American Dirt

STEINBECK: GRAPES OF WRATH. Wraparound jacket of the first edition, 1939, of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, John Steinbeck’s novel of ‘Okies’ forced to migrate from the Dust Bowl
American Dirt, Lydia and Luca

The title of this post is also the title of a book I am reading. A catch phrase by Don Winslow, a commenter, forced me to pick it up and check it out; the phrase, “A Grapes of Wrath for our times.” I loved the Grapes of Wrath as a story by John Steinbeck, and as a movie starring Henry Fonda. The story involves the futile migration of a family desperate to survive. Their story begins in the great flatlands of the midwest, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, or any number of states that are agricultural. The time frame is the Great Depression. Many farmers were poor share croppers, and during those years they experienced huge dust storms across the entire region causing them to lose their farms to banks. The Joad’s pile into their broken down truck and head to California to find work.

The story very explicitly details their experiences which get worse and worse as they head down the road like having to bury grandma along the road side. They reach California only to learn that the jobs they were envisioning didn’t exist, and the competition for the few that did was fierce. Locals treated them like garbage and made life even harder. The story had me hooked to the end.

America Dirt is a story about a family of two that must escape Mexico to remain alive. In this situation it is not nature that is causing the hardship it is a drug cartel led by a ruthless kingpin. The story is one which will grip you by the heart and keep you reading. The trouble the heroine undergoes trying to evade the cartel is relentless. She, however, stays strong and manages to evade the country-wide search for her. She has a bounty on her head, and can trust no one. Her trouble escalates as she proceeds northward toward the United States where she believes she will finally be free.

Many times, I have boasted about being a conservative and have written about the evils placed upon our country by the thousands of “illegal” immigrants sneaking across the border into our sacred space. Over the years, I have read numerous books extolling the cost of allowing these people to remain in the USA, and I even read one book about the life of a Coyote whose business it was to sneak these people across the line. This book, however is from the point of view of the immigrant. I have learned the conditions that have driven these people to flee. I am learning of the hardships they face to make the long trip across Mexico (as long as two thousand miles) to the border. I am finding that once they get to the border they meet another impediment in the form of a wall, ICE, US Border Patrol, and more.

I have not yet reached the point in the story to know what hardship they actually meet at the border, but the hardships along the trip are enough to change my mind about letting these people into our safe space. Anyone who can endure the difficulty of traveling with only the clothes on their back, shoes on their feet and perhaps a few dollars while dealing with the cartels, desperados, kidnappers, human smugglers and the many criminal elements all across Mexico have earned my sympathy. I am changing my mind about how we should deal with these immigrant people.

The problem I have is that all my ideas involve changing the criminal elements along the way. Control the cartels, eliminate local government and police corruption, establish migrant stations along the major routes. All of these things that I believe have to change are outside the periphery of US control. We the United States cannot move into Mexico and clean up their centuries of graft and criminal activity. Even if we were able to clean up Mexico we would then have to move into Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and the remaining Central American countries to clean up their acts. We would have to annex them into the country as states. The cost would be more than we can afford, although the cost of allowing the thousands of migrants coming through illegally is nearly as high.

Everyone who has a problem with illegal immigrants coming from Central America should read American Dirt to learn first hand what the problems are.

It would be easy for me to promote American Dirt as a learning experience except that it is fiction, not a non-fiction story based on facts and real experiences. Just like the Grapes Of Wrath chronicled the Joad’s moving through the dust bowl to the land of eden called California was fiction. Both stories have parallel themes which are based on realistic happenings, but they do not contain hard evidence to support the truth with facts. I do, however, believe that both John Steinbeck, author of the The Grapes of Wrath, and Jeanine Cummins, author of American Dirt had to have some living experience with the peoples who became characters in their stories. If not, then my hat goes off to each of them for having the imagination to write very believable and moving stories.

Now, I must post this essay and return to reading the end of American Dirt. Perhaps the end of the story will become a topic for another post.

Robots Make Better Decisions than Congress

The last book I read titled “Walk in My Combat Boots” by James Patterson was a series of stories told by veterans. Each one begins with a short bio of the warrior and followed by his story. The thing that impressed me most were the bios. Many of these soldiers came from families where fathers, grand fathers, and great grandfathers were also soldiers. Many of them fought in WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, and more recently Afghanistan and Iraq.

The stories are chilling. The sacrifices made by these men and women are hard to understand. They do it and they love it. Many of them stay in much longer than a drafted recruit. They return home unable to assimilate into society. Even sadder is that we as a society expect them to fit right in. Even if they return with their physical body intact, they have difficulty fitting in.

When I hear a member of our administration bad mouth the military, I am incensed to the point of wanting to execute the speaker on the spot. Thank God they are too many miles away, and I am watching them speak on a TV. Most recently I watched a speech given by our first lady vice president in which she denounced veterans as being coddled by the VA and that they should learn to get back into society by getting a job.

I am totally aware that these controversial statements are fact checked and many times I am make a fool of myself by not checking them before I speak. What I was surprised to learn is that all the fact checking sources claim that she never made any such statement. Except, I watched the video clip where she did. Maybe I was dreaming or watching a Saturday Night Live skit, but it sure seemed real to me. The internet has been scrubbed clean of any such video, at least I couldn’t find it. That wouldn’t surprise me because there is a lot of stuff I can’t find these days.

Most things that I can’t find are names, dates, and places of people who I know, or at least I think I knew them. Forgetfulness seems to come more easy these days. Some days I am as sharp as a tack, on others I ask myself why did I come here and what am I looking for. One thing I am certain that I don’t watch Saturday Night Live anymore, and sometimes I fall asleep while standing.

Generally, I find that most people I know treat veterans with respect. We are all appreciative of the sacrifices they made for our benefit. What really dogs me is when a Congressman, Senator, Bureaucrat, President, Vice President, or any of their underlings make snide remarks about veterans getting too much of the pie. Too often the pie is offered on a platter to those wandering into the country unwanted. Today, I read a short piece about how kids coming across the border are being treated to face to face schooling while our kids are being forced into virtual schooling. I say to our administration that I would prefer that they be virtual, and not leading face to face in their pristine offices while collecting full pay at our expense. Robots with some Google, or Amazon artificial intelligence would make better decisions than the current band of thieving administrators.

Highly Over Rated

My goal is to read a book every week. In the past ten years I have not yet been able to accomplish the feat. This tear I might get to 42 books read, but perhaps could have made it to 50 if not for books like the latest one. I also have a goal to read books by authors whom are highly touted as being great, but whom I have never bothered to read. My latest read is The Sound and the Fury by one WIlliam Faulkner, who is proclaimed to be one of the greatest novelists of our time. Bull shit I say. I was over a hundred pages into the story, if you could call it that, before I began to pick up any semblance of a plot and dialog that I could understand. The best I can cipher is that this story takes place in Mississippi during the depression years and tries to chronicle life on a farm next to a golf course. The farm is staffed by ex-slaves or descendants of slaves. The language is at best an attempt to mimic the language of people who never really learned English from any one other than a slave. Faulkner does do a fairly good job of writing dialog between uneducated blacks in the nineteen twenties. In order for me to understand what I was reading I had to sound out the bubonic words in my head, and then try to translate the sound into english grammar. A book that should have taken me two days to read took seven. Add to that time some procrastination, since I wasn’t anxious to move ahead.

About eighty pages from the end, Faulkner begins writing about adults who at the beginning were toddlers speaking baby talk eubonics. The story began to read like a real story, but then it got all dicey and screwed up at the end and my conclusion is that he must have fallen off his chair drunk before he could finish it properly.

My view on this book is this: If you see William Faulkner on your child’s reading list give the child license to ignore it. I don’t think that will happen because of one word used throughout the story, nigger. It won’t pass censorship by the politically correct police in high schools. It is however, recommended by the Oprah Book Club.

Talk-over Debate?

Thank you Lord! The weather is kick ass beautiful, and the temperature is downright civilized. I took advantage by a attending the funeral mass of a friend’s mother Josephine. She is eighty-four years and old mother of seven children all still talking to each other, six boys and one girl. The family attending took up a third of the available seats.

Upon landing at home, I dressed into my garden clothes and headed for the pond. One of the filters is clogging and the water level is down four inches. With the temperature in the seventies I decided to take the pump out for the winter and to clean both filters. That took about a half an hour. With so much beauty left in the day I kept rolling and began raking muck out of the water while the level is low. That took me an extra hour and a half. I used two kinds of rakes this time, first a leaf rake to skim out the decaying leaf matter, and then the garden rake to yank out the surviving water lily foliage. I had never used that rake before and expected it to do some serious damage, it did. The result is a bucket full of water lily roots which I now have to deal with over the winter. Oh well, I thought about thinning the lilies out a bit since they covered ninety-five percent of the pond surface. To keep a pond healthy there only has to be seventy percent coverage. At that coverage the alga bloom is in control. Less than that and the algae takes over. Frankly, I would rather look at out of control lilies than at algae.

After cleaning the muck and depositing it into the blue barrel for recycling I was done petered out, and hungry. I had a keto friendly snack of cheese and ham roll ups and a tall glass of berry flavored ice-water. Now this body has rebelled and is stuck in surf the internet mode on the internet.

The Vice presidential candidates debate this evening and I intend to watch the fight to the bitter end. I only hope my candidate destroys the opponent. Hopefully, it won’t be a talk-over type of debate. I’d really like to hear both side’s points of view. I hate when the candidate speaking gets talked over by his opponent or worse by the moderator.

I finished reading The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and I was not disappointed. The author managed to get the expedition out of the pre-historic valley in a believable, but exciting way. The grand finale was the report to all the cynics who were anxious to dispute any and all claims the expedition made about their findings. Not having photographic evidence did’t help the expedition, in lieu of pictures they chose to bring back living proof. They unboxed one of the creatures they found living in the valley, a pterodactyl. The proof seemed to shut up the disbelievers and excite the supporters. I recommend this story to anyone who likes adventure. * * * * * and surprise endings.

The Lost World

The latest e-book I am reading is The Lost World, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, he also wrote stories with Sherlock Holmes. It is an old story published in 1912, but because of a modern day movie called Jurrasic Park it seems familiar. If you ask me, Steven Spielberg stole the entire plot for his film from this book. All he did was to make the creatures come to life for the movie. Don’t get me wrong Spielberg’s accomplishments in showing us stories with realistic animatronics and green screen techniques is nothing to scoff at. His genius has made him a multi-millionaire if not a billionaire.

What impresses me about this story is the writing. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle does a masterful job of creating images with words. I find myself on the edge of my seat wriggling with anticipation as the story unfolds and the plot becomes filled with action, suspense, and excitement. The writing of many of the old books I read during this COVID season were stodgy and stiff and lost me in proper English grammar and phraseology of the nineteenth century. Lost World hasn’t done that to me. Since I have not completed the book I cannot comment on the ending, I still don’t know what it is.

One problem I am having at this moment is a lap-top battery that is dying. When the battery suddenly comes to the end of its power, the screen goes black and all reading, writing, or computing is finished. At least with a hard copy book, and a simple book mark, one can resume reading almost instantly. All I do is pick up the book, (i.e. after finding it) and open to the mark. On the computer, one has to wait until the battery is recharged then boot the machine before reading may commence. As long as there are old people alive the need for hard copy books will thrive.

Since the boomers are all aging they too will learn the simple joys of holding a book and flipping pages. That is so much simpler than swiping the touch pad with two fingers, only to learn that the curser has gone to sleep or is not on the book page and needs to be found before the swipe thing works. I forget though that evolution will cause boomers to grow a phone out of their palm and an extra thumb on each hand to facilitate texting.

Tracey J Boothe Publishing Blog

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