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  • Thursday night at Spec’s bar in Houston found the usual crowd of social misfits in their usual places. The vibe and the smell were tawdry. It was a smoke-filled room and the stink of cheap perfume, beer and booze spilled in the 1960’s and never cleaned up permeated every square inch. Charles Bukowski would have been right at home.

    Hopped-up long-haul truckers, ambulance chasing lawyers, promiscuous dental hygienists, has-been high school athletes and beauty queens and assorted alcoholics whose yellowed eyes offered a glimpse of the cirrhosis that awaited them were all there. Drinking with a purpose.

    Above it all, Wanda Jackson was wailing on the jukebox: “Right or Wrong.”

    At the bar, former Baptist minister and, until recently, inmate at the Texas Department of Corrections (located just up I45 in Huntsville) Westcott Rainey was on his fourth Dewar’s. He was involved in a largely one-way conversation with Chaco Sandoval, personal injury attorney and local political fixer in the 5th Ward.

    “You realize my esteemed, Mexican American compadre that the Liar Paradox has for many years confounded those of us who deal in the realm of rhetorical devices! Many mornings, after prayer, I find myself awash in the conundrum that it suggests.”

    “Listen Wes. I’ve never heard of it and it doesn’t affect me one way or another. Also, if you don’t mind, I’m not your ‘compadre.’ We sit here and drink 5 or 6 nights a week until they run us off. OK. That’s the extent of our professional and personal relationship.” He drained his fourth Wild Turkey on the rocks.

    Jamie Saenz strolled by on his way to what passed for a restroom in Spec's. “Wassup Chaco? Or should I say Wassup Mr. Avenging Abogado? Love the billboards dude. Real badass. You need to get some ads on those crappy daytime TV shows. That’s where the lawsuit money spends its time. My brother-in-law’s a salesman at one of them stations. He can fix you up.”

    Not deterred by this momentary interruption, the former reverend continued, “During my undergraduate days, before making my commitment to serving the Lord and going to theology school, I was recognized as an expert on the Liar Paradox.”

    “I can believe that. They tell me you’re an expert in anything that involves lies.”

    “I didn’t realize that someone of your race had such a trenchant sense of humor.”

    “Yeah, spics from the Valley…estamous mucho trenchant.”

    “As a professional litigator and an officer of the court, the Liar Paradox must trouble you on some level. If the statement: "this sentence is false" is true, then the sentence is false, which would in turn mean that it is actually true, but this would mean that it is false, and so on ad infinitum. Similarly, if "this sentence is false" is false, then the sentence is true, which would in turn mean that it is actually false, but this would mean that it is true, and so on ad infinitum.”

    “Hence the term ‘paradox’ padre,” Sandoval mumbled.

    To quote the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “To put the Liar Paradox in perspective, it is essential to appreciate why such an apparently trivial problem in fact is a deep problem. Suppose we ask the larger question: What is truth?”

    “Can you get me another Turkey rocks please? And get this monomaniacal pendejo something so he’ll shut the hell up!”

    Not to be reasoned with, Rainey continued his harangue. “The problem of the Liar Paradox is that it seems to show that common beliefs about truth and falsity actually lead to a contradiction. Sentences can be constructed that cannot consistently be assigned a truth value even though they are completely in accord with grammar and semantic rules. Aristotle offered what many philosophers consider to be a partially correct answer to our question about truth: ‘A declarative sentence is true if and only if what it says is so.’”

    As if on cue, the ancient jukebox changed songs from Wanda’s “Right or Wrong” to Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie.”

    “Turn that shit down Spec!” Somebody in the back was not a fan.

    The ex-con and former man of God picked up his drink and thought of his ex-wife, in the nursing home up in Dallas and still in the coma he put her in. “Yep, I’ve got a corollary to the Paradox,” he thought. “A lie is as good as the truth if somebody believes it.”

    Photo by A. Young 2012
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