Burn it all down.

At Dick's on Broadway, there are no tables. There's no 'inside' except for employees. Customers queue outside, get their food, and then walk or drive away.

Me, after ordering, I stand around and eat on the sidewalk, then walk to the bus stop.

A dozen people were outside Dick's and waiting to order, and I was devouring a burger, when a deranged woman approached and shouted, "My last name is Peterson!" She was looking straight at one of the men in line. "Where are the keys?" she asked.

He didn't reply, because clearly the gears were jammed in that woman's head. Her hair was matted, splotches all over her face, arms whirling like windmills, and what she was wearing I didn't notice at all. Too much else was going on.

"Give me the keys!" she demanded again, of the same man.

He stammered, "I don't have your keys—"

"Failure too cooperate with me is a federal execution offense!" she shouted, but she'd switched from yelling at that man to yelling at the crowd. Maybe the switch came from an instinct for self-preservation; she was scrawny, and the man she'd been yelling at was not.

She continued, sometimes in a pleading voice, but more often yelling, demanding the keys and promising execution if she didn't get them.

No cops were around — something to be thankful for. Police are not the best at handling mental-health situations. The woman had no weapon, but a quick-draw cop could argue that her talk of execution amounted to death threats, so he had to shoot her.

Sept. 11, 2022

"Do you have my keys?" she shouted at someone else. I was glad she wasn't shouting at me, and pretended not to be watching, as I scribbled notes to myself about what was happening. That's what I always do.

"A federal offense!" she shouted to the sky, and then to the customers standing in the wind, she said menacingly, "It's execution if you don't give me the keys!"

To another woman she shouted, "How are you paying for this? They don't take cash, you know. Your money is no good here!"

She was right about that, and wrong. There are signs at the registers saying, "No cash," a remnant of COVID, but nobody had objected when I paid cash for my two Deluxe and two fries.

"Are you using my mother's credit card?" she screamed at one man in line. "Stop using my mother's credit card!"

"Do you want lunch?" the man answered, so softly I barely heard. The wild-eyed woman stopped cold, stared at him.

"Yeah, I'm hungry," she said, quietly.

They talked very briefly, and then she stomped off a short distance across the small parking lot. She leaned on the wall of a building, and watched the man she'd spoken to, but she didn't have anything else to scream at the people in line. "My last name is Peterson," she said twice, but quietly. "I need my keys."

When it was his turn, that man stepped to the window and ordered. Dick's has very quick service, and in only moments the woman at the register handed the man two bags.

The formerly screaming, now silent woman walked toward him, and he handed her one of the bags. They walked off in different directions. She didn't say thanks, only leaned against a parked car, and ate. Between bites she said, "My last name is Peterson, and I need my keys." She said it, though, didn't scream it.

That's the end of the story. It's a happier ending than you usually see, but that's unusual. I've written about it because it's so unusual. We all know the ordinary outcome, where the homeless and helpless are left perpetually without a home and without any help.

There are so many homeless and obviously unhinged people everywhere, and next to no 'safety net' when something goes wrong in life. What few services there are, are underfunded and hard to qualify for. When anything works out right, like today, it requires the dumbest of dumb luck or the kindness of strangers, like that man in line at Dick's.

That's why the homeless and discombobulated are everywhere, always all around us. Life spits people out, like that woman named Peterson, and the systems that are supposed to help her ignore her instead, same as I did while chewing my cheeseburgers.

It's not only society's response to homelessness that's lacking, of course. Not merely the way everything in America is set up to make sure no-one has help when they need it. It's not only that, it's all of that, and it's everything else.

It would be easy to rattle off a list of ass-backward rules for government aid, of laws and traditions protecting the rich and punishing the poor for their poverty, of the ways everything is made more difficult when it's already difficult...

No such list from me, though, because it would never end. If I cited fifty systematic injustices, I'd have overlooked a thousand more.

Instead, here's a very short list, my prescription to fix this mess:

1. Burn it all down.

2. Imprison the people in power who've written and enforced these rules that squash humans like a trash compactor, and then…

3. Rebuild every system and all the rules better, fair and helpful this time, favoring people over money. That would be an enormous change, like nothing the world has ever seen. It would flip the universe upside-down, and make this into the America we pretend it is, but know it isn't. 

Ah, sorry for getting all political. I'll shut up now.

On a lighter note, my brother Clay emailed me this old ad for the Seattle Mariners, from the era when Ken Griffey Jr was the team's biggest star by far. I dearly love to hate advertising, but when an ad works, it works.

I have baseline zero interest in present-day Star Trek. Haven't seen any of the new stuff since the disappointing 2009 reboot movie. That was enough for me.

That said, the idea of Carol Kane as chief engineer on the USS Enterprise seems instantly brilliant.

And then there's this from the Star Trek universe, something I never knew existed and maybe it shouldn't.

The first Star Trek movie had its problems, but the music by Jerry Goldsmith was marvelous, including this beautiful orchestral theme for Ilia, one of the movie's characters.

To this day I whistle that tune almost daily. Maybe several times daily, who knows? It's subconscious. My wife used to tell me, "You're whistling that song again, you know," and I hadn't known.

Apparently, 1970s teeny-bop heartthrob Shawn Cassidy liked the music too, and added lyrics.

And now, the news you need, whether you know it or not… 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Computer experts urge Georgia to replace voting machines after Republican tempering 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Federal judge blocks Arizona law limiting filming of police 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Texas State Police deflect blame, downplay their role in Uvalde massacre failures 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Running water returns in Mississippi capital – but it's still undrinkable 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

New York City sues Starbucks for firing union-organizing barista 

♦ ♦ ♦  

How Trump supporters came to hate the police 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Japan loves telegrams 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Gravity Hill 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Don't forget who's in charge 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Oscar Mayer is now selling frozen wiener pops 

♦ ♦ ♦  

One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time...




♦ ♦ ♦

The End

Joey DeFrancesco
Newton Harrison
Marilyn Loden

Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always Stephanie...


  1. Nice piece on telegrams in Japan. I think we lost an important social glue when telegrams went away; nice to see they didn't quite go away in Japan. I am waiting for a resurgence of telegrams in the United States, just as I am waiting for Les Paul and Mary Ford to get back together. Looks like it's going to be a long wait for both.


    I am waiting . . .

    1. Sweet sounds.

      I thought telegrams were quaint, but still existed. Guess not. Western Union still exists, but they're only about transferring funds, not messages. The word 'telegram; isn't on their home page.

  2. Don't worry Doug - somewhere in the blackness of space, there is a big planetary reset button heading our way. And I'm confident that just like in "Don't Look Up" we don't do anything about it until it's far too late. Maybe it's for the best.

    1. We the people can't do anything about anything, just stock up on cyanide. The big reset button has already been pushed, and it's only a matter of time now.

  3. From your story from the hamburger place, Doug, you will argue that youre not but you are a much nicer kinder man than you present yourself as. Thanks, but don't argue.

    1. No argument, since you asked for no argument, but a nice guy bought the cheeseburger. I only wrote about it. And remember, the picture I paint here is a self-portrait.

  4. It's a nice story but what it means is, go ahead and be crazy act crazy, someone will gift you a hamburger.

  5. That's not what it means. It means that our social and financial safety net has been crumbling since 1968, and that most people who are unfortunate enough to be unable to care for themselves die in the gutter or in the ER of a general hospital. A few get to live another day because of the kindness of strangers, but that kindness is rare. That Ayn Rand shit of self-reliance in a nation state whose tax laws vastly favor the rich should go back to her own home country from whence it came.



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