Friday, August 27, 2004

Garrison Keillor on Dubya

This is so articulate and to-the-point from someone who -- in other contexts -- I can't stand, that I had to provide it verbatim.

We're Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore.

How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk?

By Garrison Keillor

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today's. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. "Bipartisanship is another term of date rape," says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we're deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy; the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president's personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear; fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.
There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn't the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it's 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn't the end of innocence, or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn't prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn't made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we're not getting any younger.
Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It's a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.

Jersey Shore - Ocean Grove Posted by Hello

Jersey Shore - Redux

Down in town the circuit's full of switchblade lovers, so fast, so shiny, so sharp
As the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark
And the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open like Latin lovers on the shore
Chasin' all them silly New York virgins by the score

Bruce Springsteen - Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

My previous post with regard to my Jersey Shore adventure ended with me crashing on the Ocean Grove boardwalk while heading north toward Asbury Park during my morning run. Confession: I noted in that post that the fall resulted in a gash to my eyebrow which bled profusely. Actually -- although inserting the eyebrow gash at that point in my tale was more exciting, more sexy in a way than what actually happened -- the eyebrow gash actually occurred elsewhere. Sorry, poetic license took over. The day before I was due to fly back to Denver, and after we had returned from Ocean Grove, I stayed in a Marriott about a mile from my sister's home. So, my last day in New Jersey, I arose about 6 a.m., put on my running clothes and, since there really wasn't anywhere else to do it, ran up and down the sidewalk in front of the hotel as well as some other businesses. The street on which the hotel was situated wasn't very long, so I would run to where the sidewalk ended and the street turned into a highway on-ramp and then back the other way where the sidewalk ended at a rather busy intersection. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. And, then, whoops! Yes, I tripped over a curb, went flying forward and popped my head on the concrete causing the gash in my eyebrow. There. The truth is out. But, wasn't the Asbury Park version better? The real version just sounds like some doddering older guy who ought to be more careful.

Well, my tale was going to give greater detail on how the gay uncle/great uncle (me) weathered those four days with all those women and children (there were eleven of us ... I was the only adult male). But, now that I think about it; now that I've had some time to reflect on it all, there's no need to say anything other than how I began the prior post. Blessings abound. And, those blessings were my great nieces and nephews: Bella, Michael, Mischa and Aidan; and my nephew, Jack and my niece Kate; my little sister, Michelle and my nieces-in-law, Sarah, Shelley and Mimi.

I still think the Asbury Park/gashed eyebrow version was better.

Now the greasers, they tramp the streets or get busted for sleepin' on the beach all night
Them boys in their high heels, ah Sandy, their skins are so white
And me, I just got tired of hangin' in them dusty arcades, bangin' them pleasure machines
Chasin' the factory girls underneath the boardwalk, where they all promised to unsnap their jeans

Friday, August 20, 2004

My little sister, Michelle, and her daughter Katharine Linda, prior to heading to the Jersey Shore. Posted by Hello

Jersey Shore, looking toward Asbury Park. "Did you hear, the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do? For me this carnival life's through -- you ought to quit this scene too." Bruce Springsteen - Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) Lyrics Posted by Hello

The Jersey Shore. Posted by Hello

My niece-in-law Shelley with her son Aidan George on the Jersey shore. Posted by Hello

My precious niece Kate, on the Jersey Shore. Posted by Hello

My nephew Jack on the Jersey Shore. Posted by Hello

Blessings Abound - Nieces and Nephews, Grand Nieces and Nephews on the Jersey Shore Posted by Hello

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Preemptive Strike Against First Amendment

This story in the New York Times should offend every American who still believes in the gift and the promise of the First Amendment.

Monday, August 16, 2004

What Have You Done to My Country?

This morning's New York Times carried this distrubing piece about how Dubya's government has forsaken the very core of what used to be the greatest democracy on the face of the earth. Will we ever recover from the mess Dubya has made of this country, much less what he has done in the Middle East, much less the utter contempt in which much of the world now views us?

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Frustrations of Youth

Reading Anonyboy and A Ridiculous Raw Youth today brought back the good words first attributed to Kurt Vonnegut Jr. purported to have been made during a commencement speech at MIT in 1997. (Interestingly, Vonnegut didn't deliver the commencement speech at MIT in 1997 and -- although he has said he wished he had -- didn't even write the good words attributed to him.) But, they were good words anyway, which read, in part:

"Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

"Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4:00 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you."

I noted in one of A Ridiculous Raw Youth post that there was an expectation that he, apparently at twenty-two, wouldn't get laid until he was thirty. And, Anonyboy has reported that he hasn't been laid in year. Oh my...

Not that getting laid is as important as, oh, friendship or fresh air or trees or good words or dogs; no, it's just that I worry that the frustration of youth (in not getting laid) -- albeit, probably normal -- doesn't really have to encompass that much angst; that much time.

I would -- if I had the opportunity to be twenty again -- follow Stephen Spender's good words and:

Oh young men oh young comrades
it is too late now to stay in those houses
your fathers built where they built you to breed
money on money it is too late
to make or even to count what was made

Count rather those fabulous possessions
which begin with your body and your burning soul
the hairs on your skin the muscles extending
in ranges with lakes across your limbs

Count your eyes as jewels and your golden sex
then count the sun and the innumerable lights
sparkling on waves and spangled on the soil
It is too late now to stay in those houses where
the ghosts are
ladies like flies imprisoned in amber
financiers like fossils of fish in coal.

Oh comrades, step forth from the solid stone
advance to rebuild and sleep with friend on hill
advance to rebel and remember what you have

ghosts never had entombed in his hall.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Wrath of the Tempest

Oops! Posted by Hello

This all probably began eighteen years ago when David and I moved into our old house and realized quite quickly that our neighbor directly across the street from us was one of those benign oddballs; those quirky eccentrics that most neighborhoods tolerate because they're generally harmless.

Well, our benign oddball (I'll call him Joe) was/is a hoarder. Not only is his little house jam-packed with God knows what but he also keeps three or four junker vehicles loaded up with his stuff. He parks the junkers on different streets around the neighborhood and moves them periodically so the city won't identify them as abandoned. Currently, a bright pink, 1982 or '83 Ford van sits resplendent in front of his property and viewed without difficulty from my study window. Ugh!

Over the past eighteen years, Joe has let the vegetation on his property take over the small lot so that if I look out my front window, all I see is a mess of untended bushes, weeds, Sumac trees and a massively overgrown Silver Maple. You really can't see his house any more. Which, I believe was exactly his intent in letting the vegetation take over. Out of sight, out of mind.

Okay, so far...

Months ago, I told David that I believed our own giant and ancient Silver Maple should be thinned out and cleaned up because I feared that some day, probably with some spring snowfall, one of the huge branches of that wonderful tree would topple right onto our old house; probably right through my study window. David agreed and, just last month and $1200 later, our Silver Maple became healthy, svelte and ready for whatever weather may come our way. And, in Denver, weather is something that can be shockingly, unpredictably severe.

Well, the homeowners who live on either side of Joe have been requesting for some time that he cut down the Sumac weed trees and have his Silver Maple cleaned up and thinned out. Joe puts them off with his bright smile and a promise to get to it as soon as he can. He then climbs into one of his junkers and drives off. (Did I mention that Joe doesn't even live in the house? He just stuffs it full of crap and comes by once a day to check his mail.)

Tuesday, August 10th, at about eight-thirty or nine in the evening a ferocious tempest passed through our neighborhood -- and much of eastern Colorado -- brining rain, hail and winds so intense that, yes, trees were toppled; branches were broken.

Our Silver Maple, our beautiful, lovely Silver Maple weathered the ferocity of the storm without damage. But, guess what happened to Joe's Silver Maple? Or, more precisely, guess what happened to my Lincoln Continental when a huge branch broke off Joe's tree?

The picture is worth a thousand words. My car may be totaled.

When Joe came by to pick up his mail yesterday I told him that I was through considering him to be the benign oddball of the neighborhood. I told him he had become a dangerous nuisance who hadn't bothered to care for his property for eighteen years with the consequence that my Lincoln was destroyed by his neglect.

Joe's the kind of guy who thinks he's an intellectual and speaks softly, always with a smile on his face and a Have a good day ending to every conversation. When I used the word "...fucking..." three or four times, he advised that if we couldn't have a civil conversation, then he wouldn't attempt to discuss the matter with me.

I told him I didn't give a shit about having a civil conversation with him; that the only thing I cared about was for him to begin to take responsibility for his property.

Okay, that's it. Pray for my Lincoln. I loved that car. But, I really don't think it can be fixed.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Jersey Shore

Jersey Shore Posted by Hello

Blessings abound.

I spent most of last week on the Jersey shore in a little beachside community called Ocean Grove. Ocean Grove was established as a permanent religious resort (Methodist) in 1869 by Reverend William B. Osborn who wanted the resort to be a "camp meeting" or "revival camp," sporting lovely little tents in which the faithful could live while renewing or affirming their devotion to their faith. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association would eventually add an auditorium which, by 1894, could seat 6,600 of the faithful.

Although, at one time, there were 660 tents leased or owned on individual lots in Ocean Grove, today, there are only about 114 tents left. However, the majority of dwellings have, over the years, evolved into wonderful two, three and four story Victorian painted ladies that line the little east/west streets that lead to the well-kept Atlantic coast beach. In fact, Ocean Grove contains the largest aggregate of Victorian and early 20th century structures in America. Many of the painted ladies are bed and breakfast establishments within one of which we (and, I'll provide the details of who the "we" were) stayed.

Interestingly, during the Ocean Grove's religious heyday, rules and regulations were established that banned all carriages and automobiles on the streets on Sunday, as well as the banning of Sunday beach bathing, and the prohibition of the sale of liquors within a mile of the community boundaries.

Another interesting fact about Ocean Grove is that the person who bought the first lot in the community for $86.00, James A. Bradley, would also later purchase and develop the land directly to the north of Ocean Grove known as the city of Asbury Park.

Now, in case you're wondering, I am a lapsed Catholic who would, under no circumstances, seek out a religiously oriented summer resort town in which to spend a little time. I have given-up my soul to good deeds and the truths of my heart and have a very intimate and commited relationship with the Great Maestro who conducts the gyrations of the cosmos to the satisfaction of some us and the consternation of many of us. Indeed, I am happy, I am ecstatic simply to wake up each morning and see the giant and ancient silver maple that fronts David's and my property. It is a beautiful tree; certainly inspired by the best the Great Maestro had/has to give.

So, why Ocean Grove?

My little sister lives in Rutherford, New Jersey. She has one son, six years old; and one daughter, eleven weeks old. Each year on my nephew's birthday, my little sister orchestrates a pilgrimage to Ocean Grove -- which is only about an hour away from Rutherford -- and family and friends merge upon the resort town which, incidentally, does not check your religious affiliation or your bags for stowed vodka or whiskey at the gate before entry is granted. Anyway, this was the first time I've been able to attend the annual rite in Ocean Grove. And, it was, ah, interesting.

Besides my sister and her two children, three nieces-in-law flew in from Denver with four of my grand nieces and nephews between them. So, in all, there were eleven of us in the same bed and breakfast celebrating the birthday of my nephew Jack.

Leaving Rutherford, it was decided that my little sister's Subaru would be loaded up with everyone's luggage and my sister and her children and one of my nieces-in-law would occupy my little sister's newly-purchased Volvo station wagon and my other nieces-in-law and the remaining grand nieces and nephews would be carried to Ocean Grove in the Lincoln Navigator my niece-in-law had rented at the airport. I alone -- and absolutely terrified of losing my way on the New Jersey Turnpike -- would navigate the Subaru to Ocean Grove by following my little sister's Volvo.

Now, my little sister's Subaru has a standard transmission. For those of you who don't even know what a standard transmission is let me explain that with a standard transmission it is necessary for the driver to actually physically shift the vehicle into the various gears that are necessary to propell the vehicle to its destination. Suffice it, for now, to say that the clutch immediately seemed to be a little off the moment I first shifted from first gear into second. Remember now, I am alone in the Subaru.

We were actually travelling on the Garden State Parkway, but I think it is emminently more dramatic and poignant to sugggest we were on the New Jersey Turnpike when, alas, the clutch on the Subaru gradually, regretfully but inevitably failed. I could not make it up the hill just past exit 109. I pulled the Subaru over to the side of the road, dialed my sister's cell and said, "Okay, honey, the clutch just went out. I'm sitting in the weeds on the New Jersery Turnpike watching the cars go past and wondering what the hell we're going to do."

My sister called the Garden State Parkway number and, within a hour, a tow truck arrived to take the Subaru (and me) into I have no idea what town we ended up in.

Long story short: The garage I was towed to could not complete the clutch job until Monday -- I was flying out on Sunday -- so we had AAA come and get the Subaru and tow it into a Subaru dealer maybe ten or twnety miles away who was able to have the vehicle ready for operation on the Saturday we were scheduled to leave Ocean Grove.

Okay, so now we're at Ocean Grove.

I am a runner. I usually run on asphalt surphaces in Denver around Berkeley Lake; even, smooth surfaces that dont' require a lot of adjustment of foot movement, up or down. But, let me tell you that the wooden boardwalk along the Atlantic at Ocean Grove is not smooth; is not even; is not safely flat like the surfaces I run on in Denver. So, the first morning I arose at 6a.m. and headed for the boardwalk for my first run (two miles). I headed north toward Asbury Park. I was going at my normal clip when I caught my foot on a raised plank of wooden boardwalk and, guess what? I fell. I smashed my knees, and the right side of my head into the boardwalk. My glasses went flying; the gash along my right eyebrow began a profuse flow of blood; my knees were destroyed and, AND, I stood up, grabbed my handkerchief from the waist of my running shorts and said, "Wow!' I put the handkerchief to my right eyebrow, turned around and ran another mile in the opposite direction.

Oh, believe me when I tell you that life is not fulfilled unless there are adventures; unless there are the unexpected results of what would otherwise just be another day in the life... Please understand that the essence of life; the excitement of life; the essential meaning of life is about the unexpected; is dependent upon the unexpected; is enriched, is enhanced, is blessed by the unexpected...that is, if you remain conscious after taking your tumble.

I'll go ahead and publish this post. But, there is much more to report. I'll do that later. The adventure will continue.