Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Falling From the Moon

Rattling fan blowing in
an August night I am using
poorly. Somewhere else
the bells & sirens of a
boardwalk arcade,
little boats circling a pool,
a small train whistles
rounding the bend
toward funnel cakes,
smile for the camera.

They scream falling from the moon,
flashing wheels,
belts & gears,
this house is haunted.
Search the darkness
& there is the ocean.

© Bob Rixon

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Monday, August 30, 2010

EmmyLou Harris sings "Crescent City"

This Lucinda Williams song was especially poignant in the weeks following Katrina. That must be polka prince Joey Miskulin on accordion.


Five years

Stayed up late Sunday night 8/28/05 into Monday morning watching this monster on radar. It slightly diminished in intensity & shifted east as it approached landfall. That day it appeared the Mississippi coast had gotten the worst of it & New Orleans had escaped devastation. The remainder of the week was a nightmare, tragedy upon tragedy, unforgettable images  we never thought we'd witness in America.

The following Sunday I filled in on the Glen Jones radio show. I didn't want to discuss Katrina in detail or focus on New Orleans music, which was getting plenty of air play & wasn't music I knew in depth anyway, but I felt I ought to acknowledge it. No question I would open the show with Louis Armstrong singing "Azalea" ("A fine spring day, down Louisiana way,") accompanied by Duke Ellington, & a short set including Lucinda Williams' happy song about returning home to "Crescent City," Kid Thomas playing "Four Leaf Clover" (a favorite tune of my grandmother, who played a stride version on the piano) , & something by Jelly Roll Morton. The show ended with The Beach Boys' "Sail On Sailor " ("Stop the crying and the lying  And the sighing and my dying") & "Pure & Easy by the Who ("playing so free like a breath rippling by").

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Seaside Park NJ

Read more »

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Saturday, August 28, 2010



The World Turned Upside Down

A British military band supposedly played a song called "The World Turned Upside Down" when Lord Cornwallis surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown in 1781. Would have been an apt number today when Glenn Beck appropriated the site, anniversary, & memory of Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech to host a rally of thousands of white conservatives. I'm sorry, but I'm fairly certain where those people would have stood 47 years ago, & it wouldn't have been in front of the Lincoln Memorial listening to Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Marian Anderson, John Lewis, A.  Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther,  Roy Wilkins,  Whitney Young, & Dr. King.

A commentator on CNN called it "historical cognitive dissonance," the feeling I get watching that docudrama style TV series where the South won the Civil War.

The phrase "traditional values" holds small appeal for me. There are "traditions" & there are "values." I have sadly let go of  some "traditions" I loved  because our best American (&/or Judeo-Christian) values no longer supported them.  Traditions change as culture changes.

Usiing wedge issues, fear, slogans, sideshows, & a supply of quiet money,  the super-rich in America have always  raised up crowds, sometimes mobs & armies, minions of ordinary Americans to do their bidding. It's one of the strange contradictions of our society. It has to be fought. We have ask, Whose side is the Tea Party on? Even the rank & file Tea Partiers don't seem to know. They haven't yet produced their Antichrist.  But it's getting  curiouser & curiouser every day.


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Blessing for Jean & Neil

It is difficult
for two people to find each other,
to become friends, &
becoming friends,
to discover love
in that friendship.
Yet, it has happened
to your delight & ours.

Your love is fueled by dreams,
&  what you have experienced
together & alone
brings a shared wisdom
with enough space for hope.

In this lovely autumn,
as the trees take themselves
into the bright colors of sleep,
& birds mysteriously disappear,
you have chosen to awaken a springtime,
& with it, new growth, a new year,
a season for nurturning dreams & hopes.

It is a good moment to get married,
     & we bless you,
your  love for each other
     blesses us, too.

October 4, 1986


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lurae Motel, North Wildwood NJ

Game Room at Lurae, adjoined the small restaurant.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Prisoners of War

My brother disappeared in the
Jersey Pine Barrens with
a draft notice & an M16.

Two years later he reappeared
waving a handful of combat dollars
& driving a red sports car.

He disappeared again at our father's grave
between the Lord's Prayer & the bagpiper.
I haven't seen him since, although
his voice  was loud & clear
when we gathered his excuses
on our sister's wedding day:

His car doesn't work, he slept late,
his cats are sick, he stopped drinking,
he forgot to buy a present,
he's o.k., there's nothing he wants
from us, why should he bother
showing up for anything? his ex-girlfriend
is taking him to court for assault,
he says our sister was wrong
living briefly with her fiance
with her kids in the new house.

Our mother places a Gold Star in her window,
her body shriveling like an old gourd,
as she rattles the ice cubes in her glass,
a signal for more scotch,
while she watches golf on television
& knits body bags for her sock puppets.
Somewhere my brother is alive.

© Bob Rixon


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Dramatics: Hey You! Get Off My Mountain

When I joined WFMU in 1981, one of the (many) strengths of my personal record collection was that for a few years  I had  been trolling cutout bins for  later period soul & funk LPs  from Stax/Volt, Avco, Spring, Motown, Westbound & other labels. The WFMU library had few of these - the program director had apparently trashed  many of them as "disco." Few DJs at the time featured the music. Rather than playing soul rarities, which were expensive collectors items, I played lesser known songs by more mainstream artists, LP cuts or singles  that had maybe done moderately well on soul/R&B charts but hardly cracked the pop charts. This stuff was almost unknown to most white listeners.  The music became one of my signature genres, although I was no expert. The Dramatics had two big hits, "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" & "In the Rain." "Hey You! Get Off My Mountain" was #5 on R&B in 1973 but only reached #43 pop. Great song.

"Now You Got Me Loving You" tacks on a two minute coda  for extra booty rubbin' on the dance floor.

Ladies & Gentlemen, breaking hearts ain't their game, Here's The Dramatics.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

A Jersey Blues

Ray DeCarlo, caporegime Cadillac
parked by his office behind a steakhouse,
his pal, Little Pussy, runs the shore rackets,
his rival, Richie the Boot, an uneasy truce,
& the guy they keep on a leash, named The Leash,
Joe Bananas, Bayonne Joe, & another Joe
among lonely Joes, Indian Joe.

Sam the Plumber, dapper & popular,
a boss that knows what’s a boss, says,
I’ve only done good. The guy
that does anything bad to me
is the worst S.O.B. in the world.

Oh Ray, cry the boys, where
are the great wise guys of yesterday?
All this Black Power crap wrecking our turf,
Feds grabbing union books,
crazy kids from Philly whacking for kicks,
the State taking over the numbers,
& what they want to do to Atlantic City
is a crime, we might as well burn
the 500 Club, Frank
won’t sing there no more.

© Bob Rixon

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

North Wildwood NJ

Otten's Canal

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Saturday, August 21, 2010


I don't like harping on this. Initially, I was inclined to be supportive of efforts to spare the feelings of 9/11 families, hoped that the Islamic Center could be quietly negotiated a few more blocks uptown, since that part of Tribeca is a struggling neighborhood & the Center would be, in fact, an economic advantage  to any street & might generate some new businesses. But the demagoguery & anti-Muslim bigotry is outrageous! Especially galling are Christian pastors saying the Center is an example of Islamic triumphalism. A building, modest in height for the area, which would be dwarfed by the Freedom Tower.  All major religions have indulged in triumphalism. We nearly wiped out indigenous tribal religion in America in the name of Christian Civilization,  Christianity appropriated sacred pagan sites & festival days throughout Europe. Christianity rationalized chattel slavery by saying it was the  responsible way to Christianize black Africans  who had been worshipping false gods.  The Old Testament has shocking stories of Hebrew conquest.  Don't speak in the name of Jesus to me of Islamic triumphalism.

A sorry excuse for a Catholic priest in New York talked on the radio of "the principle of reciprocity" in opposing the center, Huh? For Christians, that principle is summed up in The Golden Rule, & the responsibility for "doing unto" is clearly on Christians, who are not to make reciprocity  a condition.

Nor will it do to point to Islamic suppression of other religions.  When Iran cracks down on Baha'i, considered an apostasy, it just accuses the  more prominent followers of spying for Israel.  Sound familiar? It doesn't occur to enough Americans that we have native born Muslims, & that many Muslims emigrate here to live in a  pluralistic society, to escape theocracy, fundamentalism, strict sharia law, & narrow-minded mullahs.  The Muslims in my neighborhood are from the Balkans & former Soviet Union, & although I doubt they relate culturally  to Saudi Wahhabism or the Taliban,  they feel anti-Muslim prejudice.

Argument: St. Nicholas Church, the only church completely destroyed on 9/11, has not been allowed to rebuild.  Yet they allow a  mosque.

Answer:  They're two separate  matters in two different locations.  A mosque would not be built  on the St. Nicholas site  because St. Nicholas still owns the land.  Because of the complications of funding & building on Ground Zero, Port Authority offered the church  another parcel plus a load of money, &  the church declined. If the church had wanted to move to 45 Park Pl & construct a community center with a prayer space,  it's likely the City would have expedited the approvals.  Park Pl is not Ground Zero.  You can support St. Nicholas without condemning the Islamic Center. They are not linked.

Probably moot. Cordoba Initiative doesn't have the money to construct the center, & if it did, union workers would refuse to work on it.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

You don't give the mob what it wants

Politicians, columnists, prominent bloggers & tweeters, should always take note of who is lining for & against their views, but especially for.

Remember the incident during the '08 campaign, one of Sen. McCain's town meeting events, a supporter, a woman, made some ignorant, baseless charges against Sen. Obama. McCain was taken aback, & disturbed, as if he had never considered the kinds of people & emotions his campaign was stirring up & tapping. The woman assumed McCain represented her views. If one is not a bigot but one is leading bigots, what does one do? That's happening with the Park51 opposition.

At this point, about 95% of the misinformation is coming from the opposition to Cordoba House. The unchecked "facts" are viral.

My inclination was to go the route of, "This is so ugly that we ought to negotiate this building into another location." Because I didn't have strong feelings about it. I didn't think it ought to be that big a deal.  But now, I'm starting think that Park51 should be built  as planned because the opposition is now so obviously weighed down by bigots & know-nothings. They have to be answered.

The Archdiocese of New York has a special  relationship with New York City firefighters. It also engages in many interfaith activities.  So when Archbishop Timothy Dolan offers to "mediate"  a new location, he thinks he's interceding in a local dispute.  But outside the New York City area are mobs shouting, "Stop them!" Them are Muslims including Americans,  Park51 is some kind of triumphant monument, as if the Armies of Islam have overrun & conquered us.  & the mob lines up behind Timothy Dolan.  He becomes a de facto  mob leader.  You don't give the  mob what it wants. The mob wants  a lynching.

On conservative talk radio, which is half of the AM dial here, hosts accept calls from babbling, irrational folks  & make no attempt to correct the misinformation. Then when someone calls to  complain that the show encourages  bigotry, the host indignantly denies any connection to the whacko callers & says, "You're talking to me & I don't believe that about Muslims." As if he bears no responsibility for what he allows on the show. 

The best thing America could do now is let the community center be built instead of demanding that American Muslims "voluntarily" waive part of their First Amendment rights. Otherwise,  the terrorists do "win" this one. They say we hate Islam, & we're saying, "Well, now that you get down to it, yep."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lurae Motel, North Wildwood NJ

From defunct Lurae website.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We're having civic lessons

We're having civic lessons in church-state separation this week, In addition to the mosque controversies, these are the kinds of  rulings that infuriate a lot of Americans:

Roadside crosses for fallen Utah police unconstitutional, court rules

Antigay church can protest military funerals, judge rules

The odious Westboro Baptist Church is involved in the second ruling. The Utah suit came about because wiser minds were not heard if they were even consulted, & Utah constructed 12 foot high crosses. Ironically, "The decision notes that most residents of Utah were raised as or are followers of the Mormon religion, which does not view the cross as a religious symbol."

So while each  ruling, at first glance, seemed unnecessary & even punitive toward majorities,  they're both good rulings. Secular symbols for Utah would have been fine, & modest crosses in the spirit of roadside memorial displays   may have gone unchallenged.  Laws that were not crafted specifically to stop Westboro loonies may have passed a constitutional test. We ask that Muslims show more cultural awareness & try to discern what may or may not be appropriate, & we should expect the same of government when it tries to sidestep the 1st Amendment. It's puzzling that the Cordoba Initiative did not foresee & prepare for the storm of opposition to the large, expensive Islamic something-or-other.   But many First Amendment cases have been the result of Christians in local governments not discerning cultural & demographic changes in their own communities, &  acting arrogantly rather than toning down the religious aspects of displays & events or accomodating other beliefs & views.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wildwood Vacation

I'm not there now, but I've written about it:

A Midweek Special
Finding Wildwood
The Grey Manor
The Kismet Motel
Living At the Kismet
The Greatest Boardwalk Barker

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Hallowed Ground?

Go ahead, have a look at Park Place & the Burlington Coat Factory building.

View Larger Map
If you visit the 9/11 Memorial, you'll find this block only if you look for it or get lost looking for something else. I have no idea what that something else might be.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

North Wildwood NJ - The Lurae

The Lurae was my favorite motel of its type in the Wildwoods; the classic, medium-size, family-owned, family-oriented vacation motel. I never stayed there. I stayed across the street at The Kismet, a small, old-fashioned,  no-frills motor court motel that a couple had nicely  renovated. But I observed The Lurae all week. It had  50 units. The pool & patios were active all day, they had a DJ in the afternoon, & a gameroom. At dusk it lit up beautifully,  & guests gathered on balconies for cocktails. It quieted down by midnight. The Lurae was clean & well-maintained. The Lurae's  small coffeeshop was little more than a convenience, scrambled eggs   & toast, burgers, weak coffee, I rarely patronized it, but it was an integral part of the whole.  They had good ice cream cones. The Lurae appeared profitable, always crowded in mid-August,  but it closed a few years ago.

The Lurae was two blocks from the beach at the ocean inlet end of the Wildwoods, which has a slower pace, better beaches, & a Victorian lighthouse. In this old postcard The Telstar at the bottom is now the Oceanaire, & the vacant lots are gone. The Lurae is at the top, & The Kismet is the small motel on its right with white walls & red roofs.

Through the Wayback Machine, we can still visit The Lurae.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The guy who won the '86 World Series

Half-listening to Steve "The Schmoozer"  Somers on WFAN after the Mets game last night, he took a call from Fanwood NJ, a guy complaining about Mets abysmal hitting, common gripe, the voice sounded familiar. Hey, I know that guy. Haven't seen him in years, but he's  a rabid Mets fan, & he lives in Fanwood.  In fact, he has a jar of Shea Stadium pitcher mound dirt from '69 series win, a powerful mojo, & claims to have  won the '86 series by opening it during the 10th inning of the 6th game, when the Mets were an out away from losing the series to the Red Sox & staged an improbable comeback capped by Buckner's error at first base. I had no reason to doubt him. I'm sure he tried everything else, changing seats, putting the jar of dirt on top of the TV; actually exposing the  sacred soil  to the tainted air of New Jersey was  an act of total desperation.

He & his wife did some major interior renovating when they bought the Fanwood house.  Whenever  they needed a wall taken out, they invited friends, supplied pizza & beer, & an assortment of sledge hammers & crowbars, & let us have at it.  It was very theraputic.   Interesting pair, lost touch with them as they settled in  raised a couple of kids.

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Just another couple of broken hearts

Wow, 20 years this sumnmer I went into the WFMU library to pull my show & found this Was (Not Was) release on a 12" single in the new bin. I was feeling crappy because a relationship I'd at least expected to get through the summer while the woman's other boyfriend was in Europe was falling apart (she claimed he had a French lover).  Shouldn't have been a heartbreaker,  I wished I felt half as philosophical about it as "Sweetpea" Atkinson singing this sauntering song. David Weiss (a.k.a. David Was) and Don Fagenson (a.k.a. Don Was) & a bunch of regular & guest musicians released four peculiar soul/funk LPs  from 1980 to 1990, none were especially cohesive, more like collections of singles & one-shot ideas, all very good.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Do you think

Interesting examples of phrasing poll questions from CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
Do you think gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid?
49% Yes, 51% No

Do you think gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid?
52% Yes, 46% No
In the first question, I'm uncertain if it means ideally or in actual current practice. But in the second question, I have a clear opinion. The perecentages also reflect what I think is an unstoppable demographic shift in favor of equal marriage rights.
As you may know, a group of Muslims in the U.S. plan to build a mosque two blocks from the site in New York City where the World Trade Center used to stand. Do you favor or oppose this plan?
29% Favor, 68% Oppose
Here, I'm with the 68%. I do oppose the plan  & I have my own questions about who is funding it. If the question were posed in terms of rights, I'd support the right to build. But people outside NYC aren't aware of the location, what the financial district  & City Hall area look  like,  the size of the buildings there, or that 9/11 survivors & powerful real estate interests have been battling  each other all along over redevelopment plans.  Park Pl. is not a Ground Zero memorial site, although it was a jet debris impact area.  It's ripe for gentrification, monification, bankification, whatever you want to call it. One demagogic NY candidate for governor thinks he could use eminent domain to turn Park51 into some kind of garden. Sorry, if the mosque doesn't go there, a bank will move in.  Burlington Coat Factory isn't returning. The financial district isn't about Muslim, Christians, & Jews, it's about money & profit.  If you really listen to Mayor Bloomberg, that's what's he saying.

The design I saw for Cordoba House looks like  a contemporary  office building with a fanciful facade.  Everyone knows St. Patrick's Cathedral & the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. But most old churches in Manhattan are crowded in & you don't notice them until you're standing in front of them.

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I just ran into an old acquaintance at 7-11. By old, I mean I've known him for over 20 years. I was aware  he resided with his long-time girlfriend somewhere in Elizabeth, & I've known her just as long & maybe longer.  He's a genuinely nice man, & a good musician.  But his approach to music is so different from mine, so narrowly obsessed with technique  that there's a fundamental difference in how he derives pleasure from music.  So, whenever we discussed music, I'd become annoyed after about five minutes.  He's the kind of musician who could practice scales for hours & enjoy it more than playing songs. For him, technique isn't a means. He isn't expanding it toward mastering   a more difficult music.    It's not  his fault, it's his natural temperament, I suppose.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Akiko Yano: All the Toys Go Cha Cha Cha

This could be the nicest five minutes you'll have today.

The original album version of this song was released in America in 1990 on a compilation of Yano's earlier recordings. It featured a very funky American rhythm section & sophisticated production by Ryuichi Sakamoto (playing synths here).  I loved it. The band here does a pretty lively job of it. "Omacho Cha Cha Cha" is the name of a popular Japanese children's song, but not the same song.

Akiko is still hardly known in America, but she's so admired that great musicians line up  to work with her.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

lookin fer an argument

I'm on the verge of picking a fight with some "Religious Left" "leaders" I respect over a long-simmering matter: the arrogance of intellectuals & academics. To have this fight, I'll  need to buy a book I wouldn't read unless my library purchased it, which won't happen, & maybe only then because I sort of know the author. It's the kind of book I might just bring over to a table & scan. The author has read many of my posted comments at the website he created, rarely ever responded to them. I am neither an intellectual nor an academic.Over the years I've begun to suspect that he doesn't pay much  close attention  to those not cloaked in those garments.  With my patchwork state college edjikayshun, I can't dress that way.

 I consider myself an exceptional & articulate  middlebrow,  with   real experience in disseminating & channeling  "culture," from the fringes toward the center & vice versa, & I think intellectuals & academics ought to hear what I have to say on those rare occasions when I'm trying to say something to them about culture.

Anyway, my gripe with any definition of a "Religious Left" is that progressive politics & progressive religion are not the same.  Many politically liberal Christians are  conflicted in ways you rarely find among conservatives. Liberalism has to be more accommodating . So religious left spokespersons - as self-appointed as those on the right - are always trying some knit that fits all, or nearly all. But unlike those on the right, they tend to yap at each other, review each other's books on websites we rarely visit, & call that "influence." They're mostly theorists. & we're over 40 years past Dr. King. 

They inversely mirror the right, They champion tolerance & diversity, but are skeptical of those who actually pray for those things.  I also assert that the core literature of religious left is the same basic genre as the right: books about the struggle of practicing & maintaining faith, & keeping one's sanity. Christian books, Jewish books, new age books, Buddhist books, weighted toward memoirs & meditations & daily thoughts.  One can trace the spectrum of these books on Amazon. Conservatives often write negative reviews of the ones they deem too liberal.

I'll appreciate the book when I read it. But I'm already disappointed because I already know what ain't in it; a component of interesting autobiography  that the author has compartmentalized out of his writing, lost through his ambition to be "influential," & by leaving it out sends a message out ahead  that the book really isn't for me, & probably not for you. But I'll know for sure when I read it. 
In nonfiction, I like books where smart people explain stuff in ways I understand. Sometimes they're "experts" & sometimes a theme in the book is that they're also explaining it to themselves.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Communicating With Henry

lost in a strange man’s lap
without his mother’s milky bib
he smelled my clothes & aftershave
a brave boy
passed from one planet to another

what can we expect?
a little love
we are all visitors
there are no paradises

I kissed his feet
I think he liked it

© Bob Rixon


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Ocean City NJ

Moorlyn View

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Shalom aleichem

Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition

Short article in NYT well worth reading.

It's as simple as this: In America, you can't stop the construction of a religious building by a  legally recognized religious group because you dislike the religion.  Yes, opponents find other reasons to object, & sometimes they are valid. But you can't expect government to violate the Constitution.

Over the past few years, I found myself supporting the construction of one Hindu temple in Jersey & opposing another. The one I opposed was trying to build in a residential area. When I saw the ornate design & size of the building, clearly they had a large membership, lots of money, & were expecting to host big occasions. There are plenty of "occasions" in Hinduism. It would  change the character of the neighborhood   - which did not have a large Indian-American population - & cause traffic problems. The one I supported was  converting a building in a commercial district that included churches.  But in both instances, local opposition had anti-Indian feelings.

I don't like the idea of  constructing a large mosque & community center close to Ground Zero, I don't think it helps Muslims or the city, but if it gets past New York's zoning codes, what can you do?  I also don't like  Freedom Tower or  how the area  is being redeveloped, period.

Islam, in reality, in practice, is not a single, organized entity.  Just like other religions, practice & observance  varies from ultra-strict to hardly at all.  The United States is the rare nation with the religious freedom for religions to find new shapes. We grew our own protestant fundamentalism here. We created the predominant form of Methodism, a temperate Roman Catholicism (compared to what existed in Europe), a  Reform Judaism I admire, & some highly original religions of which Latter Day Saints is the most well-known. A great strength of America is that national & ethnic varieties of the same  religion must coexist here. They have to compete if they expect to grow; they can't bludgeon each other out of existence. In the process, they change.  I want to trust this process for Islam.We have to give Muslims freedom & space.

That won't happen with idiots like the ones I heard on an AM radio show yesterday afternoon.  They were speaking as "Christians" although it wasn't a religious show. One of them was mocking the phrase As-Salamu ʿAlaykum as "a salami something."  He was brutally, stupidly offensive. The similarity to Shalom aleichem didn't occur to the moron.
I try to set aside the peculiarities of religious belief. We believe in what appeals to us, often regardless of logic & reason. But it does strike me as odd for American Christian nationalists to complain that Islam is inherently a political system rather than a religion.

When I strongly react against a particular form of religion & examine my reaction & that form, it nearly always involves at some level how women are treated & the  limited roles allowed to women. Some are relatively mild, others extremely oppressive.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Somers Point NJ

Wonder Ship Bar at Stretch Inn

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Camden NJ - oy!

Camden, NJ, preparing to close all its libraries

CAMDEN, N.J. — The library board in Camden, one of the nation's poorest cities, is preparing to close all three of its libraries by the end of the year, saying its funding has been slashed so drastically that it cannot afford to keep operating.
Library officials are hoping enough money surfaces to save the system, but they're preparing for a shutdown and say they're not just threatening it as a ploy.
Budget cuts across the country have caused local officials to close library branches, reduce hours and spend less money on books, computers and other materials. But officials at the American Library Association believe Camden's library system would be the first in the U.S. with multiple branches to check out entirely.
The city of about 80,000 residents across the Delaware River from Philadelphia consistently ranks as one of the nation's most impoverished. It's a place where most families don't own computers, where just one big bookstore serves the local colleges and where some of the public schools don't even have librarians.
I've been to Camden once, long ago, not counting the times I've taken the Ben Franklin Bridge to Philly. I made a pilgrimage to the Walt Whitman House & was appalled then by what I saw in the city.At the time, I believed Whitman would want his house to stay in wretched Camden. Now I think he might prefer it moved elsewhere.

Nobody knows what to do with or for Camden. It has a minuscule middle class clinging to a few old suburban like streets at the fringes,  the poorest city of its size in America. & violent.  Camden survives on institutions; the courthouse; Rutgers; hospitals; an aquarium, Battleship New Jersey, an unaffiliated minor league baseball stadium, & theater all on the waterfront & not really connected with the rest of the city.  Campbell Soup is still headquartered there. Maybe Camden needs the radical shrinkage plan recently proposed for Detroit: entire neighborhoods razed & converted to park or even urban farmland, population & business consolidated into  governable areas.  Maybe Campbell could grow tomatoes there. 

When a city is forced to close its libraries,  can we consider it brain dead?  Until recently, public libraries were an unquestioned  necessity. But unlike schools, there's no law says they have to be  provided. & libraries certainly fall below police & fire services in budgetary considerations. This is a disturbing & interesting moment for public libraries. 

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Somers Point NJ 1906

Bird's-eye view from Fishermen's Headquarters

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da Mets, oy!

The Mets are back under .500 & have yet to take an away series against a National League team.

We knew The Mets were playing over their heads when they ran off a remarkable May & June, at Citi Field & in interleague.  But we had reason to hope for interesting second half baseball.  If the pitching held up, & Beltran came back with some of his talent intact. There are a lot of better teams in the NL, four of them in the five team west division (actually, all five, even Ariz beats the Mets). But so far there's no Yankees or Tampa Bay in the NL. You could figure on Padres, Dodgers, Giants, & Rockies beating on each other.  Same with Reds & Cards. Braves & Phillies.  Any of the better teams in the NL could run off 8 game winning or losing streaks. If the Mets could stay about ten games over .500, they might well have lurked in wild card mix down to the wire. The one team wild card system isn't fair.  You win a division with a mediocre record, you still win it & grab a playoff spot, & some better teams play golf or go fishin'.  Difficult now to imagine Mets getting back to ten games over. Pelfry collapsed. The return of Beltran & Castillo rattled  players who justifiably felt they earned more playing time. Ollie Perez is wasting a roster spot. Jerry Manuel, a nice guy with a good baseball head, probably better qualified as a bench coach, didn't  handle  the change well, & maybe there was no way he could. The Mets are headcases outside of New York, as we saw on their dreadful west coast trip after the All Star break. For Jerry, disaster always "somewhat concerns him" or it's "a little embarrassing," or "it's something we have to deal with." His fondness for Gandhi is well known, but there are moments when he should let himself express his deeper anger. Even Joe Torre allows it of himself from time to time.  Joe also has a memorable hangdog appearance toward the end of poorly played losses, his face sagging with exhaustion & disappointment, his thin hair disheveled. His players take one look at him & know what Joe's feeling.

Then, two teams with with serious financial  problems, The Dodgers & the Rangers, managed to improve their teams with trades. The Mets management did nothing. Nothing! It's generally believed Bernie Madoff took the Wilpon family for a lot of money. But other teams made trades & were paid money to defray the costs, Even the Yanks managed it. The Mets needed to cut Ollie loose & eat the salary, & add a pitcher & batter off the bench, even if those acquisitions were risk players. They needed to say to the team & fans, "We're doing something. maybe it'll work & maybe not, but we're trying to hold the season together." Because, in the NL, you never know.  Crazy things happen.  Like when the Rockies caught fire after changing managers, or when the Mets blew a 7 game lead with 17 to play.  Taking chances can pay off in the NL. Doing nothing to improve a team midseason is taking a chance only if you're winning with what you got. The Mets were coming unglued.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

A peninsula surrounded by water & swamp

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Somers Point NJ is a peninsula surrounded by water & swamp. In 1970 it had a population of about 8,000, up 75% since 1960, fueled mostly, I suspect, by white flight from Atlantic City & Pleasantville.  Legalized gambling in A.C. pushed it up past 11,000.  Until then, it was a sleepy town 9 months of the year, woke up in the summer to provide liquor & entertainment for dry Ocean City across the bay. It still does that. My family stayed there for week every summer because we could & it was free, packing into my aunt's  bungalow (read Angels at the Jersey Shore). That accommodation became unreasonable when my aunt & her daughter & son-in-law moved across the street to a larger house, & my cousin (& godmother) Catherine had babies. So for a few years we rented an apt in Ocean City (see An Ocean City Week).  Dad, though always  employed, had four kids & did not earn a lot of money, & his ambitions were focused outside his job.

The Somers Point I recall had cornfields. Those are long gone, but certainly the ferocious swarms of twilight time mosquitoes are still there in season. 

Staying in Ocean City was a dream come true, walking to beach & boardwalk. As nuch as my parents loved the beach & boardwalk,  the week in Somers Point was their vacation, & they didn't mind spending a good part of it sitting in lawn chairs in my Aunt Bella's backyard doing nothing. Every jaunt to Ocean City was a journey, & they didn't like going twice-a-day, in the afternoon & evening.  Plus, Dad enjoyed beach strolling late afternoon with our dog, Susie. So we were trapped in Somers Point a good deal of the time, without bicycles. Having a bike would've added a whole other dimension of adventure. There simply wasn't much to do in Somers Point for a kid. You could risk poison ivy & collect punks. You could beg for ice cream money & walk up the street to the corner store.  We had many dull, idle hours waiting for a decision from above, when & if we were going across the bay,

My friend, Jeff Jotz, made a similar traditional annual trek to Seaside Park, packed uncomfortably with relatives   into his uncle's seasonal rental apartments. But once there, Jeff could get to the beach & boardwalk on his own, or drop a crab trap into the bay, provided he could find some smelly bait.

When I was 18, my girlfriend's extended family rented a house in Seaside for a week. I drove down late one evening for a visit, when we got back from the boardwalk & making out on the beach, I spread a sleeping bag on the back porch, the only vacancy, woke up about 7 am with a little boy sitting on me & about 5 other kids standing around whispering, "That's Karen's boyfriend."

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Somers Point NJ

Harry's Inn
For Tops At The Seashore

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010


        rattling, clicking, chirping,
        my tumultuous backyard -
        out there are basic songs
        In here behind this screen
        is a quiet life
        with a stray mosquito,
        a small spider meaning me no harm,
        I insulate myself against a noisy dark
        I must learn to express love boldly,
        it is a promise I have made myself
        opposing all the silences
        that have overtaken my life
        Like an insect in the grass
        driven by wordless desires -
        I too have no protection
        Like that insect I call out
        because it is my true song,
        my rattle, my click, my chirp

© Bob Rixon


Somers Point NJ

Point Diner

Still there.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Somers Point NJ

Gateway Motel
Swimming Pools, Shuffleboard. Playground, Miniature Golf

They don't need a hot, sweaty beach.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Of all the people I've met online

Of all the people I've met online, a bunch became  "how ya doin'" acquaintances. Several are in the "IM me anytime day or night if you need to chat" category. A few became enduring online long-distance friendships, with sort of shared history now.  One includes phone  contact. For those longer, stronger connections,  we wish we resided near each other.  Another briefly jumped off the internet into the physical world a decade ago,  but distance put the brakes on it. It was an adventure we don't regret. Some things I'd hoped for from the internet & e mail didn't happen;  staying  in touch with certain old friends,  family bonding.  When, a year ago, my sister suggested via e mail a sibling get-together at her house, I didn't dismiss it outright, but the idea  seemed forced & artificial. The only on-going, involved "relationship" among the four of us had been  between my sister & I, & that had fallen on tough times.  But for two decades I had spent most Christmas Days at her home, & some Christmas Eves, & had visited other times during the year, sometimes just to hang out on her patio.

My older brother in south Jersey had never invited me to any occasion down there. I could interpret it only one way.  He had reasons for not wanting me around his house. Despite years of reasonably good behavior on my part.

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My oldest brother began detaching himself  while he was still in high school, & 8 years ago he was residing in a stinking attic apt with two dozen inbred starving cats & in an almost complete state of denial. The situation  was madness to me. I had seen many forms of madness, & he was way beyond eccentricity. I didn't have a car or  money, there was nothing I could do about it as crisis intervention.  Social Services in his city, Paterson, were awful.  He rejected even what I could & would do, which was to walk with him to a store & buy some food. If he had, I planned to trick him into leaving first, opening his window so the cats could escape. My two visits to him in Paterson (which required three trains & a very long walk through bad areas)  were traumatizing to my perception of family. My sister & other brother had very stable homes. My life was unstable, but I was quite aware of it.    I had  maintained long term relationships,  & could socialize without coming across as a complete freak.  I was irresponsible in some matters & quite responsible in others. I didn't drink  or smoke pot.  I had sense enough not to  have  two dozen inbred starving cats.  Writers & WFMU DJs were never shocked by my clutter, records & books crammed into a studio apt. Tools of the trade.  I was one large closet or storage area short of minimally adequate space. When I hung out at a downtown Rahway coffeehouse run by gay guys, I inquired as to the availability of basement, garage or attic space they might want to rent cheaply so I could store boxes. But those gay guys were themselves serious collectors of antique & oddball home furnishings. One of then owned an antique & junk shop & kept his overstock at his house,  in his backyard & in his old station wagon. As a collector, I was small stuff, merely books, records, some art, & a few oddities like  an xylophone & a diner booth  jukebox. These guys had overstuffed Victorian sofas, chandeliers,  & full dining room hutches you needed a crane to move.

What happened to my brother Joe would not have happened in other families of our background & upbringing. I doubt it would have happened had our dad been alive. Joe became homeless for a year after going through a Vet program designed to prevent it. All he needed  was a furnished  one room in a safe neighborhood near a downtown, paid for via Vet benefits,  some food stamps, some regular counseling, & no cats living inside. Total cost to guvmint: About $600 per month for rent & food stamps, plus V.A. medical benefits. Take away the cats, stock Joe's pantry with canned food, maybe  put hin on Zoloft, give him a daily newspaper & an occasional cigar & he returns from madness to his current harmless eccentricity, apparently accepted by his neighbors. The guy can talk.

Jim believed Joe was a fake putting on an act. It was a front, not an act, Behind the front a tragedy was unfolding that Joe could only glimpse, so irrational it was.  Joe was incapable of holding a job, except maybe at a Burger King, where he likely would've screwed up the Whopper assembly line & talked too much with customers. I think he could run a carousel or boardwalk game if chance.

I don't visit Joe at his senior apt in Newark.  It's a good one, I've checked it out online.  He doesn't care if he sees me or not. I wish he was online, I'd send him files & links to jazz & classical videos  of music he loved & which later became staples of my WFMU radio shows. Music I learned from his record collection.To a lesser extent, my radio shows drew from the music tastes of my sister & other brother.

A year ago, I received an invite to my nephew's graduation open house.  I'm certain he, not his parents,  put my name on the guest list. He had graduated from the worst major college in America, Liberty University. In a real sense, his own parents - mainline United Methodists,  his dad a UMC pastor - had somehow lost him. He had gone from mainstream,  most reasonable & rational protestant orthodoxy to radical  Baptist fundamentalism, which is a Methodist nightmare, & on to Ron Paul libertarianism.  He remained an affable guy, girls seem to like him. My nephew & I  could have great conversations about baseball & NCAA basketball,  but I can't imagine discussing religion or politics with him.

All those Christmases, Easters, Thanksgivings, 4ths of July, graduations, ordinations, that we did not share, slowly took a toll, year by year, more & more estranged. I have poems & journal entries from 25-30 years ago documenting the process. My poems were mainly observations, so dryly stated that grants committees rejected them for being too "flat." The flatness was a check upon myself, to try to state a few facts I could defend as close enough to the bare truth. 

I didn't want to get together with my siblings to talk about "old times." Meaning childhood in Roselle Park. I have good memories & bad memories, things I understand & things I don't. But I can write an acceptable script of my childhood factoring in mom's alcoholism, the effect of my paternal grandmother on the home, which seemed so bad at times & yet her moving out marked the disintegration  of my parents' marriage. She was my sanctuary all through high school, when I escaped to Atlantic City as often as permitted.  Joe despised her. Right there is a huge difference in perception & fact.

I'm more interested what happened to the four of us after dad died.  Because how we treated each other is  not what he would have wanted.  I'm sure he expected us to carry on his few traditions, if only a Christmas gathering & a summer cookout every year to pull the clan together.  Two of his kids made good families, but his own family quickly came unglued. I envisioned a day of evasions, bad jokes, feeling embarassed, four siblings who had no clear idea of what  the other three had been doing for 30 years (except I knew my sister's life fairly well, better than she knew mine, since my visits were almost all to her home  which I enjoyed).  It would have been like looking at my reflection in three distorted funhouse mirrors, & we'd all  feel fractured, disatisfied. There would be no path to healing because who would dare acknowledge any healing was necessary? & who would mediate the healing?

I was chosen to tell the stories, & I have not told many of them. Because most are not warm & funny. My part has been, at key moments, disgraceful.

At Dad's funeral, Joe said to me, "Rixons don't cry." Maybe he thought it was true. But I had heard dad break down & weep under the verbal assaults of our angry, alcoholic mom. I knew my sister wept in private during those sad days of the wake  & funeral  so that she could function as a welcoming host for the literal hundreds who passed through the funeral home to pay respects. & I was never more than a fraction from crying for the lost opportunity to have dad as the  friend & counsel I felt was coming to me at last, which my then-girlfriend  Christine & my poetry mentor Joel Oppenheimer had steadily encouraged & nurtured over a period of years. Joel, practically an anarchist, had dismissed dad's  political conservatism as irrelevant, noting approvingly  that dad was about tradition in his military interests - old wars that were worthy wars,  old guns, old battles,  &  poets were about tradition, & what was near at hand,  & the better I tapped into those, the better dad would like & understand my writing as a form of keeping history. Dad was Joe's last grip on family. He was orphaned.

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Somers Point NJ

Circle Liquor Store, Somers Point NJ

Probably one of the most profitable liquor stores in south Jersey. Located at the start of the Highway 52 main causeway to downtown Ocean City, a dry town. You pass it if you take Exit 30 off Garden State Parkway to get to O.C.

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Somers Point NJ

Gateway Casino
Somers Point had a permament pop of about 2000
when this night club was in business, & was a short drive or trolley ride from Atlantic City. It catered to A.C. & dry Ocean City & no doubt paid a whole less in property taxes  & graft to politicians.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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