Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Certain Cachet

     I am not ashamed of my 162 felony convictions--because they are bogus.
     I am going to start wearing a button on my blouse that says, "I have 162 felony convictions--and I'm innocent.  Something is wrong with our justice system!"
     No one would go out of his way to choose this status, but I've detected a certain cachet to the label, "felon."  Believe it or not, there are some exceptional people in this group and we bond as easily as the members of other grief support groups.
     I have new friends:  fellow felons and felon-sympathizers.  When I say, I'm a felon! they emerge from their fringe positions in our hierarchy and introduce themselves.  We sit and chat--there's an immediate rapport.  I have always enjoyed the company of a wide range of people.
     Our justice system has a vested interest in enlarging this coterie of felons by enforcing mandatory minimum sentences (12 years for carrying marijuana across state lines, for instance) and by "catching" people like me.
     I went to a smoke shop on University Avenue right after my sentencing, bought a pack of cigarettes.  (I wish I could smoke them all--I need an escape!  Alas, you can't escape your fate.)
     The very friendly guy behind the counter had a shaved head, metal earring, muscle tee.
     "Have you ever been to jail--or prison?" I asked.  (Lots of people say yes.)
     "Why do you ask?" he answered.
     "I'm going to prison!" I told him.
     "Wow, really?" he raised his eyebrows and looked me up and down.  "You don't look like the type."  I detected something like respect in his tone of voice.
     "The type is expanding," I said.  "You have to start thinking of people like me as criminals."
      "That's for sure.  What'd you do?" he asked.  "Drunk driving?"
      "No.  I did my job.  Nothing wrong.  It's a white-collar thing."
      "Wow, cool," he said.  "The country's crazy."
      "I'm sorry," he said, speaking as one who knows.  "You're going to be in good company, anyway."
      "We'll see."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tallow Plums

     Look what I found along the edge of the woods!  Lots of soft plum-like fruits dangling from low bushes and strewn over the grass--tallow plums (Ximenia americana).  They have big seeds, and slightly astringent flesh, and are also known as hog plums or yellow plums.    
     I had to consult my field guides to identify them.
     See the very best wild foods guru Green Deane's site "Eat the Weeds" and look up tallow plums.
     I cooked them in water, strained them through a sieve, and added honey from my beehives.  Makes a delicious juice.  High in the nutritive fatty acids:  linoleic, linolenic and arachidonic.
     There is so much wild food in Florida we could live, if we had to, without Publix.


     This is the season to search for chanterelles.
     They're little orange  mushrooms poking out from under the leaves and basket grass under under big trees.
     It's pretty hard to mix them up with anything poisonous, but you should ask someone who knows about mushrooms to go into the field with you to identify them, just in case.
     False chanterelles taste bitter, whereas the real thing is delicately sweet.  High in protein, low in fat, high in fiber, with lots of trace minerals.  Fresh, free, forageable.
     I was picking up some new egg cartons from the barn when I spotted them under a Live Oak.
     Toss them over medium heat in a spot of butter and eat plain, on toast, or with eggs.

Math Problem

     Here's what the government's prosecutor claimed at my sentencing:  that I had been "overpaid" by Medicare a sum that was greater than the total amount I had ever been paid in the first place, from 2004 to when I closed my clinic in 2013.
     And that now I should be required to repay this "overpayment" in full--and then some.
     All the figures were up on the overhead projector screen.  It just didn't add up.
     Who did the math?
     Was anyone wincing?
     Every person there had a higher degree.
     Six weeks in the courtroom.
     You know, we all just wanted to go get some lunch.  
     And I suppose the calculator in the courthouse went berserk.  Thick walls.


     Who has 162 felony convictions?  Anyone?
     Come on.  When you hear that, you've got to be thinking:  something's wrong.
     (Somebody wanted to kill a cricket with 162 slugs of a sledgehammer.)
     (Actually, it was 210 slugs, but some of them missed the mark.)
     I love this country, but we get a lot wrong, we sure do.
     I can't explain it, but I feel lighter.
     Must be my cricket-slugged-spirit heading into outer space.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

There Is Fiction in the Space Between

     We're always dichotomizing the world:  good guys, bad guys.
     At a time when everyone was eulogizing Nelson Mandela, someone on the other side of the aisle reported that he'd been a monster:  he had innocent people murdered, he ordered gasoline-filled tires to be put around their necks before setting them on fire.
     Everyone you know belongs to one of your myths, the ones you mostly keep to yourself, the ones in which you're a hero.      

     Tracy Chapman's song, "Telling Stories" conveys a pitiful truth, that we hardly ever connect with one another, and that all our statements are fictions of one sort or another,  not certainties.  There is a theory in psychology that all our thoughts arise spontaneously from the unconscious, and our egos decide whether or not to own them.  Our egos are so egoistic that they assimilate these thoughts and defend them as if they were created by them, not dredged from the vast underground river dubbed by Carl Jung as the collective unconscious.  I
     The stories we tell come from that murky, watery place too.  We tell them as though they're based in the material world, but our minds have been usurped by other forces
     "There is fiction in the space between you and me," I say to the prosecutors, the whistleblower, the jury, the judge.

At Last. Convicted and Sentenced: a Post-Mortem

     Where to begin?
     Finally, I have permission from my lawyers to write in my blog again.  Here's my question.
     What do you do when:
          a) You're falsely accused by a whistleblower, who is followed like dogs in heat by the government's agents;
          b) You're misrepresented in court by that same government, whose powers and finances are huge;
          c) You're convicted by a jury of your "peers," but the convictions and exonerations of 210 charges are not internally consistent, revealing general confusion about the case itself;
          d) The judge, who is very smart and likable and has done his best to sort out the information he's dispensed (hundreds of bankers' boxes of data; zip drives of  more data, too much to assimilate) also gets it wrong;
          e)  People who know nothing about you or the case, and have never even met you, make the decision that you're guilty and treat you on social media and anywhere else they find an audience like roadkill?
     What do I do?
     I file appeals of the verdict and the sentences.  More paperwork.
     And I take the long view.  Every day the sun comes up.  When it's wet the milkweed, sunflowers, citrus trees and pagoda plants are content, so I am, too.
     The unassailable fact of death for every one of us at the end of the line makes this path of mine nothing but a path.  I accept this path.  I even look forward to the next bend in the road.