Thursday, August 31, 2006

Two weeks ago I was prepared to walk out of Staples with a new PC if the store had it in stock. It was not in stock. Which didn't surprise me on the 5th day of a 7 day sale. The associate asked if I wanted to order it. I said no way, $100 of rebates were about to expire. It was not an expensive computer, just a Compaq with some decent speed, memory & capacity for expansion. But a hefty expenditure for me nonetheless. The PC I have now was supposed to be an interim machine, I bought it used & I've had it for too long. This PC is why I'm not on Verizon lowcost DSL. The CD unit is cranky (not a burner). The floppy drive is dead. I've also been unable to get it to accept a scanner someone gave me, & I know why. I really want to use the scanner. I'm a plug n play guy. The computer industry creates & markets most of its products including scanners for dummies who can't figure anything out & semi-dummies like me who don't want to. I can do lots more.

A day after I passed on the new PC, a friend offered me an old one he has from a couple of short generations later than mine, with a larger HD, somewhat faster, & a CD-R. He also offered to hook it up to transfer my files, no small thing. Even assuming I could reload some of the old software I use, like an ancient version of MS Publisher & my beloved Pirate Ship Pinball, I'd been puzzling over how I could get hundreds of personal MS Works, notepad, photos & other flotsam & jetsam files from one drive to another. I'm not interested in taking an inventory & cleaning house. I just want the folders & their contents dragged over & dropped so I feel like I'm wandering a familiar landscape. The "Pix" folder on the C drive stem alone has 30 sub folders, many with sub folders, plus over 200 miscellaneous items. But the total size of the "Pix" folder is only 207 MB. & that includes my postcard collection, some digital photos, & all the paintings & photos of Renoiresque women. The Publisher folder is only 82MB, & all of my used & unused personal website pages equal only about 30MB.

Also, staring me in the face is the basic fact that I haven't taken advantage of WFMU's crammed & cramped production studio. I don't know how digitalize my cassette radio airchecks or old records, much less clean up their sound. I'm an ignoramous. I would love to get some of my 1990s radio shows online; I used to switch on the mic & blab stream-of-consciouness until the phonelines began lighting up with irate listeners demanding that I shut up & play "Let's take the skinheads bowling" or some other oldie. But a handful of staffers & listeners actually liked that about me. I liked that about me. There's an long-standing opportunity to learn something really useful that I haven't used.

Maybe I don't need a brand new computer. Maybe I just need one that challenges me because it works better. If I simply grump about the limitations of this current PC & let them limit me, then I'm still too stupid to know what I would do with a new PC, & the first thing I ought to do is retire the machine I'm using & move on.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My futon

I got rid of my bed a long time ago because it took up too much space, had an old mattress that had been turned too many times, & I no longer wanted to sleep on so much history. I got a futon. In this apartment the futon has always been open but I few nights ago I folded it into the couch position, double-folded the featherbed a dear friend thoughtfully sent me last Christmas, & it was so much better for lying back & reading that I went through 100 pages of a Larry Sanders Archie McNally mystery last night & got eyestrain rather than stiff neck. I seem to be sleeping better, too, on the narrower, softer space. I used to sleep well with the futon as a couch but I thought that was due to the Zoloft I stopped taking before I moved here.

Yesterday, I absent-mindedly left my keys in the door lock when I came home. A couple of hours later, the guy across the hall knocked on my door so I could retrieve them. Awhile after that, the man in the next apartment knocked on the door to make sure I had gotten the keys & they hadn't been stolen. For all I don't like about the location of this building, nearly all the tenants here have been nice people - the bad ones move or are kicked out - & they aren't noisy: Except when my neighbors on the other side occasionally - usually Sundays - crank up really low quality African pop music, the kind that's stupid & unsophisticated in every culture, but is especially annoying to me because good African pop is a joy & would at least pass through the walls with more than a simple bassy thump thump thump.

A shout out to Jill from Brilliant at Breakfast for writing so honestly today about her body.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One year later

One year ago I sat at my computer all night & watched radar images of a monster storm approaching & hitting the Gulf coast. The images were alarming even to this online weather junky. I briefly wondered what the President was doing. W. is an early riser. I'd supposed that as long as he had decided to stay in Texas, he'd at least focused his attention on the unfolding catastrophe. There had been days of warning that Katrina was coming. At first, it seemed New Orleans itself had escaped the brunt & might get through it. But a wide stretch of coast from Louisiana to Alabama was being devastated.

There was good & bad in this. One could hardly select a worse city in America for a natural disaster than New Orleans. Not only was it a bowl lying mostly below sea level, it was also a poor city, its government & that of the state notoriously weak & even corrupt. Social services were mediocre in the best of times. As for the federal response, hadn't Bill Clinton built FEMA into a first rate, professionally managed agency? All Bush had to do was leave it be. Maybe Homeland Security & the crony appointees had the sense to let the pros run FEMA while they just kicked back & enjoyed the perks of their offices. Surely the coast governors were communicating with the feds, & the National Guard of those states had been summoned & strategically positioned to move quickly where they were needed. That was only logical. Hurricane Andrew had taught everyone a big lesson. The destruction & suffering in the first few days would be tough, maybe even impossible to alleviate, but if all the pieces were in place, the distressed areas would know the rest of America was coming to their rescue. There would be hope.

Then the reports from St. Louis Bay, Long Beach, Gulfport, Biloxi, Orange Grove, Slidell. Lake Ponchartrain kept rising, the surge topped levees then broke them. Mayor Nagin was losing control - he never had it under control - the evacuation of New Orleans had gone badly. Should we have been surprised by that? Governor Blanco was in meltdown. This was too much for them. The feds needed to step in immediately. What is wrong with FEMA? Who is directing the Guard? Where are the buses? The food trucks & water tankers? What is going on at the Dome & the Convention Center? Don't forget Biloxi. Who the hell is Michael Brown? Where is the President? The water is rising. Why are those people still there? This cannot be happening.

Monday, August 28, 2006

More Kismet

kis·met: Fate or fortune. That which is inevitably destined. The will of Allah. [Turkish, from Persian qismat.]

Megan & I stayed at the Kismet in '95, & a couple of friends came down for a night. Altogether, we probably tested the limits of what The Kismet's proprietors wanted for customers. But it was our last boardwalk trip together. She finished her art degree, we broke up, she moved to Jersey City was getting married with a few years.

A small edition of Boardwalk was finally published in'98 & to celebrate I spent almost a week by myself at The Kismet. It was a worthwhile week if a solitary one, giving me an opportunity to explore Cape May at my own pace, stopping wherever & whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted. If the proprietors of The Kismet liked quiet guests, they must have loved me that year. Pleasant as the time passed, having someone with me was better.

I returned once more, the following Spring, with a new friend, a woman from Virginia I'd gotten to know pretty well online. Since we were meeting for the first time, we booked separate rooms, but we arrived in the same car. I was a lot more anxious about this than my friend, who was taking the far greater risk. She was a smart, attractive, unpretentious woman who had grown up near Monticello & learned a good bit of American history the same way I had - by osmosis. She made me smile. We had a good weekend. She liked The Kismet & loved the sandbars at the inlet, still littered with large clamshells from winter storms. She knew how to walk on a beach. The roughness of the young pre-season weekend crowd on the huge Wildwood boardwalk made her nervous, & I didn't care much for the atmosphere myself. In a away, I think she would have felt more comfortable on a packed August weekday evening when the families come out to play. She loved Victorian Cape May City. Tears came to eyes when she had her first close look at the Caper May lighthouse, as we drove into the park & it suddenly towered over us. i wanted to surprise her. I'll never forget that moment. She went home with some cool souvenirs. Unfortunately, I subsequently scared her away with a poorly-timed return trip to Virginia. I haven't seen The Kismet since '99, over 7 years. It's still there, I suppose, with the same simple amenities of air-conditioning, cable TV, a picnic table out front, a grill if you want to cook burgers outside; the Lurae Motel & coffee shop with the bad coffee across the street & a convenience store around the corner; the beam from Anglesea Lighthouse flashing overhead at night, & an ocean close enough to hear & smell.

If I could live at The Kismet I'd give up most of what I own -which isn't much - to fit myself into a single room. Emily Dickinson made due on three books: The King James Bible, Collected Works of Shakespeare, & a dictionary. I have a computer & the internet. The boardwalk season begins & ends on schedule, but the natural seasons seamlessly change with ocean temperatures & migrating birds.

I'm a different person down there, perhaps a better person, if that means liking who you are. Maybe it's the higher ozone level. Would I be that person all the time if I lived there, comfortable in myself, or do I just need someone who understands why I would even imagine it?

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Manasquan Inlet NJ

When the Army Corps of Engineers completed a canal between Manasquan River & Barnegat Bay in 1926, so much water was diverted that Manasquan Inlet completely closed up. It was a disaster for the fishing fleet based on the river. The Corps constructed rock jetties, dredged the sand bar, & Manasquan Inlet was officially reopened on August 29, 1931, 75 years ago. A comparison of this 1971 postcard with a more recent aerial photo shows the development that has happened in Point Pleasant Beach, below the Inlet

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Kismet

On a Friday afternoon in August 1994, as Megan & I started the long trip home from Wildwood. we drove slowly up Surf Ave. looking for possible places to stay the next summer. Then, just a few blocks south of the Inlet, we saw this:

A pink & white cottage with a separate single-story row of rooms behind it. A motor court, really. Outside, a man was on a ladder, painting the porch trim. There was a portable workbench set up in the small parking lot. A woman on the porch was watering flowers in pots. How had I missed this place on previous trips? We pulled over in front of The Kismet, got out & went over to talk to the flower woman. She & her husband had bought The Kismet that year from the old widow of the man who had built it himself in the 50s. They were restoring it to more-or-less its original look. They lived there with their teenaged son who was soon off to college. This was their dream. Their rates were modest. No pool. No gameroom. Open through Oct, maybe a bit longer. It was a quiet place. She looked over my punkish, considerably younger companion with her close-cropped hair & multiple ear-piercings, the short stocky frame of a former All-County field hockey player. Well, yeah, we were a peculiar couple. But Megan also possessed a soft Piscean face that put people at ease, & we had been together for 18 months. The lady gave us a business card. We got back in the car, drove three short blocks; on the left was the lighthouse, turn right for the ocean & beach, the choppy waters of Hereford Inlet straight ahead. The Kismet was it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Gray Manor Motel

In 1990 I found The Grey Manor Motel listed in the free Wildwood directory I got in the mail. It was a block from the beach at 26th & Surf, just north of where the main section of the Wildwood boardwalk began. You could see & hear the rides on Mariner's Pier. Grey Manor was owned by a nice woman named Fay who lived on the premises & waved whenever she saw you headed toward the boardwalk. Motels without pools are less expensive. It was a good-looking, clean little motel. So I went there for two nights with a woman I was seeing that summer, but she was so upset about something else going on in her life that we had a terrible time. That was the end of us. She apologized for that weekend when I ran into her a few years later.

I did return to the Gray Manor a couple of years later with a new friend. The trip down the Parkway was so enjoyable that we didn't even mind getting stuck in a massive traffic jam just below Ocean City. It was a warm day & after a few minutes of going nowhere people got out of their cars & began tossing frisbees & beach balls around with strangers. Fay had a couple who wanted to stay extra nights in the stuffy little room we'd reserved, so she installed us in a better one on the top floor with a wide deck in front of our door. One night we sat out there with a pizza & watched fireworks. It was very pleasant. My new companion was a genuine boardwalk girl whose family owned a half-shack in Lavallette near the Seaside Heights border, so she was delighted to be in Wildwood & we wandered around with ease, except when she thought I was looking too intently at a woman getting a real tattoo in a boardwalk parlor. We ate up the three days & went back the following year for the whole midweek special, also great although we were in the little room. We visited the zoo, went on the ferry, poked around trinket shops, & took the sort of long, digressive evening strolls so appreciated by seasoned boardwalk afficionados, where you look at everything but don't feel compelled to buy anything. You eat supper before you go there, play your favorite games in your favorite arcades, listen to music through open doors of clubs, laugh at silly people, treat yourself to an ice cream cone, & then go look at the ocean before you head back to your digs for the night. A dying hurricane was passing several hundred miles offshore & for two days the entire wide flat beach was covered with a layer of water only inches deep at high tide, with wavelets rippling across that expanse, & the sky over Wildwood was gray much of the time, no swimming. But the sun was shining ten miles west over the mainland. Strange weather. That final stay at the Grey Manor resulted in a major - & for me, shocking - conclusion: That I needed to find a place to stay away from the boardwalk.

I had soaked up enough boardwalk atmosphere & been exactly where I had wanted to be. I'd also had enough of being within earshot of the screaming people riding The Condor. The pier was many blocks away but you could see the ride from the balcony of the motel. Street traffic didn't let up until 3 am & then there were happy drunks singing their way back from the bars. The Grey Manor itself had some noisy clientele. It wasn't all due to my becoming middle-aged. It wasn't like I was trying to get to sleep before midnight. There were, after all, other aspects of the shore I had always loved. Only one mile north of The Grey Manor was a beautiful lighthouse, a much narrower beach you could cross without a camel, seawalls, Hereford Inlet entering the ocean, & wide sandbars at low tide. There was fresh coffee & decent pizza in that direction. The pace up there was considerably more relaxed. Maybe, if you listened closely, you could actually hear the ocean at night.

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Needles in haystacks

While I'm disappointed that Pluto has been demoted from major planet status, the feeling is entirely sentiment. Many astronomers & astro-physicists are genuinely sorry that it had to be done. We need to agree on a definition for a "planet" because there are so many different kinds of things out there that were unknown ten years ago much less in 1930. The change reflects wonderful discoveries of objects far beyond Pluto in our own solar system, of planets circling other stars, of stars circling stars, of gaseous giants & failed suns & collapsing fields of space debris. When Clyde W. Tombaugh discovered Pluto with an Earth-based telescope in Arizona, he wasn't building a fence; he was opening a door, & we stepped through it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Discovering Wildwood

The first time I went to Wildwood overnight was in late October in the 80s. We drove down on a Friday evening in a furious rainstorm, trusting the excellent forecast for Saturday & Sunday. The road acroass the marsh into North Wildwood (Anglesea) was unimproved, a two lane blacktop lined with shack cottages on silted canals, an old drawbridge at the island end. We stayed at a bed & breakfast in North Wildwood. The innkeepers weren't there when we arrived - they were at a high school reunion, & a designated neighbor checked us in. Saturday morning was clear blue sky & cool & the first thing I realized was that I wasn't a B&B person at the shore. I don't want to have to get up at certain time & immediately sit down to breakfast, no matter how tasty, with strangers. I just want a good cup of coffee. & even it's not that good it's still better than nothin'. Anyway, after breakfast we had a look at the boardwalk. This was at the tail end of Wildwood's post-season, & the immensity of the sparsely populated boardwalk stretching out before me was a beautiful thing; I resolved then & there to return the following August. That weekend also included my first stroll around Cape May City & first visit to the classic lighthouse. Following that weekend, I made the final revisions to my long poem "Boardwalk," originally published about five years earlier under a different title. Which was one reason I made an offseason trek to Wildwood. I needed to find out if my poem felt big enough to encompass a place like Wildwood. It did.

The following early Spring I stayed for a night in motel. In August I took an inexpensive room for three nights in an older hotel in the center of Wildwood. It seemed like a good idea at the time, trying an "Old Wildwood" experience, but I wasn't going to do that again either. Also discovered how wide the beach is when all you want to do is get to the edge of the water & plant a beach chair. But the boardwalk was fabulous. So was my first trip on the ferry across Delaware Bay to Lewes. I brought a small tape recorder along & captured several great barkers & lot of ambient boardwalk sound.

But downtown Wildwood in the late 80s was a failed pedestrian mall; the city had fallen for the Urban Renewal scam, lost the core of its pre World war II history & had nothing else to replace it. Wildwood is still throwing itself away. Not having gone there as a child or adolescent, the town fortunately was incapable of breaking my heart. Visits to Atlantic City & Asbury Park are tough on me. I knew there were plans on the drafting table to widen the two lane causeway & replace the drawbridge into North Wildwood, getting rid of all the old summer fishing shacks. There was creeping condo development at both ends of 7 Mile island. The 50s & 60s motels had been publicized & praised in a study from the Yale Architectural School. But that wouldn't be enough to save them. Most of the smaller motels were family-owned, & those not located on a beach block were obviously struggling. The city's "Doo Wop" promotional campaigns were just that. No serious effort was being made at developing & codifying anything that would constitute a real attempt at preservation of buildings or even style. It was mostly, in a word, jiveass. Wildwood real estate would soon enough be as ripe for the picking as a Matawan cornfield. Unlike Cape May City or Ocean Grove, the buyers don't buy to live there.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'm not easily forgiving toward myself or others.
It's difficult to forgive myself for things I know others
have not forgiven. & it's difficult to forgive others when they
don't understand what they're being forgiven. Sometimes,
it's that very lack of understanding that needs forgiveness.

Over the years I've come to cope with this not by
developing a thick skin but by listening less. Neither one
is a good way.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wildwood Vacation

Had I gone to Wildwood this year, this week would have been it. But not to this place.
I don't imagine Wildwood had many hotels & restaurants catering to the Jewish vacationer.
Some towns, like Cape May & Ocean City, were plainly unwelcoming.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Wildwood NJ

Rio Grande Bridge, Wildwood NJ
The bridge into North Wildwood looked like this until it was replaced in the 90s.

Tonight on WFMU from 9 to midnight I fill in for Bethany. A noisy show, probably. Hear it live online or archived later.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Read this short news article, Grandma, 41, among Army's older recruits, & see if it doesn't make you feel a bit unsettled about the condition of the US military & the economy. Among the basic trainees, a 37 year old mother of 4 & her 18 year old son with a year remaining in high school. Where's Barbara & Jenna when Uncle Sam clearly needs them?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bite the Virgin's Head

While Tata worries over a box of suspicious Russian chocolate candies purchased in Missouri (Don't touch 'em Tata), employees of a candy company in California are adoring an ugly 2 inch lump they claim was miraculously formed from dripping chocolate. It might vaguely resemble an attempt at sculpting a plastic Virgin Mary (or the Maltese Falcon) by person wearing thick mittens. It would give me pause if it accidently looked like this candy virgin. They can sell it on eBay, put it in a refrigerated glass display with candles & a donation can in front, or just bite off the "head."

But the religion news that caught my interest today was the legal case of the Bible in the granite trash can. Nobody paid much attention to this peculiar monument in front of the Harris County Texas courthouse, placed there 50 years ago in honor of a local citizen. It contains a real Bible under glass (don't know what what page it's open to). Then, ten years ago, after the Bible was stolen, a judge refurbished it at his own expense, updating it (pop art style) by adding the orange neon light. According to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, that change in emphasis also turned the intent from a secular monument into a religious one. I agree completely with the court. But the neon made the monument so strange - like bizarre cemetary statuary - that I would be proud to have it in my town & invite the guys from Weird New Jersey magazine to check it out.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Via You Tube, R. Stevie Moore (the other face in the photo on top right) lip synchs his own version of "Chantilly Lace" on the Uncle Floyd Show in 1980.

"Mary Poppins, eat your heart out!" (thanks Suzette at Bob the Corgi)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Stuck inside of Crawford with the Paris blues again

Somewhere in the dozens of boxes of books stacked & strewn about the other large room in this apartment, maybe there's an old paperback copy of The Stranger - a slim novel by Albert Camus. Maybe I gave it away or traded it in at a used bookstore years ago, I don't know. I bought it used, or spent 95 cents for a new copy, or someone gave it to me - cool books were cheap enough then that you didn't care about lending & borrowing them. I know I didn't have to read The Stranger for a class, but in the late 60s we all read the Existentialists - at least those of us not besmitten by hippies, those of us (& there were many) disappointed because we were born a decade too late for the Beat Generation. We read Camus, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Genet, Robbe-Grillet - translated from the original French, of course. Many of their books had the virtues of being fairly short & fitting in one's back pocket. If we were more intensely spiritual-seeking we struggled with Paul Tillich, Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel & the first existentialist, Søren Kierkegaard. & we hung out, drank beer, smoked doob, listened to jazz, & talked about "faith" & "meaninglessness" & "absurdity." Had I known that George W. Bush - who definitely was not into this stuff 40 years ago, was ready to take on a book about an aimless, borderline psychopath in Algeria who commits a pointless murder, I would've gladly searched through my boxes & sent The Stranger to him had I found it. All I would have asked was that George return it to me & not erase his marginalia.

Plutonizing the zodiac

"The number of planets around the Sun could rise from nine to 12 - with more on the way - if experts approve a radical new vision of our Solar System."

There would be a new subcategory of planets - plutons. If the new system is approved & adopted world-wide, astrologers will have to decide what to do with additional Trans-Neptunian Objects. I'm a Scorpio. My sign used to be ruled by Mars, which also rules Aries. After Pluto was discovered & named a planet, Scorps became "Pluto-ized" (a word from Marvin Gaye's "Funky Space Reincarnation"). Suddenly, this incredibly distant icy spheroid had to be figured into astrological calculations. Now, will the complex system have to be plutonized?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Carmine & Deb Call At-Home Carpet

TV ad currently airing numerous times after 1 a.m.

Scene: The claustrophobic living room of a New York City apartment. Walls are painted an ugly pale orange color. A man about 30 is sitting on a striped couch, facing us but watching TV, a cheap landscape painting hangs on the wall behind him. He's wearing his work clothes, brown shirt & pants. He might be local route truck driver or work on a loading dock, maybe he's a carpet installer. A woman with longish dark hair, wearing black blouse & slacks, walks in the room, standing directly between the man & the TV with her back to us.

DEB: Cahmine, I can't stand this cahpet, you promised to replace it.

CARMINE [irritated]: Hey Deb, you make a better door than a window.

DEB [her voice rising to a whine] : Let's go SHOP-ping.

CARMINE [angrily, stretching out his arms]: Fuh-GED-dabout it. Dis is da most impawdent game a da yee-ah!

Carmine & Deb (whose face we now see) welcome a smiling woman carrying a book of carpet samples. They sit on the couch, the woman in a chair, together looking through the book.
Cut to two men unrolling carpet in the living room.

Last scene, we notice Carmine & Deb have changed their clothes. He's wearing slacks, sports shirt & casual jacket. She'swearing a tight red thing. They're standing near the window, admiring their room.

CARMINE: [with his arm around Deb]: Now THAT was a piece of cake.
DEB: I'm glad we called At-Home Cahpet.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My therapist would become exasperated because I wasn't managing my problem like a business. I knew what she meant. The "problem" was - is - depression, & the management wasn't only the depression itself but everything related to it; treatment, available social services, well, my entire life. "That's part of the problem," I'd say. She wouldn't belabor the point. She knew I needed help in many practical matters but, "I'm not here for that," she'd say. I understood what she meant by that, too. She was Ph.D, not social worker. She was very concerned about my lack of a "personal support network" - meaning family & friends in near-proximity who remind you of appointments, go over paperwork with you, check in on you frequently. My therapist had a naivete about her. She protected her own privacy too much. I wish she had just told me more often what she was thinking, or related something I said to her own life. She didn't catch on to important stuff. She rarely tried to squeeze out of me what I was not saying.

By sheer luck I was somehow existing on an impossibly low income job, but it was really a lie. If you didn't ride in the car I was driving, visit my apartment, or see me at work, you'd think I was having a wonderful life. I was pretending to be a Significant Creative Person & a functioning part of the middle class. Then the lie began unraveling - without the assistance of alcohol or drugs, I might add. If you wear clean clothes, shave & bathe every day, & confine the bleakest thoughts to a personal diary or disguise them, who's to know? But you might find out you aren't a Significant Creative Person the moment you stop behaving like one.

The trick is understanding Selective Invisibility. If no one you know ever runs into you at a fashionable venue in or around New York City, they don't realize you're not there. If it ever does occur them that they never see you anywhere, they assume you don't choose to be there, not that you can't afford it. They never see you carrying a brand new laptop. There's no network that tallies & connects your absences at more private social occasions if you never created one. You skip parties because they are an enormously draining mental task. When you do go, you withdraw into a cocoon with a quiet, amiable exterior (never drink yourself out of it), arrive alone & leave early. Because the impressions you make are so forgettable, after awhile people just forget to invite you at all. Those who think they know you really don't. A few friends do, & they actually worry about you. These are persons you've hung out with in diners, leaned on when women walked out, showed raw poems to the day they were written & before they were revised into neatness by deleting the first & last stanzas.

Reason tells you the world is divided into the few who think you're worth saving & the many who are indifferent. You waffle between the two. In the former mode you help yourself, in the latter mode you sabotage the former. Survival is matter of not letting the latter completely prevail. Ambition is about changing indifference into opinion.

Necessities, duties, debts & obligations keep a lot of people propped up, but that doesn't mean they aren't suffering very intensely & very privately. They believe they are invisible. But I try to see them now, not just the ones in the waiting room at the clinic. Sometimes they find me. I've been sad for weeks.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stone Harbor NJ

Stone Harbor bungalow colony

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

What, me Taliban?

It's outrageous & insulting when rightwing clowns say Americans like me are like Taliban because we oppose the Iraq War. That war was based on a lie - on a series of deliberate lies, & thanks to us Iraq has become the terror capitol of the world, killing & maiming our young people. & a bottomless pit in which to dump our treasure; the overwhelming majority of the victims are Iraqis. This terrorism may eventually be suppressed by the oppressive, fundamentalist Sh'ite Islamic government we installed there in place of an oppressive, impoverished secular dictatorship that had posed no serious threat to the United States. If there's a Taliban in America, it's led by a cabal of heretical reactionary protestant pastors with big mouths & bigger bank accounts.

I've never complained in this blog about backpack checks in New York subways, or airport & railroad baggage screening. I have doubts about the effectiveness, & the potential for abuse of civil rights concerns me, but I let it slide. Rather, I look around & see unprotected ports, railroad yards, oil & propane tanks, refineries & chemical plants. I see the feds ordering women at airports to dump their carry-on cosmetics, & I know it's mainly to make everybody feel like something's being done, but there's a penny wise pound foolish sense about it. Because there's unscreened cargo going into the bellies of those jets that doesn't belong to the passengers flying on them. I'm surrounded by people whose presence in the United States is unknown to the governments of this city, county, state & nation. Yes, most of them are from points south on this continent & of no big concern to me, but if they managed to get here, smart terrorists certainly can.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Ten

The ten cuts on the 1993 compilation California Dreaming: The Ultimate Cyberhippy Experience. DJ Rix sez:
Here's an excellent display for the Museum of Antique Beats. Californians had a sense of humor in this era of trance dance stuff, it was at times a strange, synthetic intersection of The Hollywood Argyles, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Martin Denny, & movie soundtrack music. Cantamilla by Tranquility Bass [Realaudio] is one of the few enduring masterpieces of the genre; Straight Up Caffeine grabs & never lets go with its buzzsaw bottom & shrieking tribal female up top; & you can come up with your own imaginary film for the moody Theme from Daisy Glow [Realaudio] .
Bonus: Tom Waits on the Mike Douglas Show.

Just one example of why such a mild talk show host is remembered so fondly.

The Exterminator showed up at 8:30 am for his monthly chemical squirt under the sinks, announced with heavy knocking on the door & a shouted "EXTERMINATOR" waking me from an unrestful sleep of, at that point, about 2 1/2 hours, which is around when the Ambien wears off & my natural senses do not want to be disturbed. The representative of the Landlord thinks this brief visit is a social occasion, I tell him to shut up, adding a smile so he might think I'm kidding. The exterminator informs me the weather is great, like a beautiful fall morning. This makes absolutely no difference to me. I am not waking up next to a woman in the Kismet Motel on Surf Ave. two blocks from Hereford Inlet in North Wildwood NJ. I don't hear Laughing Gulls & there won't be any coffee in a white foam cup from the Lurae restaurant across the street & there's no need no check the tide tables for the best time to walk on the beach, & we're not watching the sunset later from the deck of a Cape May Ferry boat. The weather doesn't matter. Spray & get the hell out.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thank you, Great Britain. Hi, Uncle Ned.

Now we'll have to deal with the irony of right wing Republicans charging up their fall campaigns based on the busting up of a terrorist conspiracy by police from a nation with socialized medicine & a law that gives all the legal rights of marriage to homosexuals. The Brits wrecked the conspiracy & we owe them our gratitude. GWB says we're fighting terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here. But I see the British fighting terrorists in England so we don't have to fight them here. There's a pretty good reason for tossing out the Republicans & Democrats & electing a Labour Party government, national health care, gay rights & all.
I got a chuckle out of this Paul Mulshine observation in his column Country-club Democrat has neocons jittery:
"The minute I laid eyes on U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont at the Orange volunteer firemen's carnival in Connecticut, I recognized the type. Slim. Athletic. Well-dressed but in a casual manner, as if he'd just stepped off the golf course.

"Yes, Ned Lamont was a dead ringer for my uncle Ned, right down to the facial features and the mannerisms."
I also had an Uncle Ned, but his name was Jack. My family didn't grow its own of this type, so my aunt married one. I don't know anything about Uncle Jack's politics, but he would have made a marvelous politician, albeit one who preferred kissing pretty young women to babies. He was a grownup preppy. Vermont skiing in winter along with a trip to Florida; beach cottage at the shore. Boyish, always impeccably dressed, quick with a sharp quip, to which my aunt would usually react with a half-exasperated "Oh Jack." Jack took me to a Rutgers-Princeton football game at Rutgers, we sat in the alumni section - nice seats. I don't know if Jack had attended Rutgers - my aunt worked for Douglass College - & looking at the near-geezers sitting around us I easily imagined when they had worn fur coats & straw boaters & carried flasks of bootleg gin to football games; Jack was a few years too late for those fads. So I see Uncle Jack in Ned Lamont. As liberal as Ned is, he will not betray his class. It's George W. Bush who betrayed it. Because George behaves like new money; a profligate spender (of lives & treasure), anti-intellectual, too familiar toward people he hardly knows, exchanged his Episopalianism for southern holiness-style Methodism. Don't worry about Ned; he knows who he is. It's GWB who's confused about his identity.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Self-portrait with new coat
Whaddayado with a modest sportscoat nowadays? I'm from sportscoat/blazer family. Males wore one (with a tie) to church & to court when contesting a traffic ticket, to any indoor concert featuring classical music. You came to family holiday dinners wearing one, even if you took it off right away & hung it on the back of the chair. It was OK for certain kinds of parties, for bars above the level of neighborhood gin mills, for art show openings & New York museums. Refusing to wear a sportscoat was an initial symptom of my late-adolescent rebellion. But when I taught music in the 80s I welcomed the opportunity to don one again if I felt like it. Then, it seemed like my sister had become the last woman on Earth who appreciated men wearing sportscoats when there was no sign at the entrance requiring them, & said so.

Message to the Democrats

I'm an individual voter who has voted straight ticket Democratic for the past umpteen general elections, often holding my nose as I did so. Look upon the Lieberman defeat, however narrow, consider that he started out with all the advantages - incumbancy, money, endorsements, name recognition - & that Ned Lamont came out of nowhere to knock him off against all the initial "conventional wisdom." Remember:
I am not the problem.
George W. Bush is the problem.
The Republican leadership is the problem.
The war in Iraq is the problem.
How we make America secure is the problem.
Supreme Court nominees are the problem.
Protecting Social Security is the problem.
The radical Christian right is the problem.
Tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy minority are the problem.
Corruption is the problem.
Protecting human rights is the problem.
Global warming is the problem.
Health care is the problem.

Joe Lieberman blamed voters like me last night.
But his problem was that he forgot people like me vote.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Support Ned Lamont

I'm writing Senators Lautenberg & Menendez tonight, urging them to quickly accept the CT primary results & to endorse Ned Lamont as the Democratic candidate. By running as an independent, Joe Lieberman gives his Washington Republican pals exactly what they hope for - a split Democratic vote in November. If Joe wants to be an independent, let him become one now by resigning his Senate committee assignments & submitting a new request to the party of his choice if he desires caucus privileges.

text2win TV

If you're awake in the New York City area between 2 & 3 am this week, turn on channel 11 WPIX & watch a few minutes of the interactive word game show Text2Win. It's like being stuck on a couch playing a party game emcee'd by an attractive young woman who unfortunately is also the most dim-witted & annoying person in the room. Switching around at that hour, you might also see the memorable playlet,"Carmine & Deb Call At-Home Carpet," where Carmine exclaims, "Dis is da most impawdent game a da yee-ah!" (I've been meaning to discuss in more detail this telling vignette of a contemporary Ralph & Alice.)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lamont vs. Lieberman

I haven't tried to pay close attention to the Lieberman-Lamont contest, but it's such a common blog topic. Lieberman upset incumbent Sen. Lowell Weicker 18 years ago because CT. repugs abandoned their too-liberal candidate in droves. In Jersey, Bill Bradley was easily elected to the senate after venerable Sen. Clifford Case was beaten in the 1979 GOP primary by a right wing jerk named Jeffrey Bell, who went on to a very profitable career as a shill for the wingnuts, including the odious theocrat Gary Bauer. Since Bell knew he had no hope of winning the general election against Bradley, his candidacy was an exercise in trashing the NJ GOP for personal advancement, although he's probably a beacon of reason & integrity to uber-rightists like Scott Garrett & Mike Ferguson. So there's a risk if Lieberman is turned out tomorrow, no guarantee that Ned Lamont wins in November. But Ned - who has a fortune, is not Jeffrey - who had yet to earn his. For me, Lieberman's main political sin isn't his support for the Iraq War, although that's bad enough; it's his one-way bipartisanship. Unrequited love is for assholes. The Repug leadership demands lockstep obedience within their own ranks - the "50+1" tactics. . Screw the Dems, & if you're Lincoln Chafee or Olympia Snow, we'll screw you too if you get outta line. They do loosen the leash a bit for elections. But Lieberman went soft on issues other than Iraq, including Social Security, & has behaved like the Republican leadership actually needs his support & George W. Bush is a trustworthy man of moderate & accommodating temperament, & competent president, too. Democratic & Republican primary voters are heavily drawn from the partisan core of the parties. It's telling that Lieberman didn't see this potential reckoning at the hands of his own local base several years ago, & prepare for it. He was obviously out-of-touch with them, with their views, frustration & anger. He isn't running for re-election in Nebraska but in one of the blue-est of blue states. If he loses, he has no one to blame but himself. You don't go down to D.C. & hold hands on the national stage with one of the most partisan - & worst - presidents this nation has ever suffered, & then come home & arrogantly say in-effect , "I'm a big shot so I'm your guy; besides who else you got?" Well, Joe's Democratic constituents, the only ones that matter on Tuesday, may have found someone else.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Barnegat :Light NJ

"In the society of many men, or in the midst of what is called success, I find my life of no account, & my spirits rapidly fall.... But when I have only a rustling oak leaf, or the faint metallic cheep of a tree sparrow, for variety in my winter walk, my life becomes continent and sweet as the kernel of a nut."
Henry David Thoreau, Journal, Feb. 8, 1857

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Souvenir of Ocean City

In the crack between the end
of the ballgame & sleep,
TV glow flickering on a white wall,
an Ocean City appears in pastels
with beige houses built of sand,
their grainy textures crumbling,
& a blue sky, always blue except
where there is rain, gray clouds
dropping puffs of gray haze
as they float over gray waves.

Beach chairs on a large front porch
surrounded by victorian trimmings,
a postcard colored with flesh tones
of pale young hands & faces,
sullenly playing gin rummy
through an afternoon drizzle
in "America's Family Resort,"
no alcoholic beverages sold,
no movies on Sunday, the theater
turns non-denominational,
competing with the pinball arcade.

How long ago? A four cent postage stamp.
Cappy Dick regrets to inform you
that you are now too old to enter
the newspaper coloring contest.

Week In Ocean City: Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

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Friday, August 04, 2006

The only boardwalk I knew

I was brought to the Ocean City boardwalk before I was one year old. This is how the minds of generations of children are imprinted with the sights, sound & fragrances of boardwalks, so we return to them year after year like shad up the Delaware. One of my earliest memories is of waking up as my mother carried me out to our woody station wagon just after sunrise for the long drive south on Route 9 before the Parkway existed. For ten years, Ocean City was the only boardwalk I knew. With two exceptions: My grandmother took me to Asbury Park for a weekend. I only recall that there were a lot of flowers & I rode on a kiddy boat in Wesley Lake. Nana also took me to Allantic City - my mind plays tricks & recalls it as a trolley trip, but the line shut down the year I was born. although they were stillin running in Atlantic City.

Ocean City was a sedate place, then as now an alternative to the raucus beach towns. Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights & Wildwood were only signs on the highway. I first visited Seaside when I was 17; by then I was thoroughly familiar with Atlantic City in & out of season & took an "Is this all there is to it?" attitude toward Seaside. But I loved it. Atlantic City was far away & dying. I didn't get a good look at Wildwood until I was nearly 40. In the 80s, the road into North Wildwood was still an unimproved two-laner lined with shacks, the island loaded with cool motels, the boardwalk a multi-media extravaganza that went on & on. It won me over instantly. I also ventured into Cape May City, which had many charms to be sure, even a club with a drag show to go with the Victorian "cottages." I visited the first classic lighthouse I'd ever seen close up, & took the ferry over to Lewes & back. They all knocked me out.

I was in Ocean City the summer Hatari played there, 
"Outside there were birds perching on the clothesline, & dew on the grass, & a cool, cloudless morning sky stretching away to an island over the marshes & bay."
Angels At the Jersey Shore
I keep a special feeling for both Ocean City & Somers Point, although I haven't visited since the previous millennium. Somers Point is almost unrecognizable, there's been so much development since the casinos arrived. My godmother still lives there with her husband, it makes me sad that I haven't seen them in two decades. Ocean City is very much a year-round residential town, a true city. Because it had run out of space by 1970, it's losing old houses to the "tear down" disease. The amusement areas are larger, there's tall condos & traffic jams, expensive espresso drinks & pastries; the expressions of affluence & price-tagged taste more overt, the leisurely ambience unconvincing. Yet the boardwalk looked & felt like the boardwalk as I knew it long ago. The Music Pier, Flanders Hotel, & stucco stores remain. It just wasn't my boardwalk anymore. I understood how the love given a child becomes the love a child feels for a place.

Week In Ocean City: Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

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Arthur Lee, singer and guitarist of the influential 1960s band Love, has died in Memphis at the age of 61 following a battle with acute myeloid leukaemia.

A Memphis native who called himself the "first so-called black hippie", Lee formed Love in Los Angeles in 1965. The multiracial band recorded three groundbreaking albums that fused rock, blues and psychedelia - the self-titled Love, Da Capo and Forever Changes.

In the 1990s Lee spent time in prison for illegal possession of a firearm. But the singer made a triumphant comeback in 2002, touring the US and Europe with a new version of his classic band.
I've said a number of times that Forever Changes is "the only rock album I can always listen to all the way through." Which says something about both my regard for that recording & my attention span.
Love: The Daily Planet {Realaudio stream}

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Waking up in Ocean City

A year arrived when Dad & Mom rented a large apartment on Wesley Ave. in Ocean City for a week. This was a fabulous turn of events for me. We'd always stayed in Somers Point, totally dependent on the car & Dad's timetable to get us to & from the beach & boardwalk. But my cousin was married & she & her husband were filling their house with babies, our noisy annual visits had become too great a hassle for them. Now I would go to bed in Ocean City & wake up in Ocean City. The apartment was in an old victorian type like this one, with a high front porch. it's probably a B&B now. While everyone was jockeying for their rooms I grabbed the little one nobody wanted - behind the kitchen & next to a back door opening on a delivery alleyway that cut through the middle of the block. I discovered a network of these back alleys in OC. My room had been a walk in pantry or cook's bedroom.

I'd also discovered inner tubes in a pile of huge discarded truck tires next to a repair shop in Roselle Park. Patched & fully inflated, the tube was as tall as me, a massive black donut. I'd tested it out in our circular backyard pool, learned to stand up on it & dive off. The only problem was a long L shaped valve protruding from the center, but if it was pointed down you minimized any chance of getting a painful scratch. I couldn't wait to try it out on ocean waves. When I first rolled my giant tube out of the alley & down the street to the beach, I could tell Ocean City had never seen anything like it. Fortunately, neither had the Ocean City lifeguards, who generally took a lenient attitude toward flotation devices anyway & were too amused to question me about its safety & reliability. The tube performed royally on the long, high swells that came across Ocean City's sand bars, & even large breakers tended to bounce it toward the shore rather than flipping it. & just as in the pool, with a little practice I discovered I could stand up on it & keep standing, riding up & down as waves passed underneath. Rich kids watched me with envy. & it hadn't cost me a cent. My giant tube was so ahead of its time - nobody was floating down the Delaware in them yet - evincing such "Incredible, why didn't I think of it?" reactions from others that it may well have been the pinnacle of my childhood. Since I already stuttered & had won free games of miniature golf on the 18th hole despite terrible scores, there was nothing left to do but wait for puberty.

(Our apt was on the the porch & 2nd  floors of a house like this one)

It rained a couple of times that week, I recall some card-playing & boredom. Ocean City was a safe place; although I was only 10 I was pretty much allowed to go my own way as long as I met up with the family on the beach & returned for supper. Mine wasn't a togetherness kind of family. My sister was into boy-watching, one of my brothers was addicted to skeeball, the oldest tended to just disappear, showing up later with something weird from a novelty store. Ocean City wasn't known for big rides & fancy amusements. There was enticing food everywhere, & what seemed like two dozen candy shops, brightly lit sugar emporiums, inside were smiling teenage girls wearing white blouses & striped aprons, standing behind long glass display cases packed with trays of goodies, inducing a week-long Pavlovian drool & a craving for chocolate variations almost mystical in intensity. But an ice cream cone was all I could expect from my parents. I did enjoy tagging along on their leisurely nightly boardwalk strolls through the shops with classy fronts but packed with the same old dusty kitsch souvenir merchandise inside - yet endlessly fascinating to a kid; hearing corny band music leaking from the Music Pier; stopping to watch a stainless steel salt water taffy machine twisting the gooey stuff at one end & popping out little perfectly wrapped candies at the other. That week was first time I really explored a Jersey boardwalk, finding the nooks, crannies, hiding places & shortcuts. But it was just a warm-up. By the following summer my grandmother had retired, moved out of our house & into a great apartment one block from the Atlantic City boardwalk.

Week In Ocean City: Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Flanders

The Flanders Hotel was the Ocean City NJ landmark. You saw the red roof & cupola coming into the city. You saw it from the beach. This Spanish Mission Revival miracle anchored the southern end of the boardwalk's busiest stretch. The Flanders was my ideal of where a person with money to burn spent a week in town if you didn't have a house on a canal & a boat. The hotel was well past prime in the 50s, & in the 60s started looking shabby, a decline that slowly continued for decades. The huge salt water pool was removed. I'm not sure the place even had air-conditioning. By age 13 I wandered freely through the lobby, shops, sun decks & solariums, having learned from exploring the grand old hotels in Atlantic City that nobody was inclined to stop a blonde-haired, sun-burned kid who looked like he knew where he was. Incredibly, The Flanders has survived. It probably would have been razed if the Ocean City government had not stepped in & forbade it.

Week In Ocean City: Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

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Rare clouds over Antarctica
"Called a nacreous cloud, it was so rare and spectacular that all 11 staff at Australia's Mawson base ventured outdoors to watch.

"But the stunning sight was a reminder of environmental damage being inflicted on the ozone layer by decades of chlorofluorocarbon emissions."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cooking the crabs

These Ocean City guys did alright. Mine wasn't a fishing family. We crabbed with square traps, which of course required no skill, just patience & bait (chicken in Jersey, not bunker). I liked the places we went to crab, appreciated the pugnacious critters & even tried to pick them up - well, the smaller ones. I thought they were too much hassle to eat, which suited the adults fine. Let the kids have hot dogs. It was a grownups' ritual sitting around a picnic table dissecting crabs & drinking beer.

I have a vivid memory of my Aunt Bella dumping a basket of crabs into a steaming cauldron on the stove, slamming on the lid, & the crabs making the lid bounce trying to escape. It was awful. Why not just keep them as pets? One day, thinking about this memory, I realized that I was looking up at my Aunt & the enormous kettle. Bella could be a pretty fearsome person at times with her muu muus, Irish temper & frazzled hair, but she wasn't tall & I wasn't afraid of her when I was behaving myself. I don't actually know what the crabs are doing. In my memory, I can't even see over the top of the stove, which means I hadn't cracked the three foot barrier. It's happening far above me. I'm a very small child. I am Bobby. Everything is mystery & wonderment & curious, especially on vacation. I can still smell the spices from that pot of fresh crabs in Somers Point.

Week In Ocean City: Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

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Visit it while you can

Condos may replace rides at Funtown Pier
This is tough one. In the larger sense, all Funtown has had going for it for decades is that it looks old - particularly the huge carousel building - so is beloved by summer visitors for whom a week in town is an annual tradition. It's the boardwalk bookend to Casino Pier & tries to compete. But Casino has the historic carousel, a waterpark (run by the Jenkinsons of Point Pleasant Beach), & is promoted as a complete package, self-contained amusement park. If Funtown is not economically viable it's because current ownership has neither the vision nor the resources to rethink the operation as a boardwalk amusement enterprise. The Gillian family from Ocean City or Wildwood's many-tentacled Morey Clan might have some ideas if they owned it. It's not going to be enough for old-timers & boardwalk afficionados to say Funtown Pier is a "landmark" or "historically important." It won't become a museum. In a way, it already is.

"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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