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JACK HOBBS, THIRTIES GUY

Jack Hobbs here. My good friend Bob Crespo has been kind enough to let me use his blog again. As you may or may not know I got sent here this past September 3rd from the year 1937 and got stuck here in the future. Long story short, I met Bob and he saw I was legit and here I am. Bob's a real Square Joe, see, he wised me up to a lot of things, like how to look up the guy who sent me here in his time machine. That was old Doc Willoughby who died of a bum ticker shortly after I took my time trip here. More about him later and what a smart and decent Joe he was.

I know to you it's the present but to a Joe like me who thinks FDR is still president and Joe Louis is still the new Heavyweight Champ, believe you me, this is the future. In the seventy years I skipped over a lot has happened in this world no one saw coming back in '37. It still rubs me rough all over to say back in '37, like it was ancient history. To everyone else those 70 years passed one by one, taking their sweet time, but I got here in two shakes of a lamb's tail once the Doc's time machine finally worked. 1937 when I breathed in, 2007 when I breathed out. Didn't believe it myself at first since things where I landed in Brooklyn don't look all that different now than my day, but it wasn't long before the first guy I met, old Bob here, he showed me his copy of the Daily News and I showed him mine, and hocus-pocus, the same day, 70 years apart.

This is no dream, but I tell you, it hasn't exactly been a nightmare either. Oh, I still wake up expecting to hear the Dodgers on the radio that afternoon and see the trolley cars running down Fulton Street but I snap out of it quick. I just got my own apartment with Bob's help. He showed me how to sell the brand new camera I brought with me on e-Bay and I'll be a monkey's uncle if the thing didn't fetch me a cool 55 thou. Seems it was a valuable collector's item and was of course in perfect shape since it was really only a week old when I sold it along with thirty rolls of film. The guy who won the bidding was as happy as a fairy in Boys Town (Oops, there I go again. Bob says you're not supposed to say stuff like that no more. Fair enough, I'll try to remember.). Anyway he was real excited and so was I 'cause I got to move into this sweet little studio apartment across the street from my friend Bob's house. Lost in time or not, it didn't seem right to keep mooching off Bob and
sleeping on his couch.

Anyway, I wake up now to an alarm clock that's also a radio and it even lets me get an extra forty winks if I hit the snooze button. I haven't done that yet but it's nice to know that I can. I try to keep a regular schedule like I was still working at Doc Willoughby's lab or at my old trade of teletype operator. My Mom and Pop instilled me with good habits which were vigorously reinforced by four years in the Marine Corps. It's what to do with myself once I've had my morning java that's the rub. I never was one happy to lay around all day even when I was out of work during the hard times (The Great Depression to you). Only a few weeks here in the future hasn't really prepared me for gainful employment.

There's lots of things everyone assumes you know and inside jokes they think you'll get that I don't. I don't know much about Elvis Presley or even what kind of president he was, good, bad or mediocre. II guess he was a good one because people still call him The King, although that sort of royal monicker don't sit too well with this American. I heard he started out as a singer and invented teenagers or something but I'm not sure. I also heard that that kid B-movie actor Ronnie Reagan who started out as a baseball announcer got to be president when he was an old man. Now that's surprising since he seemed pretty dopey but I guess he wised up over the years. I also don't have the foggiest about all this talk of palm pilots. That sort of talk about a guy wasn't too savory in my day if you catch my drift. Sure wasn't anything you'd spout off about in public.

That's another thing that's going to take some getting used to. Nobody seems ashamed of themselves for doing terrible things, they even sort of brag about it. I watched some daytime TV talk shows and got an earful of some pretty degenerate behavior people talk about like they were discussing the weather. I'm glad my Mom ain't around to hear some of this stuff, and lots of it said by what I assume to be famous people the way the TV hosts make such a fuss over them. Not only make a fuss over these chowderheads but encourage them to spill the beans on themselves and their families about some terrible things they did. What gives? They get paid extra or something to embarrass themselves?

And some people are famous it seems for no reason at all. I don't get it. Okay, some of them are movie stars or pro athletes, I get that okay. Some sing or tell jokes so you can see right away they got talent. Others are bigshot politicians or tycoons or scientists so you say, okay, fair enough, put them on TV or in the papers. There's some people though, that don't seem to have done a thing to get famous except maybe to get arrested for some small-time shenanigans and I can't figure for the life of me why I ought to know about them. Must be some stuff that happened in the last seventy years that I missed where you make a few people famous just for the heck of it, even if they're not interesting or smart. I'll just have to put that on my very long list of things to catch up with.

Like this whole poetry craze going on now. Now, I always loved poetry but it was never really what you call a popular form of entertainment, kind of a private thing you do, read the poetry and enjoy the amazing insight and the sheer beauty of it. Nowadays you have a bunch of people putting a screechy beat to their poetry and reciting it a mile a minute, usually with other people onstage up there with the poet reciting some of the lines along with him. They call it Rap Hop or something like that and sometimes you think it's sort of similar to music but to me it's just poetry in a three ring circus. Don't think all us Thirties Guys are gruff Gusses who don't appreciate the finer things. "When you cut us, do we not bleed?" (That should be an easy one for you, old Billy Shakespeare himself, the poet's poet.)

Some of the poetry's really good too when you can make out the words. A lot of my buddies used to tease me about liking to read poems but I didn't care, I figured it's their loss that they didn't. All in all I think it's a good thing thing that poetry is finally getting popular even if it's presented in a way that makes it hard to understand. But that's okay, lots of poetry is like that, you have to really work hard to get to the bottom of it and when you do get it it's pretty rewarding and you feel like you've learned something important and got a lot of joy out of it to boot. I suppose Rap Hop's that kind of poetry where the poet wants you to work at getting it so they surround it with all those noisy distractions. Who am I to tell an artist what to do?

There's so much I have to catch up on since I'm stuck here for good. I see for some reason a whole bunch of companies competing with the Post Office as to who can get you your package delivered the quickest, and I wonder how many of those packages really need to be there overnight. What's the rush? And why is the government competing with the gangsters by running all those sucker's games, lottos and mega bucks and the like? I remember that stuff being illegal. These days you have whole cities dedicated to degenerate gambling, even good old Atlantic City that used to be a fun place to visit. Las Vegas, too, but I never heard of it, wasn't on anybody's list of swell places to visit in 1937. I guess having air conditioning makes it okay to live in the desert, but it's still the desert so far as I can tell, hot as Hades and dry as burnt toast.

And the American Indian tribes, who always got a raw deal from Uncle Sam if you ask me, all of a sudden they're getting casinos like they have in Cuba on their reservations. Bob tells me Cuba went Commy forty-some years back and there ain't no more casinos there or much fun to be had and Americans aren't even allowed to visit there anymore. I remember going there as a Marine and having one heck of a lot of fun when I was on leave. And I also hear tell that our base there is still up and running but Guantanamo is sort of a secret prison for Arab Prisoners of War now, but they're all not really soldiers. Something smells fishy about the whole deal.

And who's this guy who's the president, this Dubya Bush guy? What kind of name is that? I wouldn't hire him to run a five and dime store, never mind the country. And seeing as how we got to be the richest and most powerful country on the planet these past seventy years, I'd think we'd elect a smart guy to run the show. Now, being a Marine back in the 1920's, I'm no stranger to little foreign wars in countries nobody ever heard of, I had my fill of those, but the idea was to get in, kill the bad guys and then get out and let the people whose country it was sort out the rest.

You take this Iraq place. I remember when it was created. I was eleven years old at the time and Great Britain, who was still the big enchilada on the planet then, was creating a lot of new countries in Africa and the Middle East. Well, they somehow decided that Iraq now deserved to be their own country for better or worse and it looks like it took a turn for the worse and now America is trying to fix it with soldiers and a whole lot of out of control trigger-happy mercenaries that they call contractors for some strange reason, guys that kill civilians for no reason and steal everything in sight and get paid big bucks to do it. That kind of stuff would get a soldier court- marshaled in no time but these hired thugs get to be above any laws you can think of; Iraqi, American, International or just plain codes of human decency. Crazy, no? Same with Iran, which we used to call Persia, some big shots want to whip them and send in the "contractors" too. And this Saudi Arabia? What a royal
fiasco that place is, always was even when I was a kid and most of their people rode camels instead of Cadillacs.

Well, it seems this Dubya guy's family starting with his Grandpa are great friends of the big muckty-mucks over there, call themselves kings and princes now instead of sheiks and emirs like they used to, well them being buddy-buddy with the Bush family seems to make the Saudis immune from getting a dose of the Marines landing there and shooting the guys who paid the hijackers to attack New York and Washington. That's as near as I can figure since i just found all this out. There's got to be a few pieces missing from this puzzle I don't know about. Bob says it's because of their oil and I wonder if Texas has run dry of the stuff and he tells me there's a lot of complicated history involved and I tell him the last guy who had the Middle East sorted out decently was King Solomon. I say we leave the whole sandy mess to the people who actually have to live there and let them figure it out. I don't think this Dubya guy is in Solomon's league anyway, not by a long shot.

And then Bob tells me that all the Arabs hate Israel and I say Israel who?? It seems the British once again decided that Palestine would make a good place to recreate a Biblical country last heard of two thousand years ago (Why not remake Babylon and Philistine while you're at it?) and because that Hitler buffoon murdered so many Jews they ought to get a nation of their own. I'm still shocked that this self-important little clown Hitler ever did anything but get laughed off the world stage but I'm told he started a war that wound up costing 50 million lives. Anyway, now we're big allies with this country Israel that doesn't practice separation of church and state but is a democracy if you're not an Arab living there under their thumb. Or something like that. It's pretty confusing, starting with the fact that they gave the Jewish people a country only about the size of Delaware on a good day surrounded by a billion Arabs that hate them for some reason. Hey, I'm from Brooklyn
and we got no shortage of Jews here and they're good people, very decent Americans for the most part. I'm wondering why they act differently in Israel than over here. Must be a different bunch than the folks I know.

So after Israel gets invented, the Arabs not only hate them but also start to imitate them by making their own countries revolve around their religion, Mohammedism as I was taught in school, but they call it Islam now. I'll tell you one thing, we sure had a bunch of sharp Founding Fathers in the good old USA to insist on strict separation of church and state. Sure saved us a lot of grief when you look at the Mideast today or the Crusades back in history. Seems like it's always a bloody mess when men of God get to run countries and control armies. You'd think the world would learn that by now like our Founding Fathers did. And you'd think America would learn from history that creating countries is a dicey business at best. Some guys on TV are talking about re-drawing the borders Britain made for Iraq and making 3 different countries out of it. Why don't they ask the people living there? Maybe they're tired of having other folks decide what's what for them. I can't say it
enough, there's just no following the logic of the high and mighty. Don't make a lick of sense.

Back to America, I'm wondering when teenagers got to be so important and if President Presley passed a law to that effect. I remember being a teenager and nobody cared what we thought was important or tried to imitate the clothes we wore or the crazy lingo we used. It was all kid stuff and just for fun and the world at large was for grownups who ran the show and decided what's what culture-wise. I mean, of all the crazy people to ask to be cultural trend-setters why pick teenagers? I got nothing against them, see, but any dope knows that 's a pretty unstable time of life for all of us, all pimples and raging hormones (very busy palm pilots, all of us guys then, if you catch my drift) and not knowing much but thinking you know it all. Well, joining the Marine Corps right after High School sure wised me up in a hurry about how much I really knew. Learned and saw and did some things I sometimes wished I didn't but that's all water under the bridge now. But I say let teenagers be
teenagers and let grown men and women run the show.

I also found out that smoking is no good for you, the government says so, even though it makes more dough off the sale of cigarettes than any ten tobacco companies combined. So it's a bad thing they tell you but we're cashing in on it just the same. I guess their reasoning is like the whole gambling takeover they did, figuring if they can't stop people from having fun they'll at least make a pile of dough off them. They've always done that with booze except for those dozen or so years when some Puritans got together and made it illegal. Didn't take long to see what a boondoggle that was. Beats me why they haven't legalized and taxed the oldest profession yet. I understand a whole lot of big deal politicians are excellent customers of prostitutes, a pretty dizzying variety of them too. Outside of being against the law prostitution is a very honest trade, a classic supply and demand situation.

Why not just make it legal and avoid the crazy headlines and generate some tax revenues while you're at it? Why draw the line at gambling, drinking and smoking? And drugs too, while they're at it. I understand that jazz musicians aren't the only ones enjoying the narcotics these days and the government has been fighting a war on drugs for forty years now and losing it big time. What strikes me right off the bat is that you got a bunch of big time gangsters pushing the drugs just like when I was a kid, only they were pushing booze, guys like Al Capone and Dutch Schulz, a bunch of vicious, greedy small timers who never would have made such a big splash if the government didn't outlaw booze in the first place.

I mean, Capone got kicked out of Brooklyn by the mobsters here because he was such a dunce before he landed on his feet in Chicago and murdered his way to the top. These goons got rich as Rockefeller thanks to Prohibition and caused a lot of death and misery. Once you make something illegal, it gets real expensive and is sold by only the lowest of the low so what you wind up with is a bunch of wealthy thugs killing each other and anyone else unlucky enough to get in their way.

I can tell them first hand since I lived through Prohibition that you can't stop people from drinking and I guess drugs is pretty much the same deal so why not make it legal and tax it like everything else?This way it gets packaged right there on the shelf just like old Johnny Walker and the government gets its cut and the gangsters ain't shooting up the streets anymore. The government showed they 're willing to do this already by muscling in on the gambling so why not take away the drug trade too from the gangsters? Don't want to condone junkies? What about drunks? There's a lot more of them around than dope fiends but nobody sends drunks to jail unless they commit a crime.

I'm thinking this government wants it both ways, just like they did in the Thirties, when they let drunks be drunks but locked up the hop heads as if they did something worse when it's really the same kind of sorry act. It's a pretty rough way to go either way if you ask me, but adults can choose to be what they are, like it or no. If a guy wants to ruin himself he's going to do it, period. I understand that doctors discovered that this kind of behavior is a legit disease like diabetes or cancer or any of them, which kind of explains the troubles of some otherwise sharp people I've known who can do all sorts of impressive things in life and are real smart but can't seem to kick their addictive habits. So if everyone agrees these days that addiction is a disease, how come some addicts get sent to jail and not to a doctor when their only crime was possession of drugs? What good is learning this new bit of information if you still treat sick people like criminals? Am I missing
something here?

Actually I feel like I'm missing a whole lot of things and a couple of weeks here in the future has only given me enough information to confuse the heck out of me. I don't want to sound like I disapprove of life around here because there's a lot of stuff that's a big improvement over 1937. Like that whole Civil Rights deal, which you would think should have been automatic in America when you read The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights but but it wasn't. I remember going down south for Marine boot camp when I was 18 and that was an eye-opener, believe you me. Colored folks had it pretty bad down there, worse than in New York where only some nightclubs and neighborhoods were off-limits to them, which is pretty foul to begin with if you ask me.

But down in the Jim Crow south colored people couldn't vote, get a decent job, sit down on the bus where they wanted to or even drink from a white man's water fountain and got arrested for no reason or even lynched by crazy red necks in white robes on a regular basis. Very un-American stuff, let me tell you, and I saw this with my own eyes. And the crazy thing was that colored people stayed a very decent bunch of people. If that shoe was on my foot I can't really say that I'd behave so good, as a matter of fact I know I'd blow a gasket. So why my county was keeping down some of our best citizens always rankled me and made me ask a lot of sticky questions about human nature and whether all of us Americans were on board with the statement that started this country, really the whole idea of America, that "All men are created equal."

Well it looks like we're finally getting there although it's a national shame that it took so long and that it took some laws to be passed to implement what the Founding Fathers saw was so obviously "self evident." Actually they said that "we take these truths to be self evident." For way too long the those "truths" only applied to white people. And to my way of thinking Jim Crow not only screwed the colored people but the whites too. America is a lot about seeing how good you can be in a bad world, that was the whole thing in a nutshell, what an individual can make if himself with his own sweat and moxie, see. Well, how can you ever know what you're made of if you're not competing with all the people? And how can you feel like an American if you only get to be an American at the expense of somebody else? That's the easy way out and not the road a man takes, or a woman for that matter, but the way of a spoiled child.

If America's supposed to level the playing field so everyone gets an even break, how can you feel like a success when a lot of your potential competition is tossed out of the game before the bell rings for Round 1? A guy who makes it big now at least knows he made it big against everybody out there, not just the hand-picked group of people. When we got rid of the European royalty I don't think the idea was to create American royalty. The only titles here are Mr. and Mrs., or Ms. as Bob tells me, a catch-all title for all women nowadays and that's okay by me. Mister sure doesn't tell anyone who's married so why should a lady's title spill the beans if she don't want it to?

Anyway, looking around this block where I'm living thanks to old Bob, I can see all kinds of neighbors of different skin colors and national backgrounds, pretty decent Joes and Janes the lot of them and it smells more like America to me than my Brooklyn where neighborhood lines were pretty strict as to who could live where. So even without the Dodgers, Brooklyn is better now than it was then, although having the Dodgers still here would have been some sweet icing on the cake. I get the feeling that losing the Dodgers to Hollywood will always bother me, no matter how long I live. Some things are very hard to let go of.

So what do I do with myself all day? I try to learn and catch up with all that's happened in 70 years. I have a computer and a library card, although the Brooklyn Public Library insisted on issuing me a new one since they thought the one in my wallet was some kind of fake. Why would anyone forge a library card when they lend you books for free? Anyway, I've been reading a lot and doing research on the computer and even watching some television, most of which I still don't get at all.

This internet though, now that's a real handy thing, the biggest reference library ever, and also full of some real puzzling nonsense but I skip over that stuff and go for the sites that you can learn from since I'm on a mission to figure stuff out. Bob tells me I'm a natural on the computer and can run it better than him already. Must be my background as a teletype man. You had to be very quick on the uptake in that job and dead accurate. That and the fact that from 1929 on you had to be pretty adaptable to whatever kind of work came your way. Every fourth guy was out of work so there was a lot of competition for every job and you had to be sharp as a tack to put bread on your table on a regular basis. So I tackled learning the computer hard since I saw right away that this world now runs on these machines and not being savvy to them would be like not being savvy to cars and telephones.

I know Bob's always calling one of his sons to help him out of one jam or another he gets himself into when messing with his computer or trying to upload things to his website. He also uses his computer for a recording studio but he's pretty good at that sort of thing, being a musician and all. So I don't feel so bad about not being so savvy to all the technical stuff around these days. Seems there's lots of folks like old Bob here who have a hard time keeping up with the Jones' computer-wise and they were born in this era.

What strikes me about the internet is that nobody owns it or controls it, it just sort of exists and gets added to by whoever feels like it, just like I'm doing right now and I don't need anyone's permission. How did those fatcats in the boardrooms let this baby slip thought their fingers? Well, I for one am glad they did. I've been trying to look up my family and I have a couple of good leads. I'll fill you in about them when I find out more and Bob lends me his blog again.

I was going to tell you more about Doctor Warren Willoughby too, the sweet old professor who sent me here in his time machine but that will have to wait until my next go-round in these pages. The fact that he died shortly after I came here is why I'm stuck in the future and why I have to play catch-up ball. It's just starting to sink in, to really hit me smack in the kisser that I'm the only time traveller that ever was, and maybe I should start letting people know it. I want folks to know what it's like to skip over a few generations. Bob tells me that my initial impressions are very valuable, a set of fresh eyes from another time in America and that I ought to write them down. I'm taking his advice and trying to do that while at the same time learning as much as I can about this future, or as it is to me now I suppose, this present. You'll be hearing more from this Thirties Guy, folks. I'm not going anywhere, not again.}

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