perpetuated by late capitalismand its "consume, be silent, die" mentality. I'm ready for a post-capitalist era where peopleslow down and start living life again rather than running themselves ragged on theconsumerist hamster wheel.
But I have my own sort of pleasant wheel: Read, write, run, bike; Read, write, run, bike;Read, write, run, bike; eat organic food, flagrantly Open Letter to All My Friggin' Friends, Basil Joe Rocker, 5/11/2003, flirt with the beautifully disheveled earth mamas atthe Natural Foods Coop, go home, crash. Rinse,lather, repeat. Oh yeah, I work 8 hours a day in there. Still tryingto make that fun so I can work it into the mantra.
I'm just a simple guy with his own loco version of Ecotopia. I am a luftmensch, really, whofancies himself as some sort of free-range human - happier, healthier, and better tasting(now if I can just find a nice Jewish girl who likes to sample the goods. oh well.) thancorporate humans trapped in their cars, their cubicles, their bills, their worries, theirmediatized delusions of what was once termed "the American Dream," but is now just anightmare of floating images removed further and further from reality.
I like to go for runs of distances of five to seven miles along the levies and parkways. Thedreamy coziness of a run through the Curtis and Land Park neighborhoods at sunset isenough to remind anyone of just how musical the pounding of one's heartbeat and runningshoes can be, as deep breathing creates a melody of constantly shifting crescendos anddecrescendos. This is my lullaby to calm the weary, tattered soul while thinking of methodsto mitigate the mishigas.
Have I developed any solutions to thisquagmire that is our Corporate, soul-numbingAmerican Life? No. I often find that thoughtson the subject are merely so much mentalmasturbation. Like garden variety masturbation,it is relieving, but hardly fulfilling. The key isto find like-minded persons for rounds ofstimulating cerebral coitus. I do not know whothese people are. Perhaps I have already foundthem. Perhaps they are you.
But I have no great expectations. The fantasiesof a glorious Ecotopian revolution are just that.
I can cogitate on the virtues of ground war, andhow secession from the United States could beaccomplished with allies in what Mr. Rumsfeldrecently referred to as "Old Europe." But again,how does one surround himself with thenecessary masses to pull-off such a secession?That is my downfall in the Big Brotherdepartment. Dreams of being the next Castro Scary guy just gets Scarier. Looking like are countered by the reality of my lack of charm Paul McCartney after a three year walk in and charisma. I will stick with my daily dosage the wilderness and a serious colonic.
of Two-Minute-Hate directed at the destructionof the soul by pervasive profit-driven media. Itis all I have the huevos to do.
Open Letter to All My Friggin' Friends, Basil Joe Rocker, 5/11/2003, This brings me back to the fact that I have hardened from the years in the dark and that Ineed to soften my approach and regain some respect for humans in all their roiling illogicand panting emotions. First off, I need to respect those things as they exist in me. GrandDelusions must be jettisoned. Small wonders must not only be respected, but placed upon apedestal.
My need for this softening was starkly illustrated in a short interaction that occurred onMonday, May 5, 2003. I had just finished purchasing about $20 of provisions at the SacNatural Foods Coop. The entire time in line, I kept looking at this young woman about twocheckstands down. Though it was sixty degrees outside, she was wrapped in a heavy, knee-length coat, and scarf. Her pale features looked windblown. Her dirty blond hair was tossedabout as though she'd just stepped out of a frigid wind. Little pink zits sprouted on her facelike happy little mushrooms after a spring rain. They were not obtrusive, but rather anatural occurrence to be admired and not fussed about.
I looked about me to make sure I was not dreaming the whole thing. All the other scurryingSacramentans were in jeans and t-shirt mode. I was wearing my camoflouge biking shorts,and red "Electronic Performer" T-Shirt that some nice person bought me at an Air concert acouple of years back. The woman's eyes shone when they made contact with mine. Theydid not go hard or quickly look away as those of most humanity would. There was energyradiating from this person. It was kind, sweet. The typical Californian brusque self-absorption was absent, allowing that energy to flow outward, rather than suck everything inthe room inward like a walking black hole. I found this human anomaly refreshing, and thedozens of other humans scurrying about her disappeared, and it was just her possessing theroom.
My dream broke as I reached the front of the line, and checked-out. My eyes kept flittingover to her. She was in the check-out process, too. She was at ease during the process andin no hurry. I could hear her voice. There was something about "Dave Matthews." Ofcourse, my cynical mind wanted to dismiss her as a troglodyte right there. But I couldn'tstop admiring her grace. I was actually jealous of the lady. I was a working man. I couldnot be bothered with mindless chatter about 3rd rate college rock bands with poeticpretensions. How wonderful a life must be that allows such indulgences.
I exited the coop and went to my bike in front of the store. I slowly unlocked it from theblue ribbon rack and waited for her to walk by. It took her some time. I thought that maybeshe had walked behind me while I was wrestling with the U-Lock, and that I had missedher. I was about to mount the bike as she popped out of the coop's side door and walkedpast me. I rolled by on her right, calling "on your right." I apologized for my rudeness ofriding on the sidewalk, expecting nothing but a sneer and a harrumph.
"I'm sorry," she said in a polite, rather sweet, yet dignified tone, "I'm not from here. I didn'tknow that it was rude." This explained everything. She had not had time to build the requisite Sacramento crust.
This explained the sweetness, the radiance, the lack of fear in the face of this stranger.
I stopped dead in my tracks as though I'd seen a hundred dollar bill lying still on thesidewalk, and walked the bike beside her.
Open Letter to All My Friggin' Friends, Basil Joe Rocker, 5/11/2003, I was in absolute shock. I thought for certain that walls would be immediately thrown upand a brusque, but polite word or two would brush me aside. But she actually engaged myeyes and smiled, and she actually spoke again.
"I'm from New Hampshire," she said.
"How long have you been here?" I asked.
"Three months. I was working in D.C. before." Wow, this was an actual conversation. Well, if not an actual conversation, we were at leastexchanging some engaging remarks. Fear rushed through my body. What was the trick?Where was the candid camera? Where was the undercover FBI sting operation bent onstopping lonely old men like me from striking up conversations with sweet strangers. Thesmall spark of humanity still left in me wanted to jump out and engage this person who soopenly showed her own humanity. That spark was a dog wagging its tail, propped-up onthe backyard fence on his hind legs, just begging to be petted, perhaps have a frisbeethrown his way. But I automatically restrained myself - a natural reflex from years of beingduped and humiliated. Though all evidence showed nothing of malice in the lady or thesituation, the stone walls remained intact. They got even thicker.
"Are you from here?" she asked.
I almost choked on my response. So many things I wanted to say, but half of them wouldhave made me seem like an asshole. The most prevalent answer was "Hell No!" "No, I've only been here two years," I said.
"Do you like it?" she asked.
Again, "Hell No!" reverberated through my head. The spark dog was panting, whimpering,spinning in circles. "Hello human, hello human," his lonely little face said.
"Well," I admitted, "It's really dull." She was confused. Her brow furrowed. It was if the statement was insulting. It was. But atleast it was truthful.
"It's not bad," she said. "I like the weather." "The best thing is that you are close to the city," I said.
She cut behind me to go north on 30th. She told me her name, but I was too shocked toabsorb it. I said my name. She then smiled again, said, "nice to meet you," and sauntered-off. The spark dog really wanted me to follow her. He was yapping now, whimpering. Butthe fence was too high to jump. He tried desperately to climb it, but he only fell back with a Open Letter to All My Friggin' Friends, Basil Joe Rocker, 5/11/2003, thud. No opposable thumbs. I just stood there, dumbly watching her walk away. I wasfeeling ashamed for having such a fearful reaction to such a simple interaction. To her, thiswas just how people dealt with each other. To me, this was a breach of every cynical notionof how humanity should be - nasty, hateful, fearful. Bark, bark, bark. Poor Sparky. Thefence is too high.
I went home. As Sparky sadly lied in theback corner of the yard, I felt tears well-upin my eyes. I really felt badly for poorSparky. I realized that there was somethinghorribly wrong with me, and that if I didn'twork to change it immediately, I would diea lonely, miserable old man - be ittomorrow or 50 years from now. Sparkywould turn mean and rabid, and therewould be a debilitating fight everyday.
Physically, I feel great. Yet if my internal workings were manifested you would see astarving, leprous wretch- crumpled broken body, lying on the street - helpless.
How does one exercise the soul, the soul that has been sitting on the couch eating potatochips for 39 years? This is my next big challenge. Perhaps I should start by playing catchwith Sparky.
"Sparky!" Whistle, whistle. "Sparky!" 1 I recently read an article from This is a really cool site with Buffyrelated articles written by people with lots of letters after their names. These are the verysame people who use big made-up words like normativity. Anyway, there was this articledescribing Dostoevsky's "Underground Man" as applied to the vampire, Spike. It describedthe Underground man as someone bitter, who thinks that he can't get along with otherpeople because he's too good for them. Nonetheless, despite being too good for them, heneeds, and in fact, demands their attention and admiration - a man of polar opposites - aman with the desire to fight, but so confused by his moral outlook, that he is left inactive.
He is a man who is both lion by intent, and mouse by action- thus the Dostoevskycharacter, Leo Myshkin (which roughly translates to Lion Mouse). This observation couldalso apply to Camus' Stranger. The Underground Man is so obsessed with what wouldcause people to dislike him that he does not realize that it is obviously due to his holier-than-thou attitude. Looking in the mirror, this scared the hell out of me.
2 Thanks to the American River Trail, Sacramento is a hub on the American DiscoveryTrail. This is a network of hike, bike, and horse trails that span the continent from SanFrancisco to the Atlantic Coast in Delaware. See, for more information on this national treasure.
3 I've come up with many names and slogans for this place. Mr. RH in Paris coined theterm Sacraghetto. I render many props to him for that turn of brilliance. Author MarcReisner call it "Kansas with a Mountain View." Some of the terms and phrases forSacramento that churn in my head from time to time are: Sacralame-o; Sacashit; Poor Open Letter to All My Friggin' Friends, Basil Joe Rocker, 5/11/2003, excuse for a State Capitol, especially that of America's most populous state; 3rd worldcharm at 1st world prices; California's Red-Headed Stepchild; Omaha West.
4 I must also remind myself that I flung myself as far from Texas as possible in light of therank Bushification of the place. He was rather harmless as governor. As you and I bothknow, the office of the Texas Governor is a nothing gig. The real power lies with the Lt.
Gov., and the Speakers of the two legislative chambers, not to mention the RailroadCommish who oversees the Oil "bidness." Gee Dubya stole the election with the help of hisfriends in FLA (his brother, too, of course) and the Supreme Court. I have moved to a bluestate where we are all currently plotting his downfall and the reestablishment of decency,or, in other words, a Pagan Place full of orgies, and freethinking radical stuff, and shit.
Now that is Ecotopia. Let's put the juice back in life.
5 I hope to produce a manifesto on just what a free-range human is. Like his counterpartsbeing raised to be eaten by humans, the free-range human, is not boxed in - by a cubicle,excessive debt, a car, consumerism, etc. That is the basic gist of being a free range human -avoiding society's traps and moving about freely, as cheaply as possible, enjoying thejourney to its fullest. It is about avoiding boxes, be they economic, social, spiritual,psychological, emotional, and all the other variegated planes of being.
I have commenced work on this manifesto. Like everything else I do, it kind of circlesaround the edges of an idea before slowly spiraling inward to strike the core. Quite often, Inever get midway to the core. There is much starting and stopping and rethinking along theway. That's how my life is. I have no plan, I just get a hunch, ponder it for a bit, learn alittle more about, then a little more. If I don't get bored with whatever endeavor this maybe, I may eventually get to some sort of solid idea or action, but it is usually far down theroad, usually much further than intended. I just sort of follow it. See where it goes. If Idon't like the scenery, I turn around and come home.
6 My distrust of the left, as you all know, began in 1986 when I had but the mostcasual involvement with a group of Lefty Radicals at the University of Texas. I lent mysupport, but over a period of a few months, it was obvious that these kids did not care formuch more than padding their own resumes, and being self-righteous bastards (of bothsexes). Unfortunately, a certain governmental law enforcement construed this involvementas being a wee bit more involved that it really was.
7 Unfortunately, less than .4% (that's two-fifths of one percent, mind you- or four parts in athousand) of my time in the legal field has involved research. That endeavor, for the mostpart, is left to the attorneys involved. This may have been no small part of the drive to laskool, also. My time is basically spent taking orders from the Senior Partner General, andthose orders are for the most mundane of tasks only- call this doctor, track down thismedical report, subpoena this witness, set-up this depo, get reservations for this hotel.
Nowadays, of course, I have the trials and tribulations of many of our clients. They are,overall, not the brightest members of our species. It can be frustrating trying explain thenuances of the California Labor Code to some poor guy whose god-given talent was to beSanitation Engineer, Prison Guard, or General Custodian. Though most of the clients I dealwith now possess at least a modicum of intelligence, the few that just don't get it becauseof their woefully trickling or outright nonexistent synapse flow, can make me seem at timeslike a glorified day care worker without the glory. It's easy to get hardened in such a milieu.
It's either that or sob yourself into oblivion under the weight of immense pity.
Open Letter to All My Friggin' Friends, Basil Joe Rocker, 5/11/2003, Then there are the psychologically unhinged. I have talked three people out of suicide inthe last year and a half. On the other hand, I have gotten one voice mail message in themiddle of the night from a client saying she was about to shoot herself and to call her assoon as possible. When I returned the call at around 8:30 the next morning, it was too late.
One client died in a fire a few months ago. We found out two days ago that another haddied in March. I checked my notes after getting the news. I had spoken to her the nightbefore she died and told her to call me when she got out of the hospital. Unfortunately, hercondition upon leaving the hospital prevented this. She was a sweet, but addled lady. Shewas Native-American, and worked at one of the tribal casinos out in the foothills. She keptpromising to go to Oklahoma, and bring me back a nice Cherokee girl to take care of me.
Too bad she never got the chance to do this.
8 In Kafka's the Trial, Joseph K. is on Trial, but he does not know the charges against him.
Like Camus' the Stranger, although his crime is clearly defined as killing an Arab, hismoral ambivalence is on Trial.
9 Again, refer to Dostoevsky's Underground Man, as found in Crime and Punishment,Notes from the Underground, and The Idiot. 10 Whether or not these select few honestly deemed themselves fortunate is a matter ofdebate.
11 You may insert your own duality metaphor here. Some suggestions are: Buffy/Faith;Vampire/Nightingale (got this one from Tori Amos when I interviewed her in New Orleansin 1994); yin/yang; Cane/Abel; Dorothy/ Elphaba (Elphaba is the first name of the WickedWitch of the West. Read Wicked and you'll find out a few things about the social tensionsin Ozlandia, and that the witch wasn't so wicked after all, see,, for more info); Luke/Darth; Mary/ Jezebael; VirginMary/Mary Magdelene; Jerry Brown/Willie Brown.
12 Ecotopia was written by UC-Berkley Professor Ernest Callenbach. In the book, NorthernCalifornia, Oregon, and Washington secede from the United States, and form anecologically stable state. My fave dictum of Ecotopia is the 20-hour work week. Oh yeah,the sexual openness of that society is pretty cool, too. Sacramento is part of Ecotopia. SanFrancisco is the Capitol. Oakland has renamed itself Soul City. I originally read this bookin 1993. I reread it shortly after Aimee departed. I was amazed at just how much in tunewith this book she was, and she'd never even heard of it until I mentioned it to her. As Iwill one day tell you all, her sexuality took anything but the frank, matter of course attitudeof the Ecotopians. To put it simply for now, she was as kinky and twisted as a neglectedwater hose.
For more info on Ecotopia, see its Amazon listing: Open Letter to All My Friggin' Friends, Basil Joe Rocker, 5/11/2003,


Original Paper Received: November 14, 2001Accepted: December 25, 2001 Natural Plasmid Transformation in Escherichia coli Suh-Der Tsena Suh-Sen Fanga Mei-Jye Chena Jun-Yi ChienaaDepartment of Microbiology, Graduate Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, National Yang-Ming Universityand bTaipei American School, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC Key Words mids, a most frequent sequence was identified.

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