My Harrowing Escape


One of the most unpleasant dilemmas facing us average Americans today is that of our individual impact on the environment. I say ‘average American’, because for the people who buy Hummers, Escalades, or Panzerkampfwagen VI Tigers, environmental impact is not an unpleasant dilemma. Parking may be an issue. But for them, the environment is just an inadequately paved area adjacent to the road. The average American is somebody who gets a multiple of three miles per gallon. The average American is aware they’re living an unsustainable life, but hasn’t much idea how to fix it. As an average American, I have grappled with this aspect of my own existence — and lost.

Certain aspects of my lifestyle were easy to bring in line with an environmentally responsible approach. For example, to reduce water consumption, I sneak over to my neighbor’s house and use their toilet, and to further conserve water, I don’t flush. I recycle dozens of liquor bottles per week, as well as any trash that can’t be repurposed, such as spent uranium fuel rods. Did you know you can shingle your roof with old soda cans? Flatten them with that old Panzer that’s been gathering dust in the garage. You see?

Almost anything that can’t be recycled can be repurposed. Two brothers in Maine recently turned an aircraft carrier they found at the landfill into a perfectly serviceable tomato frame, and what’s even more amazing, the thing still keeps perfect time! But even the lowest of low-impact folks needs a car.

Until a couple of years ago, my grandfather rode a horse everywhere he needed to go. He rode it back and forth from one end of the swimming pool to the other, because they were trapped down there. Fine and dandy, but if Grandpa (we called him ‘Grinks’ or ‘Ftnoogwub’) ever decided to go to the Federal Building downtown, where would he park the horse? It was lame in its off hind leg, but never got the handicapped license plate, so the poor brute (I mean the horse) would have ended up in some six-dollar-an-hour lot, ten blocks away. Horse not work. If the bus doesn’t run past your house, you need a car. Seeing as my neighbors don’t leave the keys in their car any more, I had to go buy one. So I bought an extremely fuel-efficient car.

If you are not familiar with the Fiat Cinquecento, you are a boob. This diminutive automobile, last manufactured in 1975, is primarily known through its frequent use in circuses. Fifty clowns jump out of it, then two of them carry it out of the ring. This venerable machine gets about fifty miles to the gallon, even in the condition mine is in. It seats four people, assuming the ones in the back seat are bilateral amputees or were born without buttocks. I have wedged four people and a dog into the car, but if anyone had gotten an erection during the trip we all would have been crushed to death. It’s not a spacious vehicle. The secret to its fuel efficiency, apart from its small size, is its extremely conservative engine design. The Fiat 500 (Cinquecento is merely the Italian word for ‘twelve’, but because of Roman numerals it comes out to ‘500’) generates, in the prime of its youth, twenty-four horsepower. It can attain speeds of up to forty-five miles per hour assuming a stiff tail wind and perfectly level ground. Once the 500 attains this velocity, generally after a trifling quarter of an hour, it sounds exactly like a sewing machine chewing up a piece of sheet metal.

Mind you, this is a specimen in top form.

Mine, a 1973 500R originally from Sicily, has seen better days, and by the looks of it, the better days ended before the Schism of Rome. I recently decided to introduce some pollution into the environment by changing the oil. This had not occurred since the first Godfather movie. Removing a thatch of beard hairs from the undercarriage(the original owner was a widow), I removed the plug in the oil pan. A liquid resembling roofing compound poured out, and also a couple of circus clowns. Then I noticed the battery was leaking, releasing sulfuric acid into the ground. Naturally I then decided to degrease the engine and see what else was amiss. The degreaser you could defoliate Cambodia with. It turned out I needed to install assorted parts, fluids, and greases, the offcastings of which amounted to three trash bags full of stuff they wouldn’t take in Yucca Flats. So not only is my lawn now a superfund site, the car still won’t run. My attempt at fuel efficiency was a complete bust. Not to worry — I may be an average American, but I still have Grumpa Blurpy’s horse.

BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist, who lives in a large human settlement 100 miles south of Bakersfield, which we cannot name for security reasons. Ben also has a lot of outrageously priced crap for sale here. A collection of Tripp’s essays, Square in the Nuts, will be published this summer. If his writing starts to grate on your nerves, buy some and maybe he’ll flee to Mexico. If all else fails, he can be reached at: credel@earthlink.net 

October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?