I have trouble with stealing. Even though in yesterday’s, today’s and no doubt tomorrow’s world lying, stealing and cheating are pretty much common place. And I don’t wanna talk about my last ex-wife. Sheesh. She even stole my bad ideas, as well as ‘my’ identity.
Hmm… identity theft. Why in hell would anyone wanna be me? It’s like stealing a shopping cart. Another bad idea. And I’m sure all my adamant bill collectors have explained that to her.
Anyway, a handful of local restaurant, bar and other business proprietors were huffing and puffing at the Twin Smoke Shoppe in South Philadelphia the other day. They were nattering and chattering. About most everything from football to about a couple of their employees who seem to misplace some twenties from time to time: Instead of going into the cash register they went into his pocket or her pocketbook.
And when called out on it, the employees inevitably go: Whoops. I must have done that by mistake.
But of course! No doubt what my ex is telling all those bill collectors
To me petty theft is just petty. I’d rather steal $10 million dollars. And when I get out of jail, at least I’d be able to afford my life in South America.
Of course this discussion was merely a spill-over from The Donald and Hillary debates. Each accusing the other of lying, cheating and stealing. And no doubt doing to their spouses and other ‘great pieces of ass’ what they will inevitably do to the country.
Which brought to mind one of my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy’s snorts between one of his omniscient puffs on his omnipotent corn cob pipe: ‘If you learn how to give when you’re young, it is already second nature when you get older. Just like stealing. Start young and you keep on stealing forever. Look at our politicians.’
At this point I wasn’t about to get too philosophical with my fellow cigar chompers. I mean these guys are grand, but a tad short-circuited when it extends beyond the football sidelines. After all they were still utterly flabbergasted at how the referees absolutely stole victory from our Philadelphia Eagles the day before, causing the team to lose its first game this season.
Apparently the refs called a whopping 14 penalties on the Eagles while only 2 on the opponents.
Hmm… My-my. And in plain daylight, too.
And I had forgotten to watch it. Apparently TV viewership of NFL football, which is down 10 percent, is being stolen by other stuff. For me, that’s any stuff that’s not on TV.
Soooo… I thought about mentioning that it was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the 19th century French philosopher, who stipulated that everything is stolen, that all property is theft. It’s all stolen from somebody until it goes back and back to where nobody owned it. And that included stealing goods and services from the working man, artisan, craftsman, farmer, and all, whose toil, like his father’s, was robbed, raped, pillaged…
But I could just imagine the blank stares of incomprehension on their dour pusses through the cigar smoke. I might as well as be speaking French.
So instead of relating Proudhon, that libertarian socialist and journalist whose doctrines became the basis for later radical and anarchist theory, I enraptured their simple mental synapses on the order of drugs, sex and rock and roll.
And related my experience of more than a few years ago when one of the biggest marijuana distributors on the East Coast suggested I might want to fly an airplane for them.
I’m a pilot. And my grandest weakness is jumping into the fires of adventures. After all, it was just marijuana, which 25 years later is finally becoming legal in America. And never should have been outlawed. Hey, the only ‘victim’ here is the theft of weed from Mother Nature.
Besides, if the price is right, how could I go wrong?
So I flew Tom, my artist friend, some of whose works were being purchased by the marijuana guys, to upstate New York to meet and greet. We were met at the airport by a big Columbian named Julio. He had high cheek bones and looked like one of their indigenous Indians who could survive easily in the jungle. And then eat you if food got scarce.
The estate was lost inside a heavily wooded forest. And it seemed like a Playboy mansion with sex, drugs and rock and roll everywhere. In the pool. On a pool table. Up against the trees…
Whoooeeee! Indeed, crime does have its momentary glorious heydays.
Anyway, the chief guy I was to meet was a fellow about my size and age playing eight-ball on one of the pool tables that wasn’t already ‘occupied.’ And he was cheating. That is, he was making up new rules so that he could win. And everyone was afraid to really challenge him. And he was a whiny wimp. Precisely the type of guy I never could enjoy. Then again, he was one of the three bosses.
And after a bit he cleared the room, including the couple coupling on another pool table.
And with just a couple of us – including Tom – remaining he laid it out for me. His cachè of former Vietnam pilots were organizing into a sort of union and getting too expensive for him.
And what he wanted me to do was fly something jumbo size, like a DC3, into some backwoods of Columbia. Wait while they loaded the plane with tons of ‘grass.’ Then fly back, at night, at a mere 100 feet above sea level, under the radar for at least 6 or 7 hours. Then by almost blind reckoning, find my way to this farmer’s field up in Georgia’s outback, where they would have a large bonfire lit to ‘guide’ me in. And then I was supposed to crash land the airplane. Hop on one of the several trucks loaded with the ‘cargo.’ And they would drop me back at civilization.
What duh hell?! What duh heck?! Might as well hang myself up by duh neck…
And for this, he said, they would pay me $100,000… in cash.
But of course.
And in the course of the conversation when I wondered how they nailed down the farmer and his field, he simply explained: ‘Oh, we pay him.’
Was it just me, or was I the only one in the room having a risk-reward dilemma. Did this guy truly understand the concept of theft of services? And, quietly, my little addled brain was screaming: No wonder the bloody Vietnam pilots were organizing!
Who did this fool think we were flying for: FedEx or UPS! He wanted us pilots for a steal!
Look, I understand that big business has a lot of big expenses. Even Hillary has to pay for all those designer clothes. And The Donald has to find someone to pay for that Wall. But little ol’ me is the one who will actually have to pay time – if caught… in jail… with guys with mean tattoos and steroid muscles.
Wisdom, having been defined in many ways, is also understanding the consequences.
And furthermore, the irony – at least to me – was that I was the only one there who wasn’t actually stealing anything. Or taking anything. From anybody. Wrong or not, that is what I was thinking. I mean, I would have liked to take one of those women in the pool. But that was it.
So I stood up and politely thanked him for the conversation. I didn’t want his man, Julio, packing me off in a car trunk. So far, everything had been on me. My time. My plane. My coming here. And I simply said I’d think about it. Even Tom was shocked by how surprisingly polite and cordial I had actually been. Especially in the face of the southbound end of northbound jackass.
In the still of the night, flying back to Philadelphia, down the Hudson River, over New York’s sea of lights that sparkled like diamonds (this was long before 911) Tom’s voice, from the co-pilots seat, asked if I was seriously considering it.
I laughed to myself before responding: “Did I ever tell you about that 19th century French radical philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon…”
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…