five more years, first in Chicago, then Milwaukee. Somebody like me get married, what are you, crazy??!! They shoulda taken me out in the streets and shot me. When his youngest son died, at twenty-seven, he left the ice and snow forever: he’d met his responsibilities. He found his way south to Texas, a land he loves for its serene, open spaces, the tenacity for survival it sometimes requires, and its tolerance for a man who wants to live unencumbered by people. Take my friend Jack, who stockpiles $1 bills. He’s excited by the prospect of a depression, and the project of acquiring small bills from unsuspecting grocery store clerks adds a texture of suspense to his unbroken days. This lady friend, she’s a nurse for these old retired ladies, and she says they’re buying lots of canned food. They know, because they lived through the Depression…. You need three things to be a cop: compassion, a sense of humor, and common sense. It’s the only way you deal with the ups and downs, the stress. One minute you’re bashing somebody to get cuffs on them, very violent, and when you turn around, there’s an old lady looking for directions…. If we got a report, of what we used to call a stinker, someone who had been dead for a while, and up in St. Paul it used to be a lot of old people dead from the cold, you go in, you find the coffee, and you dump it into a frying pan on the stove and burn it to kill the smell. Some cops used to carry around cigars…. It was routine, if you had a report like S By Graf, le tall iseivrter of THE ‘WALL STIliz,:1 4rt .1 max t, For months, stock market bulls have taken coneort in an important his toric obsevation: P\(5stwar bear markets have almost all be gtin with rising inflation a the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, nd and neither is on the horizon. The signs are growing that this time could be different, With the Bridge Commodity Research 7,13ureau Index of corritnotlity prices closA, VC,i4i th e wid that, first thing you do is . roll the place, because a lot of these old people, they’re nuts, they stash their money somewhere in their place…. His life has become books and guns and cash, the hard true facts of life. Old men hoard them and young men traffic in them. They are compact, arrangeable objects. You can keep them by your bed. The human hand seems designed for them. They organize your instincts and your re flexes. On rainy days, you can count them, measure your life with them. Because each contains a kind of power. Yet someone out there will want your guns, your books, your cash, and in this way you become vul nerable, even as the meaning and power they confer make you stronger. You can be sure. This is the world we live in. Around them you can build hierarchies of value. It’s debatable whether or not a .22 is better than a 9 mm because you can empty the clip more quickly, but some books are ob viously better than others, and you can make bad books useful, like cutting out the pages and hiding cash inside. Or taking them under the train tracks, hanging them on the oiled timbers as it turns out, bad books Please 7… make the best targets. He writes, Hope there’s peace between us. By the time I get to visit him, he’s added a lilt to his usual tune, because now the Dow has hurtled downward yippee! now Jack knows that what he has been predicting for the last eight months \(all the is becom SOME BOOKS ARE OBVIOUSLY BETTER THAN OTHERS, AND YOU CAN MAKE BAD BOOKS USEFUL, LIKE CUTTING OUT THE PAGES AND HIDING CASH INSIDE. ing more and more true and, wouldn’t you know, all is well between us, very nearly like the summer I lived next door, hung my feet in the pool while he talked, ate barbecue together on Saturdays. Do you want guns, books? He gives the door-todoor Christians hale and hearty hell we’re sitting under a tree when a young woman, a Jehovah’s Witness, wobbles up on heels too high for the gravel, and he really throws her, How’s the god business? and she tries to toss the Watchtower, which he gamely deflects, No, thanks, I don’t read fiction. In this and other ways, he seems so pleased with the way the world is falling apart, I can hardly tell he’s sick. Last fall he was diagnosed with prostate cancer the old man’s disease and by Christmas, he had told three doctors to fuck off. He doesn’t comment on the pain, he looks well, though I’m pissing more and liking it less and the landlady says there are some days he looks like hell. What about treatment? I asked him. Turns out, he was not a hit with the ego-boy oncologist in Big Springs. Do ton Beco or Some Ftr thiumn NOVEMBER 6, 1998
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