Friday, June 30, 2006

Gotta feel for people who get flooded. Not so much for people who insist on living as "river rats" & are basically gambling with their property, but for those in areas where floods have been historically uncommon, yet were just hit again before they'd even recovered from the previous deluge. My apartment building in Rahway NJ flooded twice in three years. I was on the second floor. It began as trickle into the parking lot & within minutes became a torrent, collapsing a retaining wall next to the river. Less than a foot of water got into the first floor, but it ruined the carpets, furniture & wall molding, & left a layer of stinky sticky mud. The water was upstream road runoff. Both of those floods damaged the library; the second ruined it permanently. Fortunately, the other branch of the Rahway River has a flood zone next to it through most of the city, & the Army Corps of engineers built huge levees downtown after some devastating floods in the 1950s. In the 90s, the city condemned & bought a few remaining flood prone houses on that branch, tore them down & replaced them with - empty land. All Jersey communities along the lower reaches of rivers & streams just have to take whatever garbage & toxic ingredients heavy rains bring downstream.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

How many years since Stonewall?

"Conversion therapist" Richard Cohen demonstrating how he "cures" homosexuality.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The flag is a secular symbol

Senator Menendez (D-NJ) voted for the flag desecration amendment because "the flag is a sacred symbol that transcends politics and personality." Now it'll transcend becoming a campaign issue. I won't dispute his belief, hundreds of thousands have sacrificed their lives for what the flag symbolizes in wars that Augustine of Hippo would have considered just. But in the United States we must be free to use even a "sacred symbol" as a object of dissent, however distasteful that act of dissent may be to the majority of Americans, including myself. I dislike protest burning of symbols & effigies generally. It reminds me of Nazi book burnings, & angry preachers inviting kids to melt Elvis & Beatles records. The Ku Klux Klan is free to burn the Cross of Jesus Christ. An artist has the right to immerse a cross in a bucket of urine. One can tear up a copy of the Quran or the Bible in public in the United States if one is willing to take that risk. If we must speak of our flag as a religious symbol in order to proscribe the burning of it, we are in a dangerous place. This is not a "flag" issue; how many flag desecrations within our borders have we seen lately? For me, it's a free speech issue. But it's emotionally manipulated as a patriotic & religious matter by the right wing to divide people otherwise in basic agreement on showing respect for the flag.

On Sunday night at WFMU I was unable to play many of the strongest songs off the CD rerelease of poet Allen Ginsberg's "First Blues" - unless I trusted a fast & accurate edit finger on the control board. Two decades ago I could air just about anything by Allen if I prefaced it with a language disclaimer.

Chuck Currie posted Barack Obama's major speech on religion & diversity at the Call to Action Conference in Washington DC.

six dollar shirt
& ten dollar hat
bets like that

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Arif Mardin

To get any sense of Arif Mardin's extraordinary career as a music producer & arranger one has to look at his current All Music Guide discography of recordings that have made it to the CD era. He starts off with now-classic jazz sessions by David "Fathead" Newman, Sonny Stitt & Mose Allison, gets a #1 hit with "Good Lovin'" by The Young Rascals, produces Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin ("Aretha Arrives") & "Dusty In Memphis," moves on to Brook Benton ("A Rainy Night in Georgia"), John Prine, Willie Nelson ("Shotgun Willie"), Donny Hathaway, Rod Stewart, & The Bee Gees ("Jive Talkin'"). There's seven pages, much of it compilations & anthologies, extending all the way to new recordings with Norah Jones & Dianne Reeves over the past few years.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

sunday / monday

Not my favorite late night for walking home from the train station. I get especially anxious when PATH is running all the trains on a single track & I'm on the lonesome Exchange Place platform & watching the clock & would really like to catch the 12:59 am not the 1:54 out of Newark. The trains had a peculiar mix of passengers; gays, lesbians, rappers, exhausted weekenders, drunks, & some large religious event crowded my car at Journal Square. But in Elizabeth, few people headed off in my direction, & something about the heavy, humid air made the night feel a bit ominous. The bars had closed early but the new cafe was cranking out loud Latin music, all the folding floor-to-ceiling windows wide open, I'd hate living on that block now. I skipped supper, all I felt like eating when I got home was vanilla ice cream. I cued up the wrong long record cut to start the radio show & immediately thought, oh it's that kind of night, which made me up opt for more long things - less chance for screwups. Even so, there were a few, & some of the artists & titles tangled my tongue.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Highlands NJ

Hotel Martin, Highlands NJ

This hotel looks slightly familiar. Perhaps it survived into my time.

Filling in on WFMU for Stochastic Hit Parade at 9 pm tonight. Noisy.

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

I may be crazy but I'm not a novelist

I've never seriously considered authoring a "grownup" novel. I'm not compelled to write a novel at all; compulsion is cause to write a wordy thing that by the odds won't get into print & by the odds will fail to attract any attention if it does. You can fill a library with last year's fiction remainders & never spend more than $3.98 on any one of them. I have carried around ideas for two short novels for a long time. One was originally inspired by a wonderful & wise book "The Crock of Gold" by Irishman James Stephens, which draws on the Celtic belief in other worlds & beings occupying the same approximate space but not quite the same dimensions as us, although doors between the worlds constantly open & close, & children think nothing of conversing with cows, & cows chat with the flies on their noses. I forget who gave me this book; I loaned it to someone who kept it but probably didn't read it. When you loan a book, chances are you'll never see it again.

For my novel I'd have created a Celtic-pagan supernatural scheme about a conflict that's been going on between good & bad clans since who knows when, bring it to contemporary America, where some families tried to forget about it & others passed on the knowledge & traditions. Two college students, descendents of good clans, put themselves in great danger when they set these ancient forces in motion by falling in love, because of their positions in their own families - she's an oldest sibling & he's a youngest. These matches used to be arranged. The young woman is wise to this history, the young man is completely unaware, then incredulous. She has to quickly convince him & teach him what he needs to know to protect himself.

The magical powers are limited, & like a new language are more difficult to learn when you're older. They involve some sixth sense & the creation of subtle illusion, such as the use of "blarney" - Irish sweet talk - as hypnotic sound, which is how she attracted him in the first place, in a casual conversation at a coffeehouse. With this magic you couldn't make things move or levitate but you could make people think they have, like rustling leaves in a tree on a breezeless day. It might have been a nice coming-of-age story for middle schoolers, centering on an adolescent romance between two college freshmen, but the Harry Potter books upped the level of action & detail far beyond what I had in mind. I imagined a kind of poetic magic that had to be applied in creative, timely & virtually invisible ways. That is, battles could happen in public places with no one but the participants aware of what was going on.

The "good" characters, who at first aren't sure who's trying to hurt them or even why, know they might be tricked into walking in front of moving bus - one's life becomes a series of accidents waiting to happen. In the end, all is settled but nothing fully won or lost. Balance is temporarily restored. The young lovers of course part. But there's an possibility for a sequel. I loosely outlined this novel in a steno notebook almost 20 years ago, realizing that my knowledge of Celtic culture, myth & language was inadequate for the task. Still is. I wouldn't be at all surprised if my novel already exists. Stories are like melodies.


Friday, June 23, 2006

detoured into the land of make-believe

How sad to see Al Gore on Letterman & be reminded that a great tragedy occurred when the Presidency was stolen from him. I thought then maybe we'd muddle through a few years of George W. Bush. But it turned out so much worse. 9/11, "war on terrorism," the environment, human rights, Katrina, America would have been incalculably better off with Gore in the Oval Office.

We must be grateful to the Feds for listening in on our phone calls, monitoring our internet usage, spying on our bank accounts, cutting forty-million from New York City's security funding, then with great fanfare demonstrating that the F.B.I. can nab an alleged terrorist group operating so suspiciously in plain sight that everyone in the Liberty City section of Miami knew they were screwball militarists. & note that even in the fantasies of which the leader of the group is accused of expressing, he wasn't going to blow up anything in Wyoming. CSI: Miami writers are already at work adding some meat to the plot so Horatio Caine & Eric Delko can waste these guys as soon as they've finished killing someone in Brazil. As Lt. Caine said, "We are being detoured into the land of make-believe."


Thursday, June 22, 2006

What can unite right wing Jews & Muslims & bring peace to the Mideast? Their mutual bigotry against homosexuals, of course. There's no point killing each other over a few square miles of Palestine when "traditional values" are at risk & gay enemies are free to run loose in the holy land. (thanx to Pam for this bizarre story)

Here's a scam that was doomed to fail. To raise some money, a Missouri couple spread it around that they had critically ill sextuplets in the hospital whose existence was being kept secret by court order because a family member was out to kill them. It tests the credulity of even gullible neighborhood saints. Still, that kind of news would tend to get around regardless of court orders. I don't understand why they thought they'd make much money out of the con. They got some. But that's the sort of situation people love to respond to with practical charity. Cash? Keep what you have. We collected for you a truckload of Pampers, two dozen cases of strained green peas, a pile of dangly noisy Fisher Price doodads, six cribs, & the hardware store wants to know how many gallons of blue & pink paint you need. You understand we can't give you the Chevy Tahoe until we can take photos of the babies crawling around in it. Oh, & here's a $50 gift certificate from Domino's pizza. Yeah, try unloading all that at a local flea market without arousing suspicion.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Solstice

It seems fitting that fireflies emerge around summer solstice. Today Persephone reaches the upward limit of her annual roundtrip between Hades in the underworld & her mother Demeter in the world illuminated by Helios. A good day to eat a pomegranate in honor of the goddess - well, maybe only drink the juice; for some reason, Hades was able to make Persephone his queen by tricking her into eating six pomegranate seeds.

A crowd of 17,000 showed up at Stonehenge for an "unspectacular" sunrise. It's also Shakespeare's Midsummer Night, a perfect play to see performed in a park at dusk. & there's even a play within the play.
For never anything can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender it.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Grumpy Tuesday

Would that every soldier killed in Iraq & Afghanistan got a photo posted on the front pages of newspapers & news websites. Maybe then they'd be more than just numbers to Tony Snow, & to the rest of us. Brilliant At Breakfast has a little more to say about it.

NOLA Mayor Ray Nagin calls in the National Guard & Louisiana State Police following the brutal killings of five young men, admitting that neither he nor the city police can handle the spiraling crime rate. One wonders why he didn't do it four years ago. This guy has demonstrated that he's not a good enough leader, administrator or politician for the position he holds & the tremendous challenges his city faces. He did a lousy job prior to, during, & following Katrina. He's damned lucky he was re-elected, but there was no inspiring aspirant eager to have his job. Nagin doesn't even communicate the soul of the place, which ought to be the minimum qualification. New Orleans is a hard luck town these days.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Air Conditioner

The air conditioner I thought was too large is in the window & working, I figured out how I could keep more than 50% of the weight on the inside, & this week I'll make it more secure. It keeps the room not hot & takes out the humidity, it's blowing cool air on me 15 feet away, & when I curtain off a large open entryway I'm pretty sure it'll cool the entire space OK. Last night was the first time I ever slept here with a/c, that was a civilized experience. Plus, it lets me shut out some of the noisy people who congregate on the corner outside, & the loudly chirping birds that wake up long before sunrise - sometimes one perches on the fire escape & I'd have to get outta bed, go over to that window & chase it away. All the bird is saying is "hey hey hey hey" because there's nothing else to communicate at that hour. It's not a mockingbird, which I don't mind listening to at night provided it's high in tree at least 100 yards away.

The woman who drove me over to buy the a/c is also the friend who calmed me when I was certain the unit was too large - an assessment based on the instruction manual. I'm an excitable guy, & inclined to negativity when initially faced with even small unexpected challenges. Women are much better than men at getting me step back & steady out, maybe they're just more sensitive to my psychological being. It's not the same as being mothered, although like most men I enjoy that, too. I don't need or long for what a lot of guys consider "mothering," the domestic stuff, the source of endless situation comedy cliches about hapless men in the kitchen or doing the laundry. For me, mothering is physical affection with an Oedipal spin, & as a poet I not only can handle it, I'm amused by it.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Every guy becomes a father the first time some kid who never heard of Louis Armstrong calls you "Pops."

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years.”
Mark Twain

If I were representing my dad in a picture, it would Washington's Headquarters in Morristown where, in his 50s, he was finally able to combine vocation & avocation as Supervisor of Buildings & Grounds maintenance, unfortunate that it didn't happen earlier. To be sure, dad's enthusiasm & ambition were rarely directed into his career. Or maybe a photo from Ocean City NJ, although excepting a few years in the early Sixties we had always stayed with relatives across the bay in Somers Point, & always the first week of August. Atlantic City was his parents' town, & it became one of mine after my grandmother retired there. I liked his side of the family, Bradys & Rixons; Irish-Catholics out of Philadelphia, contentious, colorful, & superstitious, you didn't have to guess what they were feeling. Dad jettisoned the Catholicism before he was out of his teens, the rebellion was total, & he never looked back with the slightest regret or nostalgia. His only compromises were marrying his protestant wife at the St. Joseph's Rectory in Roselle, & allowing Catholic baptisms for his 4 infants so if, God forbid, one of us had died early on he wouldn't be held guilty by the family matriarchy of consigning the baby to Limbo. He became a Republican in the Roosevelt era, mostly I think because he considered Democrats corrupted beyond any hope of reform, & they were also the Roman Catholic party; he was correct about that in Jersey back then. I never asked him why he let the Nucky Johnson - Frank Farley GOP machine in Atlantic City off-the-hook. By the time I was able to pose that question, dad & I never discussed politics & hardly talked about anything else. As with Mark Twain, there were about 7 years, from age 18 to 25, corresponding with Vietnam & my frequent intake of illicit substances, when I considered dad pretty ignorant. Grandchildren & a good second marriage mellowed him slowly, & I also came under better influences. I wish we could have gotten another ten years from him, he was growing into a very likable old guy.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Topless in Texas

JACKSON, N.J. - At 128 mph and a little more than 45 stories tall, the Kingda Ka roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure gives riders quite a thrill. That is, when it's working. Kingda Ka launches riders forward horizontally from a standstill to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds, then upward 456 feet at a 90-degree angle. At the top, the train slows almost to a stop, then plummets back to earth. The ride is over in about 50 seconds.
You could not get me on this thing. I had to be shamed by two preteen girls into riding the small single loop coaster in Wildwood.
Art teacher in hot water over topless photos.
School where teacher worked was attended by Bush daughters.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Until they found the topless photos, Austin High School officials considered Tamara Hoover an excellent art teacher with a knack for helping students find their creativity.

Austen Clements, one of Hoover's students, noted that many artists have nude pictures, including Georgia O'Keeffe. "If Georgia O'Keeffe wanted to teach at Austin High, I don't think they'd say, 'No, you have nude pictures online,"' Clements said.
Nope. They wouldn't have hired O'Keeffe to teach in Texas, then or now. For that matter, I doubt if either Allen Ginsberg or Amiri Baraka would have been welcomed in Jersey's Poets In the Schools program.


Friday, June 16, 2006

it's the heat, it's the humidity, it's Jersey

Apparently, I've given the impression to a few people that I like this time of year. I do not. What we all liked about it when we were kids was circumstantial: the start of summer vacation. & for kids there's only a brief time before the "back to school" displays begin popping up. But these weeks from late June well into July are why the idea of residing year-round in Florida does not appeal. No matter where you live in central or north Jersey, you're close enough to blast furnace parking lots & highways to feel them even in a damp basement. The shore doesn't always bring relief, if you're lucky enough to have relatives living there who also welcome you; there are days when the ocean is breathless, you can be in the water freezing from the waist down & the rest of you not only sweltering but also attacked by the first swarms of green flies & noseeums. A backyard cookout on a 100 degree July 4th is fun? & the kids nag you to pile in the car & drive to the fireworks as the temperature drops to a pleasant 90 in the mosquito-laden dusk, & find a parking spot, too. I long for another Krakatoa volcanic explosion, which caused several so-called "years without summers" across the northern hemisphere. Which I take to mean that July was like early May & August was like the two weeks after Labor Day.

What a drag. A friend drove me over to buy an AC today & I impulsively up'd to a 7000 BTU unit because it was only a few dollars more & a far more efficient size for this room. But as soon as I opened the box here I knew I'd made a BIG mistake. There's no way I can safely install the thing. I can't mount metal brackets in the granite outside sill, & a few measurements warned me it just hangs out too far to trust resting it on wood blocks. It would be dangerous, & if I went ahead the landlord would likely & sensibly ask me to remove it. I left it in the box. The smaller 6000 would've been OK even though I'd have to keep it really cranked up & settle for taking the edge off the heat & humidity rather having a really cool room. I'm very upset.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bush approves Hawaiian Island marine sanctuary

A swathe of Hawaiian islands are to be designated a US national monument - turning the area into the largest marine sanctuary in the world.

President Bush: Now, this Hawhyee thing. Any oil down there?
Unnamed Administration Official : No.
Bush: Gas?
UAO: Maybe volcanic. Nothing we know how to tap.
Bush: Charlie the Tuna?
UAO: What?
Bush: The tuna guy. Tunafish sammiches.
UAO: You mean, is there a tuna fishery? No.
Bush: What the heck is it good for then?
UAO: It's pristine. You saw the film presentation.
Bush: Yeah, like an aquarium. A big aquarium, in a zoo, with seals. & turtles. I like turtles.
UAO: Yessir. It's an ecological wonder.
Bush: Don't like that word, eco.
UAO: The environmentalists are for it.
Bush: Don't care about them. Southern Baptists?
UAO: Sir?
Bush: Aren't those Baptists meeting now?
UAO: In Greensboro, Mister President.
Bush: They for it?
UAO: It's not on their agenda.
Bush: Thank you, Jayzuz.
UAO: All fishing will be phased out over five years.
Bush: Big lobby?
UAO: Only 5 boats, Mister President.
Bush: That gives me some time to bait a hook. Alright, pardner, let's do it.
UAO: Excellent, Your Excellency.
Bush: Say, whose idea was this? I mean before me?
UAO: I don't know, but President Clinton got it rolling.
Bush: My father didn't call, did he?

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

1996: it was a very bad year

This is the 10th anniversary of a terrible six month period, & a lousy year generally. A beloved girlfriend left me - all the reasons she had were sufficient & certainly added up. I was working at Union County social services, earning a living wage & decent benefits, but was laid off after only 5+ months as part of the Clinton welfare "reforms." I wasn't altogether dismayed by this, since I had been poorly trained for the job by someone who was not very good at it, been "civil service" promoted to the next level of mediocrity, & promptly abandoned me, her replacement, to a pile of complex, messy unfinished cases while other trainees were being smoothly guided by their conscientious mentors into the routines & shortcuts of the work. I never got a handle on it, & one of those messy cases had already gone to a hearing; the County won, my supervisor was actually pleased I'd nailed a serious cheater so fast; but I was falling behind on everything else. I disliked the job & workplace, & from the start was trying to figure out how to get transferred to the smaller Plainfield office. Both my mother & stepfather were dying & I'll always feel ashamed of how I handled that, I can't use their timing as an excuse, I simply failed to be compassionate & dutiful. So while 1995 had ended with hopes I'd struggled for several years to pull together, six months into 1996 they were all falling apart & I had nothing with which to replace them.

I started seeing a therapist over the summer, he was helping me cope, then abruptly announced he was emigrating to Israel. Which didn't matter because the 90 day post-layoff grace period on my health insurance was ending anyway. I'd taken a sabbatical from WFMU & didn't have a weekly radio show to lean on. I couldn't afford to head down to Wildwood by myself for a 5 night August R&R, & had no one to go with. My only positive memories of that summer are of exploring the Jersey bayshore - driving down Route 36 & turning left into some neighborhood I'd never visited, & of the many late evenings spent over friend Edie's chatting about literature & movies. On warm Sunday nights I usually nursed a few beers at the uncrowded Waiting Room bar in Rahway, feeding dollar bills into a juke with an excellent selection of CDs including Sinatra, The Stones, Steely Dan, & The Clash. I was in a funk for nearly the entire year.

Oddly, an angel appeared as my unemployment ran out, a man from a nonprofit agency in Elizabeth who'd interviewed everyone laid off from County, had little to offer at the time, received some additional funding for a six week computer class, remembered me, called, got me an extension on benefits, & I learned basic PC applications including Windows '95, just in time for the internet bubble. I never fully adjusted to the changes brought by the 1996 watershed; I didn't lock up my heart but it's stayed loosely wrapped ever since; I was finally too old to play a young literary lion; my family had totally fragmented; & when I went back to WFMU, I realized the well of under-appreciated & obscure recorded music that had carried me through 15 years there had at last dried up. The studios were located at the edge of a desolate, bankrupted Upsala College campus where I'd met wonderful friends who had moved away &had had so many enjoyable experiences. Until 1996 I looked, felt & behaved at least ten years younger than my actual age. I couldn't do much about the looks, but I learned in the years following that there are other parts a poet must at least keep suspended in a kind of agelessness, if not youth. & some people never understand whatthehell poets are saying.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Asbury Park Hojo's no more

George finally closed his orange flying saucer. on the boardwalk.
But Howard Johnson's food may yet return to N.J.

I remember the restaurant on summer evenings during the late Sixties when it was packed, with outdoor tables on upper level. By 2000, when the Asbury boardwalk ranked with the Walt Whitman house in Camden as one of the most depressed & depressing locales I'd ever visited, George was still opening the place for a few hours every weekend. The good news is the great building is staying.

Heather Mills McCartney, estranged wife of Beatles star Sir Paul, is to take legal action over newspaper claims that she worked as a prostitute in her 20s.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Great vintage Hawaiian shirt store, mostly waaay too pricey but what a selection! I got to thinking about this after viewing pics of the successful lst YearlyKos convention in Vegas, many hundreds of liberal/left blogger wonks, activists & organizers behaving themselves, attending panel conferences & listening to the speeches of politician supplicants. Howard Dean represented the white shirt sans tie style of men's wear. Apparently, only Mark Warner bankrolled a big party at the event. My guess is that Dem hopefuls will flock to YearlyKos in '07, with a great increase in hospitality occasions even if Kos discourages them, & despite the leftist disdain for such perks. But I'm from Jersey; this blogger would consider a candidate's poolside open bar cocktail hour a convention entitlement, a thank you for my traveling all the way to Vegas to demonstrate I'm liberal.

György Ligeti
Ligeti’s international status received a backhanded compliment when, in 1968, Stanley Kubrick appropriated — without the composer’s knowledge or consent — large parts of three recently recorded works for the soundtrack of his film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Eventually Ligeti was paid a paltry sum by MGM, but he undoubtedly benefited from the publicity attendant on the success of the film, and Kubrick used more of his music in later films, paying appropriately.

Paris Hilton can't sing, can't act, isn't attractive, possessed only a narrow range of emotions, narcissistic, sexually jaded, she could be psychopathic. There's limited possibilities of where a talk show host can go with her as a guest, since she doesn't need to care what anyone thinks. Until a few years ago, Dave Letterman would've made her the joke. For a brief period Hilton was almost an "A" list midweek celebrity guest, back when her sex tape & "reality" show were new. Then it was discovered that she's boring, unfunny, utterly devoid of charm; a stiff. Now she's top-billed on the kind of Monday show that has the New York Times crossword puzzle editor as second guest, no musical act; a show Letterman throws away long before the lousy Top Ten.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pleasantville NJ

Pleasantville Tourist Camp Restaurant

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Friday, June 09, 2006

The Horseshoe Crabs

"All those years have really passed, moment by moment, one by one. They encompass an actual, already lived reality, encompassing all the lives of all the organisms that have come and gone in that time. That expanse of time defines the realm of biological possibility in which life in its extraordinary diversity has evolved. It is time that has allowed the making of us."
Verlyn Klinkenborg

"Religion approaches mystery with metaphor."
Gail Ramshaw, Under the Tree of Life

I used to go to Cliffwood Beach on Raritan Bay week after week during the late 90's, even on mild winter afternoons, often driving there directly from work, & just walking at water's edge or sitting in my small orange beach chair, in what I supposed was a semi-meditative state of mind. The location was convenient, about a mile off a main highway & not a well-known spot. The place was nearly deserted even on summer weekdays but for a few fishermen & local sunbathers. Then, one warm day in late May, the Horseshoe Crabs came ashore. They were not strangers, I'd seen many live & dead ones over the years, & their ubiquitous shells. I'd held them & turned them right side up when I found them on their backs. I knew they were an ancient species, & harmless, & buried their eggs on the beach in late spring. I associated them mostly with Delaware Bay & migrating birds. But I was not really prepared for this annual event: thousands of Horseshoe Crabs, large females & smaller males, so many that I could hardly step from dry sand to the water, & hundreds more swimming in the shallow water. Thousands of birds - mostly Laughing Gulls, but others also - hovering over the choppy water against a stiff breeze, diving for the little round crab eggs floating there. Hundreds of sandpipers ran on tiny legs around the clusters of beached crabs, gobbling eggs as fast as they could. Dozens of Red Wing black birds were also present, taking care not to get wet. I found several different small animal tracks that definitely included cats & raccoons. Millions of tiny, transluscent green eggs smaller than bb's blew along the beach. They were getting into my hair & sticking to my clothes. I went to Cliffwood six days in a row until the orgy ebbed. I flipped over dozens of crabs that became stranded on their backs on dry sand & which would have been pecked to death by gulls or baked in the sun. Even so, uncounted Horseshoe Crabs died that week. It was awesome, & beautiful, & troubling to my spirit in the same way deep dark starry skies have bothered me on the few occasions I've been outside the bubble of light pollution.

Was all this copulation, feasting, waste, & carnage "intelligent design" or the remarkable adaptation of species & their life rhythms to geological forces that occurred over the course of 350 million years? Any "intelligence" at work in those processes was utterly alien to me, because from a human viewpoint it was filled with a cruelty more terrible than the worst despot could imagine. Cruelty - & the perception of beauty - are so far as we know traits of human consciousness. The birds were not dining at Captain Joe's Raw Bar, or the Horseshoes shacking up in a Jersey shore motel. If this is entirely the work of God's careful deliberation, then the world, the whole universe, is truly a fallen place, dependent upon death to sustain life. No such "system" would be created in the wink of an eye 10,000 years ago as a few small gears in an infinitely large cosmic machine. I could not believe in such a deity. It would be like worshipping a tyrant king of the ancient near-east, one who executes the soldiers of a vanquished army & impales their severed heads on poles leading to the capital city. I could only step back from what I experienced at Cliffwood Beach, thinking that the details of how this week of the Horseshoe Crabs & their tiny eggs & the birds came about is for science to explain, not the myths of neolithic desert tribes emerging from the stone age. Just as science finally explained why the jigsaw puzzle pieces of eastern South America & Western Africa were not the fanciful suggestions of grammar school children examining a classroom globe but rather the result of great sections of crust floating on the molten rock of a changing planet. Plate Tectonics also showed how the worn mountains of New England & Scotland were one ancient range, & it made sense of the of presence of Horseshoe Crabs on opposite sides of the planet. Calling these processes part of a cosmic dance is a metaphor. But if there is an "intelligence" behind it all, it is the eternal mind (also a metaphor) that awed & frightened poet William Blake in The Tiger.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Cheeza Whiz, speaka da Englesh

It's all over the news that Geno's Steaks in Phiadelphia now posts a sign that says, "This Is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING 'SPEAK ENGLISH.'" I understand where the owner, Joseph Vento, is coming from on this, but he's still wrong. Why not a "No hablamos Español" sign? Let Joe put the problem, such as it is, on himself, rather than patronizingly coaching Spanish speaking customers to order cheesesteaks in English. The Italian immigrants who once owned that legendary South Philly neighborhood struggled to learn a new language, but how many of them didn't allow Italian customers to speak Italian? Even when you do speak English, Philly cheesesteak places know right away you're from out-of-town if you don't order the cheese (queso) & onions (cebollas) their way. In South Philly they believe dogmatically that Cheez Whiz makes it the most "authentic." That's what you'll get unless you specify. As for polite service, cheesesteak joints are no different than a lot of pizzerias, where there might be an unshaven, frowning guy behind the counter wearing a filthy apron who greets you with a brusque "Whaddayawant?" & acts like he hasn't got 15 seconds to waste while you scan the "menu." But what do I know from original Philly cheeseteaks? When I was into ingesting that quality & quantity of grease I went to Greasy Tony's in New Brunswick, & always played "Who Wrote the Book of Love?" by the Monotones on the juke.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Elizabeth has a two party system: Mayor Bollwage's Democrats & the other Democrats. Carlos Alma, the incumbent 4th Ward councilman, was defeated yesterday by an "other" Democrat, probably not by much. A few weeks ago he threw a heckava campaign party at an upscale cafe down the street. I passed it on the way to the train station. Balmy evening, the cafe's floor-to-ceiling front windows folded open making it in effect an open air event. It was packed to overflowing with wonderfully attired people, many very attractive young females. A woman strummed a guitar & sang a love song. Given the low turnout for the primary, if all of those happy folks were from the 4th Ward & they all voted, I don't see how Carlos Alma could have lost. He surely would have won if his fiesta hadn't had a by-invitation-only feeling about it due to the red carpet, velvet rope, & bouncer types out front. & the number of signs for his opponent posted in the windows of businesses on that street indicated he was in a race. The organization Democrats standing just outside the legal distance from the polls yesterday were wearing ugly lime green tee shirts. The opposition Dems, standing the same distance in the other direction, wore whatever they wanted. My incumbent, who is not a Bollwage guy, squeaked in by 4 votes, which makes his opponent sorry for not personally driving five more senior citzens to the Elmora Branch Library.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


There may be a few hours remaining before the antichrist arrives, if he's on Pacific Daylight Time (if he wasn't already enthroned disguised as Vice President on 1/20/01). Brian Turner at WFMU has provided an online soundtrack, the Sick Six Six Hellfest.

It must be 666 day. I just screwed up Firefox, inadvertantly created an entirely new default browser that has none of my settings or bookmarks. I know that original browser is on the PC but I can't figure out how to switch back to it. If I could make the mozilla box appear again all I'd probably have to do is select the original default browser, because I didn't delete the old one. It's as if I created a browser for a second user. (Later: That's exactly what happened. Took a bit of search through Firefox site to find instructions, but a quick fix after that. Glad it wasn't Explorer. Lesson: Back up bookmarks!)

The Ocean City Maryland boardwalk cam got knocked into a less interesting position. I started cutting my hair with the setting on 1 instead of 2 & so had to keep going. This morning the water was turned off & the woman next door was loudly playing some new age version of Ave Maria with the bass cranked up. As I left the building, there was a sign on the outside of the front door saying the water would be turned off. That's fine if I slept outside all night & was coming inside to take a shower. But there was no point in explaining this to the semi-dimwits who do repairs here.

I have yet to hear arguments in favor of laws banning gay & lesbian unions that do not stink of bigotry. There's often a mismash of appeals to ""history" & "culture" & societal "values" that could just as easily have been made by Nazis. National Socialism was as much a religious movement as a political one. The war against homosexuals is always justified on religious grounds, or with the pseudo-religion of puritanical totalitarianism. It is not like abortion. The basic argument against abortion is that fetuses are in essence human beings & therefore human rights must be extended to them. This is the Nat Hentoff position & it is easy enough for anyone to understand whether or not one agrees with it. What or whose rights are being protected by pre-emptively banning same sex unions? The right not to be offended by another American because your religious beliefs order you to be offended? It is as if the XIX Amendment were rewritten to do the opposite of its intent: "The right of citizens of the United States to deny the right to vote on account of sex shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Going Haband

Last week on the PATH I was again reminded that I dress like a skateboard kid, which is where I started out in the 1960s. There were 3 friendly adolescent skateboard guys, 17 or 18 years old. They were all thin, wore old jeans, worn black sneaks, baggy teeshirts with something printed on front (one kid had Pink Floyd Dark Side, still top 200), & funky caps. I was wearing old loose jeans I was told were formerly owned by comic Rich Vos, black K Mart sneaks, a baggy black WFMU tee, & a well-made blue "captiv8" baseball cap I got brand new in a rummage shop for a buck. The skates changed to the 33rd St. train, urban adventurers. I envied them.

Occasionally I get an urge to totally flip & buy my wardrobe from Haband, the incomparable catalogue of cotton-polyester clothing, better generally for menswear than women("Bend Over Blazer"?). I know a guy who wears Haband, he doesn't enjoy shopping & so he's made the style part of his "old man" image, although he's hardly past 40. He's also a big man, his waistline probably changes weekly & the Haband "stretch" features accomodate the ups & downs. So if I made the Haband Makeover, here's what I'd get this week:
A couple of knit guayabera shirts (with a cheap shell necklace, great for boardwalking) & a few seersuckers, timeless alternative to this year's madras.
A watermelon blazer.
Microfiber field coat with "magic cling" pockets.
& the most must-have apparel, a wash & wear "Nano-Tex" suit; 2 actually, black & sand fancy, wish I'd had this outfit when I used to attend Christmas Eve service at my sister's church up in a section of Jersey where they prefer Land's End & Pendleton (Tipoff I'm not a true Habander is I want the Rainforest Washable Silk Shirt @ $74.00).
Add a pair of black dress loafers for 24.99
& reversible belts & the transformation is nearly complete, until I look over the closeout items. I haven't even chosen a full wardrobe, no undies, jammies, or golf shirts. I'm just a dabbler.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Keansburg NJ

Miniature Railroad & Steamboat Pier
Pier is still there, & a way to ride from one end to the other.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006


George Bush arguing in favor of a XXVIII Amendment sounds like a racist arguing against passage of Amendment XV or a sexist against Amendment XIX. His empty cautionary words "As this debate goes forward, we must remember that every American deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect, and dignity" do nothing to stop the violence, hate, superstition, ignorance & lurid imaginations of the millions of homophobes running loose in America who, like the Ku Klux Klan, gather around large illuminated crosses. In World World Two, when we were fighting to-the-death one of the most evil racist regimes in history, our armed forces were completely segregated & German POWs were treated better than African-American G.I.s. Well, we've gotten over the silly hangup of adhering to the standards of the Geneva Conventions, so why not also curtail the expansion of human rights here in the USA? Our current "War on Terrorism" requires nothing of most Americans beyond allowing a few previously inviolable Constitutional rights to be quietly violated. The fools running our government have a lot more in common with radical Islamic fundamentalism than they'll ever acknowledge. Enemies, enemies, enemies everywhere - Taliban , Al Queda, Iranians, homosexuals, activist judges, evolutionists, environmentalists, trial lawyers, Hugo Chavez, Unitarians, Ron Howard, Planned Parenthood, Reform Jews, feminists, liberals, Quakers, more liberals, Pax Christi, John Murtha, college professors, United Church of Christ, Molly Ivins, Mexicans, Massachusetts, France, enemies, enemies.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Miserable yucky rainy humid weather. Old pal Jim up from West Virginia for wedding reception, we went out to typical local jersey diner, 6 o'clock Friday, early bird special hour, lots of seniors, we're given a large booth, waiter comes over, hands us huge menus, we don't look at them, Jim orders stack of pancakes with crispy bacon, I have bowl of ice cream. "I only like these places after midnight," I said to Jim. We stay there for an hour, pouring rain, few people leave, fewer enter, many empty booths & tables. Usually the busiest time of the week at that kind of diner. Maybe if there was one of these in the area....

Thursday, June 01, 2006

13 year old Katharine Close is going to be a very big celebrity in New Jersey this summer after winning the nationally televised Scripps Spelling Bee. She's from the lovely, affluent Jersey shore town of Spring Lake AND she's a public school student. True, few Jersey 8th graders attend a school as good as H.W. Mountz, the only public school in that small town, but I didn't want some home schooled child winning it whose parents consider classroom teachers & students to be agents of moral corruption. Granted, you don't learn what you need to capture a national spelling bee in any school - the winning word was "ursprache " - unless kids now study Indo-European language roots. But Katherine's teachers certainly have a lot to do with her excellence, confidence & ambition. I hope Katherine gets the Key to the Town (maybe it's a gilded clamshell) & a lifetime beach pass.

Just prior to heading out to meeting in Jersey City tonight, I checked the online radar & watched a line of very big storm cells creeping into northern Jersey. Several topped out at over 40,000 feet & had large hailstones in them. I figured I might just beat them to Exchange Place. The sky darkened ominously as the PATH train crossed the Meadowlands - instant night. I did out-run the storms to Jersey City. But I lost the race in the two blocks from the station to the meeting place. I wasn't totally drenched only because I made it to the door as the really torrential downpour began. So most of the meeting was conducted to the accompaniment of loud thunderclaps & brilliant lightning. Heard an ex-girlfriend is a server at pricy popular restaurant-tavern, not the sort of place I'd ever wander into for a casual beer in Jersey City, although no doubt there's a great selection. But is there a jukebox? I used to stop by for a drink when she was in college & worked at Ground Round.

"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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