Blue Heron in flight

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Forgotten Artist Series: Ray Stevens

Sorry Ass Padres

I go back a long way with the San Diego Padres. I am a San Diego native and when I was a kid I would go downtown to Westgate Park and see them play in the Coast League, when they were a Dodger farm team. The star back then was a guy named Roberto Pena. A thick fog would roll into the ballpark, sometimes making play impossible to view. I was there the day Chub Feeney gave the team the bird and also there when Ray Kroc got on the loudspeaker system to apologize to the fans for the team's poor play.

Well the 2008 edition is in a thick fog as well. This team is a fish that's rotting from the top down. We have an owner, John Moores, who somehow successfully played the Ken Lay card and was practically the only senior member of his corporation, Peregrine Systems, who didn't get indicted and plead guilty. He is going through a messy divorce but has been reluctant to spend money for years, quite content to field a perennial third or fourth place (and now last place) team while he reaps the benefit of a cushy real estate setup around the stadium.

The President and Director of Baseball Operations, Sandy Alderson is a soulless automaton with a sabremetrics book shoved up his ass. This dour beancounter has managed to turn the great prior manager, Kevin Towers, into a toothless eunuch.
This guy, along with another failed Dodger manager with a pocket protector, Paul Depodesta, have managed to create a baseball boondoggle of Leontine proportions. They have no advance scouting department and no intuitive feel for the intangibles of the game, preferring to rely strictly on Bill James and mathematical percentages.

We have a park that is so big that our hitters, who have put up decent numbers in other organizations, can barely make the warning track. This is quite emasculating, I am sure.They have built a team with absolutely no speed and traded away the few guys who could really get knocks, guys like Russell Branyon and Derek Lee. The outfield is abysmal defensively and the closer is an aging once great warhorse who can't seem to hear the final bell. The team can't hit left handers and they just drafted a first round pick with a bad hip.

We trade great players like Loretta and countless setup men at the peaks of their career. There are some great players on this team, Greene is a jewel defensively at short, the Gonzales brothers, Peavy. This team is about to get blown up and its a shame because these guys deserve better from management, who have failed both them and the fans.

Last night, the Pads lost for the sixth straight time, the eleventh loss in the last thirteen. They now stand seventeen games under .500. Pathetic.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Just a job

Paria ©2008 Robert Sommers Photograph

I was at my local saloon last week, nursing my cranberry juice and a fistful of peanuts - well let's be honest, it's not really a saloon but a private service organization with antlers attached, and its civic mission is often obscured in a dull alcoholic fog. Anyways I was sitting there and struck up a conversation with a gal there who is gainfully employed as a hospice nurse. Being an extremely nosy person with an overactive need to know what makes things tick, I quizzed her about the insies and outsies of her profession.

She said that it had been a weird week- money was tight and her boss asked her to make sure that one of her patients hung in and stayed in her mortal coil through the next pay period, when maybe the mortgage on the place was due. Anyhow, the patient started choking early that day and my friend grabbed her and tossed her on the bed, whereupon her head kind of bounced in an unnatural fashion. There is a do not revive order in these care centers, so the nurse watched the clients due date well, expire. The client left this earthly firmament post haste. I didn't ask the nurse if she was in hot water with the boss over the lack of fundage and the clients unfortunate early termination. But I did ask her about the moral propriety of doing nothing and how she balanced her work rules that with the necessity to be uh, human. She didn't have a problem with it - that was her job. She was trained in CPR but could not administer it. She would lose her employment if she did.

Years ago I painted signs. I was taught by a 94 year old master sign painter from Alhambra, Les Gampp. Les would letter with me for an hour each morning, the ancient art of one stroke. We would also hit the heavy bag and speed bag, for he was a one time boxer and trainer. A vegetarian, he was quite a guy, walked across Japan to protest the Vietnam War in his day. Les called my ex and I up one day and asked if he could stay over at our house. We mistakenly left a window open and he got pneumonia. I visited him in the hospital shortly thereafter and he was literally tied to a machine with his mouth duct taped. He was grunting as loudly as he could when he saw me and I signaled to the nurse that he wanted to tell me something. She agreed to free one of his hands and handed me a sallow yellow stickie pad. In a scrawl, Les wrote - Cut Me Off - on the pad. 94 years old, a life well spent, and now my friend would be in a symbiotic dance with a brutal cold machine for the rest of his earthly term. I pleaded with the nurse to leave the room for a moment so that I could pull the plug and she threatened to have me removed and arrested for murder. I thought about untieing his hands so that he could do the job himself but couldn't follow through. Les spent the next two weeks in agony and then died.

I was left with a deep feeling of guilt, both for leaving the window open and for ultimately failing my friend. What kind of culture do we live in, when we are kept alive until the money runs out? Where is the dignity in living courtesy of the machine? I do not condemn the nurse, she is with these people every day, people that might not have families or that maybe have been conveniently disposed of. It is a really dirty, nasty job. I wouldn't want to be on either side of it...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fighting Ghosts

I was talking to a good friend on the phone the other day and I made mention of an uncomfortable dinner we had shared a few years ago with our respective spouses. "Ugh", she remarked, "you remember that?" We were discussing our lives and the events that have shaped our individual thought processes and values and her husband told me that I was still fighting my grandfather's battles. This actually floored me and I have never forgotten the statement and use it occasionally to take stock of my own critical thinking.

Like many Jewish people, I was raised in an intellectual environment that always championed the underdog and the persecuted. My mother was a Unitarian, and my first memory in church was singing "We shall overcome" hand in hand with my neighbor. My mother was active in the civil rights movement and an organizer for Eugene McCarthy's campaign in 1968. My father voted for Henry Wallace. My grandfather had an incredible life of struggle and helped found the Histadrut in then Palestine. I was very poor at certain moments in my life and resented the silver spoon and the ease of life enjoyed by the privileged. My friend and I discussed these issues the other day and she mentioned that she is trying to stop reflexively thinking like a liberal. It is a good exercise in intellectual integrity. Reflexive thinking from any point on the political bandwidth is a trap.

I mention this because I am so disgusted by the current situation in Zimbabwe. NPR had an interview with a Mugabe defender yesterday that was appalling. His government is casting the current debacle in terms of a fight against British Colonialism - kind of a 28 year Austin Powers flashback. I think any rational person would admit the that battle has long since passed but it makes such a convenient smokescreen for his murderous thugs. Hundreds have been already slaughtered. Voters who vote for the opposition have been threatened with death after the election. The real power that controls this landlocked country, Mbeki of South Africa, sits idly by and says and does nothing.

In Venezuela, we have Hugo Chavez, the great liberator, fomenting a new plan where neighbors must turn in neighbors who are suspected of not agreeing with the thought police. He is financially supporting communist FARC in a neighboring country.

Pakistan's military rulers are disallowing Sharif, the man Musharref our buddy, deposed in a coup, from running again. They have lost support of their people and we are about ready to have a dangerous blow back.

Less than 5% of the Cubans have access to a telephone or computer that can get on the actual net. The proud people who fought against Batista's dictatorship have become dictators themselves. The old story.

Many of these countries have legitimate grievances against past colonial intrusion and manipulation. And yet they all seem to be fighting their grandfather's old battles against an enemy that no longer really exists. And using it as a pretext for some really nasty shit.

Volunteer Communal Novel - Chapter XVII

For years the El Garces Hotel Restoration project manager Franz Lipszchult had a problem finding volunteer workers who wanted to help in the hotels restoration. Most the money invested in the restoration project by developer Allan Appleton was used for building materials. Senior Citizen groups would volunteer, but they were limited to the more simple chores. The City of Needles occasionally picked up some of the bills through the city's Hire the Youth Summer Program, but it was a slow on-going process lacking people, money and time. Franz allowed vagrant homeless people to live at the site in makeshift quarters in exchange for work. But most the homeless people who promised to work rarely lifted a finger. The El Garces had become a shooting gallery and a vagrant drop off for local police. Lipszchult personally spent a lot of time cleaning up makeshift commodes, broken glass and empty beer cans.
That all changed one cloudy day when a Lavelle showed up with a dozen volunteers from the Abyssinian Church to work. A couple of days after Lavelle's church members began work, a bunch of filthy hippies from Golden Shores (sans Corky & Don) showed up, asking to exchange work for living quarters. Later that same day about twenty Fort Mohave and Chemehuevi Indians volunteered to work in memory of Ginger Bryce. In fact everyday someone new from the local community would show up eager to work for free as long as they could live at the site.
Irv also showed up, but not to work, just to check out what was going on. Irv wasn't alone, Mayor Cheeseman, the Needles Police, the San Bernardino Sherriff's Dept. and a slew of other Federal Government agencies started to show up at the El Garces curious about the onslaught of volunteers. The original vagrant tenants were forced to work or leave! It seemed like every volunteer wanted to work in or around the courtyard. Lipszchult allowed the volunteers to live in the hotel rooms that had not been restored yet. At first everyone worked hard and there was surprisingly very few problems to deal with. Lipschultz convinced the city council for some slush funding to feed his assortment of born-agains, winos, Native Americans, and flower children.
But as time went on conflicts between the diverse groups increased to the point where Franz had to call the Needles Police in for help. A few of workers quit and a couple were arrested for traffic warrants and possession of marijuana, but most of the volunteers stayed on. One irritating and common problem, Franz noticed, was although the groups stayed to themselves they all had this strange habit of digging ditches in the courtyard and pounding holes through walls at night. For every two steps forward in the hotel's restoration there was a step backwards in the destruction of the hotels walls. Franz overheard the crazy rumors of a lost gold mine on the property but he dismissed this absurd notion and never reported this to the police. Pretty soon half the population of Needles was showing up to work for free! Treasure hunters from all over the U.S. were showing up only to be turned away. Even news crews from L.A. were there to interview workers about a secret cache of gold.
Then one night about 2 A.M. there was huge explosion and a pandemonium of loud cheers and noise from the west section of the courtyard. The next morning Lipszchult noticed a huge hole in the courtyards fountain wall opposite to the old suite that Darryl Zanuck had stayed at when he was producing the classic Hollywood film The Grapes of Wrath. When Franz looked inside the damaged wall all he saw was the name JuJubee 1939 scratched on some bricks and a empty Wells Fargo Lockbox.
The Golden Shores clan was long gone........

by KVJ

Ruby Turner

Ray Charles - Ring of Fire

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The T Word

It's been a busy week on the news front, with record oil prices, a renewed call for offshore drilling, the protracted national grief over the loss of Tim Russert. 

 I find some of the most interesting news items for me are the revelations over the CIA's involvement with the torture issue, specifically as it relates to our captives at Abu Graib and Guantanamo and tangentially with the CIA's use of rendition and third party torturers like Syria.

This week, memos came to light from the CIA to the Pentagon that said that anything done to prisoners short of killing them was not torture. I was always curious as to why we paid so much attention to the Army Field Manual and to vetting the actions of our serviceman in regards to torture when we basically give the CIA carte blanche to do anything they consider necessary.

Now reasonable people can and do disagree on what is acceptable when we are in national crisis and dealing with a nefarious enemy that hacks people like Daniel Pearl's head off. I understand this way of thinking.

In one document, Jonathan Fredman, who was chief counsel to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, discussed how interrogators could use the “wet towel” technique, also known as waterboarding, against detainees to extract information.

“It can feel like you’re drowning. The lymphatic system will react as if you’re suffocating, but your body will not cease to function,” Fredman said in October 2002 during a meeting with military officials where specific techniques were discussed, according to a copy of the meeting minutes released by the Armed Services Committee.

Fredman added that the “wet towel” technique would only be defined as torture “if the detainee dies.”

“It is basically subject to perception,” Fredman said, according to the minutes of the meeting. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.”

Fredman’s comment during the October 2002 meeting prompted Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, then the chief military lawyer at Guantanamo, to respond “We will need documentation to protect us.”

Following the October 2002 meeting, Beaver drafted a legal memo that authorized military personnel at Guantanamo to use some of the harshest methods during interrogations at the facility.

Beaver testified Tuesday that she was surprised the Defense Department implemented the interrogation methods contained in her legal opinion.

“I did not expect that my opinion, as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, would become the final word on interrogation policies and practices within the Department of Defense,” Beaver said. “For me, such a result was simply not foreseeable. Perhaps I was somewhat naive, but I did not expect to be the only lawyer issuing a written opinion on this monumentally important issue.”

At the same meeting, Beaver discussed hiding detainees from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC visited Guantanamo to ensure interrogators were complying with the Geneva Conventions. Beaver, according to the minutes of the meeting, urged interrogators to "curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around."

"Officially it is not happening," Beaver is quoted as saying, according to minutes of an Oct. 2, 2002 meeting between the CIA and military officials. "It is not being reported officially. The ICRC is a serious concern. They will be in and out, scrutinizing our operations, unless they are displeased and decide to protest and leave. This would draw a lot of negative attention."

This lack of accountability appears to go all the way up the hierarchical line past General Haynes, to Secretary Rumsfeld and on to Cheney and Bush's laps. Addington and Yoo deserve to be jailed for their hand in this, as do countless others.

Now I just want to make the point that a reasonable person would assume that sometime, somewhere in the future, an American serviceman or citizen is going to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and subsequently tortured. And I am afraid that all of our national protestations will fall on deaf ears. Once we have lost the moral high ground and principle that has guided our country all these many years, it becomes very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. It's like virginity - once its gone its gone.

In exigent circumstances I can see the need to get dirty with people at times, I am not naive. The guy with the dirty bomb in his possession that will blow up the capitol. But not systematic torture, never. Not with many people like Masri who were proven innocent or the people that were turned into the Americans in Iraq to settle petty tribal vendettas.

It is always easy to demonize an entire people, harder to put yourself in their place. If you were an innocent Iraqi, how do you think that you would feel about our continued occupation? How would you feel if members of your family had been tortured and in many instances, sexually violated and humiliated?

And in the case of torture, something that has been independently verified as occurring on our watch by countless high ranking military figures, will we ever be able to forgive ourselves for what we have become? Not much different than our most brutal enemies...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Don't dream its over

I will give up my keyboard when they pull my cold, dead, fingers...

From the BBC:

Blogger arrests hit record high

Elections in China, Pakistan and the US could prompt more arrests

More bloggers than ever face arrest for exposing human rights abuses or criticising governments, says a report.

Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for publishing their views on a blog, says the University of Washington annual report.

In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006, it revealed.

More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.

Citizens have faced arrest and jail for blogging about many different topics, said the World Information Access (WIA) report.

Arrested bloggers exposed corruption in government, abuse of human rights or suppression of protests. They criticised public policies and took political figures to task.

The report said the rising number of arrests was testament to the "growing" political importance of blogging. It noted that arrests tended to increase during times of "political uncertainty", such as around general elections or during large scale protests.

Jail time followed arrest for many bloggers, said the report, which found that the average prison sentence for blogging was 15 months. The longest sentence found by the WIA was eight years.

It acknowledged that the true number of bloggers arrested could be far higher than the total it found as, in some cases, it proved hard to verify if an arrest had taken place and on what grounds.

For instance, it said the Committee to Protect Bloggers has published information about 344 people arrested in Burma - many of whom are thought to be be bloggers - but the WIA could not verify all the reports.

It also noted that many nations, perhaps as many as 30, imposed technological restrictions on what people can do online. In nations such as China this made it difficult for people to use a blog as a means of protest.

The report pointed out that it is not just governments in the Middle East and East Asia that have taken steps against those publishing their opinions online. In the last four years, British, French, Canadian and American bloggers have also been arrested.

The report predicted that the number of blogger arrests in 2008 would exceed the 36 seen in 2007 thanks to greater popularity of blogging as a medium, greater enforcement of net restrictions, and elections in China, Pakistan, Iran and the US.

Rich Man's Game?

The following is an article I read from Saturday's San Diego UT. I thought it was an interesting take on a game that wouldn't allow minorities to play on Tour until 1961.

Politics a lot like swings: majority are on the right

By Mark Zeigler

June 14, 2008

If you don't want to get hit by an errant golf ball at Torrey Pines South this weekend, if you don't want a 392-dimple Titleist Pro V1 imprinted on your forehead from a 325-yard drive, try standing on the left side of the fairway.

Because this is a sport, at least in this country, that definitely drifts right.
More and more professional athletes vote Republican, presumably because they make huge sums of money and believe the Republicans won't make them part with it in taxes. But no group of American athletes may be more unanimously conservative than PGA Tour golfers.

David Duval and Billy Andrade have come out and admitted it: They're registered Democrats.

You'll be hard-pressed to find many others on the PGA Tour, although it should be noted Commissioner Tim Finchem worked in the Carter administration and once was vice president of the Democratic National Committee.

“Definitely a conservative bunch of guys,” Australia's Geoff Ogilvy said this week.

How conservative?

“Well over 90 percent would be Republican,” two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen said. “(Democrats) are definitely in the minority.”

Four years ago, Golf Digest magazine polled 34 Tour players about their preferences in the presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Bob Tway threw his support behind Bush and predicted the magazine wouldn't “find anybody on this tour voting for Kerry.”

It didn't. Eight said they were undecided or refused to divulge their allegiance; the other 26 backed Bush.

It makes sense. Pro golfers tend to come from wealthy, white, Southern, evangelical Christian upbringings – demographics that traditionally skew right when it comes to politics.

“If you look at who hangs out around golf, it's people like Rush Limbaugh and Dan Quayle,” says Orin Starn, a Duke University professor of cultural anthropology who writes a Web blog devoted to golf politics. “If you go to John McCain's Web site, there's a golf gear buying opportunity. Golf has always been the official sport of business and capitalism and the American way, and country clubs have been bastions of Republican Party support and conservative idealogy.

“You have your occasional left-wing golfer, but they're the rare bird,” Starn said.

Added Janzen: “We're all from a similar background. Very few of us grew up playing public courses. . . . Golf's an expensive sport, and I think it will be another decade before we see the benefits from programs like The First Tee (for inner-city youths). Right now, you have a better chance at making it when you're at a country club atmosphere with access to good practice facilities, good teachers and good courses.

It can be a jarring realization for the increasing number of foreign golfers on tour and at events such as the U.S. Open, coming from a culture that is generally more open about discussing politics. Several foreigners have said privately they are hesitant to express their views in a public forum, fearing they will be ostracized for, say, supporting abortion rights or gay marriage.

In a 2006 article that appeared in U.S. and European publications, journalist Bruce Selcraig wrote of an incident with Tom Lehman regarding former President Bill Clinton:

“Lehman, who has never hidden his right-wing politics, once overheard me say the word 'Clinton' while I was interviewing a caddie on the driving range . . . Unsmiling, he stopped in midstride, walked over and said: 'You mean that draft-dodging baby-killer?' and then walked on.”

In the same article, Selcraig quoted Sweden's Jesper Parnevik saying: “People get hurt very badly if they speak out.”

England's Paul Casey did at the 2004 Ryder Cup, telling a British newspaper that “the vast majority of Americans simply don't know what is going on. They have no concept of the U.K., for instance.”

Casey was heckled by fans and reportedly given the cold shoulder by American players on tour, and was even dropped by Titleist as a sponsor. Asked after a practice round this week about the tour's political leanings, Casey said: “I think talking politics is dangerous. I'm not going to comment.”

It is a subject rarely broached in public. Or as Charles Howell III put it: “That's one thing I have learned not to talk about.”

One reason, certainly, is a reluctance by pro athletes to alienate potential consumers for the products they so lucratively endorse – the “Republicans buy sneakers, too” mantra Michael Jordan espoused in the early 1990s. Another reason, Duke's Starn suggests, is fear of damaging golf's efforts to remake its stuffy image.

“The PGA doesn't want this stuff talked about, because if players did speak up more it would become apparent that an overwhelming majority are right-wing, evangelical Christians,” said Starn, a golfer with a 5-handicap. “You see the PGA putting up this image of embracing multiculturalism that really covers up the reality of how white the PGA Tour is right now.

“It doesn't look like America, and if it's shown that it doesn't think like America, either, that can't be good for a game trying to sell itself as having an appeal to Americans across the board.”

Of a dozen or so players interviewed at this U.S. Open, Janzen was the most candid. He talked about an online survey that asked the survey taker's stance on a dozen issues and to rate the issues in importance, and then spewed out which presidential candidates best suited his positions.

Janzen's top four candidates were all Republicans.

His bottom four: all Democrats.

“But, you know, we live in a bubble on tour,” Janzen said. “We have a good life out here. We don't deal with a lot of things that other people deal with on an everyday basis.”

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Communal Novel - Chapter XVI

Delorez stretched out on the white starched sheets of her hospital bed and thought things could be worse. Feeling no pain from the morphine, food on demand, though institutional, air-conditioning, and clean sheets. And face it, she’d always had a nasty thing for eye-patches. Oh, yeah. Big pirate dude all muscular with ripped clothing showing off ropy muscles, lots of facial hair, and a black eye-patch to top it off. Miss D squirmed a bit on the bed. But herself with a patch? Would have to be a bright royal blue, yeah, criss-crossed with diamonds, ok fake ones but who cared, and a teeny, tiny appliqué of a bright green parrot on one edge. That would be just fine. Shave her hair almost to nothing and get some big dangly ear hoops.
Since she was on leave, most likely forever for leaving her post, driving like a fool and destroying the stake-out car, this girl would have plenty of time to satisfy a guilty fantasy she’d had for years. Sword-fighting lessons. Shiny blades, the clang of metal, leather boots dancing across the floor. The tension of the swords as they thrust together with full strength, the muscles of the swordsmen (or woman in this case) straining to break a clinch. Or not. The not-unpleasant sting of a slight cut, the tearing of fabric. Delorez swallowed hard and rang for the nurse.
“Hey, can I have a coke here? I’m all hot and sweaty all of a sudden.’
“Maybe you have a fever. I’d better check.”
“I just need a coke—“ a thermometer was shoved under her tongue. Miss D wiggled it around and pretended it was a sword. Move it this way, then that, roooolll with it baby. She giggled.
“What are you doing with that—stop it.” The nurse removed and read it. “Looks normal. How about some juice? Healthier than coke.”
Delorez glared at her with one eye. “You want me to Live Well and Thrive? Unless you want me to start making some fuss, get me a coke.” Delorez squinted at the nurse’s rigid back as she left the room. Icky white uniform. No white for Delorez here. Her fencing clothes would be black and royal blue with stripes of green down the arms. Underneath she’d wear cherry red underwear. And paint her nails, top and bottom, multi-colored. Yeah, she’d be something when she got out of here. She’d knock, or slice, them dead. She lifted her hand and brushed it against the bulky bandage covering her eye and struggled not to cry.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sitting on the corner of Heartache and Vine...

It has been a really interesting week. Some of you know that I had a heart attack Monday morning. I got out of the hospital yesterday. I will now try to summarize the gory details for you in all their splendor. Leslie was in Northern California this weekend at the Health and Harmony Festival. ( I tend toward Discord and Extravagance myself but as they say, it takes all kinds.)

Friday night I invited three couples over to the gallery for wine and cheese. Jim brought a 1990 Chateau Latour. John brought a Rubicon. I in turn poured my shitty Zinfandel down the sink. Sunday I got up and grabbed the weed eater and knocked down weeds for an hour and worked around the house. Mike Port's 90th birthday is June 12th so I drove to four of five shopping centers looking for a new blue jacket for him. This was a burnout and I never found anything. After that fruitless pursuit, I drove to my friend's Ron and Lena's on the coast and hung out for a little while. I bopped over to Encinitas to Sheila's house to say hello. She suggested a bike ride down to the YMCA to see our friends Billy and Karen's son's little league game. It was cool but I felt really whipped on the way back. We tooled through a few assisted living complexes but the ride back, although short, blitzed me out. My cardio has been really hard to get back since my surgery. Sheebz needed a little help in the garden and I carried a heavy cactus pot up her hill, but all was cool. Did a little gardening and fertilizing work and then we went to the Torrey Pines Lodge for dinner at Valentien's. There were cop cars everywhere because the U.S. Open festivities started the next day. I had the duck, of course, along with the Tuna Carpaccio, nothing heavy. Great time with a dear friend.

The next morning, I realized that I had sprained my hand lifting the large pot so I took an Advil. Within 20 minutes I had deep pain coursing though all the muscles in my chest, back and mostly the back side of my arms. Maybe I was having a drug reaction? I grabbed the Advil bottle and saw that their were contraindication warnings with blood thinners. ( I am on Coumadin). I called Bayer and they got a nurse on the line who suggested I get to an emergency room and who also said that it was not a drug reaction. I took the trash out and drove to the gas station, put 20 bucks in since I was near empty and didn't know what the future held.

I arrived at the Fallbrook Hospital Emergency Room and announced that I was having some sort of cardiac event. They whisked me past the muggles in the waiting room who gave me dirty looks for cutting in line, stuck me in ICU and took an enzyme panel. It was like .068. The next panel was 5 something and then 15, confirming that I had experienced my first heart attack. CK was over 500. I was hooked to a morphine/nitro drip. The Nitro gave me a searing left temporal headache. The next day I saw two of my cardiologists associates and they told me that I would have to be ambulanced to Scripps La Jolla since Fallbrook had no Cath Lab. I was very familiar with Scripps since I had my mitral valve repair there in July of 2006. I was fast tracked into an Angiogram (a procedure where an instrument is sent up the femoral artery in your groin and into the heart.) This procedure was actually administered by my old cardiologist and his partner. Luckily there were no blockages.

They later explained that their best guess was that the adrenalin from my over exertion on Sunday had caused a coronary artery to go into a paralytic spasm. I kept hearing about muscle damage because of the enzyme results but am still unclear as to the extent of such damage. I have a bunch of new drugs to add to my ever growing arsenal. They are putting me on a calcium channel blocker that will hopefully prevent this from happening again.

I shared my intensive care room at La Jolla with two other hard bitten cardiac offenders and a nurse who stayed in the room all night, Art. One guy had his 14th stint put in that day and the other guy, an overweight casino manager from Barona, was another multiple repeater. We were kidding around about ordering pizza and hookers at midnight. I felt like I was in a Eugene O'Neill play, surreal, dark and fascinating. Probably the blackest night of humour I have ever experienced, cutting to the bone, wish I had a recording. Nurses were running from the room in horror. The one guy's insurance had run out the day before his last heart attack and the procedure had cost him close to 200k. They knew more about what was going on than the nurses and grilled them mercilessly on every drug and instruction. I pretty much kept my mouth shut. My arms are now covered with holes from the multiple iv's and the constant injections. I got the dreaded Lovenox in the stomach. Nice sting.

Cardiac care and the hospital care I have experienced is like death by a thousand paper cuts. You lose all control and get pecked apart by sometimes painful invasive intrusions on an hourly basis. But maybe they keep you alive so there's a trade off.

Leslie picked me up around 12 yesterday - got my prescriptions filled and I will take it easy for a couple days. Thanks for the good wishes. Please don't tell my mother, yet. I need to see my cardiologist and find out what the hell happened. I had a checkup friday morning and inr and b.p. and everything looked great. Something went amiss in River City.

I am sure that there are lessons to be learned here. I am 50, not 20. I am not immortal. I need to be careful. I have to get control of my diet and cholesterol. But I don't want to give up the confit.

Take care,


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Obama McCain / McCain Obama

One of the interesting things about the upcoming presidential election, is that for the first time in memory, I think that both of our present candidates are very decent men. I think that our country's direction will improve no matter who is elected. While I tend to be pretty liberal, I have always admired John McCain. He has shown a maverick's instinct for standing alone for what he thinks is right and for building bipartisan consensus across the aisle. I differ strongly with him on Abortion rights, his current stand on torture,warrant less wiretapping and "staying the course", but feel that he is much smarter and more pragmatic than the current occupant.

Barack Obama is bright, inspiring and very stable. I think that he is an unknown quantity internationally but I like the way he has run a mainstream campaign that has been pretty much race neutral. He seems very low key and the kind of guy who will not wilt under the enormous strain of being president. He seems to give a measure of hope to young people and the dispossessed that we have not seen for decades. I think it speaks volumes for America that we could nominate such a candidate. However, his wife's mouth has alienated a lot of people.

We could do worse than having them on the same ticket. It is an impossible fantasy, I know. Whoever takes the reigns of power must roll their sleeves up and start paying attention to the center of the electorate. They have been forgotten for too long. Lets hope that it is a clean campaign. Both candidates are men of integrity. Hopefully we don't descend into a vitriolic swamp of racism and rhetoric. Then let the national healing begin.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Keep your drawers clean...

Occasionally I get a call to look at an estate to help appraise and evaluate stuff. Almost invariably I get severe feelings of depression. Sometimes the estate is from a person who has recently passed away, sometimes they have gone into a care facility. You wander through a person's abandoned home and you are struck by floods of feelings. Usually for me, it is at first one of pure voyeurism, like I am glimpsing a view that is forbidden to me - a snapshot of a traumatic quick exit or a long decline. Some are pack rats like me - collecting scads of objects and books that will have meaning only to the original collector. Much of the artwork is incredibly terrible. We live in an age where every bad period or epoch of taste gets it's 15 minutes of being lionized but lets face it, shit will always have its own unique olfactory brand.

I get saddened when I see a life reduced to strangers rummaging through one's underwear drawers in the hopes of finding lucre. Food is thrown out, much of it spoiled. Sometimes the liquor is poured out or given away. I found a 59' Chateau Margaux once in a Palm Beach estate that I am still waiting to drink or sell.

Oftentimes you will find houses of the pious festooned with plastic religious figures beyond count, sometimes perched on the old family organ, a musical instrument that is incredibly difficult to sell. I wander through macrame dens ornamented with horrible Chinese lamps from the fifties and sixties and I start seriously worrying about the future of the human race.

Or about the propriety of having such a candid look at the innermost sanctum of somebodies private life. My own home is no treasure palace. My wife and I live quietly and do not entertain. We are still living in an antiquated post psychedelic tribal vision that most would not understand. If we lived in an urban environment, we might try to impress.

I hardly ever go to estate sales. It feels like being part of a pack of ravens or vultures. There is little dignity in stripping the carcass. People fall all over each other culling through the detritus. If there is anything that is good, it tends to sell for over market - unless the purveyor or sales person has missed on something. Families are pulling more and more of the decent stuff out and putting it up for auction. In the end a hauling man usually comes and takes what's left to the dump or the thrift shop.

So when I pass through this mortal coil please try to have a little sympathy when you start pawing through my stuff. Or don't you believe in ghosts?

Hot Rize - Just Like You

Janis Joplin - Get it while you can

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I posted the following response to fellow citizen Baer in today's North County Times newspaper.

Will of the people versus judicial tyranny

Dear Editor,

Webster defines marriage as "the institution whereby a man and a woman are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family." In 2000, California voters approved the prohibition of same-sex marriage. In 2008, the California Supreme Court, by a four-to-three vote, gave legal status to gays and lesbians the right to marry. By a one-vote majority versus 36 million people in California, a precedent was decided.

Abraham Lincoln in 1863 said in his Gettysburg Address "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that the government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the face of the Earth."

Wake up, California, to this travesty of injustice and manipulation of the concept of marriage! In the realm of electricity, a male and female plug is needed to carry current to a lamp. What can gay/lesbian partners produce to continue the human race? Marriage is sacred and should be protected against a redefinition for the sake of the gay liberation.

Bill Baer


Dear Editor,

Letter writer Bill Baer of Carlsbad's post of June 2 was very thought provoking. He feels that the new same sex legislation is thwarting the will of the people. In the words of Mr. Baer, a male and female plug are required to provide current for a lamp. In this way, we can ensure the survival of our species.

Now the human species seems to be propagating just fine, thank you, male plugs or not. But just to be sure that we did not have any wayward homosexual dalliances occurring amongst the appliances in our home, my wife and I did a quick check this morning and guess what, we found that the HDMI plug on our television is male to male. As you can imagine, we are shocked, and will move most expeditiously to see that there is no reoccurrance.

Thank you, Mr. Baer, for your eternal vigilance.

Robert Sommers

Readers write in

This is from my old buddy S in New York - worked with the greats, Fillmore, Woodstock, managed Muddy Waters, etc. - bemoaning the dearth of fresh expression in today's artistic arena - Now you gen x,Y and Z'ster's can take umbrage but the man speaks the truth - although think about how much shitty music we had to sit through in the mid seventies when the art rock got so corporate. I think the kids have gotten better - just not that outstanding with a very few exceptions - but then again look how we have fucked up dance since our parent's generation - has it gotten any better since the jitterbug? Anyway this great broadside from S :

That bass video is a mind fuck....
did you ever see Jaco live? I did a couple of times. He was discovered by Bobby Columbi, who was the drummer in Blood Sweat and Tears. They did a gig down in Florida somewhere and after the show, they went off to a small club. When Bobby heard Jaco in the club, he flipped out and went back to NY and got him a deal at EPIC. Bobby produced it and within a year, he was playing not just with Weather Report, but with Herbie Hancock and ultimately, fell in with Joni, who I think he played the most beautifully with cause she did not let him show off....and in the end I think he broke her heart.
I saw him opening, near the end of his short life, for Pat Methany....he was over the top but you cannot beat down genius and he tore up the audience as stoned and out of it as he seemed to be.
I also saw Coltrane right before he died. Similar. Genius.
Same with Hendrix....very few people know this and nothing was recorded, but he spent a week with Miles in a rehearsal loft in what later became SOHO. Then, it had no name. MY friend Donny Smith went to Woodstock and didn't get paid. He provided the sound for a small stage on the periphery. So on the MOnday morning, he and his partner loaded all the plywood decking they could, into their truck. They took a lease on a floor in a loft downtown, built double walled rooms and filled the interiors with SAND. I swear...brilliant, messy, and almost free. I am pretty sure they hired someone to scoop the sand off some beach nearby. I stopped by to visit one afternoon in the Spring of 70, and there they were. I came back every day for a week, hoping to hear the next new thing, but nothing ever really happened. they would play a riff or two and look for a drum part and then talk and then nothing for hours...just not a good matchup. They were probably insanely high.
Noel Redding, who I was very good friends with, swore to me that for the entire time of the Experience, Jimi never ever ever ever ever not even once, told the other guys what or how to play a song. He would just start playing and whatever they did was ok with him. Can you imagine? Very few musicians are like that. Funnily enough, Elton John did that with his first band...the core guys. He would sit down at the piano with some new lyrics, and start trying things out and the band would just come in behind him and that was all, the breaks were natural. Nothing worked out. The producer would chop the songs up and add strings and stuff but that was later on...first few albums were just natural.
Columbi did ok, too. After Jaco, he left BST and took a job at Epic in the AnR dept. He took Michael Jackson into the studio on his own for the first time and over the years has discovered and signed some good stuff, most recently that really fine English trumpet player Chris Boti, who I think played with Sting for a while and married Katie Couric...ok, she is cute, but a lousy anchor woman.

enough peripheral mental noise for one night.
there are many in my past....peripheral days and nights, that is.

back to work and bed....see ya soon

part II

cookie cutter stagnation-
In twentieth century music, and this is in every style, there was a continual metamorphosis...
and then it became BIG BUSINESS.
Have you noticed that music has barely evolved since the Fifties?
Look at the music between 1900 and 1950.
There are always great players around....KIng Oliver had a tuba player who would have been equally at home on stage with Stan Clarke etc....but where are the real shakers and movers? Where have the art stars gone?
It is creepy to think that the best band around are the Stones. Not because I don't love em, but they are also the best rock band to a 16 year old...when my folks were still groovin to Benny Goodman and Satchmo in the post war years, I was into the Mothers of Invention and the Dead and the Beatles...it was a long road from one to the other but only took 20 years to metamorph.....
what happened to the cross cultural references....the Mike Bloomfields playing with the Dylans and the Muddys? Where is that mindspring today? Is it in Silicone Valley, writing Grand Auto Theft, or some new editing program for Hollywood? Might be. Just like my Dad, a really well educated and respected NY musician, could not understand the Beatles White Album, maybe I just don't get it. I feel like I am living in a museum of fixed ideas with a very large entourage still hoping to jump onto the financial superhighway to stardom.
Today, a guy like Mitch or Noel or Keith Moon or John Bonham would never get the gig...couldn't read and couldn't keep time...a no no.
Journey are thrilled. they found a kid in the Phillipines who does a perfect imitation of their lead singer, who has dropped out. They found him on U Tube....the implications are more blade runner than creative networking. We used to chuckle in out of the way countries like Norway, on a freezing winter night after a gig, a band in the bar playing great country music-pedal steel, tight harmonies, cute blonde up front or it could have been a in a whiskey bar in Tokyo and she was doing a perfect Peggy Lee, only to discover that these people made a living by doing exact reproductions and usually didn't understand english, not one bit.
Perhaps, as I predicted in what was it, the year Nixon stepped down, I was sitting in a bar on Beale Street in Memphis after a sound check, munching a burger and washing it down with a cold beer as Dicky came on and announced his resignation. Even in the deep south, they were all whistling and shit, and I said to my pal John the drummer, 'the only lesson here is the one Nixon's people have learned, and it is 'learn how to never get caught again.'
They succeeded. Did you read last week's New Yorker article on this Republican operator, Roger Stone? The title is: THE DIRTY TRICKSTER by Jeffrey Toobin.
Maybe all this counter intuitive and immorality has beaten the creative spirit one time too many. Maybe this is where a total upheaval has to occur so a couple of decent paintings or poems or whatevers can be made that have some meaning in the present.
I am not trying to sound dismal, cause I am not. I live in the past somewhat since I am well down my own path, but it was nurtured by exciting cultural and social activities, movements, and great beauty and it looks much the same, but now rehashed over and over by corporate marketing and branding. Nobody branded Elvis or the Beatles or the Big Bopper.
or did they??


Monday, June 2, 2008

Hello, June!

Yesterday, was kind of a wonderful day, sort of slid in to the new month. I didn't even get up until like 9:30. We drove into town and had brunch at Le Bistro with Dixon and Connie, and were joined by Linda Kissam. We had a lengthy civics discourse and really enjoyed the food which was as usual, great. He does a spicy shrimp omelet with tomatillo, that is divine. (I had the ribeye and eggs yesterday. Apologies to my cardiologist.) Leslie and I went back home and I got prone on the couch and started reading a massive new book called Shantaram, that is a largely autobiographical story about an australian escaped convict that manages to flee to Bombay. It was recommended by Shawn in Thailand and is pretty decent. It just felt so good to do nothing and chill with a book. We have an old cat that is terribly matted and won't clean himself up so we took a stab and shaving him with electric clippers and he is about a third done. Won't be appearing on the catwalk anytime soon however. I managed to get outside and water 5 or 6 sets and take all the crap off the old Toyota with the 300,000 miles on it which I hope will just disappear. We planted some morning glory seeds that Leslie had germinated to hermetically seal the fence and both got productive planting in the afternoon when I suddenly had this epiphany that I actually felt good from a cardiac standpoint and wasn't totally fried.

Leslie polished off the last of the duck confit risotto she had made the night before and made me a beautiful chicken curry with her special hearts of palm salad. We nestled into bed and watched Love in the Time of Cholera, which was an ok try but as usual not even close in greatness to the book. The spanish language inflections are kind of tough when you mix Bronx Puerto Rican with Columbian, but what can you say? Leslie actually suggested that I rent a game for the Play Station so I may start on a whole new addiction.

I have been thinking very seriously the past week about the continually escalating price of living in this age. And we don't even have children. I have been very extravagant about going out to eat too much. I need to really cut down on it. In the morning its a social thing because I drink coffee with the same old farts for years but maybe I start making a lunch and limiting dinners out.

I have been lucky enough to do very well in this economy but someday I might not have an income stream and I need to dial it down.. The other monster for us all is obviously fuel. I need to consolidate needless trips - A trip to Encinitas and back is like 30 bucks... I think that this is going to radically shift spending patterns in this country and throughout the world since we know it is far worse in Europe. People are starting to take local vacations with fuel surcharges making long term destinations prohibitively expensive. In my business, a lot less shopping in out of the way burgs, and maybe less marginal shows in the next year. I don't think we will ever see three dollar gas again.

Don't tell me that a prudent administration didn't see this coming. Of course, they are profiting from it personally in an obscene way. Energy and mining leases are sold to crony's for peanuts. Exxon and the rest of their ilk are making incredible bank with no real downside risk that I can see. As soon as they learn to tax sunlight or hydrogen I am sure that we will see new technology mysteriously appear. We have been on internal combustion for an awfully long time. Mileage standards have actually been reduced since the seventies so that americans can drive big fat piggie cars. And the soccer moms in their Yukons have to be eating shit right now.

Now conservatives will tell you about all the US reserves that we can still tap and plunder, environment be damned. But aren't these the last croaks of a dying swan? Fossil Fuels can last what, another 30 or 40 years at present consumption, worldwide. This is what really pisses me off about this administration's and past administrations burrowing their heads in the collective sand - the lack of long range thinking. If you can burn kitchen grease for fuel in the Bay Area and sugar cane in Brazil, it seems like there are a lot of renewable fuel options when oil is at a $200 or $300 barrel.

Lets tighten our belts.