Dear Family and Friends,

I was at the library today and I picked up almost the entire Great Works of the Western World collection for $.25 each. For roughly $7.00 I suddenly possessed most of the important writings of the last 2000 or so years, and I began to wonder if this is symbolic of our time or more symptomatic of our lack of time. Regardless, the books will be added to my semi-famous book cart at school in the hopes that an osmosis-like effect may occur as students reach past the books for the latest People magazine.

Lisa and I are both still teaching those darn kids, so you can feel sorry for us if you want, at least until you see our fat paychecks! To be honest, we are thankful to have so much, including a new Aldi grocery store only a couple miles away, and I’ve successfully refilled the ink cartridges in our printers. Add to that the ca-zash I save by cutting my own hair, making my own fuel, and recycling all the cans of tooth-decaying soda I drink, and we’ve got it pretty good.

Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, and Lisa seems to like it most days over at Wauwatosa West, too. I’m especially excited about the new creative writing class I’ve begun at Menomonee Falls High School. The goal is for the students to write papers they treasure and to get something published. I have the same goal with all of my writing, so I believe it’s a perfect fit and I’m so proud to be advising the talented writers at my school.

As many of you know, I am now 30 years old, but I can still do some things, especially with Lisa around to help me in and out of the car. Attended first U2 concert. Installed boxing equipment in basement to feel young (already have red convertible). First overnight in Chicago last winter. Watched Lisa garden; offered to watch Lisa’s dad remodel his house. Helped mom move out of Bryant School because of probable early retirement. Congratulated Amy on her engagement to Joe, and Cousin Erika on her wedding. Likely other stuff I’m too old to remember right now.

I am still trying to make my own fuel and change the world one gallon at a time by filtering vegetable oil from Long Wong’s bar to burn in my 1983 Mercedes 300SD. The ’84 from last year gave up the ghost in an unrelated engine failure just as we were leaving on our summer trip.

Though we ended up taking Lisa’s Malibu Maxx and burning all fossil fuels, we still had an excellent time on our summer road trip. We made it insanely out to Denver the first night, and then toured the Coors factory to cross that off the list (Miller and Heineken already done). We also saw the Rockies once again, this time in Rocky Mountain National Park. We continued our National Parks tour through Utah, which in my opinion seemed to have a National Park at every exit. We saw arches, canyons, hoodoos, pointy rocks, and non-pointy rocks, but I won’t ruin it for you by going into too much detail. To be honest, I would have enjoyed a few roller coaster rides attached to some of the rocks, or maybe some thought-provoking rock paintings, or even some sort of Flintstones amusement park. But Lisa pretty much just liked the rocks.

We did Vegas, too! Check this out: The old lady and I dropped a big dead president and never looked back. I am amazed that an entire climate-controlled city can be built to look like places people would rather be, using organized and legalized crime to take said visitors’ money from them under the guise of having a good time. Sure, we didn’t have to spend one whole dollar to figure that out, but what can I say, we’re high-rollers.

Lisa and I headed for California next. She wanted to show me the state she’s dreamt of barely being able to afford to live in, and I wanted to see from whence people will refuse to buy Casey and my screenplay and instead produce another film version of a comic book or 19th Century novel. Once you get to Southern California, though, it’s really not all that intimidating. Illinois drivers are much more insane on the roadways, people talk a lot like attractive versions of Wisconsinites, and the ocean and homes thereon are quite nice. We saw Universal Studios and the Hollywood sights, and headed up the coast to see the Monterey Aquarium and San Francisco before venturing out to wine country and eventually home.

One memorable story from California occurred during our day in San Diego: We’d been running low on fuel for some time, and every attempt to get to a gas station had been thwarted by no-turn signs or out-of-business signs. Finally, we find a gas station along the coast with prices at least $.10/gallon cheaper than any other place we’d seen in the state. I pull in past the somewhat menacing steel gates, swipe the old credit card, and start filling up. After a minute or so, a tiny Asian lady comes out of the kiosk and mumbles something at me. I say, “Huh?” in my best Asian accent. “You have I.D.?” she asks, and I’m like, “Sure, here.” I show her my Wisconsin Driver’s License, and she gets all, “No, military I.D.” So I’m all, “I’m not in the military.” And she gets out of control and says, “Turn pump off now. You can’t pump gas here!” So I realize my mistake and get a little nervous because two Navy guys are filling their vehicles with government-subsidized gasoline, but my tank is nearly full and the old lady’s heading back to the kiosk to turn the pump off from there, so I let it finish and quickly grab my receipt. Lisa wants to know why they don’t have any squeegees and if she can throw some garbage out, and I’m all telling her to chill out so we can jet before some MPs come to bust our chops and ship us off to Guantanimo. You’ve heard of Bonnie and Clyde (not Bonnie and Rick), Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue, Thelma and Louise—how about Brian and Lisa Marie, still on the run from the Feds, and not even sorry!

Speaking of the Fish-in-a-bucket Federal government… actually, I won’t bother much. You voted, or you didn’t, and you can now choose to support our troops, support our president and our troops, and/or support our war in Iraq to:

A. find weapons of mass destruction (WMD), not to be confused with (WHOOPS): Weapons Humoring Overtly Opportunistic Political Subterfuge

B. displace an evil regime and replace it with a good regime (with lots of bunting)

C. settle an old score and eventually clean up on some friendly prices on oil

D. implement a policy of military production for use (see Dr. Strangelove)

E. get a guy who aided in the World Trade Center attacks (a majority of us believed this in ’03)

Maybe it’s all this debate over America’s militaristic, economic, and cultural influence that has made me wonder if those great books of Western thought will provide me with any insight. Not so long ago, actual human beings with no supercomputers attached would memorize these works. Today we listen for a ten-second sound bite provided by one of a half-dozen media sources that we can quote as a catch-phrase to use during Neanderthalic late-night drink-aided debates at friends’ houses. Will the most important addition to Western thought from our era be The Idiot’s Guide to Philosophy, Abridged, or will we follow philosophers and the Bible in search of truth, justice, love, mercy, and all the other words that mean so little to most of us as we mount and/or stuff our McMansions, SUVs, credit cards, and obese faces? Relax, it’s just a question to make you think, not a federal indictment of what you think. Just remember to pay attention to where you fill up and may Jesus guide your holiday purchases.

Brian and Lisa

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