Our Special Breed of Catholic

Paraguay is a Catholic country. The Constitution demands that the President be Catholic, and that he be married. The previous President took that requirement a bit too far for the taste of most people. He was a Catholic bishop, and he had many common-law wives, with whom he had numerous children. The current President is not a priest but a wealthy businessman, though he is widely acknowledged to have made his fortune dealing drugs.

miss catholic university 008

The strongest and best private University in town, and maybe in the nation, is the Catholic University. Here is a picture of Miss Catholic University for the branch in our town. She’s 19 and her long-term ambition is to become a dentist. I think her unusually revealing costume is an homage to Carnival, held here in February, a tradition we borrowed from the Brazilians next door. Our version of Carnival is so well thought of that it even attracts Brazilian tourists.

Want to Immigrate? Talk to a Psychiatrist First.


We had to know somebody to get an appointment without first having to get there at dawn to wait in line. Fortunately, we did know a nurse, and she got us a couple of numbers so we only had to wait two hours. This is the public hospital, the one that is free for all citizens, and it’s the one where works the psychiatrist who approves or disproves applicants for residency. Believe me, there is not a bus station in the States that is dirtier or more unattractive than this hospital.

(this is the sign on the door to the psychiatrist’s office)

We found a bench to sit on near her office, but there was a poop smell coming from someplace nearby, which probably explains why it wasn’t already occupied. We arrived at seven a.m., and some people who had spent the night waiting for an appointment the next day still had their mattresses unrolled.

There was only one functioning bathroom, and that was down in front of the emergency room. When I used it, I held by breath and did my business as quickly as possible. There were only two toilets and two urinals in a building that several hundred people. The hallways were lined with waiting parents and children.

When our turn finally came, my son went in first. She told him she could not approve him for residency until she had seen his test results for his blood tests, chest X-ray and electro cardio gram. No one had told us we had to do the tests in a certain order, so we learned we will have to go through the waiting process again.

Fortunately, if you’re rich enough to have medical insurance, there are alternatives to such hospitals. I don’t know what they’re like, and I’d rather not find out, but it would be truly terrible if this is would be what I had to look forward to in the event of a medical crisis.

Discovered lost treasure on YouTube

I don’t have much anymore in the way of possessions. This last trip home I took everything that I’d been keeping in storage to the auction or the dump. Thank God for that enormous virtual storage space known as “the cloud.” Here’s a bit my comedy troupe Duck’s Breath made in about 1978 in San Francisco for public access television. I’m the one channeling Chester.

People Here Know How To Enjoy Life

Like this fellow I ran into in a German community not far from our town.


I like to eat lunch at a local buffet. It’s not “all you can eat” which is good for my waistline, and it’s very popular because the food is as cheap as it is good. Nice place to meet new friends?

disneyland cafeteria

Of course, sometimes I have to wait in line, but it’s my problem, as people in developing nations have a far different notion of what constitutes “personal space.”

customer service

And their ideas of politics are sure different. In the States we don’t like to be bothered, but here they seem to like to get together for a nightly mass rally.


But strong families and a willingness to work hard promise a bright future for all

The Author as a child, in Dubrovnik

My New Friends

South America is full of diverse ethnic groups, and in one day of nosing around I have met many. Like just yesterday, when I went for a swim, I came up on shore and ran into these guys.


Then, a short walk in the woods took me to a completely different spot. Again, interesting ethnic types!


Finally, I was able to practice my spanish with some serous fellows who told me to go back where I came from and could I please spare a dollar?


Who Am I, Anyway?


Given the high levels of self-loathing among the young, it’s no surprise that celebrities of both sexes frequently choose to permanently mutilate their bodies, but it is amazing how often they go under the needle just to make themselves feel…whatever one feels after getting a tattoo.

Says Todd AO Vision, a well-known surfer/bodybuilder/yoga teacher who dabbles in extra and stunt work, “I might not know who I am from day to day, but my tattoos never change, unless I get a new one. My tats say more about me than I do. It’s comforting to know that they’re my brand, and that they’re always telling people how unique I am.”

Todd is not alone in this self-view. Therapists report that many of his contemporaries feel their tattoos are their “best friends,” their “greatest accomplishment,” and “the most valuable thing about them.”



Portion of US factory workers who have a college degree: ¼
Portion of University teaching positions that are led by graduate students or adjunct faculty : ¾
Percentage of college professors teaching online classes who do not believe that students should receive credit for them: 72

These three facts tell of a world of trouble with the U.S. higher education, yet nobody dare pull the plug on it, because how else are we going to induce compliance with and bolster confidence in the absurd and completely artificial construct that sells internationally transferrable credit hours and certifications? What if the people who owe the over trillion dollars in student loans suddenly decide they were tricked and have no intention of repaying?

Higher education is our gatekeeper to jobs that let you sit in an air-conditioned office and play with your computer. If we let just anybody compete for cushy jobs without first enduring this systemitized hazing, why would anyone first endure years of superfluous schooling?

To keep the barbarians at the gate, we must all believe in the importance of education. In Iowa, it’s practically the state religion. We might not have much in the way of scenery, but darn it, we have good schools. Or we think we do.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have skipped college and gone on to some sort of self-employment, learning valuable skills along the way. Having always harbored an aversion to hard work of any kind, I’m not sure what that might have entailed, but since it’s all moot at this point, I’ll encourage the reader to imagine me with grease on my hands, lying on my back underneath a leaking truck engine. Anyone who actually knows me might have a hard time picturing such a scene. Because, like most of us, I hoped that the university would be my ticket to Easy Street.

Fortunately, I didn’t incur debt as I learned to drink coffee mornings in the student union, and beer at night, while developing an appreciation for the Firesign Theater. So my lost years weren’t really lost, just a sort of prolonged adolescence. Instead of drinking too much beer at night in a blue collar tavern after a hard day in the shop, I drank too much beer in grungy student apartment after a long day of goofing off. I thought reading Kurt Vonnegut was my job, not something one did for leisure and relaxation, after work.

But even though I didn’t emerge from six years of higher education any poorer, I did become a certified softie. After graduation, when I travelled in Mexico, people assumed I was a priest. They could tell these hands had never gripped a machete or a hammer.

Now that I’m older, I’m often mistaken for a psychiatrist. Again, no one has ever assumed I knew how to fix a car or an air-conditioner, for I wear my artificial sense of entitlement easily.

Unlike their South American counterparts, the real upper class in this country has learned to amass most of the wealth by simply playing by the rules. The bank bailout after the 2008 mortgage collapse resulted in this largest heist in recorded history, the greatest transfer of wealth ever recorded. And none of that money is ever going to flow back down to the middle class, at least in our lifetimes.

So what advice would I offer my eighteen-year old self if I could go back in time and meet me? Learn a skill that rich people need, and then hang around with rich people until you get some of their money. And remember, most learning is not accomplished in an institutional setting. Anything else is an uphill battle, with the slope getting steadily steeper over time.

Why do you think there are so many more plastic surgeons than pediatricians or geriatric specialists? Would you rather be an investment adviser a Wal-Mart greeter? I don’t know how many Wal-Mart greeters have college diplomas, but I imagine over time the number will equal the percentages of investment advisers on whose office walls hang framed diplomas.