Monday, May 30, 2011

Louie Go Home

Warm, clear early summer evening, not too humid. Quite pleasant when I was out & about just before & after sunset. A/C not in. Unfortunately, my window fan didn't make it through a noreastern last fall when I had it on exhaust blowing directly into the wind & the pressure snapped a blade off.

Oddly (maybe not so oddly, considering I found my way to WFMU), I recall buying the Midnight Ride album by Paul Revere & the Raiders at the Two Guys big box store on Memorial Day in 1966.  The weather that day was much like today, I was probably bored out of my gourd, all my friends at backyard barbecues,  my stuck up blond girlfriend & I had broken immediately after the prom - no surprise to anyone (unknown to me, a girl ten times better I was hardly aware of at school  had noted the breakup,  & was already plotting how we would "meet"  through  the friend of a friend of a friend small town social connections.* ). My parents were separated - we never had anything special going on holidays anymore. So I scraped together a few bucks, borrowed mom's car,  & got the album with "Kicks," "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" (later recorded by The Monkees, an inferior version), & the great "Louie Go Home." PR & the Raiders wore silly costumes & appeared on the often wretched TV show, Where the Action Is,  but  at their best they were one kickass rock & roll band.

* You'd be casually introduced somewhere, the set-up, then  later you heard she "likes you" from another girl.  That  was the tip-off phrase, perhaps tied to "She's in the phone book." Now it's probably the same but you begin by texting each other.

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Memorial Day

Gold Star Mother, to you
the honor of a white Cadillac
at the front of the parade.

Your slow steps
escorting the wreath
up the gray slate path
to the war monument
by the public library.

Each clang of the fire engine bell
is the face of someone's son.

Four old soldiers aim
rifles at the blue sky,
a nervous boy plays "Taps."

They rest there for weeks,
your ribbons & fading flowers.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Camp Kilmer NJ

Large World War II Army processing center for troops embarking to European theater. Sprawled across three towns in central Jersey.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Fire Engine

I hear the fire engine leave the station
four blocks away, it's the truck
with the old-fashioned siren.
that sounds like a fireman
stands on top turning a crank.

I hear it come closer, it turns right
on to my street two blocks down,
Hurry! Hurry! Here we come,
get out of the way!
Emergency!  Emergency!

The truck passes beneath my window
screaming, the siren
abruptly stops. I listen.
I pick my book up
& begin reading again.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

sopa de won ton

Late afternoon bus to main library. It's the most convenient bus in town for me, frequent,  runs from Kean University through downtown to library where it turns around,  stops a block away, uncrowded,  usually don't wait long for it at either end. Checked out some books, printed out a few docs. Then over to the big Latino-oriented supermarket near the library  for some celery & bananas. It's the only supermarket I know of that sells Campbell's condensed chicken won ton soup. Why anyone around here buys it is a mystery since if you have a craving  you can get a quart of genuine won ton with the rubbery pork filling for under $4 at any of the dozens of Chinese take-outs.  Just about everyone goes through a take out won ton & fried rice phase in college.  Besides stocking produce popular with Hispanics,  big selections of bagged & canned beans, super sweet  drinks, varieties of chorizo,  Latino supermarkets around here are  known for cheap prices on large qualities of meat.  They're  where you find  the rest of the cattle & chicken & pig, the parts us anglos only eat ground up & disguised in hot  dogs, bologna & olive loaf, & probably any meat filling at Taco Bell. Except for being called cheese, I've always thought head cheese one of the more honest-looking conglomerations in the deli display.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Baraka's boyhood Newark

Re-reading the early chapters of poet Amiri Baraka's Autobiography (1984), A fascinating & surprisingly affectionate  picture of Newark NJ in the late-forties, especially the subtle (& not-so-subtle) class differences within the large & growing African-American community, by economic status, skin tint, & family origin. What comes across is a community that,  although mostly poor & seriously oppressed in a declining city, is  culturally vital, diverse,  has some strong internal structures,  not yet at the crux of despair & explosive anger reached in the Sixties. The soundtrack music was terrific.

The story of Newark after World War II is the story of a number of Jersey's cities. As the manufacturing base disappeared, the white (& much of the black) middle class moved out, & the corrupt ruling white political machines adopted a siege mentality &  channeled more of the shrinking economic pie out of the black communities, making the black political ward bosses more & more ineffectual & unable to deliver the basic goodies - patronage jobs & city services -  to their constituents. To add injury to insult, the new Turnpike, Parkway & interstates sliced through urban  neighborhoods with no regard for their inhabitants & distinct identities (the superhighways  also set in motion the ruination of much of rural Jersey).
It's a sad irony that Jersey has at least a million more residents than 20 years ago (our population has never declined), we're now spread out all over the state, yet we lose congressional districts after every census. Among political scientist Larry J Sabato's  many proposals (some quite radical) for changing the Constitution & reforming national government, the most logical one is for expanding the House of Representatives, where we now have too few representatives,  each representing too many people.  100 years ago when the number was fixed at 435 congressional reps had relatively intimate connections with constituents, much more local.


The Brox Sisters - Cover me up with the sunshine of Virginia (1924)

From a fun Library of Congress website, National Jukebox.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

you don't miss your water

A water main up at the corner broke this morning - the first warm day we've had in weeks - & a lot of people had a scuzzy day.  I had just enough water in the fridge to make coffee & do basics.  A little while ago I concluded I'd have to walk up to 7-11 & hope there hadn't been a run on 1/2 gallons. I passed a hole in the street & a repair crew. I got the water, & when I walked home the hydrant on the corner was turned on, water pouring out. On my corner a couple of men were in the street opening up a  below ground valve. The water in my building was flowing again. I flushed the toilet. I'm drinking the bottled water.


Bob Dylan at 70

I can hardly explain the impact this one album had on small town high school culture. Despite Dylan's prior, very good 1/2 blues-rock album, he was still perceived as an older folkie, & my high school wasn't a folkie sort of place. We were... into rock & roll, all kinds of rock & roll. Beatles, Four Seasons, Byrds, Temptations, Stones, Supremes, Beach Boys, James Brown, Animals. This LP, & the single "Like A Rolling Stone," changed everything. Filled with odd, quotable aphorisms kids shouted at each other in halls & on the street. It was adopted by my town's first generation skatepunkers - no more Jan & Dean in their matching shirts. & to our delight, it infuriated the few remaining folkies, who seemed like refugees from the "Hootnanny" TV show. Dylan's initial great followups to "Rolling Stone" weren't that big, but then came "Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35," & suddenly kids were chanting about something no one had yet (or would admit having) smoked.

This was early in  Dylan's career, & he's still performing & recording.  Neil Young became my favorite singer/songwriter/rocker, & I think he has a more impressive total body of work, more interesting failures, but even among his several masterpieces he has no Highway 61 Revisited or Blonde on Blonde.  Neil is unimaginable without Bob.

Bob released other albums I really liked: Blood on the Tracks, The Basement Tapes, Slow Train Coming, Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, some of the box sets, the live Before the Flood with The Band, Bob bellowing through his classics,  & other songs here & there. But I had no on-going fascination with him, just respect,  In the Seventies I met & chatted with A. J. Weberman, the Dylan-obsessed writer & "garbologist." I thought he was nuts. Dylan had made an indelible impression upon me at an impressionable age.  I had the Triumph motorcycle tee shirt Dylan wears on the cover of Highway 61, & I wore it to tatters.

Yeah, Bob Dylan is pretty much why I chose to publish as a Bob instead of Robert.  Thanks largely to him I passed on using a  good old-fashioned,  All-American poet's triple-trochee full name, Robert Norman Rixon.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Two Months of April

 Another cloudy damp day, like two months of cool, showery April. We treasure May in Jersey. Usually, at some point in June summer clicks on & it's 90+ degrees & the midday sun isn't so enjoyable unless you're near a beach umbrella or a shady tree.

Interesting situation today. Message from a guy who said he'd included one of my photos (of a now-demolished house) in a book about Elizabeth, with credit. But without prior permission. Legally, it's a gray area, since I post original photos without any copyright mark or rights reserved. The professional quality photographers I know are very careful about that. So I was both pleased & annoyed. I would have given permission, but also would've provided the original digital image;  I cut photos down & sometimes crop them, rarely improving them,  & if the photo has been converted from color to b&w I may have asked a photographer friend to do the change  in photoshop before I submitted it. I've seen many books in this particular series of town histories & the photo images are never reproduced well.

I decided to charge him the  standard rate for poems, two contributor copies, "to keep my self-respect." But if he can't afford that, I'll let it ride. These aren't "for-profit" books, but rather informal pictorial histories assembled by dedicated amateur local historians. 

If someone printed one of my poems & asked for permission after the fact, I might be on the phone to Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.   I give my poems a fairly loose leash - they have no monetary value,  but I value them enough to be  particular about the company they keep.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Middleville NJ

Robbin's Esso & General Store

Exterior view of store

When this photo was taken, the store was probably both a real general store & selling the rural general store experience for tourists. 

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rapture Time

Apparently, no one made the cut.

Harold Camping, the elderly radio personality who predicted The Rapture for today, believes in an extreme version of sola scriptura, "the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness." However, both Methodism & Roman Catholicism, two practices of understanding that influenced me when I was young, qualify this. Catholicism adds sacred tradition & the episcopacy. Methodism, following the teaching of John Wesley (himself an Anglo-Catholic), adds tradition, reason & experience as important for understanding scripture. I also picked up, from mainstream protestantism, a belief that the Bible can be understood "by ordinary means." This doesn't mean that anyone can just pick up The Bible & understand everything in it without help (although the absolute essentials are pretty clear); it means that The Bible is not an impenetrably arcane document for ordinary people, with secret knowledge to be revealed, deciphered  & explained only by "experts" like Harold Camping with their own complicated interpretive methods. So I reject outright Camping's assertion that there's a hidden numerological code in The Bible of grand divine design & great complexity, & which he has managed to crack. This is  bizarre ultra-literalism.

Whatever one might think of the efforts of early Christian leaders to assemble an official canon of writings & suppress non-canonical writings & alternative interpretations of the Gospels (I  think including The Book of Revelation was a mistake, & many at the time argued against including it), they correctly fought against those  turning the Jesus Movement into cults with secret knowledge made available only to initiates. Jesus sometimes had difficulty making himself understood even to his closest followers, & some of his actions, statements, & parables are baffling, but it's clear that he wanted to be understood by the common people he favored.  The central expression of Jesus' ethical teaching, The Sermon on the Mount, was delivered to  a large crowd. He welcomed children.

The central meaning of his life & purpose was demonstrated not by words but by an extraordinary supernatural act; overcoming death. The first person to proclaim  the Resurrection was a woman (or women), the most courageous of his friends when the Disciples (with the possible exception of his Beloved Disciple - we're not certain who this was) had fled from the scene.

Whatever occurred on Easter & during the following weeks, The Disciples & intimate followers changed from a group of uncertain, anxious people into a brave, cohesive collective with Peter (he who denied knowing Jesus three times) as the appointed leader.

 The first generations of Christians believed Jesus' return was imminent in their lifetimes, which made it easier to give up or share their possessions & form communities.  The movement slowly settled in for the long-run. All Christians are urged to live in anticipation of Christ's return, but not to expect it at any particular given moment. Those who predict exact dates are false prophets.  Elaborate doctrines of The Rapture itself, as we know them today,  are only a few hundred years old at most. In 8 years of Methodist Sunday school I never heard the word, much less introduced to competing end times scenarios that evangelicals fight over.

It angers me that a Harold Camping can work so many people into a tizzy, prey upon natural human anxieties, & open up Christianity to ridicule because he has an aptitude  & obsession for playing games with numbers,

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Friday, May 20, 2011

the time of no room

"We live in the time of no room, which is the time of the end. The time when everyone is obsessed with lack of time, lack of space, with saving time, conquering space, projecting into time and space the anguish produced within them by the technological furies of size, volume, quantity, speed, number, price, power and acceleration."
                       Thomas Merton

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Odell Brown's Grammy


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Odell Brown

Article by: PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune

Odell Brown Jr., a lifelong musician who co-wrote one of Marvin Gaye's biggest hits only to soon find himself destitute, has died.

Brown, 70, died May 3 in his Richfield, Minnesota home after moving to the Twin Cities in the mid-1990s and stabilizing his professional and personal life.

A reception to celebrate Brown's life is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Portland Avenue United Methodist Church, 8000 Portland Av. S., followed immediately by a memorial service.

Brown began playing piano in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., tapping out classical songs at age 4. He broke through musically while living in Chicago, where his jazz group Odell Brown & the Organizers received Billboard's "Best New Group" award in 1966.

As Brown recounted in a Star Tribune interview in 2003, he was playing a new electric keyboard in 1982 and hit the notes that caught Gaye's ears.

Soon, Gaye was humming the tune. Words were uttered, and the 1982 Grammy-winning song "Sexual Healing" came to life.

"It took two minutes to write," Brown said.

But as the song soared, Brown fell -- hard.

In 1983, while living in a Skid Row hotel in Los Angeles, he sat in a bar and watched the Grammy Awards. He was nominated four times and won for best R&B instrumental for "Sexual Healing."

He told a stranger next to him that he'd won a Grammy. The stranger responded: "Yeah, right."

A promising career that included signing on with the famed Chess label and working with artists such as Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Minnie Riperton, fell victim to depression, brought on in part by the death of family members and friends.

While his musical career never regained the momentum it had as Gaye's music director, it found stability after he moved to Richfield and married musician Barbara Whiteman, "his lifelong soulmate."

Among his later-in-life releases was the self-produced CD "Christmas Greetings from Odell Brown," distributed by his Edge Records. He chose that name "because I've been over the edge and back," he told the Star Tribune.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Electric out for about an hour, just came back on, longest it's been off here. We have frequent, annoying mini-interruptions. This one the power went off for a few seconds, on for a few, off, on, then off & stayed off. I turned off power to the PC & modem & settled in with a candle, two small flashlights, & listened to the rest of the Mets game - which had been delayed by rain & heading into extra innings - on the battery transistor. Mets lost in 11th on  run singled in by Marlins relief pitcher, that kind of game.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Keansburg NJ

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Peace Education Conference

Telling quote from the  Star-Ledger: "Goldie Hawn greeted fans, led out of the lobby by her handlers."  Do these peace experts know where they are? Maybe Goldie would enjoy a walking tour of Newark accompanied, of course, by her "handlers." Mayor Booker has the typical politician's delusion that the conference can change the image of the city. The problem is that everything he expects to change the city's image - a fabulous new restaurant, the NCAA basketball tournament, a Peace Conference etc., is instantly countermanded by news of another street murder. It's one thing to have a Peace Conference but quite another to make it look like a bunch of cultural oligarchs lecturing Newark from the safety of New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Gotta go. Call my limo. Where's my handlers? I'm outta here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Dalai Lama

If The Rix Mix had more than a handful of regular daily readers I'd be upset by Blogger's two-day shutdown.  All I missed was Yogi Berra's 86th birthday (Yogi's critique of a restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded"). But the popular bloggers who write off the news cycle may be looking into switching to Wordpress &  moving to another host..

The Dalai Lama is visiting Newark NJ for three days & participating in a "Peace Conference" at the arts center. The conference is more exclusive than inclusive, & I'm inclined to dismiss it as pointless. But I can't. Because wherever His Holiness goes he  brings a powerful energy.

Of course, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, with the typically narrow vision of a politician, says the conference helps the "image" of the city. I'm certain His Holiness has no such illusions, & it is not even his intent. He wants us to become more aware of violence, not only in its obvious manifestations on the streets of Newark. Our government engages in horrific acts of violence every day of the week in the name of national security.  Every field or wood destroyed to build a big box store is act of violence.  There's violence in the cans of beef & chicken soup I just brought home from the supermarket. Violence in media,  language,  families, schools,  even violent rhetoric in churches.  We are slaves to violence.  Poverty is itself violence on the spirit because it's  now very difficult to be poor with dignity in America.

Yes, the Dalai Lama is a sheltered man, but it would be foolish to think he isn't aware of the conditions in Newark but a few blocks from where he is speaking. He's seen worse.

 The Dalai Lama's connection with Newark is through Newark Museum, which has one of the best collections of Tibetan art in America, as well as a beautiful, consecrated Tibetan altar room where Buddhist ceremonies are conducted from time to time. It would be good is His Holiness made his presence felt in the city beyond the museum & special events.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Presbys change

An addendum to yesterday's post:
Presbyterian Church to ordain gays as ministers

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The Presbyterian Church voted on Tuesday to allow the ordination of gays, becoming the fourth Protestant denomination in the United States to make the move that experts say reflects a larger cultural shift.

The debate over whether gays should be ordained as ministers has led to sharp divisions within several Protestant faiths. Some 100 congregations out of 11,000 have left the Presbyterian church in the past five years, including a few large ones, church sources said.

A majority of the 173 regions, or presbyteries, supported the long-debated change in the constitution of the 2.3-million member Presbyterian Church (USA) that will permit gay candidates to be ordained clergy, elders and deacons, church sources said.

The move eliminates a requirement in the constitution that clergy live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

The 87th, and deciding, vote was cast on Tuesday by the liberal Minneapolis-St. Paul presbytery. Already, 19 presbyteries that voted against a similar amendment two years ago had switched sides.
Many people can't handle this, they'll never handle it. But for me it's an inexorable process in which the cultural "war" has been decided although there are many battles remaining. Certainly there of plenty of religious refuges for those unalterably opposed. But in the secular world they're just gonna have to get used to it.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jim Wallis & "the video"

Because I don't "belong" to a specific church or denomination, their internal positions on same sex marriage & the ordination of women & LGBT aren't of much concern to me. I'm most in agreement with the United Church of Christ & Reform Judaism,  which ordain  gays but leave hiring of them up to the individual congregations, &  clergy are permitted to officiate same sex marriage ceremonies if they choose.

The message of this video is something else. 

Sojourner magazine (print & online),  the mouthpiece of so-called "progressive Christian"* Jim Wallis, rejected this Mother's Day ad as too controversial. Wallis' defense of the decision was extraordinarily lame. Wallis is in actuality now a moderately conservative Evangelical Christian who, years ago when a vacuum of leadership existed on the Christian liberal/left, managed to convince a lot of people (including Barack Obama) that he was really important & spoke for millions of Christians  concerned with alleviating poverty & promoting peace (which ought to concern everyone). LGBT issues  made him anxious. He considered them divisive. He's always been wishy-washy on LGBT civil rights. This was alright 10 or 15 years ago. But now there are many  competing voices & organizations, some clear lines have been drawn between churches & denominations that welcome & those that don't, & there are nuances of welcoming of which this video represents  one so broad that a Roman Catholic acquaintance pointed  out it is in accord with Catholic guidelines  issued in 2006.  The women in the video are not demanding to be married & then ordained. They're just ... in a church, seem to be a couple, & the boy may be their son. 

It may be a watershed moment for Wallis - he hasn't realized it yet - & unless he changes he's going to lose many long-time supporters who viewed the American religious landscape through the narrower prism of Sojourners.  They may now discover there are plenty of alternatives, & also that maybe it's not such a hot spiritual or political  strategy to  compartmentalize "justice" & pretend the compartments are unconnected. If one supports the advancement of women's rights in third world nations, & opposes the oppression of religious minorities, one will invariably bump into the persecution of homosexuals.  All religious fundamentalism is related.  If you "call out" the American Christian right on poverty, military spending,. women's rights etc, sooner-or-later you have to deal with its homo-bigotry, because that's part of package, & the Christian right isn't content  with enforcing institutional doctrines within their own churches; they want those irrational prejudices codified in civil law.But American society is inexorably, demographically   overcoming those prejudices. Jim Wallis is so clearly behind the curve that his rejection of the video (& make no mistake, the decision was his, not his staff's) is earning him a much-deserved & overdue verbal beat-down from many of his own supporters.

*In  sense of supporting  what he considers a progressive political agenda. Doctrinally "progressive" Christians can mean a lot of things.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Shorty Rogers & his Orchestra - It's Not for Me to Say

If I came upon this scene in a park, I'd start looking around for the hidden camera. Shorty plays the Johnny Mathis hit.

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Blow away dandelion

My mom had a psychologically tumultuous personality that eventually took away what was best in her. But when I remember her through my four year old eyes she remains one of the prettiest women I've ever known - it's not my imagination, she really was. Images of her hanging the laundry, sheets flapping in the breeze, I'd present her with dandelion bouquets she accepted graciously, waiting until I forgot about them before throwing the weeds away. A graceful swimmer who as a teen must have been well aware of how she looked to boys watching from the shore. She would have scoffed  if anyone suggested she had a poetic side, but I believe, like  poets,  many of  the dreary details of ordinary life depressed her, & she had an eye for beauty in small things.  & marrying my dad was, both for her & for him, an act of independence & even courage not so common at that time.

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Lake Mohawk NJ

 Princess Esther White Deer

My mom spent her teenage summers at the exclusive Lake Mohawk resort community.  Her adult vacations were an annual week staying with my dad's aunt in Somers Point NJ.
The private resort community opened on June 26, 1927, with a young full-blooded Mohawk woman, Princess White Deer, in attendance. She sang on Broadway in a number of shows, including the Ziegfeld Follies, and the Plaza was named in her behalf and the lake in honor of her tribe.
Princess White Deer was a Ziegfield attraction for her stylized Indian dances, some to jazzy music, with many costume changes. How the Princess became involved with a wealthy white lake resort development  isn't explained. Maybe her New York agent got her the gig. Maybe she had devoted fans. But the Arthur Crane Company had alpine chalets & country club memberships to sell. Her father, Chief Running Deer, also put in appearances with full ceremonial feather headdress. I heard about them - they were legendary - but long gone.They were genuinely involved with the Iroquois Nations. But northern New Jersey had been settled by the Lenni-Lenape, not the Mohawk. Most Indian-sounding names in Jersey, like Lake Hopatcong, are corruptions of Lenni-Lenape words.

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

No good can come from a downtown fried chicken joint that's open at 3:30 a.m.


Friday, May 06, 2011

With the law

It's disturbing. In the 24 hours following the announcement of Osama's death the definite impression was given that there was an intense fire fight & our assault team, while trying - mostly with success - to avoid shooting noncombatants, shot everyone holding a gun, including Osama, who used one of his wives as a shield (the latter sounded like fiction right off).  Then it was revealed that Osama was not armed. Then it came out that only one person, the mysterious "courier," was shooting at our people at all, there wasn't much of a battle & Osama was trapped. So now the operation does come across as a death squad execution, & that is not acceptable. Nor is "enhanced interrogation," doublespeak for torture. I don't mourn Osama. But if we could have captured him at no great risk to our own men, we were morally obliged to do so. I wouldn't have been elated about putting him on trial, which would be a circus, stirring up passions for revenge in us & in bin Laden's supporters. But that's how we're supposed to do it in America; with the law.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

Another Let's get drunk fake holiday promoted by manufacturers & distributors of alcoholic beverages,   restaurant  chains with bars - like Chili's, & any local  gin mill willing to hang a banner outside supplied for free by Corona or Jose Cuervo.   Most  anglo celebrants probably mistake Cinco de Mayo for Mexican Independence Day,  given our general  contempt for Mexicans & ignorance of Mexican history. Only Bud Lite drinkers  need a fake holiday as an excuse to knock down a few Coronas.
Windy enough, but a bit too cool - 60 degrees - for a perfect Big Breezy Day in May.


Morris Nanton - Summer Wind

Last May I wrote about The Cove, a small club in a small bowling center a few blocks from where I grew up, & that Morris Nanton had a regular weekend gig there when I was too young to get in to hear him. I got hold of the three albums he recorded for the Prestige jazz label in the Sixties, all excellent. He wasn't the only great jazz musician playing locally in Jersey because he didn't like being on the road.  Still, this is not what you'd expect to hear in a bowling alley lounge  on Chestnut St. in Roselle NJ.  Here's an example of his basic, swinging, soulful way with a pop song. Morris doesn't pretend to break a sweat on this stuff.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

kids doobie relaxer

The shrink took me first yesterday. I'm  accustomed to waiting 30-45 minutes past my appt time, but I gotta get there on time anyway. From there I walked to the main library, then through downtown, stopping in Payless to look at sneakers, & at that point  a buck-fifty for a bus to my corner seemed like a good investment.  Nothing interested me on the new book shelves at the library. One Civil War history book could have but it was too large & the print too small & light. I recently had a disappointing  experience attempting to read the huge first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography.

I am reading Keith Richards' autobiography, Life.  Skipped his childhood, picked it up at the formation of The Rolling Stones, & probably close the book at "Start Me Up."  Keith is unapologetic about his massive consumption of drugs. Why should he apologize?  He doesn't recommend it, or consider himself a criminal for doing drugs. There were periods when they worked for him & periods when he regrets doing them. Heroin didn't destroy or nearly destroy a generation of American jazz musicians, but rather the criminalization of those musicians, or a personal self-destructiveness that was hardly dependent on smack when booze was legal & it was easy to get a doctor to prescribe addictive pharmaceuticals. What should have been sax great Art Pepper's best years were largely wasted either in jail or desperately  existing at the fringes of society in a never-ending search for his next fix & the money to pay for it. If he had just been given his daily dose he would have gone on gigging as usual.

Keith tells most of the stories we want to hear (& have heard before), but he's at his best talking about music. Several times already he mentioned his surprise & delight that the musicians he idolized freely shared their "secrets" - their signature licks, riffs, tunings.   It reminded me of a baseball All-Star game a few years back; before the game the peerless Yankee reliever, Mariano Rivera, was shown in the outfield  surrounded by admiring younger pitchers, Mo obviously demonstrating to them the various grips  he  used  to throw a "cutter, "  a pitch that has shattered a thousand bats.  Knowing how Mariano does it doesn't make you Mariano. Same goes for all the blues & country greats Keith has met & played with over his long career.  The Stones have always been a what you see is what you get band.  They said years ago, "It's only rock & roll," & meant it, & a lot of people still thought it was more. They haven't disguised their bullshit moments.  Bullshit is one function of the blues.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Killing Osama

Can't help but think the vast majority of the people chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" last night have been no closer to a real battlefield than what they've seen on TV.  The average age in front of the White House looked around 20.  Party. What are you supposed to do, just recall  the horror ten years ago, know the world is better off without him on it, & go to bed? That's what most Americans did. Also, every triumphant chant generates an echo with exactly the opposite sentiment. But it was a natural reaction. The workers toiling in the pit of Ground Zero, grim, hopeless work, literally inhaling bodies, personally earned their moment when President Bush visited with a bullhorn. But even there I felt something important was lost - the sense of a global tragedy.

Revenge tastes best served cold, the saying  attributed to Sicilians. This would have had the taste of revenge served medium-hot, on Sept 11, 2002.

The war goes on. Osama was a symbol, not a commander, his organization fractured into independent cults. It's an ideology, not a nation. or a person.

Very mixed reactions all around.The usual partisan name-calling. in comments on Facebook last night President Obama was called a "jerkoff" & an "asshole."  You have to grant the office some dignity even if you believe the person occupying it is a complete fool. Someone else will have the job & shouldn't have to wipe the shit people threw  off the desk.   Barack Obama is not a fool. An oligarch, yes. But so was George W. Bush. That's the kind of national government we now have. It may be the government we've always had. I don't enjoy thinking about it.

I despised George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq.  We didn't catch Osama because we didn't know how to find  Osama until we redirected our efforts to Afghanistan & Pakistan. But killing Osama sooner wouldn't have been like killing Hitler in, say, 1943.

Googling "Paterson NJ Muslim 9/11" returns not a single  eyewitness account, police report, news story, or photographic evidence that anyone from the large Islamic community there celebrated in the streets after the attacks. Yet, like any urban legend, many accept it as fact. Apparently, no brave patriot from the 'burbs, some of whom regularly visit Paterson to obtain their stashes, ventured there on  9/11 to check out the rumors.

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Osama bin Laden

Took about an hour after the news broke to get through & shake off any sense of triumph or twisted, smirking partisan satisfaction. I felt it & didn't like it. It's not even justice at this point, really. It was an unfinished, dirty job we had to take to the end, accomplished efficiently, when the opportunity came, by the best professional military personnel we have. Better to send the evil man to his paradise than having him rot in prison while we argued over how we could legally hang him.

I turned off the TV & went back to the Mets/Phillies game on the radio. Mets won in 14. America!


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Lake Hopatcong NJ

 Boat entering Morris Canal

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"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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