Thursday, July 31, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) -- A man suspected of fatally shooting two adults at a Knoxville church Sunday was motivated by frustration over being unable to obtain a job and hatred for liberal stances, police said Monday.
Jim Adkisson, 58, was charged with first-degree murder after Sunday's shooting at the Knoxville church.
A four-page letter found in the vehicle of Jim Adkisson -- who also is accused of injuring seven other adults -- indicated he may have targeted the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because of recent publicity about the church's liberal policies.
"He did express that frustration, that the liberal movement was getting more jobs," Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV told reporters Monday. "And he felt like he was being kept out of the loop because of his age."
Police said Adkisson, 58, of Powell, Tennessee, walked into the church's sanctuary during a children's musical performance and fired a shotgun before being overpowered by congregants. Adkisson -- who police said wasn't a member of the church -- has been charged with one count of first-degree murder.
Killed in the shooting were Linda Kraeger, 61, and Greg McKendry, 60, police said. Witnesses said McKendry, an usher and board member at the church, tried to shield others when he was shot, according to The Associated Press. Video Watch scene at church after shooting »
Four of the seven surviving wounded were still in the University of Tennessee Medical Center on Monday evening. Officials there said two patients were in critical condition and one was "stable." The hospital would not release information about the fourth person.
Owen said the case is being investigated as a hate crime. He said the letter, signed by Adkisson but not addressed to anyone, expressed hatred for gay people.
Well the conservative wacko in Tennessee decided that it was time for some liberals and fags to die. He dished out a heapin' helpin of old testament justice to the heathens. Like Eric Rudolph and the other homicidal members of the right to life movement who like to pick off abortion doctors and blow up clinics for sport, we celebrate the rights of the unborn, but once your feet hits the pavement, your ass is toast. I rarely hear of these murderers being condemned by their bible toting ilk.
I was raised a Unitarian and you couldn't find a nicer bunch of folks. Their message is one of love and tolerance. I guess we now have to tolerate the intolerance of right wing scumbags like the Knoxville shooter. Or those that hate gays or jews, or catholics or blacks or anyone who doesn't think like us or look like us. Or face the wrath of the New American Taliban.
I blame this president, I do. He has pandered to the right wing fringe, allowed the Air Force Academy to get turned into a revival meeting, stocked his Justice Department with litmus test bearing christian zombies from Regent University, pushed for creationism and intelligent design instruction in the schools and appointed Supreme Court Justices who have stripped away physical protections and clear right of way at Abortion clinics.
The bogeyman for the right the last eight years, the sworn enemy, is multiculturalism. The "wackos" will of course wash their hands of responsibility for the actions of a deluded man. But I do blame them. Like the good book says, you reap what they sow. We stand at a crossroads - we can either let people live their lives without imposing our religious judgements on their private personal activity or we can go back to stoning people in the streets.
Well they tell me of a pie up in the sky
Waiting for me when I die
But between the day you're born and when you die
They never seem to hear even your cry
So as sure as the sun will shine
I'm gonna get my share now of what's mine
And then the harder they come the harder they'll fall, one and all
Ooh the harder they come the harder they'll fall, one and all
Well the officers are trying to keep me down
Trying to drive me underground
And they think that they have got the battle won
I say forgive them Lord, they know not what they've done
And I keep on fighting for the things I want
Though I know that when you're dead you can't
But I'd rather be a free man in my grave
Than living as a puppet or a slave
Yeah, the harder they come, the harder they'll fall one and all
What I say now, what I say now, awww
What I say now, what I say one time
The harder they come the harder they'll fall one and all
Ooh the harder they come the harder they'll fall one and all
Saturday, July 26, 2008
You know it's hard to get around the messianic air that surrounds the democratic candidate Obama as he returns from a triumphant march through Europe. The vibe and anticipation on the continent hasn't been this strong since Hannibal was sighted shushing over the Alps. "The One" addresses the adoring host at Brandenburg Gate while his poor opponent eats Schnitzel at a Hofbrau House in Ohio. The juxtaposition is just too priceless.
However, all this giddiness scares the crap out of me. This thing is going to tighten up like a ratchet and victory could easily elude the Democrats. For one thing, the Republicans are far better at dirty politics and using fear to cow the populace. But as usual, I digress.
I never trust anyone who hasn't fallen on their ass a couple times in his or her life. We have all seen those lucky few, wet behind the ears, who have gotten lucky and think that they will have an eternal glide toward the end of the rainbow. We usually end up despising them. Obama bears no visible scars or dents. How will he react to the certain adversity that is sure to befall a president and country in these trying times? Remember how high both Bushies poll numbers were after their initial desert invasions? Low 80's, phenomenal. When the air goes out of the balloon, as it certainly will, you have to roll your sleeves up and work.
I think that his policy judgement lately has been ok, although I count myself as one who feels that he totally caved on FISA. I hope that he can be more specific about his thoughts on the needed direction of the country and that we can get past this JFK heartthrob cult of personality miasma which so many are apparently being affected.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
A communist sympathizer whose body language showed remarkable similarity to mad suicide bombers in Baghdad, launched himself in a bold move of desperation at Robert Novak's black corvette yesterday. Thankfully the erstwhile columnist was not hurt by the brazen and wanton display of cowardice by the 66 year old homeless man. The attack occurred in our nation's capitol.
Although Novak feigned complete surprise and a lack of any knowledge of the incident, eyewitness reports say the man was splayed akimbo across the top of the convertible's hood and carried a fair distance. Novak was later stopped and cited. And as fast as you can say yellow cake to Niger, our valiant scribe can now continue his fight against all those dastardly enemies of freedom and the forces of evil.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Did you know that the United States has the highest incarceration rates in the world? In the last accounting that I am aware of, in 2006, we had over 7.2 million people either in jail, on parole or probation. Over 2.2 million currently reside in prison. Our prison population rates have quadrupled since 1980.
Contrast this with China which has 1.5 million prisoners, in a country with four times our population. Much of the increase in prison population is attributable to our country's tired and failed drug policy. Over 800,000 people were arrested last year for crimes involving the possession of Cannabis. Fully one third of Federal Drug prisoners are for marijuana.
We live in a country where three out of four people support the use of medical marijuana. Over 80 million americans admit to having used pot in their lifetime with 20 million admitting use within the last year. The government has done its best to vilify marijuana smoking for the last 50 years and its outlandish warnings have all been shown to be poppycock. With the exception of some respiratory problems amongst a small percentage of users, it's effects pale next to those of alcohol and tobacco.
I know. As a cancer survivor who has endured no less than 8 intensive surgeries including a nephrectomy, I saw the difference between being treated with opiates and narcotics and self medicating with the much less toxic marijuana. Morphine and Dilaudid turned me into a sleepless wreck while my recovery time with marijuana was cut in half and pain never went up past a manageable level. Please don't tell me about Marinol. It is worthless. I know. Heavy psychoactive effects and doesn't get you high.
I had hoped that Bill Clinton would take a courageous stand towards relaxing the current draconian reefer policy. I was sadly disappointed. I will not be so wildly optimistic about Obama. The percentage of spliff enjoying politicians probably equals or exceeds the national average, they just don't have the courage to admit it and to put their reputations on the line for the countless people like them who are stewing in some penitentiary.
Think of the money we could make in the State of California with legalized marijuana. I could see great growing contests between the old hippie salts in Mendocino, duking it out with serious agra farmers in the San Joaquin Valley with row after row of premium hemp. Seriously, tax it, standardize the THC levels and watch the revenue flow in. But everyone is too scared and too hypocritical and afraid of being labeled a monster so nothing will get done. What is the cost to our society to put and keep all of these poor people in prison? Billions of dollars. We are destroying their lives over what is essentially essentially harmless and mostly private behavior. Countless casual marijuana users from all walks of life live productive, healthy existences without crossing some mysterious "gateway" to hard drug usage and religion.
Legalizing pot would put a huge dent in crime, both releasing those currently languishing in jail for trivial possession raps and also effectively neutralizing the criminal cartels from Mexico and all their attendant violence. Lets take our country back from the Calvinist right wing and advocate a sensible decriminalization program. For everybody, not just the seriously ill. Don't let Washington tell you how to think!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
You can kick us out when we are good and ready to be kicked out...
I am not going to get too involved with the topic, but is anyone else struck by the absurdity of the current Iraq drama? We are purportedly negotiating with the Maliki government about what it will take to get us to leave. So far we are publically seeking control of their airspace for the foreseeable future, permanent air bases, and legal indemnity for both the U.S. Military and private contractors such as Blackwater. This last point is particularly irksome to me considering their cavalier way of conducting themselves.
The elephant in the closet is of course, oil and oil revenue. We can all see how that plays out in the future and will probably not be particularly surprised at the eventual outcome. I can see the Exxon trucks backing up now for their turn at the spigot.
Maliki appears quite enthused with the prospect of Obama's 16 month pullout. This is sending the Bush Administration into convulsions. Dana Perino made it clear yesterday that the White House was unhappy with Maliki’s publicly talking about specific dates of withdrawal.
“We don’t think that talking about specific negotiating tactics or, you know, a negotiating position, in the press, is the best way to negotiate a deal,” “I would hope that (the presidential successor) he would make them based on conditions on the ground, whichever president it is. Whether or not it’s 16 months or later or earlier I just don’t know.”
U.S. and Iraqi officials are not likely, she said, to meet their July 31 deadline for a “status of forces” agreement that would govern the U.S. deployment after the current U.N. mandate expires this year. It would establish just what say the Iraqis have in the deployment and when it ends.
Perino said that whatever time frame is worked out with the Iraqis, the withdrawal schedule would in the end be based on security conditions at the time that shifts in the deployment are being made.
“It’s not a firm, hard, fast date, where you, all of a sudden, take all the troops out,” she said.
When a reporter reminded her that the Iraqis did not appear to be on the same page -- and were characterizing 2010 as the time frame for withdrawal -- Perino replied: “That might be what some of them think. It might be what the prime minister thinks. But I will tell you that it’s based on conditions.”
But isn't it odd that we are dictating the terms of our leaving to a supposedly sovereign nation? Our handpicked proxy is basically asking us to not let the door hit us in the ass on the way out. It brings up an interesting question: how much freedom will the Iraqis really have in the future? I guess our occupation gives us a certain amount of sweat equity and if they don't play nice, we will just find a new puppet, er president. Why does the whole thing strike me as a farce.
The following is from Spiegel:
Maliki has long shown impatience with the open-ended presence of US troops in Iraq. In his conversation with SPIEGEL, he was once again candid about his frustration over the Bush administration's hesitancy about agreeing to a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. But he did say he was optimistic that such a schedule would be drawn up before Bush leaves the White House next January -- a confidence that appeared justified following Friday's joint announcement in Baghdad and Washington that Bush has now, for the first time, spoken of "a general time horizon" for moving US troops out of Iraq.
"So far the Americans have had trouble agreeing to a concrete timetable for withdrawal, because they feel it would appear tantamount to an admission of defeat," Maliki told SPIEGEL. "But that isn't the case at all. If we come to an agreement, it is not evidence of a defeat, but of a victory, of a severe blow we have inflicted on al-Qaida and the militias."
He also bemoaned the fact that Baghdad has little control over the US troops in Iraq. "It is a fundamental problem for us that it should not be possible, in my country, to prosecute offences or crimes committed by US soldiers against our population," Maliki said.
Shia and Sunni have been at each other's throats since time immemorial, they usually manage to kill a few hundred thousand or so of each other and then find an accommodation. The quicker we split, maybe the quicker they find stasis and eventual peace.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I don't tend to watch much television, we don't have one at home, preferring to peruse the usually more thorough print or online media. However televisions are sprouting up all over the place in my world, at the gas station now, the bank and wherever. Information overload for the stimuli starved masses. Got to have that input every second I guess.
I am back on a limited exercise routine at the gym and there are four tv's mounted above the treadmills. In my conservative town, Fox is the mainstay so I am subjected to a lot of partisan cheerleading for god, country and the republican party.
Now Fox claims that it is merely a counterweight to widespread liberal bias in the "mainstream media". With the total ceding of talk radio to the conservatives, I find this point debatable but that is an argument for another day. Dare I say, maybe people who know how to read tend to be smarter and more liberal, I don't know...
I do think that if Progressives had a house organ as shrill and partisan as Fox, the cries and groans from the right wing would reach to the outer planets. Fox will never dig into a story that can show conservatives in a bad light, and the network seems to do its best at shaping news to its own diabolical agenda.
Anyway, I was marching down the treadmill Sunday afternoon and I was subjected to an interview between the moderator of Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace (estranged son of Mike Wallace) and Senator's Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman, two spokesmen for their respective presidential candidates and also potential vice presidential picks. I will try to reconstruct the interview.
Wallace: Senator Lieberman, President Bush has been instrumental at pushing for the surge in Iraq, the greatest thing since indoor plumbing. Your candidate, John McCain, was a proponent for the surge. Why have the Republicans not gotten more credit for this?
Lieberman: Well I must say Barack Obama was back smoking fatties and shooting baskets at Cabrini Greens while my candidate was busy trying to save Western Civilization and mankind as we know it.
Wallace: Senator Bayh, why does your candidate hate America so much?
Bayh: Well Chris, let me explain..
Wallace: Sorry, not enough time... enough! Senator Lieberman, will you speak at the Republican Convention?
Lieberman: If I am asked, I will speak. I will explain why John McCain is the right candidate to lead the nation but I won't go to bash that lilly livered, communist schvartse Barack Obama, that would be beneath me. I just won't engage in those histrionics against a fellow democrat, even a terrorist muslim radical like Barack.
Wallace: By the way, Evan, does Obama still beat his wife?
Bayh: Why no, I mean yes, I mean...
Wallace: Well there you have it, a vote for Obama is a vote for a heretic wife beater not content with anything less than the downfall of western civilization - back to you guys in the bunker.
My memory may be slightly askew but it was the worst interview I have ever heard. Hume and Wallace are angry second rate journalists who have sold their soul for a few measly shekels. If we are lucky enough to elect Obama it will be interesting to see if Fox can operate from the outside looking in or will it even possibly morph into a more objective network?
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Ricardo Neuman sent this to me from Thailand:
If puzzle pieces are missing in the Roxanna Brown case, the picture is clear, a terrifying vignette of relinquished justice and lost humanity in America.
Roxanna, a U.S. citizen who ran Bangkok University's ceramics museum and fiercely opposed illegal dealings in Asian antiquities, came to lecture in Seattle in May.
Federal agents arrested her on a single count of wire fraud. An assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles said inflated appraisals over her electronic signature enabled art donors to save a few thousand dollars on taxes.
Though frail at 62 with an amputated leg, she was held without bail. Too sick to appear earlier, she was to see a judge on May 13. We Americans, innocent until proven guilty, get our day in court. But she didn't make it.
However unintended, Roxanna Brown suffered capital punishment without trial because of what appears to be simple identity theft, now so common to our daily lives.
The charge is ludicrous to anyone who knew her. Even if she were guilty, it was a minor tax dodge, which in many democracies would be a civil matter.
But Roxanna spent four days in a cell, terrified and threatened with 20 years in prison and her life's work lost in scandal. She died at 2:30 a.m., screaming for help, from complications of a perforated ulcer.
"She choked to death on her own blood," her playwright brother, Fred Leo Brown, said in a You Tube video. "She died alone like an animal."
Their 92-year-old mother, he adds, may not survive the shock.
No one, apparently, is being held responsible. The indictment came from Los Angeles. Roxanna was held at Sea-Tac detention center. Few reporters challenged authorities for hard answers. New laws since 9/11 allow prosecutors to act with an impunity that was once unthinkable. Prisons, jammed beyond capacity and often privately outsourced, are opaque. U.S. marshals call their own shots.
Officials can simply stonewall reporters, or organize facts in ways that suit them best. And no one seems to care. Millions watch some guy do a goofy dance on the Web, and he ends up on front pages. Fred Brown's three soul-searing videos totaled a few thousand hits.
As an American abroad, the picture I see from a distance is of a frightened, apathetic nation that is ceding the fundamentals of what made it great.
But this is also personal. I have known Roxanna since she first came to Singapore in the 1970s to study Asian ceramics in between trips to cover the Vietnam War.
After Vietnam, Roxanna lived simply in Thailand. In 1982, I sat with her in a Bangkok clinic after doctors cut off a leg. A tuk-tuk knocked her off her bike, under a truck, and pain had sapped her will to live.
She regained her amused little smile and pursued her passion. As director of Bangkok University's Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum, she fought like a tigress to protect priceless treasures.
Just last year she told a Malaysian newspaper that dealers who falsify authenticity are destroying history.
Roxanna's electronic signature turned up in what assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns in Los Angeles described as a five-year investigation of galleries that overvalue donated Asian art for tax deductions. He told the Seattle Times she was "one of many targets" but was apparently the only one arrested.
In the charge against her, the amount in question was just under $5,000. It seemed -- and this is guesswork -- to be a prosecutor's classic twist: start with small fry and scare them into implicating bigger fish.
Fred Brown insists that someone hijacked his sister's signature. Would she have helped the sort of people she spent her life trying to thwart? Not this woman.
Any 12-year-old can attest to how easily one can manipulate reality in an electronic age when, for convenience sake, facsimile stands in for human presence.
A U.S. Attorney spokeswoman in Seattle told a reporter that Roxanna was considered a flight risk, even though an amputee in bad health, because she had dual citizenship.
Tim Ford, the Brown family's attorney, said in the Seattle Times the arrest "seems beyond overzealous." But he added, "Sadly, the law in the U.S. now gives prosecutors enormous power to arrest and charge and provides for little accountability when that power is abused."
From Paris, I emailed Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia University law professor and criminologist who travels the world as an expert witness on legal complexities.
"This is sickening," he replied. "If they denied her bail, then they lumped her in with terrorists, drug kingpins, and serial killers, in a category of people detained 'preventively' -- that is, because someone believes that she is not just a flight risk (bail deals with that) but because she is 'dangerous' and likely to commit horrific crimes that put us all at risk."
And, he stressed, they can do this with impunity.
A letter signed by hundreds of friends, including a former U.S. ambassador, condemns the "cruelty" of Roxanna's incarceration. It notes the irony that this could happen to a tireless defender of ethics in the art trade.
As her family and friends say, nothing will bring her back. But we cannot miss the wider lesson.
Fearful of a vague specter of terror and consumed by workaday lives, we are abandoning what once made us exceptional.
Such outrages pass unnoticed. Newspapers in which I write occasional op-ed pieces politely turned this subject down. We've done stuff like this before, one editor noted.
"The sad truth is that no one seems to care anymore," a visiting lawyer friend from Tucson observed when I briefed him on the case. "We have seen too much of this."
We have, and it is time to act.
It is bad enough that a blameless Afghan chicken farmer can be sent to torture and years of prison in Guantanamo because an anonymous informer covets his land.
Now this is coming home. Roxanna was no suspected terrorist; that was about tax. Her case defines us to ourselves but also to a wider world that is losing its last shreds of regard for a people who once set moral standards.
Roxanna was the exact opposite of any ugly-American caricature. She went out to experience the world, learn its languages, and appreciate its people.
We have entrusted frightening power to a faceless posse of zealots who can detain virtually at whim, leaving hapless people in the hands of indifferent jailors.
This starts at the borders.
Badgered by the New York Times, officials tallied 66 deaths in immigration custody from January 2004 to November 2007 in what the Times called "a patchwork of federal centers, county jails and privately run prisons that has become the nation's fastest-growing form of incarceration."
But it goes far beyond borders and immigrants.
We are not yet Uzbekistan. Court proceedings are public record. We know the names of civil servants; we write their paychecks. Reporters who bother are free to fill in the blanks. Citizens can make themselves heard.
Isn't it time to review what we have lost and put things right again?
As any Law and Order junkie knows, prosecutors call themselves "the People." That is all of us, Roxanna Brown included. If we forget that, our very humanity is lost.
Mort Rosenblum is editor of the quarterly, Dispatches, and author of Escaping Plato's Cave: How America's Blindness to the Rest of the World Threatens our Survival.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
This link is broken - click here!
Republicans are great revisionists. You know all of Clinton's economic success was really a result of Bush, Reagan, "the market" or the Republican Congress. I am sure that in the future, the GOP apologists will sugarcoat for and genuflect to the present administration, which is by all rational accounts and sane measures, a colossal failure.
So I think that for my own peace of mind, it is important that we who are living and gritting our teeth through the waning days of Bush II, set the facts straight for the future historical record.
When Bill Clinton left office at the end of his presidency, the country had a $559 billion dollar surplus. We now have a $400 billion dollar deficit.
Bill Clinton left the economy with a net gain of 22 million jobs. Bush can take credit for about 5 million, unless we have a major implosion at the end of his term.
I have been researching national debt and deficit and the sad truth is that no Republican administration since World War II has ever reduced federal spending. The last time a Republican Congress reduced spending was in 1946 under Truman.
By the way the National Debt, as of this morning, was $9,521,068,419,409.67. The budget is 3.1 trillion dollars, not accounting war funding and black operations which tend to get funded through emergency expenditures.
This administration cut taxes and raised spending so dramatically that it is no wonder that we are perched on the precipice of disaster. We have doubled the U.S. debt as it relates to GDP. Remember what they said when people cautioned that it was foolish to give the surplus back to the taxpayers? Balderdash, it's the people's money. Give them a tax cut. We are now facing our desserts. The supply sider's mantra has now unequivocally been proven to be bullshit - hopefully I won't have to read another one of Jack Kemp's editorial broadsides again.
The GOP is still pissed off about Roosevelt, woman's suffrage and the abolition of child labor. Yet they have been proven over and over again to be the biggest spenders of all, like drunken Shriners cavorting around at a hooker's convention in Las Vegas.
When Lawrence Lindsay suggested at the start of the Iraq war that the cost would be $100 to $200 billion dollars, he was chastised and demoted. The administration pegged the cost at 50 to 60 billion. Well guess what, we are now approaching $500 billion.
I guess that Osama has won the war, after all. We have bled our economy dry in Iraq and Afghanistan, with more terrorists alive today than there have ever been, all newly rekindled to fight Allah's battle against the great Satan. Bush, who came into office criticizing Clinton for his attempt at nation building in the Balkans, has become the greatest proponent of nation building in history.
Gas prices are now in the mid four buck range. I believe that gas was about $1.90 when Clinton left office. The oil companies are making money hand over fist with record profits, are sitting on 68 million acres of untapped leases, but are crying out for more land to plunder. The administration has turned a deaf ear to alternate fuels for the last eight years, with energy policy being tightly scripted by the producers. Republicans have consistently fought against higher mileage standards for Detroit over the last 30 years, in fact we have had a net decline. We are still wildly grabbing for the fossil fuel teat, with a reserve that can not last the next 50 years, while renewable sources of energy are scoffed at and left undeveloped. If sunlight or wind power was taxable and could be sold through the oil companies present distribution networks, you better believe that we would have current energy solutions.
The GOP chides the slim majority "do nothing" democratic congress but has been totally obstructionist, shutting down over 50 prospective energy bills in the house during the last term. The President has run to the far right of his party, can not forsake partisanship and squandered any hope for bipartisan coalition.
Today I read that Texas is going to start bible study in the high schools. The demarcation lines for the culture wars are clearly drawn in the sand. The Red Cross and Planned Parenthood have been ostracized because they advocate family planning. Multiculturalism is the enemy, never mind the fact that big business is chafing over the lack of cheap labor.
Let us pray that our next leader, whoever he may be, can run a government for all Americans. Let us not forget the morass we are in today, in the hopes of not making the same mistakes in the future. But if a democrat, once again, rights our economic ship, don't be surprised to see a bunch of puffed up conservatives taking credit for everything.
I tossed and turned last night, thinking about my decision today, a decision that could change my life forever. I gently shook my wife's shoulder and her eye's quickly fluttered to life. In a low, measured voice, I told her my plans, my plans for coming out of the closet. " Please baby", she pleaded."Think of everything we have ever built up together, our life, your job, poof, down the drain." But I can and will not be dissuaded. I just can't live the lie any more.
I am an Abba fan.
There, I said it. I feel better. Why do those four kooky little swedes hold such a hypnotic hold on me? Now I won't play the stuff in public- It is more of a shameful act best engaged in behind one's door and out of the public eye. Geez, I've tried to stop but it's like that intoxicating candy jar in the kitchen, come on kid, just one more bite. My wife does not share in these indulgences, frankly she goes running out the door in a frantic when those bangled, bubbly little nordic songbirds coo their dulcet syrupy disco masterpieces. She has even thrown the CD case at the wall on occasions so I try to limit her exposure for my own emotional and physical well being.
I am not sure if there's a twelve step program for my malady and frankly the idea of swilling bad coffee at the baptist church, while holding hands with other Abba offenders is probably more juice than my wracked soul can take. I am more like a log cabin Abbaite, spouting the hard rock corporate line at functions and in public, while I live this sordid secret life.
I join many other public figures, who have braved humiliation by disclosing their love for the effervescent scandinavian quartet - Colin Powell, Elvis Costello, KISS, Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious, John McCain, Pete Townshend and Meryl Streep. All came out like I have, risking ridicule, to proclaim their love and fealty.
But don't ask me to go see Mama Mia, I just don't have the balls to do that.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
When I drive through the Southwest, something that happens about 6 to 8 times a year, I am usually in a rental vehicle without a cd or tape player. I have an ipod that I don't ever use stuffed in some office drawer so I depend on the car radio. The first part of my trip I can get the Highway Stations in the Mojave, which is kind of pablum classic rock, but I flit around the dial. You can usually get a decent station out of Vegas when you get close to the river. I lose Sportstalk about 2 hours from my home and find it again near Phoenix.
Occasionally I will listen to Christian radio, where the saved and righteous will ward off Sodom and Gomorrah with either Bible Study, which I listen to once in a while or timely topical rants regarding the present human conundrum. This morphs into Catholic Radio by the time you get to Santa Fe, which has a decidedly right to life flavor but is pretty unique.
There are a lot of third stringer Rush Limbaugh clones lurking around the airspace, Jerry Doyle, Rusty Somebody or other, Pipsqueaked voice Mark Levin. I listened to Dennis Miller for a few minutes last week until a lady from Oregon called up and started making racist coments about Obama and about changing the national fruit to Watermelon and I had to shut it off. Evil lurking on the right... very little progressive radio around, kind of dig Ed Schultz but the left is definitely undermanned.
Once you get to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, it gets real effete and erudite with jazz, classical and the like. Used to be a great pirate blues station operating with a tremendous playlist but I think they disappeared.
You get some excellent classic country stations on the reservation, old treasures like George Jones, Faron Young and the rest of the people that you won't hear on your new homogenized country stations. Sometimes in the small towns there are shows where people call in to sell things from home, from axles to washing machines that work great except maybe you have to turn them off manually. I heard a woman call in selling a Billy goat and two kids and I can only assume they were progeny of the goat. This is great radio and americana.
My favorite station, the one I always ultimately turn to, is KTNN 660, the Voice of the Navajo Nation. I think that it is based out of Window Rock and it's definitely one of a kind. You get cool country mixed with Navajo chants and dances. English seamlessly mixed with Dineh...You just heard Shorty Charlie singing Ain't she pretty heyaa, heyaa cascading into a navajo drum song with the beautiful low intonation of the men interspersed with yelping wolf calls of the women singers. I don't think it will surprise you when I tell you that I do not speak a word of Navajo but this stuff is so soothing and grounded that you get hypnotized by the beauty.
I like to listen to KTNN in the early morning when I have lots of miles in front of me. It puts me in a great zone for the day. If you are driving through the southwest, give it a shot!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
"Where a man first puts his feet will be his home forever"
Got back from Santa Fe the other day. It was a great trip, not necessarily financially the most rewarding ever, but definitely adequate in this time of economic contraction. And spiritually, emotionally, and physically quite rejuvenating. I had qualms about going on the heels of my heart attack but in reality I was just tilting at windmills and all was cool.
There is something about driving the open road in the southwest that clears my head. Put me in Hawaii for a couple weeks and I go dingy driving around and around the volcanic rock, but give me the southwest and an infinite horizon line and I am at peace. Once drove practically all the way back from Chaco Canyon on back dirt roads.
I left early morning, first of July, in a rented cargo van. I usually use a small box truck, but some porn company had evidently taken it to Las Vegas and never returned it. Would have to get the kooties out anyway. I rented a bigger truck but the seat wouldn't go back, my chin practically rested on the steering wheel and I knew that after 30 hours in it I would end up in traction so I settled on the van which turned out to be fine.
I gassed up for the first time near Barstow and the partial fill cost me eighty five bucks. That didn't hurt nearly as much as having to drive by Tommy's Burgers, my old chiliburger stop, since I have sworn off red meat post infarction. When you get into the Mojave it can be kind of bleak, maybe a good place to hideout and write a novel but not to necessarily make your full time residence. Saw some cool deconstructing signs and buildings to photograph on route 66 but by the time I figured it out I was past the exit and down the road. Maybe I can take the slow route when I go back next month. After 50 years I have finally figured out that wearing sunglasses not only cuts down on glare but you don't get as tired. I'm a slow learner, what can I say?
Drove through Amboy, Ludlow, Needles all the hit faves and then Seligman, Williams, through Flag, Winslow and the last gasp to Holbrook. Found a cheap hotel where I could watch the van at night but since I didn't have a weapon with me,if it had been stolen, would have just waved goodbye as it disappeared in the distance. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Leslie had told me to buy another club for the steering wheel ( have about 5 others with lost keys) so I stopped at a Walmart in Navajo Land. Love going there feels like a foreign land, large squat women, long haired hubbies, all linking up to modern western convenience. I saw some real serious tattooed gangster thugs in the parking lot as well, which is also not totally unusual.
When I was young and handsome and cruising through the reservation, it was easy to resonate with the native girls but I am afraid that my 50's paunch has lost its aphrodisiac powers and charm. Stayed up half the night playing my old guitar on the bed.
Usually stop at Flying J or Petro. I wonder if other men have the same weird prescient feeling that they will open a toilet stall and just know there will be piss on the seat or worse? At times I just cant take it and will drive another hour out of pure disgust. The cashiers at these truckstops are their own breed - I could go on for an hour about the stereotype. Exit 9 to Parker, the hard bitten lady was sporting an awful shiner but for once I thought it inappropriate to pry with small talk.
My buddy Kerry told me to eat at an italian joint in Holbrook, and true to form, it sucked. Never, I mean never accept culinary advice from Kerry Vernon Johnson! I ate too much of the crappy bread, then felt guilty. Half of the tasteless salad. Off red meat for about one month. I have had a lot of people giving my unasked for diet advice lately and I would like to suggest publicly that you all kiss my ass. And I really enjoy it immensely when you put your hand on my stomach like you can hear the baby's heartbeat.
I left early the next day for Santa Fe - about a 5 hour drive. Pass the locales of Iyanbito, Querino, Coolidge, Twin Arrows, Dead River. This is where the trip gets really gorgeous. Also where I felt glad to be alone. Several people graciously offered to drive out with me but I really enjoy my solitude on the drive through the numerous buttes and washes.
The show was a blur and true to form. Located at the Museo at the Railyard, I watched my compatriots, some friends for the last 15 years or so, all show up and pile in like an old gypsy caravan or Dead concert. We go out to eat and tell some lies and drink good red wine. Made a bunch of small sale.
Lots of regular customers passed up the show this year- maybe because it started on the fourth and maybe because they didn't want to be tempted in this economy. I played it smart with a lot of cheaper items that sold early on opening night, a rarity for me. Bought some cool posters of Aretha and James Brown circa 1965 that had been found in a closet in San Antonio and that I am thinking of keeping.
I moved to New Mexico in 1963. My stepfather worked at White Sands Missile Base for 5 years. I was lucky. One of my greatest memories was the Gallup Ceremonial Pow Wow. Watched a blind Navajo Sandpainter in the middle of a mandala he constructed with perfect razor sharp lines. New Mexico was really different in those days. Gallup was largely unpaved. I will never forget seeing hundreds of people jump the freights that rolled through town at the same time. Dangling off the cars - some falling. some drunk. The trains would stretch forever and you could wait an eternity for one to pass by.
I remember glimpses of my stepfather saving a young man from a burning car one early morning while we were traveling a lonely road on the way to Alamogordo. Like a doors song. In those days, there were adobe ruins everywhere - time and entropy have reduced them to memory.
Read a great book on the trip - Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx. As a chauvinist male, don't read a lot of women writers but she is outstanding. About Hog Farms in the panhandle. Enjoyed the fireworks from afar, the fourth of July is always my favorite day of the year. Got up every morning and walked to the La Fonda Hotel to get a bite and a New York Times. Ate trout every morning, something I always do there - along with a heaping dose of green chile! Stayed away from the sopapillas.
My wonderful partner Leslie flew in to help me with the show and the drive back. She is loved by all and it was nice to be with her. Weather was cooler than California with nice breezes and an occasional afternoon monsoon. Big gorgeous clouds like what we never get...
We rolled home pretty casually, stopping in one of my favorite towns, Flagstaff to walk around and shop for a couple hours. Learned that a Hopi Carver we used to know a little bit, Wallace, had just died.
Anyhow, that's my trip diary - good to be home a little richer, a little happier and going back in three weeks to do it all over again.
Vaya Con Dios,