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It’s those little things

My cover gets blown

The other day I was depositing the house-loan money in my local bank with a teller I didn’t recognize, a vacation sub who travels from branch-to-branch. We got to chatting, then when I went to leave, she said, “May I ask you something?”


“Are you a writer?”

I keep my professional life and my town life separate and try to avoid letting locals know what I do. If somebody must know I tell them I’m a totally obscure blogger who does “political and lifestyle” content. Then I change the subject.

“Um … yeah. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I noticed your name on the check and I’ve been reading articles for years by a Claire Wolfe who lives somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. So I thought …”

This happens once in a while and I’m never thrilled about it. Always slightly amused and bemused. She turned out to be a Backwoods Home reader, of course. But she mentioned reading me in “several publications.” The idea of a respectable bank employee being a faithful long-time reader … now that really boggled my mind. An Outlaw Mole, maybe?

One crazy dog story

On the same day, I had another, truly cool encounter.

I got a pending comment here at the blog that I first assumed to be spam. The comment was on a month old post. This post. From somebody who wanted to put the artwork into a book.

“Yeah, sure,” I thought. “Surrrrrre you do.”

Then I looked the person up. She turned out to be very much for real. Quite interesting, to boot. A commentator on art and culture based in Italy. I was jazzed, not only because of the reprint request but because it turned out my rusty Italian is less rusty than I thought; I could get the gist of her articles and her bio without resorting to one of those All-Greek-All-the-Time translationbots.

I don’t want to jinx it by getting prematurely specific, but it appears my holy greyhound, St. Guinefort (revisited), may soon be published. By someone not me. In a dead-tree book. A book I’ll get a huge kick out of reading. On one of my favorite subjects. In il linguaggio più bello del mondo.

I’m pumped.

When crazy people are right

Anybody else here watch Netflix’s series, Orange is the New Black? I love that show. I’m always behind the curve on it because I get the DVDs, which come out long after all the streaming subscribers have binged away. Once I get it in my hot little hands, though, I devour the season whole.

Anyhow, I’m on season four right now and the show is just getting better and better. The latest episode I watched (like many others) made me howl with laughter at the same time it said profound things about abuse of power.

The setup for this particular laugh:

The series takes place in a women’s federal prison, which as of last season was contracted to private management. The inmates are being hit with huge changes, nearly all of them terrible. Ruthless new guards with military backgrounds rule. The guards regard all prisoners as The Enemy.

There’s a recurring character, Lolly (Lori Petty) who in her worst moments suffers psychotic breaks; even on her best days she’s driven by paranoid conspiracy theories. In episode seven, another recurring character, Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), returns to the prison after months away in a punishment unit.

Nicky walks in to unexpected chaos and a foreign environment. When she innocently asks a question of a guard, he rounds on her, hurls abuse, and threatens her. Shocked, Nicky turns to the first familiar face — Lolly — and asks incredulously Why did that just happen?

Lolly leans in close and whispers as if it’s the deepest, darkest secret: “It’s because he works for the government.”

While I’m laughing at that, Lolly proceeds to explain, quite lucidly, all the horrible changes happening in the prison. Nicky tries to back off, stammering (I paraphrase), “I forgot. I shouldn’t have asked you. You’re … I mean … I know you’re … crazy. None of this is really happening …” But of course this time Lolly is no more than relating the awful truth about the control state they live in.

Haven’t we all had a “Lolly moment” as we tried to explain a verifiable reality to some clueless “Nicky”?


  1. Shel
    Shel June 22, 2017 3:08 am

    Actually, I’m quite surprised you aren’t recognized more often. I used to do temporary work in different places. It’s a different mindset from people who choose to stay in one spot, so it makes sense that this particular teller would be more inquisitive about things in general. How do you handle these encounters? Do you try to assess the person and sometimes confide that you try to keep a low profile?

    And how did the lady in Italy happen to see your painting?

    A friend several years ago came to the realization that things weren’t right. The more she looked into it, of course, the worse things seemed. Then she followed what must be a natural course and tried to tell people, for their sakes, about her revelations. I advised her that she was in the manic phase and when it became clear to her that most people couldn’t or wouldn’t get the point, her efforts to inform others would abate.

  2. larryarnold
    larryarnold June 22, 2017 7:35 am

    it appears my holy greyhound, St. Guinefort (revisited), may soon be published
    And the commentariat said, “We told you so.”

    Lolly moment
    I once tried to remind a League of Women Voters member, who wanted to overturn Citizen’s United because corporations shouldn’t be able to publish things about political candidates, that LWV was a corporation that published things about political candidates. It didn’t take.

    I don’t watch Orange, but I’m not convinced that private corrections personnel, even if ex-military, are more militarized than the police-trained corrections officers in government facilities.

  3. Claire
    Claire June 22, 2017 8:11 am

    Probably through St. Guinefort. Claire is a part of the good Saint’s perpetual history now, thanks to the “miracle” of the internet.

    🙂 Dog works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

    I don’t watch Orange, but I’m not convinced that private corrections personnel, even if ex-military, are more militarized than the police-trained corrections officers in government facilities.

    larryarnold — I don’t think the show is trying to make a generalization about private prison guards. Litchfield, the fictional institution in question, has always had problems no matter who managed the place, including a few pretty horrific guards (and a few sympathetic ones). They are now making a point about a whole host of problems caused to for-profit prisons. And this season they’re highlighting a lot of new, or worsening, problems to lead up to something dramatic. But the place has never been pleasant. The main thrust of the show has been about people trying to keep their humanity in degrading, controlling conditions.

    Loved (in a really awful way) your Lolly moment. So typical.

  4. Claire
    Claire June 22, 2017 8:14 am

    Actually, I’m quite surprised you aren’t recognized more often.

    Well, for one thing I go out of my way to avoid being noticed in the real world. And for another, outside of this corner of the Internet, there’s really not much reason for anybody to notice me. Suits me fine.

  5. Comrade X
    Comrade X June 22, 2017 9:25 am

    Now I knows a famous artist! However if she wants to send you a bottle of Amarone della Valpolicella as a token of appreciation and you don’t drink red wine, you do know my address!

    Haven’t seen Orange yet but I am watching “The Ranch” on Netflix’s, they just came out with season 3 which I finished last night, I find it something I can relate to because it about a family of redneck white trash.

  6. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal June 22, 2017 9:51 am

    I sometimes get recognized in town due to my weekly newspaper column (and the fact the newspaper insists on putting my picture with it- I tried to talk them out of that). It doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers those who are with me when it happens. Yeah, it is a little uncomfortable not knowing if the person likes what I write or wants to strangle me, and I get some real crazies wanting to tell me their life story/new conspiracy theory/bonnet bee they aggressively want me to agree with. My daughter always says “Who was that?” and I say “I don’t know.” Then she asks if I’m famous. I say no, but sometimes people know who I am. LOL.
    But, even before the newspaper column photo, I got recognized once from my cartoon avatar (yes, really). And, even before the internet, my second wife hated the fact that every time we went into town (a previous location, not here), “everyone” knew me and wanted to talk. Then I was either “The Mountain Man” or “The pet store guy”, depending on where they knew me from. So I guess I’m sorta used to it, but it’s still awkward.

  7. Shel
    Shel June 22, 2017 10:02 am

    Have you gotten anything copyrighted yet? If you haven’t, you really should, particularly if your painting is going to be published. But it may be too late for St. Guinefort if the St. has already been put on the ‘net (I don’t know if that’s a bar to copyrighting or not). “Reprinted with permission” probably sounds melodic in Italian.

  8. Claire
    Claire June 22, 2017 11:02 am

    Shel — No worries. These days copyright is pretty much a given.When you create something and it’s not done under work-for-hire, it’s yours. I could watermark the versions I put online, though. Maybe at some point I will.

    Ristampato con il permesso

    I had to look that one up. 🙂

  9. Claire
    Claire June 22, 2017 11:04 am

    “However if she wants to send you a bottle of Amarone della Valpolicella as a token of appreciation and you don’t drink red wine, you do know my address!”

    I’ll remember that. If she does offer, you’re in luck, because I don’t drink red wine.

    Hm. Never even heard of “The Ranch.” Will have to check into that.

    UPDATE: The only DVD of “The Ranch” Netflix lists is a 2004 movie about a Nevada brothel. Is it only available via streming? Dunno why they don’t always list their own streaming titles for us DVD people so we can make adance reservations.

  10. Comrade X
    Comrade X June 22, 2017 11:32 am

    Sam Elliot stars, he even use to be a neighbor of mine.

    Beau the part Sam plays is the Dad and any guy who names his boys Colt & Rooster is my kind of guy.

  11. jed
    jed June 22, 2017 12:14 pm

    > Ristampato con il permesso

    Sounds like a pasta dish, with cheese. Probably goes well with a nice red wine.

    I’m pretty sure that if I were famous, I’d quickly get tired of being recognized. Years ago, back when I was actively blogging, I got recognized at a gun show, and I admit I was pleased, but I’m sure it’d get tedious, and even start to feel intrusive, if it happened a lot.

    But, Claire, you’re pretty well known. Your name is probably not quite as unique as mine (and mine isn’t, as I discovered by searching for myself), but name + locale would be a guarantee of recognition by anyone who reads much about Liberty. I’m sure living in a very small town helps with limiting the pool of potential recognizers.

  12. Shel
    Shel June 22, 2017 12:41 pm

    I realized after I made the post that perhaps I should have entered “reproduced with permission,” since it’s a painting and not text. Looking up via Google (so it must be correct) I found “riprodotto.” Sounds kind of coarse.

  13. jed
    jed June 22, 2017 12:43 pm

    > I found “riprodotto.” Sounds kind of coarse.

    Nah, you just have to roll your r’s a bit. Say it as if you’re Anna Maria Alberghetti.

  14. Claire
    Claire June 22, 2017 12:59 pm

    “Sounds kind of coarse.”

    Reproduced. Yep. That’s one of those words where you could end up saying something obscene, then wonder why everyone’s snickering. (Even if you do say it like Anna Maria Alberghetti.)

  15. Convert
    Convert June 22, 2017 2:20 pm

    I think it speaks volumes about your work for you to be recognised simply by your name!

  16. larryarnold
    larryarnold June 22, 2017 7:57 pm

    I have a fairly high profile in several areas, and we’ve lived here over 30 years, so I get recognized pretty often. Even worse, my wife is the main staff writer for the local weekly newspaper, so when people don’t recognize Larry, I get to be Mr. Bonnie. For us, it’s no big deal.

    Every now and then it comes in handy. The District Court Clerk overheard me chatting, on a first-name basis, with the District Judge about our respective spouses and kids. Since then I get District grand Jury reports on the bounce.

    I’m sure living in a very small town helps with limiting the pool of potential recognizers.
    Nope. People in small towns pay attention to each other, and communicate with each other. Plus, the kind of people who are familiar with Backwoods Home are a lot more concentrated in a small town than they would be in a similar-size urban neighborhood. If I ever really need to disappear, it will be in a big city.

    I’d bet city tellers would never have noticed Claire’s name, and wouldn’t have brought it up if they did.

  17. Newcastle Convert
    Newcastle Convert June 24, 2017 9:07 am

    Loved today’s post! You deserve some recognition!

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