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Fishermen, Del Dios

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Report Card


I know that politics is said to be the art of the possible and yet I still can not squelch a nagging irritation with the Obama Administration. Our President is proving to be a pragmatic incrementalist at best and at worst, just another prevaricating lawyer politician.

Today, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the NSA's practice of wireless wiretapping without court approval is illegal. This behavior by the government, which was instituted in the last regime and which has has been quietly continued by our President, the constitutional law expert, is contrary to tenets we have long held sacred in regards to the right to privacy and against illegal search.

Yesterday Obama, contrary to his stated views prior to the election, announced that he is opening vast regions of America's coastline up for offshore oil drilling. We can argue the merits of drilling at some other time, my question is, why the post election conversion?

Justice Department attorneys went to court this week trying to justify Bush Administration Don't ask, don't tell policies. This after he has publicly repudiated the doctrine.

The President seems determined to keep us embroiled in an interminable conflict in Afghanistan, where we have recently given a wink to Karzai's corrupt administration and his heroin dealing little brother.

I have mentioned in prior posts his unfortunate hardening and mixed signals on marijuana law reform. Last week, his office took a hardline stance against legalization and decriminalization. This after his big soliloquy about respecting state laws in regards to medical marijuana policy.

He instituted a health care plan that lacks a single payer option, bowing to anti abortionists and blue dogs in his party, yet promises to increase the costs for the elderly and is apparently so poorly written that the insurance companies are already figuring out ways to deny coverage to children.

His underlings have done a swell job rescuing big banks and large financial institutions, but haven't done a damn thing for Main Street or to provide jobs for the American worker in what has become essentially a jobless recovery.

I thought that we had a candidate who advocated for change. It appears that we have instead elected a man comfortable continuing the status quo, tossing his core constituents to the curb in order to placate his opposition and show everybody what a great centrist he is.

I am afraid that our President is trying to be all things to all people. The question then has to be asked, does he stand for anything?

Sandy Denny - Nothing More

The Sommers Whine

My fourth day of fighting the dreaded cold and I feel like crap. Zinc lozenges, Mucinex, Zyrtec (or its generic equivalent) salt water rinses, probiotic, chicken soup broth, tea with lemon and honey, hot baths, B complex, cold remedy, nothing is cutting into the crud.

Can't breathe through my lungs or my nose. You can imagine what a joy I am to live with. The pollen count is high and my recently diagnosed acute allergic rhino sinusitis is in full bloom.  The antihistamine only serves to give me the serious cotton mouth every morning, being deathly afraid of my macho mucus.

I don't want to get up in the morning and the day is a slough. I am going to lay on the couch all day and read Melville's Typee. Read the David Kherdian translation of Monkey, Journey to the West (Hsi Yu Chi) the other day, recounting the mythical stone monkey's travels for enlightenment. The tale was originally written by Wu Ch'eng En in the 16th century. Shambala is such a great publisher. Where would I be without them?

I have taken quite a few regimens of antibiotics over the past three years and hope to not have to go on another course. I think that you build up a resistance and doctor friend Carmen says that you need to take them for a lot longer than they tell you. Might be forced to. Carmen is an MD who has sort of morphed into an alternative doctor and I may have to go hard core.

I have adult onset asthma and got off my medication last month when I found out that the cost of my Symbicort inhaler was now over two hundred bucks. I am in the dreaded deductible phase of my health insurance. I wonder if they are cheaper in Mexico? I have to bite the bullet and get one because the lungs just ain't working and I can't figure out how to breathe through my ass. I am practicing though.

I have to force myself to get dressed this afternoon and go in and pay bills. It is the end of the month. Add a little to the misery. Good for every writer.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rickie Lee Jones

Raise high the roof beam, carpenters...


I often brag about the great people that live in my town, Fallbrook. Well, it's true. We have a fantastic new public library being built, and significant contributions have come from our community, both in terms of time, money and artistic input. In fact many local artist's works have been integrated into the library, including works by local artists Michael Stutz, Chris Pardell and Dixon Fish. It is going to be a wonderful setting and a centerpiece for North County. A place that all residents can utilize and be proud of.


The incredible woman we have most to thank for the new library is one Jerri Patchett. She has worked tirelessly to see it come to fruition, in all of its aspects, including fundraising and design. One of the most kind and competent people you will ever be fortunate enough to meet.




Today, the library had a topping off party to celebrate the last steel girder being raised on the roof. The library crew has been having construction meetings in my gallery every other week so I was able to pull an invite for a viewing and lunch and it allowed me an opportunity to take some pictures. Steel beams are always good. Click on the pictures and they magically get bigger.

I for one cannot wait for its completion later this year. Here are a few of my shots from this morning.

Waiting for Elijah

We celebrated Passover last night with many of our wonderful friends at Stanley, Tracy, Lynne and Richard's lovely home in Rancho Santa Fe. Yids and non yids alike, all making nice. We took turns reading from the haggadah, blessing the wine and the bread and toasting all sentient beings.

Leslie made haroset and her fantastic matzoh ball soup (sinkers, not floaters). We had tsimmis and kugel and kale and a beautiful leg of lamb. For dessert, macaroons, rugelach and Martin's homemade apple cake. More delicacies too numerous to note.

I think I was the only one there whose father was still living and I stepped out in the middle of the meal and called my dad and told him that I loved him. He is sounding really frail. I am going to try and see him next week.

There is nothing better than friends, old or new. This group has mostly been with me for over three decades and for that I am thankful. You can have money and health and anything else you covet but without nice people that love you, you ain't got diddlysquat.

I hope that all of my jewish friends had a wonderful holiday and to all of my other friends of any persuasion or no persuasion at all, I wish you love and peace.

Patrice Rushen - Forget Me Nots


The blast has temporarily halted its mining of the disco funk school and is now moving into the realm of female singer songwriters. This one kind of bridges the genres. Not a great body of work but I always thought this song was sort of catchy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Amelia

New Toys

I did something fairly unusual today. I purchased software. I know everything should be free free free but there are times you have to bite the bullet.

I found some rather nifty image processing tools that should prove to be a lot of fun and maybe take me to some new places graphically. As you can see, I  am exploring some of the composite features which seem quite promising.

So I lazed around pretty much all day after brunch, nursing my cold and serious sinus condition. Met a guy at the post box who was grooming his fox trotter early this afternoon. Seen him around for years, he has been riding through the valley for over 40 years. He kind of made me feel old. Something along the lines of "at our age old timer, any day on this side of the dirt is a good day." He has to have 12 years on me and I wanted to say,"just how frigging old do you think I am?" But the reality is hey we seen each other around for a long time. And I am getting crows feet.

Read and saw that that no talent modern artist Cy Twombly is painting a ceiling in the classical bastion of good taste, the Louvre. "Well hell, I guess it's a good thing that Haring is dead or we would have little cartoon penises on the ceiling, wouldn't we?"

Guys like Twombly should stir disgust in the innards of every true craftsman who has handled a brush.

@@@@

As a devoted information junkie, I think that I have reached my personal tipping point with printed newspapers. The 24 hour cycle is a twentieth century anachronism. I have read 3/4 of the stuff already online. I don't even enjoy reading the sunday papers anymore with the exception of opinion and a few funnies. Metropolitan Diary and Vows in the Times. About it. Newspapers seem to be shifting to more sensational news of the weird bits to dumb down and hook people.

@@@

The Maciel scandal in Mexico is every bit as sordid and perverse as the one in Wisconsin. Read the Los Angeles Times article here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Love Is Just A Four Letter Word

Teabagged

It is a strange saturday. I have a cold and forced myself out of bed at 9:30 a.m., but would have preferred to lay in bed all day. Very little business, but still, checks going out. A wack job with serious bi-polar tendencies came by to sell me some things that I have absolutely no use for, but I felt bad for her and coughed up some dough. Feel like I have 10 things to do and I can only remember 6 of them. Psychic gnawing.

We got a county complaint a few weeks ago about our yellow lab running around unrestrained when we were not home. We have had 5 or 6 great dogs in the last 30 years and never a problem like this one. Or any problem, honestly.  She is a female pure bred with all of the brains and obedience bred out of her. Our good friends Jim and Janis agreed to take her for some remedial work. Janis taught third graders for thirty years in Chicago as well as service dogs and she is taking it back to square one with Maddie. She is an absolutely fantastic teacher. They may keep her. I feel pretty much a failure but still miss her.

***

Got this letter from a friend this morning:

In the NY Times today is a blurb about the Obama White House Seder.  I cannot think of a better example of how the change in the White House affects me, and others, personally.   Reading the story I feel encouraged and connected in a way to the U.S. that I never felt before.  Here is a leader who despite the trappings and power of office somehow manages to convey that the greatest of us needs at times needs to be humbled, and the humblest among us shall be lifted.   Differences in peoples are to be explored and celebrated- as opposed to feared and demeaned.   He connects to Jews not necessarily in theology, but in the human element- slavery shall not be forgotten.  Suffering is not the exclusive domain of anyone- nor is the necessity for the empowered to attend to the needs of all.  The tradition of story telling and inclusion of others that has been an important element of all my family seders (no matter how informal) is an element that all cultures of the now or formerly oppressed peoples can share.   Next year in Jerusalem indeed.    Shalom


With all the bad news around it was a pretty positive letter. Than I received this picture from the guy who sent me all of the babybodyparts stuff. From Kill the Jews Day in Los Angeles. I am impressed that he spelled Israel right, usually you see it spelled Isreal on this type of signage.


So the day is kind of a wash on the jew front.


****


I was talking to Jim about the whole teabag movement. I wondered if it bothered him that all of the faces at the rallies were always white. Jim has been to a teabag rally and actually told me that it was okay that there were no minorities present because white people basically paid all the taxes. I tried not to choke. Jim is a fiscal conservative who is socially liberal, you know the drill. Love the guy but we don't always agree. Guess it depends whose ox is getting gored.


He thinks that I allow the voices of a few wackjobs on the lunatic fringe to obscure the greater message of the conservative movement. None of the conservatives that I know are the least bit concerned with associating with racist, violent trailer trash and white supremacists. Like Sarah Palin, says, We are all teabaggers. What an unfortunate name for a political movement. Nuts really.


Every time I hear a tea bagger talk, from Palin to Bachmann on down, I think, jeez, do these people ever open a book? It has empowered a lot of very stupid and uninformed people to vent their anger and to pretend that they have a clue as to what is going on. Unfortunately few can speak in a complete sentence and they make little sense to me. But I've said it all before and there's no point repeating myself again. Their penchant for violent rhetoric is alarming. Feed the wind, reap the whirlwind.


I thought it was funny that the shmegeg who came up with the idea of throwing bricks through legislators windows and hates big government so much actually lives on a government disability check.


***


Obama is finally showing some huevos. Slammed through health care and made 15 recess appointments, defeating Republican stalling. It's about time. Wasn't it a short time ago that Dick Cheney was saying that he could care less about sagging poll numbers in Iraq, that people could make their case known at the ballot box? Maybe we can go through both terms without a single republican vote on a bill. That would be sweet.


****


Something very creepy about the whole catholic molestation business in Wisconsin. These deaf boys told everybody who would listen what was going on, sadly to no avail. From Laurie Goodstein's article in today's New York Times : 


They told other priests. They told three archbishops of Milwaukee. They told two police departments and the district attorney. They used sign language, written affidavits and graphic gestures to show what exactly Father Murphy had done to them. But their reports fell on the deaf ears of hearing people.


This week, they learned that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, received letters about Father Murphy in 1996 from Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee, who said that the deaf community needed “a healing response from the Church.” The Vatican sat on the case, then equivocated, and when Father Murphy died in 1998, he died a priest.The deaf men and their advocates were told that Father Murphy, the school’s director and top fund-raiser, was too valuable to be let go, so he would be given only administrative duties.



They were outraged. They distributed “Wanted” posters with Father Murphy’s face outside the cathedral in Milwaukee. They went to the police departments in Milwaukee, where they were told it was not the correct jurisdiction, and in St. Francis, where the school was located, Mr. Conway said. They also went to the office of E. Michael McCann, the district attorney of Milwaukee County, and spoke with his assistant, William Gardner.


“A criminal priest was an oxymoron to them,” Mr. Conway said. “They said they’ll refer it to the archdiocese.”


Calls to Mr. McCann and Mr. Gardner this week were not returned.

I can not fathom the pain that these children have undergone and the scarring that they have carried for life. From authority figures that they trusted. And the concurrent whitewash from Rome. Pedophilia is not an exclusive province of the catholic church, but it certainly was a cottage industry in some diocese. Sexuality is a powerful thing. Were these priests always gay and did they join the priesthood for cover or was the abuse a carryover from a theology that denied normal human sexual relations? I unfortunately do not believe in the devil or hell, but if there was indeed such a place, I hope that there is a special room for those that labored to cover up these poor kids' suffering. Penance can go so far, at some point we need jail time. Of course, the Vatican is in full court press, blaming the bad publicity on elements that wish to hurt the holy see. I know a lot of great catholics, people that I love, and I am not condemning their faith. But there needs to be accountability.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Robin Adler and Mutts of the Planet

 
My friends Robin Adler and Dave Blackburns' new album (why did I say album, it's a CD?) has finally arrived.

Entitled Safaris to the Heart, it is a wonderful collection of Joni Mitchell music performed by their able band, "Mutts of the Planet." Five of the songs were recorded live at last year's Southern California Jonifest.

The top notch musicians on the recording include the virtuoso keyboard player Barnaby Finch, my guitar teacher Dave Blackburn on a panoply of instruments including guitar, jungle drums (!) and vocals, Dave Curtis on bass, keyboards and vocals, Britt Doehring supplying vocals and acoustic guitar, the great Paul Carman on sax, Jeff Olson on drums and darbuka, Mitch Manker on trumpet and flugelhorn, Barry Cahill on sax and flute and finally, Don Reed on lap steel.

Robin Adler is a tremendous and soulful singer who handles the material beautifully, emoting and singing each of Ms. Mitchell's songs as if it were her own creation. I have seen this band on several occasions and they always shine. Many of you in the Fallbrook area have heard Robin and Dave play.Visit Robin's website here and listen to a few tracks. Amelia just knocks me out it sounds so good. Dreamland is inspired and just smokes.

You can purchase the release online through the website. My wife Leslie Sommers' store Caravan also has a few copies for sale for $15.00. Caravan is located at 109 N. Main Ave. in Fallbrook, CA.

I have listened to the first four tracks as I am writing and they sound fantastic!


Cardiac indigestion

I haven't been feeling all that well lately. Some chest and arm pain, the usual crap when you are on the downhill slide and your 100,000 mile warranty is up. To be on the safe side, I had an ekg and stopped by my cardiologist office today for a heart to heart.

Everything seemed to check out okay with the ticker but he did leave a funny comment on the bottom of the form - no pastrami indeed!

lucinda williams - jackson

Just love this.

Babyfarms

I have an art dealer associate who sent me a rather strange and somewhat outdated letter this morning. I won't divulge his name, since his identity is not germane. We have always been very friendly but not necessarily super close. I know that he was a guitar player in a psychedelic band in San Francisco in the sixties but apparently had a political and I guess spiritual transformation somewhere along the line. I think that our repartee shows the chasm between the positions rather remarkably and might toggle a topical trigger or two.

ROBERT, KNOWING YOU ARE A THOUGHTFUL AND INTELLIGENT AND COMPASSIONATE PERSON THOUGHT YOU MIGHT CONSIDER THIS AS A GOOD REASON TO NOT BASH CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES SUCH AS MYSELF. I REALLY BELIEVE THIS IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY. GREATER THAN THE IRAQ WAR AND SUPPORTED BY THE LEFT IN THE HIGHLY PROFITABLE CLINICS OF PLANNED PARENT HOOD MASKED AS COMMUNITY SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS. I THINK THE REPUBLICAN TEXAS FAT CATS PROFITING FROM SELLING OIL AND EXPLOITING THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES IS ACTUALLY MORE NOBLE THAN THIS PRACTICE OF SELLING BABY PARTS.
PEACE & KEEP ON TRUCKING! SU AMIGO, ----------.
P.S. GLAD YOU DID BUSINESS IN S.F. I HAD A GOOD SHOW AS WELL. 


This from Lance:

Aborted babies are bought and sold every day.
A highly profitable industry has sprung up around the use of late-term aborted babies.

Abortionists are paid by mothers or by governments on their behalf to kill their children, and are paid again by researchers for the body parts.

These "harvested" children are disected and sold on the open market right here in Canada and the U.S., for a great profit.
.. ..
As Monday morning sunshine spills across the high plains of Aurora,Colo., and a new work week begins,
fresh career challenges await Ms. Ying Bei Wang. On Monday, for example, she might scalpel her way
through the brain stem of an aborted 24-week pre-born child, pluck the brain from the baby's peach-sized
head with forceps, and plop it into wet ice for later shipment. On Tuesday, she might carefully
slice away the delicate tissue that secures a dead child's eyes in its skull, and extract them whole.

Ms. Ying knows her employer's clients prefer the eyes of dead babies to be whole. One once requested
to receive 4 to 10 per day.  Although she works in Aurora at an abortion clinic called the Mayfair Women's
Center, Ms. Ying is employed by the Anatomic Gift Foundation (AGF), a Maryland-based nonprofit.

AGF is one of at least five U.S. organizations that collect, prepare, and distribute to medical researchers
fetal tissue, organs, and body parts that are the products of voluntary abortions.

When "Kelly," a woman who claimed to have been an AGF "technician" like Ms. Ying,
approached Life Dynamics in 1997, the pro-life group launched an undercover investigation. The probe
unearthed grim, hard-copy evidence of the cross-country flow of baby body parts, including detailed
dissection orders, a brochure touting "the freshest tissue available," and price lists for whole babies
and parts.

One 1999 price list from a company called Opening Lines reads like a cannibal's wish list: Skin $100.
Limbs (at least 2) $150. Spinal cord $325. Brain $999 (30% discount if significantly fragmented).

The evidence confirmed what pro-life bioethicists have long predicted: the nadir-bound plummet of respect
for human life-and the ascendancy of death for profit.

"It's the inevitable logical progression of a society that, like Darwin, believes we came from
nothing," notes Gene Rudd, an obstetrician and member of the Christian Medical and Dental Society's
Bioethics Commission.

"When we fail to see life as sacred and ordained by God as unique, this is the reasonable conclusion
... taking whatever's available to gratify our own self-interests and taking the weakest of the species
first ... like jackals. This is the inevitable slide down the slippery slope."

In 1993, President Clinton freshly greased that slope. Following vigorous lobbying by patient advocacy
groups, Mr. Clinton signed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Revitalization Act, effectively lifting
the ban on federally funded research involving the transplantation of fetal tissue.

For medical and biotech investigators, it was as though the high government gate barring them from Research
Shangri-La had finally been thrown open. Potential cures for Parkinson's, AIDS, and cancer suddenly
shimmered in the middle distance.

The University of Washington in Seattle opened an NIH-funded embryology laboratory that runs a round-the-clock
collection service at abortion clinics. NIH itself advertised (and still advertises) its ability to "supply
tissue from normal or abnormal embryos and fetuses of desired gestational ages between 40 days and term."

But, this being the land of opportunity, fetal-tissue entrepreneurs soon emerged to nip at NIH's well-funded heels.

Anatomic Gift Foundation, Opening Lines, and at least two other companies-competition AGF representatives
say they know of, but decline to name-joined the pack. Each firm formed relationships with abortion clinics.
Each also furnished abortionists with literature and consent forms for use by clinic counselors in making
women aware of the option to donate their babies' bodies to medical science. According to AGF executive
director Brent Bardsley, aborting mothers are not approached about tissue donation until after they've
signed a consent to abort.

Ironically, it is the babies themselves that are referred to as "donors," as though they had some
say in the matter. Such semantic red flags-and a phalanx of others-have bioethicists hotly debating the issue
of fetal-tissue research: Does the use of the bodies of aborted children for medical research amount to further
exploitation of those who are already victims? Will the existence of fetal-tissue donation programs persuade
more mothers that abortion is an acceptable, even altruistic, option?

Since abortion is legal and the human bodies are destined to be discarded anyway, does it all shake out as a
kind of ethical offset, mitigating the abortion holocaust with potential good?

While the ethical debate rages in air-conditioned conference rooms, material obtained by Life Dynamics points
up what goes on in abortion clinic labs: the cutting up and parting out of dead children.

The fate of these smallest victims is chronicled in more than 50 actual dissection orders or "protocols"
obtained by the activist group. The protocols detail how requesting researchers want baby parts cut and
shipped: "Dissect fetal liver and thymus and occasional lymph node from fetal cadaver within 10 (minutes of death)." "

Arms and legs need not be intact." "Intact brains preferred, but large pieces of brain may be usable."

Most researchers want parts harvested from fetuses 18 to 24 weeks in utero, which means the largest babies
lying in lab pans awaiting a blade would stretch 10 to 12 inches-from your wrist to your elbow.

Some researchers append a subtle "plus" sign to the "24," indicating that parts from late-term
babies would be acceptable. Many stipulate "no abnormalities," meaning the baby in question should
have been healthy prior to having her life cut short by "intrauterine cranial compression" (crushing of the skull).

On one protocol dated 1991, August J. Sick of San Diego-based Invitrogen Corporation requested kidneys, hearts,
lungs, livers, spleens, pancreases, skin, smooth muscle, skeletal muscle and brains from unborn babies of 15-22 weeks
gestational age. Mr. Sick wanted "5-10 samples of each per month." WORLD called Mr. Sick to verify that
he had indeed ordered the parts. (He had.)

When WORLD pointed out that Invitrogen's request of up to 100 samples per month would mean a lot of dead babies,
Mr. Sick-sounding quite shaken-quickly aborted the interview.

Many of the dissection orders provide details of research projects in which the fetal tissue will be used.
Most, in the abstract, are medically noble, with goals like conquering AIDS or creating "surfactants,"
substances that would enable premature babies to breathe independently.

Other research applications are chilling. For example, R. Paul Johnson from Massachusetts' New England
Regional Primate Research Center requested second-trimester fetal livers. His 1995 protocol notes that the livers
will be used ultimately for "primate implantation," including the "creation of human-monkey
chimeras."

In biology, a chimera is an organism created by the grafting or mutation of two genetically different cell types.

Another protocol is up-front about the researchers' profit motive. Systemix, a California-based firm, wanted
aborting mothers to know that any fetal tissue donated "is for research purposes which may lead to commercial
applications."

That leads to the money trail.

Life Dynamics' investigation uncovered the financial arrangement between abortionists and fetal-parts providers.

The Uniform Anatomic Gift Act makes it a federal crime to buy or sell fetal tissue. So entities involved in the
collection and transfer of fetal parts operate under a documentary rubric that, while technically lawful, looks
distinctly like a legal end-around: AGF, for example, pays the Mayfair Women's Center for the privilege of
obtaining fetal tissue. Researchers pay AGF for the privilege of receiving fetal tissue. But all parties claim
there is no buying or selling of fetal tissue going on.

Instead, AGF representatives maintain that Mayfair "donates" dead babies to AGF. Researchers then
compensate AGF for the cost of tissue recovery. It's a service fee, explains AGF executive director Brent
Bardsley: compensation for services like dissection, blood tests, preservation, and shipping.

Money paid by fetal-tissue providers to abortion clinics is termed a "site fee," and does not, Mr. Bardsley
maintains, pay for baby parts harvested. Instead the fee compensates clinics for allowing technicians like
Ms. Ying to work on-site retrieving and dissecting dead babies-sort of a Frankensteinian sublet.

"It's clearly a fee-for-space arrangement," says Mr. Bardsley. "We occupy a portion of their
laboratory, use their clinic supplies, have a phone line installed. The site fee offsets the use of clinic
supplies that we use in tissue procurement."

According to Mr. Bardsley, fetal-tissue recovery accounts for only about 10 percent of AGF's business.
The rest involves the recovery and transfer to researchers of non-transplantable organs and tissue from adult donors.
But, in spite of the fact that AGF recovers tissue from all 50 states, Mr. Bardsley could not cite for WORLD
an instance in which AGF pays a "site fee" to hospital morgues or funeral homes for the privilege
of camping on-site to retrieve adult tissue.

Mr. Bardsley, a trained surgical technician, seems like a friendly guy. On the phone he sounds reasonable,
intelligent, and sincere about his contention that AGF isn't involved in the fetal-tissue business for
the money.

"We have a lot of pride in what we do," he says. "We think we make a difference with research
and researchers' accessibility to human tissue. Every time you go to a drug store, the drugs on the shelf
are there as a result of human tissue donation. You can't perfect drugs to be used in human beings using
animal models."

AGF operates as a nonprofit and employs fewer than 15 people. Mr. Bardsley's brother Jim and Jim's wife
Brenda founded the organization in 1994. The couple had previously owned a tissue-recovery organization called
the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine (IIAM), which had also specialized in fetal-tissue
redistribution, counting, for example, Mr. Sick among its clients. But when IIAM's board of directors decided
to withdraw from involvement with fetal tissue, the Bardsleys spun off AGF-specifically to continue providing
fetal tissue to researchers.

Significantly, AGF opened in 1994, the year after President Clinton shattered the fetal-tissue research ban.
Since then, the company's revenues have rocketed from $180,000 to $2 million in 1998.

Did the Bardsleys see a market niche that was too good to pass up? Brenda Bardsley, who is now AGF president,
says no. AGF's economic windfall, she says, is related to the company's expansion into adult donations,
not the transfer of fetal tissue. She says she and her husband felt compelled to continue providing the medical
community with a source of fetal tissue "because of the research that was going on."

"Abortion is legal, but tragic. We see what we're doing as trying to make the best of a bad situation,"

Mrs. Bardsley told WORLD. "We don't encourage abortion, but we see that good can come from fetal-tissue
research. There is so much wonderful research going on-research that can help save the lives of wanted
children."

Mrs. Bardsley says she teaches her own children that abortion is wrong. A Deep South transplant with a brisk,
East coast accent, Mrs. Bardsley and her family attend a Southern Baptist church near their home on the Satilla River
in White Oak, Ga. Mrs. Bardsley homeschools her three children using, she says, a Christian curriculum:

"I've been painted as this monster, but here I am trying to give my kids a Christian education,"
she says, referring to other media coverage of AGF's fetal-parts enterprise.

Mrs. Bardsley says she's prayed over whether her business is acceptable in God's sight, and has "gotten
the feeling" that it is. She also, she says, reads the Bible "all the time." And though she
can't cite a chapter and verse that says it's OK to cut and ferry baby parts, she points out that
God commands us to love one another. For Mrs. Bardsley, aiding medical research by supplying fetal parts qualifies.

If they were in it for the money rather than for the good of mankind, says Mrs. Bardsley, AGF could charge
much higher prices for fetal tissue than it does, because research demand is so high.

The issue of demand is one of several points on which the testimonies of Mrs. Bardsley and her brother-in-law
Brent don't jibe. He says demand for fetal tissue "isn't all that high." She says demand
for fetal tissue is "so high, we could never meet it." He says "only a small percentage" of
aborting moms consent to donate their babies' bodies. She says 75 percent of them consent. He says AGF charges
only for whole bodies, and doesn't see how the body-parts company Opening Lines could justify charging
by the body part. She says AGF charges for individual organs and tissue based on the company's recovery
costs.

Founded by pathologist Miles Jones, Opening Lines was, until recently, based in West Frankfort, Ill.

According to its brochure, Opening Lines' parent company, Consultative and Diagnostic Pathology, Inc.,
processes an average of 1,500 fetal-tissue cases per day. While AGF requires that researchers submit proof
that the International Research Board (IRB), a research oversight commission, approves their work, Opening Lines
does not burden its customers with such technicalities. In fact, says the Opening Lines brochure, researchers
need not tell the company why they need baby parts at all-simply state their wishes and let Opening Lines provide
"the freshest tissue prepared to your specifications and delivered in the quantities you need it."

Opening Lines' brochure cloaks the profit motive in a veil of altruism. The cover tells abortionists
that since fetal-tissue donation benefits medical science, "You can turn your patient's decision into
something wonderful." But in case philanthropy isn't a sufficient motivator, Dr. Jones also makes his
program financially appealing to abortionists. Like AGF, he offers to lease space from clinics so his staff can
dissect children's bodies on-site, but also goes a step further: He offers to train abortion clinic staff to
harvest tissue themselves. He even sweetens the deal for abortionists with a financial incentive:

"Based on your volume, we will reimburse part or all of your employee's salary, thereby reducing your
overhead."

Again the money trail: more dead babies harvested, less overhead. Less overhead, more profit.

But Dr. Jones' own profits may be taking a beating at present. When Life Dynamics released the results of
its investigation to West Frankfort's newspaper The Daily American, managing editor Shannon Woodworth ran
a front-page story under a 100-point headline:

"Pro-Lifers: Baby body parts sold out of West Frankfort."

The little town of 9,000 was scandalized. City officials threatened legal action against Dr. Jones and his
chief of staff Gayla Rose, a lab technician and longtime West Frankfort resident. The story splashed down
in local TV news coverage, and Illinois right-to-life activists vowed to picket Opening Lines. Within a week,
Gayla Rose had shut down the company's West St. Louis Street location, disconnected the phone, and disappeared.

Area reporters now believe Dr. Jones may be operating somewhere in Missouri. WORLD attempted to track him down,
but without success.

The demands of researchers for fetal tissue will continue to drive suppliers to supply it. And all parties
will continue to wrap their grim enterprise in the guise of the greater good. But some bioethicists believe
that even the greater good has a spending cap.

Christopher Hook, a fellow with the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in Bannockburn, Ill., calls the
exploitation of pre-born children "too high a price regardless of the supposed benefit. We can never
feel comfortable with identifying a group of our brothers and sisters who can be exploited for the good of
the whole,"

Dr. Hook says. "Once we have crossed that line, we have betrayed our covenant with one another as a society,
and certainly the covenant of medicine."



I sent him my response: 


My family religion, judaism, has always maintained that life starts at the moment the baby takes its first breath outside the womb. The health of the mother is always paramount. Although the sale of any body part is grisly, if it can help the living, I am all for organ and tissue donations. I appreciate the post and will try my best to keep an open mind. As a libertarian of sorts, I think that a woman is much more capable of assessing her ability to be a mother than the state, the church or the police force. To infer that women are part of a cottage industry in selling baby body parts is totally absurd and the notion that you can understand the emotional gravity and choices that go into a woman's personal decision to abort is a bit specious.

Peace,

Robert (didn't realize that you were a religious sort, but respect you anyway.)





Hi Robert, Good to hear from you we are really not so far apart I can agree with much of what you say. But I am against tax payer support for abortion or tax exempt status to abortion clinics that are profiting from the sale of fetal parts. I am not against a Woman's right to abortion I just think birth control and adoption should be the first option.

Hey, I will support your right not to pay for abortion if you support my right not to pay for war. 


Fair enough!!!  I have never believed in war or killing of any kind be it the living or the unborn. I do however believe in self defense. 


I don't believe in even killing time...


***
I would be interested in your comments.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Try A Little Tenderness

Googol

I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day where an analyst was dogging Google for taking its stand against censorship in China and refusing to filter web content. He said that it could cost them about 50 points (roughly 10%) and that shareholders weren't going to like it.

I applaud Google for its stand. The shareholders be damned. They have made enough off their stock already. The company that said don't be evil is finally backing up its words. Hooray Sergey Brin.

***

Speaking of Google, the new fast Chrome Browser is anything but. I have been using it for about two months and it goes into a pesky resolve mode at one stage. Slowest browser I have ever used. Maybe there is some advantage I haven't discovered yet...

****

That sick bitch Ann Coulter is in full snip because of the decision of the Canadian University to ban her hate filled bile. I could easily fill the screen with her vile offal but will spare the both of us. If you are not an anglo saxon christian, she apparently has little use for you.

A friend and associate was by this morning castigating universities for not being fair and giving equal time to the Coulters and Tancredos of the world. He says that they let the Angela Davis's of the world speak. I would say that Davis was primarily against the power structure, while Coulter has made clear her antipathy to muslims, jews, gays, mexicans, canadians, etc. . It clearly moves into hate speech. I am not sure if she means what she says or is merely a flamethrower, I tend to think the latter, maybe she possesses an obscene need to be noticed and to trigger revulsion.  Making fun of people's ethnicity, sexual persuasion and religion seems like a strictly conservative past time. I must say, the racist and anti gay slurs really don't bother my republican friends too much.


So bravo to our northern neighbors.

***

I cautioned many times last year that the tea bag party was going to turn out to be a tiger that devoured the conservative cause. The broken windows, white powder filled envelopes, faxed nooses and death threats all show the wacky chickens coming home to roost. The anger of the lunatic right is coalescing and the storm will forever damage by proximity any sane republicans that may be still standing.


****

The Senate Republicans are starting to play the old stop your unemployment benefits check game again. Cause we all know that if you are not working right now, you are neither graced by god's eternal love, nor are you really looking very hard, content to just suck off the system. So get lost, losers!

***

The pope might want to borrow Ari Fleischer from Tiger for a little damage control over that Wisconsin molester snafu. David Frum gets his schmeckel rapped for speaking a little too honestly. Syracuse gets whacked by Butler. Hugo Chavez locks up his chief television critic, Guillermo Zuloaga. Eric Cantor thinks that the dems are overreacting to a little harmless gunplay.

****

Bravo to the County Supervsors for rejecting the Merriam Mountain subdivision. You can't bring 2600 more houses in when we are already out of water. The notion of supporting building merely because it will provide jobs is shortsighted. We need to think about long term sustainability.

***

The sapphic sith queen, Bonnie Dumanis, has lost her second straight marijuana conviction, today to a unanimous jury. Stupidity is said to be the repeating of an action, again and again, in the hopes of obtaining a different result. Wise up, D.A.

Eugene Davidovich awaits his fate.


JUST IN - NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS!

I guess I am lucky. My cancer history and other past medical problems have shielded me to some extent from the gestapo. I have a signed medical card from a physician that allows me to use medical marijuana legally, courtesy of California Proposition 215.

Eugene Davidovich also had such a card. He was set up by a cop who lied about his medical condition to a Doctor and fraudulently obtained a card. Davidovich worked at a cooperative that was caught up in District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis's perfidious web.

Eugene is sitting in a courtroom in San Diego right now while a jury decides his fate. The prosecution tried to disallow any reference to his stellar career in the armed forces, tried to exclude his medical defense and tried to exclude his expert witness. They claimed that they were not bound by the dictates of the State Attorney General and have spent a ton of taxpayer money on this stupid and expensive case. The judge wisely shot down all of their positions.

I hope the best for Eugene and hope that all of you do as well. He is a brave and articulate man who stands up for all of the marijuana community. It was interesting to me that my cooperative, Mother Earth, disclosed that 83% of their members were over the age of 50. Not exactly bomb throwing firebrands. More like normal people from every walk of life, using one of the safest and most effective substances available for pain relief and dare I say it, pleasure.

Eugene is on the front lines for people like you or me, who choose to use marijuana from our supposedly safe perches. People like him, people who have helped to make the medicine more readily available, are still being sentenced to lengthy prison terms in this state. Because of mealy mouthed double talk from Washington and draconian and sick actions from local prosecutors and police chiefs whose budgets are still funded by the senseless drug war. And dare I say it, inaction and laziness of users who would rather sit back and let someone else take all the heat and do all of the heavy lifting.

His expected acquittal will hopefully send a clear sign to the antediluvians to call off their dogs and stop wasting taxpayers money on prosecuting the sick. The County needs to look long and hard after this case.

***

Speaking of pot, I find that there is an interesting kerfuffle brewing in the marijuana community regarding the new legalization initiative in California. Jack Herer, a prominent activist and writer is reportedly against it. Norml may be for it. I need to figure out the scuttlebutt. I think that one of the objections is taxation, something I have no problem with. I do think that it is pot is plainly too expensive. I remember 10 dollar cans, than lids, 100 dollar ounces of fresh green buds in the mid seventies and then the 400 dollar quagmire we are in today. With legalization I would hope that there could be a little price softening. I guess I am with certain powers that be on this point. It costs too damn much!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Billy Preston - Will it go Round in Circles

Superfly

Jim Marshall R.I.P.

Pioneering Rock Photographer Jim Marshall has passed away at the age of 74. Marshall was responsible for some of the most iconic photos of the 1960's.

Leslie and I were lucky enough to spend an afternoon with him once at the bar at the House of Blues and he was a great guy as well.

People will be remembering his fine work for generations.

Boogie oogie oogie


I might be nearing the end of the stretch on the disco funk theme. One noticeable thing for me is how good the musicians are in the funk bands, they really stay in the pocket and keep it flowing. Here are some ladies with guitar chops, always a good thing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Road Back

I did a quick calculation this morning. Let's see, how many times have I driven to San Francisco and back? Last 15 years, three times a year for Hillsborough, both ways. that's 90 total. Arts and Crafts show, way back when add about 8, Marin Indian Show and Napa (6 x 2) + (3 x 2) =18. Trips to Winterland, Cow Palace, Oakland Coliseum, Greek Theatre, Shoreline, Oakland Auditorium, to see the Grateful Dead and cronies and the occasional pot run in my misspent youth, add another 80. So let's see that's about 196 trips, give or take.






Yesterday might have been the prettiest or second prettiest trip ever after the one Leslie and I took through Gorman about 8 years ago when the purple lupines were going off oh so sickly! We drove back yesterday on the 46, the Lost Hills Road, and the flowers were at a fever pitch. Mustard, Poppies and Lupines, all in high fidelity cinerama and at full chromal blaze.

We spent the night at Michael's magnificent spread in San Mateo. Buzzed over to Stacks so that Leslie could eat her favorite crab crepes. Saw Warmboe and hit the road. Usually I take the Pacheco Pass through Gilroy to Los Banos but I just had a feeling. We got guilt tripped on the way down by my associate Cam, who owed me a couple bucks, which he dangled in front of me, so of course I stopped. He bought some very cool old english limos and he wanted us to see them. Lives in Salinas with his fraulein, Birgit. Salinas set a homicide record last year so I made sure that Leslie knew to duck if she heard anything loud and explosive. We grabbed the dough and got back on the road and stopped for gas. Met a neat guy there whose arm was bleeding all over the place. He said it was a daily occurrence, being employed as a barbed wire fence puller and we got into a discussion on the finer points of infection and tetanus and how to recognize a real problem before it required amputation.



We traded driving at Mission San Miguel Archangel, a real beaut that has been recently restored after a bad earthquake. We had seen it in distress and they did a great job. We turned left at Paso Robles, made our customary prayer to the ghost of James Dean, who went to his final pastures on this very same road and headed across the 46.

The 46 was just sick with color and the day was a delight, the Dead adding the soundtrack from Hampton Roads, Virginia with a tasty little Dark Star. We stopped to gas up and Leslie had the pick of the fast food joints and we stopped at Pilot #154, Lost Hills, a most unfortunate choice, it turns out. I bought an inverter there, thinking that in the event of a nuclear blast with resulting EMP I would still be able to blog, as long as I had gas for my car. BigDave, my tech support guy, set me straight and said that my car electronics would be farblungen as well in such an event. I bought the 380 watt accessory anyway and then we headed into the big mistake, Wendy's. Ordered the double cheese, extra pickles, no onions, it shows up with onions. And we ordered in at least two languages, as I recall. They finally got that right but there was something really odd about the drink, the coke tasted like some Mr. Pibb from a dark parallel universe. Very chemical, cleaning fluid and uncoke like. I managed to exchange the drink with the girl, whose understanding of my native tongue was somewhat limited, for a sprite, that was equally screwed up and strange tasting. WARNING! They may be doing gross biological experimentation at this Wendy's. Do not stop.  Fries were dreadful and oversalted. Tried to find a manager but we were shunted around so I plan to take this all the way to the top, if need be. General Manager Tim K., wherever you are, we are watching you...







We passed rows and rows of almond and cherry trees and fields of bobbing old drill rigs, that have always reminded me of metal dinosaurs.

We decided to stop at Pyramid Lake, scene of my recent Mr. Magoo adventure for some pics and bladder relief. I decided to take the piss out of the guy at the desk, Gary, and ask him for the location of the Pyramid and if there were any attendant sphinxes and sarcophagi around? He was a good guy and was having none of it and we got a full history of the lake, from it's birth as lowly Piru Creek to its present incarnation as a gorgeous lake and reservoir. You have to do some fancy driving up Templin Highway near the old three lane suicide road from the thirties, to see the pyramid and we took a pass. On the way up we saw all these signs in the central valley castigating Congress for making the large corporate farms a dust bowl, but they still looked pretty good to me. He explained that the junior water districts had their allocations cut and the signs were their sour grapes.

We finally made it to Pasadena, hit Zankou Chicken for the best rotisserie chicken around with vats of garlic paste, hummus, pickled turnips and pita and then back home. Best ride I can ever remember, and back to a hot bath and clean sheets! No place like home, Auntie Em.

The night of breaking glass.

After fifty, the epiphanies tend to come a bit slower. It takes me a good week or two to muster up a mere profundity, not to mention a full blown epiphany. But I think that I have figured something out. I would rather talk about what constitutes a good veal chop or remoulade than debate the pros and cons of health care in this country. I am sick of the overheated rhetoric on both sides of the equation.

I spent the last week sharing a room with my heartland conservative friend Steve, whom I honestly love and respect but rarely agree with. We have gone  through all of the ins and outs of this thing until we were both blue in the face and are honestly no closer to any middle ground.

Rather than go item by item through a laundry list, let me start off by making a few points that I hope that we can agree on as reasonable people.

1. Insurance premiums are going up in this country as we speak, because with unemployment, we have less and less of the prime candidates in the insurance pool, making it more expensive for the insurance companies to cover the marginal candidates.


2. Illegal aliens should not be entitled to free coverage on the american dime. Sorry. I have first hand knowledge of them gaming the system. It is not my responsibility to fix the entire free world.


3. It is an inopportune time to be starting a massive new entitlement program, since we are already saddled with huge debt.


4. We have to get a hold of the huge escalating fees in medicine, and have some semblance of tort reform, to put a cap on ridiculous jury awards.


5. Doctors are already pissed off and this will not make them happier, since they are having a tough time getting compensated from the government as it is.


6. The elderly may be shunted into less favorable policies as they get dropped from medicaire plus and into less comprehensive coverage and we need to lessen the impacts.


7. Small business people should not bear the burden for health care on their backs.

Having said all that, off the cuff and without the benefits of any research or fact finding this morning, I applaud the efforts of the administration. It will be expensive, but the war in Iraq was expensive, and we threw enough money at that, against my own wishes, and it is gone forever. The mark of a good society is how it treats the most fragile. If we can find 700 billion dollars so that Goldman can get full price from AIG and the banks can gobble up their competition, surely we can cure grandma's goiter.

I don't think that health care will be the advent of a time where bushy bearded bolsheviks will be bashing in the door of American society in order to implement a new stalinist system. Hopefully it will help fine tune a few things, like not allowing insurance companies to drop coverage, or penalize people for pre existing conditions. Or drop your children when they go to college.

I think that it is a bit strange that health care has become such a galvanizing issue, and one that has led to threats of violence from the right. I think this debate shows the conservatives as nutty obstructionists, not wanting to do anything to upset their status quo corporate masters. Yesterday there was a clarion call to start breaking windows at democratic headquarters, an event that is oh so naziesque and unfortunately actually took place across the land. Can you imagine if liberals had threatened revolution when we started our unprovoked war on Iraq, and the subsequent condemnation from the right?

You judge people by the company they keep. The shouts of nigger and faggot, the inherent racism in the birther movement. You lie, Baby Killer.  I never agreed with the Bush Administration on pretty much anything, from faith based education to WMD to the bank deregulation that led to our current economic crisis, but we never talked about taking up arms and watering the tree of liberty with our enemies' blood.

My friend Steve says that the democrats are behaving badly because a majority of americans are against health care reform. I don't know if they are or are not, after all the fear mongering and demagoguery, they seem to be in favor of the individual components. But for the sake of conversation, how is it different from Bush? We are a divided people and I didn't agree with any of his policies. But elections have consequences. Not long ago, I sucked it up and prayed for a day when the country could be led by someone I agreed with.

Steve says that Obama hid the facts of his agenda and that the young people weren't aware of the ramifications of his policies when they voted. Isn't that the way it always is? People rarely are informed about  issues, it is less important to them than electing a pretty face with nice hair. Reconciliation was used throughout Bush's term, on issues like a major tax cut. This is not new. I am perfectly fine using the democratic majority to pound through every issue, without a single Republican vote if need be, especially since that is what we were subjected to on the last go round. If you guys get the votes, we can play tit for tat later. That's the way we roll in America.

Republicans and conservatives are very sore losers.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Showstopper

Finished the show tonight. Leslie came by and helped me break down. Did a little business today so everything is cool. It was a beautiful show with great dealers that unfortunately lacked enough attendance. Some of my colleagues ate the big one.

We decided to have dinner afterwards at Creola, pretty much my favorite meal in the Bay Area. Honest Louisiana cooking without pretension. We have been eating there for years, and have introduced many of our friends to the place, many of them now falsely claiming that they told us about it.

The owner, Edwin Caba, originally cooked at Loews in Coronado. He has always treated us so well and like family. He has also introduced us to some great wine labels over the years.

Tonight I had the special, featuring duck confit in a brown cajun gravy and rice. Leslie had the Big Easy, a red drum and asparagus dish. We both had their nice house salad, with mandarin oranges and goat cheese. Normally we get their blue note salad and the phenomenal filet or the creme brulee bread pudding. Their pork chop is also fantastic. As is the shrimp and fennel bisque.

 Definitely check out Creola for a taste of New Orleans. Another lovely evening, have to admit it was a great week for food, we drive home in the morn.

Hayes Street Grill

Last night after the show, we sauntered over to the venerable old Hayes Street Grill for dinner. We arrived a little early for our 7:45 reservation, so Steve and I went to a nearby Wine Tasting room for a quick sip. Fortunately,  I forgot the name, maybe Allegro, it was next to Absinthe, but we tested four or five different selections, and they were all completely undrinkable. I paid up and left a full glass of some wretched pinot noir on the counter.

It was a short walk to our intended destination. Leslie and I had eaten there several years prior and had an okay meal. Last night was really good. Steve and I met our friends Gary and Melissa, my food mates from last week's adventure at Baywolf.

Hayes St. has been around for over 30 years and I believe a lot of the current staff has been there for the duration. I am not going to wax poetic, because I am supposed to be working and not blogging, so I will just give you a quick run down on the dinner.

I started out with a  Hoffman quail and pear salad in a light vinaigrette.  The salad was good but the flavor of the quail was a bit gamier than usual. Good crusty bread. My entree was Ft. Bragg Petrale Sole with Green Garlic, King Trumpet Mushrooms and New Potatoes. Good but the sole was a tad mushy. The rest of the table had other fish entrees as well as some outrageous fries cooked in duck fat. Drank a very nice bottle of Mendellsohn Pinot Noir. Tried to order another and they were out so I asked for a Bartok. We eventually followed up with a not so good bottle of Morgan Pinot Noir. Melissa had the superb grilled sardines as an appetizer and an entree of Grilled Miso Marinated Bolinas Black Cod with Shitakes, Squash, Japanese Salad & Rice. Steve had Skate. Gary had Hawaiian Ono.

The table had a few desserts which I was too full to sample. I was probably typically loud and obnoxious. Great tall waiter who was kind enough to laugh at my jokes.

The dinner was great, I give it a nine. Hard to be critical sometimes when the company is so good and everybody is having such a great time. We retired over to Dave Jacob's pad for a buzzy nightcap. A great topper and a wonderful evening.

Went to the doughnut store this morning. Had an outrageous caramel number with fleur de sal. Got a tip on a great ice cream outlet up here that I need to check out, Bi-Rite Creamery. No reason not to face the depression with a smile on my face.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lady Marmalade

Dynamo Doughnut

My friend Michael Haber and his wife are exhibiting at the show. Michael is a fine jewelry dealer from Philadelphia and a foodie. We have shared some good meals in Napa and Santa Fe. Michael brought in these doughnuts today from Dynamo Doughnuts, supposedly the apogee of doughnut making on the planet today.

I had a bite of a bacon maple doughnut that was quite different and very good. I am going to walk over and see if he has anything else that I can try.

Cityspeak

San Francisco has never been my favorite city, I'm not really sure why? A great city but not my favorite. I spent a portion of my formative years growing up in Manhattan, and that will always be the "city" for me. And my last 30 years have been spent in an idyllic valley playing the part of the southern california gentleman farmer. So certain elements of life in S.F. are vexing. Although I have a lot of great friends and clients who love living there.

We never hunt for a parking space in Fallbrook, nor in New York, since we are either hopping into a readily available taxicab or riding the IRT in the real city, where public transportation actually rules. It is hard to find a cab in the Bay Area. But the food is great, the people are urbane and dress well, patronize the opera and symphony and it was after all the birthplace of City Lights Bookstore.

Inexplicably, it is not easy to find a restaurant or bar open after 10:30 p.m. in San Francisco, a city with a decided lack of night life. Mel's doesn't count. We got closed down at 10:00 the other night from a pub, on St. Paddy's day, no less.

Roving bands of street wolves prowl the corners of North Beach, Mission and the Tenderloin. I would occasionally have to walk 60 blocks in New York, being a poor kid, and never felt scared of the natives. Of course, there was no crack back then. Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Alphabet City, everyone was in the same boat and in the same struggle and there was never any fear, or I was too young and dumb to care.

San Francisco and Oakland are different. There is something slightly obscene about poverty in a beautiful setting. The street people are much more in your face out here. My friend in Rockridge cautioned me about walking around her block as there had been several armed muggings lately, folks from the numbered streets coming up to the more tony neighborhoods to separate the citizens from their cash and belongings. This gentleman is checking his hedge fund holdings in the morning paper.

I have yet to find a great Sushi Bar in the city. Last night I was served small pieces of rubbery hamachi, probably previously frozen. BigDave has taken me to places that do horrid things with sushi, trendily mixing it with pieces of pears and committing a wide array of culinary sins.

Parking for a night at my hotel, the Marriot Marquis is $55.00. Fifty five dollars.

Of course, it is a city known for its leniency, and if I was gay, bi, tri, trans or in my twenties and had moved in from Dubuque, I suppose the place could be somewhat liberating. It is definitely a city for the young, I had to show my identification several times to prove that I was not over the requisite age limit to enter the Marina District.

I had a really crappy BLT at the Kezar Pub the other day. How do you screw up a BLT?

My favorite area up here is actually the East Bay. I like Berkeley, Piedmont and the Oakland Hills. I like the people, the terroir, the food. My least favorite place is Marin. I spent a lot of time in Marin County in the 70's and 80's, did a lot of partying up there and might be having residual flashbacks. No one can deny that it is gorgeous. It just feels really "clubby" to me. Beamer driving moms without an ounce of body fat perfectly coiffed in their spandex bodysuits pushing around designer children and strollers that probably cost more than my car.

My old pal class envy seethes up out of the pit of my stomach when I go places where it seems people are completely removed from struggle. Their lives take on an element of psychic flabbiness, being free of the pressures that the rest of us continually struggle with. I stand outside the velvet rope of the Golden Gate Bridge, refused entry by it's rich northern host. I could never live there.

I had an appointment in Woodside a few weeks ago, in the South Bay and that area is really nice as well. Haven't explored it totally but I felt like I was in Brigadoon, Old fences and green meadows, everything but Robert Goulet. Not as removed from the milieu as Marin. Of course this is all my biased, personal opinion.

Drivers in the entire region, especially the silicon valley twentysomethings with the fast cars and the alpha personalities, rival Bostoners in their aggression and lack of sense.

The city certainly has its treasures - the Buena Vista, Palace of Fine Arts, Acme Bread, Golden Gate Park, ummm, I seem to be drawing a blank? Lots of fine museums, but those are for tourists of course, people that live in metropolitan areas rarely help themselves to the available culture.

I heard that they are taking the bulldozers to wide sections of Detroit. Reclaiming the countryside. Old Tiger Stadium was sold a few months ago for a mere half a million. Here they just wait for the next earthquake, can't see it happening. Real estate is too expensive. But there does seem to be an awful lot of concrete around. Yesterday's beautiful skies have transformed into a dull pea soup today, the norm I guess.

I sold a small painting yesterday and have probably covered my expenses. Show is slow for everybody. Better day today. Ciao and condolences to Herb Caen.