Sunday, April 30, 2006

Empire State Building

75 years old.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

We were brilliant in Linden

Bumped up from 4/27 comments. For six years unbeknownst to each other Jill from Brilliant At Breakfast & I lived about a ten minute walk apart in Linden NJ but on opposite sides of US Route One. She was next to Linden Airport, which in addition to many small planes also hosted helicopters & an occasional blimp. I was on a dead end street by a park, but we heard the same 18 wheeler trucks roaring through at 3 am. She may have been living there when a nearby chemical plant blew up, a spectacular, frightening event. She was from the quiet tree lined streets of Westfield, I was from the quiet tree-lined Roselle Park, so that part of Linden was no doubt a rather strange place for both of us.
I lived in Linden from 1978 to 1984, on a little street called Harding Avenue, off of South Stiles Street, in a building owned by the owner by the fuel oil company next door, who seemed to own the entire block. It was a nice little neighborhood, a block from Linden Airport, within practically spitting distance from the tank farms, and I could see the Exxon flare stacks from my living room window.

That part of Jersey really IS pretty ugly, for the most part.

Bob, do you by any chance remember a restaurant called the Drop Zone in Roselle? This was the weirdest restaurant ever. It was run by a WWII fanatic, it was laid out like a military mess hall, and they played Frank Sinatra music all the time. Salad was served in metal bowls like you've seen in movies about Army mess halls, and the food was sort of mediocre-to-passable red sauce Italian.

The other lore I remember from my stays in that part of Jersey (I grew up in Westfield) were the nice little bar at the Cranford Hotel, where you could go with a date and have a drink in front of a roaring real fireplace; Big Stash's; some dance hall that was frequented by Portuguese guys from Carteret; and the hot roast beef sandwiches we used to eat on cold winter days at the Exxon station at the corner of Route 1 and South Stiles Street where I used to work on weekends.
posted by Jill
The dance hall I don't know. What was with those Portuguese guys? Big Stash's in Linden is popular for kielbasa, goulash, & generously portioned deli sandwiches.
I went to the Drop Zone once & only once. The owner would play the National Anthem & expect everyone to stand up & salute. A lawyer who was eating there sued him over it & lost. There were plenty of better inexpensive spaghetti & antipasto joints; Tep's in Rahway (now seafood), one in Cranford that turned into The Office, & of course Spirito's in Peterstown, still there & smoke-free for the first time since 1492.

Cranford Hotel had a rep as a pleasant meat rack for suburban singles. Only hung out there a few times. My brother & I were late returning for the evening session of my father's wake in Elizabeth because we decided to drive over to Stash's for pastrami on rye, & a couple beers in his honor (Dad appreciated Stash's) & the place was a bit crowded.

When I went back to college in 1990 I used to study at the Wendy's on Wood Ave. in the afternoon. For some reason they played classical music over the speakers, it was never busy. I'd get a burger & iced tea from the value menu. Be there for several hours & nobody bothered me.
posted by Bob


Friday, April 28, 2006

Froggie went a - courtin and he did ride, uh huh.

Enjoyed listening to Neil Young's Living With War online. It's a great thing for him to do & not a moment too soon. Neil's always best winging it, & these arrangements are loose indeed, likely few "classics" here, but they rock hard & frequently poetically & they solidly if mostly unpoetically hit their lyrical targets & in sum do what they're supposed to do. Combined with Springsteen's surprisingly good Pete Seeger album (few were more dubious than I about the project), which accents the side of folk music I do like - its playful & even enigmatic qualities, performed with a wide-textured ensemble, it's been a good week for geezer rock & "protest" music. "Froggie Went A-Courtin'" is one of my all-time favs. Elvis & Bob Dylan love it, too.
Froggie went a - courtin and he did ride, uh huh.
Froggie went a - courtin and he did ride, uh huh.
Froggie went a - courtin and he did ride,
Sword and pistol by his side, un huh, uh huh.

Well he rode down to Miss Mouse’s door, uh huh.
Where he had often been before, uh huh.

He took Miss Mousie on his knee, uh huh.
Said "Miss Mousie will you marry me?" uh huh.
This "giant grid" calendar I've just hung on the wall is supposed to make me write things I need to do, read what I write & be reminded, & then do them. That's three or four different steps. A lot of people don't succeed with these until they have a kid, & then they have to use one that covers the entire front of the fridge & might even glow-in-the-dark. A friend of mine hangs hers next to the stove, & now her excuse for "forgetting" stuff is that age has seriously reduced her peripheral vision. I am not a multi-tasker. Not even a good single tasker. I'm an expert at following my own digressions. Books & music are activities I can do from beginning directly to end & even those are iffy. Oh yeah, when I used to collect records, I was expert at flipping front to back through boxes tucked under tables at flea markets. You could kick me, run into me with a baby carriage, even drip a melting snow cone on my head & I would not be distracted until I got through entire box.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Amazingly, the fine for my 4 year old parking ticket was just about what I thought it should be, $76. It's unfair, really, that it got my license suspended & I still have more hoops to jump through. I also found a nifty baseball cap for a dollar at the rummage shop. But it was an enlightening visit to Rahway NJ in other ways. If you don't know Rahway, this probably won't mean anything. If you do, you'll know of what I am speaking.

Downtown Rahway is in the most awful shape it has ever been in my experience with it, which goes back over thirty years. I know enough of the story not to assign blame for the condition of the place when in fact there many specific somebodies one could blame & also nobody to blame. The current condition is perhaps temporary. Not so with what has irrecoverably changed.

Through decades of various states of struggle & even semi-decrepitude, downtown Rahway always retained a unique charm & attractiveness that was of the place, built into it. One could look at a photo of downtown Rahway from 100 years ago & feel at home in that picture. But to see it now is to know those qualities are forever gone & to realize that downtown Rahway will henceforth be ugly, in the sense that most Jersey downtowns are ugly, no matter what comes of it in the economic sense.

It is easy to live in Rahway & enjoy residing there without paying any attention to the downtown shopping district, which takes up only a fraction of the city's area. One might go downtown for the library, or to take care of a city hall matter, or use the post office, or see the Christmas Tree lighting, or catch a train at one end, or maybe go to the theater at the other end, & avoid it altogether the rest of the time. For a few years I lived about a 1/2 mile from downtown, worked in Woodbridge, & rarely ventured into the city center. When I moved to the edge of the downtown it became my neighborhood for a decade, I had a much closer relationship with it & saw the various social, economic & political energies that were at work & often competing with each other. None of the possibilities I expected actually happened. Downtown Rahway always seemed on the tipping point of some transformation that never occurred. What was occurring through market forces in the single home residential areas just didn't generate anything comparable downtown. This is very sad, because the downtown was reaching for something else for a long time. I have a pretty strong opinion on why this something else failed to happen, although the exact reasons elude me. It was a series of choices, events, business moves, risks & failures, even a fire or two, that slowly added up to the current desolation. On one hand, patience justifiably ran out among many business & property owners. On the other hand, there was not quite enough patience where it would have been beneficial to step back & resist tampering.

Ugliness alone has never dissuaded me from residing anywhere - for a start, New Jersey is generally unattractive; nearly all the good scenery is either blemished beyond repair or inaccessible on a daily basis. I lived in Linden for 12 years & I consider that entire city to be unredeemingly ugly, yet my street was somehow both pleasant & convenient. I lived in Butler & New Brunswick in the 70s, spent a lot of time in Atlantic City in the 60s, they were all ugly. My current address is ugly but if I walk two blocks I'm on a street I find quite appealing. In fact, the newer cul-de-sac suburbs spread out over former cow pastures & pinelands so highly desired by the middle-class are so ugly that I would never buy a home on them if I had the money to do so. I'd rather have a prefab tin box on a treeless street two blocks from the ocean. Anyway, most people who know of Rahway will always associate Rahway with a prison that's actually across the border in an ugly section of Woodbridge called Avenel. I'm more inclined to think of the two interesting rivers that run through it & meet where the tide stops, & I would recommend the city now for it's other virtues. But it has lost its truly original & historically pleasing downtown.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Meet Lordi, band representing Finland in the wildly popular Eurovision Song Contest. One of their hits is "Chainsaw Buffet." Celine Dion won it in 1988.

Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman at Common Dreams list the The Ten Worst Corporations of 2005, & why they are the worst. They had so many to choose from. I'd like someone to make a list of the ten worst governed towns in New Jersey. No large cities. Not even obvious smaller picks like Asbury Park & Plainfield. We know all about those. There are plenty of municipalities with lousy zoning boards, poorly managed finances, overt cronyism, shakey public safety departments, mediocre schools.

In my on-going project to clean the bathroom, waiting to see if the Drano Max Gel unclogs the sink, which has been draining slower & slower for months, & environmentally sound attempts to plunger it open have failed. [update: success!] The floors & walls have been scrubbed once over. They need a second. Also have to purchase an air-conditioner; it rarely gets really hot inside in the summer, I'm on a middle floor & have a ceiling fan, but like anywhere else in Jersey you gotta wring some humidity out of the air.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Congress readies broad new digital copyright bill:
For the last few years, a coalition of technology companies, academics and computer programmers has been trying to persuade Congress to scale back the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Now Congress is preparing to do precisely the opposite. A proposed copyright law seen by CNET would expand the DMCA's restrictions on software that can bypass copy protections and grant federal police more wiretapping and enforcement powers.
After reading about this craziness, one of my more thoughtful compatriots in the free form radio world could only write "What a bunch of fucking assholes. More bureaucracy, more useless tax spending, more people in jail for no reason whatsoever, fuck them all." Amen.

Oh well, maybe we're all destined for a chip-in-the-head I.D. & a long vacation at the Happy Jesus Family Resort. But a cold front blew through around sunset with gusty wind & dark clouds, all feint & no punch, & quite exciting to walk around in.

Waking up in the front seat

from Wandering Scribe, a blog by a homeless woman living in her car around London. She writes the blog on public library computers, showers in hospitals, manages to wear clean clothes & not look "homeless" & apparently lives an isolate existence, but with a large blog readership that includes other people in the same situation. She'll be alright, since she's becoming something of celebrity & that will bring her a good literary agent.
Woke late again this morning, and reluctantly. Drowsy and disorientated. Don’t know why but my head feels both heavy and light-headed the last few days, like a balloon, full of water. Very odd. Takes me a while to realise that the sun is beating down on the car and that the laneway is full of voices. Feel drenched in sweat, uncomfortably hot and itchy all over, my hair plastered to my head and nylon sleeping bag tangled around me. Lay there separating out all the children’s voices tumbling down the laneway towards me, from all the birdsong, before half-raising myself slowly and squinting out into the bright yellow light trying to locate the voices. A group of women, all of them in white t-shirts, with walking sticks and rucksacks and fleeces tied around their waists, are walking towards me from the top of the laneway. Children are everywhere, stamping and squealing. I wriggle back down into the sleeping bag pull the drawstring over my head, lay still and wait for them to pass. People always do, eventually, and I’m used to doing it now, especially these brighter mornings, and when I sleep late – which seems to be more and more these days. I wait for the voices to fade completely and then wash my teeth and face with the last of the bottle water, get dressed quickly and walk up into the trees to have breakfast: milk and oranges and triangles of cheese and a big stack of Fig Rolls, that leave me feeling bloated.
I came perilously close to homelessness in early 2004. My rent was more than my income at the time, & had at best been at least 50% of what I was netting from full time work during most of the 90s. Fortunately, I knew about the experienced social workers at Bridgeway House in Elizabeth, who had helped me through a rough period on an earlier occasion. My oldest brother was homelessduring 2004, despite being a Vietnam vet; his bizarre experience included going directly from from the homeless prevention program at the Lyons NJ V.A. hospital to a shelter in a Newark. Once he got into that vets program, I had assumed he was safe. I was very wrong. His story is sadly common.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Strolling around the park with a phone attached to your ear might be an enjoyable thing. But don't expect your bathroom scale to notice the activity.

I purchased a tunafish burrito wrap, & the tunafish was pretty good. But I forget that a "soft" burrito has the globby texture of uncooked dough, it has little merit as food, none at all compared to good rye bread or a deli roll. Ended up scraping out all the tunafish with a spoon, & that made for a pretty disappointing supper.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Today is Easter for several hundred million Christians of the various Eastern & Coptic Churches. The other day I finally stepped inside the gold domed Russian Orthodox Church of SS. Peter and Paul, just around the corner, not large but still impressive sanctuary, an entire wall behind the altar covered floor to ceiling with icons. The elderly pastor of this church has served there for nearly 40 years. On warm evenings he sits on a folding chair outside the rectory / church center.

Today is also my friend Gail's 51st birthday. Fortunately, she's spending it with her parents & friends in Florida, traveled down there from MA a few weeks ago, her sister came from Montana. I have to wait until she returns home to send her a present, just as well since I haven't yet decided on a gift worthy of the occasion.

The weekend was pretty much a washout, but it's been so dry for several months & the weather so marvelous this past week,& it's still April.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

what is the mountain god like?

Happy Earth Day

from your Northern Spring Peeper

Gazing at the Sacred Peak
by Tu Fu (712-770)

For all this, what is the mountain god like?
An unending green of lands north and south:
From ethereal beauty Creation distills
There, yin and yang split dusk and dawn.

Swelling clouds sweep by. Returning birds
Ruin my eyes vanishing. One day soon,
At the summit, the other mountains will be
Small enough to hold, all in a single glance.

Friday, April 21, 2006

That geezer can still play!

Yesterday, Julio Franco at age 47 became the oldest major league player to hit a home run, an 8th inning two run pinch hit shot for the Mets in a comefrombehind win over the Padres. Julio was born on Aug 23, 1958, & came up to the big leagues in 1982.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

High School Madness

RIVERTON, Kan. - Five teenage boys accused of plotting a shooting rampage at their high school on the anniversary of the Columbine massacre were arrested Thursday after a message authorities said warned of a gun attack appeared on the Web site

Sheriff's deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one suspect, Sheriff Steve Norman said. Authorities also found documents about firearms and references to Armageddon in two suspects' school lockers.

There was a similar but less advanced plot afoot in a south Jersey school last month. There have always been teenagers with private neofascist death obsessions; in the 70s, after a suburban Jersey kid murdered his parents, a secret stash of Nazi paraphernalia was found in his bedroom.

My small town high school didn't have much of an academic, economic, or athletic elite. We had snobs & cliques, but they didn't rule the place. I was aware even in the 60s that a lot of other high schools had really oppressive social stratifications. As a 110 pound high school freshman I was partially under the protection of my older sister's reputation. Her social circle included a number of varsity football players & wrestlers, genuine tough guys who had to shave every day & who didn't have a psychologcal need to be bullies. But I wasn't a pushover. Despite a stutter I was a glib talker. Also, for the first two years of high school I was a three season sports participant; even when you're not good you get a modicum of respect just for doing it, you'll never be considered a nerd, & I made some locker room alliances that served me well later when my interests switched to the school newspaper & skateboarding. I figured this out from watching my oldest brother safely navigate four years of high school with only modest athletic skills & an indifference to rock & roll.

So I was only afraid of several of the most borderline psychotic students, boys who combined exceptional ignorance with a deep, generalized rage. These were guys who would usually accost you when you were alone, or reach out of a crowd & attack you in a semi-anonymous way. Upsetting as it could be, you know you're just the temporary focus of their animosity. However, late in my junior year, one crazy kid did concentrate on me in gym class for reasons I could not fully fathom. When we were on the same side for a softball game, I hit an infield fly out that left him stranded on third to lose the game. No big deal to anyone else. But my failure infuriated him. Since the gym teacher was already halfway back to the locker room, the sociopathic runt stalked over as if to punch me out. What he didn't realize was that two tall guys I knew from cross-country & later skateboarding the same street every evening were in that class. They saved my ass. To break up a fight that hadn't even begun (I'd run before I'd fight), one grabbed me loosely around the waist leaving my arms free, while the other took the crazy kid in a bear hug from behind, pinning his arms - an arrangement deliberately in my favor - & this was out-of-character for me since I was known outside my family as an amicable person - but I was myself in a sort of crazed hypnotic state - I took the opportunity to pop the psycho twice in the nose, drawing blood. Up to that point in my life I thought you needed special skills to do that. Hearing the ruckus (mostly shouts of "Go Rix! Go Rix!"), the teacher turned & yelled at us to cut it out. I was released, so was the nutcase, but in a way that dropped him in the dirt. He jumped up screaming "I'll kill you mothafuckas!" which of course one did not take literally in that era. In an unfixed fight this kid, about my size, would have destroyed me. But although he glared at me in the hallways from then on, his paranoia planted in his mind the thought that I might be setting him up.

As for those two skateboarders, when I became Editor-in-Chief of the paper the following year (a position I didn't deserve but got anyway), I gave them the "Student Car of the Month" feature, a plum assignment.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Handmaid in Texas

Special to the Express-News

An open letter from Margaret Atwood to the Judson Independent School District:

First, I would like to thank those who have dedicated themselves so energetically to banning my novel, "The Handmaid's Tale." It's encouraging to know the written word is still taken so seriously.

That thought aside, I would like to congratulate the students, parents and teachers who have supported the use of my book in Advanced Placement courses. They have aligned themselves against the censors, book-banners and book-burners throughout the ages and have stood up for open discussion and a free expression of opinion — which, last time I looked, was still the American way, though that way is under pressure.

I would also like the comment on the objections to the book that have been made (there's more].

Nothing important is changing. Scott McClellan will get his huge book advance & by November be a familiar asshole talking head on TV. Karl Rove just needs more time for shoveling his shit into the '06 elections. A politician admits making mistakes not by admiting the mistakes but by bringing new people with fresh approaches & ideas into the inner circle & listening to them. Bush doesn't believe he's made any mistakes warranting that higher level of reassessment (God won't let him seriously err). For George, there's no problem with the Cheney/Bush junta that can't be solved by manipulating the press, suppressing political dissent, defaming Democrats, keeping (or not keeping) secrets better, & if necessary, reasserting himself as a War President by having another war.

Chatting with a conservative friend last week - someone who bitched unceasingly all the way through the Clinton years (don't they look good now? Not to her. ) - she began griping about how the "nuclear option" toward Iran was a liberal fantasy. But she stopped, mostly because we differ hugely on every political issues & it'sall I can do to keep from asking "Is there anything Bill O'Reilly says that you don't believe 100%?" But it's bizarre how someone who has basically "won" - all three parts of national government are controlled by the people she wants controling them - still isn't satisfied, & maybe won't be until she goes into a voting booth & there's no Democrats on the ballot at all, & if there's any choices at all they're between nut job right wing Repugs & insanely right wing third party candidates, & until she turns on the TV & never sees or hears even a moderate opinion expressed, much less Al Franken (who I consider touchingly old-fashioned, decent & reasonable).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Happy Birthday

3 years ago I started this blog. Why?
Maybe if I just copied & pasted political news & commentary
I'd get a big audience.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Yesterday, perfect weather, I sunned myself at Phil Rizzuto playground park. You have to sun yourself because there's no shade. In the summer I avoid the place until shadows are very long. Not only it is wide open, it's bordered by two busy roads & is across the street from acres of Kean University asphalt parking lot. The kids don't seem to mind the heat, anyway there's a spray fountain on those days - sea horses spit water. In honor of the Hall 0f Fame Yankee shortstop there's giant baseballs & bats at the entrance but no baseball diamond. It has a soccer field, which looks like it's supposed to be low maintenance but if they want a good soccer field they'll have to work on it better or nobody who would treat it right will want to use it. The best place there is a bridge over a glen - it's just a small urban creek not going far, about 5 feet down in a wide ditch with eroded banks, a spread of yellow flowers growing in it, little stretch of wildness. Some days the sound of the playground is musical to me, other days it annoys, or i don't notice.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Saturday, April 15, 2006

"Racing In The Streets"

I heard Bruce Springsteen's "Racing In the Streets" twice this week, which was two times too many. I appreciate & enjoy a lot of Springsteen's music but this one seems to contain & sum up just about everything I don't like; the funereal moroseness signifying a statement; the stolen hooks displayed like museum artifacts; his indifference toward original melody or even tweaking the generic phrases he uses; his "acting" of a narrative that reveals a debt to Broadway musicals; the faceless fictional working class woman whose "dreams are torn" (no clear reason given), so after "rumbling through the promised land" they need to "wash these sins off our hands," presumably by driving to Asbury Park for a late night dip. That's still his idea of strong religious imagery. His fans love this stuff so much that Springsteen's been recycling the various parts of the same old gas guzzler for over 30 years. In fact, it's more central than ever to his schtick. But its charm evades me completely.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Consummatum est!

Good Friday was a religious nonevent in my childhood home. Our Catholic gramma-in-residence went to Mass but otherwise kept to herself on the matter. The most strictly traditionalist Catholic families in my town hung black drapes, & some R.C. kids reported a day of enforced silence, no TV, & a Lenten supper of the meanest ingredients & proportions of edible to inedible.. All observant Catholics took the day most seriously, & still do. Of course, these sacrifices, minor compared to being nailed to a cross, were made good on Sunday with a feast of ham & chocolate bunnies, & much much more in Italian homes. But Good Friday was the only totally dreary day on the Catholic religious calendar. (I didn't know any conservative Lutherans.)

Most protestant churches of that era in the 1950s deliberately avoided anything resembling latinate Roman Catholic or even "High church" Episcopalian practices. At my Methodist church, Holy Communion was reduced to a metaphorical exercise twice-removed from Catholicism. Not only was there no mysterious transubstantiation of wine & unleavened wafer into Christ's blood & body, we got little individual shot glasses of purple grape juice & tiny cubes of white bread. Hardly anyone treated it as something of central importance in congregational life comparable to, say, the annual smorgasbord, which drew a sellout crowd. This has all changed considerably over the years - some Methodists even do Ash Wednesday forehead smudging now. I give much of the credit for this relaxing of sectarian border defenses to the late great Pope John XXIII, a genuinely ecumenical soul who handed important parts of the church back to the people in the pews, made it clear that he loved everyone including American Methodists, & whose priceless legacy is under grievous threat from reactionaries inside & outside his Church. It may not be a coincidence that our only Catholic President was elected while Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli occupied the Big Chair at the Vatican.

So if you honor Good Friday as a necessarily sad day, you'll understand when I observe that while today in New Jersey also features an overcast sky & April showers, both the meteorological & spiritual forecasts for Sunday expect abundant sunshine with temps in the middle sixties.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Moldy Thursday...

...we called it as kids. About 80 F here, tee shirt day, what better way to enjoy it than walking around to buy a bike inner tube & a bathroom plunger. A restaurant in the predominantly South American shopping area nearby has floor to ceiling windows all across the front that fold open, turning the place into a shaded outdoor cafe. Pricey for food, but the counter in there is calling for me to have a iced something or other. It's two long blocks, few vacancies, packed with cafes, small hair salons, a bank, real estate offices, doctors, dentists, & multi-purpose businesses catering to immigrant needs - tax accounting, bill paying, faxing, & general orientation; these mostly seem to be run by educated women who also act as counselors & fixers-of-problems. Very middle working class, & very busy on weekends. Although there's a lot of apartment buildings in the immediate vicinity, this is a predominently hispanic neighborhood of one & two family homes, but there's a lot of Caribbean people, too. I'm getting a high regard for these immigrants & children of immigrants that I hadn't considered until the debate made front page.Within only the two years I've been here, rising property values & house renovations have suppressed much of the local street action, with its evidence of drug use & sales. This particular corner will always struggle, but it's really quieted down. The owner of my building - he bought the place just before I moved in - put a super in Apt 1, brought in a monthly exterminator, finally installed a small laundry room, & levers problem tenants out - we had some druggies for awhile. To him, I'm ideal. I'm quiet, pay my rent on time, & get along with my neighbors. All of those became huge problems over the final 4 years in my previous abode, but when I leave here, I'm making certain that I go with solid reference.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I admit I've been an ass

On Sunday around 11:30 pm I phoned my friend Edie & fessed up to being an ass for the past year plus. She didn't dispute this, neither did she lecture me or rub it in. She was just very glad to hear from me. "It's Palm Sunday & I happened to be thinking about asses. I would've called you at 3 am if that's the hour it hit me that I absolutely had to stop being an ass." To Edie, this is a compliment. She believes a long friendship is worth a call anytime or day or night to make a reconciliation. This is a person who twice delivered me to Robert Wood Johnson hospital in New Brunswick at six am for scheduled eye surgeries, & that was no more a natural hour for her than it was for me. I don't think I've ever done anything comparable for her. For over two decades, I mined her insider fan's knowledge of jazz & of what's called "The Great American Songbook" & directly applied what I learned to WFMU programs. There are probably three dozen poets, musicians & artists who have leaned heavily on Edie at one time or another for support during periods of great emotional stress. After a particularly beloved girlfriend left me ten years ago this spring, I was over at Edie's house several nights a week for many weeks from about 10 to after-midnight mostly just watching sitcom reruns, chatting about music & books, & drinking decaf she brewed in an unpredictable electric percolator: When that one finally fritzed out she bought a new equally bipolar machine. During my long periods of reclusive behavior, she refused to abandon me; the occasional letter, postcard, phone message continued to show up. Because Edie doesn't go online, it's impossible for anyone to substitute e mails for genuine human voice contact or a sheet of real paper. I realized a long time ago that Edie's daughter was a very desirable woman & I would've made a play for her if I'd had a skilled trade & a pickup truck, & known how to use power tools. But if I had those I probably wouldn't have met Edie.

A great list

National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, "A bill to establish the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress to maintain and preserve sound recordings and collections of sound recordings that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant, and for other purposes." This year's Registry list of fifty recordings was just announced. It includes: “Crazy Blues,” Mamie Smith (1920); First official transatlantic telephone conversation (Jan. 7, 1927); “Wabash Cannonball,” Roy Acuff (1936); "In the Mood." Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. (1939):The Fred Allen Show”(Radio broadcast of Oct. 7, 1945); That’ll Be the Day,” Buddy Holly (1957); "We're Only in It for the Money," Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (1968); The old fog horn, Kewaunee, Wis., recorded by James A. Lipsky (1972);"Daydream Nation," Sonic Youth (1988).

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Paul Loves Phyllis. Yuck.

What the hell is with Paul Mulshine? This conservative Star-Ledger columnist formerly possessed of a libertarian streak I could respect has fallen in love with Phyllis Schlafly. Don't know Phyllis Schlafly? You can wander over to her Eagle Forum site & check out her views on creationism, the "War on Christians," feminism, abortion rights, homosexuals, guvmint "censorship" (not to be confused with Nat Hentoff's view), etc. Or try Vision America for her current uber-rightist collaboration (Support your authorized "patriot pastor" church this Sunday! ). If you dig a bit, I'm sure you can find her old opinions on the civil rights movement (she was for, ah, states rights was the polite term). I don't want to believe Mulshine thinks Schlafly is some sort of conservative icon worthy of sharing the altar he reserves for Barry Goldwater & Ronald Reagan, a Mary for Moses & Jesus, that he's smitten because she or one of her flying monkeys returns his phone calls. Sure, Phyllis Schlafly supports Paul's desire for mining the Mexican border. She might even endorse his dream of repealing any municipal law that prevents his surfing the big ones in a hurricane, a worthy fastasy, but of course never on Sunday if a town's Christian patriarchs so decree. Ocean Grove, tear down this wall. Lose her now, Paul, or you'll end up so far out in the nasty nutball corner with the spiritually & politically demented protestant theocrats that you'll write yourself off your big city op/ed page & into a full-immersion re-baptism on a rural Kansas weekly.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Come fly with me

It's one thing to dream about Frank Sinatra, much more freaky to dream that I am Frank Sinatra. For this dream, inventing a huge hotel/casino to wander around in, not in a city, with endless anonymous hallways, elevators with uniformed operators (do I tip them?), gift shops, strange magazine stands, even a big wedding reception in one of the banquet rooms. & I, Frank Sinatra, not even resembling Frank in my dream much less possessed of his voice, confidence, entourage or penthouse suite, wandering around after my show wondering where the hell my room is, & if I have a late or early checkout. & I constructed this edifice out of one visit six years ago to Caesar's in Atlantic City? Poet Jim Cohn suggested to me a while back that it would be interesting, possibly instructive, to talk with some of the dream inhabitants. But this requires a lucidity I didn't have last night. Because I couldn't believe I was who I seemed to be. Had I said to myself, in the dream,"OK, you're Frank, what would Frank do? Demand better accomodations! Crash the wedding! Smack a broad!" then it would have played out differently.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Lake Mohawk NJ

This week's Carnival of NJ Bloggers is hosted by DynamoBuzz.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

How I got cultured

So how does one get culture if one isn't raised in it? By culture I mean broadening one's tastes in fine arts. There's also the culture of, say, The NJ State Council On the Arts, for which a man is permitted a well-groomed beard but must purchase a new tuxedo every few years to wear at receptions, galas, & benefits. One has to have & nurture two qualities: natural curiosity, & a willingness to force feed oneself with unfamiliar art & music. It's like people who love to travel; they're always looking for new places to go. I'm especially that way with music.

I "naturally" encountered only two kinds of music of a kid, top 40 radio & movie music. As a teenager, I collected movie & TV soundtrack LPs. Those set my ears up for turgid late romantic classical music (Ben Hur etc.) & big band jazz (Peter Gunn, Man With the Golden Arm), & some American classical (The Magnificent Seven). My oldest brother had a small but very diverse record collection that included early whiz zap bing syntheziser music, Thelonius Monk, "The Planets" by Gustav Holst - which sounded great played very loud; he had Phase Four "Pass In Review" albums, which were parades marching in stereo from one speaker to another, very odd - different kinds of bands plus entire armies of soldiers. But my family was really artless middle class. We all got piano lessons if we wanted them - a left over from an earlier parlor era when someone in every family could perform an intermediate level classical piece after Sunday dinner & play most any four part arrangement from a hymnbook. My grandmother knew by heart a wonderful version of "I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover" but I can't recall her playing anything else.

I think what most drove my desire to learn more about music was wanting know why I liked certain chord progressions or phrases much more than others - there was a code to be cracked, & to find more bits of music that pleasurable. Many people get this sensation, it's what a lot of music intends, so they spend the rest of their lives looking for & listening to those same few sorts of things that give them the same old thrill without needing to know how the machine works. Later in life they are quick to tell you all the kinds of music they hate. I remember, in my 30s, getting hold of the piano sheet music to the "Theme from Mr. Lucky," which I loved as a kid, & finally playing the last 8 measures, which I loved most of all, & seeing how Henry Mancini brilliantly yet simply ended the lovely but peculiar tune. I'd never been able to figure it out by ear, listening to the record.

What I'm trying to say here is that if you don't feel that there are entire worlds of music & art that are unknown to you but which can be known & enjoyed, you'll never get to them. They don't just come to you. To use but one example, Beethoven composed 9 symphonies & if you want to know them you have to listen to them, many times. & if they seem strange, even impenetrable in many parts, you have to listen to them until they are as familiar in their way as some pop song. Although the difference is that a Beethoven symphony never quite gives you everything it has to give, is never performed the same way twice except on a specific recording, even so you never hear it the same way twice, & that's why when you grow to love them you keep going back to them. You go to live performances. You develop opinions. & a lot of music really is crap that gets shoved into your ears, & people consume it & think it's terrific. I didn't really listen to Beethoven until I was 19 years old. which was the same year I first heard Balinese gamelan music. & the year I fell for an electronic music work, "I of IV" by Pauline Oliveros. & the same year I tried to get at John Coltrane - he had died the year before. I was working in a great record store, & in the midst of all that music, & staff & customers more expert in their genres than I'll ever be, since I spread myself across so many, I understood that to really appreciate new countries I might have to struggle with new languages & unfamiliar customs. & that's how you get culture.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Think you know Muzak? Lengthy article in the New Yorker, THE SOUNDTRACK OF YOUR LIFE Muzak in the realm of retail theatre by David Owen, what Muzak is now & how it got where it is.

In looking at the Christian political right, it's very important to know that conservative religious beliefs don't necessarily - or even logically - extend themselves into reactionary politics. Two sites that provide insight into the finest of all cultural values, the Culture of Peace, as it is experienced & nurtured by Christian communities in the United States. Pax Christi USA is connected to a movement created by French Roman Catholics in 1945. Just think about their situation at that time. The movement soon included Germans. It is a more pressing spiritual test to be defeated & conquered & than to be the conquerer, because there is despair & cynicism. With trumph comes arrogance, & an arrogant people believe victory means they have passed the test. This organization does not stand on radical theology. The other site is for a small college in Harrisonburg, Virginia, a couple hours north in the Shenandoah Valley from Lynchburg & Liberty University. Eastern Mennonite University is also a Baptist school - Mennonite anabaptist. It appears to be a nice place. Weekly chapel is mandatory, students have to sign a "lifestyle pledge," but the coffeehouse stays open to 2 am on weekends. The campus has a Center for Justice & Peacebuilding. The school also hosts the Shenandoah Bach Festival. Division III athletics.

Half-following the death-penalty case against Zacarias Moussaoui. Only the possibility that his guy is a real mental case keeps me from regarding him completely as human garbage. But he is a scapegoat, a stand-in for Osama, for the suicide pilots, for the intelligence failures he represents. When Rudy Giuliani testified this week, WCBS newsradio in New York called him "America's Mayor" as if that were a matter-of-fact rather than a campaign phrase. We tend to forget that Giuliani was a divisive, combative mayor, with an inner circle of cronies, & 9/11 not only made him a national political celebrity, his handling of that horrible time - & that he directly & closely experienced it as happened - probably saved his rep in New York City. If he were now obviously out of elective politics & behaving as a wise statesman, it'd be ok to call him "America's Mayor." Since he is running for [vice] president he'll also have to explain to Focus on Family why he sought sanctuary with two trusted old friends - a gay couple - on those nights when he was spending his days in & around the smoldering ruins.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

House arrest

I must express my admiration & sympathy for Lewis, the so-called "Terrorist of Sunset Circle".This 5-year-old, black-and-white longhaired cat allegedly attacked at least a half-dozen people on a cul-de-sac in Fairfield CT, including the local Avon lady. At first, a restraining order was put on Lewis & he was expected to take Prozac. When the feline wisely refused to eat the meds, the court banished him to his house.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Punked for The Clash

Read this story in the British paper Sun.
A passenger was hauled off a jet as a suspected terrorist - because he sang a song by The Clash during a taxi ride.

The cabbie rang cops after Harraj Mann belted out London Calling.

Harraj, 24, is the SECOND man to be quizzed because of lyrics written by the punk band

...The London Calling hit warns that "war is declared and battle come down".

The cabbie rang cops as Harraj boarded his plane at Durham Tees Valley Airport for a flight to Heathrow.

Mobile phone salesman Harraj - who was questioned for three hours and had to catch a later flight - said: "The taxi had a tape deck where you can plug in your MP3 player.

"I played London Calling and sang along before finishing up with the Beatles.

"After I got on the flight, two men in suits came on.

"I got frogmarched off the plane in front of everyone and had my bags searched."
It is England, but we have The Patriot Act. So I immediately contacted The Contrarian, who travels on Amtrak & whose taste in punk runs considerably beyond The Clash. & made a mental note never to sing Patti Smith's Ask The Angels on the PATH to Jersey City.
"Across the country through the fields
You know I see it written 'cross the sky
People rising from the highway
And war war is the battle cry
And it's wild wild wild wild."
But I suppose in Cheney/Bush America that just sounds rapturously patriotic.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

photo quiz

A. The slimeball even junior varsity cheerleaders refused to date.
B. A jerk you invited over for street hockey just so you could slapshot his nuts.
C. A pretender who quit the team the same day the yearbook went to the printers.
D. Tom DeLay.

"Politics is a little cleaner today. Not a lot, maybe not even enough for folks to notice, but it is indeed just a little bit cleaner, now that he's gone." William Rivers Pitt

Monday, April 03, 2006

Jackie McLean died at age 74. Started out as a disciple of Charlie Parker who made Bird's language his own. Overcame drug addiction & went on to a long career as an esteemed music teacher. He embraced all music & refuted categories & borders. Google him.

Thunderstorms: Something to watch on the online animated radar.

So what was actually proved by George Mason University (which is not a really small school) making to the NCAA Final Four? That in the end one of two huge programs using mercenary freshman & sophomores ultimately prevails. I think the NCAA made a case for following the NIT if one really loves college hoops.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Anchor Motel

This week's Carnival of NJ Bloggers is hosted at The Old Fox's Den.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Non-adventures in supermarketing

I enjoy food shopping. It's a luxury of people without children. I'm good at it, because I can be adaptable. I don't need to plan ahead. Even as a child I liked it. I think my mom liked shopping, too. She went to the Acme every Friday right after supper. I usually went along. She got me back in time for Rin Tin Tin, which was incentive for me to let her do the job. I wasn't a grabby child. I knew the futility of putting a box of Frosted Flakes in the shopping cart. Sometimes I got a little toy in a plastic egg from the machine by the door. I was more the kind of kid who made people nervous by staring at them. Mom might meet some other mom in one of the aisles, light up a Raleigh & chat for a few minutes while I stared at the strange lady. Or I'd wander away & stare at other people. Parents didn't worry back then about children being abducted in an Acme. For me, it was quality time with mom. I'd ask her pointless questions & she'd do her best to answer. What's the difference between Nestle's Quik & Ovaltine? How come you sniff & squeeze melons & not celery? Can I sleep in my underwear?She'd pick out a roast & the butcher would trim it right there on his counter, whacking at it. She always knew the butcher's name. I'd stare at him. I'd stare at the deli person slicing the cold cuts. I'd stare at the cashier. Strange little boy you got there, Maizie (yup, mom's name).

Today's trip to the supermarket looked to be pleasant & uneventful. Lovely spring evening. I walked the long way, nice old suburban streets, budding trees, weather front coming through & the skies changing along the way. Over to Elmora Ave. & past the Jewish Center as Sabbath ended with the sunset.

What's this? Tree Ripe orange juice on sale, but look what they did: slimmed the container, called it a "New Easy Pour" size, 59 ounces instead of 64. Hah. Like when a pound of coffee stopped being a pound. There was a mass checkout by nearly every customer in the store. I realized it was an "end of the line" situation. Which means that if you get on the end of the line, stand in it for 15 minutes, by the time you reach the cashier you'll still be at the end of the line. So spend a few minutes exploring the store & come back. Cheap DVDs, "Scooby Doo On zombie Island." Examine some unfamiliar items in frozen foods. When I got back to the checkout the lines were shorter & I picked one behind a couple who were going to spend Saturday & Sunday eating cheese doodles, cookies, & ice cream washed down with several gallons of fruit punch. He was large, disheveled, in a need of a shave. The Saturday look. She was somewhat smaller. They had a lot of other stuff, including real food. Over $100 worth. All into plastic bags & into their cart. The guy swiped his credit card. The machine rejected it. "I just used this card over there to make sure it worked," he exclaimed, waving at one of the self serve checkouts & holding up a plastic bag with stuff in it. He swiped again. Rejected again. He was embarrassed. I felt for him. But there was only one other person in the line behind me, a man with three bottles of Coke. The head cashier came over. She told the cashier to do this & that. Somehow they figured out the credit card was worth $50 of food. The supervisor came over. The man began pulling items out of the bags & the cashier scanned them one by one, deducting from the bill. Cheese doodles, ice cream, punch, cookies, bread (whole wheat & white). Bottled water. Checkout in reverse. Rice-a-Roni. Filling up another cart to be returned to shelves. A can of crackers - you get that for the can. I briefly had a girlfriend who was hypotized by packaging; me then: Alicia, it's only ordinary cooked corn in a fancy jar with a rustic label. Her later: Oh, he's cute in those baggy WFMU tee shirts but you'll soon find out how fucked up he really is. I watched the screen as the total went down, red item by red item. It passed $90. $80, $70, $60. At last, $50. Stop! $48.79. The register whirred, out popped a new receipt. He signs it. The couple quickly exit with, as best I could tell, food that might actually be good for them. Away go the head cashier & supervisor. How long all this took I do not know. A long time. I was rung up in 2 minutes, debit, including ten bucks cashback. I took my plastic bags over by the front window & repacked everything into my knapsack. It all fit, with loaf of Italian bread sticking out the top. A young woman ran her cart over my foot. It didn't hurt, but it sounded like it did. "Oh, I'm very very sorry." OK. As I left the store, one of the cashiers was leafing through a magazine, waiting for a customer. I stared at her.

"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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