20 May - December 31, 2005

Since my last long letter I have been living the life of a Social Security Retiree (one of constrained financial circumstances), a traveler (see my 2005 IGT Road Trip), a reader and a hapless car seller. All to be reported on in this current Long Letter.

I had left the story of my Road Trip incomplete regarding my health issues which I will conclude at this time but want to preface that with two quotes from Wendell Berry, my favorite living philosopher (although he does not make a claim to being same).

From our constant and increasing concerns about health, you can tell how seriously diseased we are.

The anti-smoking campaign, by its insistent reference to the expensiveness to government and society of death by smoking, has raised a question that it has not answered: What is the best and cheapest disease to die from, and how can the best and cheapest disease best be promoted?

The preoccupation with my blood pressure and the dizzyness that I suffered during my trip is evidence of how perceptive Mr. Berry is. A week after I returned to Reno I had an appointment at the VA and talked to my new doctor about what I had been experiencing. He did an EKG, all was well, and cut the prescription of my new medicine in half. I had a monthly follow up and blood pressure was just great - the dizzyness had gone away after about two weeks at the reduced dosage.

By the time I had returned to Reno I had decided that my planned trip for Sep - Oct was not going to happen because of the health issue but an equally important issue was I couldn't afford it. When I bought my MINI I financed it with BMW at a reduced monthly payment with a balloon at the end of 3 years (Jan 2006). The hope was that Mutual Funds that I held as a savings account would increase in value enough by that time to make the balloon payment. As of March 31st that hope seemed to have been well founded but but the time I left on my IGT Trip the market had declined and I was "underwater". I also had concerns about owning the MINI after the warranty period expired because of the issues that I had with the car; none of them big things except the windscreen which MINI's refusal to honor under warranty left me uneasy for future warranty claims. Therefore, I decided that I would sell Cousin MINI. To prepare her for sale I had the custom tail lights removed (in retospect their purchase was poor judgement) and made another trip to Concord MINI on July 22nd to get the window shuddering problem fixed (which they were finally able to accomplish). While there I stopped at Ryan & Brittni's once again for a visit, great Turkish food dinner and overnight stay. I then had the windscreen replaced with PPG glass, a superior product to original glass, at a local Reno shop on August 22nd. The selling, or attempted selling, then began on August 29th when I placed Cousin MINI on a lot here in Reno called Private Party Cars. They offer the service of their lot just off Hwy 395 and Interstate 80 plus they post a description/photos of your car on their web site and most importantly on the Auto Trader web site. At the time of my listing there were twenty 2003 MINI Cooper and Cooper S shown within 200 miles of Reno with mine priced as the 2nd cheapest of the group. In the first 6 weeks I received two phone calls of inquiry - TWO! I then reduced the price by $1,000 for 3 weeks and received NO inquiries. I once again reduced the price by $1,000 and had two test drives within the next two weeks. The first was by a guy from Gardnerville, NV that talked like he wanted the car but after a week finally said he couldn't buy it. The second was a young girl here in Reno that was 3 months into her first full time job that really, really wanted the car but couldn't get financing. After a month I once again reduced the price by $1,000 (it was now priced at less than Kelly Low Blue Book) and received NO inquiry. On December 26th I traded it to the dealer that I had ordered a car from in mid-November. At the time of the trade there were forty 2003 MINI Cooper and Cooper S listed with Auto Trader. So putting the most positive spin on my selling effort: I got skinned on the trade but the balloon payment is covered, I still have the Mutual Funds which are now above March levels by a quite a bit, I got a good rate on the purchase of a new car vs the terrible rate I would have gotten if I had refinanced the MINI plus I'll have a new car with greater reliability/dependability and 36/60 month warranty. The reality without any spin is: I could have had those same benefits on August 29th, not spent any mony trying to sell the MINI and I would not have been walking or riding the bus for 4 months while making payments on it. Once agin in retospect not good judgement, but it seem a good idea at the time because of MINI's high rankings for holding retail value. So be it - I'll probably take delivery of my new car sometime in the first week of January 2006 and will have details in my next Long Letter. There is one detail that I will provide now, I have picked out a name for her - she will be known as Pegasus.

The reading that I have been doing is a continuation of my informal goal to read everything that Fiction Pulitzer Prize winners have written. I do however mix in a considerable number of other authors and have been reading a couple of Western authors in recent months. I also select something from the "New Books" shelf of the library from time to time and that generaly gets me started on the works of one or two other authors. I probably averaged 100 books a year while I was working but have picked up the pace while trying to sell my car. Since I got back from my ITG trip I have read 123. Of all that I have read the following from T. S. Stribling probably expresses my current mind set as well as anything.

It was not until years later, when I really began to see that everybody believed as I did, that I sat to work to reform my belief and get away from the crowd. Of one thing I have always felt a deep certainty: whatever the crowd believes is wrong. Rightness and wrongness are not only temporal terms, they are calendrical terms. What is right in November will be wrong in June. Man's great scientific and religious truths are nothing more than mental arrangements to tide them over a hard spot. When that spot is passed, another arrangement must be forthcoming because other difficulties arise. The people by and large follow far behind their leaders. So when the leaders change their mental and spiritual directions to meet a new situation, the mass of the people are always marching on a bias that was appropriate for some situation years before. That is why, when a number of persons agree with me on any point, I hasten to change my opinion.

Wendell Berry has also become one of my favorites as I expressed above. There is also James Howard Kunstler, that I recommend highly for his non-fiction, particularly The Long Emergency. He has set forth a scenario for the world as we start the decline in oil production that began on Thanksgiving Day 2005 (this is the date forcast by one oil analyst, others select the period 2006-2010) - even if he is only partialy correct it will give you something to consider. He does not express the health issue quite in the same terms as Wendell Berry did in the quotes I used above. However, his scenario supports my belief that the "solution" to the Social Security and Medicare "crisis" will be declining longevity and possibly government supported euthanasia. I have said that I hope to live long enough to become a burden on society; I may get my wish and society will shake off its burden in the blink of an eye.

I will be reporting on the more near term future in my next Long Letter - new car delivery and a possible move from Sparks.