Monday, March 31, 2008

More Bodhisattvas in a Dream

Buddy, you created this bar
& now we have to work in it
so you can hang out with us.

I served you an awful draft beer
in something like a hookah,
charged you seven bucks for it,
you drank it right down,
it was cold, humans get thirsty
even when you're asleep.

I told you I was going off-duty
& you should move to the tables
over by the bandstand, your friend
from the job you quit ten years ago
is playing, I know he sucks,
but the waitress is one of us.

Interestingly, you stayed in your seat,
eyed the woman resembling Joanne Woodward
in "The Fugitive Kind" where she played
an alcoholic nymphomaniac,
she's one of us, too. Believe me,
you're not getting laid with her.
Then you fumbled with your change,
dropped it on the floor,
stuffed it in your wallet -
you have pair of tens in there
if you can find someone else to serve you.
Or you might have enough for taxi fare
since you're wondering where you are
& how you're getting home.
Let me reassure you, this bar is
approximately where you think it is.

True, you're more comfortable
around us because your poet friend
advised you to be more sociable,
but you still don't have a clue
what questions to ask.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tennessee 74, Notre Dame 64.
The Irish women played a good first period & a good second period against the Vols this year. Unfortunately, they were two different games. Can't fault Muffet McGraw & the gals for this one. They came out like the Vols were beatable - which they are - & led at halftime, & that attitude was all I expected of them. But the Vols have an All-American named Candace Parker & she scored 34 points & got 13 rebounds.

I've been checking out chatty, literate New Jersey blogs for my blog roll & daily reading, it's not surprising that so many of them are actually asshole reactionaries. If I met them in person, I'd know they were a-holes within seconds, but since I don't frequent sushi bars, I don't meet them.
A Kansas / Memphis / North Carolina / UCLA men's b ball final four does not fill me excitement.

One of the most elite small colleges in America, #10 seed Davidson hardly represented true underdogs.

The Big East is gone. Georgetown, an overrated bunch all season that played joyless ball. Notre Dame, a team I aways hope gets bracketed with - & beats - UCLA (this preference dates back to the John Wooden era). Louisville, not that I care how Rick Pitino's teams do. Pittsburgh ran out of steam. Marquette ran out of luck. Villanova ran into Kansas. UConn lost to San Diego in protest for not being given a first round bye. I root for West Virginia because that school is the model for the new version of Rutgers.

Rahway NJ

Original Rahway City Hall.

Thanks to Jeff Jotz for the image. Jeff notes the city shared the building with a bank & - on the third floor - a pool hall. Add a speakeasy in the basement & the city office staff of this era would've had no reason to leave the building for lunch.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Where is South Jersey?

The unanswerable question that means less & less with every passing year.

It was a no-brainer when I was a kid. South Jersey began on the south side of Driscoll Bridge over the Raritan where the shoulders of the Garden State Parkway became a yellow sand quarried right there in Sayreville. Then you drove across some tidal marsh, but after that you didn't see anything scenic until Forked River. That stretch was always a disappointing ride. Then you popped out on an expanse of the Mullica's Great Bay, where the car felt like a boat. For kids, South Jersey was the beach & an area maybe 10 miles into the mainland, not Trenton or Camden or any flat, steamy, landlocked interior location. To a year-round shore resident, a benny is a benny, from Cherry Hill or Teaneck.

The Mets dropped off the radar completely, replaced by the Phillies, but there were Yankees fans everywhere. Philly / Atlantic City rock radio was 100% superior to New York. A lot of great songs there never made it into the New York market, which was very selective about picking up only the biggest regional market hits no matter how lame.

The ice cream & potato chip brands changed. Hersey sold ice cream in South Jersey, only candy up north.

In my family, we knew most of the alternate food terminology, it was a point of discussion on vacations, sprinkles versus jimmies, subs or hoagies. Our family dialect had no New York City or Bayonne in it anyway. Those were small enclaves. The most annoying was & still is pure, inbred Staten Island. My family's mix of Philly & "heartland' inflections was common for suburban Jerseyans with no roots in urban New York working class neighborhoods. It's an adaptable dialect, good for public speaking, although there's a tendency to drop (just barely) hard consonants at the end of words, with no change in the preceding vowel. So "consonants" becomes "consonance, & no "ga" at the end of "ing." It's probably tough for an elocution teacher to fix.

North & South Jersey are political distinctions - which bottomless pits of urban desperation get the public money. Pretty much everyplace else is suburbia, & insanely long commutes via car or train or bus override mere geography.

Beginning when I lived in Linden, & especially after I moved to Rahway, I began viewing Jersey in terms of tidal & non-tidal areas; whether or not one resided in "oceanic" Jersey. The tidal estuary that reaches into downtown Rahway gave me a connection to areas extending from the Hackensack Meadowlands all the way down the coast & northward up the Delaware River. Up until a small, disused swing bridge over the Rahway River was replaced, it was easy to recall that Rahway was a port town in to the 1950s. The creatures in that part of the river also swim in the Navesink & Manasquan & Little Egg Harbor Rivers.

My question: How, in only 30 or so years, did we transform so many of the few remaining areas of Jersey with any charm or magic into crap?


Friday, March 28, 2008


One always hopes - tho it's too much to expect - that preachers of the Christian message meditate on the deeper contents of their psyches in order to identify & begin to purge themselves of the nasty prejudices & bigotries bubbling around in every human being including themselves.

For all the good he's accomplished, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright long ago adopted uncritically a mode of language that means what it says, not what he thinks it means only to his intended audience. Now we have an example of Wright not only mangling history by mis-identifying Romans as Italians (does he say it Eye-tal-yans?), but then proceeding to reveal - as if a devil were sitting on his shoulder prodding him on - what he really thinks of Italians. He doesn't know garlic:
Archeologists have discovered clay sculptures of garlic bulbs and paintings of garlic dating about 3200 B.C. in Egyptian tombs in El Mahasna. A recently discovered Egyptian papyrus dating from 1,500 B.C. recommends garlic as a cure all for over 22 common ailments, including lack of stamina, heart disease and tumors, and it’s been said the Egyptians fed garlic to the slaves building the pyramids to increase their strength. Garlic proved itself worthy to peasant and royalty alike as Tutankhamen (Egypt’s youngest pharaoh) was sent into the afterlife with garlic at his side.
The History of Garlic: Nature's Ancient Superfood
We've had about enough of Rev. Wright, Rev Hagee, Rev. Parsley, & all the other reverends who say whatever the hell they want because they believe the Spirit of the Lord is putting the words in their mouths.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Morning is my destination

Pleasant WFMU radio program last night. Although there's not a lot to do while a 60 minute CD is playing that I don't need to hear because I've listened to it at home for the past three weeks. I loathe the trip home. At the end of a 4 hour show, all I want to do is eat a couple of cookies, go to bed, read a bit to unwind, & sleep. This is possible if I go to bed at 6 am. Under those circumstances I could sleep about four hours, wake up & feel like I've had something resembling normal sleep. The Jewish Moments in the Morning Show is fundraising, but the crew hasn't unpacked the bagels & cream cheese by the time I must leave. Disappointing.

I walk to the PATH station - the sky is brightening in the east behind Manhattan. I take an underground train with many commuters on it. The train pops above ground on the other side of Jersey City & there's more daylight. Across the Meadowlands - nothing attractive about it early in the morning, into Newark Penn Station, where I miss the 6:49 to Elizabeth & have to wait 20 minutes. I go downstairs to pick up a train schedule & the concourse is madness. Hundreds of people rushing here & there, commuters, travelers dragging luggage. I couldn't stay out of their way, I wasn't rushing anywhere. All the food establishments serving up the coffee & portable breakfasts. Line at the lottery machine.

I go back upstairs. An Amtrak Acela pulls in & I'm looking directly into the First Class car, about 75% filled, almost all middle-aged men. I immediately despise every one of them, damned Republicans who would vote their own ride out of existence. There's more coffee cups & newspapers in the car than laptops. A one way first class fare from Newark to Washington DC is $300. The coffee cups are styrofoam; you get sturdy cardboard ones downstairs in the station. I read somewhere they serve a Jamaican blend now & the attendant brings it to you & after he takes your coat, but the food is no better than the Amtrak cafe car you get with coach fare on the slow line to Palookasville. As the train moves out, the seating doesn't look like a great improvement over business class. My train arrives, Long Branch local with plenty of seats. An adult fare to Elizabeth is $2.25. I pay less thanks to a long-expired official NJ Transit senior/disabled discount card with a very tiny date printed on it that was issued to me after I had eye surgery in 2001 & wore a ghastly bandage covered with a pirate eye patch.

I walk home from the station in Elizabeth in full daylight, the Columbian cafes are open, it's overcast, which always helps, but there's no denying it's Thursday rather than an extension of Wednesday. I'm dog tired & all wired up again. At home, I drop my clothes, pull on my sweatpants, take 1/2 an Ambien, get into bed, read for awhile, & it's after 8 when I fall asleep. I wake up at 11. I don't feel groggy. I have no memory of dreaming. These are bad signs. It means my body only pretended to be asleep while i was unconscious.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

2-6 am fillin at WFMU tonight. My current sleeping hours will make it a bit of a grind. I always have longer recordings set aside specifically for these late slots, & force myself to do one every so often. Probably airing complete works by Steve Reich & Gorecki - 90 minutes right there. I don't plan much, or concern myself with pacing, creative DJing, & hauling lots of records on the train. I keep my backpack light & rely on what WFMU's new bin has to offer. I kick back & do the program like I'm still at home. I put more thought into snacks, sweet food usually, smoothies & cookies.
Hillary Clinton is sounding stupid. Is this a change of campaign strategy? Did her pollsters tell her 10% of undecided Pennsy voters like stupid? How stupid is it when Sinbad the comedian exposes her faulty memory? How stupid is it when she broadly claims that people ought to just walk away from their churches if they don't like something the pastor says? Might be a church one's family has been attending for many generations. A church might have other things going for it. My parents were very active in a church where they attended Sunday services three, four times a year. Pastor couldn't complain about it when my dad was a Boy Scout leader & headed up the stage crew every year for the Married Couples Club theater production in the social hall, & three of their kids were in the Children's Choir. That's the way churches are, Hillary.

I didn't jump for joy over Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Kerry, or even the 2000 version of Gore, but I didn't dislike those candidates as people. Keep working on it, Hillary, & I might yet become as alarmed by the possibility of you becoming president as I am by John McCain.
Early tentative discussion about bringing my long poem Boardwalk back into print. The online version is a larger & substantially different concept than the poem itself. It deserves a chapbook edition & a better cover than it had in two earlier printings. I'm aware of the poem's weaknesses, but they're incorporated into the structure & can't be corrected without doing what boardwalk property owners do - burning the place down to pilings & starting over. The magic of the poem, for me, is that I deliberately built it the same way classic boardwalks take shape, & the same way boardwalks are experienced, without knowing if the method would work. As the years have passed, I've become more convinced that Boardwalk is less a poem than my only major musical composition, positing an alternate creative path I never took but for which I was educated to follow had I wanted it. I simply left out of the process the musical materials & instructions I'd collected in my sketchbooks during the same period I was collecting the "libretto" materials. Why? The technology was too expensive & difficult at the time.

The Sun Sinks on the American Empire

Tata buys Jaguar in £1.15bn deal

Car giant Ford has sold its luxury UK-based car brands Jaguar and Land Rover to Indian company Tata.

Tata, India's biggest vehicle maker, is paying $2.3bn (£1.15bn) for the British brands after months of negotiations over price and supply relationships.

The negotiations started last June when Ford announced its intention to sell the companies as a package.

Jaguar and Land Rover employ about 16,000 staff at UK plants in the West Midlands and Merseyside.

Although Land Rover remains profitable, Ford has never managed to make money from its investment in Jaguar.
In January, Tata launched the world's cheapest car, the Nano, priced at $2,500 (£1,250).

By contrast, the starting price for Jaguar's latest sports car, the XF is more than £32,000 ($64,000). Ford bought Jaguar in 1989.
The former "colonies" selling the company to another former colony. India owns the world's most famous luxury go kart & produces a vehicle that's little more than something you could build in your garage from a kit & a lawnmower engine.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sissy Dog

There's a sissy dog in a backyard across the street. You put most dogs out, they're happy to be there or annoyed by it. Sometimes they sleep. Sometimes they bark at everything; other dogs in other yards, cats, rats, possums, around here a skunk on occasion. They bark to hear themselves. If they can see the street, they bark at everyone walking by & when the person is out of sight they probably believe they succeeded in chasing the stranger away. But the sissy dog across the street yelps pathetically in a high pitch, Oh help me. Oh torment. Oh please, I'm all alone. I'm abandoned, rejected, a lone wolf. Miserable me, out here in broad daylight on a lovely early spring afternoon. They'll never open the door & let me back inside. I'm going to starve.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Headline of the Day

Bush sympathetic as war toll hits 4,000
While I appreciate that author & TV epicure Anthony Bourdain's favorite album is Funhouse by The Stooges & music by Billy Joel in his kitchen is grounds for immediate firing, I was saddened to hear him say on Letterman that his daughter would never taste a "grilled cheese with the crust cut off." Unless he meant she will taste a grilled cheese with tomato & bacon on rye with the crust left on.
Spent a constructive hour in the library moving my online postcard collection over to Photobucket. Discovered by accident that the library website lets me put books at the main library on hold & have them delivered to the branch library. I've used the website to renew books, but it isn't what I'd consider user friendly. it looks like it was designed a decade ago & they've been grafting stuff on ever since.

I like my branch library. But it's been at full capacity for a long time. I doubt if they can squeeze a new book in without having to remove one. There's no comfortable chairs just for sitting & reading. It has a pleasant children's room that lacks a children's library assistant, so there's not much going on in there except on special project days, & the "homework helpers" service. I see lots of children with their parents checking out stacks of books. I used to visit the children's room in Rahway to look at the aquarium & other cool stuff on display.
Rutgers handily beat Iowa State tonight in Iowa, 69-58. I had my doubts about the Scarlet Knights making it past the 2nd round until Coach Stringer said she was running the "55" defense again, which she had dropped in the losses before the Tournament due to a depleted bench. The Star-Ledger devoted a 1/2 page to explaining the "55." It's working. But it's the offense that's been impressive. I'd picked Liberty U to upset Old Dominion without doing some minimal research & learning the second-leading scorer was injured, one of the remarkably talented Frazee triplets. The remaining two combined for 39 points. Shoulda consulted my nephew before going with the only major first round upset I had on the bracket sheet.

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John List

In the area of New Jersey where I grew up, Westfield was affluent old suburbia. You got on Westfield Ave. drove a few miles west & there you were. Westfield had a south side of expensive newer houses & a north side of very expensive, large, older houses on beautiful tree-lined streets. There was an excellent high school, a big library, & impressive churches. It was where we wanted to live & raise our own kids. Westfield represented upward mobility.

On Nov. 9, 1971, a crazy dad in one of the stately old Westfield homes murdered his wife, mother, daughter, & two sons. He informed the school the family was traveling to North Carolina for a few weeks. He stopped the mail. Then he disappeared for 18 years. His name was John List. It was a cold, calculated plan for Mr. List's midlife crisis. The bodies weren't discovered for almost a month. For years afterward, until he was caught, mentioning the List murders was aways good for stirring up conversation at social gatherings in central Jersey.

John List made "normal" a synonym for "facade." He just died at age 82. It's a famous crime story.
"It was my belief that if you kill yourself, you won't go to heaven. So eventually, I got to the point where I felt that I could kill them, hopefully, they would go to heaven and then maybe I would have a chance to later confess my sins to God and get forgiveness."
John List interview with Connie Chung
List may have sold himself this nonsense, but he was losing his mind because the facade he had constructed was falling apart. He was living way beyond his means. His wife had advanced syphilis contracted from a previous husband. His mother was old & headed for a nursing home. His children were approaching college age, & they didn't have Union County Junior College in mind. His family had become a hindrance. List could have taken a powder without killing anybody. The authorities wouldn't have put much effort into finding him - they couldn't track him down as a most-wanted criminal, & his family didn't have the resources for an expensive private investigation. News like that is forgotten. A family left destitute. John List was nuts, but he knew exactly what he doing. He was an evil man who, for 18 years, derived inner satisfaction from getting away with a horrific crime. Strange, that he died on Good Friday. Thanks to NJ Dept. of Corrections for good judgment in sparing us this news over Easter weekend.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Seaside Park NJ

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Happy Easter

(click to enlarge)

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Blogging Against Theocracy

This is a Blogging Against Theocracy weekend. A few other progressive bloggers & myself declined to participate because we feel Easter weekend is an inappropriate time for a BAT swarm, but we'll be reading many of the blogs anyway.

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First Round

Rutgers 85, Robert Morris 42

So relieved Rutgers didn't toy with this opponent & gave the game a solid effort on defense & better than solid on offense. The bracket is already messed up because I reasonably concluded that a middling ACC team, Georgia Tech, can beat a higher seeded, middling Big 12 team, Iowa State, even in Iowa. But "home court advantage" probably made all the difference. Now, the Scarlet Knights play Iowa State.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Golden Age of the Military-Entertainment Complex
Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, Pentagon-Style
By Nick Turse

Mulling over my favorite military-themed movies.
The list shortens considerably if I limit it to American productions.
Which eliminates Kon Ichikawa's Fires On the Plain (1959), one of the most
brutal war movies I've ever seen. Clint Eastwood may have had a look at it before filming Letters from Iwo Jima.

Many of them aren't "war" movies.

From Here To Eternity. Lancaster, Kerr, Sinatra, Cliff, Reed, Borgnine. This movie never gets old.

Bridge On the River Kwai. Colonel Saito & the American prisoner Shears are the two complex characters. The Best Actor nomination shoulda gone to Wiliiam Holden, not Alec Guinness. But Holden had won an Oscar for another great WWII movie, Stalag 17.

The Longest Day. Revelatory when released, it now seems too large in scope, too episodic, bloodless, too much pithy dialogue, & the cameos are distracting. John Wayne nearly ruins it. But there's some great b&w cinematography. The Germans are more sympathetic characters than the Allies. Spawned over a decade of bad big budget war movies: Midway, Tora! Tora! Tora!, In Harm's Way, The Bridge at Remagen, A Bridge Too Far.

Donald Sutherland:
The Dirty Dozen: Psychopaths make the best soldiers, if they are commanded by Lee Marvin & Richard Jaeckel.
M*A*S*H: War as tedium broken by episodes of gut-wrenching horror.
Kelly's Heroes: WWII tank commander as proto-hippie.

Soldier In the Rain: Nothing much happens in this accurate "comedy" of routine noncom Army life on a large base just prior to Vietnam. Steve McQueen. Tuesday Weld calls Jackie Gleason "Jelly Belly." Lovely score by Henry Mancini.

Patton: Does get at one essential about the great general; he was sickened that American G.I.s were ordered to die huddling in foxholes for days on end & fighting their way through villages with no strategic value.

Kirk Douglas:
Paths of Glory: WWI, three French soldiers selected at random, scapegoated & sentenced to death for cowardice in failure of a suicidal attack. This form of punishing entire army units dates back at least to the Romans. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Seven Days In May: Kirk uncovers a military plot to take over the government. Fine followup to director John Frankenheimer's paranoid masterpiece, The Manchurian Candidate. Screenplay by Rod Serling.

The Victors (1963): Long, realistic, underrated Carl Foreman film culminating in a bleak execution of a deserter, inspired by the execution of Eddie Slovik, the only death sentence for desertion carried out in WWII.

Sayonara: With Marlon Brando. Interracial love in occupied Japan. Was the featured movie for the 1957 Radio City Christmas show, odd because it climaxes in a double suicide.

Halls of Montezuma (1951): Timely subplot, Marine Lieutenant Anderson, a high school teacher in civilian life whose command is being cut to pieces by rockets, must decide if he should torture information out of a Japanese prisoner. He does not torture.

G.I. Blues (1960). Elvis as Spec. 5 Tulsa McLean.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

imprudent curiosity

Stupid people are the handful of bored tenants in this building - single men - who stand around in the lobby because they're so bored, & when I come home about 8 pm on a pleasant, brisk evening, feeling good, having walked back from the library with some fresh books & maybe having stopped by Dunkin' Donuts to watch CNN & look at the pretty college girls working the counter, say to me, "It's too cold to be out," like I'm the stupid one.
Suzette continues her political wardrobe series with an astute yet poignant analysis of Hillary's St. Patrick's Day greenery.
More Bushshit:
WASHINGTON - Two contract employees for the State Department have been fired and a third disciplined for inappropriately looking at Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's passport file, a spokesman said Thursday.

Spokesman Sean McCormack said the department itself detected the instances of "imprudent curiosity," which occurred separately on Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and March 14. He would not release the names of the employees.
Similar breaches involving public officials have happened in the past.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, officials in the administration of President George H.W. Bush searched the State Department files of then-Democratic nominee Bill Clinton. An inspector general's report called the search improper and said it was aimed at finding material that would be damaging to Clinton's campaign.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A transformative moment

What Americans find admirable we don't necessarily consider presidential. See Adlai Stevenson. Barack Obama gave a wonderful speech on race & religion. Media & intelligensia liked it. Liberals loved it. Some conservatives have gone easy on it, since it's mined with dangerous truths & associations they'd rather not discuss. Many commentators call the speech "historic" & "transformative." What about everyone else?

The problem with "transformative" speeches - & there have been a number of famous ones throughout American history - is that they may presage changes to the political & cultural mainstream years in the future. Ronald Reagan's televised "rendezvous with destiny" talk in 1964 on behalf of Barry Goldwater is a well-known example. Obama's speech must also be heard as a campaign speech in the present. In that sense I'm not certain the damage done to Obama by Rev. Wright can be repaired between now & November. The damage would be in the form of limits to his popularity, an inability to expand upon his base, & falling short of 270 electoral votes. Obama speaks his mind. He stands by his friend if not by his friend's views. He's genuinely religious, take that Christian Right. Admirable. But.

One of the worst things that can happen to a candidate is when a negative idea, a doubt, a burr, gets stuck in the public's mind & can't be unstuck no matter what logic & fact tell us. The Litlle Girl & Atomic Bomb with Goldwater. The Willie Horton with Dukakis. The Swift Boat with Kerry. Now the God damn America with Obama? It's probably a transformative speech all right. But the transformative moment in Obama's campaign may have occurred last week when all those You Tube videos of Rev. Jeremiah Wright became hot links.


The Perfect Enemy

Let's say that the objective of a war is the defeat of an enemy. It may or may not include the occupation of territory.

Let's say that the measure of "success" in a war is how much closer a warring side is to the defeat of an enemy & the end of combat. The "light at the end of the tunnel" as General Westmoreland so infamously said about Vietnam in 1968.

War is always an opportunity for windfall profit. Work hard, bank it, & have fun spending it when the war is over. The Civil War. World War Two. "Conventional" wars.

But what if a war is waged for no other strong justification than the profit of the war itself? A war so profitable that there's no incentive to end it at all. Vietnam without the draft & heavy casualties. A war that doesn't personally touch enough citizens to make a nation demand that the war be brought to a conclusion one way or another. Like Vietnam, fight the war with America's underclass youth, but let them volunteer. With high college tuitions, lack of job opportunities, mortgages, & their uncynical patriotism, they want to volunteer. Run them through the front lines for two, three, four tours-of-duty rather than one year or, as in a full mobilization, "for the duration." Take many non-combatant duties - the cooks, truck drivers, construction units, security, etc. - & contract private firms at exorbitant fees to provide these services with civilians being paid wages much higher than military pay. & hope the soldiers don't feel they're being played for suckers.

Hide the dead & wounded. A funeral here, a funeral there. No long rows of freshly dug graves. "Did you hear Uncle Jack's friend's son got killed? Didn't know the kid myself, heard he was a nice guy, married, had a baby."

Toilet paper, Humvees, canned string beans, bullets, tents, socks, helmets, walkie talkies, laptops & software, beer, bombs, helicopters, motor oil, boots, pharmaceuticals, well pumps, bandages, gurneys, body bags, caskets. Transportation. Move the materials in, use them up. Replace them. But recycle the human beings. The American ones.

Endless profit. One-hundred years of profit. Five years into it. & getting away with it.

Terrorism, the perfect enemy; a tactic, not a nation or even a political system.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bracket Day

Just a reminder that the rix mix is a work of fiction, the name in the url is a pseudonyn, like Mark Twain & Buckwheat Zydeco, & all the characters & events depicted here are imaginary.
Guess what's in my backpack?

If you got ten boxes of Green Giant frozen veggies & a two pack of energy save lightbulbs, you guessed correctly. Now guess what was on sale at Pathmark?
I nursed a hot chocolate & watched Lou Dobbs on TV at the Elmora Dunkin' Donuts, a pleasant, clean coffeeshop.
I'm not very good at NCAA Tournament brackology. I don't understand the game of basketball all that well. I only follow Big East basketball closely, with glances at other Jersey Div. I teams, Temple & St. Joseph's in the Atlantic Ten, & this year, a marvelous Kean University Div. III women's team I regret not having seen play. One of my nephews went to Liberty University, admittedly not my kind of school, but the Lady Flames finished the regular season 28-3, didn't shame themselves against North Carolina, beat Xavier, & may have cracked the top 25 if they hadn't lost a conference game they should have won last month. I'm picking them to shock Old Dominion on Sunday before an ODU "home" crowd in Norfolk & with a little push from the Almighty, of course. Then play U Virginia close but no ceegar on Tuesday.

Rutgers women again were treated badly by the NCAA, which put them, the only team to defeat UConn, in the same Region with the Huskies. The only suitable punishment for the NCAA would be an Elite Eight consisting entirely of Big East schools. Don't laugh, as unlikely as it is, it ain't impossible. I ought to dislike Tennesee, but they're such a worthy opponent for the Scarlet Knights, they're the team any Rutgers fan would love to meet & beat in the Final Four. Rutgers has been inconsistant at times this year. Some teams always win when their superstar player has a good game. Rutgers can beat anyone, but only when they play as a team, on defense, & a couple of girls step up on offense. They'll take Robert Morris. Iowa State would give them fits in Des Moines. But I'm betting Iowa is over-rated & will lose to ACC Georgia Tech. If Rutgers gets past the second round, I think they'll see UConn in Greensboro.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The St. Patrick's Day Parade

Where are the floats? You have to like pipe bands. I don't. You have to think it's interesting to watch thousands of cops, firefighters, sanitation workers, Catholic school students, politicians, & Gaelic society members marching down the street. I don't. You have to enjoy the content of Irish-American culture. It doesn't do much for me. You have to applaud the guy singing rebel songs in a pub decorated with shamrock lights. I can't wait for the break when they turn the jukebox back on. If you're of partial Irish ancestry, you have to express an unusual pride in it. I can't say which attributes of my personality are "Irish." My temper? My bardic jeenyus? My inconsistent gift for blarney? That I like Killian's Red draft, which is brewed by Coors? I don't look Irish. My grandmother looked Irish. My godparents - older cousins - looked Irish. My genes are more related to the couple in American Gothic.

My family had very little overt Irishness about it. This despite the presence of an Irish-Catholic gramma on the premises until I was about 12 years old. Best I could tell, Nana had a barely-disguised contempt for most forms of Irish-American culture.

Yeah, Nana had some "lace curtain" pretensions (though nothing like Aunt Mary, a bank vice president). But she had grown up in an Irish neighborhood of Philly. She attended church in a predominantly Irish parish in Roselle NJ. Her friends were cranky Irish-American ladies like herself. I never saw her take a drink; maybe she kept a bottle in her bedroom.

I had a love/hate relationship with her, but after she died, I realized I had adored her & she was my "protector" in a family that had a few dysfunctions. If men seek out women like their mothers, Nana influenced me to skip over mine & go for the Catholic girls, most of them Irish-Catholics. I was finding middle-aged ones as recently as 2003.

Perhaps it was the maleness of Irish-American culture that put off Nana. Most Irish-American traditions are excuses for men to chase down whiskey with beer. The parades, speeches, & priestly blessings are merely preliminaries. The girls get sent off for dancing lessons, that strangely chaste Irish style of hopping up & down with hands rigidly held at sides, knees never more than one inch apart even during the kicks.

Nana was widowed when my dad was a teenager, & she took in & raised two orphaned nephews by herself. Dad threw it all overboard, the Catholicism & whatever remained of the Irishness. You'd insult him by calling him "lapsed." He was way beyond that.

A few years ago, I made internet contact with a woman I am certain is a distant cousin in England. Why am I certain? Her surname is the same as mine. She's from Liverpool Irish, like my paternal grandfather. She has a personality that makes the two possible familial connections feel more than coincidental. She expresses puzzlement at why Hillary & Barack are considered "liberals," since they wouldn't last five minutes at a Labour Party meeting before being booed off the podium as sell-outs. She's the cousin I never had during all those years I had to listen to Republican shit at holiday family gatherings.

My grandmother married into Liverpool Irish. Maybe it wasn't as big a deal as marrying an Italian in Philly back around 1918, but I figure the Liverpool Irish-Americans were somewhat less Irish in their culture than the Ireland Irish-Americans. They arrived here physically twice-removed, & several generations distant, from the Old Sod. Maybe that attracted Nana to Sam. She & her husband bought a nice house in suburban Roselle Park, in a neighborhood that had other Irish-Catholics who didn't make a big deal out of it. Assimilation.

My Irish-Catholic girlfriends had Irish names, several had strict Catholic upbringings, none suffered through an inculcation of Irish-American culture. They didn't have to explain Catholicism to me. Three of them were from my grandmother's church. I expressed no strong protestant opinions about raising kids Catholic because I had no intention of marrying the girls, despite whatever they, or their parents, were thinking at the time.

My longest relationship was with a woman who'd been raised in a variety of Eastern European Catholicism, which was out of my realm of experience & struck me as bleak. The Irish-American form wasn't too upbeat either, but it came with a sideshow of Celtic paganism, proudly displayed on St. Patrick's Day in the form of miniature men with green hats & shillelaghs. These devious little guys reside under the local hill with an assortment of bizarre, supernatural, pre-Christian creatures you're likely to see only when you've self-medicated with copious amounts of distilled beverages, & they're not above kidnapping your virginal daughters. You can look it up.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Night Special

Update: Jimbo now claims it's true. The McGreevey divorce proceedings were just nasty & tedious. But this is great stuff. Hope they made videos.

A former aide to James E. McGreevey said today that he had three-way sexual trysts with the former governor and his wife before he took office, challenging Dina Matos McGreevey's assertion that she was naive about her husband's sexual exploits.

The aide, Theodore Pedersen, said he and the couple even had a nickname for the weekly romps, from 1999 to 2001, that typically began with dinner at T.G.I. Friday's* and ended with a threesome at McGreevey's condo in Woodbridge.

They called them "Friday Night Specials," according to Pedersen.

One never knows, do one? I wouldn't credit Jim or Dina with that much nerve & imagination. My impression of them is that they were a pair of repressed Catholics who might still be living together had Jim shown more good sense in his political affairs & more discretion in his private ones, & not mixed up the two because he was too freaked out to find himself a steady hush-hush boyfriend.

(*Not even the mayor had the power to cut in front of the line at TGIF in Woodbridge on Friday night for a table for three.)


Somers Point NJ

Looks quiet in the postcard, but it was one of seven bars in Tony Mart's, which closed in 1982. The waterfront club was so noisy on summer nights the sound carried across the bay to Ocean City. So legendary for live music that many of the stories surrounding it are highly embellished if not outright fabrications.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jersey Joe is one of us

All last year, Jersey Repugs cackled over Sen. Frank Lautenberg's vulnerability. He was old, he was out-of-touch, he was unpopular, he was too liberal. With Rudy Giuliani topping the national ticket, they were gonna sweep to victory in a statewide race for the first time since Gov. Christine "It's my party" Whitman squeaked by Jim McGreevey for reelection.

There sure were lots of what-ifs & holes in that grand scenario. Like, a candidate.

Can't use the geezer strategy with McCain on the ballot.

If Lautenberg had decided to retire, there were two or three popular congressmen in the wings, & if they didn't run there were four or five Trenton legislators who wouldve been swell. The Democratic bench is deep. Lautenberg didn't retire.

The Repugs have Murray Sabrin & "Jersey Joe" Pennacchio.

Sabrin is a slick, wonky libertarian oozing Third Party candidate. He's not an insider with the Repug organization. Ron Paul endorsed him.

Oh, Jersey Joe. He's one of us! proclaims his cheesy website. Mull that slogan over for awhile. I guess he's a more conventional conservative Repug, be darned if I can tell from the "issues" section at jerseyjoe08. Joe's what used to be a regular guy in Jersey Democratic politics, the working class childhood, going to college, learning a profession rather than a trade. Now that "one of us" means the angry white males who call right wing radio shows & complain that Democrats are conspiring against their constitutional duty to drive gas guzzling pickup trucks as family cars by jacking pump prices to $4 a gallon & using half of that amount to fill potholes on dead end streets in Camden. It's a tax & spend racket I tell ya.

Come a long way from enlightened patricians like Tom Kean, Sr. eh? Repugs shoulda seen this day coming when they stupidly took down Clifford Case 30 years ago & gave a safe Senate seat to "Dollar Bill" Bradley, who passed it to Bob "The Torch" Torricelli, who tripped up & handed it off to former senator Frank Lautenberg, who wasn't happy in retirement. They're almost all gone now, the Repugs who didn't feel the flop sweat before speaking at labor union conventions in Atlantic City, who could campaign anywhere in Newark & find friendly handshakes if not many votes. And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day.


Friday, March 14, 2008

I remember too clearly when a Methodist pastor at my hometown church defended the Vietnam War from the pulpit & then decried "godless antiwar protestors." I'd marched against the war in New York City & had been surrounded by Catholics, Lutherans, Quakers, Mennonites (all the way from Virginia), & a very vocal group of kids from a prominent yeshiva all wearing their school's basketball jerseys. It was the last time I entered that church - to this day - & the only time I'd wanted to stand up & yell, "What the hell is wrong with you, Rev?" Not a single black person attended that church, although there were plenty of black Methodists a short four blocks away, walking distance, across the railroad tracks, in a neighboring town.
Many clergy since have aroused that anger in me. Most on the right, a few on the left, nearly all of them male, who come across as witless. Often, they identify the problem accurately enough; it's cause & effect that trip them up. Using scripture as a substitute for science & historical evidence, no surer method of calling into question whatever wisdom & truth one find in "holy books." Christians take an enormous leap of faith just by calling Jesus the "Christ" without dragging "young Earth" theories into the mix. There really nothing theoretical there, it's all fallacy. Don't get me started on End Time predictions. The arsenals of the world are still loaded with nuclear weapons.
I'm easing up to certain statements made over the years by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago USA. Barack Obama belongs to the congregation, it turned his spiritual life around, & glory be now he's running for president with a hopeful message of reconciliation that has a good deal of appeal to white as well as to black Americans. Whether or not you're convinced is your beeswax. But it's the most "Christian" message in the best sense I've ever heard from a major presidential candidate (Edwards had the most Democratic platform, which I preferred). Whatever happened to Obama when he was touched by Trinity UCC was a good thing.

Much is made of Trinity being "Afrocentric." It happens to be located in a poor section of Chicago. But it's a real church, a large one, a community church, not an antiseptic modern cathedral that raises millions as an internet or TV business. I would be welcomed there on any Sunday. No one makes much of a big deal about "Eurocentric" protestant churches where Jesus is routinely depicted with, at most, vaguely Mediterranean features or perhaps a sun tan, & often enough as a blue-eyed sandy blonde not unlike our preferred image of a shaggy California surfer unfettered by a regular job & material possessions. Where the stars of Heaven & the bloody stripes of the Roman whip are covered with the Stars & Stripes of our national flag. Frankly, if I were a dark-skinned person, you couldn't sell me that version of Jesus as the only God-man ever to walk the Earth.
I heard some of Pastor Wright's statements. I didn't find any of them particularly shocking even when I disagreed. Perhaps it's because I'm old enough to recall the rhetoric of Black Power in Wright's generation. Nobody wants to own up to America's part in creating the conditions for radical Islam; our support of the proto-Taliban against the Soviet Union; siding with Saddam against Iran; our obeisance to the House of Saud & blindness to the use of oil money for spreading Wahabism; Palestine, always Palestine. More recently, the impression America gives of having an evangelical government & military. These should be as obvious to us now as the rationales we provided Japan for attacking Pearl Harbor (where our advance intelligence also got sidetracked as it moved up the chain-of-command). Doesn't justify anything, But let's not be naive.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Contrarian folds

I should recount how I met The Contrarian, it's a story I enjoy telling. I had a weekly show at WFMU in the early 90's, moderately late, probably, 11 PM to 2 AM, could have been earlier, I don't recall. I received few phone calls at the station that weren't requests for music I was never going to air, like Santana live in concert. Some listeners had the erroneous impression that I used to be a hippie. Anyway, the Elvis memorial first class stamp had been issued, it was a big deal, & that day I'd walked into the Rahway post office & encountered a bad Elvis impersonator (are there good ones?) performing in the lobby, & was relating this on-the-air. My reaction? I was delighted. I thought there should be regularly scheduled entertainment at the post office. There hadn't been any since the zombies of Lyndon LaRouche had stopped setting up their tables in front of post offices. When I went to music, the phone rang, it was The Contrarian, who resided in Rahway & had also been amused by the Elvis hoopla. We chatted about this & that. I learned he was a regular WFMU listener (later became a staff volunteer & occasional DJ), a recent grad of Notre Dame, & was editor of a local weekly paper, a thankless job where you attend far more zoning board meetings than high school basketball games. He didn't request any music, but if he had, it would have been a choice punk song worth the suggestion, maybe something by The Misfits or Fugazi.
Time marches on to 2003. We're all starting blogs. Why not? It's easy enough. We're jeenyuses. Just post & they will come. The Contrarian has moved from Rahway to Jersey City & back to Rahway. He's married Mrs. Contrarian. He gets up at 5 am for a daily dose of chlorinated pool water. He has his favorite blog subjects. But he really waxes poetic on two. I understand his thing for railroads. We both consider PATH an official train ride & sit in the front car. We wish we could take light rail from Long Branch to Seaside Park. He complains about Amtrak but he's committed to the concept nonetheless. What I suspect he really wants to write about is the decline of old time machine politics in New Jersey. Get The Contrarian started on Hudson County & he'll describe Frank "I am the law" Hague's mausoleum in Holy Name Cemetary. He'll freely discuss his time working for former Hudson County Exec Robert C. Janiszewski. Discretion requires he not reveal much of what he observes & hears now.

Say what you will about the power of George Norcross down south or Joe Ferriero up north, it ain't how it used to be. Heck, it ain't even how it was ten years ago. Sharpe James is gone, but Newark requires a machine & Mayor Cory Booker knows it. Factions beat each other up in Plainfield, & over what? Problem is, if you build a machine on the old model you probably wind up in prison. It's the old machines, like the old locomotives, that intrigue The Contrarian. He doesn't advocate them, mind you. But they generated a lot of great stories, & still do.

The Contrarian looks in mirror now & sees a conscientious father & husband, property tax-paying homeowner, leader in his Church community, still a competitive athlete. He can see coach for some kid's sport or Cub Scout leader coming over the horizon. He's got a busy job for which he's probably overqualified & overeducated at this point. It's a good life to have, but you gotta set your clock by it, & other stuff drops off the edges, like a blog. I won't be surprised if he writes a book someday. Likely, it'll be about railroads or Jersey politics.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rabbi Zev Segal

Let's a take moment to sit Shiva with Nachum Segal & his family. His dad, Rabbi Zev Segal, died tragically last week, but now rests in Israel.
Rabbi Segal's last morning was spent helping his famous son on the air in his annual fundraising marathon. Last Wednesday, as he offered his congratulations to Nachum on the program's 25th anniversary, little did father and son realize it would be their last conversation.

"The moment of Nachum's father entering the studio was filled with emotion," recounted one of the show's producers and fill-in hosts, Mattes Weingast. "A father coming to honor his son."

Rabbi Segal told the listeners that he and his wife were very proud of their son's accomplishments in the Jewish world, that they knew from early on that he would make a difference in the world, and wished continued success for his son in continuing to support the nation of Israel and the Land of Israel.

"Out of respect, Nachum stood for the entire interview," Weingast told Arutz-7's "He did not even mention his father by name when introducing him, but rather had an associate mention the name."
You probably have to know Nachum to know there was quiet humor in this moment as well as respect. Nachum treats everyone with respect, he just doesn't remain standing for you. I always figured Nachum had extraordinary parents, that he could be such a leader in the Jewish community from a young age, yet fit in so well at the WFMU nuthouse, which is a diverse & relentlessly irreverent community. Coming off an overnight shift during the fund-raising marathon & running into the charged-up JM In the AM crew is always kind of a shock until you see the breakfast spread they lay out, the bags of great bagels, five kinds of cream cheese, lox, orange juice, donuts, fresh coffee perking, someone standing there saying, "You look exhausted, help yourself."

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I'm certainly not alone in suspecting that what happened to Gov Spitzer involved more than some routine examinations of unusual bank transactions coincidentally leading to shocking revelations of abysmal personal behavior. Look at former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a horrifying conspiracy that resists exposure, so frightening are the implications. But there's one characteristic even most of the lower level elected politicians I've met - the council reps, mayors, freeholders - have in common; hubris. You can't chat with these people for five minutes without feeling it. Never mind that they're among the most unimaginative, incurious folks you'll ever meet. Doesn't seem to matter what level of education they've had, Ivy League grad school or community college. Some of them ooze neurotic insecurity. But the hubris is there nonetheless. If you agree with their politics, all you can do is hope they don't overinflate & explode, or get sidetracked by personal obsessions they have the power to satisfy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Every year in New Jersey, a killer named Robert Zarinsky comes up for parole. He's in prison for murdering a teenage girl back in 1969. Well, murderers serve their time & go free. Except police all around Jersey have long been convinced that Zarinsky is a serial killer. They just haven't been able to put another murder on him. The killings happened long ago. They thought they had Zarinsky for shooting Rahway police officer Charles Bernoskie in 1958. Officer Bernoskie's death was still an open wound in Rahway when I moved there in 1990, a tragedy the police & the city were never going to forget. The case cracked in 1999 & they brought Zarinsky to trial in 2001, figuring on welding the prison doors shut on him. But after all those years, the prosecution's case had a little too much air in it. Bad news. Rahway police were certain they had their killer, & still are, so it's an open book but at least there was some emotional closure. The officer's widow won a civil suit against Zarinsky, then had to give the money back. It pissed everybody off. Zarinsky's prison hobby is studying law books. Reputedly, he's a good student. Bernoskie died in the line of duty, responding to the report of a burglary. That's the risk cops take every day. They carry guns. Bernoskie got to use his, & his aim, as it turned out, was true.

That left all the other unsolved murders. Defenseless young women.
Robert Zarinsky, a convicted murderer suspected in a string of unsolved killings, has been charged in the 1968 death of a Keansburg girl, according to the victim's sister.

Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis A. Valentin will announce later today that Zarinsky will be charged in the death of 13-year-old Jane Durrua, according to her sister, Joan Conway. She said authorities told her today of the charges.

"I've been waiting for this day for so many years. I have always believed it was Zarinsky," Conway said.
Jane Durrua was sexually assaulted and bludgeoned to death on her way home from school in November of 1968. Her killing was one of several cold cases reopened after Zarinsky was charged with Bernoskie's murder.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Client 9

NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer did not resign today after he was implicated in a bust of a pricy prostitution ring. His Mr. Clean rep as NY State Attorney General included the high profile prosecution of a Staten Island call girl operation. Former Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey tried to appoint his alleged gay boy toy in charge of state homeland security. Then, there's the remarkable physical similarity of their shocked wives. Mrs. McG, though, had a double freak about what her hubby was doin' with his thang. Add appropriate Bill & Hillary photo for a Democratic trifecta. Note the ties & lapel pins. Jim's stripes slant down Bloods right, Eliot's Crips left.

The fiction writers at Faux News decided the minimal facts available this afternoon were insufficient & reported Spitzer was resigning. Instead, the Gov made a terse statement & left the podium. [He will resign. I wouldn't bet a nickel on his marriage surviving. either. Apparently, Spitzer was a regular customer, & paying a premium rate for unprotected sex.]

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ortley Beach NJ

After the March 6-8 1962 Nor'easter.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

at the end of the day

Oy. Every day now, I wish John Edwards had the Democratic nomination just about wrapped up, & he was going to work on John McCain like Zorro using his sword to undress evil Captain Esteban button by button. Zip, the War. Zip, the economy. Zip, health care. Zip, John Hagee. Zip, corporate greed. Zip, Homeland Security. Zip, outsourcing America's defense. Zip, supporting the troops by sending them on 4th & 5th tours of duty overseas. Zip, four more years of Bush/Cheney. Zip, zip, zip, until McCain is flustered & beet-faced & bare-assed & ill-tempered & we see him for who & what he really is & represents & the Repugs ain't even had their convention yet.
After watching a documentary about the abstract reasoning abilities of chimps, I decided I should stop calling Bush "President Monkeybrain."
10 pm The wind is extraordinary tonight. Must be gusting 60+ mph. Earlier, as the last of the rain squawls blew in, I th0ught there was a tornado coming. I was up the street at Gina's watching basketball after feeding her cats, the house was shaking. Stepped out on the front stoop, almost blown off my feet. I've been at Gina's during some very intense weather, or maybe just seems so because I'm the only human in a house with 4 cats.

Wish I'd stuck around for the rest of the Syracuse - USF women's game, which is now in overtime. & why does the Big East have the tournament in Hartford every year? Those are in effect all home games for UConn, which hardly needs an additional edge. Big East Women's always sends 6-8 teams to the NCAA, draws big crowds at all the member schools. Ought to be holding it in the vicinity of the Ohio River every other year.
Politicians & talking heads, stop using the phrase,''at the end of the day."

Friday, March 07, 2008

Grand View Ship Hotel

To consol me over the demise of The Metropolitan, a friend sent a link to the marvelous Grand View Ship Hotel in south central Pennsylvania. It was located near her home. She first saw it from afar when her fiance was bringing her up the valley from Virginia to meet his parents. It burned down in 2001.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Metropolitan

Say goodbye to the Metropolitan Hotel, perhaps the last of Asbury Park's genuine old fabulousities. The venerable if peculiar 100 year old building was demolished this week. Like Palace Amusements & the ruined Casino Pier, there was nothing could save it, really. Abandoned too long, structurally unsound, no profitable purpose for preservation, its existance diminished the value of the real estate beneath it. With 180 rooms & a motel addition, The Metro was way too large for a B&B, too grand for conversion to a McMansion, no queen Victorian, no million-dollar condo view of the ocean from lower stories, & so became just another "tear down." The final landlord was a company owned by annoying Morristown mayor, Donald Cresitello, who hung on to it for years. Funny how big the market for dreams was in Asbury Park while the city fell down in the middle of them.

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Hillary picks up the phone

Hello, baaaaby!
Yeah, this is the big bopper speakin
Ha ha ha ha ha! oh, you sweet thing!
Do I what? will I what?
Oh baby, you knoooow what I like!
The Big Bopper, "Chantilly Lace"
Barack failed to knock Hillary out yesterday. Bad for him. I wouldn't credit Hillary with a great victory in Texas; Barack overcame a large poll deficit there. But Hillary smacked him good in Ohio. She finally exploited Barack's very real weaknesses among Hispanics & white working class voters & definitely slowed down the Obama machine. Texas doesn't mean squat for Dems in the general election. Neither does South Carolina, for that matter. Ohio, New Jersey, New York, California, Massachusetts certainly do, & Hillary took them all. & she can win Pennsylvania, too. The delegate numbers are against her. But the Clintons are the type who conspire to give you nasty little punches in the crotch & crunch your feet in touch football games.

I can't locate the news article; on Monday Hillary warned about "underestimating" voters. Call me an old-fashioned cynic, but I think it's hard to go wrong underestimating voters. John Edwards sunk by overestimating us. Both Hillary & Barack find success underestimating voters (let's leave McCain aside for now). Hillary's "fear" telephone TV ad will become a classic example. Of course, the president doesn't pick up a phone before an aide says who is on the line. Waking a president up is a very important staff decision. Barack's entire campaign reminds me of "We Are the World," & the notorious "Hands Across America" feel-good event of 1986. I watch Obama rallies on TV & honest the first thought enters my mind is, 'He's got to be kidding." But I initially reacted the same way to Beatlemania in England & they turned out better than alright.

Tomorrow, McCain goes to the White House to be annointed Candidate Four More Years. He can run on the Bush Iraq War. He can run on the Bush economy. He can straight talk all he wants out his ass. what's wrong with statement:
"I will campaign to make health care more accessible to more Americans with reforms that will bring down costs in the health care industry without ruining the quality of the world’s best medical care.”
Lots. There are many ways to measure our "world's best medical care." McCain can go to any hospital in the United States by private jet, choose any doctor, have any procedure. We have the best care for rich people. But a whole lot of statistics from drug costs to infant mortality rates to percentage of uninsured & underinsured show there are a good number of nations with better health care for everyone else. He can't bring down the costs without overhauling the system, & the Number One step for that is universal coverage: Every American citizen has health insurance. Every citizen walking into Muhlenburg Hospital emergency room in Plainfield NJ has an insurance card, & Muhlenberg is adequately compensated. Muhlenberg is closing. It is not an old, crumbling, inner city hospital. & some of those old hospitals serve needs that cannot at the moment be served without them.

(R. Stevie Moore performs "Chantilly Lace" - Uncle Floyd TV show, 1980)


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another fish story

In "Love and Consequences," a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.

The problem is that none of it is true.

Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.
I read a review of this book & another article, Refugee from Gangland, in the NYT style section, & Jones/Seltzer's story sounded very unlikely to me, too neat, her contacts with the 'hood & gang associates that I didn't believe someone getting out of that life would maintain as closely as she did, but I thought, what the heck, anything is possible. As it turned out, it not only wasn't possible for her, it wasn't even her story.

I have nothing against the fictionalized memoir, if it's presented as such & if the core of the story is true. * I've toyed with the idea myself by writing a few short "what if?" chapters about my experiences as small town kid in a rock band who found himself around addicts, drug dealers, low level mob guys, prostitutes, insane radical leftists, denizens of Andy Warhol's outer fringes, the embryonic Asbury Park music scene, & committed sexual amoralists. All that is true. I imagined myself participating in what they offered rather than, as I mostly did, observing with an endless astonishment, as if I was watching a Fellini film. The object wasn't to tell my story, but to paint a landscape of the late Sixties underground in Jersey. I would admit I was lying. Yes, I heard Springsteen long before he had a record contract. No, I never actually smoked pot with him under the boardwalk.

*Or the author is a renowned bullshitter, like poet Kenneth Rexroth & jazz great Charles Mingus.

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Monday, March 03, 2008


My eyeglasses are scratched up like I cleaned them with industrial grade toilet paper, & maybe I did. Time for new glasses anyway. I stopped by the optometrist office to schedule an appointment. Yes, I've been here before. Yes, I have insurance, here's the card. The receptionist looked it over, said they don't take that plan anymore, & handed it back.

This optometrist is not an employee of an eyewear fashion palace at the mall. He's in a medical arts building a few blocks away that's seen better days & has a perpetual sign out front advertising office suites for rent. He shares the space with a chiropractor. Wherever the local Orthodox go for eye exams, it isn't to him. He's the doctor who delivered the bad news that my left retina was wrecked, too late for me to sue the ass off a Millburn NJ surgeon, take the settlement & move into a doublewide in Cape May County with a small deck, a few rose bushes, & a Hyundai Accent I bought new parked out front. I can think of a number of people who'd visit me down there. I liked these glasses until they got scratched.

I put the insurance card back in my wallet & said, If you're not taking it I don't understand how you're turning a profit in this neighborhhood.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mass Transit

My first ride today on a NJ Transit double decker rail car. I went up to the second level. Lower level windows were nearly flush with the station platform. Seats both sides arranged in twos, eliminating the third middle seat that more often than not was used for baggage storage on crowded trains. Smooth ride until we crossed over some switches approaching Newark Penn Station, the swaying definitely exaggerated. Good reason to sit on the lower level if you're reading. I feel sorry for the conductors, who now have to go up & down two flights of steps after every station stop.

On the same day PATH fares went up 25 cents, Port Authority eliminated the cash fare turnstiles. So occasional PATH riders like myself were stuck in long lines for the ticket machine. I purchased a single fare ticket since I wasn't sure if I would be returning via PATH, & the two hour time limit on single fare prevented me from sticking an extra one in my wallet, as I sometimes do with train tix, & I didn't know if there was time limit on the two ride card. The Hispanic woman in line ahead of me was totally befuddled, kept working through the steps until she punched in $2, at which point the machine wasn't doing what she expected. I tried asking her how many tickets she was trying to buy. Finally, she held up two fingers. I said you can't buy two tickets with $2. Flustered, she kindly stepped aside. Hopefully, some Spanish speaker was able to explain it all to her.

A lesson in courtesy: After stepping into the elevator at Exchange Place, I heard someone running down the hall so I held the door. I never do this during busy hours, as you could be waiting there while 20 people crowd in. An attractive young oriental lady entered, smiled & said thank you very much. She hurried up Montgomery Street, just catching her connecting trolley. She would've missed it had I let the elevator door close.


Hackettstown NJ


Saturday, March 01, 2008


Most years, today is my first day of spring. Why not? Let the crocuses arise. I've already heard robins. They've been around a couple of weeks. There are migrating birds that fly only as far south as need, particularly some water birds pushed along by water temps & storm systems rather than a destination. This winter was like a long March. Brief cold spells. Mixed precip rather than heavy snow. The ocean kept tempering the storms, so the weather here resembled a South Jersey coastal winter. A global warming kind of winter we're experiencing more & more often. Which doesn't mean next year won't feature blizzards & deep freezes. Weather averages out, & it's averaging out milder. Last night, walking a few blocks home through rain, sleet & wind, an inch of slush, way more uncomfortable than 10 degrees colder & snowing.


"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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