Friday, November 29, 2013

Nitwit on first floor set off fire alarm 1:30 am. Smoke coming up stairwell. I'm rushing around to get dressed. I go downstairs. He steps out his apt, smoke billowing after him. WTF is the matter with you? I yell at him. He says, "I was cooking hot dogs, I told the lady downstairs (the nominal super) to turn off the alarm." "You don't seem to f*ckin' understand this, do you?" I yell. So he gets all indignant. Heavy lidded eyes of a pot smoker or sleeper or both. A fire truck does come, & I never like their response time no matter what time of day. They set up a fan & blow out the smoke.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Elizabeth NJ

Proctor's Bijou Dream Theater

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Nov 22, 1963

My dad, who detested the Kennedys, was shocked. It's one thing to steal an election with two thousand suspect Chicago votes, quite another to nullify the election  with a gun.  He was moved by the funeral, by the symbolism.

I don't think I had any strong feelings one way or another about JFK.  If I expressed any, I didn't know what I was talking about.  I remember the weekend & funeral as extraordinary, out of the realm of experience for everyone, a combination of tragedy, sadness & fascination.

 JFK  wasn't spoken well of around my Republican home. He certainly livened things up around the White House, the antithesis of the grandfatherly Eisenhower. All the Camelot stuff, generated while he was in office, was so much silliness to me. You had to be blind to believe Jack wasn't cheating on Jackie. He didn't seem especially "liberal," except in his cultural tastes, which even he admitted was Jackie's sophistication. In 11/63 We knew The Beatles were coming soon. I didn't expect the level of hysteria they had generated in England. They didn't come to America because Kennedy was killed, but a wintry, post-assassination melancholy created a vacuum for their "Yeah Yeahs" to fill. By the end of 1963, "I want to Hold Your Hand" was creating a major buzz among younger teenagers (11 to 15, the older ones were somewhat resistant). Kennedy's death & the British Invasion have always been linked for me. Kids were quick to put Kennedy's assassination behind us. It took only six or seven weeks.


Romans 8:38

Jean wrote: "Joe is not doing well at all. They cannot do the bypass surgery, since he is still precarious and would not survive the surgery. They were thinking of putting in stents as a temporary measure, but Dr said that, also, would be dangerous. Jim is at hospital today. At least he understands what the Dr is telling him. I was there yesterday and will be back there tomorrow. If you believe in prayer, please pray for Joe."    Bad news. Not sure is it's Joe or Jim understanding what the doctor is saying.

I sent Jean a list of everyone currently on my prayer list. Unsurprising she isn't certain  I pray. Here is my prayer, from Paul the Apostle in Romans:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Not even our own doubts are sufficient to separate us.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sleeping a lot, which happens when I'm depressed.   Very real possibility of losing my oldest brother. But add to it the fact that I've never known this brother all that well. Seven years older than me. He had four years to himself before the next sibling arrived, then a third a year later, & me two years after Jean. Joe tried to keep us at at\bay. Hole in the basement with a toy machine gun shooting rubber bullets at the steps.  Moved to a room in the attic, Mad Magazine inspired  KEEP OUT signs taped everywhere.  For me these discouragements were invitations. I was far more curious about what Joe was hiding than were my two middle siblings. He was hiding Mad Magazines mostly. Later he had Beat poetry, cool LPs, Playboys & some nice sport coats that fit me. I appropriated much of this stuff whle he was in the Army.

Early on I tried to emulate Joe. But Joe was trying to get attention by pushing others away. I came to that tactic later. I tried to get attention by being clingy &whiny. Youngest kid. I needed my brother Jim's broad taste in Top 20 music. His work ethic didn't catch on with  me. I needed Jean's conventional approach to high school culture, the dances & the dating. Jean had the most influence on how I made my way through high school socially, particularly as a junior & senior. But Joe gave me (or rather I stole  from him) much of my creative foundation.  I took it, packed in a rocket, & lit it, & followed the rocket.

Joe has always been able to make astute, even caustic  observations about other people, less insightful toward himself.  We're all like that, substituting confession for self-awareness. But he wasn't able or willing to express himself though music or writing, although he's had all the basic tools for doing so. I've always wondered what stopped him?  Some deep insecurities? Jim preaches & sings. Jean sings, & any party or holiday she organizes has her personality all over it.   I make poems. Even as a recluse I stick my head out of my burrow & make loud clicking noises.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Quadruple bypass for brother Joe on Thursday?

 Our  two relatively contented middle siblings can  handle the practical stuff fine. If he resists the surgery they'll find a way to make him have it.  But like Joe, I reside among the underclasses, poor & psychically beaten down. I want to tell him to pull himself together & give it one more try. Just one more. I know in his small world he is talkative, funny & well-liked. Well, it's a world! You got a place to live, food, two cats, a lady friend.

Of course, my PC, an e machine,which has given me four years \of good service, chooses this week to go all glitchy on me. I wasn't able to open up files or write, but it somehow repaired those problems. Images are  distorted & the web browsers messed up. Might be time to buy a netbook. I need this PC working well.  I need a big screen & a full size keyboard.  When you don't game, the requirements for a PC drop way down.PC themselves are all the way out. My eyesight isn't great & I appreciate a large screen  & large font when I need it.

Monday, November 18, 2013


 What is nailed to granite
takes us hostage to a myth of optimism,
a community where no babies
are abandoned in garbage cans,
wise old women in lawn chairs
fanning themselves with astrological charts,
highways repaved but never widened,
all retail clerks brothers and sisters,
motorized skateboards,
good manners among neighbors,
no one too rich or too poor,
the serene aftermath of war
our fertile real estate.

 A cat in the dark alley
 knocks over a garbage can,
cockroaches pass through poison
as through a slightly unusual room,
don't be afraid, what you see
is a reflection in the window
of an oriental woman
peeking over her glasses
while she works at a sewing machine.

A soldier clothed in green patina
marches past the public library
for his proud Gold Star Mother.

We are taught our wars are kindnesses,
favors we do for our enemies.

Peace is also a litany of greed,
fading uniforms, reams of paper
with secrets printed on them.

Waking up in a strange hospital,
hearing the butterflies screaming.

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

The late Bruce Longstreet & I liked animals. We regarded the native inteliigence & feelings of dogs & cats so highly that we weren't inclined to anthropomorphize them. We discovered we had the same response to barking dogs. If we were walking down the street, & some dog was barking furiously at us from behind a fence or window, we sometimes stopped & looked at it, The dog might then stop barking or go even more nuts. But our purpose was the same: We didn't want the dog to believe it had chased us away when we were only walking past its house. Then we'd stroll very slowly off down the street. "I won't give it that satisfaction," I said. Bruce said, "We're the alpha dogs." I said, "To a dog, we must project ourselves as larger & more beautiful but amicable dogs." Bruce said, "They have no idea how bad our sense of smell is. If we fake like we're sniffing something, a dog will come over & sniff it too." I replied, "Yes, & then surprise us by peeing on the spot." Bruce said, "We fooled it into thinking we smelled what it smelled."

Barnegat Light NJ

 Bust of General George Meade at Barnegat Lighthouse. The commander of the Union Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg & through the end of the Civil War. Prior to the war, Meade designed the Barnegat, Absecon (Atlantic City) & Cape May lighthouses, all New Jersey treasures. If the florid journalists of the Civil War era had made the connection, they probably would have called him "The Beacon of Victory" or some similar phrase.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On November 13,

Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that someday, he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his (childhood) friend, Oscar Madison. Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Armistice Day

Martin of Tours and the Beggar by El Greco. The story is that Martin, a low-ranking officer in the Roman cavalry, gave half his ample cloak to a beggar. The beggar is, of course, Jesus. They all are. The lesson is that there's enough to share, & no one need freeze or go hungry. Today is his day, the day the first Armistice was signed in 1918, stopping World War I. I knew that growing up, but not the connection to Martin of Tours, Martinmas.

Although having a day to honor veterans is right, I wish we had established a separate day for them & kept Armistice Day, which was about the end of a war & the establishment of peace. A day devoted to peace. Rarely see the word "peace" in print anymore, why is that? I was born on Armistice Day. It was changed a few years later. "Ami" in my mother's maiden name Amidon has meant peace or a quality of peace all the way back into proto-Indo-European language. God's joke on a hot-tempered child whose growth spurt screeched to a halt at 5'6", but endowed with a scorpio's penchant for creative, patient revenge. Oh yeah, in case I inherited the gift of blarney from the Irish side, I was given a stutter that didn't subside to a controllable level until I was in my Twenties. You have to learn to write poems, kid.

Signing a truce is not the same as making peace. It's better than fighting, but it does not reconcile. Nations make & observe truces, as do families  & individuals, but use them to avoid getting to the heart of the matter.

 Rules for 21st Century War  
 Prevent a free press from learning the truth & it won't need to be censored for trying to report the truth.  
Never reveal who is getting rich from a war. 
The true costs of a war are so mind-boggling high that hardly anyone finds them believable. Don't worry about it. 
When stirring up the populace for a war, in no case predict & include the costs of the aftermath of a war, which are paid for by citizens for 100 years after the war in the form of medical care & survivor's benefits. As of March 2013, two children of Civil War veterans were still receiving very modest annual payments.  
Ship bodies of fallen soldiers home quietly & quickly disperse them across the country. Hide the most grievously injured.  
 Call veterans "heroes" but keep them so patriotically stirred up by slights both real & imagined that they'll cheer cuts to social service programs without noticing  vets & the V.A. are getting screwed too. The vets of WWI & WWII didn't fall for this scam. Know your history. 

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Denville NJ

Miniature lighthouse, Cedar Lake, Denville NJ. 

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

The professional writing most suited to me by talent & temperament - other than a twice weekly general theme newspaper columist* - is writing for politicians; speeches, PR, etc. I worked on political newsletters for a brief period & enjoyed it for the most part. If I approved of the politician's views & especially if liked the politician, I didn't mind the whoring.

I used to "mayorize" the Rahway City newsletter. I'd count the number of times the mayor's name was mentioned in the copy provided to me & find more places to insert "Mayor James Kennedy." I wished he had come to me to edit his occasional speeches, which didn't even sound like him & lacked his sense of humor. He could be quite droll in an Irish sort of way. Like Brendan Byrne, a politician I admired & a funny man. Rahway has a great river & cool train station, a politician can't go wrong waxing poetic about those, especially when he can truthfully blame the flooding & pollution on upstream towns. Freeholders were pains-in-the-asses because hardly anyone can name their freeholders, but freeholders have egos just as out-sized as any other politicians.

 * These columnists hardly exist anymore. The newspapers they worked for are gone or they were laid off years ago in staff cutbacks. But I'm thankful I had the opportunity to do it at all as a "nonprofessional."


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Christie wins

In this very same election, on the very same ballot, we passed here in Jersey, by a huge margin, a constitutional amendment raising the minimum wage & linking it to hikes in the cost of living. You don't get much more "liberal" than that. Democrats retained control of the state senate & assembly. Christie had no "coattails," We also forced Christie, through public pressure, to drop his legal fight against marriage equality.  Two weeks ago we elected a new Democratic senator, who won by 11 points while spending hardly any of the huge campaign chest he's saving for next year. That election ended the political career of the state's only prominent "tea party" type politician. We liberals are doing just fine here, thank you. We want Christie to run for president. The state is much quieter when he's not around.

Locally, a young woman I supported for Board of Ed came in 4th for three available positions. Her insurgent slate, well-financed by the County Democratic Committee, endorsed by the mayor,  grabbed two of those seats. She lost because she was positioned 8th on the ballot, & all the  slick flyers, robocalls & door-to-doors couldn't overcome that.  An incumbent had the #1 spot, he came in second. The #2 position candidate came in first, & the #6 position came in third. There were several candidates listed not actively running - I don't know why they bothered to run. The BoE election is  "nonpartisan" but pits the County Democratic machine - nothing to brag about as a "democratic" organization except they tend to be very liberal - against a BoE machine autocratically run by a single boss with right wing tendencies.  The young woman took the defeat quite hard. But before BoE elections were moved to the general election in November, the BoE fortress was almost impregnable.  But with  the superior campaign resources of the Regular Democrats to counter the slick official mailings of the BoE  paid for out of the school budget, three BoE members have been picked off in two years. This at least will bring some transparency to the Board.  If the BoE were genuine progressive reformers & didn't constantly manipulate stats to make the schools look better than they are or run the system like parochial schools, I would support them.

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Monday, November 04, 2013

It's all about the money

On Tuesday, when Jerseyans show how "conservative" we are by reelecting Christie, we will also pass - probably by a large margin - a raise in the minimum wage tied to annual cost-of-living hike, the kind of law everyone on the right from Chamber of Commerce to Randians detest. Also, we forced Christie to abandon efforts to block marriage equality because he knew a growing majority of Jerseyans favored it, might decide to vote against him if he kept making ugly noises over it, & it was absurd for him to suggest the matter belonged on the ballot, attracting into the state next year millions of dollars of anti-marriage equality money from groups & persons also opposing Christie's presidential aspirations. Christie is winning because he embraced President Obama after Hurricane Sandy, who carried this state twice easily, & some idiot Repugs blamed the hug in part for Romney's defeat. We're a bunch of contrarians.

 Unless Chrstie's win tomorrow results in Repugs winning the state legislature, media analysts will have to see it as a singular victory for an individual.  People outside Jersey often have difficulty understanding that we aren't an especially ideologically partisan state - the point of going into politics here has always been to steer money (especially Fed money)  in one's own direction, one's own town or district,  with ideology a distant second - but rather one where we cling to our many strange, often baffling traditions & prejudices.


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Newark NJ

Blue Mirror - "New Jersey's Most Beautiful Rendezvous"

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Saturday, November 02, 2013

Something I loved about Atlantic City

Something I loved about Atlantic City in the Sixties. In its decline the place was wide open. Maybe it was always wide open.  Everyone knew what it was about, & talked about it. There was none of the secret stuff where everyone pretends they don't know what everyone knows. The lid was totally off the city. It was built on sand & swamp that couldn't properly be called real estate, & the facade was  the true history as well as the myth.   It might have been the most honest city in America. It didn't try to fool anyone.   Then I'd go to these ethnic neighborhoods in North Jersey, Italian & Irish,  people going "Shhh, shhh," I'd think, what is this bullshit?


Friday, November 01, 2013

My dad was involved in Union County NJ Republican politics for a decade back when the Repugs could still win the Courthouse. That shaped my view of politics even after I moved left & I don't see that much has changed in the practical applications of political power. I don't think it's especially useful to be an ideologue or a cynic. It's too easy, too simple. But it's difficult not to be cynical when food stamps are cut. Who does this help? Does it solve anything? Who does it hurt? Obviously it hurts people eligible for food stamps. Why are they eligible for food stamps? Why do they need help putting food on the table? What are they supposed to do now if they find themselves among those cut off from might be the best social service program the government offers?

"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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