Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Christmas to Remember

Part Four- A Meteorological Casualty

What you see is a composite of snaps I took of my 1989 Guild GF-55 "mini-jumbo"-- a fairly rare acoustic guitar that was designed and manufactured under the tutelage of George Gruhn, when he headed up product development at Guild. I bought the guitar at Voltage in Hollywood in 1998. I've had this guitar longer than any of my others. It, along with its older,bigger, and fairer brother (a 1974 F50) have been on the no-sell list since acquiring them. Oh, I got close with both of them at various moments. And now, the GF-55 shares another trait with the F50--finish crazing. I got the F50 already crazed. The GF-55 got crazed during the power outage. I hesitate calling it damage-- it is superficial, and occurs on guitars with certain lacquer finishes during extreme temperature changes. The sound and tone is not affected. In fact, some guitar people like the crazing-- kind of a vintage thing. All things being equal, I would have preferred not having such marking, but there they are. Thankfully, only the Guild got it-- the others were spared.

Ah, the Christmas gift that keeps on giving... and giving and giving.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas to Remember

Part Three- Flashback

Christmas Eve, 2005-- Todos Santos

Chocolat and Luna-- los perros de Alegria Inn, Todos Santos. Their farewell.

Not so much as a footprint...

Sunset Todos Santos, December 22, 2005

Less than a year ago-- it must have been January-- in the depth of winter, I admitted to Bea I had visited the real estate website of a realtor in Todos Santos, on the Baja. We spent Christmas there in 2005. Bea heard my confession as giving up on our life in the great Northwest. She told me I better tell her if I was ready to pack it in. It was a month or so before we got our goats and committed to a life on the farm... Wonky Farm, to be exact. I brushed my ambivalence aside. It was just an errant thought. Of course, I want to stay here, where there are seasons and at least half of them involve precipitation. I left New England 28 years ago because I had had it with winter. I am solar powered. I am also driven by my word, and by love. And now, I live in Silverton. Still, Todos Santos, with its gentle breezes, constant weather and pristine beach, teases my memory and now, in the dead of winter, tempts my senses.

To Christmas past and Christmas future... and today, to Christmas present. Merry Christmas, and to all a goodnight. ("Everybody's Talkin'" sung by Harry Nilsson quietly plays in the background)

A Christmas to Remember

Part Two- A Foot of Snow

The ice was covered with a foot of snow on the second day of the power outage. We thought our first winter in Silverton was brutally long, dark and inclement. I could only wish for a repeat. At this point we have gotten more snow ion one storm than we did all of last year. On the third day, I loaded up charcoal bricquets and got the Weber barbecue going. We cooked up some onions and garlic in a slotted pan and grilled some meat. After we ate, we put pots filled with snow on the grille. We needed water to, among other things, pour into the toilet tank to flush it. Because we live in a rural area, everyone gets their water from wells. You need electricity to get the water from the well into the house and down the drain. There is no oil heat in this area. We lost all our heat, our water and everything electric-- lights, refrigerator, stove, phone etc. We don't even have a fireplace. We have a pellet stove that... yep, you guessed it-- needs electricity to power the fan to disperse the heat.

We slept in our clothes-- two or three layers on top, sweatpants and socks. Still, my hands were very cold, my nose icy and I could see my breath. In the morning, the temperature in the house hovered in the low 40's. Our garage doors were electrically shut and my car was on the other side of them. So was the music room on the far end of the garage, up the stairs and at the moment as accessible as the Golden Chalice. I feared cracking, crazing and general divine destruction. The car was useless anyway. Where would I go? The roads were not plowed and unusable for anything less than a 4X4 with chains.

I still had the use of my "hotline"-- a red push button phone on my desk that was plugged directly into the wall and has never rung at 3:00 am. I called PGE (Portland General Electric) incessantly. The recorded message said they were unable to give us an estimate for repair crews to get to us and for service to be restored. Once, when I called, I hit one too many digits and was prompted to hold for the next available person. A real person! Alas, even a human could not, or would not, divulge an estimated time for service restoration. "We understand your frustration and just ask that you be patient."

Frustration? You cannot imagine my frustration. I am standing here freezing, like Ratso Rizzo, in a condemned building in New York wanting only to get to Florida.

Patience? I looked out from our windows to the hill, looking for a PGE truck. There was none. There was no traffic to be seen. My patience had turned to passive frustration to an overwhelming sense of helplessness, abated only by the incredible kindness and consideration of our neighbors. Dick and Nancy met us in their Subaru and drove us into town to have a hot meal and pick up some staples. Bill and Maria, who live just up the hill from us lent us their generator for a few hours on the third day and for the afternoon of the fourth. We used it to power our pellet stove. The temperature in the house rose to close to 51º.

I got the truth on the morning of the fourth day. I spoke to Kevin at PGE, who told me that we were at the end of the line. There were nearly 60,000 homes between Salem and Portland that were without power. Restoration was being done on a per-capita basis. Areas with 10,000 or so homes affected would be tended to before an area with 100 homes. To be succinct, we were fucked. He was admittedly reluctant to tell me that it may be two days or so before we would have power restored. The helplessness grew. I was starting to identify with victims of Katrina, stopping just short of having borrowed recall of someone alone and vulnerable to rape or worse as they camped out on the 50 yard line of the Superdome.

Around 3 'o clock in the afternoon of the fourth day, we were looking out the window together. We stared out at the road and conjured Cormac McCarthy. So, the apocalypse was weather. Global warming had taken an about-face and the ice age was being reprised. We would be found dead in our home, open-eyed frozen. Then something happened. We saw a PGE truck, seeming to race up our hill and past our house. "No!" I wanted to scream. "Come back!" It clanged up, rolling on chained tires, away.

Tom and Penelope had told us that the transformer by their house and the corner of our road had arced and sparked. It was what had shut down the area. Where was the truck going?

A moment later, it came back down the hill. We watched as it descended, hoping it wouldn't make the turn and head up Evans Valley Road. We didn't see it. It stopped! Less than five minutes later, we had power! We were in the living room and the Christmas tree lit up. Then we looked and the microwave was blinking. We looked at each other the way castaways must when the helicopter is lowering, the rescue boat is approaching or a car is coming to save them. We kept the buckets of melted snow water by the pellet stove overnight... just in case.

We found out afterward that it was Carson, one of our neighbors who was in town, driving with a friend, when he saw the PGE truck. The linesman was doing some repair work on a private home. Carson stopped and asked if he could bribe the guy to help restore power to about two dozen or so homes in the valley. The linesman knew nothing of the problem, but followed Carson out of town and into the valley. That was all it took. It gives me no satisfaction, though, to know that we had been overlooked and we got our power back by sheer chance. We had fallen through the cracks. We had been forgotten. I am only thankful FEMA wasn't on the job.

The whole ordeal made me think of the Christmas we spent three years ago. When I could turn my computer back on and hook up to the net, I went to that real estate site in Mexico...

A Christmas to Remember

Part One- The Ice Storm

The power went out at around a half past midnight, Saturday night/Sunday morning (12/21-22) and kicked back on about twelve hours later. In the meantime, the temperature in the valley plummeted and what began as snow and warmed to rain the day before had turned to ice. Most of the photographs above show the beauty. What I couldn't capture was the treacherousness of the iced covering and the fairly horrific sound of tree limbs cracking both here and in the distance that sounded like nothing so much as cannon fire or violent thunder. We lost power again about 4 1/2 hours after it came on and didn't regain it for over three days...

Monday, December 15, 2008

First Snow of the Season

House Across the Road. First Snow of the Season.

And I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky and gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
And shivering trees are standing in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go
And I get the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down winter's closing in

And I had a girl in summertime with summer colored skin
And not another man in town my darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell trembling down
And bully winds did rub their face down in the snow
She got the urge for going I had to let her go
She got the urge for going when the meadow grass was turning brown
And summertime was falling down and winters closing in
Now the warriors of winter they give a cold triumphant shout
All that stays is dying all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight
Flapping and a-racin on before the snow
Got the urge for going they've got the wings to go
And they get the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter's closing in

I'll ply the fire with kindling, I'll pull the blankets to my chin
I'll lock the vagrant winter out I'll bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime
And have her stay for just another month or so
But she's got the urge for going I guess she'll have to go
And she's gets the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning
All her empire's are falling down winter's closing in
And I get the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And summertime is falling down

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Blues: one more thing, for now...

I saw B.B. play at his own club in Universal City years ago. Had seats right up close. Toward the end of the show, B.B. extended his meaty paw and I took it. We shook. I thought about not washing ever again. I have since, but the impression remains. Unfortunately, it hasn't helped me play the guitar any better.

... and while I'm on the subject--

A word or two on Buddy Guy... the last of the best.

The term "Chicago Blues" is an odd one. It has little meaning outside of the studio that used to be located at 2120 South Michigan Avenue. The term has been bleached white and co-opted by the departed-- the likes of Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield. But they picked up damned near everything they played by listening to Little Walter, Muddy and the Wolf, Herbert Sumlin and Otis Spann. And the boss, Willie Dixon. The listeners and "borrowers" are long gone. And so are the originators. They didn't start off in the Windy City but man, they put it on the map. The Southside became legendary, not just for nasty ass bars and dangerously dark streets, but for the place where the real blues were played, loud and sweaty, mean and honest. One of the seminal recordings of the day was Muddy Waters' Folk Singer album. It was put out on Chess to cash in on the folk craze, but it transcended the exploitation to become one of the true classics. Listen to it today. It is as fresh and urgent as it was when it came out. Maybe urgent isn't the right word, because it takes its time with getting the message out. My Home is on the Delta. Damned right. There are only two musicians backing up Muddy-- Willie Dixon on bass and a very young Buddy Guy on acoustic guitar. A lot has happened between then and now. Buddy is the last man standing. I've seen him play when he has taunted the audience as he played his signature Strat, tethered on a fifty foot cord. "You wanna hear a little Hendrix?" He asks and then throws off Voodoo Chile like it was his. And maybe it was. "What about Eric? Eric Clapton?" Bam! Strange Brew, like that. "Stevie Ray?" And he hits the toggle and dials in the unmistakable SRV. And the kick is, it's all him. The riffs haven't slowed down any. He plays like greased lightening on steroids. His hair is gone and his face is lined. His age shows... until he turns up the volume knob and blows the place away. Like Muddy had Chivas, Buddy refueled on Hennesey onstage. Maybe he still does. It must as well be lighter fluid. He catches it and channels it into the polka dot solid body he caresses like a lover. Hell, it's more faithful than most. If he is playing within a 50 mile radius of where you live, go see him. His time ain't long and if you miss him, what are you gonna tell your kids? You heard about the blues? Hell, no. I'm talking about the end of not just a generation but a true and honest musical genre. It's going to be buried with Buddy. He's the last of the best.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Back Pages.1

I ruminate. Most nights, the darkness is the signal for thoughts to go crazy in my head and play on the black walls, sometimes in no meaningful order. The other night the indignities befalling McKinley Morganfield danced in front of my eyes. The thoughts kept me awake like a curse.

The album cover you see above is as close as I could find on Google of the way I remember Muddy Waters. His dark moon face. That parted mustache and heavily lidded eyes. The processed pompadour. The man looked like he carried the weight of the world on his broad shoulders and maybe he did. In my mind, then as now, he was closer to any deity I could have imagined seeing. A God of evil and temptation, of weakness and vulnerability... of mojo. I used to lie to my mother and tell her I was going to the Boston Public Library then head to Harvard Square... to Club 47 where Muddy and his band were playing. Peter Wolf, the great raconteur, deejay and voice of the J. Geils Band, tells of how Muddy was the highest paid act to ever play the club, which was mostly a place for folkies and beatniks.He was the only performer to have Chivas Regal on the rider of his contract. Muddy and his band, featuring the likes of Jimmy Cotton on harmonica (Mr. 5X5, Muddy would introduce him as) and Otis Spann on piano. Luther Georgia Boy Snake Johnson on guitar. Man, what a band. They all wore matching sharkskin suits and narrow dark ties to play a little room a few steps down from the street. To borrow a phrase from Chester Burnett, "the men don't know what the little girls understand." Muddy was mesmerizing. Almost frightening in his delivery. He would sing out the side of his mouth, in a voice that came from someplace dark and primitive. A place that grew from that cabin in Mississippi. "I got my mojo woikin'" so he would sing, for all he was worth... a shake to his leg a look in his eyes that was both beatific and riveting. I swear I saw God those nights.

And I know it is hypocritical of me to cast asparagus toward a movie that hasn't come out yet. Jeffrey Wright is a fine actor. Syriana. The Constant Gardener, all that. He is playing the part of Muddy in Cadillac Records. We live in an age of disillusionment and dreary reality and yet Hollywood hasn't caught up. They perpetuate and manufacture myths and legends--anecdotal tales created from the vacuum of the pitch room and run them through the filter of what will look good, and the truth be damned. Marshall Chess has said his dad did not have an affair--torrid or otherwise--with Etta James. He also has debunked Keef's pickled memory of meeting Muddy as he stood on a ladder painting the ceiling of the studio at 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Marshall says that Muddy was too proud to ever do such a thing. He was also meticulous as hell, always taking pride in his appearance. He was, after all, a ladies' man. Memories and history are user-defined. Go see the movie. I may very well do so myself. But I won't see a document. I will see a fabrication-- a tale, as it were. Pay your eleven or whatever it is bucks and suspend your belief. We've gone down this road too many times. Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis? Diana Ross as Lady Day? Even the love and admiration that Clint has for Bird didn't pull Forrest Whitaker over the wall to believability. Sorry. Cate Blanchett nearly pulled it off, bless her heart... but what fiction can compare to the documentary truth of seeing a snarling, teasing, stoned-out and tempestuous Bob in Don't Look Back?

Like Beatle John implored, "Just Gimme Some Truth."

The memories I have of Muddy are as precious as any I harbor. To say they were life changing just doesn't do them justice. He, and the genre of the blues is so profoundly comforting and inspirational to me. I could wax on about the power of the blues. Many have. It is a genre that is both uniquely American and a fabric in the tapestry of world music, from the purity of Mali to the idolatry of London... to the genealogy encapsulated by that wonderful blued song title, "The Blues had a Baby and They Called it Rock 'n Roll."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dateline: Oregon

This is one of those stories that is invariably narrated by NBC's Keith Morrison, he of the dramatic, clipped delivery. Sometimes the stories are even about someone who has fallen (or been pushed) to a watery grave, invariably in the Northwest. This story started with a coincidence--something I don't hold much credence in. Seldom are there such things as coincidences. In Yiddish, there is a word, bashert, which loosely translate to fate or, "it was meant to be."

Ralph Joseph Reynolds, aka Jody, passed away on November 7. He was, in the vernacular, a one-hit wonder. But what a hit he had! He co-wrote and recorded a song called "Endless Sleep." It is a haunting, twangy dirge about a boy and his girlfriend. They have a fight and she walks to and into the sea. It pretty much began a trend of death songs, like "Last Kiss" by J. Frank Wilson, "Tell Laura a Love Her" and "Leader of the Pack." Endless Sleep" has been recorded 65 times, including a great (if sped up) version by Robert Gordon with Link Wray. Jody Reynolds never had another hit. He died in Palm Springs, where he lived and ran a music store as well as sold real estate. He was inducted in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

This past week, something compelled me to download the tablature for the song and try to play it on the guitar. Real easy, 3 chord tune. And this is where the coincidental part kicks in...

This week, The Oregonian reported the tragic death of a young Filipina who came to Oregon to marry the love of her virtual world. Leafil Alforque had been dating Scott Napper, of Silverton, since they met in 2005. She arrived in Oregon on a visa from the Philippines, and days later was swept out to sea.

(Imagine Keith Morrison's voice), Scott had taken Leafil to Proposal Rock, on the Oregon Coast to... propose.

"Napper said the tide had receded around Proposal Rock on Saturday when the couple began to walk to it. He planned to propose and give her the ring he carried in his pocket. About 10 feet from the rock, a wave about 3 feet high suddenly came toward them.

'I turned into it to keep from getting pulled under it,' Napper said.

By the time he turned to find Alforque, only 4-foot-11 and 93 pounds, she had been caught by the receding waters.

'She was about 30 feet away, getting swept away,' Napper said.

The 45-year-old Silverton man tore off his jacket to get rid of any extra weight, and when he looked up again she was gone.

'That's the last I saw of her,' he said in an interview Wednesday, breaking into tears."

The night was black, rain fallin' down
Looked for my baby, she's nowhere around
Traced her footsteps down to the shore
‘fraid she's gone forever more
I looked at the sea and it seemed to say
“I took your baby from you away.
I heard a voice cryin' in the deep
“Come join me, baby, in my endless sleep.

Why did we quarrel, why did we fight?
Why did I leave her alone tonight?
That's why her footsteps ran into the sea
That's why my baby has gone from me.
I looked at the sea and it seemed to say
“I took your baby from you away.
I heard a voice cryin' in the deep
“Come join me, baby, in my endless sleep.

Ah, but that is not the end of the story. The end of the story is the reaction to this tragic mishap on at least one internet site. It pretty much amazed me, sickened me and ultimately saddened me. I'm not sure where we, as a civilization, went wrong, but, boy, we are way off course. The following are excerpts from the CBS website.

"I yelled for her," he said. "I was praying to God."

LOL foolish peasant, prayers dont work- this same god is the one who created the wave to begin with, so praying to it isnt going to help, as you found out amigo!

Posted by newster1 at 03:26 PM : Dec 05, 2008

- - -

This is a sign from God for people to
1. Avoid marriage;

2. Stay away from foreign brides;

3. Get out of the water.

Posted by rushlimpdrug at 09:03 PM : Dec 05, 2008

- - -

She must have been a sinner or God would not have drowned her.

Posted by mrs_premise at 02:06 PM : Dec 05, 2008

- - -

Instead of calling it Proposal Rock, they need to call it Disposal Rock.

Posted by shanev137 at 03:06 PM : Dec 05, 2008

- - -

I always knew little philippino women made the best mermaids.

Posted by notmudrose1 at 01:22 PM : Dec 05, 2008

- - -

say hello to Charlie the Tuna for me down there.

Posted by notmudrose1 at 12:05 PM : Dec 05, 2008

- - -

she''s swimming back to the philippines... in the stomach of a shark.

Posted by notmudrose1 at 12:04 PM : Dec 05, 2008

- - -

I wonder if they will use this one on the E-Harmony commercials.

Posted by shanev137 at 11:42 AM : Dec 05, 2008

- - -

God has saved this man from an eternal hell.....

Posted by easeup at 11:07 AM : Dec 05, 2008

. . . are you still with me? Evidently notmusdrose1 fancies him/herself as a net comic. As for the rest, they merely scratch the surface of callous, ignorant and mean-spirited bottom feeders. I am reluctant to call them human... even the alleged Christians are bereft of consciences. Foolish peasant? And how long can you tread water?

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Controversy... and beyond

Doing a little research on the poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller, I uncovered confusion, an oral history and more than a little controversy. For some time, the poem itself, when translated into Spanish was credited to Bertolt Brecht. Neimoller is the one most often credited with it, but the exact wording remains a bit of a mystery.

The words, as inscribed on the New England Holocaust Memorial at Faneuil Hall in Boston are:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

In Milton Mayer's book, "They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45" (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1955, 1966), p. 168f quotes a German professor in "Kronenburg" (probably Frankfurt/Main) whom Mayer interviewed between 1950 and 1954, as follows:

"Pastor Niemöller spoke for thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something--but then it was too late."

Niemöller was a commander of a German U-boat in World War I. A seminal incident in his moral outlook, as he related in many public speeches later in his life, occurred when he commanded his submarine crew not to rescue the sailors of a boat he torpedoed, but let them drown instead. Niemöller began studying theology in Münster in the 1920s. At this time, and at least until the mid-1930s, Niemöller was a typical Christian antisemite who openly professed his belief that the Jews had been punished through the ages because they had "brought the Christ of God to the cross." In 1931 Niemöller became a pastor in a wealthy Berlin suburb. As a German nationalist he initially supported Hitler, but as the Nazis began to interfere in church affairs, he moved into opposition. In 1934 Niemöller founded first the Pfarrernotbund (Pastors' Emergency League), then the Bekennende Kirche (Confessing Church), a branch of the German Protestant (Lutheran) Church. In 1937 he was arrested because of his outspoken sermons, and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In 1941 he was moved to Dachau, where he stayed until the end of the war.

I bring this tidbit of history up both because of what occurred last week here in Silverton and because of a piece in our local monthly, Our Town.The latter boils down to a quote by Tom Smith, the pastor of the Silverton First Baptist Church, who responded to the events of last week by calling them, "a case of two wrongs don't make a right." He went on to say that "Mayor Rasmussen's personal and public promotion of transgenderism (sic) is contrary to what the Bible teaches. However, the Westboro group's promotion of hatred in God's name is similarly wrong."

In an open letter to Pastor Smith via the editor of Our Town, I wrote--

You may believe that the Bible doesn’t teach transgenderism—although, I would love to see the scripture that explicates that—but Mr. Rasmussen does not promote transgenderism, either personally or publicly. He has made a personal choice. He does not advocate others following his personal choice. Further, Mr. Rasmussen is protected by the laws of the land against unreasonable attacks on his personal freedoms, whether you or Fred Phelps may disagree with them. These are the same laws, by the way, that protect Phelps and his family to demonstrate at funerals for soldiers who died in the service of our country, stand on our flag and spew their hatred in public.

Personally, Pastor, if I were a leader of a Baptist congregation, I would do everything I could to distance myself from Fred Phelps and his family. They give the church a bad name. In fact, many people do not even consider them a congregation, but a hate group. I have to agree with current mayor, Ken Hector, who was quoted in the same article as you, saying, “This group is not a church; it’s a cult that preaches hate. They don’t discriminate – they hate everybody.” Their congregation of 60 spend all their time traveling around the country promoting their hatred and intolerance, taunting people and hoping for a confrontation in order to file a lawsuit. Not very Christian of them, wouldn’t you say?

The people of Silverton voted for Stu not because he is “transgender,” but because he is best suited for the job. Thankfully, they showed vision that you, and the Phelps family lack. I am proud of our community, its diversity and its active show of support for the rights and the dignity of an individual who has chosen, not to hate, but merely to be different.

It wasn’t that long ago that a woman could not vote in this country. Blacks were forbidden to cast a ballot… and now, an African-American is about to be sworn in as our country’s president. We have come a long, long way. Unfortunately Mr. Phelps and his family have not. Let us leave them where hate and ignorance live… in the dark—in the past.

God blesses America, so the song goes. He (or She) doesn’t hate it.

In the spirit of the holiday season I wish you Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All.

p.s. You will note I do not--and will not--refer to Fred Phelps as a pastor, reverend or anything else.

Collage created with credit to Google Images

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Can You Imagine?

It is one thing to come to our peaceful little town and mislabel Stu Rasmussen as a transvestite. It is much worse to mock the loss of a soldier at his or her funeral. But it is unconscionable to even imagine staging a protest at the funeral of Barack Obama's grandmother. Where is the capacity in the human mind to conjure such evil? And, in the name of Christ! One of Fred Phelp's misguided granddaughters carried a sign yesterday proclaiming Obama to be the antichrist. Fred has 13 children and countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He has sired an army of despicable hate. But even that cannot explain the thought process that comes up with such twisted thinking so as to protest the death and decent burial of Madlyn Payne Dunham. The Baptist church needs to come out and take a stand to distance themselves from these horrible people. From their action yesterday, their lawsuits, their website and their manifesto, they are nothing less than pure evil. They abuse the constitution and flaunt their protected freedom. Git-Mo should remain open and functioning if only to house Reverend Phelps and his sick inbred spawn.

Neither will I share the vile words they have used against Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, nor will I devote any more time to the WBC. Reverend Phelps recalls the N word in bright flashing neon. He out-nazis the Nazis and should be treated appropriately. The framers of the laws of this land certainly did not have him or his "congregation" in mind when they created the protections of the constitution and its amendments.

It's time to move on...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why I love Silverton-- Oregon, part one

Word came out that the not quite right Reverend Fred Phelps was planning a little excursion to Silverton to let his feelings be known about our town electing Stu Rasmussen mayor. Now, I've written about Stu. He is, to be kind, a free spirit. He was also duly elected. He may not make the prettiest woman, but he has done nothing to the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka Kansas-- certainly, nothing to deserve being called a "60 year old pervert. Nobody else will just tell him to STOP! Everyone else (i.e. besides Westboro Baptist Church) despises him so much that they will gladly watch him morph himself into a snaggle-toothed old witch because they know they are all guilty of the same or worse sins." These words of love and acceptance come from a church...

A church that reaps the reward of media attention-- the same media that they call "FAG MEDIA SHAME" on one of their day-glo signs. A church that benefits from non-profit religious institution status while standing on the flag during their protests. A church where the word LOVE is never uttered. They are clearly and openly, the Church of Hate. Their website is go figure.

I hemmed and hawed a bit about participating in a protest. I thought it best to ignore them-- not give them the attention they so desperately thrive on. Well, I was persuaded, by one of my new best friends-- a longstanding Silverton resident, who reminded me, as the 150 or so people who turned out reminded me, why I love this community. The support and solidarity that was shown to Stu and to our town and the democratic principles we live by--and fight for--was overwhelming. I talked to Stu at the end of the event, after the pathetic pariahs of hate crawled into their rental Lincoln and motorvated on down the road. He was touched by the show of support. The crowd was empowered.

Overall, it was a good day... the good guys won. And we did a good thing.

Back in the day, you'd get your ass kicked by hardhats and hawks for doing shit like standing on Old Glory. Now, you do it in the name of Jesus and you guarantee your place in heaven. Hmmm. I'd gladly go the other way.

One child grows up to be
Somebody that just loves to learn
And another child grows up to be
Somebody you'd just love to burn

They came from Albany and Portland, The Dalles and even Silverton.

Me, Stu Rasmussen and Tom Levy

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different. . .

Dustin Pedroia--last year's AL Rookie of the Year was named AL MVP yesterday. In all objectivity, I cannot think of a more deserving player. Even in November, the Boys of Summer inspire.

Oh yeah... and Coco is headed to Kansas City.

This One's For You

You know who you are. Yeah, you. Listen up and listen good. And pass this on to Tom Adkins and whomever else you think agrees with the bizarre notion that racism and hate are a thing of the past in this country. White guilt was not assuaged on November 4th. Unfortunately, just the opposite. The market's down but hate is on an upward spiral, spinning out of control. The feel-good election is being reacted to with the ugliest forms of prejudice and hatred.

An editorial ran in today's Oregonian. It was entitled, "A colorblind society? Not yet." Not by a long shot:

"... a bus full of schoolchildren from a conservative community in eastern Idaho got caught last week chanting "Assassinate Obama" during their ride. These children were too young to understand what they were saying, as the district spokeswoman pointed out. 'They only old enough to soak up whatever they hear.'"

The editorial also stated that, "Law enforcement around the United States is seeing an unprecedented number of threats against a president-elect, as The Associated Press reported this week. Referrals to the FBI and Secret Service are up. Supremacist propaganda is up. Web traffic to white nationalist sites is way up. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented 200 hate-related incidents triggered by the election, including various cross burnings, and public incitements to hang Obama."

I am not going to belabor the point. Actually, I wanted to move on. Write about something else, like Fabio the rooster who is hell-bent on drawing blood every time I enter the poultry pen. But I can't. Not yet, anyway. Newsweeklies and pundits are drawing comparisons to our president-elect to Lincoln and FDR. A lot of what is coming to the surface feels like the 60's-- both in the best of ways and the worst of ways.

I want to move on. You should, too. I know how corny it sounded when Beatle John first sang it, but it needs to be sung again... and heard. "Give Peace a Chance."

Hate cannot exist in a vacuum.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Inauguration Deficit Disorder

Can't you people wait?

I guess you're going to have to. The Facebook Freaks who are demanding Obama's impeachment realize he can't be ousted from an office he has yet to be sworn into. But the minute he takes the oath, they're there to relieve him. What grounds, you ask? What difference does it make? He's a Marxist. He's a Socialist. He's a schvatzah. He's not like us. He's this. He's that. He's too cool. He's too black.

Like the cop at the scene says. Okay, folks, move it along. There's nothing to see here. Just history being made. Go back to your ramshackle white trash homes. Lock the doors behind you. The show's over. Don't stand in the doorway. Don't block up the hall.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Dont stand in the doorway
Dont block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
Theres a battle outside
And it is ragin.
Itll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And dont criticize
What you cant understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin.
Please get out of the new one
If you cant lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin.

Why has it taken so long? Get out of the way, you pitiful fools. You have no idea how to deal with such a watershed moment. Your labels don't fit. And your vile protestations are so last century. Put Obama's head on a brown shirt flag waver. Sticks and stones. You're lucky he's so cool and so magnamimous. Otherwise, it would be the pillary for y'all. Even liberals/progressives or whatever the fuckin' label you want to throw on the thinkers of this not so perfect union is. We have limits and goddam, if you push us, there will be payback.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Bush Legacy

I'm thinking that maybe the President George W. Bush Presidential library will be housed in an I.M. Pei designed Johnny-on-the-Spot. But the guy can't wait. He thinks he still has capital and he's spending it right up until he's shooed out of office and shipped back to Crawfish.

Here it is...

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and
Snakes, an aeroplane and Lenny Bruce is not afraid
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn - world
Serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs. Feed
It off an aux speak, grunt, no, strength, ladder
Start to clatter with fear fight down height. Wire
In a fire, representing seven games, a government
For hire and a combat site. Left of west and coming in
A hurry with the furies breathing down your neck. Team
By team reporters baffled, trumped, tethered cropped
Look at that low playing! Fine, then. Uh oh,
Overflow, population, common food, but it'll do. Save
Yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs,
Listen to your heart bleed dummy with the rapture and
The revered and the right, right. You vitriolic,
Patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty

It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

Six o'clock - TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign
Towers. Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself
Churn. Locking in, uniforming, book burning, blood
Letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a votive. Step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crushed, uh-oh, this means no
Fear cavalier. Renegade steer clear! A tournament,
Tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions,
Offer me alternatives and I decline

It's the end of the world as we know it (it's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it (it's time I had some time alone)
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine (it's time I... )


... how often can you post a pile of shit and make it serious?

Twistin' by the Pool

(White House Press Secretary Dana Perino at the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point with AIG executives)

McClatchy Newspapers reported today that, "in an unusual 6 a.m. announcement, the Trasury Department said it would use the $700 billion rescue plan that was passed October 3--originally designed to purchase troubled mortgage assets--to purchase with taxpayers' money. some $40 billion in senior preferred stock from AIG." The article goes on to say that "taxpayers are now on the hook for $150 billion at AIG, not the original $85 billion."

"During Monday's White House briefing, spokeswoman Dana Perino said the decision was made for the good of the global financial system."

This announcement of added aid to the "ailing" insurance company comes just days after their "asset management meeting" at a resort in Arizona (for over $300,000). They were planning on hosting Terry Bradshaw for a motivational appearance. His usual fee is $40,000. He was not booked, but not necessarily in a show of belt tightening. One bill that leaked out was for about $400. for drinks and h'ors d'oeuvres at the local McCormick & Schmick's.

Readers will recall that after the inital bailout of AIG last month, their executives went on a "retreat" to the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, in Orange County, California, where they spent over $442,000. Still unconfirmed is Dana Perino's presence at the resort, twisting by the pool...

Mmm, youre gonna look so cute
Sunglasses and bathing suites
Be the baby of my dreams
Like the ladies in the magazine
Yeah, were gonna be so neat
Dance to the eurobeat
Yeah, were gonna be so cool
Twisting by the pool

Im a twisting fool
Just twisting, yeah twisting
Twisting by the pool

Apologies to Mark Knopfler for co-opting the above lyrics.

A 6 a.m. announcement??? I should be quoting REM's "The End of the World."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I read the news today...

oh, boy.

Jim Reutenberg of the New York Times reported today that "just a few weeks ago, at the height of the campaign, Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota told Chris Matthews of MSNBC that, when it came to Barack Obama, "I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views.'"

But there she was on Thursday, after narrowly escaping defeat because of those comments, saying she was 'extremely grateful that we have an African-American who has won this year.' Ms. Bachmann, a republican, called Mr. Obama's victory, which included her state, "a tremendous signal we sent."

A few days ago, President Bush assembled his staff on the White House lawn and, holding back the tears, thanked them for their service. He also emphasized his earnest desire to make the transition for President-Elect Obama as smooth as possible, for the good of the country and so on. Today, Associated Press reported that President Bush is hard at work rolling back environmental rules for things like mining in the Grand Canyon, and dumping earth during mining into nearby streams (that was enacted by the Reagan administration). He is also working to allow higher levels of emissions from electric plants, as well as automobile emissions. The thinking behind this rush is that there is a 60 day delay before the new regulations take effect and once they are, undoing them will be "a more itme consuming job for the next congress and administration." There is a place in hell waiting for George W. Bush and perhaps his Presidential Library. And, no, you will not be able to use your AAA membership to get a discount

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Truth is Stranger than Fiction, cont.

LEFT: Stu Rasmussen, Mayor of Silverton, Oregon 1988
RIGHT: Stu Rasmussen, Mayor of Silverton 2008

Our sleepy little town is on the map. Our mayor-elect has made "stupid celebrities dot com." Really. Today, people from Portland won't ask where Silverton is. Instead, they'll roll their eyes. Portland, for chrissake. The place that boasts bumper stickers that read KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD.

Carl Hiaasen, Ed Wood or David Kelly--combined--could never come up with the plot line for this one. Of I wrote it, literary agents and publishing house editors would reject me and the manuscript summarily. I couldn't make this stuff up. Our realtor told us that Silverton was diverse before we moved here, but this is ridiculous. I am not being critical nor judgmental. Like the ump, I'm merely calling it the way I've seen it. Look it up. Google Stu. Or, maybe not. That sounds weird, too.

Lou Reed runs through my mind for the soundtrack. Or Paul Simon...

I know what I know,
I'll sing what I said,
We come and we go,
That's a thing that I keep
In the back of my head
I know what i know,
I'll sing what I said,
We come and we go,
That's a thing that I keep
In the back of my head,

Thursday, November 6, 2008

You Might be a Redneck...

Let me tell you a little story
About a man named Todd
Who has the balls of an elephant
And the arrogance of a God
Who used his wife's office to intimidate a trooper
And followed her around with a pooper scooper

Circus elephants... domestic terrorists

Now his wife's name's Sarah
And she's a real hockey mom
Who was asked to join the ticket
to be the maverick sex bomb
The party wanted to dress her
For about twenty thou
But that wasn't enough for
This Uppity White Trash sow

Saks and Neimans, you betcha

To Needless Mark-Up she did enter
Buying outfits and suits
Like the last big spender
Her poor little daughter
Looked like a trailer park mess
So for her, nothing less
Than a Luis Vuitton dress

Labels on bags, dresses and clutches

Poor Todd stood in the shadows
and began to pout
His old clothes made him really stand out
A new suit or two he really did need
So they buried the bills and hoped
The party wouldn't see

Big spenders, those Palins
Suits and boots
Brooches and jewels
A kiddie Vuitton bag
And that's not all...

Well, the Presidential election
It came and went
Her running mate and she lost
But the money was spent
The clothes she says
Will be put on sale
And poor old Todd
Off to the county...

Jail, that is
Graybar hotel
Scapegoat slammer

Now it's time for us to say goodbye
To Sarah and Todd and her brood of five
Or six or seven or maybe eight
While they head back north
And ponder their fate

Don't count her out
Not by a long shot
There are a lot of people
who still think she's hot
She's a mavericky woman who knows how to kill
And shops til she drops and racks up those bills

In Manhattan, gosh darn it
Department stores, boutiques
Fancy Restaurants and daylight in winter

Bye now
Y'all come back, hear?
Say, in about four years

Apologies to the Mortal Jivester

Not so fast...

Hold on a second, there Missy--

There are a few things we need to clear up before you get on that Straight Talk Express Jumbo Jet and head back up to the land of then midnight sun, or what ever you want to call that frozen wasteland that is just hospitable to reelect a convicted felon to the senate. There is a financial matter we need to clear up.

This thing about how much money you spent on clothing for you, your "first dude" husband and your oversized brood of kids, Bristol, Piper, Trig, Ski-Rack, Snowmobile and the developmentally challenged Zamboni.

According to a report in Newsweek, senior McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace had told Mrs Palin to buy three suits for the party's convention and hire a stylist. Instead, Mrs Palin was said to have gone out and bought clothes for herself and her family at high-end designer stores Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

One aide estimated Mrs Palin, the former Mayor of Wasilla, had spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $US150,000 and that $US20,000 to $US40,000 was spent buying clothes for her husband, snowmobile racer Todd Palin.

Newsweek said Mrs Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards and the McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. Some of the clothes have been lost.

This is the same Sarah Palin who defended herself by saying that "the clothes were bought for her" and she was frugal. She also said she was going back to wearing her own bargain clothes.

The Newsweek report also says Republican nominee John McCain rarely spoke to Mrs Palin during the campaign and his advisers deliberately kept him in the dark about the Alaskan Governor's shopping sprees because they thought he would be offended.

I'm wondering if the Alaskan senate will now take up the per diem scandal, of her charging the state for the nights she was at home as well as them footing the bill for her taking her daughters to New York with her on "state" business.

I hate to think this is a partisan issue, but does hubris run through the GOP like oil through the pipeline?

Just wondering.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Well, that was interesting...

Is it me, or did that seem a bit anti-climactic? Kind of like watching Dick (and Ryan [gag me]) counting down to midnight in New York with the Waterford ball when you're on the west coast and it's closing in on 9:00.

I agree with the pundits, that the impact of this election won't be felt for days and blah blah blah. Personally, I would like to call for a blogatorium. I will give it a day's rest if the rest of the blogosphere does. Sarah bashing has become instantly declassé and Mac is back (home) with Cindy. Let's all take Wednesday off. Save up your Monday morning quarterbacking until Thursday.

Me? I guess I'll change the strings on my Bigsby equipped Supro...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Devil's Tailpiece or Paul Bigsby and his damned invention should be relegated to obsolescence.

So I took my Eastwood/Supro Coronado DeLuxe off the wall and decided to plug 'er in. It must have been time, because the high e string broke. It's not like I just got the guitar, but I have to admit I have never changed the strings on it. It features a Bigsby tremolo tailpiece. Well, I had success with the fourth low e string. I also went through two g strings before getting it right with the third. I won't go into the technicalities, but one clearly needs three hands to change the strings with the aforementioned Bigsby tailpiece from hell. I'm currently soaking my pants that I dripped blood on. I know there is a retro/vintage rockabilly vibe to the Bigsby, but Leo Fender had a much better idea for string bending. Ingenious, I would say. I installed the strings, gently giving eighth and quarter turns on the keys, all the while holding the ball end of the string onto the tiny post. I repeated the process in fits, spurts and snapped strings until all six were on. I tuned it up, gently, the way a bomb expert would disengage the right wires, sweating but dead still. It worked. Once it was in relative tune, I plugged her in, tossed off a couple quick riffs and, not wanting to tempt fate any further, unplugged the Supro and hung it back on the wall. I took out my '62 reissue sunburst Strat, and let 'er rip. Exhale and rock. In my former life, as an Angelino, I would bring my 12 string to David Neely to power change the strings. Pity I am so far from him now. For more reasons than one. He had not revealed his political leanings during our conversations in his shop over the Mesa Boogie store. We would talk gangs and the deterioration of the City of Angels, but it was between elections and Dubya was firmly ensconced dans la Maison Blanc. But I digress. I have committed to never owning another guitar with a Bigsby tremolo. I have also gained an added appreciation for Mr. Neely's unique skills.

Like Neil says, "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World!"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"I Kid You Not... "

(portions of the following are taken from and/or paraphrased from

Yesterday, with less than two weeks remaining in the campaign, Governor Sarah Palin gave her first policy speech, urging the federal government to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), “a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation.” This is an act, by the way, that her running mate has voted against repeatedly ( In her speech, Palin cited the need to do more for children with disabilities such as autism:

"For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference."

Palin claimed that the amount that Congress spends on earmarks “is more than the shortfall to fully fund IDEA.” She then ridiculed some of the projects — such as “fruit fly research” — saying they have little or no value:

"Where does a lot of that earmark money end up anyway? […] You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not."

Palin did not specify what fruit fly research earmark she was referring to (presumably a grant for olive fruit fly research), but she is apparently unaware that scientific research with fruit flies has led to valuable discoveries that have boosted autism research, as a study at the University of North Carolina demonstrated last year. Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for... nerve cell connections to form and function correctly. The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies may lead to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders, as recently, human neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.

The study of fruit flies has also been used for other autism research and “revolutionize[d]” the study of birth defects.

In the obvious ways, I am going to miss Governor Palin... that is, until they give her a show (and substantial wardrobe/stylist budget) on Fox.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I sometimes--no, make that I often--upset my wife by bringing my camera on our walks with the dogs. I brought it yesterday. We happened upon this young deer on the side of the road, in front of the ballet school on Evans Valley Road. I didn't retouch this one. This is the way the camera captured the blood and the glassy eyes.

We often see deer as we drive home from wherever. Dusk is their domain. I am still not quite used to seeing them. They are majestic and incredibly graceful. They are alert of their surroundings. Usually. They are, however, no match for a half-ton pickup truck. I figure, they were here before we were. We should afford them every courtesy and consideration. Yes, they eat from our fruit trees and our crops. It's not their fault we planted what we have in their path.

Please, when you see the deer in your headlights--slow down. Let them pass. Let them live. It's their world as much as it is our's. Maybe more.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Fat Lady Sang

Last night, we went to Mac's Place, on Water Street, to watch the game with some friends. A young guy gave me shit (in fun) from the get-go, telling me that the Sox have had their championships and that it was time for another team. By the time we left, I was giddy with victory, fueled in no small portions of Jack rocks and Drop Top Amber. The Sox won. They went from a 3-1 deficit to evening up the series. "I'll see you Wednesday night," I told Mike, the kid.

"Fuckin' A." He replied.

Actually, I won't see him Wednesday night. The baseball season ended for me tonight, and with it, summer. It's turning cold here. The leaves are aflame with color and the air is crisp. It'll be a long time until spring training.

Of course, I am sad that the Red Sox didn't beat the Rays. I got a little upset when I saw someone holding a sign reading "The Improbable Dream" at the end of the game. 1967 was the summer of "The Impossible Dream," remember? And it was. And we didn't get there.

It turned out last season that Tom Brady and the Pats were mortal after all. They had enough championships, I guess.

Will the power trio of Pierce, Allen and Garnett pull off another championship season? It remains to be seen, eh?

Being from Boston is a state of mind as much as a starting point. There are very tangible things that hold me to that place, just as it does for all the others who have travelled west. Sure, the teams. The subway. Fried clams and Nantasket in the summer. Or the cape. Their autumn is famous for the foliage. We share that. And we share that abstract locale known as Red Sox Nation.

It is still in Boston tonight. No celebrations. Wait 'til next year.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It Ain't Ovah...

Okay. I'll admit it. I had just about written them off. I should know better. Big Papi knew better...

Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing.

Now, on to St. Pete. One mo' time...

If You Can't Beat 'em, Jeer 'em.

No sooner do I praise the Lord for inventing Photoshop that I must wonder if it's being applied for dirty tricks. The above image comes from the usually impartial news wire service, Reuters. It is a shot taken immediately after last night's third and final presidential debate. These are the moments where I think bloggers run into trouble-- when the truth is beyond comprehension, comparison and comment. Fiction falls short when we have such photographic documents. The caption alluded to something about McCain going the wrong way after the debate. Don't get me started. I mean, he's gone the wrong way since losing to W. eight years ago. But, he looks like Nelson Muntz, the bad kid on the Simpsons... sticking his tongue out at the man who would be president.

Yes, the Red Sox are scoreless against the Rays in the fifth and what may be the final game in the ALCS. I take no solace in last year's championship. Although, 2004 was so sweet. There was frost on the ground this morning. The realities of the season. The Celtics are suiting up and getting ready to hit the parquet. With any luck, Kevin Garnett will have his number retired after being named Secretary of Defense. Hold the applause, please. William Ayers could lob some incendiery device somewhere and it will be GAME OVER. Something tells me, however, that Mr. Ayers will remain in the past and Senator McCain will soon join him. Sarah? She has Todd. Isn't that punishment enough for her rabble-rousing? Maverick, my ass. I'm going back to the game. Philly-Tampa? Fox-TV's worse nightmare. Dropping ratings and low advertising revenue. Do I hear bailout?

Stay tuned. It keeps getting more and more interesting.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Green Monster Never Lies

Every so often, disparate worlds collide, and so it is with this year. Politics and sports. Odd bedfellows, to be sure. One inspire while the other infuriates. One instills hope while the other reinforces cynicism. Sometimes, it's hard to tell which does what. Unless, of course, if you're a member of Red Sox Nation. Being called a Red Sox fan has proven inadequate in covering those that throw down Sam Adams drafts and crowd the bar at Sonny MacLean's in Santa Monica. The throngs that show up rooting for the visiting team in St. Petersburg or Seattle, Anaheim or-- perish the thought-- the Bronx. For years--85 seasons, to be exact-- getting close and coping with the curse was the glue that held us together. Maybe this will be the year. Or maybe next.

I learned to be one of the faithful through osmosis and a kind of hero worship. My maternal grandfather--Jacob Mann-- was a fiercely proud and stoic man, simple and never verbose. Well, I didn't learn that last quality from him. He used to watch the Red Sox on the black and white console set from his gold fabric Archie Bunker chair. Many times, he would call the unhearing little gray players "bums," wave a dismissive hand at him and announce to his wife that he was going upstairs to bed... in the 8th inning! He used to do that with the Friday Night Fights sometimes, too-- retiring in the middle of the 11th round, with just one more to go.

I will never forget my first game at Fenway. I was six years old. The Sox were playing the Yankees and our team won, 10-6. I saw Ted Williams play. And Jackie Jensen and Frank Malzone. Not a single black man in uniform. That wouldn't happen for another three seasons, when Pumpsie Green hit the field. Many think of Boston as the bastion of Brahmin Liberalism, but lift the rug and you'll see the deep-seeded hatred between the various ethnic groups within the neighborhoods that make up the city. I saw it at its worst when school busing was instituted in the 70's.

1967: The Impossible Dream. On the West Coast it was the Summer of Love. It was the beginning (and the end) of the contrived "Bosstown Sound"-- The Beacon Street Union, Ultimate Spinach, Eden's Children and Earth Opera. But at Fenway, it was Captain Carl and his teammates. Rico Petrocelli and Tony C. Reggie Smith and George Scott. Jim Lonborg and Kenny "Hawk" Harrelson." I remember Hawk being like Namath. A ladies' man and clothes-hound. A dandy on Newbury Street and an tireless outfileder. The dream did, indeed turn out to be impossible, but for that one brief shining moment, we believed more than ever. We could bury the Bambino's ghost and rise up. World champs? It felt like we could make it. And then, we-- the fans, the players, the world as we knew it-- remembered it was the Red Sox: the Heartbreak Boys of Summer.

1975. I will never forget this one, either. Indian summer kicked in big time, warming the team from the fall chill. Windows around the city were open like it was July. I was in Allston, wtaching the game with my girlfriend. Each crack of the bat was echoed throughout the city with corresponding shouts and cheers. The boundaries of Fenway were stretched to encompass fire escapes and third floor apartments in Brookline and Brighton, Southie and East Boston. The awesome outfield of Dewey Evans, Jim Ed Rice and Freddie Lynn. Rico at third, Carl at first with Rick Burleson at short, and Butch Hobson backing up at second. Tim McCarver backed up Carleton Fisk that year as catcher. And it was the time of the Spaceman. El Tiante may have been the twisting, twirling phenom, but it was Bill Lee that caught so many fans' attention. Hearing that echoe of solidarity felt so good. Even if we lost--and lost hard--we were all in it together, and it was a hell of a ride.

2004 changed everything. And now, what do we have left to prove? Can we win back-to-back World Series? Can we even get past Tampa? Does it matter?

When you watch Jacoby, Jed Lowrie and Dustin Pedroia, you see the tradition being passed on. Yes, they are incredibly great athletes each one of them. Young and proud. Would they be what they are on any other team? When Jason Bay came to the team in the deal that sent Manny to the other league and the other coast, he expressed a kind of universal wonder and joy. He wasn't playing for just any team anymore. He was a member of the Red Sox--the World Champs!

It's called the National Pastime for good reason. It matters so much to me because so little else makes as much sense. Yes, it's "only a game." But it is played (for the most part) with honesty and integrity. Clemens didn't bulk up until long after taking off his Red Sox uniform. These guys-- the kids like Jacoby and Jed and the vets like Tim Wakefield--have fun, while instilling hope in younger kids and offering up smiles and pride to the life-long fans. It's a simple and a good thing. I know my life would be less enjoyable without my citizenship in Red Sox Nation.

And that is especially true in light of the recent turn of the presidential race in the nation we call the United States. John McCain had pledged to run a campaign on the high road in April, when the season began. Now, as the playoff finals are about to begin, he is spitting on the ball, corking up his bat and slinging mud hard and fast. He is trying to paint Barack Obama as a man of mystery. A strange black man with a strange name and inciendiary past. His lipstick wearing pitbull of a VP candidate is calling Obama a terrorist. I actually heard someone in her audience in Florida scream, "kill him!" Fear and smear. Fear and smear.

In a perfect world, the Red Sox will take the series from the Dodgers in six and Barack Obama will be named the 44th president on November 5th.

Monday, October 6, 2008

In Her Own Words

There are times when fiction, embellishment or even open-mike night at the local comedy club cannot compete with reality-- a term I use loosely here. The word "reality," like "truth" is often user-defined. Bearing that in mind, here are just five quotations from the Republican candidate for vice-president of the United States... a mere heartbeat away--

"As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?" --Sarah Palin, interview with CNBC's "Kudlow & Co", July 2008

"Oil and coal? Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow into our domestic markets first." --Sarah Palin, billed by John McCain as the nation's foremost expert on energy, answering a question at a town hall meeting, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Sept. 17, 2008

"Well, let's see. There's -- of course -- in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings." --Sarah Palin, unable to name a Supreme Court decision other than Roe vs. Wade, interview with Katie Couric, CBS

"You know, there are man's activities that can be contributed to the issues that we're dealing with now, with these impacts." --Sarah Palin, responding to a question on the global warming, during the interview with Katie Couric, CBS

"They are also building schools for the Afghan children so that there is hope and opportunity in our neighboring country of Afghanistan." --Sarah Palin, speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco, Oct. 5, 2008