Monday, November 24, 2014

Updates on 2003

On July 19th the original site was inactive, according to the WayBackMachine.  

While poking around there I found another website which was taken time when Fund used his attorney to threaten my webmaster, resulting in the loss of Ruthless People.  I had published essays there which I had entirely forgotten.  This is natural considering what else was going on, also linked to Fund and his two best SpeedDial Buddies, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, pictures with him above.  I decided these should go on this site, so now they are ready to read!  Go to the Menu bar on the Right to find them.  

John Fund does not list the most significant element of his career, this, working as a Political Operative since 1979.  

We are writing a CV for John which will supply the transparency the world needs to day to understand what has taken place to our world through deceptive practices in our government, in corporations, in finance, in our courts ,and in our personal lives.  

This site is the beginning of a real transparency for John and all of his friends.  

A Star for Christmas

A personal remembering by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

On Thanksgiving Day of 2001 my kids asked me a question as we sat around the table after dinner. It had been a perfect holiday filled with happy memories revisited and cooperative efforts over turkey and stuffing. 

This was one of those questions you never anticipate having asked but it lead to many insights and to this book. 

Later I sat down to write an explanation about where the family custom Ayn asked about had originated. Looking for the origin of the Star became a quest into the dusty reaches of my own mind and heart, through paper trails and the lives of people long forgotten. I found the Star and confronted many more unasked questions; I found many answers I didn’t know needed answering.

But this is still the explanation I sat down to write for my children. It is still the story of the Star for Christmas. 

The Beginning
Dearest Children,
Each of you grew up with the Christmas Star carrying your dreams, wishes and thoughts to the top of the tree on Christmas Eve. That has always been my favorite moment of the Christmas Season. 

I can shut my eyes and see the succession of trees, one after another. Tinsel and evergreen scents always make me smile. They always take me to that moment. Hearing you each read your wish and intention from the previous year was all delight; listening to my own was nearly always painful and frustrating. My wishes never came true. I felt as if I was treading water; and not very successfully, I might add. 

You wanted the real story and you are going to get it. I loved the Star, loved listening to each of you grow up in thought and acted intention even as I grew more and more bewildered over my inability to accomplish what I thought were my own goals. 

It hadn’t always been like that. 

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. But we all know it does not mark the date of His birth but the approximate time of Winter Solstice, the ancient human celebration of the year turning itself back from death toward life. The Solstice marks the moment in time when the process of death reverses itself. The descent into dark and cold pause and the world is born again. It is an entirely appropriate day to mark the birth of a Savior. Winter is still present but the template for the coming seasons are now locked in promise of renewal. To our distant ancestors it must have been magic. As with all life and faith it holds mysteries unsummed and untasted. 

Did I understand this truth when I started the custom of the Star for Christmas? I think unconsciously I did. 

You asked a question and I am going to answer it. How did the custom start? 

Answers are amazing things. 

When someone is 45 years in the grave we stop thinking about him as he was, especially when that person lives in the minds of others as a legend. But Jimmy had not become the legendary James Dean when I knew him. 

He was just a skinny young man who hunched his shoulders and peered at the world through thick glasses. 

You have probably seen his three movies. Most people hold an image in their minds of Jimmy that is more movie than reality. That is not unreasonable. He did not live long enough to express who he was through a lifetime of acts. But the Jimmy I knew was not like the image. 

Images and reality only rarely match.
It has taken me two years from Ayn’s asking to this book. I discovered, on retrospection, that my reasons were as complex as my knitting bag when you kids finished rerolling my yarn. 

The colors followed twisted and unconsidered paths linking the events and emotions from many lives that had touched my own. 

The answer was the peace found in silence, the images preserved in photographs and James Dean. You tell me which was most unlikely. 

When you finish reading this, you will understand. 

Your question forced me to think about the whys of Melinda; tracing thoughts into a past I didn’t like remembering to find the answer you wanted. I went looking for the Star and found myself.

A Free Market Solution to the Question of Gender

Barry Loberfeld’s saucy rant, combining diverse elements of philosophical argumentation counter seasoned with a tart touch of law and a few grains of biology is both unconvincing and pointless. 

Back to the basics. 

Individuals own their own bodies. Women and men both should be able to control their bodies and the products of those same bodies. This is not the world we live in today, however. It is also not the world our culture claims by tradition. But it is the future and the philosophical and moral viewpoint that the Freedom Movement is, at least formally, dedicated to affirm. Arguing about the gross injustice that exists today, a mixed market of draconian statism and bad social policy dragged here from history, is a waste of time. 

The real question is, what would Freedom look like enacted in this area? 

Let us first consider the easiest case, and the one instance where I agree fully with Mr. Loberfeld. 

Men should not be become fathers against their will any more than women should become mothers in the same case. But in actual fact very few men pay support for children conceived in such instances. Few men help pay the transaction costs of abortion. Virtually no men pay even a fraction of the costs related to contraception. Note that this is a pragmatic clarification aimed at the present status quo. 

The status quo is wrong – but not for the reasons opined by Mr. Loberman. The fact is that along with the very marginal financial support mandated in law men who are bioDads get tremendous power. Many women have been prohibited by courts from relocating if the bioDad objected. Women in this situation do not infrequently find themselves confronted, years later, with demands that the bioDad, unknown to the child, be allowed an active role in the child’s raising. Often these men have had no contact and paid not a cent of support. This is allowed by the courts, distorting the lives these women have chosen to lead. Women have been forced to pay off bioDads to simply get them to go away. Again, a pragmatic clarification of the status quo. 

Men should not be fathers against their will. Neither should they be able to force this relationship on a woman and child simply because of biology.

But the ranges of cases are much greater than this one posed by Mr. Loberfeld. Remember the provision that the pregnancy happen with consent? The unappetizing fact is that many women presently on welfare became pregnant before the age of consent and were impregnated by men much older. Therefore there was no informed consent. But still the courts recognize fatherhood without the consent of the woman. Rapists have also asserted, and been granted, rights of fatherhood. 

If the individual has the inherent right to bodily sovereignty then no court should be able to grant to any man fatherhood without the consent of the woman. Marriage has always been a contractual relationship that assumed that children would make the husband a father. That there are grave problems with marriage law is unarguable. But I will not take up that point here. 

In the case of non-consensual impregnation not only should there be no fatherhood there should be recognition of liability by the bioDad. Liability should be not to the child, but to the woman. Unchosen motherhood is a diminution of choice. It should be an actionable torte. 

In a free, world where responsible individuals acted responsibly and could act upon their inherent rights, women would insist that the costs and potential liabilities related to consensual intercourse and contraception be shared. They would have the power to do so. Relationships are a market open to all of the pressures of any market. 

Women would be able to write any marriage contract they wanted, without the interference of the State. Men and women could sign, or not sign, and be held to the contract in the same way we each have to pay for anything else we want. Most unmarried men are actually subsidized in this regard. Women bear the costs of gynecological visits, contraceptives, abortions, and the overwhelming share of the costs of raising children, both monetary and non-monetary. 

The irrationality of law has disregarded the biological reality that men and women are very different. It ignores the fact that there is a market in relationships, assigning a ‘one price standard’ to marriage that is clearly not in keeping with a free market. And also egregiously, they have limited women’s rights to negotiate for a benefit from selling sexual access and the right to parent a child. Therefore instead of a range of sexual options, a long gradient from companionate marriage to prostitution, we have only marriage completely in the ‘white,’ legal, market, and only prostitution in the, ‘black,’ illegal, market. Payment for sex and other contractual transactions are unenforceable by State fiat. In adoption we see women forced to give up babies for just their expenses. By controlling children the State has effectively made all mothers slaves on a governmental plantation. All of these are violations of a woman’s right to control of her body and life. 

In ignoring the biological realities the State and culture has tried to assign equal values to very unequal things. But the mechanisms of markets tell us the relative values of these things. Sperm is so cheap you have to make home deliveries and pay for the privilege of giving it away. An ovum, ready to be fertilized, costs thousands of dollars. A newly born and healthy baby can cost a couple adopting on the free market from $20,000 to $100,000. 

Ideas are the foundation of freedom. Within the context of thought we see and know and begin to act on the rights that are inherent in each of us. It is time that women were manumitted from the bondage that has shackled a thousand generations. And it is time that the Freedom Movement understood what those rights really are. 

The Info below is  no longer valid.  The Institute folded while I was struggling with the attacks by Fund and his Pop-Tarts, Gail Herriot and Wendy McElroy.
Melinda Pillsbury-Foster is the president of The Women’s Institute for Individual and Political Justice, based in Santa Barbara. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Benevolent Individualism. If you are interested in further information contact the Institute at: 1324 State St. Suite J296, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. E-mail:; Voice:(805) 569-0421; Fax: (805) 682-4444.

If Libertarianism is ‘toast.’

If Libertarianism is ‘toast.’
Joel Miller rhetorically asked in his July 19th column if Libertarianism is ‘toast.’ He thinks not. He is wrong. But not for the straw man reasons he used to attack that assertion when originally made by Clinton apologist Joe Conason. 

Joe’s information came from an accurate source but the source did not know nearly enough.
Libertarianism is dead as the Dodo because; contrary to all of their emotive rhetorical devices, chest beating, and posturing Libertarians are not about freedom but about privilege.

The free-market is not the property of Libertarianism and the other positives to come out of this faltering political movement in the last 30 years are not enough to make it relevant to the 21st century. Recycling rhetoric on gun rights and the market, although ecologically appropriate, is sadly flat. 

I know. I am intimately familiar with the both the past and present tense of Libertarian Party and with all of its major ancillary institutions. I served within the Libertarian Party locally, on a state level and nationally for many years. 

Libertarianism appealed to me because I care passionately about freedom and human rights. Human society is a market for ideas that make humans freer, more prosperous, and happier. Unfortunately Libertarians have never acted to affirm a belief that otherly gendered individuals, namely females, are human.

Libertarians have never spoken or acted to end abusive behavior towards women. In fact, they accept vile behavior without blinking. Perhaps they were badly raised; perhaps they are inherently uncivil but they cannot see women’s issues as issues of human rights. 

Therefore domestic violence is not an issue for Libertarians. Selling children for sex, marriage law that is in effect a system of wealth transfer enforced by the State, State interference with custody of children, and such crimes as rape are also non-issues for many Libertarians. To complete the picture a significant number of Libertarians are explicitly authoritarian when confronted with choices that personally benefit them. 

In one way or another they have spoken loud and clear through their actions, personal and political, as well as though their rhetoric to two generations of Americans who looked, judged, and went elsewhere. 

How do I know this? Personal experience. You gather a lot of personal experiences when you are active in a movement at all levels for 30 years. 

Let me hasten to assure you that I know it is not appropriate to hold a movement responsible for some small subset of individuals and that is not what is happening here. 

I am not talking here about some obscure LP members and organizers. I am talking about some of the most prominent and long term members and supporters of that movement. I am talking about Mr. Deceit himself, Michael Emerling-Cloud, presently the LP candidate for US Senate in Massachusetts; Manny Klausner, Attorney for John Fund and Matt Drudge, one of the three founders of Reason Foundation and the bulwark and mainstay for David Horowitz’s Center for Popular Culture, John Fund, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, Walter K. Olsen of the Manhattan Institute, Bob Poole, President and Founder of Reason Foundation, Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, Eugene Volokh, wonkish presence-dim and professor of law at UCLA, and a host of others less prominent on the national scene. 

Are there some good people? I like to think so – but still nothing happened on issues of immediate and compelling interest to women. Although Wendy MacElroy always rushed to assure us that it would all be better if women had access to pornography. Wendy is the token woman of the Libertarian Movement. She never seemed to understand that women who juggle a job, kids and a home don’t have time or interest in anything that complicated. I had five kids so I knew. I spent a lot more time on thinking about the cupcakes for the room parties than I did about sex. 

The LP could have been a real influence for good in America if they had been able to see the difference between doing the right thing and going after political power for their own profit and personal aggrandizement. But if they were different kinds of people I might still be one.
What kind of individual considers the political usefulness of an abuser when pressuring the victim into silence? What kind of newspaper overlooks egregious behavior because their hypocritical and supposedly pro-life employee is still useful? What kind of individual tells a father hysterical over the suicide attempt of his son that the kid should have used a higher caliber weapon to blow his brains out? What kind of person does it take to overlook decades of friendship for possible fundraising benefits? What kind of cynical sleaze would intentionally deceive and destroy other campaigns to eliminate inconvenient competition for fundraising dollars? 

The individuals named above have each participated in some subset of these offenses. If you ask which is which I will be glad to tell you.

They remain among the most respected senior statesmen of the movement while their disgusting behavior is ignored, celebrated and emulated or at least justified. 

A movement is morally bankrupt when it fails to self-police; ignores the laws of causality regarding observed behavior and public opinion and pretends to a standard of honor and commitment they never possessed. By failing to see immediate issues of personal freedom such as domestic violence as issues and by failing to prove that they as a community can govern themselves they have proved themselves moral unfit for public trust. They are no better than the present group of rascals and scoundrels and far less electable. And they are not nearly as good looking. 

The Libertarians are morally bankrupt. You can now start bidding on the office furniture. 

Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Confessions of a Guerrilla Writer: Adventures in the Jungles of Sex, Motherhood, and Domestic Violence

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

I first encountered the reality of domestic violence after I learned to read but before I understood what it meant to be dead. Proper parents did not confront their children with the stark realities of death, violence or abuse. My parents, a college professor and a mathematician, were all that was proper in that regard. Therefore the hushed conversation I overheard when Father came home unusually early looking very upset and not at all like his usual assured self. I was shooed out of their bedroom and therefore took up my usual listening post just outside the door in the hallway. Yes, I was an insufferable brat. But I had ascertained that you learn interesting things by listening. 

On this occasion I hear my father’s voice speaking low and rumbling with pain talking about a bloody event. The estranged husband of one of the office employees had shot down his wife. Their voices dropped so low I could not hear and then rose. I heard the shock in my mother’s tone. The tiny drops of red on his formerly crisp white shirt now made ugly sense. 

We call it domestic violence. We urge women to ‘move on,” “be positive,” and “stop asking for it.” We talk down to the victims even while we fail to make it safe for them to leave. Then we blame them for enabling the abuse. We protect the ‘rights’ of the violent in preference to protecting the lives of the innocent. 

In this way we fail as individuals and as a nation to say NO to violence. Therefore, with the inevitable logic of causality we say yes to continuing generations of fear, deceit, violent abuse and death. 

There are lots of ways to spell stupid. 

Two generations ago a woman named Rosa Parks took a seat on a bus denied to her by the law. Seated beside and around her were attorneys and activists who were mandated to protect her person and her rights. We celebrate Rosa Parks as a hero for freedom, and so she is. 

What are we saying to women who fight back to change the system? I will tell you. We say, “You are too smart to do this.” “Get on with your life.” “You can do nothing so don’t try.” 

It is not surprising that there has been no Rosa Parks for domestic violence. No one would or could endure the danger and abuse it would take to create such a case. Therefore changing our cultural practices makes it essential that women who have been abused stand up for their rights and challenge the powers that be. To do that we need to recognize the kind of courage it takes to do that and give them support. 

I know. My own daughter has tried to speak out and the powers that be agree on one thing. She must be silenced. They offer her no support only sappy advice about moving on; advise they would never offer to a victim of any other kind of institutional injustice. 

More women die today of domestic violence than die of prejudice. More lives ad maimed and distorted; more damage is done to each of us and to the future we are trying to build for our children. Supporting women who speak out from all walks of life is the moral duty of anyone and everyone who is committed to changing the stark reality of domestic violence. That means not treating battered women as flawed but understanding that it is our system that commits them to lives of terror and fear. 

When women speak out we should see what they could accomplish for others by forcing change to take place. We should thank them, support them, and encourage them with all that it takes to say NO to violence and YES to human relationships free of violence, coercion and fraud. 

I am prouder of my daughter than I can say. It has taken indomitable will to withstand both abuse and the institutions and individuals who continue to enable abuse. 

When the reality of domestic abuse changes it will happen because of women like my daughter and not because of the legions of politicians and attorneys who trade on their pain. 

It will happen because we are not going to just take it any more. 

Thank you Morgan. It is about time someone said NO.

James Byron Dean, Individualist A personal remembering

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster 

When someone is 45 years in the grave we stop thinking about him as he was, especially when that person lives in the memories of others as a legend. But Jimmy had not become the legendary James Dean when I met him. He was just a skinny young man who hunched his shoulders and peered at the world through thick glasses.

You have probably seen his three movies. You certainly recognize his face and the stance of angst he came to represent. Most people hold an image in their minds of Jimmy that is more movie than reality. That is not unreasonable. He did not live long enough to express who he was through a lifetime of acts. But the Jimmy I knew was not like the image. 

Jimmy was the first person I knew who talked to me about ideas as if I was a thinking person instead of a child. He had a talent for making me look at things in ways that surprised me. He helped me see things more deeply. Jimmy was the magic of ideas and spirit. He seemed like one thing and then suddenly his eyes would twinkle and he would say something that turned my world upside down. Stars, leaves, faeries, kittens and death, he talked about all of them. He helped me believe in fairies and also to understand that fairies were a different kind of real. 

With Jimmy I went on voyages of discovery into places inside my mind. After he was gone that magical shifting stayed with me. His gift. So I want to introduce you to the James Byron Dean who was laughter, insight, and amazement. That Jimmy is the truth that bubbles up when I see a picture of him. That is the Jimmy who is real. 

Each of us assembles who we are from the materials at hand and Jimmy was a foundational influence in my life. We all hunger for things beyond our experience. I did not realize I could love the taste of thought until Jimmy. Jimmy taught me to doubt, to think and to glory in discovering new ideas.

We touch the lives of others every day without knowing at the time how much those contacts really matter. Jimmy spoke of many things. Some things I did not understand at the time. But I remembered. Life gives us gifts if we choose to see them. But sometimes-even gifts most true - need time for understanding and I am still understanding Jimmy. 

Jimmy had an innate empathy for the human need of ceremony. This was Truthing - making things clear and giving direction. He never said why, but over the time I knew him he led me through what I now recognize as ceremonies of understanding. 

I carried that on into my own life, thinking and creating ceremonies as I came in contact with the world around me. Some were about healing; some about making my intentions strong and true. 

Life is a constant seeking for the truths that light places within us.

The first time I met Jimmy

It was before I started going to Kindergarten. It had to have been because I was alone at home with Mom and Stephen, who was still in diapers. Stephen made wet places on the floor sometimes. You had to watch for the dark patches. Stephen didn't eat lunch with me. I ate alone at the little table in the kitchen. My table had a tiny drawer where I stored my crayons and other items of interest and great value. I had not stopped chewing on crayons, at least occasionally, at that point. They looked like they should taste good - and they didn't taste too bad, actually. Interesting texture, too. 

Mom usually made me a Beanie sandwich. If you have not tried one of these you have not lived a full and complete culinary life. A proper Beanie sandwich oozes with filling; the bread is very soft and only white bread will do. I remember my teeth biting through the bread and the small explosion of flavor from the peanut butter and jelly followed by the pasty feel of the peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth. The jelly was usually strawberry, then my favorite. I had mine with potato chips or Fritos, if there were any; Just a few on the side of the plate, and milk for a beverage in one of the little plastic glasses that bounce, not break. They bounced all too often.

That day I was just sitting down to the sandwich when there was a knock at the front door. I wandered out of the kitchen to peer around the corner. Mom was talking to a skinny man. The skinniness struck me first. He introduced himself as the son of someone. I didn't remember the name. Mom invited him in with cluckings and the offer of lunch. He stepped into the entryway and noticed me, sandwich in hand. Beanie sandwiches are cut in long thin slices, fourths. This strip was drooping badly and leaking onto my hand. I licked it off. Tasted even better that way. 

Mom grabbed me and returned me to my little table and chair. I twisted around to look at the man as he followed us into the kitchen. He sat down with me in the other little chair. He fit snugly. I laughed. I had never seen a big person sit at the little table. 

So Mom made him a Beanie sandwich of his own. While she was fussing with the sandwich and a glass of milk for him Jimmy showed me how to peel up the top of the sandwich and scrunch the potato chips into the peanut butter. I liked it. It was different and it sort of tickled the roof of my mouth when I bit into it. Salt against the strawberry jam was interesting, I thought. 

Jimmy asked my Mom for some more things for his sandwich. It was a Beanie, too. But into his he put pickles and tomatoes and ketchup. It was wonderfully icky. I made a face and he made the same face back at me and rolled his eyes and said, "ummm....yummy!" So then I wanted a bite of his. It was interesting. I was not sure I liked it at first but I liked the way Mom looked when I ate it. Jimmy laughed and I laughed, too. 

After lunch we went into the back yard. The house on Colby where I grew up was green. All of the houses Mom occupied were green. She struggled to make them that perfect shade of light celadon but this rarely worked out. At that point the house was a rather determined institutional green with dark shutters on the windows. I was then occupying the front bedroom with my sisters Anne and Carol and occasionally my mother's mother, Darling Daisy. I had a tiny bed that had graduated me just in time from the crib that was then occupied by Stephen. There was a living room, dining room and kitchen with laundry area. I liked it there. It was cozy and snug even for someone of my dimensions. 

The Avocado Tree dominated the back yard on Colby Avenue. Eventually, it would grow into a great-grandmother of a tree, bearing avocados all year long. Then, it was still young but good for climbing. 

Mom was showing her roses to Jimmy. His Mom liked roses, too, he said. Later I realized that his Mom was dead. 

I went off to play under the Avocado Tree while they talked. That was my favorite destination in the back yard for making mud pies. For some reason the mud there was especially fine grained and therefore looked like chocolate. Didn't taste like chocolate though. I had already ascertained that on a previous occasion. Then I had a great idea. I had something I wanted to show Jimmy. I knew he would like to see it. 

I still feel a tingle of excitement when I remember dragging someone by the hand over the concrete pathway along the side of the garage. My arm is up at an angle because he was so much taller than I. I am looking ahead to a rather dense and tall bush against the back fence. On one brief occasion I am off the ground because I am pulling so hard. 

I round the bush and there is the prize. I don't know how it got there. It certainly had not been ours. But the dead tortoise had certainly been past all hope when I first found it. I had been watching it being eaten by ants for some time. I tried to look every few days, although I knew that I should not tell Mom. She would remove it, I was pretty sure.

Jimmy looked at the turtle for a long time. He squatted down to get a better look. Then he smiled. 

Jimmy told me then that he had watched the same process only it was with a cow, I think. I shuddered. Cows were huge. My first contact with Jimmy was also the first occasion when I talked to anyone about the physical process of mortality. We had a cat then, Tiger Lady, later Tiger when his gender was correctly identified. But Tiger was still a fluffy kittenish presence then. I had yet to bury a deceased goldfish to be dug up later for minute examination. The tortoise came first. Jimmy filled me in on various aspects of the process with horrid expressions of face and gestures of hands. He also introduced the idea that the essence of the tortoise, the thing that moved it and made it Tortoise, was no longer there. It had gone someplace else. I was skeptical. I was always skeptical. I had learned that people would tell me things that were not strictly factual. Jimmy didn't do t! hat. Jimmy told truth.

That was the first time I met Jimmy. I think he was going to UCLA then and as a starving student was making the rounds of families who had known his mother to give him access to a fuller diet. But he did come back - usually at lunchtime. 

Having Jimmy come by was exciting. The pattern became set. He would wolf down sandwiches, cookies, and other edibles while talking to Mom and instructing me in the ways of culinary augmentation of taste sensations until every speck of food on his plate and mine was consumed. He would drink milk usually because that is what there was. But once in the springtime it was lemonade. We did not have soft drinks in the house then.

On one occasion I remember showing him the contents of the Thing on what must have been the second visit. How do I explain The Thing? It was a very odd piece of furniture that served as a storage unit, build by my Uncle Ernie. Finished a light oak color, it was actually made out of pieces of wood salvaged from the old Los Angeles Court House, torn down in the 30's. He was Father's elder brother. Later I learned from my sister Anne that he used to stay with them from time to time, years before I was born. Anne didn't like him. I think he drank too much from what she said. But she did say that he was jolly and made jokes along with the furniture. 

I remember the day when the phone rang and I watched Father learn that Uncle Ernie, his brother, was in the hospital and not likely to live. Father left the house abruptly having lost the smile that usually lingered on his face.

That weekend Father went into the garage and burned the contents of a dusty trunk he pulled down from the rafters. There were piles of glossy pictures that curled and darkened into the fire, one after another. Father looked at each one, sad and also distant. He didn't seem aware I was watching, which was not like him. 

Later, Father told me that Ernie asked him to burn everything while he was in the hospital dying. In the years since I have learned much more about Ernie. I have stood at his grave, located just a few steps from his parents joint resting place, and read his words on cards, looked at his face frozen in time with the steep walls of Yosemite in the background. I have gotten to know the cousin who is his only child. I listened carefully to her story and watched her face as she described the man who was her mother's first husband and the father she could not remember. 

I treasure the bookcase Ernie made. It is beautifully turned and finished with a dark stain. Mother and Father hung it over the secretary disk that had belonged to Grandmother Sylvia and to Dr. Harriet, Father's grandmother, before her. Only very special books and items were placed there

The Thing was very different. It was a toy box on top with two little shelves on the bottom. Massy and sturdy. I know that it was used as a children's toy box originally when Anne was tiny. But when I was growing up it lived in the living room and contained Treasurers.
These were real treasurers, the kind that Dad showed people when they came over. The people looked very closely at them, murmuring. They were stiff paper, all curled up on themselves, holding tiny pictures. 

The curling stiff papers were proof sets of the photographs that A.C. had taken of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in 1906. I liked looking at them so I knew that Jimmy would, too. He did. He exclaimed over the clarity and the feeling you got that you could feel the heat and smell the dust, still in the air from the shaking of the earth. He looked for a long time. He also looked at the gold pictures, orotones, with images of the south seas and Yosemite, the Desert and other distant places I had never seen. The gold color gleamed deeply. There were other pictures, too. Still shots of plant curling into bloom and tiny shots of cells with an image of AC caught seeming to be exclaiming in excitement. 

That was when he told me we were cousins. I do not know that this is true, actually. I do know that our families on my mother's side came from the same very small town in Indiana. Thereafter I referred to him interchangeably as Jimmy or Cousin Jimmy.

Jimmy told me stories about himself and his dreams. On that day he told me he wanted to make movies and be an actor. I thought that was ridiculous. I knew he was going to college then and he was going to be an attorney. I don't think he told me that. I think it was the kind of thing you pick up listening to adults talk. But his dream was not one that his father did liked. I could understand that. I wanted to do things my parents didn't like, either. Mom had taken away the tortoise, just like I thought she might. 

I think that is the first time Jimmy talked to me about his future. He talked great big things for his future. He talked about people I did not know who he told me were in the movies and then on television. We had gotten a television at some point and it was established in the living room at the end towards the bedrooms in a big wooden cabinet. I thought it was elegant then. Smooth varnished wood and very glossy high lights. 

When it needed repair, which was all too frequent, Stephen and I would climb in the cabinet and pretend we were actors in a show. That came from Jimmy and his stories about being in the movies. Stephen was diaper trained and usually reliable by this time. 

Jimmy did not talk to Mom about his dreams. Or he did once. She fixed him with a piercing stare and told him that actors starve and accomplish nothing useful anyway. I know that the family felt just that way about actors. There were some in the neighborhood. 

Lloyd Bridges lived around the corner with his kids and scandalized my mother by walking around outdoors with his underwear showing. That was a definite no-no then. Later, Dave Brew would tell me that he borrowed the Hardy Boys books from Jeff who was very unwilling to share. Since sharing was a cardinal virtue and something we did between houses that was a shocking dereliction. I know that Mr. Bridges was active in scouts with my Dad. I do not remember for which brother, Cap or Stephen. 

Jimmy introduced me to the living world of plants in the backyard one afternoon while I was climbing the lemon tree. Climbing the lemon tree was a riskier business than climbing the avocado tree. It had little prickles. But its smell seemed to sink into my skin and stay with me even after I was tucked in at night. So I was careful of the prickles and climbed it when I hungered for the headiness of lemon. 

It was a quiet afternoon and you could hear the sounds of Mom washing up in the kitchen. I laid my head along the branch to breath in the lemon scent deeply. Jimmy was lying on the lawn, looking up but with his eyes closes. 

Then he spoke. "Trees breathe. Can you hear the tree breathing?" I listened. I heard the faintest movement of leaves brushing against each other, but I heard no breathing. I told him that trees do not breathe. He laughed, and said again that they do. I jumped down, thoroughly saturated with the scent of lemons now. I walked over to him, put my hands on my hips an told him that trees do not breathe. 

Jimmy sat up. The sun twinkled off his glasses. He got up slowly, stretching a little. He sat there, eye to eye with me. 

"Trees breathe", he said again. "They breathe in light and breathe out life." He blew gently into my face and smiled. 

This was a moment of revelation for me. Plants possessed life, just as the tortoise had. Somehow I knew it must be true, although I would not understand the technicalities of photosynthesis for many years. Jimmy went on to tell me that all plants breathe, making the air we need to survive. I almost forgot to breathe myself in that moment. 

Jimmy had changed my world forever in ways I did not yet imagine. That night, I went to sleep hearing the whole great green world breathing slowly and firmly all around me. 

Jimmy had introduced me to plants as living things that struggle to survive. He had introduced me to the great circle of life that subsumes everything on Earth. He later told me that all things are connected, some obvious and some so tenuous and complex that we will never know just how they touch through time and space. 

Our thoughts touch too, he said smiling with a little sadness. 

Between visits I thought about what Jimmy had said, rolling his words and expressions over in my mind and examining them from every possible direction. 

On another visit, Jimmy taught me to draw a star on a discarded piece of paper. He picked up the pencil and his hand moved and, voila! There was that little five pointed shape right before my eyes. I thought he was a magician for part of one breath. Then I insisted he show me how he did it.

We filled up that paper with stars. I made him do it again and again until I could do it myself. I was hard to put off in those days. That was when he told me about stars. Here is what he said.

Jimmy said that the sun was a star. I disagreed. I knew that stars were little points of light. This was evidence of my own eyes. But he said it only looked like that because they were so very far away. He pointed to a bird off in the sky that was a speck. 

I thought about this and conceded that it could be true. 

The first revelation under the lemon tree in the back yard fit neatly into the next one. Jimmy told me that all life comes from the sun. I disagreed. Life comes from the Earth, plants and babies, I said. I had learned very recently about babies from the pregnancy of a neighbor, Mrs. Grimes, who let me put my hand on her very pregnant belly. I knew therefore that mommies make babies. Yes, said Jimmy. But mommy persons make babies just like them. They are human, and all babies, human and otherwise, need the Earth and the life in her to keep living. 

Jimmy reminded me about the tortoise and said that the tortoise went back into the soil and that plants and other animals ate what was left of the tortoise after its essence was gone and therefore didn't need its body any more.

That was a moment I have never forgotten. I saw things, plants, animals, people, moving through time, consuming and consumed with the steady infusion of light becoming life. 

Jimmy took that opportunity to say his goodbyes to my mom and be on his way. I think the stars tired him out. 

In the summer of 1955 I must have seen Jimmy at least two times. Once he took me to see a movie he said was about a cowboy. The movie was East of Eden. I don't know if you have seen this movie but there is no cowboy and no horses. Horses were a strong selling point when jimmy introduced the idea of a movie. So Jimmy took me and various other family members to the theatre on Pico Blvd. and settled me into a seat with my very first Baby Ruth candy bar. 

There were no horses and no cowboy. I now believe that Jimmy meant that HE was a cowboy because he had just finished making the movie Giant. But this cut no weight with me when I was six. The guy in the movie did not look like Jimmy. He was not wearing glasses and he whined a lot, very unJimmy-like behavior. (Jimmy was practically blind without his glasses. I understood this, having very thick glasses myself.) I had been defrauded, something I did not expect from Jimmy. Afterwards he took me on the pony rides to make up for it. I also received a lasso and lessons in twirling. The best part of the occasion was getting to climb and run along the scalloped wall that surrounded the pony ride. This made Jimmy nervous and he insisted I let him fetch me down as he ran along beside me. Eventually, when the wall ran out, I did. 

On the last occasion when I saw Jimmy, it must have been toward the end of that summer, he told me the story of a man who wanted to speak his truth to the world by being an architect. He told me that many times the world will not listen to such truth and that it tests the spirit of the individual to make the world see him or her as they are. Testing makes us stronger, he said, and forces us to become most truly what we are. His voice trembled a little as he talked. He said that someday he would tell the story as it should have been told. He was starting to tell the world who he was, he said. 

The story, I later realized, was The Fountainhead and the man was Howard Roark. We take inspiration where we find it, making it our own. The story he told me had a strong spiritual tone, very different than the book I would later experience. I like Jimmy's version best. 

Jimmy had taught me to doubt the obvious and see past what I thought I knew. He taught me to be strong and do what I believe is right no matter how much others might disapprove or even try to stop me. He had taught me to think and that thinking was a joyous pleasure that would never fail me. He was right about that. 

We talk a lot about the skills we give our children in school. But the greatest and most lasting lessons I have learned through life came long before I started my formal education. I don't think Jimmy thought of himself as a teacher. But he was. He was a teacher, a philosopher, and an ardent soul in flight through a life that was all too short. 

I will always be grateful for the lessons of Jimmy.