Monthly Archives: July 2016

RNC Overload

In March 2013, I started producing a weekly blog and podcast, and now at the end of July 2016, the total adds up to approximately 40 months, or 160 blogs, each one running between 500 and 600 words. Easy math tallies up to a minimum of 80,000 words. The typical word count of a novel is 80,000 words, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray ran a mere 78,462, which means I have surpassed that by almost 2,000 words. Oscar, you slacker.

Is this my long-winded way of telling you I am now suffering from writer’s block? Not at all. What I’m suffering from is what I call writer’s Mount Vesuvius. I have so many thoughts running through my brain right now I could ramble on and perhaps rival Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which ran 587,287 words. I can hear my editor pleading right now, “Please don’t.” Yes, I desperately need an editor because I have an apparent disregard for punctuation and a stream of consciousness that could make William Faulkner step back and say, “Say what?”

Here are some of my thoughts right now. The end of VHS is near. I know that because I just read it. I have a box full of old cassette tapes in my closet containing years of radio shows, and those tapes died with the dinosaur. The vinyl record disappeared but is now making a comeback. And the Republican National Convention featured an entrance by Donald Trump that rivaled the WWE; Rudy Giuliani did his best audition for the lead role in the Hermann Wilhelm Göring story. In his attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton, the Double WHOPPER from New Jersey Chris Christie angered the people of Nigeria with his statements about bringing back our girls, when in fact Nigeria’s government also opposed designating Boko Haram a terrorist group. And Mike Pence, the man who wouldn’t shut the f— up, delivered a filibuster, not a speech, and the Trumpet missed a kiss on Pence’s forehead. Long live the air kiss.

So I watched the CHEETOS-colored fool strut and fret for over one hour on the stage, and as I sat drowning my fears and anger with ice cream and cookies, wondering why I had given up alcohol. lt occurred to me that Donald Trump intended to talk long enough that people might forget that he had made anti-gay speeches, made fun of women, Latinos, and African-Americans not to mention my mother’s Native American people, and literally mocked with his body movements and words a disabled reporter. Donald Trump did one thing very well, as did Hitler. He delivered gloom and doom and played on people’s fears. He said he was the “law and order candidate,” and I expected to hear the theme from Gunsmoke in the background. I saw enough ten-gallon cowboy hats being held up by half-gallon brains to last me the rest of my life and not one black Bart in the crowd.

I’m not going to believe that a lying misogynist, bigot, racist, homophobic crook can change his stripes no matter how many speechwriters he and his wife and little trumpets overpay or how long he looks smug and rants and raves on the stage. Now back to my ice cream and cookies. I wonder how a scotch and vanilla ice cream float would taste?

In the podcast, there will be rock and roll and the answer to this trivia question: What do Joe Walsh and Ringo Starr have in common? I hope you’ll join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.

CLICK HERE for the podcast from the shores of Rambling Harbor

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Crazy, the Following Blog Is Color Blind.

 

In 1993 a group did their set at Lollapalooza in Philadelphia completely nude except for duct tape over their mouths. They refuse to play any music, and simply stood there for 25 minutes with the letters PMRC written on their chests, what group was it and why did they do this? The answer is at the end of the podcast.

Five weeks ago, I decided to look at different years in my life. I decided to do this not because the years were particularly noteworthy because I was there, but because they were years when I was there. I have been told many times that I should write a book about my life, but I have never really felt the need or had the ability to do that. The written word is not my strong suit, and frankly, I find writing about myself really boring. I always get the feeling I’m reliving my life, and I think, “Ho-hum, been there, done that.” I also have an issue with timelines, remembering when something actually happened to me. Many times, I use music to help me zero in on a time and place or event. For example, last week it was the Bruce Springsteen song “Born to Run” that helped usher me back to my deliverance from the shores of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a ride all the way to Washington, D.C., from a woman who became my friend and lover and her insane cat named Clare. She was Siamese and always in heat (the cat, not the woman), and if you ever spent a night with an in-heat Siamese cat that howls throughout the night, then you will know it’s an experience to be lived only once.

It will not be the music I’ll remember when I look back on this year. I’ll remember 2016 as a very sad year, a year when I dodged death’s bullets while losing friends either very near or whom I had come to know through their music. As Nora Ephron wrote, “Death is a sniper.” I will remember this year as the year that technology became even more brazen in the numbing of humans. I was on a train the other day with 12 other passengers and counted 10 looking at their smartphones. Smartphone is a smart word because it has become our ruler, our escape from reality as the world goes crazily whizzing by us.
The world has gone crazy, or does it just seem that way? In fact, it has always been crazy, but now when we get jolted away from our palm-size entertainer, we just see it close up and personal better than we ever could in days gone by. We wring our hands, we cry, we pray, we rant, we rave, and we ask why. We point fingers and assign blame. But the fact still remains that nothing changes and nothing ever will until we look inside ourselves and stop worshipping neon signs, computerized gods, and raging lunatics. We walk around with our shoulders bent, our faces in our palms, talking with some cyber warrior and playing with ourselves. Until we get our heads up and face the reality of the world and say, “I am the change that’s needed,” until that day, things will always be the way they are, crazy.
There will be more thoughts and some rock and roll in the podcast on the shores of Rambling Harbor. I hope you will join me there.

Click Here For The Rambling Harbor Podcast

1975

Something happened in 1975 that continues to radically change the world. Do you know what it is? The answer is in the podcast.

In 1975, the Vietnam War ended. Even though by the end of 1973 almost all U.S. military personnel had left South Vietnam and there had been a peace agreement, it wasn’t until the city of Saigon was surrendered on April 30 that all remaining Americans were evacuated, ending the Vietnam War.

For entertainment in 1975, Saturday Night Live premiered on NBC. George Carlin was the host of the first show, and still today, when I watch a video of George Carlin, I am captivated by how he combined humor with political and social insights. The big movie that year was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, winning the top Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress. In music, the number one song was “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain & Tennille, scoring number two was “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell, and Elton John held the number three spot with “Philadelphia Freedom.” It really was a pretty crappy year for music, blending country, pop schlock, and disco on the Billboard Hot 100, but a good song running up the charts that year was Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” a song that will always bring mixed memories and a melancholy tear to my eye.

I had been living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with my first wife, a woman I had met during my underground days, a woman who was 15 years my senior and had three children when I met her (actually, I met and adored the children first). A descendant traced her lineage to one of the oldest aristocratic families in New York and to the first superintendent of West Point. Sometimes when I write these things and look back on my life I have this urge to say, really? And then the answer comes booming back at me. Yes, really!

I left this woman when we were joined by her boyfriend, some “miss-guided” soul she had met while I was in prison whose sudden appearance I’ll never forget. I wish I could say it was a graceful departure. If a quick punch to his face and a broken nose, his nose, was graceful (yes, I did that. Me. Mr. Non-violent), then I guess it was. After that, I spent the next three nights sleeping on the sands of Myrtle Beach or on a pew in a nearby Episcopal church (in those days they left the doors unlocked, and I figured after all I was a seminarian dropout, or more like a seminarian runaway, so the church wouldn’t mind).

After a few days on the beach and the church pews, I decided I wanted to go back to Washington, D.C, a place I had become familiar with in the mid-1960’s, and to a community that had been started by Mitch Snyder. Mitch was one of the band of brothers in Danbury Federal Prison when I was there, and he had begun a sister community in D.C. to the one started by Phil Berrigan in Baltimore. Being without a car, the only way I could get there was by what I use to call “By-Air,” which was standing on the side of the road putting my thumb in the air, asking “Air-you-going-my-way?”

I got lucky. A car pulled over, driven by a very attractive young woman, and as I got in, the radio was blasting “Born to Run.” And being tramps like us we drank  wine and played “Born to Run” all the way to Washington, D.C.

In light of current events, I’m not sure what will be in the podcast, but there will be some rock and roll trivia on the shores of Rambling Harbor. I hope you’ll join me there.

Click Here To The Podcast On The Shores Of Rambling Harbor

 

 

1990

In 1990 the top three billboard songs, starting at number three, were “Hold On” by Wilson Philips, at number two, “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette, and holding down the number three spot was “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor. In 1990, a huge tribute concert was held at Wembley Stadium. The performers included Anita Baker, Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel, the Neville Brothers, and Neil Young, and the event was broadcast to 61 countries around the world. The question is, who was this tribute held for? The answer is in the podcast.

For a moment, I want to take a look at the current year of 2016. I just learned that Paul Simon says (and yes, just at the moment my fingers touched the keys I heard it also: “Simon says”) he’s ready to hang up his guitar and quit music. He has been on tour and his latest album, Stranger to Stranger, is getting rave reviews with the single “Wristband” getting the most plays. His current tour ended July 1 in Queens, the New York borough where he grew up. Following that, as he put it, he intends to drift and travel for a year, perhaps with his third wife, Edie Brickell. Paul is quoted as saying “It’s an act of courage to let go…. I am going to see what happens if I let go. Then I’m going to see, who am I?” Me? I totally understand. I am one who has let go so many times it feels like holding on.

In 1990 I again found myself outside the so-called exciting world of radio broadcasting and went to work for a mental health company that ran group homes for adults suffering from what was then called mental retardation. Many had spent their lives institutionalized and in many cases under very bad conditions. As a result of deinstitutionalization, a process begun in the 1920s and increased during the 1950s and 1960s, many intellectually disabled people were placed in these group homes. When I started doing this type of work, a priest told me that he had also done this work and the burnout rate was very high. If you lasted three years, you were considered a long-time employee. I lasted five years, becoming a program coordinator the last three years. I carried a pager that rested by my bed at night, and if it went off in the middle of the night, it meant one of the clients was having an episode that could last for hours. I was heading for violence, and the restrictions on what we could do to control our clients was justifiably very strict. In the podcast, I do have a funny story about one of these episodes. After five years, I was called to the main office where with deep apologies I was laid off due to budget cuts. I almost did a happy dance. I wasn’t burnt out, I was fried.

One of the major events of 1990 that stands out in my mind was the release of a man who fought against a system of racial segregation in South Africa and because of his determined resistance spent 27 years of his life in jail under very harsh conditions. Nelson Mandela and his fellow prisoners were routinely subjected to inhumane punishments for the slightest offenses. While in confinement, he earned a bachelor of law degree from the University of London and served as a mentor to his fellow prisoners, encouraging them to seek better treatment through nonviolent resistance. He also smuggled out political statements and a draft of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, published five years after his release. After he was released, he continued his fight for human rights and eventually became the first black president of South Africa.

I will have more music news and history, that funny story about my days in mental health, and the answer to the trivia question all in the podcast on the shores of Rambling Harbor.  Join me there.

This Way To The Podcast On The Shores Of Rambling Harbor