Cornstarch, like methadone, saved my life

That’s what my friend Curtis told me the other day over lunch.

It seems that Curt was a Coca Cola junkie all his life with a two a day 64 oz. bottle habit . He said he would picture a bottle in his mind whenever he ran out so he kept a case in his cabinet just in case.

He drank most at the office, to keep alert and only drank a couple of cans at home in front of his wife, Karen, who was oblivious to Curt’s habit except for the nervousness and sometimes the vivacity of his personality. He slept okay, even when he had a can instead of brushing his teeth because once he brushed, the Coke tasted vile.

He said, ruefully, that he hadn’t taken a piss in thirty five years that didn’t include some amount of the most secret concoction since the Big Bang in his urine.

So he decided to quit. His dentist had been on him for years and a twenty thousand dollar restoration provided some incentive. His physician told him that he could bleed on his waffles if he ever ran out of syrup, that’s how bad it was. Still, he couldn’t quit until finally, one day, his wife decided she needed to intervene once she learned that his life insurance policy was ending soon and he couldn’t afford the new premium.

Late one evening while watching Game of Thrones, he froze the show and walked down to the walk in pantry in the kitchen where he always hid a six pack in case of emergency, This was an emergency, he was out.

As soon as he stepped into the pantry, the doors closed and someone, his wife, began to nail a board across the entrance. The kids were at summer camp so it was just Curtis and Karen. He screamed and scratched and clawed at the door but it was secure. He battered it, ramming it with his shoulder, he even skull butted it a few times but to no avail. Just in case, his wife nailed a few more boards on the wall to secure the pantry even more.

It was dark except for the kitchen lights that his wife left on when she went to bed. Frustrated and now really craving the Coke, he rummaged through the pantry hoping he had merely misplaced the six pack, but it was nowhere to be seen. He began to cry. It surprised him and he was strong enough to keep it down to just some mewling. Finally, with a blood curdling scream, he charged the door, hit it hard, it rattled and he slumped to the floor unconscious.

He awoke due to the discomfort. His head was resting on a large box of elbow macaroni that was digging into his cheek. Disoriented, he trembled with a raw jangling feeling like his entire body was a funny bone. He whimpered and pawed at the macaroni box. He felt like puking.

Lying on the floor, the light from under the pantry uncovered the mess on the floor that he had created with his rampaging.

Then, he noticed the ants. There was a trail of them from a broken glass container that contained some white powder. He brushed the ants away, most of them, anyway, wet his finger and touched the powder. He then touched the now coated finger to his tongue and his nerves seemed to respond, they calmed. He touched another fingertip of the powder to his tongue and felt even better. Although cut by the broken glass, he managed to avoid most of it while scooping up a big pile of the powder and sucking it into his mouth. He felt calm. He felt in control. He wasn’t jonesing anymore. He found a piece of cracked glass with typing on it and held it to the crack in the floor where the kitchen light illuminated it

Corn Starch!

He could kick the Coke habit. He had found his own personal Methadone. Cornstarch would save his life.

The next afternoon, Karen let Curtis out of the pantry. They argued and Karen cried but when Curtis promised to never again drink Coca Cola, it was enough for Karen and they made up.

After lunch, before we went back to the office, Curtis took out a small plastic tube from his suit jacket. He opened one end of it and sucked in the white powder. Briefly, his face flushed red and he smiled. Then he slapped his cheeks hard a couple of times and declared himself ready to face the afternoon at work.


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What is the Joad Cycle

The Joad Cycle is a series of dystopian speculative fiction novels set in our America from 2032-2084 after a Constitutional Coup has brought to power an extreme Right Wing, Christian, Libertarian Entrepreneur who is the leader of the new Entrepreneur Party. In this America, business interests rule, government has been marginalized. and the poor and the middle class no longer exist, the result of a massive economic genocide. To survive, every citizen lives to create wealth and should living cost more than they can generate in value to the economy, they are executed. Mostly, this is an Anti-capitalist Love Story.

$$$ How to Read this Site $$$

This site is mostly fictional and it supports the novels, providing backstory and additional related short stories that take place within the world of the Joad Cycle.

The site offers a Blog and Journal from the perspective of one main character, the hero of the first book, The Golden Rule . This character, Bernie Rosenthal who is very liberal politically, works as Chief Financial Officer for U.S. Angs, a multinational multibillion dollar private corporation owned by Tom Gorman and Tom Morgan, the Toms, who represent ultra Conservative Koch brother types. Bernie is humbled by the tyrannical Toms during the day and finds a release journaling his job frustration. Meanwhile, Bernie's future self, Berne Thau, adds to the blog entries with his perspective, more than 30 years in the future, after money, greed, and the Right Wing revolution end the American Republic .

We are living in trying times. According to Berne Thau, they will get much more difficult.

Why this curmudgeon wrote this story

Every generation, parents tell their children that life was better back when they were young… and the children always scoff.

But now that I have qualified to pass judgment on that age-old warning, now that I’ve been both young and old, I have come to realize that the old have it right and children scoff at their peril though in the ways that American society has been taught to measures success, every generation since maybe the turn of the twentieth century anyway, has had it better.

But with age, and career experience, I have learned that those ways are deceptive and worse, they are wrong. Success is measured based on wealth, conveniences, and life expectancy issues when it should be evaluated on what we hope to be as individuals and what we become as people—the expectancy of life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been successful enough. For most of my baby boomer life I was comfortable middle class interspersed with a few years of unfortunate decline towards impoverishment, never quite getting there before bootstrapping back to comfort.

For a time, I was a certified member of the 1%—in income though not in wealth. The 1% is a class of people who rule their part of the world and have a lot of confidence that somebody they know rules the rest of it. I wasn’t a one-percenter for many years, but it was a good life until my associations made me believe that I just didn’t want it anymore. I apologize to my family for what I had become and these novels are my penance.

People congratulated me for the success I’d earned as if those less and least successful earned that lack as well. And with the memory of a manufacturing facility in a small, rural, one-employer town in out-of-the-way Northern Maine near the Canadian border closed to improve a bottom line somewhere else, with an American town murdered for earnings per share, I signed off and began to write the The Joad Cycle.

In my research, I came to fear for my family that grew from the narrowest and shallowest possible family tree to three generations deep and two wide. My family is important and so I wrote these novels for them, for their future, for what I dread we have taken from them and will continue to take, long after we are dead.

I live in the Midwest and my friends are good people and I value them. They are conservative and most are Christians and somehow, we argue over unions as if union members aren’t patriotic Americans, too, and besides, what is to be gained by condemning workers in a country of workers. And we disagree on the poor? Social Safety Nets may not be working as well as they could (But how would we know if these Safety Nets are working? It is not as if some brave politician will stand up and precisely define what a win looks like in the freest, richest country in the history of history—and seriously, doesn’t free-form Capitalism deserve the bulk of the blame with its all-encompassing goal of creating winning humans and losing humans).

And discussions on life and death with my conservative friends, life at the very beginning and the very end, and guns and gods…forget about it. But unlike politicians and the media, we are friends so we work around the discomfort and the dislike for the greater good.

My friends are the current version of the salt of the earth and all of us abide by family values above all, even if we can’t agree on them. Good people like us accept a society where too many of our children are handled by strangers during the critical formative years. And in the twilight years too many parents and grandparents are handled by strangers until their money runs out, like sand in an hourglass, their lives extended only so far as Government security or private insurance will grant.

And when Americans finally expire after insufferable pain and embarrassment and to the sighs of sad but relieved loved ones, it reveals the immaturity of the vast majority of the American people who won’t resolve; once and for all, when God’s reason ends life and so they leave that to for-profit resolution. Can’t it just be in the fading twinkle of an ancient woman’s eyes?

But all of this pales to the legacy of GREED! Greed, that race for wealth that is ingrained in us all from television at a too early age that drives us to become economically viable so that with something extra in our paychecks at the end of the week, we can indulge ourselves with gifts, with palliatives, to relieve the pain and discomfort that we feel for doing what we must do to earn what wealth we cab. Greed is the satisfying of artificial and constant cravings.

And those who are considered the best of us, majority stockholders, officers of corporations, politicians, and celebrities all at the top of their respective food chains, they earn their way into the 1% and possessing this true wealth, they gift themselves truly extraordinary palliatives in order to compensate for something deeply unsatisfying within that was once more human, what they lost in the dog-eat-dog world that we all live in.

This is the world that we pass on to our children and our grandchildren. This world is what will own them someday like it owns us today. They are truly greed’s legacy. That too is the basis for my cautionary tale of America’s future, The Joad Cycle.

But I still idealize my youth. I remember what it felt like when I was a boy and so I wrote a grand love story, too.


Gary Levey