Monday, September 28, 2009

There Goes a Regular

Here's the time when I bid you all internetty farewell for awhile, hoping to take the first part of this blog's title at face value and leave my big "but" out of it. Feel lacking in the bravado that's necessary for the arrogance that I should be saying things anyone else needs to be reading. Time to go do something useful. Time to figure out if the un-examined, at least in burdened prose, life is. Time to recharge and rethink and just shut the fuck up, as it were. Put all my parentheticals away before someone figures out they're Russian nesting dolls with nothing inside the smallest shell.

No doubt I'll be back at some point, because I've got too many of these words in me not to let them out. But five years is a long damn time you know. If you figure even a half hour average for those 2500 entries, that's 52 days of my life round the clock here.

And as a parting present, here's one of Harry Matthews' sublime entries from 20 Lines a Day:

One kind of sadness says it's over before its begun. It discounts the future in the awareness that of something about to happen, nothing will be left. This implies that sometimes something is left, and if this is no doubt true, it is only so as expectation, never in fact (unless you count letters, marriage contracts, and other testimonials to intentions--testimonials perhaps to that very same expectation). What happens in fact, always, is that nothing is left: the moment is over, the day is over, the meal is over, the movie is over, the circus is over, the embrace is over, the bottle of Chambertin Close de Bèze 1937 is emptied, the class is over, the course is over and the students are filing out of your life, and life too is over--my father's, George's, Bob Auzanneau's--and nothing remains, nothing remains, except me. The change may be less radical than it sounds if I understand that there was never anything but me, and the bottle and the circus and Bob existed in me. As consolation this is guaranteed to not always work. Nothing remains of the embrace, and I sink towards sleep, or look around to see what will happen next. Sometimes this sadness happens next. How can we keep exposing ourselves to such disappointment? What inspired this impossible longing in us for something conclusive? Maybe just the experience that hunger wanted to put a thing inside us, and that desire had a body for its target? To swallow her, to be swallowed by her--two apparently terminal acts whose illusion is more "solid," more durable than steak and her bones no matter how exquisite. I want you and can never have you. You said it yourself: "You're already gone!" So I write these words down, leaving the problem (if it is a problem) intact and unmodified.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Running Up That Hill

For Dog Blog Friday: Up at The Other Place in Anderson Valley there's this pond, and while the old folks (Mooks and Horace) now get driven to it, the other dogs make the hike with the non-taxi-driving humans and if they're Nigel, tear up the hill to the pond. Which makes for a cool series of photos.


Friday Random Ten

That Petrol Emotion "Stories of the Street" I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
The Handsome Family "My Beautiful Bride" In the Air
The New Century Chamber Orchestra "Largo (Attacca)" Written with the Heart's Blood: Dimitri Shostakovitch
Maria McKee "I'm Not Listening" Life Is Sweet
Joshua Redman "Yesterdays" Timeless Tales (For Changing Times)
Richard & Linda Thompson "Don't Renege on Our Love" Shoot Out the Lights
East River Pipe "Ah, Dictaphone" Poor Fricky
The Replacements "Valentine" Pleased to Meet Me
Rilo Kiley "The Moneymaker" Under the Blacklight
Liz Phair "Canary" Exile in Guyville

Julie Miller "Last Song" Blue Pony

R&L take the week's cake. And I have to admit a weakness for "Moneymaker," although I should know better.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Who's the S Now?

It was 319 years ago this Friday that the first multi-page newspaper was published in the not-yet-U.S., Boston's Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick. One reason it was a multi-page paper was they had to fit the extra "k"s. Then there was the multi-page Columbus Day ad for Ye Young [it was 1690--couldn't be olde yet] Witch and Warlock Shoppe: "Wicked Wanda says: 'For eye of newt, either boiled or plain, our prices are insane!"* Alas, the paper only had one issue, as its owner fired all the staff for actually wanting to be real journalists. Oh, wait, that's the News-Press, speaking of witches. It was the government that shut Publick Occurrences down, claiming it printed "sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports," plus capitalizing even more randomly than the government did, and what's with that "f" for "s" thing? It makes you look totally foolifh, ridiculouf, and filly. And this is Bofton. (And I realize that "f" isn't an "f" but a long "s" back when we seemed in need of two "s"s, as if one "s" in the room isn't usually enough, let alone a big "s.")(You might have to read that one aloud, but it's not fuitable for work, ok?)


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Perfect Models of Muddled Major Mayors

There was a horrible wrong-way-driver crash on the 101 in Santa Barbara this morning, complete with fatalities, and therefore the highway, and soon every surface street, was choked. We became a wonderful parking lot of not moving, not getting to work. Puts stuff in perspective. Late to work is much better than late period. Sometimes we have to be shaken out of our rush hours.

And much more mundanely, there was this--I turned to local AM radio hoping to figure out what was going on, what route might be best. This merely put me in the path of local pols trying to make their cases for being mayor. This merely made me dislike the candidates I already disliked even more.

As regular readers (hiya, both of you) might expect, just a word or phrase can be enough to set me off, as I'm in the business of words. (Didn't say I was a good businessman, just want my vocation clear.) First up is an ad from Steve Cushman, who wants to be mayor. And along his way to trying to prove that in 60 seconds, he says, "Because Santa Barbara is the best city in the world" or something very much to that effect. Sorry, Steve, but even as a big SB booster--I mean I do that professionally too, as George is my name and PR is my game--that's just an asinine, sucking up, bullshit thing to say. Who the hell knows what's the best city in the world? I might take Paris, another San Francisco, someone Cheyenne where I've never been. It's a stupid contest and a stupid thing for someone who has to make smart decisions to say. It means you'll say anything to be elected--it's like pretending that the whole damn town is one big baby to be smooched.

Next up was Dale Francisco, who instead of smooching, choose to shat on whole groups of people. He said to vote for him to keep "political activists and the unions" from running Santa Barbara. First, I sort of missed the political activists running town--I wish folks like Dick and Mickey Flacks were running things, but I'm pretty sure they're not. This "political activists" charge is sort of like when the right complains about "activist judges"--they only mean the judges who do things they don't want done. When the court rules in favor of corporations, white folk, etc., that's just justice, dammit. Comes direct from the god I made in my image.

And then the poor unions. Don't people realize that unions are just a bunch of people who actually work for a living? Sure, many unions are now white collar, not blue, but that's mostly because we've got rid of so many blue collars jobs or are very good at snuffing out any unionizing attempts before they can give people hope for better work conditions or a living wage. But there will always be a segment of the world (led by people like Wendy McCaw--gee, a rich woman hates unions, who'd guess?) that say the word union like they've just bit into a dog poop and maggot sandwich on a leper's shoe leather bread.

So it seems pretty easy, now, to decide who not to vote for for mayor. Glad your ads did the trick, gentlemen.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

A Load of Croc

For Dog Blog Friday: Mookie asks, "Does the flash up this close make my eyes look like a crocodile's?"


Friday Random Ten

That Dog "I'm Gonna See You" Retreat from the Sun
Sonic Youth "Eliminator Jr." Daydream Nation
Tommy Keene "Love Is a Dangerous Thing" Sleeping on a Roller Coaster
Brian Woodbury "Get Wise" Time for a Change--Bar/None Sampler #2
Neo Pseudo "Little Red Book" Laughing Symbols No So No
Menahan Street Band "The Traitor" Make the Road by Walking
Richard Buckner "Boys, the Night Will Bury You" Since
David Byrne "Just the Motion" Beat the Retreat: Songs by Richard Thompson
The Hold Steady "Chips Ahoy!" Boys and Girls in America
Youssou N'Dour "Country Boy" Eyes Open

Tom Waits "The Fall of Troy" Dead Man Walking

I guess I say a bit all over every week, and while this hits world, it avoids jazz, classical, etc. But there are some obscurities, aren't there. Such as a shout out to State College, PA circa 1990.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Ramble

The long weekend up in Anderson Valley is about to commence, but I'd hate to leave you all with nothing, so instead, here's a song about the end with much silly dancing. I can't say how much I value Jon Langford, and I'm sure you'll feel the same. Plus you have to love Sally Timms' retort at the seeming end of the song. Must be something for the two of them to have gone from lovers to enduring, incredible co-conspirators in the greatest band on the planet (sorry LC!, but the Mekons have done it for decades--we'll talk in 2039).

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Capitalismos Favorite Boy Child, We Must Apologize

Why I am not an economist, evidence point # a lot (if I were an economist, I could come up with an exact bogus number).... Here's several lines from an LA Times story this morning:

"All of the indicators are that the recession is over with, even in California," said Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. [His name used to be Quartersburg, but he was downsized.]

UCLA's quarterly regional forecast, scheduled to be released today, comes amid rising optimism among economists nationwide. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Tuesday that the nation had probably exited its worst downturn since the 1930s and that the economy was probably expanding once again.
[Does a double probably work like a double negative?]

"From a technical perspective, the recession is very likely over at this point," he said in remarks at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
[And recession is all about technique, so keep that growling from your hungry tummy down--it disturbs the machinery.]

Hooray! The recession is over! California is no longer a billion Governator hydrogen powered Hummers in debt! The UC and CSU won't be furloughing people while increasing student tuition for an inferior education! Frank McCourt will be giving away free beer with each Andre Ethier walk-off homerun! NBC will be so profitable they will take Jay Leno away again! I won't read a few more paragraphs into the article, which goes on to say....

The state's unemployment rate reached 11.9% in July, well above the national rate of 9.4%. Joblessness in California will continue to rise through the end of 2009, peaking in the fourth quarter at 12.2%, according to UCLA economists, who predict that job growth won't resume until late 2010.

The state's budget woes also will be a major drag. California is spending less on healthcare, education and prisons. It's cutting jobs and furloughing workers. That means less money to stimulate the economy.

The state's recovery will also be hindered by its historic reliance on the housing industry, which created tens of thousands of jobs in construction and financial services during the boom. Now many of those positions have vanished.

Construction employment fell by a third to 633,100 in July from its high of 948,500 in February 2006. The financial services sector, which includes real estate finance, shed 138,600 jobs over the same time period.

See, I can't be an economist as I just don't see how these things add up, and I assume addition is the simplest thing an economist has to do, besides make shit up. Oh, and I can deal with the loss of healthcare, education, and prisons (especially debtors prisons). But let's face it, the "major drag" won't be the same anymore, either, what with Swayze gone.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Travel

After 5 years and 2500 posts (well, pop your cork in my general direction) it comes down to this--I'm still wandering in the selva oscura. But I'm much more fortunate than that Dante dude, as he merely had Virgil as his guide, who would speak in Latin and just confuse me, and I, instead, have got you, my loyal readers, whether you come here out of real world friendly obligation, oddly connected long distance internets voodoo involving the Mets/politics/beer/music/a belief that history needs to be made fun of on Fridays, or in search of that nude picture of Morganna the Kissing Bandit, which might not exist, and certainly doesn't here. (Go check my pay site!) And yes, I'm figuring if it's 2500 entries, it's at a minimum of 7500 parenthetical statements (promise I didn’t hire out to the folks who counted the Tea Baggger protesters in DC this weekend). Thanks for sticking with me through thick and thicker. And that's just my sentences (no, not my thinking, wise guy).

I know, as metaphors go the journey is as worn as that path you took to get far away from people using the metaphor of a journey. (That's sort of a sentence palindrome. And yes, I'm proud.) But what the heck else have these 5 years been, and if anyone wants to point to Macbeth Act V, scene v., well, that's not fair. Plus I've been here way more than an hour on this stage, and while I have surely fretted, I have barely strutted.

For to move my literary allusions into at least the 20th century (you might remember it for its hit "World Wars, I and II"), so far I've sort of been tuning my piano, as John Barth, the man who taught me I don't write fiction, put it way back in 1956: "And although my principles might change now and then--this book, remember, concerns one such change--nevertheless I always have them a-plenty, more than I can handily use, and they usually hang all in a piece, so that my life is never less logical simply for its being unorthodox. Also, I get things done, as a rule."

So float opera on, I guess. (The mixing of high and low culture is one of the copyrighted features of this blog.) It's just that we're all in this together, all los campesinos if not Los Campesinos!, country folk in a land bordered by electrons and surrounded by those who don't get it and won't get it but will often get the better of us as that's just how life is rigged these days.

So, let's soak our toes in champagne, let's dance on a lonely street. Let's kick up a cloud of dust and shake our heads to a fancy beat. Let's squish the life out of everything and cheer through a swanky ghost. Let's bathe in a cup of dreams and share in a saucy toast.*

I'll make the cocktails. When you all coming by?

As for travel, I will continue to--off this weekend to that Anderson Valley place I've written about before with my wife and in-laws who have been the damn funnest fondest fabulous family to the easily stranded me (thank you). But I have to thank all of you, too, for just putting up with all the words, all the weirds, all the ways INOTBB goes a bit everywhere, generally all at once. The advice they always give--and you know exactly what they I'm talking about, the advice-giving ones--is to focus that blog, to narrowcast, to write something like Lightbulb Collecting Liechtensteiners or Omar Minaya's Minions or Desiccating Grubs for Dinner Blogspot. Nope, you're on the whacky road with me that stops in too many places in too many podunk nowheres I hope might open up to something with a bit of kicking about and some words exerted in their defense.

Come with me, then, to where I don't know, but there we will all be, you and me and these word things we hope are things and therefore we hammer out hope into something. No matter how many times I rant like yesterday.

* most obscure reference in this post--bonus signed copy of post if you can ID it

(31 of 31 in the drive to 2500! It is accomplished! imagine Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to Last Temptation is playing!)


Monday, September 14, 2009

I'd Toast to Your Health but I Don't Have the Bread

Here's something I never thought I'd have to write, but here goes. I'm pretty sure the idiots are winning. They're not everyone, but there's just enough of them, and then there's the folks with money--and I mean "out the wazoo and all the wazoos they've bought" money--who know how to play the idiots for fun and profit.

This is a prelude to why I haven't been writing about health care reform. Just never felt, uh, well about it. After all, the Dems can't seem to get stuff done without a 102-0 advantage in the Senate (they can't do anything until DC gets actual Senate votes), Obama talks pretty but all his lieutenants talk shit (gee, who would have guessed Rahm Emmanuel would have been the first person to sell public option out?), and the money was never on our side of the debate. We know Obama's on the money side--just ask Mr. Geithner. So how can we expect anything but margin-tinkering as something passed off as important?

So I will go hide and lead my little life with my music and food and beer. (I wish I could live it with baseball, too, but goddam those Mets--if anyone needed better healthcare.... Of course Reyes, Santana, and where-has-all-the-power-gone Wright anchor my fantasy team, too, so while I was in first August 4, I know reside in 7th in a 12 team league.)

Meanwhile the racists bray their anger, the religious wage a war against a dead man and the idea watching a movie about someone they don't like might hurt their precious faith (don't read that link's comment thread on a full stomach), people are itching to use those guns they feel such a need to defend, and the only people left with jobs soon will be the spell checkers.

Not that anyone will listen, as I'm sure writin' and grammerin' are going go the way of logic and science and math. And, of course, the faithful have made a god in their image and named it Palin.

(30 of 31 in the drive to 2500)


Zing Went the Sing of My Car

Before I begin, I have to say this--I'm a writer, not a counter. So perhaps I screwed this up, as my Blogger dashboard claims this is post 2499, and therefore I only have one more to go and not two after this. My how time flies when you're dropping words like a fiend.

So as the big build up to the big count, if this is anti-climactic, that's just how often life is, isn't it. Perhaps I'm not here to please you but school you. Perhaps there's no pleasing anyone.

But that's fitting for this entry, as it's about pleasing no one but myself. Then again, the flip side is it probably pleases everyone I don't try to sing with others in earshot, at least anyone who values tune, pitch, his or her hearing, beauty, the sweet simplicity of song. For today's entry is about this: what I might karaoke if karaoke was cool and not what it is.

Or, to put it in a way already trivialized, which saddens me, this is caraoke. Of course that leaves me even more conflicted (and what doesn't? what isn't a ball of ugly compromise with all our angels and devils and perhaps worse inertia?) as it means driving in a car alone, which I know isn't a good thing, but somehow it's necessary. Like my cassette deck, still, thank god for older cars. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might have guessed music is important to me. Even in my feeble way, I like to join in. Just don't want anyone to know.

So with that thrilling build up, here's a list of songs I might karaoke if.... Random order. Go listen to the real ones and tell me you might not want to join in.

Boomtown Rats, "I Don't Like Mondays"
Feeling like totally over-emoting? Join Bob Geldof and let loose. Plus you can also clap hands and do Johnny Fingers' keyboard parts for extra credit.

Elvis Costello, "Other End of the Telescope"
Just a terrific all over the place vocal, very full or emotion, and any song that begins "Can we agree that just this once I'm going to change my life," has to be ok.

Archers of Loaf, "Web in Front"
Most of these are going to be ballad-y, from that spot where enough beer and enough maudlin find their Venn Diagram closeness and hug inconsolably. So here's 2 minutes of peppy rock brilliance. Do I know all the words perfectly? Does it matter? "I've got a magnet in my head...."

Richard Buckner, "Lucky Buzz"
Lots of Buckner could work, as he has that way of nailing a certain lived in the languor vibe, but this one has that great little beat to it, and Dave Schramm's guitar, that makes whatever you sing more, well, heavy, somehow. Plus it's sort of about drinking.

Old 97s, "Jagged"
A jagged little song about feeling jagged--what more could one want to sing? The very idea of emotion so moving it moves you to not just say it but give it a melody--now that's what singing is for. Wanna be happy, just sit in the corner and go "blub blub blub."

Kevin Salem, "Falter"
First line: "Measure me by all I have not got." Chorus: "If I've faltered, I've made my best mistakes." But it's all set to a really rocking tune. So you get your pity and can even air guitar.

Magnetic Fields, "Busby Berkeley Dreams"
Merritt pens plenty of songs to sing(more than 69), and given it's taken awhile for him to tune his own bari-drone, they often invite joining in, but this one is so melodramatic, with a great movie allusion....

Freedy Johnston, "Bad Reputation"
There's a certain yearning cynicism here, to coin a phrase--"You know about the best I'll ever be, I see it in your eyes" is one mighty knowing line and awfully fun to sing. And then Dave Schramm part II. He's one underrated guitarist.

Dave Alvin, "Fourth of July"
Yeah, I know he wrote it for X but the version I like best is the one from King of California. Fun to try to hit the low notes on the drops for "on the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone." That's one lonely alone.

Steve Earle, "I Ain't Ever Satisfied"
Sort of the core rock n roll song, isn't it? Plus you get to shout out to people--who aren't there--to join you on the chorus. Even gets in a line about distance from the divorced dad for fine biographical points.

Replacements, "Can't Hardly Wait"
Gotta have at least one somewhat positive song, for so many, even when the guitars do happy, ringing things, aren't really (see "September Gurls" for a start). But this is about looking forward to something. So that's good, no? Fun to sing with horns. And I like the Justin Townes Earle version, too.

(29 or 30 of 31/or 29 of 30 in the drive to 2500)


Friday, September 11, 2009

Things Might Easily Have Gone the Other Way Round and None Left to Do the Accounting

I'm here to buzzkill your weekend. This morning the dogs were supposed to come to work with me--the housecleaner (yes, we have one, directly hired, only twice a month, go ahead and take your shots at my bourgeois life) was coming and it's best to have giant dogs out of the way--but Mookie barely seemed up to walking to the car. He stayed home. He's old and older (12 in November), and it breaks my heart to see who was the fastest guy at the dog park stiffly limbering about now. He seemed better at lunch--it's like he's one of those old men that needs the day to warm him up--but I can't stop thinking of what I know has to happen, and this was our first puppy, you know.

Long intro to the one last archival post for the drive to 2500, because after you write about death, what else is there (sorry, you Catholics who thought you had me)? Seven years ago I wrote the book column for the local weekly and here's one of those that I think is pretty self-explanatory.

(run date 1/3/02)
Words for the Dead

We came home from visiting relatives at Christmas to find the Pest was dead, and our bright holiday suddenly much dimmer. The Pest was Hugo, one of our two cats, who thought he was a dog. Hugo would run to answer the doorbell and claw at the pants leg of every visitor, demanding attention. A runty pound kitty who grew to be fat and eventually lithe again in his eleven years, he was full of joie de vivre and would share it with you, till you pet him, and enjoyed the purrs. I can barely use the past tense for him.

I’ve been looking for help in books, as that’s what I’d do even if I didn’t write this column, hoping to know that hurt has been felt, that pain has been healed; that my wife and I are not alone, and that someone has made eloquence out of loss (which is most of the writing I love). E.B. White’s “Death of A Pig,” found in the Essays of E.B. White (Harper Colophon 1977) came to me first, that essay taught so often few can read it now without going cross-eyed. But no more stately rendering of our desire for order exists, which is, of course, a desire to hold off death. White raises his nameless pig to slaughter it, and it mucks up the smooth animal husbandry works by dying early on him. Instead, our poor Hugo was never intended for bacon, and his death was unannounced by sickness (the vet assumes some brain aneurysm or stroke).

Then I thought of Francine Prose, and her story “Imaginary Problems” from, of all things, The Peaceable Kingdom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1993), about a family falling apart that decides it needs a ritual to bury its hamster. That’s merely the plot, though, for the family needs more than mere ceremony to find healing, having suffered from a miscarriage, infidelity, simple distance. It really has little to offer Hugo, beyond ample evidence life could be much worse. The story (like much of Prose’s work, including her recently appropriately lauded Blue Angel) has much to offer its human readers, however, about the sharp appeal of the contrary, of everything we know that might be wrong. What else could fate be but cruel, as we are so wicked ourselves?

Perhaps Francine Katzenbogen or Edward Lowe might understand my sorrow for Hugo. You, on the other hand, might not know of either Katzengoben (a lottery millionaire who donated her cash for cats) or Lowe (the inventor of Kitty Litter), but you will if you read 52 McGs: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Reporter Robert McG. Thomas, Jr. (Scribner 2001) a collection of obits edited and selected by Chris Calhoun. McG took as his task raising to a last blast of fame those who otherwise might fall by history’s wayside, in multi-clausal prose a sentence boundary stretcher like myself can only cherish. Perhaps too late, the keen and kind attention paid by McG in his New York Times obits was never too little of a sending off.

Death always leaves us simple lessons. It’s the one great ghost of all art, the white between the words, the edge of the world where the painting ends. It’s that precision that Eastern art seems to know so well—-the doing of the most with the least, as that’s ultimately all we’re left with. John Wilson, who teaches in the College of Creative studies at UCSB, proves he knows this lesson too with Ink on Paper: Poems on Chinese and Japanese Paintings (City Lights Books 2001). His words reflect classic drawings, and I’m most moved by a line like, “When the summer’s evenings cool/enjoy it.” A lovely slim volume.

Hugo, may you be in a land of many black-clad people who will pet you frequently, vigorously, so your white hair will spangle them all luminously, endlessly.

(28 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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A Chance Glance Askance

For Dog Blog Friday: Nigel reacts with skepticism hearing that Milkbones went out of business.

(27 of 31 in the drive to 2500)


Friday Random Ten

Yam "Bad as a Bee" More Iowa Less Worcester
Guster "Empire State" Ganging Up on the Sun
Mick Moloney "Reels: Ricky White's Face/The Top of the Stairs" Strings Attached
Peter Gabriel "Blood of Eden" Us
Fred Astaire "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" Steppin' Out: Astaire Sings
Julieta Venegas "Casa Abandonada" KCRW Sounds Eclectic Too
Dizzy Gillespie "One Bass Hit, No. 2" Ken Burns Jazz: Dizzy Gillespie
Johnny Cash "Rowboat" Unearthed V: Best of Cash
Nick Lowe "Marie Provost" Jesus of Cool
Tift Merritt "Bramble Rose" Bramble Rose

Brian Eno "St. Elmo's Fire" Another Green World

All over and much much good, if mostly old stuff good, from Astaire to Lowe to Eno. And that opening track is the second digitized song I've finally got from the band I was in a few lives ago (key vocal line "I want the other rice pilaf!"). Otherwise, I have said how Another Green World is the first CD I play every time I've had to re-set up my stereo, no?

(26 of 31 in the drive to 2500)


Thursday, September 10, 2009

We Can't Wait for Fall, Us!

With all due respect for things flying over Manhattan 8 years ago this Friday, this is a tale of a less tragic time. For it was on Sept 11, 1923 that the USS Shenandoah, the biggest active dirigible (inactive dirigibles don't lift off, as no one had yet invented dirigible Cialis), flew over the Woolworth Building, at the time the tallest building in the world (as Wikipedia insists: "Strongly articulated piers give the building its upward thrust" so look out!). You know me, folks, can't keep my hands off a good rigid airship story, and this one certainly takes its place in the mighty annals [editor--please spell check twice!] of Phallic Symbol History. As we all know, Woolworth nickeled and dimed people to erect his tower, known as the Cathedral of Commerce, since that's the way the church goes. As you might not know, the Shenandoah was painted with aluminum dope, and therefore got hungry for more paint. And see, pot does make you dumber--nowadays no one even knows there's another meaning for dope, which, I guess, makes us all dopes (shoot, that's three meanings, but I can't see through the smoke here). But I dare you not to feel a little thrill when one massive lingam languidly lingered over the other. Just pity the street cleaners.

(25 of 31 in the drive to 2500)


No Happiness Outlasts Hunger

Deborah the other day at her blog and IIRTZ wrote a movie review of Blue Velvet, so that got me thinking of my chapter from one of the MA theses, and I figured I could run that as my response I still sort of like, although, and here's a surprise, it has more ideas than it knows what to do with. If you haven't seen the film, well, first I can't believe you'd read my blog, and second, beware, for here be spoilers galore.


It seems we’re living in a perfectly postmodern world. (Even my ironic alliteration, and my need to comment upon it, help prove my point.) Art has escaped its slumber of unselfconsciousness, and now I must see myself seeing, feel myself feeling. The issue reminds me of the Stanley Plumly sonnet called “Sonnet” with lines such as, “Freud says every fuck is a foursome,” a line prepared for by the sonnet calling itself a sonnet, and thereby critiquing an entire lyric, love poem tradition. This poem talks to history, to itself, to us. Plumly isn’t lumped in with LANGUAGE poets, even; he’s a lover of Keats. Yet this poem seems emblematic of much late 20th Century art, in every field.

Irony--the word even sounds strong. At heart it’s merely the ability to contextualize, to see the whole picture: If I spill milk on myself and say, “It’s a great day,” you can’t just hear my words, you also must see my stained pants. Films work this way, too. Blue Velvet (1986) is an incredible example, a picture that makes no sense unless we know how to “read” it. Which may be why
so many people find it repellent; they can’t step back to see the film’s stained pants.

I chose this image advisedly, because it suggests something other than spilled milk. If the O.E.D. can be trusted, pornography is a late-blooming word. The first examples of its use occur in the 1850s, although the first example given sends the word back to drawings in Pompeii. I wouldn’t want to argue that an idea only exists with a word to express it, but that a term like pornography seemed needed at this time does seem striking. That period was also marked by the rise of mass entertainments--novels, circulating libraries, etc.--the kinds of things that would (in a nearly post-modern way) get Emma Bovary in trouble in Madame Bovary, and Madame Bovary in trouble in France. Pornography--the word--also came into vogue with the rise of Industrialism and what was then a 7 to 7 day, now the despised 9 to 5. It’s almost as if the more people pushed pleasure out of their lives, the more pleasures became forbidden and taboo. Which, of course, made them marketable, even if the market had to be black.

Blue Velvet is a bundle of black markets--sex, S & M, drugs, murder, prostitution, rock and roll. It chooses to begin with none of them, and instead shows us the too normal, the all too real. The camera takes us about Lumberton, past flowers so brightly colored they look like Kodak ads, past a fire truck complete with a tail-snapping Dalmatian and hand-waving firemen. And it’s funny. No world is really like this, quite literally picture-perfect. It’s as if we had walked into a glossy ad in a magazine, cheered by a life we sell ourselves but never own.

Things turn strange quickly. A man waters his lawn, an astrobrite green glowing like the opening’s flowers. But the hose he trails gets caught, and the soundtrack focuses on its thumping, as if the house’s heart is heaving. He smacks at his neck, and we can only assume he’s been stung by a bee--nature gets the best of him. Figuratively it seems as if he couldn’t find a better place place to die, surrounded by the comfort of his nearly transfigured white, white house and the blue, blue sky. After he falls, he still clutches the hose, crotch-high, and a nearby dog comes over to drink from the errant spray. To telegraph the moment home, director David Lynch slows the film down--that moment of selfconsciousness--as a way of laughing with us at the preposterousness.

But Lynch goes one step more. Suddenly the camera is burrowing underground, past dirt and grass roots. It seems to be predatory, aggressive. It comes to stop at ants voraciously attacking some other insect, swarming and fighting. It doesn’t take much to read this sub-text (quite literally) as a hint that all isn’t as peachy as it seems in Lumberton. Sickness and death are the ways of nature, too--bees and ants. Some blemishes can never be airbrushed away.

Most people who go to see Blue Velvet go for the sickness and death, the chance to see something “strange.” It’s why I brought up the issue of pornography, because it seems to be a notion Lynch directly confronts and threatens. That’s why it’s funny his hero, Jeffrey (a name close to L.B. Jeffries, another imperiled viewer in Alfred Hitchcock’s touchstone film on voyeurism, Rear Window), is so airbrushed and straitlaced. Jeffrey tends to be like the average film-goer; he even fits the proper demographic age bracket. He’s a curious kid who is bored having to be at home. He longs for adventure; it’s as if he knows well enough a teen’s need for a codified rite-of-passage, as if he has seen plenty of coming-of-age films. When Jeffrey discovers a severed ear in a field, he brings it to the police, good citizen that he is, only to find out they won’t tell him anything, won’t let him in on the mystery, and what better representatives for the cabal of knowing adults than the police.

He finds his own way in to the mystery by meeting the police detective’s daughter, Sandy, wholesome as he is, summoned whole-cloth out of his desire--she literally emerges from the dark, nearly his projection. Sandy is what goodness is, luscious in a way having nothing to do with sex. She’s the American Dream pie, he her vanilla a la mode. They are the human equivalents of the opening, stunning flowers--too much to be believed. Merely caricatures of real teens, they are sweet kids any tv sitcom family would love to include. We have to laugh at them, separate ourselves from their naïve goodness. These kids know no irony, are only the brunt of it. The distance between Jeffrey and Sandy and the audience is perhaps most acute in a scene when Jeffrey asks, with a church organ’s music for background accompaniment, “Why is there so much trouble in the world?” His sincerity is painfully funny, and lets us be perfectly postmodern. Not that our laughter answers his question at all.

However, Lynch doesn’t let us off the hook, by introducing the second half of his Good/Bad equation. If Sandy and Jeffrey can only be laughed at, be distanced from, it’s even harder to sidle up to the world of Dorothy and Frank. As Jeffrey learns. Convinced by Sandy’s clues that Dorothy Vallens is at the heart of the mystery, he searches her apartment, not even sure what he should find to be pleased. Sandy waits outside, alert at the car horn to sound a warning. But Jeffrey’s body does him in, he must urinate, and the toilet’s noisy flushing obscures the horn honk announcing Dorothy’s return. He has time enough to hide in a slatted closet, where he becomes another viewer. Dorothy unwittingly gives him a show, begins to undress. Of course, she must go to the closet. Her hand plunging in seems to plunge off the screen. I, for one, am no different than Jeffrey; maybe worse--I watch practically a movie a night in an effort at entertainment. It’s a life lived off others. And yes, to see beautiful bodies is one reason I go. Luckily, I never have to deal with the people I watch firsthand.

Jeffrey does. At knife-point, Dorothy makes Jeffrey undress, asking: “What did you see?” That question might be the question of all pornography; not what is there to see, but what one--any particular one--sees is the question. It’s worthwhile to note that the Greek root of “pornography” is the same as the root for “interpret.” Those at Blue Velvet for kicks get them at this point, as Dorothy rapes Jeffrey, kissing down his naked body with the knife always at hand. All the implications of watching are taken to the full; the fantasy of making love to the seen is made real, and made terrifying. Pleasure and pain seem sides of a coin still high in the air.

The coin lands pain when Frank arrives. Jeffrey gets to watch with us, back in the closet. Frank’s an id-man, attacking Dorothy with a sickening gusto, getting beyond the Oedipal Complex by childishly whining, “Baby wants to fuck.” He fills his head with ether only to be so much more earthbound, he stuffs his mouth with blue velvet only to be more aggressive. Our worst impulses are Frank, a pun Lynch probably intended. The film opens up two poles with a gaping hole in the middle--must Goodness be so saccharine, Evil so cancerous? Where is there a place for us? All we are left with is watching, and the film challenges us to identify with anyone, anything. Blue Velvet makes film-going very lonely. It challenges us to find everything in ourselves by playing out our desires we’d never admit to desiring. It’s primordial--pure pornography.

The film continues this way, letting Goodness build its house only to have Big Bad Frank come blow it down. Frank’s world even gets to attack love, as Sandy, the last innocent, gets to learn. Sandy, saved from so much, still gets to float in Jeffrey’s arms in a dream dance where the whole world falls away, even their own selves fall away, till there’s nothing but love swaying to some simple tune, a place they get to be where their eyes meet in-between, belonging to neither, beyond belonging, beyond this suburban cellar, untouched by girls’ talk, above the bruise or two that prove Jeffrey was beaten a few nights before in some similar embrace with an all-together different intent, but maybe just as much to do with love, if love is no more than forgetting the world so that there are no lines between oneself and the other.

Yet Blue Velvet is a film of lines, of creating encampments. I refuse to be Jeffrey. I refuse to be Frank. I refuse to be Sandy or Dorothy. Everyone in the film has a desire that throws the rest of his or her life out-of-kilter. Each can be mocked by the perfectly postmodern: We can see though Sandy’s dream of romantic love (we’ve read Plumly), we can see through Jeffrey’s dream of excitement (we’ve seen Frank), we can see through Frank’s dream sung by Roy Orbison, “In Dreams” itself (no one can be duped by a pop song). Frank can’t even bear to hear the whole song--the gap between its reality and his is too yawning. None of the characters can see the world whole, and by seeing them, we learn we don’t either, for they have their lessons.

The collapse of Sandy’s innocence is the film’s last straw. After being beaten by Frank, a naked Dorothy stumbles across Jeffrey’s yard and into Jeffrey’s arms. Sandy doesn’t know what to do, she only knows that an outside world does exist, one that makes the notion of a couple above the fray meaningless. Her mouth goes plastic-wide in anguish, she’s left gasping for air after her birth into a new world. The film resolves quite conventionally, with Jeffrey in the closet, once again, this time coming out firing, blowing away the Frank he could once only watch. Yet imagine a world, suddenly, with only vanilla ice cream. We’d have to wonder what we’d lost.

The film doesn’t; it leaves us safe with our irony, rolling the fire truck serenely by us yet again. Jeffrey and Sandy seem safe, almost unaltered. Sandy’s dream of light seems true, particularly when one of the vanguards of that light, a robin, lands on the window sill. In the audience it’s easier to tell why the robin of joy must clench hard on a bug: no happiness outlasts hunger.

The danger of irony is it prevents anything from meaning just once. I’m always thinking and rethinking, attacked by others with the phrase, “I just go and watch a movie.” Blue Velvet warns us that we just can’t watch. It takes everything simple and comfortable away, even the Norman Rockwell rock and roll it features. Songs like “In Dreams” and “Blue Velvet” are rock stripped clean, washed with synthesizers and strings. It’s rock closer to Sandy’s dream of love, which is accompanied by Julee Cruise’s Abba-ish chorus of angels, than one might imagine, and it’s the link between Sandy and Frank. Both have been duped by music. The songs in Blue Velvet are scary because they aren’t, anymore; they are about as far from anarchic four-four full of stopped-up sex and voodoo news as noise can get. They’re like empty buildings I must pass on a darkened street, with all my urban fears at the top of my spine, all my adrenalin aswim at the bottom. Someone like Frank hides inside, somewhere, and I walk faster, look tougher, maybe whistle a simple tune, the high notes breaking, frail. There’s a corner to turn. As I do, one dusted window, maybe the only one left in its pane on the block, gives me to myself enough to make me jump. It is and is not just a reflection.

(24 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

You're Number 37 Have a Look

It might be a crass thing to say, given two of them are dead and one's Ringo Starr, but I come to bury the Beatles, not to praise them. I do this not for mere provocation, either. I do it to argue for the secret history as opposed to the official, for that which barely touches commercialism's trampy hem of its cheap miniskirt. For it's hard not to think of the Beatles as anything but a whored day's night at this point, repimped, repackaged, re-gamed, re-fucking-Cirque-du-Soleiled. How can anything as brittle and lovely as Lennon's "I'm Only Sleeping" stand up to the onslaught? Of course my position partially comes from the belief their own success hurt them--can anyone really argue they topped the one-two of Revolver and Rubber Soul? The line to defend "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" say, no matter how many stupid people sing it in stupid unison at whatever stupid Boomer nostalgia party, starts far away from me.

True, I was four in 1967 the year the gods dictated Sgt. Peppers into the Fab Four's ears, so maybe I should just shut up, but I've got a bunch more entries to write to get 2500 and anyway, that's not my style. Not being too conscious by the time the Beatles broke up does mean they were already kind of reified by the time they got to me--simply part of the world like carbon, Chevrolet, and Coca Cola. I've even had trouble getting into classic 1960s Dylan, just because the songs seem so much of their time and place I wasn't of, and so many people want to claim them, I feel a bit shut out. Which might just be a way to say that I like walking the fine line of discovery and snobbery, which do sort of rhyme, don't they.

Turn to 1967, though, and all I can think is it's the same year that The Velvet Underground with Nico was released and it exposes Sgt. Pepper's as the juvenile play-acting it is (day-glo military, represent!). Think of "Heroin"--scary and thrilling all at once, honest about the danger and attraction of drugs. Now think about the cutesy, coy "Little Help from My Friends," or "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," which now reads like Lisa Simpson's visions after drinking the bad water at Duff Gardens. That comparison alone might be game set match, Velvets. The rest is all noise and beauty, life, goddam messy life. Nico's voice too icy to be pretty on "I'll Be Your Mirror," Cale's viola sawing its way through sadism on "Venus in Furs," Cale's bass running away from the rest of the song in "Waiting for My Man," and then "All Tomorrow's Parties," about which Lester Bangs, in the essay in which he admits, "I would suck Lou Reed's cock, because I would also kiss the feet of them that drafted the Magna Carta," wrote: "It's the best music ever made, the instrumental intro to 'All Tomorrow's Parties' is like watching dawn break over a bank of buildings through the windows of these elegantly hermetic cages, which feels too well spoken, which I suspect is the other knife that cuts through your guts, the continents that divide literature and music and don't care about either."

But, to quote Dramarama, "The records never sold and that was bad." When does sold become sold out is the question, and I'm pretty sure my answer isn't the one most people have. But then again, I'm probably just privileging my own viewpoint fed by my own life--I give most my words away for free (even many of the ones I get "paid" for, practically). Would I write a "Yesterday" if I could? That's the million dollar question, isn't it.

(23 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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I Knew There Was Pain but Pain Is Not Aching

You'd think I could just stop. You'd think enough is enough. But I'm not that kind of guy--what I love I love fiercely, and the words will be sure to flow and flow. For here it is, a new Los Campesinos! song and video, and you all must take a look and a listen and then we'll chat after....

The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future from Los Campesinos! on Vimeo.

Nails a certain melancholy, don't it? It's also an answer to those who think LC! can't slow down--they aren't one-trick rhythm ponies, after all. But still, all that force when the voices join in. For that's what you get with these folks, a community, a reality, a long view. And all you can hear is the sound of your own heart. And all you can feel is your lungs flood and the blood course. And all you can do is hum a gorgeous tune and hope maybe someone else wants to stand beside you, if only for a short, short while, and hum along. Sure the song ends, we all drift apart we don't know how. But we do know, there was this.

(22 of 31 in the drive to 2500)


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cheering You Up

Start digging around into the origins and meanings of the word "root" and you have to be cheered by what you dig up. I ended up rooting around into its many meanings and uses because I wanted to figure out why I was close to tears Sunday morning, and while I'm not sure I know that any better, I am yet reminded how often words come around and both mean one thing and the very opposite, making me think Freud's essay on the uncanny might actually be the smartest thing he ever wrote. There's the world and the opposite of the world and if you can tell them apart you just aren't living.

But there's also grounding what I'm writing now in something tangible, so some narrative is in order. Sunday intrepid friends TL, the Queen, and Kristin all laid it out on the line and ran in the Disneyland Half Marathon. Amy and I, being sedentary but good friends, went to have the Disney fun day the day prior and to be moral support the day of. Rooters, we were. That which helps ground, even as the branches go do their wild and crazy things.

I wasn't prepared for how the event bloomed, though. It's a huge race--15,000 runners at least--and while we signed up for the tracking of our three friends, it became clear it would have been easy to lose them in the crowd of folks who all thought moving and not stopping for over 2 hours would be a good idea. We headed off to the finish line to see their great moments, but it was hard to get too close, for the Nazi side of Disney kicked in--everything is crowd control, after all, so don't stray off that walk, buster. We managed to find a spot where we could glimpse through trees and somehow closer-to-the-race fans, a kind of grassy knoll from which to watch. And runners came and came and came, some just making it, some taking photos of themselves finishing, many with Mickey or Minnie Ears. One guy who carried the flag the whole way, a somewhat disturbing but truly American mix of macho and patriotism. Another ran dressed as Elvis. Many ran across in little clumps, their hands held together in the air, a wondrous shared victory.

All that effort, all that success. It's mighty powerful, when people do something they set out to do. And I welled up, way before any of the three people I knew and cared about showed up. How could I not? Rooting gives one a place to stand, after all. Connection. Hope for growth. There I was, ex-Catholic boy finding faith on a Sunday morning.

To think this little rumination doesn't even get to the homophone "route," but perhaps I'm on my way to it without knowing, as if one could have a route and no destination.

(21 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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Monday, September 07, 2009

First Attempts at Second Person

Another one from the vaults and while I remembered this more fondly in memory, it seems clearly mishapen here: too much lead in, not enough of the juicy stuff at the end. Ain't that life, though? So, here's an essay from at least 1987.


Yes, you. The details matter, as a way around all that must be said. It was Dad and his wife Louise, and my sister Linda and Richard, and I. Driving up country in Dad’s land-boat Chrysler New Yorker (ten years old, twelve miles per gallon, thirty-four thousand miles), after food as an excuse to be together. I must admit these things have grown easier since both Dad and I have learned to place no demands. So we balance dichotomies: the left to right of the political spectrum, the highway between the university and the machine shop. Our eyes glint as we discuss how to turn my learning into money. Louise, ever eager to interpret, tells me what my dad means. It’s her way in, I can’t resent it. “It’s not that your father is against the government helping the poor. It’s just that you have to remember where he came from, how he got what he got.”

We get our meals, here at the Culinary Institute of America. A nation’s future chefs toil for us, over-salting here, under-cooking there. We complain politely among ourselves, mimicking our obviously foreign waiter clearly much happier whipping up a soufflé than waiting tables. But the regimen of the place rotates everyone through each job, so here he is smiling broadly, repeating everything he says, as well as asking us twice, for each order, as if his accent infects even his ears. I eat too much. I always do at this kind of thing, happy to devour on someone else’s plastic. What the family has become--a series of over-eatings.

After food we continue a few miles up the Hudson. The goal is the Vanderbilt mansion, as Richard is somewhat of a Vanderbilt buff. A guy who bums around the country selling ugly metal-etched paintings that shift shade with a room’s light, a guy who lives with his married sister until living with my sister, unmarried, he has an obsession with the Gilded Age. Which means day trips to Vanderbilt mansions, which means weekend excursions to Newport. Richard even reads up on the histories, can spout figures, names, dates. Sometimes we escape our own lives by becoming tour guides to others’. Part of me knows this isn’t the place for a full stomach: the gaudy opulence of style upon style, indiscriminate, like cotton candy with Salisbury steak with sweetbreads, washed down with Courvoisier, Cutty Sark, and Kool-Aid.

The day itself is East Coast oppressive. The sky washed out to gray, not threatening rain but just as much not threatening sun. And me uncomfortable, be-suited, my tie dangling from my Adam’s apple, the armpits of my white shirt darkening. Below, the river rolls on imperceptible, except for knowing how it works on maps. It rolls past this place where the rich once lived, past Hyde Park and Roosevelt’s ghost, past Bear Mountain and its tenuous bridge, past Indian Point and its ominous bald-headed dome, past New York City itself. But here, the river gives no hint of the future, merely mulls along, attesting to the Ice Age, allowing New England to begin, looking beautiful, of little use.

This mansion actually has fewer rooms than the largest Vanderbilt estate, the Biltmore in North Carolina, has bathrooms. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the man who amassed the original fortune in shipping, played it smart and wise by not divvying up the wealth in his will. The bulk of the fortune went to one son, who doubled it, via railroad, before he died eight years later. Other Vanderbilts were granted “nominal” sums, as was the case with grandson Frederick, the owner of this particular estate. After two years and $660,000 (in 1896 dollars), the mansion was complete--a little get-away place up the Hudson. Our tour guide tells us this, so does Richard. Linda buys our tour tickets, goads Richard along. None of us belongs here, even after the sumptuous meal, even with our finer clothes, awkward among t-shirted, camera-toting tourists. No one could fill such a place, like some map where the scale never works and the towns seem lost in the landscape, foundering out of each others’ sight. Every room seems like a church, awe-inspiring, silencing, somber. Full of old wood, tapestry-hung, absorbing light, aging in any hint of day. The skylight, high above the marble-tiled main hall, admits as little light as possible, eased under the burden of the summer haze.

I suffer museum fatigue almost immediately. My senses overload too easily, as I try to add up the Medici tapestry and the Brussels tapestry and the Venetian lanterns and all the mythological figures that dance and prance and hunt humans for love. History gets compressed into one house, a truer library, a cache of pop-up books, each announcing its epoch and style.
American royalty makes no sense, of course, but what else could be the desire here? Forget democracy or the eternal betterment of man or inalienable rights. But most importantly, forget time. If we can own 16th century and 18th century and 14th century, then we are those centuries, en masse. The time line collapsed and jumbled and lived in. All centuries are home. I bumble from room to room, the linen, the brocade, the marble a blur, not meaning much more than dollars, but perversely fascinating. They owned this, just as Richard owns his facts. All that matters is the held.

Of course, this is the public show, the fanfare meant to stun. Upstairs awaits, the place where people slept and bathed and made love, did their living and bode their time. The tour troops up the stairs, duly warned of the ascent. Again set on our own, I wander separate from the couples who always hover near the other of their pair. I see the only American-made furnishing, Frederick Vanderbilt’s desk, and it’s the only piece I’d want as my own. Too huge, yes, big as a coffin, but well-worked oak. If I worked behind it, I would turn it around, face it away from the door and towards the windows. This position is far less powerful, but I would be willing to bare my back to the world to have the Hudson before me, and beyond the Catskills--nature at its simplest and most silent and most casual. Awesome by being ordinary. Vanderbilt let it be his background, the power leading to him. I’m sure no one could look him in the eyes for what was behind him.

He and his wife had separate rooms. The kind of thing the Hays Office and motion pictures prepared us for later, several generations of virgin birth celluloid children, as mom and dad, however much conjugally a couple, could never share the same bed, just as kissing on the horizontal was forbidden, just as every wrong-doer had his day. But the Vanderbilts lived before movie morality sorted our world, and they clearly had the money and power to do as they wished. Separate bedrooms. The house itself was social, a desire to mingle with neighbors the Rodgerses and the Roosevelts and the Millses and the Astors, an issue beyond money. Money meant style, and style meant silence, and silence meant sexlessness.

So there is her bed, huge and canopied and billowed, velvet red like a peony field in full bloom, yet cut and held at that point of color at the bursting. This room is as much bed as Frederick’s is desk. And around the bed, solid around the bed, a railing, just like the ones churches removed with Vatican II. There is a small gate, for display now closed. Then I notice the bed is raised slightly, above the floor a few inches, just enough to make the geography familiar and distinct. This bed could hold no mere woman. Someone above and apart, in sight but not near, really. The guard explained, claiming the model for the room was a queen’s bedroom circa Louis XV. It turns out the royal lady would accept merchants in the morning, beyond her rail, offering their wares. She’d conduct business from the bed, perhaps with ladies a-waiting inside her circle. Wordless, she’d merely motion and any man’s knee would greet the heavily napped rug, itself weighing two tons.

It turns out it has nothing at all do to with this, but the private times, when the unobtrusive door from her husband’s bedroom swings open, and maybe she drowses a little, or maybe not. She may wait, unsure how to be on her side of the rail, left there like heaven. This isn’t a time or an age for vaulting over the rail with silly nothings amidst a quick removal of clothes. But forward Frederick comes, unsure too what he and his money and being a Vanderbilt has done. How can the pose ever end? So he kneels. She comes forward. It’s as odd as Latin, when the stone gate swings and they swoon together, sacramental. It’s body, yes. The Hudson at the back of the house knows not, cannot touch this. Maybe here they get closest to what the whole house means, the denial it fights. Time no more. Long sought, this peace, which maybe the house brought them to. When his wife dies, Frederick moves to the third floor for twelve years. The house is passed on to a cherished niece; there are no children.

And you, you weren’t there and didn’t know and couldn’t see, and anyway, it was a difficult time, love trouble. That time, that distance apart brought us together. I did some thinking without knowing, with my family, again, feeling those strange pulls that tell you where you’ve been, who you are, what it is that you hate. Maybe why you love. You, yes.

(20 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen

A few weeks back FB friend TT asked for a blogging request, and I wanted to say I don't do requests, but then realized I had never had one before. So of course I'm going to blog on the topic she asked. To set it up, here's TT's email--with which I completely agree--and with an incredible kicker of a story to close:

Michael Vick. Miserable excuse for a human being. Hated by dog-lovers everywhere, and rightly so, I'm sure. (I have two dogs, so you can guess how I feel about dog-fighting in general.) Just got signed to a 1.5 million contract to do what he does do well. I've seen posts howling for his blood, and those espousing the viewpoint that he should be able to move on with his life (having served his time). Here's the problem that I have, and wish that someone would express in a more articulate fashion, especially since it's a situation that doesn't apply just to this particular sack of s***: at what point in our modern media-driven society did the sentence for certain persons/crimes become a life-sentence?

If, after sentencing and time-served, we as a society do not allow a person to "move on" and try to earn a living in a normal fashion (and live in a semi-normal way), why don't we just admit that we are in essence giving people a life sentence for certain crimes? (Think sexual predators, with eternal monitoring and permanent restrictions on where they can live that are so restrictive that nowhere qualifies.) Corollary: do certain crimes deserve eternal societal damnation? If so, why not just kill the poor bastards to start with? (I don't really support this, it's more of a bonus question guaranteed to start fights.) Extra points: contrast and compare with OJ. I've seen people doing it online already. General opinion seems to be that OJ skated so he deserves eternal public humiliation (but due to his own stupidity, Nevada apparently will do the public's job for them). On the other hand, Vick "served time" but not enough to satisfy many (and going from a multi-millionaire to a bankrupt apparently also doesn't soothe the savage breasts). Personally, I wouldn't pay a nickel to see him play, because I retain my right of economic boycott -- but I don't feel I have the right to impose my feelings on someone else in this situation (by forevermore denying Vick the right to play...if only I could work in a clever Baltimore Ravens joke here!).

Where I have trouble in general is the dichotomy we create when we claim we put people in prison to rehabilitate them (we don't, if we aren't teaching them new skills and/or treating them for drugs et al. if needed) AND to prevent crime (okay, they are off the streets while locked up) AND then expect them to fly straight when they get out...but put so many roadblocks in their way that the deck is stacked against them (for both the famous and non-famous). With the modern media, someone somewhere is sure to feel they "didn't pay enough/suffer enough" to be truly sorry/rehabilitated enough to be allowed a life. What's a society to do with these pariahs? Throw them to the dogs? Perhaps a bit too apropos in this case.

On a personal dad (a pharmacist) was shot through the heart, lung, and liver in a Rx holdup when I was 11. Through (I think) a miracle he survived. They found one of the three guys 5 years later, and the cops called my dad before arresting the guy. My dad asked, "What has the guy been doing the last 5 years?" Turns out he had gone back to school, finished college, married, had a kid, steady job, active in his community. Exactly the kind of life you would hope someone could build after being fully rehabilitated. My dad told the local police chief, "Leave him alone. So long as he stays out of trouble and keeps on living the kind of life he's living now, just leave him alone. Even arresting him to find out what he knows could ruin what he's built and made of himself, and I doubt he knows where the other guys are at this point. What possible good could come of arresting him now? He's as rehabilitated as anyone could ever hope for...the experience must have scared him straight." My dad's decision, I think, was the right one, although there were many who thought he should have pressed charges. I've always told my Dad I really admire him for how he handled the situation.

First and foremost, what a dad.

Second, blood howling is the true National Pastime. Ask the Bushies, who exploited it so well. It's one of the reasons suicide bombers are such a great affront--they never let us get even. It's one of the reasons people cling to hell, so there's still something the evil will get for their dastardly deeds.

Third, while I've grown agnostic on the god question, I desperately cling to my faith in human beings, despite all the evidence otherwise. Don't mean to go all Panglossian, we're far from perfectible, but we can better ourselves. (Oh, don't giggle while I write this.) But instead I live in a state, one that's going bankrupt, that still manages to do this: spend more on its prisons than on its universities. That's a hint the priorities might be a bit skewed. But totally typical--just look at the health care reform debate, and how the notion of more preventive medicine just never takes off. It doesn't help that, as someone pointed out, most of us get our health insurance from work, and those providers know most of us work 7-12 jobs in our lifetime, so preventive health care just means you're saving the next employer money--and who wants to do that?

Fourth, and maybe it's all Ayn Rand's fault, but how did personal responsibility come to mean getting everything I can for me and screw you? Somehow, too, it's generally the political right that seems to espouse this bs, the folks who call this a Christian nation, which is even more ironic. God must be rolling over in his grave.

Fifth, the greatest thing we can do is forgive. The entire world is set up to hurt and fair's got nothing to do with it. We're all going to die, after all, and you might do that alone, which is a total bitch, or you go and those left behind die a little with you. Thanks very much, world. That's only the really dramatic part, of course, for each day can be filled with a thousand paper cuts of indignity, the simple things we do and fail to do for each other. So, it's sort of as simple as be nice. Each grudge held is a bit of your own goodness you've killed off. Do you have that much of it to lose? For that might be the ultimate problem--we curse Michael Vick, damn the terrorists, want the Lockerbie bomber to have a miserable cancerous rot in jail--because we see just enough of them in ourselves. It's a reverse inoculation of sorts--instead of injecting ourselves with a tiny bit of something bad so we can learn to fight it, we wipe out something hugely bad and assume that washes our sins too.

I'm not sure it works that way.

(19 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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Friday, September 04, 2009

The Old White Mook, He Ain't What He Used to Be

For Dog Blog Friday: As my high school coach used to say, just because there's snow on the roof doesn't mean there's no fire in the furnace.
(18 of 31 in the drive to 2500)


Friday Random Ten

David Byrne "Girls on My Mind" Unplugged + More
Bill Monroe "Intro/Roll On Buddy" Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival
Jane Siberry "At the Beginning of Time" When I Was a Boy
Wilco "Kingpin" Being There
The Skids "Working for the Yankee Dollar" Sweet Suburbia: The Best of the Skids
Wake Ooloo "Hard to Find" What About It
Elvis Costello "Leave My Kitten Alone" Kojak Variety
Calexico / Iron & Wine "Burn that Broken Bed" In the Reins
The Bird & the Bee "Fucking Boyfriend" The Bird and the Bee
Sonny Terry "Crow Jane" The Alligator Records 20th Anniversary Collection

The Shins "Girl Sailor" Wincing the Night Away

A bit hit and miss but some pretty good hits. And if you Feelies fans don't know Wake Ooloo, it was Glenn Mercer and Dave Weckerman's band after the break up. Good stuff.

(17 of 31 in the drive to 2500)


San Diego Serenade

San Diego Street Scene is like working two 8 hour days of attending concerts. Nice work if you can get it, and we did, last weekend, luxurating in the modern sounds of so many bands I'm already starting to lose track. (Those of you who are friends with me on FB, sorry for the barrage of nearly Twit-like updates. But if you want stuff like that, and actual pictures of who I am (!), use the email at the bottom of this page and to tell me you want to be my FB friend. This offer not valid for anyone coming here looking for photos of Morganna the Kissing Bandit.)

In general the festival scene usually seems less and less appealing to me the older and crankier I get, since I sort of don't like many people, and festivals tend to be filled with many people, mostly of the sort I don't like. I do like music I can hear without yahoos chatting through the whole thing, or calling up friends on their cell phones saying how cool the concert is that they're now talking way too loudly at. Still, I vowed to be a new me, accepting of my fellow troglodyte concert-goers more interested in getting sloshed on $7 Millers than enjoying the music. Beyond making sure I was right up front to see Los Campesinos!, go native, I thought.

And it worked. It didn't hurt there was a Microbrew Area to comfort me, even if you only got five 3 oz. tasters for $10. But in addition to the usual San Diego brews like Stone, there was Lagunitas and Left Coast from San Clemente, that also had solid stuff. You could even see one of the stages from one corner of the Microbrew Area, where I glimpsed No Age for a couple songs and was sad I missed them in Santa Barbara--way more going on than you'd think from two kids.

Sidenote: Yeah, there were folks well into geezerdom beyond me there, but I might be growing too old for my tastes to appear a normal human. Luckily I appear young for my age, that fine combo of never perfect skin and lots of immaturity. Plus I love to suck the energy from the youth of today's music.

Now that I've introed this to death, plus a digression, here's report on who I saw:


Trombone Shorty
Really only saw the last 3 songs of his set, but it seemed pretty super-powered. One of our rules going in was when in doubt, pick a band with horns. Horns is fun. Horns is plenty. So a guy who names himself after the long slide instrument but mostly plays trumpet (from what we saw)--including an endless cycle blow for about 2 minutes that looked pretty amazing on the big screen projection. The two largest stages had them, which made not getting too close bearable--you could go for both vibe and immediacy.

Ridiculous and utterly fascinating. I'm sure all my regular readers will be shocked to know I'm not a metal fan. But the folks we were with off and on throughout both evenings, the wonderful Sarah and Chuck, were interested, so we figured--a peek can't hurt. And then our faces melted.... OK, not my music, and borderline parody (not that, I'm sure, they think of that way, but a tattoo on your face, dude, please!), but fantastic force.

Matt & Kim
I'm less happy about my quick FB status on these two, calling them a Devo for the Aughts. For while they got that herky-jerky a-going a few times--Matt plays keybs, Kim drums--they're also in that Mates of State mold, too, except Kim rarely sings. But the energy amazes, and they seem to, of all things, be having fun. What will rock n roll think of next?

Connor Oberst (with Jenny Lewis)
I've seen, and liked a bunch, Oberst in his Bright Eyes guise, so figured it would be better to see something new. But we wandered by his stage just in time for him to introduce guest Jenny Lewis. Who I have not seen, but like a bunch, in any of her guises. They ripped into the Rilo Kiley tune "Portions for Foxes," trading verses. This is what makes festivals get good names. Thanks.

OK, I really didn't know them heading in, despite them being the pride of Sacramento. But I wanted to like them as people I like like them--you know how that is. But while I do enjoy the music--there's even a horn sometimes--and the stuttery funkiness is cool, the lead singer is a dick. It was a festival, so of course everyone had technical problems as they tried to keep the trains running on time. But all he would do is carp and bitch. And wear sunglasses at 10 pm. Fuck him, it was better to go see someone who cared.

Nortec Collective
Now these guys, even with so much of what they did electronic pipings-in, were a blast. The big dark cowboy hats don't hurt, or that the electronic duo are matched with a trumpet, accordion, and tuba. Now talk about your horns--bands need more tuba! So all that plinking and plonking gets matched with a polka beat blasted from the tuba. Delish. And when they lost power, they just worked on it, didn't bitch and moan like somebody else. It's called being a professional.

Modest Mouse
Really only watched for a couple of songs and they seemed fine, but I felt a tad disappointed. One piece of advice for bands playing festivals--no matter how good your slow songs are, and I actually really like "Blame It on the Tetons," don't play them in a shortened festival set. Major bummer. Get out that tuba and polka!

One of the highlights of Friday, but I figured that would be true going in. Their wonderful widescreen take on the Southwest enthralls me, and it only was more enhanced by the addition of their friends from Tucson, Salvador Duran and his Orquestra. That means six horns to do "Alone Again Or" (one of my favorite covers of all-time) and Duran doing Spanish language parts and an amazing mouth-click. Plus they did that cool rock-out Feelies-feeling moment at the end of "Not Even Stevie Nicks." Great great show. And all the weenies were at Black Eyed Peas, so more room for the cool kids.


See review linked above. I love this band more than I can say, and I'm not good at being adoring fanboy. You really really got to earn it. They do.

Of Montreal
And then the circus came to town. The music actually had more variety than I thought it would going in--some more electronic based, some surprisingly crunchy guitar--but that lead guitarist hit the stage decked out like Brian Eno in his Roxy Music days, and then the stage show began--masks, weird acting, sort of imagine The Nutcracker as put on by the Residents. It was a blast.

Silversun Pickups
My FB joke was they play their songs better than I do on Guitar Hero, and if that sounds like damning with faint praises, especially to those of you who have witnessed me playing Guitar Hero, it is. They clearly were giving it up on stage, but something just isn't enough for me about them. I'm really a song guy, when it comes down to it, so any riffs and runs band just isn't going to make me love them. Even if they can pull off stopping one song on a dime--I'm a sucker for that concert trick.

Dead Weather
Everyone loved these folks, who seemed to be performing in black and (Jack) white. Another confession--I'm from the school of pop (my 7 year college radio show was called, spot the reference, "This Is Pop?"), so anything more rooted in bluesy rock won't do it for me. Again, Alison Mosshart is a powerful lead figure, even doing the cig drags between lines, but the music doesn't move me. It's one kind of hip I can't begin to aspire to.

Thievery Corporation
And now I'll piss off a bunch of my reading audience who got excited about this band when I FBed--I like it, but it's sort of aural wallpaper to me. I'm still not sure if the exotic airs are integral or charming Third World graft on, but it sure helps to have the sitar live. So we watched a bit, then went off to sit curbside--standing for 8 hours sort of sucks when you're an old fart--to prepare for....

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
We chose them over MIA and don't regret it a bit. Another band friends I like like, so I figured, what better than a soul review to close out the two nights? The answer? Nothing. I have never seen a performer leave it all on stage like Sharon Jones, both a killer singer, one who has the pipes but also modulates (none of that bullshit American Idol emoting for her), and an insane crazy dancer. That she's such a buzz of action and the well-decked out Dap Kings just stand surrounding her only adds to the clever visual play. If you ever wondered what would happen if James Brown was a woman, Sharon Jones is the person you have to see.

(16 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

He's So Fined

At least according to what appears to be the chronically chronologically challenged This-Day-in-History that I consult, Friday is the 39th anniversary of George Harrison's release of "My Sweet Lord." Of course, the song has since become more famous for the lawsuit about it. I'm sure you recall the class action suit by Catholic church parishioners who demanded restitution from Harrison for being the inspiration for the 1970s abomination known as the Folk Mass. They rightly believed that hippies and priests didn't mix (unless the hippies were young boys of course), even if you stopped singing before the Hare Kirshna part. You can't mimic the Holy Spirit descending with a wave of your tambourine. And trust me, now matter how hard you pray, the Eucharist just doesn't turn into windowpane. (Heck I might still be going to church....) Alas, the judge hearing the case ruled all things must pass, and the parishioners got nothing. They didn't even get to keep the case open long enough to argue that the Church's attempt to turn "Blowing in the Wind" into a hymn is one of the reasons Dylan went Christian and mucked up his career for a decade.

(15 of 31 in the drive to 2500)


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Bonnie Tyler Can't Touch This

I'm a bit panicked on the 2500 by 9/15 project, to tell the truth, and I always do, dear readers. You just have to hear it right. So here's another one from the vaults, an essay from early 1988, so it's currently old enough to drink. If nothing else, maybe it will get a bunch of you to rent The Band Wagon.


Like too many others, I would guess, I’ve spent too much of my time fancying I’m Fred Astaire. Not as a dancer, of course, although the non-verbal eloquence would be something dear. (Oh to make love without words.) Rather, it’s the implacable cool I’ve savored, his aloofness; he wears loneliness as sportingly as his tux and tails.

This one particular evening of dreaming, it was New Year’s Eve, and the whole house was asleep. LuAnn, my oldest sister, a nurse, would be off to work at Morristown Memorial early in the morning. Linda, my other sister, and Richard, her apartment-mate, waited each other out long enough that they fell asleep where they sat, as another holiday escaped them without event. Oddly, my mom held out the longest, as if the early evening liquor could only pick her up; yet, by eleven-thirty she, too, ended up the way she ends up every night--head slumped left, legs recliner elevated, eyes shut tight.

I was still working hard to get along. Every trip back to East Hanover, to a place called “home,” tends to disintegrate, as if my family’s bodies fall away and we have only teeth and bone left, rubbing each other raw. To keep this night something like bearable, I went out of my way to find family entertainment that even I would like, so I grabbed The Band Wagon at the video store.

No one else made it past the opening credits. Earlier, we had played a game of Trivial Pursuit, and as always, the game ended before anyone had won. In a burst of silliness, I tried to turn it into a drinking game, in which a wrong answer meant a healthy swig. Me, I never even played such games as an undergrad, couldn’t understand the need to beat around the drinking bush. But at home, games seemed necessary as a way to fill the time. Talking itself was too difficult--our tongues, too, were gone in the family of teeth and bone. All we could talk about was food we had eaten or would eat, or about the weather, or the latest in a string of inconveniences, as the world worked hard to muck up whatever a Yatchisin had planned. But my usual drink-talk was out, the banter that’s carved an entire language of my life in bars: pop philosophy, film, poetry, lust, and a slathering of pomposity--like a healthy head of beer--you don’t really want it, but it’s there just the same.

It seems the only thing we can do as a family is drink, slowly putting ourselves to sleep. After the game (and I, of course, got cranky, outraged by questions about comic strips in the literature category), true sleep came to everyone else as I plunked in the movie.

The Band Wagon is a sneaky musical. It opens with Fred Astaire on the train to New York, overhearing people claim his character is washed-up as a star. When recalling the film, most first remember its first large number, “Got a Shine on My Shoes,” in which Astaire turns pinball in a candy-colored arcade, setting the whole “machine” ablaze with his fits, taps, and turns. But
there’s a smaller number that precedes this one, an auto-love ballad, as it were. Astaire gets to watch another, still sterling star get mobbed as she leaves the Twentieth Century; he lags behind the crowd, waiting for Grand Central’s red carpet to clear. And then, he sings, and walks, both so much like the other--sweet and fragile, a cat on the clouds. It must be the exact voice he hears in his head; it’s easy to wonder why his lips must move for such a sound. It’s a voice of beauty without pretty, just as the walk is agile without bounce. The song is “(I’ll Go My Way) By Myself.”

I lay on the couch wanting to run these three minutes over and over as some sort of welcome to the New Year. I lay, alone, suckered by the song, the grace it makes of lonely peace. And then memory, of an earlier New Year’s, returned to me, as if I were in a film and the emulsion went edgy, and time did its zoom in and out trick, so I was then, there. I had plunged to a few days before that soon-to-be New Year, when I was too absorbed in something, puzzled by the now-forgotten. It was the person I was with who sensed something was up, so she headed out to the balcony, despite the December Baltimore cold. The street beneath the Hopkins House, my apartment building, always struck me as Emergency Highway: any siren anywhere in earshot would eventually wail its way down 39th Street. But that evening, something more was up.Between the Broadway Apartments and the other tallish buildings rising up the slight hill to the east, a pink glow licked at the low sky, almost like an intense dance of mercury lamps pointed at the clouds. The trucks were stopping there; we could just tell. Of course we went out.

An old apartment building, where I once lived, was nearly already gutted. The Buckingham Arms, where I sublet one summer, my first totally alone. A summer of wicked wind that left Charles Street a road so lost in broken branches it seemed a road lost in tree; a summer of my first, and very much eighteen-year-old, stab at playwriting, a soaper about old folks losing love, finding death; a summer of love (is every summer?), in which every lunch hour was precious, for my girlfriend lived that summer in her parented, suburban home. Everything came back at this death; it was like watching Industrial Light and Magic pour forth its ghosts at a film’s horrible end. I had never seen my past so vividly smoked clean.

The Red Cross was already there, putting blankets over shoulders. The old folks who had emptied from the building looked tearless and lost, as if the water at the scene could only blast from fire trucks’ hoses. No one ran about panicked. I never knew something like a fire could lack passion, could only stun. No one screamed, but the fire, setting time free.

We watched till we were too cold to watch. It didn’t take long. Even such a blaze could do little against all of December. It grew boring, too, the way any slow death does. It’s like watching a fireplace, waiting for the log, red-hot, to at last pop-crack; you can never wait out the moment. Then, suddenly, your ears wheel your eyes around, and you can never be sure of the second between seeing and imagining. Wishful thinking makes so much so.

If Tom Waits can be believed, and we are all innocent when we dream, every jury ends up hung. There might be hope after all, and not just hope for. Just hope, solid as flesh. Then again, there’s also the night the fire trucks ringed Hopkins House itself. It was one of those mid-summer, spotty blackouts when you can still see the line of buildings where the lights still work. Our building, however, was black. We had the candles lit, enough still kids to get a kick out of humans periling themselves, if just slightly, by their own technology. Twelve floors up, no electricity leaves you airborne, nearly.

But the fire trucks alarmed everyone. The scene was like the Titanic: Everyone sure of safety, a handful cracking dire black jokes, chipping ice for gin and tonics, a few others, glimpsing, miles off, the S.S. California, and its lights that would never come. All was too quiet, even the trucks, oddly unmanned, as if people couldn’t be bothered until disaster struck. We decided there was only one thing to do--head to the lobby. Resting between boredom and fear, we wore looks deer wear when startled from nibbling and deciding to run.

At first we thought twelve flights of stairs would be an easy trot down. But the descent was perilous, for at irregular intervals, flights lacked emergency lighting. The stairs, one concrete shaft, windowless and comfortless, were clearly meant to be unused. Nothing happened, we made it to the lobby fine, but I could only think of the panic a real disaster might have caused. With smoke curling up as the people piled down, the darkened stairs could easily have turned into human smokestacks.

Luckily, nothing was wrong, the power failure merely tripped some switch to the fire department. We even got to take the elevator back to the twelfth floor, that’s how quickly order was restored. The next day, some tenant I didn’t know heatedly explained to the building manager about the faulty emergency lighting. The manager, Selma Podgur (or, as an ex-roommate named her, Mrs. Thomas English Muffins--her face had nooks and crannies), chewed the man out: “Why didn’t you just stay in your apartment? Nothing was wrong. Why couldn’t you have stayed put? Who told you to use the stairway anyway? You could have hurt yourself for nothing.” It was a fiery display of the indignant anger of the wrong, a definition of chutzpah. The guy walked away, unable to say anything. I almost wanted to defend him, but didn’t, just got my mail and returned to my room. In a way, Mrs. Podgur wasn’t wrong at all.

Forty minutes into the movie, my mom stirs, checks the time. “Put the Ball on.”

I want to argue, but can’t, I see. I could care less about precise midnight; besides, Cyd Charisse has yet to wrap her lovely legs about Astaire, making him more insignificant than ever, as if he wished to be even more alone. Such a moment of love is worth holding to hard: the lovely resistance of other.

I stop the film, switch back to television, using the remote. It’s Christie Brinkley, of all people, her smile as bright as Times Square’s lights. I run up to the kitchen to get the champagne and renew drinking. Linda and Richard slowly stir. I hold the cork steady, begin to rotate the bottle.

Christie (we have all seen enough of her to call her this) begins the count. “20--19--18--17-” An inset clock beside her says 11:59:11. She corrects herself. “49--48--47.” Brightly alerts us to the screaming hordes we easily see behind her. Counts, “30--29--28-” The inset clock says 11:59:45. She corrects herself again. It’s midnight. 1988. I pop my cork.

We all drink some and kiss and wish, but lightly, all three. Nobody feels any different. Right before leaving, Richard says, “Christie Brinkley just made more in ten minutes than I’ll make in all of 1988.” My mom drifts back off in her chair.

So it’s just Fred and I again. I resist the urge to begin all over, resist the urge to watch “(I’ll Go My Way) By Myself” a dozen times through. There’s so much more to the movie: The silly joy of “Triplets,” the one-line Shakespeare synopses in “That’s Entertainment,” Oscar Levant at his caustic best, the Mickey Spillane send-up of “Girl Hunt.” And there’s also the quick ending, none of the mush watchers of Singin’ in the Rain have to slog through. Charisse expresses her love, but indirectly. Astaire accepts. We see no grand kiss, no embrace to rock the ages.

It’s like my family, maybe. Each one of us waiting for the fire to call us home. But that home is so huge we’re all left separate, knowing those dark steps await, that emergency cries out for the black plunge. We can only wait for the smoke that never comes, for each day dawns clear, and cold to the bitter bone.

(14 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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Got Your New Ideas Right Here

Since he totally agrees with me and listens to me about everything I'm sure this is exactly what he'll deliver, but here's my version of the much reviled--days before he gives it--national address to schoolchildren that Obama's going to present Tuesday.

Dear unfortunate children of the U.S.--

You really shouldn't even be paying attention to me, as all us adults, we're all lying to you. We tell you just to work hard and you will have a good life and all the things you want to buy you will buy and you will be happier than Adam and Eve riding their dinosaurs in Eden. But it's not true. The world we're leaving you is going to hell in a handbasket, a handbasket filled with guns and hate and crazy. Even the people your parents elect to take part in government, the ones that are supposed to represent you, to work for you, says government can't do anything for you.

But it can do things for the obscenely wealthy--Tim Geithner's kids, if this is on at your private school, just go home. You're going to be ok, your dad's made sure of that. Most of the rest of you, however, better double up on your bootstraps, you've got a lot of lifting to do.

For not only do most of us adults lie about most about everything, what we don't lie about we're just stupid about. One of the liars makes stuff up--like we're going to kill old people--and then all the stupid ones nod their heads. One of the liars says government provided health insurance is socialism, and all the people on Medicare nod their heads. One of the liars says there's no global warming because it's cold for one day someplace, and all the people running from forest fires or drowning in the more violent hurricanes nod their heads. It's like America has become one giant rusted out hulk of a 1957 Chevy, and we're all the bobbing-head-dogs in the back of the car. That's up on blocks. In a field littered with the ripped up remainders from Regnery Publishing.

So what can you do about it, my unfortunates? Go read some books. Challenge your teachers. Maybe cry a little--I know I would.

But more than anything else, just stop listening.

(13 of 31 in the drive to 2500)


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