The Rust Belt Rattled

This was first written and published one year ago today.

Well, the Make America Gasp Again campaign is over. It ended in a night of shock and awe-my-God as Donald Trump walked all over the prognosticator’s predictions as they watched their nice little map of blue states and red states fall to pieces like the jigsaw puzzle maps I constantly got for my birthday when I was a kid. It seemed I heard the same mantra on every channel I went to: What are we seeing? How could this be happening?

What was happening was the mad-as-hell scene from the 1976 movie Network. People might not have been screaming out their windows at the top of their lungs, but your average Joe or Mary were rattling the rust off the belt in the upper northeastern United States, the Great Lakes, and the Midwest, areas suffering economic decline, population loss, and urban decay due to the shrinking of its once-powerful industrial sector. Joe and Mary didn’t get to move on up to the east side, and if they got any pie at all, it was old and stale. Now they are just mad as hell at what they see as false promises and business as usual in Washington and are ready to have their voice heard and make a change. Apparently, the loudest they could scream was by voting for the biggest change they could, a racist, sexist person who makes fun of disabled people and calls for offensive bombing attacks on sovereign nations because someone gave the middle finger. This is a very short list of the insane thoughts of the man some now call president, but maybe when you have been kicked long enough and you feel powerless and someone with high visibility comes along shouting many of the things you feel, even if you don’t agree with all of them, you’ll let them get away with groping women and make fun of the disabled just as long as they seem to be telling the establishment to take an effing walk off a short pier.

I was driving a young friend home from work the other day, and we were talking about the election and the surprise we both had at how completely Trump marched to victory. I got on my soapbox about the 1960’s and protest and “The People” working for change. My friend, while young in years, is wise, and she said, “I am afraid that kind of passion is gone.”

Did you hear? The immigration website in Canada crashed with people wanting to leave America (or at least wanting to know how). To me, leaving is the wrong move. Stay in this country and organize, write, talk, march, protest. Do everything you can to make Donald Trump miserable and bring his regime to a quick end. Remember, it is still a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and this is our country. He may be in the White House, but he can be impeached. Watch him closely and draw attention to his every false move. In my mind, he’s only one discovered crime behind Richard Nixon. If there are enough people to crash Canada’s immigration website, there are enough people to bring his Big Top Circus in D.C. crashing down on the clown’s head.

I would like to say this is my last political blog and write about cute cats and puppies and clever kids that do tricks, at least for a while. I would like to say that and so I did, but I may also have lied.

 

 

Advertisements

Wounded Knee Remembered

It was a cold 29th of December in the year 1890. When one thinks about the year, it was only 123 years ago. It was not that long ago when you consider that there is a woman in England who 3 years ago celebrated her 109th birthday. My grandfather was 98 when he died and that was in 1968. This means he was born in 1866 and was a young man of 24 when the Massacre at Wounded Knee took place. My grandfather and my mother were Cherokee, born in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Their story: The “Trail Of Tears,” a forced death march of the Cherokees is a story for telling at another time.

We are in many ways a very young country. At least, we are young in terms of the arrival of the Pilgrims and the desecration of a very old land and its original people. The people who had farmed and hunted the land for hundreds upon hundreds of years, before the settlers came. People who worshiped the land had reverence for nature and the animals that served their needs. They took only what they needed and would have never polluted the skies or dirtied the waters.

And so, on that cold December day in 1890, 500 troops of the US 7th cavalry supported by Hotchkiss guns, guns which were lightweight, made for travel, allowing the Calvary to surround the encampment of the Miniconjou, Sioux ( Lakota) and Hunkpapa.

The army had orders to transport the Sioux by railroad to Omaha, Nebraska. The day before the Sioux had given up their flight from the troops and agreed to peacefully turn themselves in at the Pine Ridge Agency in South Dakota. They were the last of the Sioux to do that.

In the process of disarming the Sioux, a deaf Sioux by the name of Black Coyote could not hear the order to surrender his rifle. This set off a fight that left approximately 300 Lakota women, men and children dead. About 25 troops were killed; many believed to be the victims of friendly fire in the chaos. About 150 Lakota fled and the rest were left on the ground to die from hypothermia.

After this battle, the most Medals of Honor, the highest recognition for bravery were the most ever awarded to U.S. soldier of all wars in the United States… and to think it was all because a deaf Lakota could not hear the order to surrender his rifle.

In witness to how little we have learned, 83 years later February 27, 1973, the town of Wounded Knee was seized peacefully by followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM). The control of the town lasted for 71 days. There is disagreement as to whether the town was cordoned off as AIM claims, or if the blockade took place after the takeover. However, the reasons that AIM was there was to oppose Oglala tribal chairman Richard A.” Dick” Wilson. Wounded Knee was chosen for obvious reasons.

By the morning of February 28, the police had set up roadblocks, cordoned off the area and began arresting people trying to leave the town. The equipment brought by the military included fifteen armored personnel carriers, rifles, grenade launchers, flares and 133,000 rounds of ammunition. There were paramilitary personnel armed with automatic weapons, snipers, helicopters, armored personnel carriers equipped with .50 mm caliber machine guns.

One eyewitness, a journalist, chronicled…” sniper fire from federal helicopters”, “bullets dancing around in the dirt and “sounds of shooting all over town.” Throughout the conflict, Frank Clearwater, a Wounded Knee occupier, was shot in the head while asleep and died on April 25. Lawrence Lamont was shot in the heart and died April 26. U.S. Marshall Lloyd Grimm was paralyzed from the waist down, again by a gunshot wound.

AIM claims that the government tried starving out the occupants, and the occupiers smuggled food and medical supplies past roadblocks set up by Dick Wilson.

Now here comes what may be a surprise to the reader: I was an eyewitness to at least a part of the occupation and can certify that the military presence, the roadblocks, and the attempt to starve not just men, but women and children as well were real.

On a March night with a jeep loaded with peanut butter and bread and having informed the powers that be, that all I would be carrying was food. I took a back road (actually it wasn’t a road at all) into the town and having arrived and returned, counted 27 bullet holes in my jeep. I had dropped off my supplies and left the same way I came in. When I read about bullets dancing around in the dark and the dirt, I smiled, because some of those bullets were dancing behind, around and in front of me. You will never see my name associated with this movement, and I am not even sure that any of the occupants of that small town of Pine Ridge, South Dakota ever knew my name. That was the way I wanted it, and besides, I wanted out as quickly as possible. I do not want to prove any of this; most of it can be proven by history.

However, I will tell you that I often smile to think that some child ate and lived because of a peanut butter sandwich instead of a gun.

Heroes

It will be easy for some people, likely many people to think I’m re-posting this in a see I told you so manner and on some level, that may be true.When I first published it I got a lot of grief about it from people saying I was defending a thug, a gang member, and a killer. What I was trying to say then and what I am trying to say now is we should never rush to judgment of anyone and especially our so-called heroes when they disappoint us. This link is the up-to-date news about Aaron Hernandez and my blog from April follows. http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/aaron-hernandez-lawyer-brain-showed-severe-case-of-cte/ar-AAsjSlj?OCID=ansmsnnews11

We place our heroes on pedestals, athletes because they can catch or run or hit a ball better than anyone else, movie stars because they can deliver a line written by someone else better than anyone else, or in the case of some actors like an Eastwood or Stallone because they can grimace or groan better than anyone else. We place them all on high and kneel before a throne called the box office. We pay them ridiculous amounts of money and let them live fairy-tale lives, but god help them if they disappoint us by proving they are human, that they have feet of clay.

I am reminded of a scene from a good movie called My Favorite Year, released in 1982, starring a really good actor, Peter O’Toole. O’Toole plays an aging, swashbuckling actor named Allan Swann who, because he is also a raging drunk, is taken under the wing of a junior comedy writer named Benjy who has always looked up to the actor. When he learns that his hero has feet of clay, he starts to become disillusioned, and when Swann proclaims that he is not a hero, he is an actor, Benjy says he need heroes, needs them larger than life, needs to look up to them.

Benjy was right. We need real-life heroes. We all need someone to look up to, and we need heroes trying to save us, something we can believe in. When we find out they are not who we thought, that they have an Achilles heel, it totally disrupts our emotions, sending us head over heels into an “I can’t accept this” state of mind.

It may surprise many New Englanders, but there are people across America who have barely, if ever, heard of Aaron Hernandez. He was a hometown hero, and when he seemingly let us down, some turned on him with a vengeance. When news broke that he had apparently killed himself, many danced on his grave, forgetting that we were the ones who made him larger than life. It was our hard-earned dollars that gave him a $40 million a year contract, and it was our hero-worship that made him infallible.

I think we do need larger-than-life heroes, but we are not going to find them on the silver screen, the baseball diamond, or the football gridiron, and we don’t need to pay them ridiculous amounts of money. The real heroes are fire fighters, police, teachers, and doctors, to name just a few, and how about the amputee who carried his guide across the finish line at the Boston Marathon? Now that’s my idea of a hero. But I will not forget he is also human, not a god.

You may be convinced that Aaron Hernandez did it, but I am not convinced. I am convinced that he was a person with a multitude of emotional and mental issues and a victim of a system that would have rather had him play football than help him with his problems, as we knelt before a throne called the box office.

Just Resting

 “Catch the Wind” is a song written and recorded by British singer-songwriter Donovan, released as a single in the United Kingdom on March 12, 1965, through Pye Records. It reached No. 4 in the United Kingdom singles chart and No. 23 on the United States Billboard Hot 100. In 1965 I was refusing to accept any role in the slaughter of Americans and Vietnamese people. It was a time of fear, friends, and music. There was a struggle for sanity that followed me throughout my life and on some level, continues today, and it has taken its toll.

Years later, circa 1973, I was sitting in a bus station in St Petersburg, Florida, waiting for a ride that would take me back to Washington, D.C. Bus stations are curious places full of curious people, and I have spent more than my fair share of time in them. I had a long wait for my ride home, and I sat there listening to the public-address system announce departures for places in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, New York, and all points north, south, east, and west. I watched as people broke into a full gallop to get to one loading area or another, all desperately trying to outrun time in a great hurry to get to the next place in their future or to escape the place they had just been. I was also anxious to be getting on with the getting on of it when this old gentleman in old clothes with an old beard and tired eyes sat down on a bench not far from me. For a long time we both sat in silence and listened to the speakers calling out the departing and arriving of steel and flesh when he looked over at me and said with a bit of a sigh and some bewilderment at the scene unfolding before us, “I’m not going anywhere myself. I’m just resting.”

People tell me that I have an issue with being in the moment. I always seem to be trying to outguess the past or fool the future. It’s a little like New England weather: We are either waiting for it to get better or expecting it to get worse. I used to wish the days away when the cold gray sky and bitter winds brought only early sunsets. But when the trees begin to blossom and the creeks and rivers begin to run free and the maple syrup flows, there is no place else I want to be.

In the last two months, I have literally brought myself to a screeching halt (maybe I should say screeching and screaming). I don’t stop easily. Then I realized that as Donovan sang, I can’t catch the wind, and in so many ways, despite my running, I am still sitting in that St. Petersburg bus station, but now, suddenly, I’m the old man not going anywhere. I’m just resting.

 

Thoughts

I’ve spent two months mostly alone, sometimes hovering between fight-and-flight and self-evaluation, and this blog will barely scrape the surface. I’m not sure where my blogs will go from here or if I will do them every week, but for starters, I want to thank everyone for the good wishes and help before my surgery and after and give special thanks to Bill and Michelle, Ellen and Sarah, and Kathy. You all know why.

I haven’t set key to screen since early February. It would sound so poetic to say quill to parchment, but alas, I live in the age of technology, of Internet correspondence and cyber snoopers, and in a time when I can be spied on through my television or listened to through my phone. The only safe place might be in the woods, talking to the trees, but do I need to be careful around that knothole and that raccoon wearing a mask? Obviously, I also live in a world where it’s possible to become paranoid. After all, who would want to surveil me, a small unheard of blogger, living somewhere on the east coast in a tiny place called Rambling Harbor?

Have you ever been surveilled or how about that riskiest of undertakings, solo-surveilled? Well, that’s what I’ve been up to, solo-surveilling, and it’s been a trip. Hell, the 1970s had Transcendental Meditation, why not solo-surveilling today? Of course, I’m assuming everyone is on to the word surveilled, which has been used ad nauseam lately.  The first known use of surveilled dates to 1884. There are multiple ways to surveil a person, depending on just how personal you intend to get with another human being without their knowledge. This has been going on for 133 years, but it was called what it Is, spying! I imagine spying died out with the quill and parchment, and I suppose it sounds much more polite to say we surveilled him rather than we spied on him.

While waiting for surgery for a new, improved part to be placed in my knee, I realized that this body, which has endured so much and has served me so well, is finally breaking down. They can replace a part here or there, but eventually they will run out of fixables, and I will follow the road that so many of my friends have passed down. I am a member of a vanishing breed, and we will be remembered. My cat Chloe is also growing old, and I watch as her leaps from floor to window ledge, which use to flow as smooth as the cheetah that in her heart she still is, now take a little more effort. Chloe is no longer a baby as she faces her 14th birthday come this September, and while she may not be a baby girl anymore, she is my little lady, and we are both at a time when we might expire before the expiration dates on our food containers.

While facing surgery, I learned something more about courage, not my own but my wife’s. I was afraid of this relatively minor operation, somewhat justified by the fact that my only other trip under the knife for a relatively minor surgery almost killed me: They sliced a major artery, and I almost didn’t make it off the operating table. At night alone with just my thoughts bouncing off the canyons inside my head, I thought about all the times that Jennifer had awaited chemotherapy, drugs that would destroy her body to hopefully save her life. There were no guarantees, and then another miracle, another 6 months, maybe?  I always knew how bravely she faced those trials and how there was always a smile and hope and love, but now I have come to know better what she meant when she said she was terrified.

Recovering, I watched the world go by as King Rump traded Meals on Wheels for meals with wings as he flew back and forth to Florida. I became angrier when he said that the National Endowment for the Arts was to be no more and many forms of our educational system were being dismantled and elderly people were in the crosshairs of many of his budget cuts. But the military budget would be the biggest ever. I guess if you’re going to march men and women off to die, why educate them or let them appreciate the arts? And there’s no need to take care of the elderly if you’re going to kill off the population before they grow old.

I had a dream the other day. This was one of those trance-like sessions where you are totally awake, maybe doing some odd job around the house. Suddenly you realize the truth of it all: the world did end, we are dead, and this is the evil place.  And yes, I just called King Rump the Prince of Hell!

All the News That Wasn’t

Breaking News: King Rump believes that terrorists have commandeered the carousel at the Coney Island amusement park and are making the ponies run in circles. Furthermore, he says a Giant Ape is assaulting his Rump in New York, the Towers, that is.  And in Sweden, Sweden of all places, Sweden!  people are so poor they must go to the beach without clothes. And right here at home, right in my own backyard of Rambling Harbor where marijuana has been legalized, King Rump is reporting that chickens are so stoned they no longer have any desire to cross the street.

And Now Some Truth: This blog will be published on Sunday, February 26, and the following Sunday I will be in the hospital recovering from partial knee replacement surgery scheduled to take place on Friday, March 3. I have just found out that the hospital where I will be offers free complimentary lap dancers, er, laptops. However, there is some rumor going about that his royal Rumpness has demanded that I not be allowed anywhere near a computer.

Many people know that I live alone except for my constant companion Chloe Cat. Chloe is a gentle soul, and if ever a human and an animal could be soulmates, it’s the two of us. She will be without me for an extended period for the first time in 6 years when I spent 11 days at hospice as my wife gained her wings to soar the skies and fins to sail the sea. Both my friend Sarah, who could charm the skin off a snake and frequently does, and my artist friend Michelle of Fresh Cut Glass (and by the way, if you’re looking for incredible stained glass, check her out, the website, that is, and Trump, keep your hands in your pockets) are dear friends of Chloe’s, and both will be stopping in to provide food and most of all love and companionship, and that means the world to me. Recently I have become aware that Chloe may be losing her hearing. She is completely white, and many white cats are born deaf. Chloe was older when adopted and her exact age is a mystery, but the vet thinks she is somewhere around 12 years old and her hearing has been as “a-cute” as she is. So, I can’t help but wonder if this deafness has been brought on by a desire to not hear the orange one’s annoying voice. I have asked her this question a few times over the past weeks, but she refuses to answer. She’s a cool cat and never says a purr-muring word.

On the podcasting front, that is on hold until after the surgery, but there are some ideas in the works. A great new friend from across the pond is in cahoots with me on this, but there are rumors that the round orange idiot clown, instead of draining the swamp, is trying to drain the pond. Oh, and have you heard about his Rumpness’s new idea about the wall: now he wants to build one between the U.S. and Canada as well as Mexico. I understand that Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau will help with that except for letting the chosen few through, so stay tuned.

 

Fire!

 

The president signed an order that says certain people will not be allowed in America. Those already in residence will be relocated to an area set aside for them, and if they resist they will be rounded up and either imprisoned or killed.

No, this is not 2017 and King Rump’s rampage. It was in 1830, and the president was Andrew Jackson. He signed the Indian Removal Act, giving the federal government the power to take native-held land in the cotton kingdom east of the Mississippi and give it to whites so they could make their fortunes by growing cotton. They wanted that land, and they would do almost anything to get it. They stole livestock, burned and looted houses and towns, and squatted on land that did not belong to them. The “Indians” were to be moved to the west, to the Indian colonization zone in what is now Oklahoma that the United States had acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Part of the so-called goal was a civilization campaign to make Native Americans as much like white Americans as possible by encouraging them to convert to Christianity. I have always believed that my mother called herself Southern Baptist because someone told her she was. I just learned in the last few months that not just my mother was Cherokee but my father was at least 1/3 Cherokee, a fact he kept secret because of the work he did where it could be frowned on to be Native American. And like myself, he looked white enough to pass. A funny story about that comes from my brother. When one of his boys was young and in a bad mood, he said, “I’ve had it. I’m going to go join the skinheads, the white supremacists.” My brother said, “Well, you can’t really do that,” and his son replied, “Of course I can. I can do anything I want. Why can’t I do that?” And my brother replied, “Because, Son, you’re not really white.”

In 1830, the U.S. Supreme Court objected to the practices of Indian removal and said that native nations were sovereign nations. But Andrew Jackson had no intention of enforcing the rulings and left the decisions up to the Southern states to take ownership of Indian lands. The law required the government to negotiate removal treaties fairly, voluntarily, and peacefully. It did not permit the president or anyone else to force native nations into giving up their land. However, President Jackson and his government ignored the letter of the law and drove Native Americans from land they had lived on for generations. In the winter of 1831, under threat of invasion by the U.S. Army, the Choctaw became the first nation to be expelled from their land. They made the journey to “Indian territory” on foot, some bound in chains and marched double file, and without any food or supplies. Thousands of them died along the way. It was as one Choctaw leader told an Alabama newspaper, “a trail of tears and death.”

In 1838, only about 2,000 Cherokees had left their Georgia homeland for Indian territory. President Martin Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers to expedite the removal process. Scott and his troops forced the Cherokee into stockades at bayonet point while whites looted their homes and belongings. Then they marched them more than 1,200 miles to “Indian territory.” Whooping cough, typhus, dysentery, cholera, and starvation were epidemic along the way, and historians estimate that more than 5,000 Cherokee died because of the journey. It was indeed a “Trail of Tears.”

At times I am criticized on social media for my rants against King Rump. I say forgive me, good friends, for breaking with the accepted order of things, for the intrusion of posting human concerns over that of entertainment and frivolity. It’s in my blood.

Forgive me if I find it impossible to ignore what the round orange idiot clown in Washington is doing with his immigration ban, among other insane ideas, for telling him he is only here as an interloping immigrant on blood-stained land. I will do all I can to stop him. I hope you will also forgive me if someday I see that your house is in flames, and I yell fire!

***There is still no podcast, but I am working on a few ideas to get it back on so stay tuned and read on.

 

No Drinking and No Politics, Almost

A few years ago, I quit drinking on Cinco de Mayo. Yes, really, I did. Cinco de Mayo is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. It has roots in the French occupation of Mexico, which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848 and the 1858–1861 Reform War. The Reform War was a civil war that pitted Liberals, who believed in separation of church and state and freedom of religion, against the Conservatives, who favored a tight bond between the Roman Catholic Church and the Mexican State.  I know you’re thinking some of this sounds like it’s happening in the world today.

These wars left the Mexican Treasury nearly bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years. In response, France, Britain, and Spain, not being benevolent sorts, sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, at the time ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico that would favor French interests. The French outnumbered the Mexicans by over 4000 troops and were better armed, but the feisty Mexicans won the battle, and I would say that is a good reason for the Mexicans to celebrate. One suggestion I’d like to make here is that Mexico help King Rump build his damn wall to keep him and his manic minions out of their country.

In America, Cinco de Mayo is largely set aside as a day to drink heavily and in my case, remember a lot of W.C. Fields quotes that I can’t submit to paper here for fear of sending my editor to the nearest bar.

I did not stop drinking because I’m British or Spanish and not because I’m French and mourned our humiliating loss at the hands of a few ragtag Mexicans. I quit because I got tired of being Sicko de Mayo the next day. Now don’t get me wrong. I have not become a teetotaler and will on occasion have a glass of wine or Scotch to avoid the water (stop me before I slip into my best W.C. Fields voice).

There is a point and a deeper meaning to all this, and that is that I am now attempting to quit or at least control another bad habit that often leaves me waking up the next day feeling sick and/or wanting to drink heavily: writing constantly about politics, especially on Facebook. Just before I put this virtual pen to virtual paper, I read that King Rump signed an executive order to advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Oil pipelines.

In his song, “Spanish Pipe Dream,” John Prine advises blowing up your TV, tearing your newspaper to shreds, and running away to a farm with a stripper. I didn’t blow up my TV, but I did turn it off, and I did tear up my newspaper. I’ll leave the last of Mr. Prine’s suggestions to your imagination.

Due to technical frustrations AKA problems there is no podcast for now.  But there may be later on in the week so please stay tuned.

 

King Lard, the Press, and the Arts

 

The trivia question for this week is, What famous musician wrote a song about pop artist Andy Warhol?

King Lard announced on Thursday, January 19, that he will pick the media people allowed in the press room at the White House and confirmed where the press room would be. His High Ass said, “The press went crazy, so I said, ‘Let’s not move it.’ But some people in the press will not be able to get in. We have so many people that want to go in, so we’ll just have to pick the people to go into the room. I’m sure other people will be thrilled about that.” Translation: if he doesn’t like what you say, you will not be allowed into the White House press room.

There is only one hope to this restriction of access and resulting banning of information and that is that the press people allowed in will not be less than honest in their news reporting. The profession of a journalist should be a noble and trusted one, requiring straightforward, nonbiased reporting of whatever events they are covering. They are not fiction writers, as Trump portrays them to be. My hope is that this will not in any way be altered by his lordship’s bullying, say-what-I-tell-you-to-say regime. I also feel that it is the responsibility of people like me, the little guy with some voice and an audience no matter how small, to continue to make all the noise we can, even though there might be times when friends and certainly enemies try to bully, belittle, and intimidate us. I have already encountered some of this on Facebook and can only assume they must be happy in their serfdom.

Of course, we all know that Trump doesn’t like the freedom of the arts. Artists have too much to say that he finds disagreeable, for example, his demanding an apology from the cast of Hamilton when they courteously attempted to engage Pence in dialog and then his tirade against Meryl Streep because of her comments at the Golden Globe Awards.  Has there even been a thinner-skinned president?

On January 19, the website The Hill, citing unnamed sources from inside President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, reported that among other cuts, Trump plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted that removing these programs would make a remarkably small dent in federal spending as each received $148 million — 0.003 percent of the federal budget — in 2016.  It’s obvious that Trump is not a man of arts (he probably thinks Dick and Jane is a porn novel, and I bet his favorite classic movie is Debbie Does Dallas.)

In the podcast, there will be more thoughts on current events, the answer to the trivia question, and as always some rock and roll. I hope you’ll join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.

Footnote

Somehow in the podcast I and my fever glazed over the Boston protest which was first on my list and a good friend attended, she tells me it was the best large crowd she had seen in a long time and no arrest.

King Lard, the Press, and the Arts

The trivia question for this week is, What famous musician wrote a song about pop artist Andy Warhol?

King Lard announced on Thursday, January 19, that he will pick the media people allowed in the press room at the White House and confirmed where the press room would be. His High Ass said, “The press went crazy, so I said, ‘Let’s not move it.’ But some people in the press will not be able to get in. We have so many people that want to go in, so we’ll just have to pick the people to go into the room. I’m sure other people will be thrilled about that.” Translation: if he doesn’t like what you say, you will not be allowed into the White House press room.

There is only one hope to this restriction of access and resulting banning of information and that is that the press people allowed in will not be less than honest in their news reporting. The profession of a journalist should be a noble and trusted one, requiring straightforward, nonbiased reporting of whatever events they are covering. They are not fiction writers, as Trump portrays them to be. My hope is that this will not in any way be altered by his lordship’s bullying, say-what-I-tell-you-to-say regime. I also feel that it is the responsibility of people like me, the little guy with some voice and an audience no matter how small, to continue to make all the noise we can, even though there might be times when friends and certainly enemies try to bully, belittle, and intimidate us. I have already encountered some of this on Facebook and can only assume they must be happy in their serfdom.

Of course, we all know that Trump doesn’t like the freedom of the arts. Artists have too much to say that he finds disagreeable, for example, his demanding an apology from the cast of Hamilton when they courteously attempted to engage Pence in dialog and then his tirade against Meryl Streep because of her comments at the Golden Globe Awards.  Has there even been a thinner-skinned president?

On January 19, the website The Hill, citing unnamed sources from inside President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, reported that among other cuts, Trump plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted that removing these programs would make a remarkably small dent in federal spending as each received $148 million — 0.003 percent of the federal budget — in 2016.  It’s obvious that Trump is not a man of arts (he probably thinks Dick and Jane is a porn novel, and I bet his favorite classic movie is Debbie Does Dallas.)

In the podcast, there will be more thoughts on current events, the answer to the trivia question, and as always some rock and roll. I hope you’ll join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.

Footnote

Somehow in the podcast I and my fever glazed over the Boston protest which was first on my list and a good friend attended, she tells me it was the best large crowd she had seen in a long time and no arrest.

Hurt and Hope

The trivia question for this week is, What famous country/folk/rocker wrote a song about revolution considered one of the top protest songs of the 2000s?

Hi, it’s me, the bleeding heart, the angry young man growing old but no less angry, watching dreams disappear along with friends and lovers. It’s me, remembering places and people that seem as fresh in my mind as if they were standing before me today. Some left me only recently, some so many years ago that I have to squint through the fog of time to call them back. I have scars left by lovers and friends but maybe none cut as deep as the scars left by lost hope.

I think I know why we are given only a certain amount of years to walk the earth. It’s because the pain of living would drive us insane if we had to endure more than one short lifetime here. Someone asked me recently when the pain of personal loss, the death of a loved one, would get better, and I answered this way. I said sometimes you will drift on relatively calm waters, your emotions rising and falling with some predictable current, and then whoosh, a tidal wave of pain takes your body and slams it against a seabed of hurt. It knocks the breath out of you and tumbles you around until you don’t know which way to go or how to escape, and you’re sure you’re going to die. In fact, you almost welcome that possibility. But then slowly a small light breaks through the swirling tides and gradually the air returns to your body, and you learn how to float again.

Some people set themselves up for a different kind of hurt, and I am one of them. We are the ones who never learned to color inside the lines, never learned or even tried to fit inside the pigeonhole or the cubicle, and never learned the art of keeping our mouths shut when we see injustice, hunger, war, prejudice, bigotry, and hate in all its ugly forms. We were the radicals and the prisoners of the 1960’s. We marched in Selma and sang at Woodstock. And please don’t call us liberals. I surpassed that label many years ago. In fact, I think I was born a radical headed straight for outrage.

We are the young and old who recently felt a movement taking place. We believed that one man had an idea that would ignite a flame of change. But the worst president this country will ever know (at least I hope there will be no one worse), and also the worst human being I have ever watched strut around a stage (if I dare use the term human being) was elected. Since then, as many of you know, I have tried to crawl into my virtual cave and create a monastery out of my small place by the sea. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked because there is a little voice of conscience inside my head that keeps screaming “You can’t let this morally bankrupt clown win and you have to keep fighting with every ounce of strength you can muster, even if it’s only with words on Facebook, in blogs, and face to face with those you meet.”

The idea of community has been suggested, and it is an idea I not only agree with but am very familiar with. It can work not only in the form of organizing but by providing the support we all need to survive the hurt of caring too much, and it will help keep us from losing hope again.

In the podcast, there will be more on the revolution, the answer to the trivia question, and as always some rock and roll news and history. I hope you will join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.

A Different Animal

 

The trivia question for this week is, What furry critter, one we might see every day, is known to adopt orphan babies of their own kind?

One of the great joys of my life, especially as I look back on it a half-century later, is living in the aptly named Mountain State of West Virginia in a very isolated area of that magnificent place.  I can still see the old bear scratching against the fence and my friend the West Virginia bobcat, knighted as Brook Cat, the Mystical Man of the Mountain. At night when the coyotes yip outside my window now, I remember the howl of the mountain wolves as they called to each other across the hills. I developed a deep understanding and a feeling of oneness with these animals and have no respect for game hunters and the needless slaughter and cruelty to those who share this planet with us and are helpless before us.

Did you know that a wolf pack, as it moves across the land, will have the oldest and sickest in the front to set the pace for the strongest ones in the pack? That is because if the oldest were in the back of the group they could get left behind or caught in an ambush. The strongest wolves are at the back of the pack and move according to the pace set by the elders. They are there for protection.

In the ocean, Dolphins exhibit strong social bonds and are a species that not only show caring toward their own but toward others as well. They have saved humans from shark attacks and drowning and have also helped seals and whales.  Did you know sea otters–a mother and a pup–will hold on to each other while sleeping to keep from drifting away from each other? They also make use of kelp! They wrap themselves in long strands of kelp, which grow from the sea floor all the way up to the surface of the water, and use the kelp as an anchor so they can sleep without worry of floating out to the open ocean.

Elephants! I’m sure we have all read stories about elephants mourning a death of a herd member, but perhaps the most famous story, which also shows their deep caring for people, is about the elephants that walked for 12 hours to the home of Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives. They walked slowly, many with heads bowed, until they reached Mr. Anthony’s home, and stayed for two days mourning his death.

Then there is the animal that has been known to leave companions to die and often think only of themselves. They wage war on each other for profit and power. As a whole, they are a self-centered, narcissistic group that is so afraid of its own peril they build walls to keep away anyone who is not just like them.  Today they are attempting to cut survivor benefits for the elderly and unlike the wolf, effectively leave their own behind. They put them in “homes” where they are often mistreated and forgotten even by family members. The list of atrocities of this group of animals, called humans, is so egregious it will someday clog the history books and disgust those who read about it, if indeed there is anyone left to read. Those in the future who might read may be as revolted as we should be today, before it’s too late. Yes, I want to be an animal with fur, four legs, and paws because the species of animal I was born into totally sickens me.

Fortunately, there is hope. I have friends who feel the same as I do. But feeling it is not enough. We need to walk behind the weakest to hold them up, wrap ourselves in the kelp of unselfish kindness, and walk the extra mile for a friend who may have saved our lives without even knowing it. We need to take down the walls we all build and say come on in. When we do that, I will start to feel a part of a pack worth following, and if I can’t have fur and four legs and paws, at least I can be proud to be a human.

In the podcast there will be some random thoughts, some rock and roll, and the answer to the trivia question. I hope you’ll join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.

2016: Good-Bye and Good Riddance

 

The trivia question is, Why do we celebrate New Year’s on January 1st each year?

So here we are racing hell-bent for leather into another year. No matter which side of the political fence you are on, for most of us it was a nerve-racking election process. Over a month later it still has me babbling to myself and likely will for a long time to come. The scary thing is the campaign and election process was probably only taking our emotional inclinations up the roller coaster that will slowly reach the summit and teeter very quietly until it plunges us ass over teacups, screaming, to the bottom of some great unknown political and social abyss.

I took the last two weeks off from publishing new blogs. First I ran a story from a couple of years ago that many said they liked, and more said so this year, called “A Radio Christmas to Remember,” and then last week I reprised “Once There Was a Time.” Both are on this website, and both are true and wonderful memories for me, some of the many I can look back on in my life, both good and bad, that remind me life is worth living.

To put it in the most polite terms I can think of, the year 2016 really sucked when you weigh the really happy vs the not so happy/really bad. The list of well-known people who died in 2016 is staggering: Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Prince, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Harper Lee, Alan Rickman, Nancy Reagan, Muhammad Ali, Sir George Martin, Leonard Cohen, and the list goes on and on. As always, I have a soundtrack playing in my head, and right now I’m listening to Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died.” I lost two very dear friends, Father Daniel Berrigan, the radical priest, and Larry Miller, radio personality. I also lost my sister, and my brother is now perched on the edge of the final answer.

John Lennon sang of UFOs over New York in his song “Nobody Told Me.” What would you think if I wrote a song, some of the lyrics which follow?  Maybe you would think I found some dynamite shrooms until you realized every word is true (and no, Dylan, you can’t have it. I’ve given you enough lyrics over the years).

There’s an orange man in the white house

And a black man on the street,

The Russians have my phone number

So please be discreet,

My neighbors can’t be trusted

And death lives in the wheat…

But as I said, even though this last year has been a great big double whammy, no fun at all, I can still look back on memories and people and places and be glad about them. They make me want to carry on. I hope no matter how difficult your year was you will find those things that say yeah, it was still worth it and I’m glad I’m here now, but good-bye and good riddance 2016.

In the podcast is the answer to the trivia question and some news and thoughts and rock and roll. I hope you’ll join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.

Once There Was a Time

­­­Last week I shared one of my favorite radio memories in “A Radio Christmas to Remember.” This week I’m returning to another time and place. Just like everyone else, this time of year is my time for remembering, regretting, and rejoicing. Beginning in January 2017, I’ll start writing new blogs and do what I like to do, which is to tell a good story. Until then, I hope you’ll like these blogs from months gone by of memories that seem like lifetimes ago.

Once there was a time. It was a perfect storm of music, issues, and people all coming together at just the right time in just the right way in just the right places. Once there was a time that I think will never be equaled, and sometimes when I feel old—and those times happen more and more to me every day now—I see something or hear some music from the 1960’s and very early 1970’s, and I remember and  I smile. I smile knowing that yes, once there was a time, and I was there.

A very good friend told me the other day that I was his favorite hippie, and I told him it was likely that I am the only hippie he knows given our age difference and that we old hippie radio DJ’s are a dying breed.

I think many younger people today, and even some in my age group who might have somehow escaped the scars of the sixties, don’t realize that their idea of hippie is not what they might think. All hippies were not pot heads dancing naked at Woodstock or jamming to the Dead at the Fillmore. To me and to a lot of others, it was a belief, a lifestyle, and a commitment that while the world was not perfect, we could and would make it better.

I said “scars of the sixties” because of something I call “movement casualties.” We are the survivors who once believed so strongly in–and forgive me for using these terms—peace and love and making changes for the better, and then we watched as all our hopes crumbled. We watched as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King fell to hatred stronger than our love. We watched as Brian Epstein, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan­­­­­­­­, ­­Phil Ochs, and many others left us behind. But we kept on believing, and maybe for many the final blow came when John Lennon was killed.

We old hippies learned that all the things we thought we could do were not strong enough to stop bullets of hate or the despair of a drug overdose or a raging social or political lunatic.

My friend replied to my statement about being a dying breed by telling me it was time to pass the torch and joked that he would start growing out what was left of his hair, growing it long. I said the tie dye was optional, but he would need either a peace earring or a pendant.

Just recently I realized that I was indeed tired. Maybe I had continued the struggle longer than most and got tired of trying. I posted this on Facebook last Wednesday: “I quit. I am tired of jokers and fools and arguments. I am tired of trying to convince anyone that certain things are just plain wrong, so I quit. I tried. Now go on and believe what you want, do what you want, and say what you want because it has become obvious that nothing I can say will make a difference in your way of thinking. So I quit. More on this on Sunday.” Well, here it is Sunday.

Maybe I should go put on some Grateful Dead or John Lennon music and remember and be glad that once there was a time. It was a perfect storm of music, issues, and people all coming together at just the right time in just the right way in just the right places. And I was there.

A Radio Christmas Remembered

I suppose everyone gets nostalgic around holidays. I certainly do, and I’m not even a big participant in what has become holiday madness instead of holiday joy. I love the ads that tell me how much money I can save by spending twice as much as I would have spent.

New Year’s Day especially has always been a time of reflection, gladness, and regret for me. Even as a young person, I always had that special someone or moment to look back on. As we grow older those moments become greater in importance.

I have not done live radio since 2006, and sometimes I miss it. After all, how can you not miss something you yearned for from boyhood and once had. Then I talk to friends who confirm what I already know. Radio is not the radio of my day but a homogenized, programmed system of corporate brainwashing that keeps personalities under control. I am grateful I worked in radio when it really did mean something, when underground FM radio broadcasting was fun and creative.

The story that follows I wrote two years ago, but it happened over 30 years ago. I am republishing it here because it is real and it matters and people tell me it is one of their favorite pieces. And it is one of my special memories of Christmas.

December, around the year of ’82, 1982, wind-blown snow, middle of the night (or morning. After all, what is 3 a.m.?). The snow, the kind that sneaks up on you, slowly drifts, quietly getting deeper. It moves across a large deserted parking lot, transforming this lonely place. This deserted piece of asphalt is being molded into the Montana or Wyoming Prairie, a perfect backdrop as Merle Haggard asks the Big City to turn him loose. Though not that far from the city of Boston, it is easy to feel cut off from the rest of the world, watching this snow fashioning beauty from desolation. I will likely not see another human for at least three more hours. I am the keeper of the light from midnight to 6 a.m. I can still see most of my car, but whether or not I’ll be able to move it when the morning comes is doubtful, even if relief is able to get to me.

As keeper of the light, I maintain contact with others who dwell in the darkest part of day, the night people. I love night people. They walk on the other side of life, often by choice, and my way of reaching them is from a country radio station operating from the basement of a small strip mall in the middle of nowhere but reaching everywhere, an AM signal that sails across flat lands and water, especially at night, and I am the only show in town, the only one playing music on the AM dial in the middle of a lost time zone.

About once a week I get a call from a cross country trucker. As he enters Rhode Island and starts to pick up my signal he calls—“The California Kid is on the line”—and this time wishes me a Happy Holiday and as usual requests a few tunes to help him reach the state of Maine a few hours away. I am his traveling companion.

I also get calls from Alice. Alice drives all over the area maintaining ATM machines, and she calls once or twice a week as she makes her rounds. I never meet Alice as she is a little like the coyotes that patrol the prairie parking lot, preferring to remain elusive. I call her Dallas Alice, from the Little Feat tune “Willin’,” which goes out to her each time she calls.

On this snowy night, Alice calls to wish me a Merry Christmas and says to wait a few minutes then look outside the door.  We end the call, I queue up “Willin’,” and go up the few steps to the door. There waiting for me, already collecting snow, is a small prelit Christmas tree and a card that says “Merry Christmas from Dallas Alice.” I see her footprints across the snow. She had parked near the entrance so she could easily get back on the main road.

I never met Alice, but she left footprints in my mind, and I never met the California Kid, but we road many a lonely highway together. A woman named Alice, Dallas Alice, and the lonely trucker, the California Kid, on a cold snowy night so many years ago, gave me a lifetime of Christmas smiles.

*No podcast this week but stay tuned.