Saturday, June 30, 2007

Better there because

Brits have lucked out the past couple of days. They discovered two poorly designed bomb cars in London, & captured two inept loonies attempting to ram a flaming jeep inside the Glasgow Airport terminal. Perhaps timed to rattle a new Downing Street occupant. I'm relieved it happened there rather than here in the USA, because the British don't fall to pieces over terrorist acts, even when they're hit in bunches. They'll deal with it without heaving constitutional law into the Thames. So watch how the people of Great Britain handle it, & when it happens here, as it probably will, maybe we'll remain calm enough to prevent the Cheney/Bush junta from foisting more abuses of power upon a frightened, unprepared country. & for heavens sake, let's stay out of the way & not screw up their police investigation this time.

Friday, June 29, 2007


Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, by Nick Tosches.

I ashamed to admit I just read this book. It was highly recommended to me when published in 1992. Nick Tosches is a wonderful writer, I should have read it years ago for that reason alone. I also foolishly passed up several chances to meet Tosches (I was afraid of him, not my typical reaction to geniuses). I finally read Dino because I became curious about how & why Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis became the most popular comedy act in America in the decade after WWII. Tosches meticulously researched Dean Martin, came at him from all compass points. He had no choice but to put himself in his subject's head & think aloud, since Dean was never inclined to explain himself, never published his story even "as told to." Tosches goes directly to core of the matter, Dino's attitude - the state of his soul, really, with a number of perfect Italian phrases. It's a terrific book. So I'm not reviewing the book. You should read it if you haven't.

I liked that Dean Martin believed it was all bullshit, was born with the belief (The Italians have a phrase for this unpleasant vision of truth). Unlike Frank, who bought into it completely, acting out the three & four minute minidramas of the Great American Songbook. Lies. Pretty, tuneful, rhymed lies. So I can enjoy a lot of the mediocre material Dean tossed off on his Fifties Capitol label recordings, the Italian pop songs, the bleached Dixieland, even "That's Amore." Dino couldn't sing anything straight unless it was already something he needn't empty of meaning & emotion. Eventually, by the 1970s, he could hardly do a song all the way to the end, it was so pointless to him.

Still, there was something wrong about it. Now I'm sure Dean was wrong. Not because the lyrics weren't bullshit, or because of how audiences paid big bucks so they could throw aside reality & wallow in Frank's dramatic renditions, turning everything into big band Verdi, then get suckered at the tables & slots after the show, too. Dean was wrong because the music was great, & he still wouldn't trust it. There were other singers who recognized the lies & in their own ways refused to tell them. Ella Fitgerald broke through with numbers like "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" & "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)," songs even more meaningless than "like a big pizza pie." Her voice was a brilliant instrument, so she scatted. Most lyrics were only syllables she pronounced so she could bounce, stretch & tweak the melody & be part of the band. She recorded nearly every classic pop song in the catalogue as pure music. & she learned it from the master, Louis Armstrong, at once the greatest musical genius, the greatest self-parodist, & the greatest leveller of material in the history of American entertainment. Knocked the Beatles out of #1 with the idiotic "Hello Dolly" just because he could. Whenever Satchmo was tempted to say "Fuck it all" he emptied his spit valve & rolled another number. Or the superb Vegas lounge performers, Louis Prima, Keely Smith, Buddy Greco. Prima partied with Sam Butera honking up his ass on a sax. He was just a gigolo spouting non sequiturs. Keely went blank-faced like a porcelain doll, something quite different than the neurotic detachment of Peggy Lee. Buddy started out at the jive ass border on "The Lady Is a Tramp" even Sinatra didn't dare trespass, totally manic, taking an axe to Larry Hart's Broadway show lyrics.

Dean was an excellent singer. He couldn't believe that his voice would tell the truth no matter what the words said, so he took the whole song, crumpled it up & lobbed it toward the nearest trash can. The more accomplished he became using his voice, the more surely he would have gotten the message across. No sweat. But even that much, even his growing skill & confidence, had value only because he could spend more time playing golf. Which may have been all he ever really wanted. Maybe it was like punching a clock at a Steubenville steel mill, only absurdly easier in his own estimation (because it was), & he earned an insane amount of money, more money than any human deserved. Did Dean's view of the universe justify getting on stage & throwing himself away? In some way, Dean did grasp the trap he was in, & began extricating himself from it the first real chance he had, on a nightclub stage in New York when he first let Jerry Lewis interrupt his straight act.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007


Thursday is usually a library/supermarket late afternoon for me because I can get a ride over there. I had to stay close to home. The temp & humidity is slightly more bearable, but the National Weather Service Severe Thunderstorm Watch is alarming & the storms are popping up rather than coming in across as solid front. It's was no day to risk walking home carrying a a small folding umbrella & backpack filled with food & books.

I have an SSD re-evaluation application due next week. I've never filled one out -it was filled out for me one previous time by health professionals, I didn't even receive it in the mail, my therapist verbally asked me all the personal questions, the clinic supplied all the treatment documentation (which they'll do this time, too), & I signed it. My therapist wisely kept it from being a big deal. SSD is like a job I don't particularly like, one that has advantages & disadvantages. But I've experienced the alternatives & know why I'm receiving it & what would happen if I didn't get it, & that shields me from the criticism of a few people who think it's like a sixty-grand no show job at the medical school in Newark & who ought to know better. & when I started receiving it, I wasn't even aware that my left eye had been wrecked by a surgeon who hadn't bothered for obvious reasons to tell me he had botched the surgery. If he had, I'd probably be quietly residing in a nice trailer park in Cape May now & writing beautiful poems about egrets & Jersey shore pirate stories for children. The eye problem doesn't even factor in.

Then, 4 years ago I learned what occurs when one doesn't come clean with one's therapist about unraveling practical matters & bleak thinking. Even Ph.D psychologists are not psychics. Although the structure of my private life was crumbling, reflected in the disaster area my apartment had become (it's messy now but you'd recognize a music lover's filing system), I was still showing up for sessions shaved, bathed & well-dressed. I was so glad to be going to therapy, so enjoyed seeing my therapist, that if I was depressed when I started out for the clinic, I arrived at the session in a good mood. This was unfortunate. I had been a rock musician, a podium poet, an alternative radio DJ, & the amicable overseer of an art store book dept; the outside world was a stage. Both of my parents were remarkable public actors. So was I. When I had a substitute shrink a couple of appointments ago, he concluded the interview with, "Good, you seem to be maintaining, come back next month," & signed the topmost page in the mysterious, thick binder holding my case file, a book that tells its own story.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A taste of July

On the good side of the sweltering day, I put the air-conditioner in the window, & you know the feeling, when you turn it on late afternoon & after about an hour the temp & humidity come together in an "Ahhhh" moment. For me, it doesn't have to be frigid & dry; spring-like is fine. Given the height of the ceiling, I can't go for the arctic effect anyway with this size unit - which is just adequate, although I know it's almost gotten there overnight when I wake up wrapped in the blanket. A couple of hot June days present a chance to acclimatize to what we know is coming to Jersey in July. Not that you really can. How bad can it get? I remind myself of a blistering hot 4th of July in Rahway a few years ago, still well over 90 degrees when the fireworks finale ended, the heavy air almost completely still, clouds of aerial bomb smoke barely moving. Judging from the apathetic applause, most of us were there more out of patriotic duty or because the kids demanded it than for holiday entertainment. It was the kind of day you burn the burgers in the backyard but eat them in the kitchen & don't even bother bringing the potato salad & deviled eggs outside.


Whitman, Go Home

Star-Ledger columnist Tom Moran is correct, former NJ governor & Cheney/Bush EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman is not a villain. She may not even exactly be a "wimp." But after testifying at the congressional hearings investigating EPA actions after 9/11, it's clear she's a political hack, a Repug lapdog & wingnut apologist with deep family ties to the Bush Clan. She has zilch credibility. It's past time for her to stop pretending she represents some important but under-regarded "moderate" middle class wing of the Republican Party (a faction formerly known as "The Rockefellers") & retire to her horse country estate or wherever it is she gets her working farm tax break & go back to riding after the foxes with her wealthy uppercrust pals. She's never been much more than a government gopher for her husband's banking interests. Her friends & allies probably didn't misplace a penny while she bankrupted the state as governor & new monuments to their hubris are rising out of a crater in downtown Manhattan. Makes me sad she has the same last name as the great poet of the Democracy.

(I'm grumpy today.)


More Noise

Just as I was about to write about it, the house alarm about a block away that's been shrieking since yesterday afternoon finally fell silent. It was fairly easy to tune it out here, except very late last night, & when I crank up the a/c later I wouldn't have heard it at all. But everyone living closer to the noise must have been going nuts. I was developing a perverse curiosity about how long it would keep up. Another day? A week? A month? I'm almost convinced everyone else in this neighborhood is a drug dealer, illegal immigrant, parolee, or has some reason not to want to bring themselves to the attention of the police by getting on the phone & bitching over an obvious public quality-of-life hassle that I, in my small city naivete, believe the uniformed departments are supposed to remedy. Eight ridiculously loud off-duty Haitian cabbies hanging out on the corner at 3 am, we'll ask them to take in inside. Crap game on the sidewalk directly under the streetlight, that's brazen, we'll chase them away. Two illegal roosters waking everyone up before sunrise? We'll stop by & tell the folks to get rid of them or face summonses & fines. Street noise is responsible for a large portion of my high electric bills during warm months, both here & where I used to live, I'm not complaining about that. Rather, it's how some people are oblivious to the effect they have on their surroundings - & I mean even the otherwise friendly guy who cranks up his car radio to ear-splitting volume so he can feel the bass as he checks the oil on Saturday morning, the same folks who don't flush the toilets in public restrooms.


Monday, June 25, 2007

For a dear friend whose mom died last week


outside the spring is here
for once calendar & air the same

streets full of people
coats open or off, unhatted
a field of flowers opening to the sun
spring! spring is here!

he died not seeing this this year
he died in winter after many springs
but every spring he saw we see still
every spring he saw we see still

© 1978 by joel oppenheimer, names, dates & places, st andrews Press, Laurinburg NC
Sometimes there seems to be nothing much at all to an oppenheimer poem until you try to write one like it. Although he can resemble William Carlos Williams, the quality of sentiment is quite his own, especially the sense of humor, as in the tongue-tripping closing lines here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I want to thank

I want to thank the extended family in the corner house for the all-night outdoor party last night. I understand it was probably a family occasion, perhaps a graduation or anniversary, or five more 4th cousins made it safely over the fence. A happy, all-ages event. There were no drunken fights in the street, no frowning sociopaths in xxl white teeshirts shooting craps on the sidewalk. But did you have to keep the music going until 6 am & leave the karaoke mic turned on? I doubt if there was much of an audience by then for the tequila-addled extrovert doing his impression of a Telemundo game show host. Frankly, I'd be in a more forgiving mood if the party hadn't wrapped up at sunrise but just kept on swinging through this afternoon. At least you demonstrated that there were hundreds of sleep deprived people within hearing distance afraid of even their disposable cell phone numbers showing up on caller ID at the police switchboard, & proved beyond a doubt that the Elizabeth police don't patrol through the neighborhood between midnight & 6 am anyway. Although it's possible the cops heard you all the way up at the 7-11.


Fort Lee NJ
The biggest stars played the club, which was open only during warm months & had a retractable roof. Reputedly had a gambling room. After the Riviera was demolished in the Fifties for a new highway, Bill Miller became a legend in Las Vegas entertainment, signing Louis Prima & Keely Smith to a seven year contract at The Sahara's Casbah Lounge.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Annual Chicken Barbecue

Last fall, "Pastor Dan" Schultz was called to a semi-rural United Church of Christ congregation in Wisconsin. As native cheeseheads, Dan & Mrs. Pastor, then residing in Lancaster PA, were delighted to return home.

The Salem UCC gig came with a parsonage, spacious yard, & picturesque graveyard. It also included large concrete barbecue pits, open air dining pavilion, storage shed, & a hugely popular annual chicken barbecue fundraising event. 1000+ servings of chicken, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, a river of coffee, & dessert table. Photos of the event are here. They weren't taken at peak hour. Church volunteers prepare an enormous quantity of food. Every oven in the church & parsonage is filled with stuffing - a hand-mushed recipe requiring a generous topping of ground pork. Institutional size cans of green beans, must be some obscure law mandating a side of green, at least they aren't generic. Can't blame them for using instant potatoes as gravy lakes. Mrs. Pastor notes that the dessert table in the photo does not reflect the actual abundance & variety available. The fires are supervised by "Smokey." although that's not how he got the name. The event takes place on a weekday.

Pastor Dan probably feels like he lives a double life. Online he's a plainspoken but erudite, widely-known progressive commentator & the leader at Street Prophets. In certain ways I think of him as my pastor. But he's also a real life minister of a mainline church comprised, so far as I can tell, of rock solid citizens of the upper midwest. It's a lovely church, the barbecue a great tradition, no more corny than a Holy Name Society pancake breakfast or a Methodist Strawberry Festival. I'd love to visit there. On Barbecue Day, of course.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Indian Snake Charmer

BBC News: A vibrating condom has sparked a fierce debate in India, over whether it is a sex toy - which are banned - or a means of birth control.

The controversial condom has caused outrage in the state of Madhya Pradesh, because a government-owned company is involved in marketing it.

The pack of three condoms, branded as Crezendo, contains a battery-operated ring-like device.
That has caused an outcry among many in conservative India, including the Madhya Pradesh minister for road and energy, Kailash Vijayvargiya, who argues that it is nothing more than a sex toy.

"Sex toys are banned in India and the vibrating device is nothing but a sex toy being sold as condoms.

"The government's job is to promote family planning and population control measures rather than market products for sexual pleasure," he told BBC News.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Napalm Health Spa 2007

New issue of Napalm Health Spa online, Jim Cohn's long-running annual poetry report. Three of my poems included; two loose pieces from this blog, a third inspired by an encounter with a schizophrenic while stranded all night in the Washington DC bus station. Poems by Anne Waldman & Andre Codrescu. Heartbreaking longer poem by old friend David Cope. Two zingers by Sam Abrams. Three from Eliot Katz, we go far back to crazy Eighties punk readings at The Court, Melody & Roxy in New Brunswick, & there was no better audience shill than Eliot, who knew exactly when to laugh. Lots of other familiar names & some new ones. I don't know if Jim even bothers with hard copies anymore. NHS used to have handmade paper covers, still a love labor.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Apartment neighbors

If your own house burns down, it's usually your own fault in one way or another, a preventable "accident." But if you burn your own apartment up, you can make everyone in your building homeless. There are 20 apartments in my building, & I can't control what the other tenants do. Which is an anxiety shared by nearly all apartment dwellers with any sense. The guy upstairs let his bathtub overflow last week. The quiet man who used to live across the hall occasionally forgot about food he was cooking, but he always set off his own smoke detector. These forgetful types concern me. Pot heads & happy drinkers, companionable when you see them around the place, are untrustworthy neighbors. Anyone who keeps an ashtray next to the bed is crazy. Well, it's ok temporarily, if you're doing some doob with a lover. But the pot itself can make you get out a 1/2 gallon of ice cream & two spoons even as you overlook the French Bread pizza in the toaster oven. There are always annoyances in apartment buildings reminding you the other people have their own small worlds apart; the loud music, the unpleasant seasonings that make you imagine a goat head boiling in a kettle, escalating domestic arguments. I lived in a three apartment house with only a wall between me & two criminal types. One of them was taken away in handcuffs for, I think, breaking his probation. I knew he wasn't especially dangerous because Rahway assigned the job to one, short, overweight patrolman. The other one was a loud, loony crackhead whose existence I wouldn't even acknowledge when I saw him outside. & this was in an otherwise quiet neighborhood of mostly single family homes.

My current building has more children & less tenant turnover than my previous residency, a newer building of similar size that got a lot of freshly divorced men passing through on their way to God knows where, another bad marriage probably; they had few possessions beyond a bed, a television, & a comfortable chair to sit in as they watched it. Some of them invited me in for beers, & I don't remember any of their names. I always recommended the same bar to them, The Back Porch, where local middle-aged male & female divorcees hung out. I never went there unless invited by someone, usually patronized another place up the street with a better juke, a pinball game, & a young lady tending bar who looked beautiful after only two drinks. Anyway, those men were alright as neighbors. The only kitchen appliance they used was the fridge.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ocean Grove NJ
Prior to an important court decision on church-state separation. From Wikpedia: "Ocean Grove retained its independence until a court ruling in 1981 nullified the Camp Meeting Association’s municipal authority. At that time, Ocean Grove became part of Neptune Township, in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The Camp Meeting still owns all the land in town and leases it to homeowners and businesses for 99-year renewable terms. The Camp Meeting Association currently keeps its beach closed on Sunday mornings between 8:30 am and 12:30 pm and Ocean Grove is still dry, that is, the sale of all alcoholic beverages is prohibited." Ironically, the successful challenge to Ocean Grove's special status as a one square mile theocracy was initiated by a man who claimed the OG police were an agency of a religious group & had no right to issue him a ticket for drunk driving. The court agreed.

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Close Call

The building fire alarm went off before sunrise this morning, clanging bells. I was awake, in bed reading Nick Tosches' Dino, an appropriate hour for it, & about to take 1/2 an Ambien to hurry sleep along. We've had false alarms. I got up, stuck my head out in the hall, smelled nothing, but shut the PC down & put on my pants as a precaution. That alarm is supposedly connected to the fire dept, so I expected a three engine response with sirens screaming. I heard someone banging on doors. Looked out into hall again, this time smelled a familiar odor I couldn't quite place but knew was something overheating. So I threw on a shirt, made sure I had my wallet, locked up & went downstairs. almost immediately regretting I hadn't tossed my important documents files in a backpack. A few people standing in foyer, no sirens. The smell was definitely coming from 1A, but it wasn't really strong or visible smoke. That guy was blaring the Rolling Stones & obviously drinking with a pal when I'd come home before midnight. We pounded on his door. Nothing. A few more tenants wandered downstairs, but a few were not leaving their apartments. Dumb. In February, several apartments in a nicer building up the street burned out because of a toaster oven, the wall outside was charred, some windows boarded up; fortunately, the building remained habitable. Still no sirens. & the woman I thought was the resident building super didn't have apt keys. I suggested we not wait for fire dept & break down the door before whatever it was turned into an actual fire. Received no support. I went outside. 1A windows were all open, but too high up for easy access. Someone called 911 & the building owner, who showed up very agitated at the same time the fire engines did, four of them. It had to be 15 minutes from the alarm going off to the trucks pulling up, a very poor response. Fire Dept. headquarters is 4 blocks away.

The guy in 1A was in a drunken sleep. On his stove, a pot had boiled dry with the gas flame on high! Ah, that was it. Probably happened to all of us while we were awake, & scary enough then. Close call, I'd say. Firemen carried in a heavy duty fan, blew out the fumes, & as the eastern sky brightened, we were allowed to return. Some people had never left their apartments the whole time, despite several concerned tenants trying to rouse them. As for the guy in 1A, whose cat wandered the hallways crying in miserable abandonment all night two nights ago because he couldn't be bothered with chasing it down, "He's outta here," promised the landlord.


Saturday, June 16, 2007


The water below, like rock,
moves slowly through centuries,
drawing time from a well
by mysterious drarf trees.

Sand swells where the end of an ice age
brought high water,
now a highway passes over,
a bump holding billions of lives,
not made to endure.

Salt grass collects into consciousness
above the tide line,
in tune with daily ocean bulges;
someday when the water freshens
the grass will disappear,
a changed earth raised with flowers.

The first version of a poem I wrote twice, South Jersey at the edge of the Pine Barrens. A few years later, rather than revise it, I let the poem dictate itself again, & it came out very differently. Can't find the other poem, which I prefer, but I know it exists in one of my files & is titled "Pine Barrens."

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Friday, June 15, 2007

True Believers

"I think people want a sense of where someone stands in their relationship with the Lord."

Tony Perkins, President of The Family Research Council, commenting on Sen. John McCain.

I'm no fan of the Senator's politics, but he's been saying for over 30 years that his religious faith sustained him through 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese hellhole. That sort of reality-tested testimony doesn't cut it with the protestant inquisitors searching for George W's replacement. True Believers have nothing to fear! (Special added attraction at next Repug debate: Dunking for Devil worshippers.)


Thursday, June 14, 2007


Janet is "interviewing" me:

1. What is the one thing in life you feel most anxious about?
Health. & being late for a scheduled WFMU radio show.

2. If you were given a shopping spree for 1 day what would it be for? (doesn't have to be a store but can't pay off bills) (stole this one from Robin's question for me but it seemed fitting here)
No money limit? A house? A car? If it's just stuff, then a great computer package. A studio upright piano or Hammond organ would be cool, but couldn't keep them here. Maybe a classic 1980s synthesizer.

3. What is your favorite NJ vacation spot?
Kismet Motel, North Wildwood NJ. My only vacation spot.

4. Which celebrity, past or present, do you most wish was still in the public eye?
Mark Twain, perhaps. "Celebrities" like movie stars & pop singers exist agelessly in their best recorded work, & unless they die prematurely their physical presences are easily disposed of. Even so, Elvis would just have gone on singing "Can't Help Falling In Love" & "Polk Salad Annie." & I love Elvis. But Twain would have lots to say.

5. Pretend this was your last supper. What would be your perfect meal?
Probably something simple & basic, like pot roast, garlicky potatoes, & an excellent tossed salad with garden tomatoes. Strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert. Remember this if I contact you from prison in Texas.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Nap time is over

I'm feeling very anxious. I miss my former therapist, Dr. K, who moved to a more profitable private practice two years ago & decided I didn't need a replacement for her. Although we never had a big "breakthrough" - I'm too guarded & she wasn't that assertive a psychologist, her practical counsel & guidance were useful & I think we'd have dealt with some pressing problems by now rather than postponing difficult decisions. My shrink doesn't have time for this stuff, & it isn't his job. The man has schizophrenics & wife beaters waiting in the reception area.

I was just rejected for a credit card. Odd thing is, I didn't apply for one, & the name on the letter isn't exactly mine, but it was correctly delivered to my address. Did someone in this building cop a piece of my junk mail, one of those "pre-approved" card offers that really isn't, & send it in? Expecting what? Maybe there's some other explanation. I have a terrible credit rating, & I paid off & canceled the one remaining active card I had several years ago as too much of a temptation to have in my wallet. Unbelievably, I was carrying something like an $8000 unused borrowing limit even as collectors for two other cards were hounding me, & I probably could have gone on indefinitely paying off one card with another. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are doing just that, if they aren't refinancing their houses for cash.

I hope the Mets snap out of their funk soon. I know mid-season losing streaks build character in teams that seem to have been winning too easily, & the Braves & Phillies haven't taken advantage of the slump, but they're nipping at the Mets heels now, & the schedule directly ahead is tough. Nap time is over, guys.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

A Jersey Blues

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

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

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

© Bob Rixon

Inspired by cheap paperbacks that were cut & paste from FBI wiretap transcripts of the last generation of old style Jersey bosses. Simone "Sam the Plumber" DeCavalcante was a rarity, a boss who handed over the day-to-day operations of his small family to an underling & "retired" to Florida. His family was one of David Chase's models for Tony Soprano's crew.

Tony's Boat

A reader at Alan Sepinwall's Sopranos blog "pointed out the similarities between the Eugene Delacroix painting The Barque of Dante and the Annie Leibovitz promotional image on the season five DVD set." Also check out The Doomed Souls embarking to cross the Acheron by Gustave Doré,


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Joe's No. 2 Diner, Verga NJ, a town below Camden

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Nancy Sinatra

I get my Paris Hilton updates at Blanton's & Ashton's, since DBK switched to writing about the really important news when Democrats decided they were given control of Ccngress in order to support the Iraq War.

But it's Frank Lloyd Wright's birthday. He's the megalomaniac architect who designed the most uncomfortable major art exhibition space in New York, The Guggenheim Museum. A skateboard punk's dream, though.

Also Nancy Sinatra's birthday. I have only praise for the woman who recorded the classics These Boots Are Made for Walking, Some Velvet Morning, Sugartown, You Only Live Twice, Lightning's Girl, & Something Stupid; co-starred with Peter Fonda & Bruce Dern in The Wild Angels (Fonda reputedly blowing real pot smoke in her face), & with Elvis in the very watchable Speedway. Plus, she posed for Playboy at age 54, & made a cameo in The Sopranos. It was no small, easy thing for the daughter of Frank to take that signature name & have her own great career. She could have made a couple of lousy vanity records & disappeared.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007


The leaves are as green as they
will be, hang out there collecting
dust & radiation, beneath the street
roots crack sewer pipes,

cigarette butts in bird nests,
squirrels on live wires, trees have
have long term responsibilities,
we plant them, they raise us.


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Vote for Joe, he says the Ro

I just read the transcripts for the Presidential Forum On Faith, Values & Poverty, organized by Sojourners (Jim Wallis) & broadcast on CNN, & the Paula Zahn followup, & there's a lot of information I don't need to know to choose a candidate. Joe Biden says the Rosary every day (as do millions of Catholics you'd never suspect). Chris Dodd is raising his kids both RC & Mormon (I didn't think either religion approved of that). Faith got Hillary Clinton through her marriage woes (for a less politically-ambitious person, faith AND divorce might've settled it even better).

Since I was raised around moderate & even casual or pro forma (not liberal) religious practices - Methodism & Roman Catholicism - this emphasis on determining if a politician's faith is authentic by expecting them to correlate their religious beliefs with their political views & agendas, disturbs me. The idea that someone's faith - you, me, anyone - could be spotlighted in public & judged inauthentic comes from the American protestant right & nowhere else. I don't like that these kinds of interrogations are now necessary for candidates, much less that Soledad O'Brien & Paula Zahn are somehow qualified to ask the questions, although I suppose they're better than Christian zealots. In good Christian youth education, one is taught to take people at their word regarding personal belief, however doubtful one might be of the sincerity or veracity. There is no uniform yardstick applicable to all for measuring the practical expression of belief. & all major religious traditions caution against ostentatious displays of religiosity. As Sunday school teachers used to warn, "Nobody quotes the Bible better than the Devil."

The most profoundly spiritual of presidents, Abraham Lincoln, belonged to no church or denomination. I'm not even aware of his having referred to himself as "Christian," certainly not in any strongly sectarian sense. His world view was so much in the Old Testament-Prophetic mode, his methods of illustrating points & mediating personal disputes so rabbinical, that he was probably closer to Judaism than anything else. I used to think that if America had a "religion." it was Lincoln's. But as a Republican politician, he'd have a tough time of it going up against the likes of Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Tom Tancredo, & George W. Bush.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yo, gimme two slices

SAN JOSE, Calif., AP- A customer attacked a pizzeria manager with a machete after becoming enraged over how long his food delivery took, police said Wednesday. The manager required stitches.

A delivery man from Pizza My Dear apparently arrived within the promised 45 minutes, but "the suspect meets him and is cussing a blue streak, yelling at the guy, saying he doesn't want the pizza because he was late," San Jose police Sgt. Nick Muyo said.

The angry customer later went to the pizza parlor, saying, "'Do you want a piece of me?'" before going to his car and returning with a 2-foot machete, Muyo said.

The manager suffered cuts while shielding his head, Muyo said.
In Jersey, a typical pizza maker would wear the blood-spattered apron for a month.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

This week I am an artist

The art class I attend once or twice a week opened its annual exhibit today. I helped hang it yesterday. The big gallery at Kean University is under renovation, so they moved us over to the Gatehouse this year, a small lounge/conference building, originally part of the Kean family estate. It's pleasant but cramped compared to the space in the art building. I have three very modest pencil drawings & get to show a photo by special dispensation from the teacher for having worked with him at Pearl Arts store & knowing how to use a tape measure. The Mayor of Elizabeth stopped by with his young daughter; he lives about 5 minutes away, a friendly man & a lot tougher than he looks. I don't think I even belong in the show given my loose connection to the organization & sporadic attendence in class, but really enjoy putting in a few hours to make it a great event for the artists, all spotlighted & applauded.


Royal Houses

The big band secret I never heard
was 15 or 20 musicians
at the front of a cavernous hall
in 1939
a crowd of kids pushing against the stage
others dancing behind
as the noise bounces off the walls
the people & it echoes
& the echoes echo
one band one instrument
a gasoline-powered sound machine

But now we're going to war
it's the last dance gentleman
please return to your units
& we can't possibly lose
because we sure know how to build 'em
so we're building 'em by the thousands

When the war ended
everything was obsolete
the B-29s & 78 revolutions
of beautiful things
took their time going
but they're gone now
& won't be coming back


Kings, Dukes & Counts. Big band music "coming back" was a woeful, hopeless litany of many in my parents' generation. Of course, it came back. Everything in pop culture comes back & coexists now. Rock & roll wasn't an antidote to big bands, but to "How Much Is That Doggy In the Window?" & "Three Coins In A Fountain."

When my stepfather, a working class guy from Bayonne, mentioned girls putting on bobby sox & them all piling into a car & driving up Pompton Turnpike to a show at the legendary Meadowbrook Ballroom, middle-class mom testily said, "Bah, we all wore stockings when we went there!"

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Fiddle Dee Dee

Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara are to come to the West End next year in a musical version of Gone With The Wind.

The new adaptation will be directed by Sir Trevor Nunn - who returns to the New London Theatre, where he launched Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats in 1981.

In a statement, Sir Trevor said he was "drawn to the challenge" of adapting Margaret Mitchell's vast, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel for the stage.
It tells the story of southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, whose idyllic lifestyle is shattered when President Lincoln's demands to end slavery trigger the American Civil War.
Producer Aldo Scrofani said the musical would "remain true to Margaret Mitchell's original story and characters while also revealing its relevance to our lives today".
Just what theater needs: A pro-slavery musical. Not the slightest bit relevant except in a negative sense. Gone with The Wind sucks even as a love story. With her Ashley Wilkes obsession, Scarlett O'Hara was never worth Rhett's alpha male libido. It'll cost millions for the special effects to burn Atlanta on stage. The BBC writer manages in one sentence to get the history horribly wrong. The South instigated the War. They justified it as preemptive, just like Bush with Iraq. When he took office, Lincoln opposed only the extension of slavery beyond the states where it already existed. But wealthy Southern plantation owners & real estate speculators looked greedily at the prairie states & California the way American oil companies covet Kirkuk & Basra.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Haven Beach Motel, Long Beach Island NJ
Still exists, but check out the development.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pretty soon I have to switch over to the newer model Blogger template. With trepidation. The overall design remains the same, but the sidebar is different & some functions improved. Currently, if you look for all posts under a given label, the page shows only the last 20. The newer template brings up all the labeled posts & lists the labels in the sidebar. I'll have to redo sidebar links & graphics. It's either change or have another blog or website just for the old poems. I like the informality of posting the poems here whether they're polished or ragged, have too many other websites & pages. But I worry about the archives.
Have to experiment more. Playing with one of my inactive blogs, I switched to an updated template, customized it, reverted to the old template, & then recovered the new one. Now I have to figure out how to carry over sidebar graphics. But at the moment, I can't even recall how I got the title of this blog to display in comic sans type. oy.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Business

The Mayor's son-in-law owns a sleazy club
on the flood-prone side of the river.
The dancers wear bikinis
no matter how their names thrill
from the marquee in front.

If you're invited to stay past legal closing hour,
"Jade" & "Kaylina" remove all for you
& will wiggle their butts on your lap,
but it's mostly views & booze,
bottom shelf at top row prices.

After awhile the bright lights come on,
the girls abruptly stop,
walk directly to the ladies room,
their faces sweaty & vacant,
as a fat man in a rumpled suit shouts,
"That's all, everyone has to leave."


From eyewitness information supplied by a county employee.


Moo-ving for Jesus

At the new Billy Graham Library near Charlotte NC:
To the right is a cow shed, where a display that has drawn the most curiosity stands. An animatronic black-and-white cow named Bessie says in a southern drawl that Graham has been "preaching the pure milk of God's word for 60 years." Bessie tells kids to "get moo-ving" to learn more about the preacher.
Too undignified & corny? I like it. Graham was born on a dairy farm. His Crusade events were designed to be familiar & reassuring. The staid old hymns & a few perky upbeat songs for the young folks. Graham's friendly but stern sermons, apolitical, not much Baptist hellfire left in them, leading to an invitation to come on down front & accept Jesus while the choir sang "Just As I Am" or some such musical pat-on-the-back. Nobody rushing the stage, the born-agains going foward in an orderly manner, almost strolling, steered through miles of aisles by volunteers briefed in Graham's method of herding them in. They looked like cows headed back to the barn in the evening, know the routine & the destination, the only problem is getting them started. Cows have curiosity, if you've ever had one stare at you from the other side of a fence, but excitement upsets them. Some teetotalers even put a little milk in root beer to flatten the bubbles. The newer generation of evangelicals build kitsch cathedrals & amusement parks, their versions of heaven on Earth, just a drive to the mall; stir audiences up like kids on a sugar high or sound like pop psychology self-help gurus, then hand out lists of rules with plenty of fine print. Graham's message is basically, "Time to come home, so get moo-ving." So old-fashioned. At least Graham felt chastened when his pal Nixon was exposed as a liar & crook. Too bad the current criminal in the White House isn't having a similar effect on his many devoted spiritual allies. Graham Association Crusades are now called "Festivals." Fun.


"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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