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Privacy For Real: An Interview with Paul Rosenberg

By Jim Davidson

Paul Rosenberg is someone I’ve known for much of the past 25 years. He was one of the people involved in the Laissez Faire City project and with that group he met my friend and mentor Michael van Notten. Paul is author of many books, including electrical systems and fibre optic systems installations guides for construction contractors as well as the crypto-anarchy movement’s favourite novel A Lodging of Wayfaring Men and other excellent novels. Paul is the founder and chief executive of Cryptohippie.com and writes regularly for The Freeman’s Perspective newsletter. In this interview, I ask Paul some important questions about virtual privacy networks.

Paul, what mistakes do people make when buying a VPN… a virtual private network?

In this case “making a mistake” depends on what you’re trying to do. If you just want to keep your boss happy (“Yes, I have a VPN”) or keep the jerk in the back of the Starbucks from reading your traffic, a lot of the cheap VPNs might be fine.

But then again, the cheap VPN might not be fine, because there are plenty of scammers in the market, and they’ll be very happy to sell your data out from under you… and the fact that you paid to protect it means that it can be sold for a high price. I have no idea how often that’s actually done, but I’d bet it happens a lot. And I don’t know how to separate the good from the bad without testing them. What they say on their web sites ain’t necessarily so.

If your goal is actual privacy, on the other hand, the mistakes are fairly clear. The first, perhaps, is to get the cheapest thing you can find, imagining that nothing can possibly go wrong. Beyond that, there are a number of technical things that are necessary for real privacy.

The first is multiple hops. A one-hop proxy – the typical cheap VPN – was kind of cool back in the 1990s, but surveillance, both corporate and governmental, is far more sophisticated now, and cross-linking databases sees right through single hops. A minimum of two hops is necessary, and those hops need to be in different jurisdictions, so that they can’t be correlated by a single operation.

The right way to do it, of course, is for the VPN to sense the jurisdiction of their customer, then reroute them to a second jurisdiction, then send their data out of their network in a third. That makes for strong privacy.

What else?

Something that almost no one pays attention to, but which is crucial, is anonymous authentication… or, to say it properly, out-of-band authentication. If you log in with the usual username-and-password, the system knows who you are, and that’s a problem for everyone. The solution is to authenticate, not to log in. The system should verify your connection without identifying you. But, that’s hard to do, and you can’t get it cheap.

What about DNS leaks? I’ve heard that mentioned.

Yeah, that’s an issue too. Any good VPN has to run their own DNS. But more than even that, they need to run their own private key infrastructure. Snowden revealed, basically, that the certificate agencies were compromised. So, if your VPN doesn’t have it’s own key infrastructure, the odds are very high that your privacy is merely an illusion.

After that come techie things like crowding at exits, padding traffic and lag obfuscation. But I won’t go through all of that, cool as it is.

Anything else?

I should add one more critical point, and that’s having no single point of failure. There should be no single office, or person, who can blow through your privacy. For example, all the sales and customer service for the VPN should be run by one company. Another company – in a different jurisdiction and operated by different individuals – should run the network. The network operator should rarely deal with a customer, and the sales people should have noting to do with network operations. It’s safer for the operators and far better for the customer.

Don’t people have to trust VPN operators a heck of a lot? It seems like a popular VPN could simply steal a lot of valuable information.

Definitely. Using a bad or scam VPN is worse than using nothing at all. Sadly, however, a lot of people see “free” or “cheap” and all further inquiry evaporates. But you’re right, you are trusting the VPN operator a great deal.

It’s possible to build a VPN that requires zero trust, but that’s even harder to do, and there just isn’t market support for it. We’ve tried.

If Cryptohippie somehow disappeared, what would you do to secure your privacy?

My first choice would be to find a service as much like Cryptohippie as possible. It would include anonymous email, a method for authenticating without providing user information, a multi-jurisdiction, multi-hop approach to networking and end-to-end encryption. In short, they’d have to hold privacy as a first consideration, placing everything else beneath it.

Does such a company exist?

Not so far as I know. You’d have to be a privacy activist to run that kind of company. That is, you’d need a core group of people who were willing to suffer in the pursuit of privacy, not just people trying to make money on a web service.

When Cryptohippie started, there was nothing like it. It had to be created from scratch, and it took seriously dedicated privacy activists to do it. If it closed I’d have to look for the next generation of such people… and go back to old-fashioned op-sec practices in the mean time.

As you can see there are many potential difficulties you face in keeping your communications private and your data secure. If you need additional tech support or guidance, please let me know.


The Quality of Information Within A Hierarchy

People very often expect authorities to possess superior information. After all, the assumptions of the 20th century were that those at the top of large systems have information the rest of us don’t, and that they make better decisions because of it. This was the lesson of the factory, the military and government. In all cases, those at the top were believed to have the best information.

In actual practice, however, those at the top don’t get the best information. An FBI agent in Minneapolis, to use a famous example, knew all about the bizarre behavior of the 9/11 hijackers, but that information never reached those who were expected to use it.

There are many more examples, of course. The military is full of them; ask a 20-year corporal or sergeant some time. Pretty much every mid-level manager at a corporation can tell you the same types of stories. And by now we should all know how deeply “out of it” high level politicians are.

The problem is not the people involved, however; the problem is the structure. All of these are hierarchies, and all, necessarily, pass information up and down between levels of the structure. And that is a problem. The crucial fact is this:

As information is passed through the levels of a hierarchy, it is filtered.

This much is not seriously questionable. Corporate analysts have been talking about it for decades, trying to “flatten” the corporation. And again, this is caused by the structure itself, not by the quality of the individuals involved. A person with exceptionally high integrity will filter less, but since we’re talking about structures involving thousands of people, that’s not a significant factor. Hierarchies filter information because of their structure.

Filter How?

Information flow in a hierarchy is filtered in any number of ways, with the political schemes of the participants being a major factor. (Political scheming in the corporate sense, that is: lining up allies, controlling others, and so on… relying upon influence more than substance.)

The more pervasive factor, however, involves the control of will. That sounds odd at first, and even irrelevant, but it isn’t.

The constraint of individual will is the fundamental operating feature of hierarchy. The hierarchy must get individual humans to do the hierarchy’s will rather than their personal will, if it is to survive.

Individuals within a hierarchy must obey orders. They must serve the goals of the system rather than their own. The hierarchy cannot survive without this. It is the fundamental operation.

Hierarchies obtain this sacrifice of will in a variety of ways, the chief of which are,

  • Corporations offering paychecks in return for the correct sacrifice of personal will. Also offering status.

  • Governments offering a sense of belonging in return for the correct sacrifice of personal will. Additionally the promise of protection, agreeing to stand as the responsible party (removing the threat of shame from the individual) and providing someone to blame, generally in the form of political parties and leaders. (Allowing us to blame the parties, but not the overall structure.)

The general culture of a hierarchy, then, majors upon the control of individual will.

The filtration of information in a hierarchy concentrates the control of individual will. In some cases this involves orders and punishments. In others, as in political campaigns, it focuses upon bending the will of the individual to the desires of the structure. That is, people are frightened or seduced rather than forced.

The quality of information within the hierarchy is distorted and tends to become anti-individual, pro-collective, pro-indoctrination and pro-authority. In the end, hierarchy tends to be contemptuous of stand-alone life, smaller systems and non-centralized systems.

Hierarchy recognizes other hierarchies and treats non-hierarchies as foreign. Large recognizes large and sees small as a nuisance.

A Final Illustration

I’ll leave you with one final illustration of this effect. It’s something Bill Bonner passed along in 2009, quoting a US Senate functionary with whom he had recently met:

You don’t understand, these people live in a Bubble World. They’re protected from the real world by their staffs and by the system itself. You imagine that they would know what is going on. But they don’t. They know less than we do. And they’ll be the last to find out. They are so busy meeting constituents…dealing with donors…working out deals with their political parties and supporters…and feeling like big shots…they don’t really have any time to study the issues. So they count on staff and party committees to tell them what to say, how to vote…and what to think.

So, when you see people at the top of hierarchies saying incorrect and destructive things, remember that this lies at the root of the problem.


Paul Rosenberg


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The Viral Load Hypothesis

Viral load, advises Wikipedia, is “a numerical expression of the quantity of virus in a given volume of body fluid a higher viral load often correlates with the severity of an active viral infection.”

So, the viral load hypothesis is that the more of a virus you’re exposed to, the sicker you’ll be. For obvious reasons I’m applying this to COVID-19, producing this hypothesis: Inhale a lot of COVID-19 and you’ll get a lot sicker than if you inhaled just a little.

So, this is a big question for us now, and should have been to the “experts” and “authorities” a few months ago. (Perhaps it was, but I didn’t notice it.)

This isn’t necessarily true for COVID-19, of course. As Wikipedia notes, this is “often” true, not “always” true. We have to test to really know.

Whether or not this is true for COVID-19, however, is a very serious question, with very serious implications. For that reason I’d like to give it some brief but serious attention.


The best method of testing this hypothesis would involve a double-blind study that purposely exposed a large number of people; some at low levels of exposure to the virus, some middle, some high, and some none. We won’t do that for obvious reasons, and so we’ll have to look for statistical indications. Some of the things we’d look for are these:

  • Of all COVID-19 cases, what percentage had long-term exposure? Doctors and nurses treating COVID patients would fit this model, as would people stuck in the same house as someone sick with COVID-19.

  • Of all COVID-19 cases, what percentage had very brief exposure? These people would be those who have the antibodies (showing that they were exposed), but had very brief exposure, such as a one-time pass close to someone who was coughing.

  • Of all COVID-19 cases, what percentage had a middling exposure, such as sharing a large office with one other person who was sick, over a fairly brief period.

To support this properly, we’d have to do a lot of random antibody testing (some was done in New York recently), so we know how many people were exposed but had minimal symptoms. Without them, all our percentages would be skewed, and perhaps wildly.

With enough of this information, the statistical experts could sort through everything, also breaking things down according to other risk factors. But within a few days (a week or two at most) we would have a clear picture.

Indications And Implications

I have my personal suspicions on this, of course, but that’s neither here nor there as regards statistics. What matters are actual tests (assuming they’re reliable tests), good information, and enough of both. After that it’s only math… that and the courage to face the results.

My guess is that viral load matters a great deal in this case, and that the 1919 model of bringing the sick out of closed spaces and into the out-of-doors was a better model. And, I might add, the human instinct seems to be to flee concentrations of people in time of plague, seeking open space. Might that be in recognition of viral load? There’s no easy way to tell, and instinct isn’t infallible, but it should at least be entertained.


Paul Rosenberg


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Return Engagements (Book Two) PART 5

(Continued from part four)

I was still at the bookshelves when they invited me to the dining room table.

You have a first edition of F.F. Bosworth, two of E.W. Kenyon’s, and even a John G. Lake. I’ve never seen some of these before.”

And you read those in 2018?” Micah asked.

No, more like the late 1980s… I actually corresponded with Kenyon’s daughter and son-in-law for a while.”

It’s my natural inclination to look at bookshelves, but this time it had been a mistake. It pulled them into thinking about doctrine, as divisive a subject as could be found. Saying the wrong thing might torpedo our budding relationship, and kill their hopes one last, bitter time.

I was ready guide to the conversation away from doctrine and toward principles like love, when they asked me to say grace before the meal. That, thankfully, was a doctrinal test I could pass. But as I looked at their faces (while saying “Certainly, I’d love to”), I saw that they were less concerned about my doctrine and more concerned about gaining some sort of insight from the things that I – a God-chosen man of the future – might say. And so I ad-libbed as best I could, remembering a line from Jesus: “What to say will be given to you in that hour.”

We thank you, Father,” I began, “not so much for the food itself, but more for a world from which such food can be brought forth, for the men and women who work to bring these foodstuffs to us, and for all the men and women whose contributions have blessed us and our world over the ages. And I thank you, Father, for the good and kind people I connected with so quickly on this mission of mine. May my ability rise to the level of my desires for their blessing and peace. Amen.”

They were moved by the words, and I by the fact that I found them.

Our dinner was pleasant, with the conversation running around our mutual histories and our families. But as I examined their faces, I saw that they were thinking of me as some type of advanced and enlightened being. I was ready to turn move the conversation toward some of the stupid things I had done over the years, but before I could I was struck by the fact that it wasn’t a good idea. And so I excused myself from the table and walked to their bathroom.

What helps them?” I muttered to myself in my temporary isolation. Soon enough I realized that I was trying to maintain absolute truth while still trying to help them… and that doing both wasn’t going to happen. If I told them the absolute truth about this situation… that they were temporary beings… it would probably break them. And if I made it clear that I wasn’t some super-special, chosen-by-God person, that would likely break them as well.

And so, if I cared about these people, absolute honesty was out of the question. But that, to me, is a problem, because over the years I’ve developed a deep distaste for being false. Not because it’s against the rules, but because it twists me on the inside.

All of Book Two on Kindle

Book One on Kindle

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg




The Immortal Hymn of Mankind

If you could go back in time a thousand years, you’d find people who were eerily similar to your present companions. The same is true for people who will live a thousand years from now. Some of them will be nearly identical to the people you now love, and you would care deeply about those people, the same as you do their present-day counterparts.

Please understand this: The men, women and children we would love in the future can advance only in the same way we have, by the benefaction of their predecessors.

Can you imagine how long it took for ignorant men and women to learn metallurgy? Or crop rotation? Or a hundred other things we can barely imagine being without? Our lives are advanced only because they created new ways of living and passed them down to us. Hundreds of generations of people just like us lived through dark times, fighting toward whatever bits of light they could find, opposed by others nearly the entire way, to bring us where we are now.

Someday our generation will also be gone, and we will have played – whether we’ve understood it or not – the crucial role of transmitting civilization to following generations. What do we want them to be like? How do we want them to live?

Numberless men and women have struggled toward the future and spent all they had to bring us here. We owe them something. It may be that they no longer care, but their gifts to us will cease to exist unless we pass them along. We make them matter, and they deserve to matter.

We stand now at the threshold of the stars, but we’ve been immobilized by self-serving structures designed to control every human and reap from their every action. We must get past them if we are to continue forward.

Foolishness and fear bid us to forget the future, to chase status instead of goodness, consumption rather than production, and stasis rather than expansion. A thousand self-serving voices call us aside, grasping at our minds and emotions. We must turn away from them all.

We owe this to the people of the past.

We owe it to the people of the future.

We owe it to ourselves.

What happens next is up to you. It’s not up to leaders or bosses. It’s up to you.

The consequences of your failures are inescapable, and the consequences of your good deeds are inescapable. Whether or not you acknowledge them, our descendants will live or die by them. What you are and what you do matter a very great deal.

Engage your will. Act. Awake.


Paul Rosenberg



Return Engagements (Book Two) PART 4

(Continued from part three)

I’m not sure any of us knows precisely what the spiritual instinct is. And while most people brush up against it once in a while, others experience it far more. Micah and Dorthea Corwin were afflicted with it from a young age.

I am ninety two years old,” he said as tears started down his face. “My wife is ninety three, and we’ve been waiting to see a move of God since the year nineteen hundred five.”

This couple had been waiting for some extraordinary event for seventy three years, and my very presence was an extraordinary event… and somehow he sensed it. I could not… would not… crush this man’s desperate and nearly extinguished hopes.

I leaned in toward him, very close. “I was sent here,” I whispered. “I’d rather not everyone know it, but I will talk to you about it as far as I can.”

The man was overwhelmed. Given his age I thought I should do what I could to stabilize him. And so I crossed the aisle and sat in the empty seat immediately next to him and put my hand over his arm.

I am a man like you,” I said very quietly, “not an angel from heaven. But I was sent here on a special mission, from another time. I will talk to you of these things, but first I’d like you to remember your age and try to calm yourself.”

He nodded and sat quietly for some time. Then he faced me again. “Where are you staying?” he asked.

Having just arrived, I thought I’d take a hotel room and prepare for my mission.”

Oh, no,” he said, “You must stay with me and my wife. We have a guest room.”

And so I agreed, transferring with him to the Lawrence Avenue bus and getting off in Albany Park.

As we walked the block and a half from Lawrence to their apartment, I couldn’t help but soak in the scene and recover at least some of my euphoria. I remembered these winters so very well, and the look of night in Chicago before the street lighting upgrades of the 1980s. I was holding Micah’s arm as we walked. He was giving his full attention to the snow-covered sidewalks but I was walking confidently and feeling young.

I had been on precisely these streets in 1978. I was recognizing individual trees… even, I think, a car or two. My nineteen year-old self, as it happened, was living just a block or two away. I thought that I might I look in on him, but quickly decided against anything more than some distant observation. If an old stranger could recognize something about me, I had to believe that my young self could.

My present concern, however, was two fragile old people who deserved my comfort. After that, I had a mission to attend to. But for a few minutes more walking down this street I would soak in the experience. It was a luxury I couldn’t have foreseen.

* * * * *

Micah and Dorthea’s apartment was almost exactly as I would have expected: Old and carefully preserved furniture, lots of biblical-themed art (also very old) and some family photos. What surprised me was the particular smell of old people’s apartments in those days. Part of it was mothballs, to be sure, but I think it was something besides. The apartments of my grandparents had that smell, but I hadn’t experienced it since about this time.

Micah talked to Dorthea in the kitchen, presumably convincing her that I was the answer to their decaying hopes. Soon enough they emerged, with Dorthea sitting next to me on their couch.

You are actually from the future?”

I am,” I replied, having decided to tell the the wide-open truth as far as I could. “A few hours ago I was in the year two thousand eighteen, and now I am here.”

Do you mind if I ask you questions about the future?”

Not at all. I don’t see how it would hurt anything.”

Jesus hasn’t come back during your time?”

No, I’m sorry to say, and no signs of such a thing are on the horizon… though I’m sure someone must think so… someone always has.”

Her question clarified her world view to me, and I think my answer gave her some perspective. She seemed like a sincere and decent woman.

Tell us why you are here,” Micah requested from the chair where he had sat.

I’m here with an opportunity to improve my world. The whole scenario would take me some time to explain – and it’s as much science as spirituality proper – but if I can improve your world of 1978, some measure of that improvement will transfer to my world in 2018.

And so the first part of my mission is to figure out how to do that. I’m not yet sure how long I have, but I suspect it will be a few years. Within that amount of time, I’ll need to figure out how to make 1978 and 1979 better than they were the first time through, then to do the hard work of making those improvements happen.”

They both sat quietly for a moment, then Dorthea said, “That’s a very important mission, and not a terribly easy one, I think.”

I laughed softly. “No, it isn’t. But I did this once before, with what I think were good results, and so I’m hopeful. Actually, I’m kind of excited about it.”

Dorthea got a far-off expression on her face. “You must stay with us,” she added ten seconds later.

Quickly I ran enough scenarios through my mind to reach a conclusion. “I can promise you this much, Dorthea; I will stay here long enough to become clear on my mission’s details…” I wasn’t going to tell them about the note. “And afterward I will remain your friend, and will see the two of you as frequently as possible.”

The nodded their heads.

That may mean I see you every day, or perhaps once a week… I simply lack sufficient information to say right now.”

Of course,” she said.

Then she offered me some dinner and I accepted. (By now I was hungry.) And while the two of them prepared the meal, I looked through the books on their shelves.

All of Book Two on Kindle

Book One on Kindle

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg


How Rights Destroy Us

The thought that something like “the right to a secure retirement” could destroy us seems a little crazy at first. Who, after all, opposes old people living comfortably? Nonetheless, many rights do destroy, and it recently struck me that I had never seen a clear and dispassionate explanation of why. And so I’ll rectify that.

The Two Rights

This will be brief, so please follow me.

When we say “rights,” we are making “should” statements, like “old people should spend their final years comfortably.” At first that sounds okay, but right is even stronger than should, and implies a demand… a must. That can be problematic because there are two types of these must statements:

  1. You must do something.
  2. You must not do something.

Must not statements are like those in the US Bill of Rights, telling the government that it may not impinge upon free speech, the practice of religion, peaceful assembly and so on. “Congress shall make no law.” These statements aren’t usually a problem.

The must statements, however, are a problem, because they make a universal demand. When you say, “we have a right to a secure retirement,” you are also saying that someone, somewhere, must make it happen.

Gods And Rulers

Demands that a right be satisfied are made to unspecified providers. Thus they accrue to gods and rulers. And with gods no longer in style, they go directly to rulers, who are expected to satisfy the demands.

To make secure retirement happen, however, the ruler must provide goods and/or money to old people. And those have to come from somewhere: roof repairs and microwave ovens don’t come from magic incantations, after all; someone must work to provide them.

So, since the ruler won’t personally work for the goods, he or she must take them from other people. Thus the seemingly benevolent “right to a secure retirement” leads directly to the forcible taking of personal property and the labor that produced it. That’s not seriously arguable.

Damage And Destruction

As every adult knows, claims of rights are more or less endless these days: The right to a roof over our heads, the right to health care, the right to employment, the right to clean water, and so on. All of these things are being demanded; that’s what a claim to a right is, a demand.

So, whether people admit it or not – whether they understand it or not – to claim such a right is equally to demand that other people give it to you.

In actual practice it’s working people who are expected to pay for all these demands. Money is coercively taken (by threat or worse) from the electrician, the farmer, the nurse and so on. Expressed in any honest vocabulary this is “damage.” And enough damage qualifies as destruction.

Clearly, the obligation to satisfy all the claims of the modern era is impossible. Everyone from the indigent to the cross-dresser are claiming new rights while the electrician, farmer and nurse are being drained beyond endurance.

Making things worse, if a “right” – a must statement – isn’t satisfied, people take it as evidence of a crime… a wicked violation of their rights.

In the end, all these universal demands – all these must statements – come crashing down on the working man and woman, not only dragging money out of them, but calling them criminals for not having provided the impossible.

And so, yes, these rights are destroying us. I hope I’ve made that clear.


Paul Rosenberg



Dropping Out of Dreams

Eras change as their illusions burn out, and a lot of illusions are presently on fire. Many millions are newly unemployed with no savings. Probably more are deeply in debt with their income being slashed. These people – most of them reliable friends and neighbors – have been pushed and pulled into the situation they find themselves and are facing the hard death of their dreams.

Letting go of dreams is a hard thing to do. And even those of us who saw this coming are facing it, as it’s fairly certain that daily life will be changing for all of us.

Back in the 1960s it was common to say “Tune in, turn on, drop out,” and plenty of young people did. Now it looks like the phrase may run in reverse: Drop Out, Tune In, Turn On.

In the ‘60s people turned away from the corporate conformity of the 1950s, deciding that they wanted more out of life than to be an adequately-fed cog of a big machine. These days the system has turned against its cogs, dropping them out of the machine. But the tuning in and turning on may follow. In fact, we should all be working for them to follow, because if they don’t, we’re all in a lot of trouble.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Humans have a habit of running stories through their heads: We look at a situation and gauge our reactions by how well they fit with the stories we tell ourselves.

Letting go of dreams, even misguided ones, requires us to re-arrange our stories, and that’s not painless.

Personally, I think this story-telling has gone too far, but that’s irrelevant for the moment; we have to deal with people who are already at their overload point. So, for whatever it’s worth, here’s a story line (and a true one, as I see it) that you may find useful for your friends and neighbors:

The life scripts we were fed, if we’re honest about it, were really pretty bad. They required us to sell our long-term satisfaction for illusions. Being pushed out of it may prove to be a blessing.

A screenplay I wrote some years back (it’s in our Member’s area) included this dialog between two of the characters after they were dropped out and were tuning in:

And what about you? 

This has changed me. 


Honestly, it woke me up. I was living the aristocratic French life. My father was 
an important man, I went to the best schools, they got me the perfect job, I was 
dating a boy of the upper class. But the whole thing fell apart in a moment. I don’t 
want anyone to suffer, but now I don’t really care if France ever comes back to what 
it was, and I don’t think I want to be part of it… 
God, I’m speaking treason.

If that’s what you really think, you should say it. 

You’re right, but I’ve wandered from my subject... I was never more than an obedient 
child. They never forced me to obey – they didn’t have to. I was swept along by 
everyone else. I had a nicer path than the others, so I took it. But… 
I was second to the path...

Do you mean that you were merely a placeholder? 

Yes! That’s what I mean! My place was a good one, but it had nothing to do with me – 
I was just a position. I want to be ME, not a placeholder, even of a very nice place. 

That’s very good. 

Yes, but what scares the hell out of me is that without the fall of France, I might 
never have noticed. 

If this type of change happens to a sufficient number of the “dropped out,” we’re golden. Humans are engines of creation; we are able to imagine and to turn our imaginations into reality.

By dropping out, we stop wasting oceans of time and energy on governments and politics. We stop paying attention to the hundreds of ads we see every day. We stop buying trendy things for the sake of impressing silly people. We stop trying to fit in and stop living according to other people’s expectations. We rediscover ourselves.

A Final Thought

Do you remember all those times in the Bible where Jesus berated people for being “hypocrites”? Well, the real word he used was actors – as in stage actors. And whether you’re religious or not, this is crucial:

We’ve been acting in someone else’s play, and those roles were not written for our benefit.

It’s time for us to let go of the masks, to stop playing the roles and to rediscover ourselves. And what we end up finding, once we get down to it, is that we’re really pretty cool.


Paul Rosenberg



Return Engagements (Book Two) PART 3

(Continued from part two)

The train car in which I was riding, while certainly much better than being outside, was still cold, and I was the only person in it without a heavy coat. Still, this train line, later called the Red Line, was a place where you could see almost any kind of craziness if you hung around long enough. Pretty much everyone on the train had seen worse.

While waiting for the train I had discretely tucked my bag beneath not only my sport coat, but under my sweater and my shirt as well, even inside the top of my pants. I didn’t want anyone to get a look at it and I didn’t want to risk it falling out.

As the train rose from the subway to the elevated tracks, I decided that Belmont would be my best choice for getting off. There were lots of shops there, some of them immediately next to the train station. And so, a few minutes later I jumped off the train and ran down the stairs to Belmont Avenue.

I spotted some kind of clothing store just a few doors down and went quickly inside. I was trying not to look desperate and strange, but then I remembered what kind of area this was. Belmont was a haven for people who didn’t fit in.

The store didn’t have any kind of coat, but they pointed me to an Army Surplus store, less than a block away. It was a cold and difficult run (these sidewalks having lots of snow and ice), but I made it intact, and found precisely what I wanted. Not only did I pick up a nice parka, but I got a pair of winter boots, extra socks, even a hat and gloves.

The sun was setting as I stepped back onto Belmont, but this time I was in a beautiful position. I was properly clothed and I had money. It felt good being back in 1978 this way. I walked to the drug store at the corner and bought all the little things I’d need: Toothpaste, floss and so on.

Across the street from the drug store was a stop for the Number 22 bus. I hustled across quickly enough to catch one that was pulling up.

After clambering into the bus with half a dozen others, I found that I remembered the interior of these buses quite well. They were the same model I took all through high school, and I even remembered which seats had heaters under them. I wasn’t able to get one of them, but I found a seat in the row immediately ahead and felt like I was crawling into a warm bed.

Here I was, safe in 1978 with almost twenty thousand dollars (I made a fast count in the changing room) and knowing what was about to happen in the world. I let my imagination run and saw myself changing buses at Ridge, checking into one of the hotels at Peterson and Kedzie (anonymous but safe rooms), ordering some Chinese food, taking a hot shower, eating, maybe watching some vintage 1978 TV, reading the note from my other-world friends, and stepping back into the world of my youth… living through those years a second time, with all my 2018 knowledge and experience. And with money. I became euphoric.

I looked out the window of the bus and took in the city. The cars, the buildings, the people, the street lights turning on as the sun vanished. It was a magnificent instant replay: I knew it all so deeply, so intimately, but I had been away for so long, never imagining that I’d return. It was a special kind of euphoria, and I had enough experience with such things to be able to soak it in, unsullied by the silly fears of youth that I had on the first run through. An unalloyed euphoria.

* * * * *

Again I looked out the window. As expected, given the weather and time of day, we were progressing slowly. But that bothered me none and my interior revels continued. I even let myself imagine quiet days relaxing and wading slowly through the late 1970s a second time. I had to have been smiling.

Then I half-saw and half-felt some intentional movement to my left. I turned to find an old man standing in the aisle, staring at me. I smiled and went back to my euphoria.

Some number of seconds later, maybe ten or fifteen, I looked back. The man was still staring at me, and he seemed to be getting intense about it. It was almost impossible that he had seen me at the train station, and I doubted that he could have recognized me in my parka and hat, even if he had seen me there. More than that, he was very old, making him no immediate threat. But he kept staring.

I nodded at him this time and looked back out the window. My euphoria faded as I realized it would be a slow couple of miles until I changed buses.

And then, quickly for a man his age, he plopped down in the seat across the aisle from mine and turned squarely toward me.

You were sent here by God,” he said, “I can tell.”

All of Book Two on Kindle

Book One on Kindle

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Paul Rosenberg