Monday, December 29, 2008

Hamas pulls ahead

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department has a bigger Air Force than Hamas. (In fairness, this helicopter crew has saved a lot of people's lives.)

Yesterday I said that the Santa Rosa Police Department is better armed than the Hamas Militias operating in Gaza. However, despite the fact that they were outgunned by the PD Hamas and the Sonoma County Sheriffs were tied for kills in December. According to the Israeli Defense Force Hamas is now ahead by two. Given their extraordinary success at killing unarmed civilians Sonoma County law enforcement may still manage to come out ahead by the end of the month.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Real Gangster Times

the Specials from back when they were going to usher in the Two Tone Apocalypse and make it all better. They were right, they were good and they should have succeeded. Instead, the gangsters won.

I found a very nice looking suit in a thrift store. It wasn't quite a nifty looking English suit, but that sort of thing was hard to come by in Indiana in 1980. I was accused of trying to import an English fad to the Midwest. I didn't want to wear the punk rock uniform, that's all. I was getting old. I was at the point where I was too old to have new ideas and too young to have a body of experience to fall back on. I had a suit.

I'm having a problem with this

Look this is supposed to be "personal" blog. I'm a political person, but politics is peripheral to what I'm doing here. Thing is that I am having a real problem with what's going on in Gaza.

Remember way back to, like, days ago when terrible, horrible, evil, wicked, bad, monstrous, evil, did I mention evil? terrorists attacked Mumbai? 170 people were killed and it was very, very, very bad because some of them were Western tourists and others were wealthy Indians. The American press could really feel their suffering. That's because some of the suffering was done by the very few people on Earth that the American press gives a shit about.

Never mind that let's move on, as right wingers and racists like to say. So now, Israel has launched a terrorist bombing campaign against the Gaza strip. They've built walls around the place. They've cut off the electricity, water, food and medical supplies and now they're bombing the hell out of the country because Israel has been targeted by Palestinians firing home made rockets that are very little more than fireworks. So far, about 300 people have been killed and 700 wounded.

The thing is, this isn't a tragedy. It's a military operation. It's a military operation by a military that has state of the art weaponry including nuclear weapons. It's a military operation that is aimed at a people who do not even have an army. They have rifles, sidearms and those home made rockets. The Palestinians are less well armed than the Santa Rosa police.

The American press has taken to calling this a humanitarian tragedy. Well, I suppose it is that, but they're still calling it a military operation and they're still saying that those bad Palestinians brought it on themselves by voting for the wrong people. How dare they?

Look, I'm just some asshole in a trailer, but this is a slaughter. It's a monstrous act. It's an attempt at Genocide. I don't know what else to say.

Posted elsewhere

Somewhere in my profile, I mention that most of my good stuff is posted at other people's blogs. I've also mentioned that I don't spend a lot of time with my family. Here's a little story about a family wedding. It was originally posted as a comment at Mr Beer N. Hockey's DOPE CITY FREE PRESS.

"(My Cousin) Sandy from Indiana. She was managing a Pizza Hut in Indianapolis. Got really drunk after work and ended up in bed with a guy who was working as a bus boy. Shortly afterwards she discovered that she was pregnant. The bus boy, Russell, agreed to marry her. Family tried to put a brave face on things but everyone knew what was up. The wedding turned into a gigantic booze up. The high point for me was when the Maid of Honor disappeared. She was found, face down, in a mud puddle, unconscious and very nearly drowned in two inches of muddy water. Sandy got drunk enough that she forgot what the party was for and almost took some guy from the groom's side off to bed with her. Uncle Jimmy and I never liked each other. We almost came to blows. I was on one of my periodic dry spells, not to be confused with sobriety. He took that to be a statement on my part that I was too good to drink with him. He stopped everything and announced that he was going to kick my ass. This was a continuation of a fight that had been going on since I was 15, when he decided that my hair was too long and he was going to kick my ass. He never got around to kicking my ass. He would just swagger around and loudly announce his intention to kick my ass. I took a beer, ended up really fucked up. Sandy was crying, "Oh God! I'll never be able to bring home anymore hot men!" Periodically, Uncle Jim would come over and tell me I was an asshole. There were a couple of fist fights, I forget why. It was a special day that most of us will never forget, if we can remember any of it."

This all took place a long time ago. Uncle Jimmy is dead. Cousin Jimmy, his son, is dead. James Frederick the fifth is estranged from his father's family. Sandy had a terrible time with cancer. She has become a quiet and dignified woman who has obviously suffered great pain. That whole side of my Mom's family had some terrible things happen to them. The wedding happened back when times were "good". I might have remembered some things wrong. I apologize. I was as drunk as anyone else.

These weren't poor people. Uncle Jimmy was a major local employer. If you got in trouble anywhere in Owen County, Uncle Jimmy could fix it for you. Not just in Spencer, even in Gosport or Bean Blossom. He was the kind of guy who got escorted home by the sheriff when he got pulled over for drunk driving.

I used to dry out periodically. Like I said, it was not the same as sobriety. When I was dry I was pissed off, self righteous and a drag to be around. You wouldn't have liked me drunk, but you would have liked me less when I was dry.

I like to think that I'm not the same guy. It wasn't just the passage of time. If I kept drinking, time would have stopped passing a long time ago. I got sober in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. These days I don't spend much time with my dysfunctional alcoholic family of birth. I hang out with my dysfunctional alcoholic family of choice. Some days it's a big love fest. Occasionally it's a little pity party. Collectively, they've never let me down. It's been OK.

Hold On, Hold On - Neko Case

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mike Whybark explains the reason for the season

The true story of Osiris Claus from my recent house guest, Mike Whybark. Possibly the only holiday story you'll need this year. 

"It’s possible you may have heard some aspect of these traditions as deriving from other religions. Do not be fooled. Osiris Claus is the One True Claus, and from his workshop at the North Pole, he knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so, be good, for the Nile harvest’s sake."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

True stories to the best of my recollection

This guy gets on my bus. He’s wearing a white robe and rope sandals. He ‘s a white man with long hair and a beard. He says to me, “I’m Jesus.”

I say, “Oh, uh-huh.”

He says, “No, really. I’m Jesus Christ. Let me show you.” And he shows me several credit cards issued to Jesus Christ.

I’ve found that it is best not to engage with these characters. If he needed help, that would be different, but, really, I’m an equipment operator, not a therapist. I said, “Oh, yeah, uh-huh”

A few minutes later a hippie girl got on. She looked quite a bit the worse for the wear. She sat down next to Jesus and Jesus asked her how she was doing.

“I was just up at Reggae on the River, man.” She replied.

“Oh cool,” says Jesus, “How was it?”

“I got, like, dysenterry...”

“Wow, bummer.” Jesus replied.

They got to talking. At one point Jesus said, “I used to ride a Harley!” The hippie girl allowed as how that was pretty cool.

A few minutes later the dysenterry ridden hippie girl got off the bus. Jesus followed her off with a smirk on his face.

That’s religion.

Another night a bunch of guys who’d just been released from San Quentin got on my bus. The last one on the bus was a tall skinny white kid. It was cold and pouring rain. The kid was dressed in prison issue surgical scrubs and paper shoes. He was shivering pretty hard.

There was a crazy lady in the front seat. She had her stuff stacked up all around her in plastic garbage bags. She’d made a sort of a nest out of old newspapers and garbage bags. Crazy people do that a lot, build nests.

The kid couldn’t find a seat. When the crazy lady saw that, she started rearranging her nest and yelled, “Here, c’mere, sit down here. Plenty of room!” The kid thanked her. “Just let you out of the joint. Huh?” She bellowed at him. He shrugged his shoulders. “They’re letting guys out of the joint so they can put more guys into the joint! Am I right?” He shrugged again. “Where you gotta get to?” She asked.

He mumbled back, “I gotta catch a train to San Jose.”

“San Jose! That’s a long fuckin’ way. It’s cold out! Here, I got something for you man!” And she started digging around in her garbage bags. She came up with a Pendleton wool shirt that had been washed and shrunken down to toddler size. “Here. Try this on!”

The kid squeezed into the shirt. It was so small that the sleeves barely reached his elbows, but he was so skinny he managed to get it buttoned up. He looked a lot warmer. Just before he got off the bus, he dug around in his manilla envelope and came up with a twenty. He handed it to the crazy lady.

“Far out!” she yelled. “I can get a fuckin’ room tonight!”

That’s Jesus.

Cat To The Rat - Danny Barnes

"Modern nation-states which masquerade as embodiments of community are always to be resisted. The modern nation-state, in whatever guise, is a dangerous and unmanageable institution, presenting itself on the one hand as a bureaucratic supplier of goods and services, which is always about to, but never actually does, give its clients value for money, and on the other as a repository of sacred values, which from time to time invites one to lay down one's life on its behalf; it is like being asked to die for the telephone company." (Alasdair Macintyre, "A Partial Response to my Critics", in John Horton and Susan Mendus, eds, After Macintyre: Critical Perspectives on the Works of Alasdair Macintyre, 1994).

From Lenin's Tomb

Rich Mans War - Steve Earle

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another touching Christmas memory

My father controlled his drinking. When it was time for him to stop drinking you could almost smell the brakes and hear the squealing tires. That was when the vein in his forehead would start throbbing. He was not an easygoing guy.

Christmas was one of the few times of year when he allowed himself to drink his fill. We kids would get up before sunrise and creep down the stairs to look at the presents. Shortly afterwards my parents would wake up. Mom would start the instant coffee and warm the pillsbury cinammon rolls while Dad put two ice cubes and two olives in a big tumbler. Then he would fill the glass up with gin. He called that a martini. When the rolls and coffee were ready Dad would light a cigar and take his coffee and gin into the living room. Dad would hand out the Christmas presents and we would ooohh and aaaahh over what everyone got. Dad did a pretty good job of acting jolly.

After all of the presents were opened Dad would pour himself another gin. Then he would sit down in front of the TV. He drank gin and smoked cigars with a little smile on his face. He pretty much ignored us for the rest of the day. It was OK.

Daddys Drinking Up Our Christmas - Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

From Joe's Union Review

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This is how you should talk to the national police force. It took some real courage on this guy's part to do it. Thanks to Happy Fun Ball.
OK, that's satire, but so help me God, this is real:

"I began to think about my options: I’d have to sell the cottage in West Palm Beach immediately. I’d need to lay off Yolanda. I could cancel the newspaper subscriptions and read everything online. I only needed a cell phone. I’d have to stop taking taxis. And who could highlight my hair for almost no money? And how hard was it to give yourself a really good pedicure?
Then there is my jewelry. I’ve always collected nice watches and pearls. In the back of my mind I’d think, “Buy good stuff because if you're ever a bag lady, you can sell it.” It might have been a rationalization then—but here I am now: The nightmare may be coming true.
Before I reached for a bedtime Tylenol PM that night, I Googled the Hemlock Society. I wanted to know a painless way to die. Would you believe the Hemlock Society no longer exists?"

Oh the humanity! I'm sorry this moderately rich lady got hustled by her even richer friend, but her story just doesn't add up to sad. Thanks to the inimitable Princess Sparkle Pony. You know what they say, "You can't cheat an honest man." (or woman)

Monday, December 15, 2008

I still ain't got no class

Something for Christmas that isn't depressing

Thanks to the fabulous SFist.

I find Christmas depressing. I'm not close to my family. I have more things than I need, so do most of the people I know. The people I know who don't have enough, they need more than I can give them. They don't need slippers with little flashlights in the toes. They need healthcare, or decent jobs, or decent places to live, or love and community. They don't sell that stuff at Wally World. In fact what they do sell is the antithesis of what so many of us need.

This little video gave me some heart for Christmas. And, I should point out, it was made by religious people. I can get as cynical about religion as I can about Christmas. Religion, as an institution, seems impossibly corrupt. Priests and ministers function as bureaucrats. People only come to church looking for what they can get.

There's just no way around the fact it is human to seek meaning and purpose in life. Some people find it in art, or family, or work but, despite everything, many people find it in religion. Me, I'm still looking, but I keep coming back to religion. I guess I find "the world" as some Christians would define it, deeply unsatisfying. Except for ukuleles anyhow.

Having said that, I want to back up a few posts and talk about my friend, HD, from Hagar's Daughters. She was kind enough to give me a "Superior Scribbler's Award". I mentioned the award, said something about not following the rules and hastily moved on. I'm still not going to follow the rules, oh I'm such a rebel, but I am going to take some time to thank HD.

HD and I have one thing in common: The Episcopal Church. I grew up in The Church, and I can't say I was mistreated there. I find church politics maddening, and I usually end up walking away from them. I've made a couple of attempts, as an adult, to get involved with The Church and none of them have worked out. One of the things that keeps me orbiting around the fringes of The Church is the knowledge that there are some real good guys there. HD is a good "guy". In a very small but meaningful way she's been ministering to me for a while now. She's also given me a window into a world that I have great respect for. Rather than recommend any of my friends for "Superior Scribbler" awards, I'm going to recommend that you go to Hagar's Daughters and follow her links. HD and her friends are wonderful, thoughtful, kind and generous African American clergy, most of them women. They are intellectuals and scholars who calmly and patiently insist on having their voices heard.

That, I suppose, is what HD and her friends have in common with a lot of my friends here at Poetry is for Assholes. I want to hear what sawmill workers in Canada, and stay at home dads in Scotland, and recovering ex cons in California, among others, have to say for themselves. I admire people who insist on speaking up. I'll admit that some of friends are, like me, plain old white men. You know, the folks whose opinions "count" in America, but none of us are the kind of mean, chickenshit people who take up so much room on the internet.

If I have any gifts from God, curiosity is surely one of them. By the grace of God, I'm much more curious than I am scared, and I am often scared. I want to know what religion, especially Christianity, would look like if it was taken out of the hands of angry old white men. I think I might feel a lot more comfortable if people like HD were running things. HD, thank you for speaking up. Thank you for giving me a window into your world. Thank you for the "Superior Scribbler Award".
When I was a youngster, I worked rotating shifts- twelve on, eight off. My Days off were Tuesday and Thursday. If I came in at 11:59 PM on Monday and worked until 10:00 AM on Tuesday, they still said that I'd had a day off. Then they'd bring me in at 3:00 AM on Wednesday.

I thought all of that was behind me, then I found myself forced onto a schedule of twelve on twelve off for ten days in a row. That was last year. I was 54. This year I'm 55 and working an "easy" fourteen hour split shift. I've got six hours off in the middle of the day, and I get paid for most of the split. The trouble is, I'm not off work. I'm stuck sixty miles from home.

I spend two and a half hours working in the yard, parking buses. That adds up to almost nine hours when I am "not in revenue service." I get to change out of my uniform for nine hours and facilities have been provided for me to "sleep" fitfully, if I can find space in the tiny, noisy crowded sleep room. If it's not too hot or too cold, I could sleep in the back of a parked bus. Trouble is, I can't do that anymore. Like I said, I'm 55. I have a permanently damaged shoulder, an equally mangled knee and hip joints that are starting to pain me. If I twist myself up to sleep on the narrow shelf that passes for a back seat, I wake up with my back killing me.

Lately, in response to complaints about overcrowding in the sleep room, management put out a memo "reminding" us that they are not obliged to provide sleep facilities at all.

Joint injuries, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, respiratory infections, alcoholism, divorce and cancer are as much a part of the job as bullshit and coffee. Management is not responsible for any of that. We "choose" to drink coffee and talk shit in the break room just like we "make bad lifestyle choices." The truth is that most of us work incredibly hard to take care of ourselves. Drivers bring healthy food to work and cook it any time facilities are provided. They walk, or go to the gym on their breaks. They meditate. They play music and write in journals. They get together in little informal groups and encourage one another to follow their diets, take their meds and exercise regularly.

Still, "coincidence" and "bad choices" have resulted in a group of workers who are chronically sick and injured. Management has taken steps to deal with the problem. They recently issued a memo restating the guidelines for doctor's notes in the event of absence. Failure to comply will result in "discipline up to and including termination." That takes care of that.

What's amazing is that we are "labor aristocrats". We have excellent health care for ourselves and our families. We can retire "young" with life time medical benefits for ourselves and our spouses. We are union members. We can't be fired without being put through an elaborate arbitration procedure. We have a guaranteed "fixed benefit" pension plan. The pension board has fifty percent labor representation.

We are constantly reminded that millions of people would love to have what we have. Hell, why not remind us that India and Pakistan and China are out there, wanting our jobs? Make it billions. Billions of people want what we have.

That's the problem with workers. We are greedy and ungrateful.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Blessed Virgin

Friday was the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe
I lit a candle. I didn't even know why

Our Lady keeps showing up in my life.

The Hypocrisy of Disco

I just finished a really good book, The Hypocrisy of Disco by Clane Hayward.

There have been way too many memoirs by young people lately. Would you please do something worth remembering first? I'll make an exception for this little memoir. Clane Hayward is only 41. She wrote her story when she was barely 30. The whole book takes place when she was 11, 12 and 13. I'll have to admit that I started out reading this book because a lot of it takes place around here. I ended up fascinated by this story of a little girl who grew up malnourished and lonely and somehow made a person out of herself.

Her parents were, I hate to say it, the worst kind of hippies: self centered, self righteous, lazy and rigidly countercultural. Actually, they remind me of the squares they claimed to be rebelling against. Maybe they were too busy trying to figure something out. They sure didn't have any time for their kids.

Somehow or other, Clane grew up to be a wise person and a good writer. Go figure.

You can learn more about her at her website.

This might be the worst Christmas song I've ever heard

Christmas Time Is Here Again - Crawlspace

Oh hell, don't get me wrong. I know lots of people are out of work right now. I know it's a damn good thing that I have a job, but that's because my only choices are a soul killing 70 hour work week or homelessness. That is not a good set of options. I know a lot of people who are out of work. If I could give them some of my hours, I would.

Click here for a really good book about work.

Click here for some strong words in defense of people who work. I mean really work.
This is so cool

How We Celebrate Christmas

The guy with the sign is a famous SF crazy person. He is clean and and walks around with his sign.

There are lots of filthy miserable crazy people suffering on the street, but in SF there are a fair number of well cared for crazy people. There's the guy who commutes on the ferry from Marin every morning. He sits at the end of the California Street cable car line and shouts gibberish.

There used to be the guy who walked up and down Lombard Street and cursed the buses. One time I was sitting in traffic while he stood by the door to my bus and shouted. I opened the door and listened to him, "You suck!! Your bus company is shit!!!"

After a minute or two, I said, "That's not true. I'm a great guy. We're a wonderful bunch of people." After that, he still screamed curses at me, but if I caught his eye, he would nod to me.

I'm so tired of getting up in the dark and coming home in the dark and spending all of my time at work. I think I might like walking around being crazy as a change of pace.

Thanks to the good people at Big Rock Candy Mountain, here's my new favorite Christmas Song.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Heartwarming Christmas Memory

It was Christmas 1963. John F Kennedy had been assasinated a few weeks earlier. I was a kid. I don't know what the "mood of the nation" was, but I'd imagine Walter Kronkite would have called it somber.

The neighbors across the street had done the house up for Christmas in a big way. In addition to the usual lights, plastic nativity scene and 2 dimensional rooftop Santa with sleigh, they had installed speakers on the outside of the house. Starting late in the afternoon, and continuing long into the night they would serenade the neighborhood with Christmas music. As i recall, they favored Bing Crosby and Burl Ives.

It had snowed and the lights twinkled on the pristine whiteness as the neighbors sat in the living room, drunk, and listened to their Christmas records. The whole street listened as the needle was roughly jerked from the vinyl, abruptly ending the Xmas songfest.

Then we all heard various stereophonic fumblings as a new record was placed on the turntable and cued up. They played side one of the Vaughan Meader "First Family Album". My mother sniffed and said that was "tasteless". I expected some responsible grownup to go knocking on the neighbor's door to remind them that the outside speakers were still on. No one did that.

After a while, the record ended. The neighbors must have fallen asleep, because I lay awake in bed and listened to the needle bumping up against the end of the record, "sssssBump, sssssBump, ssssssBump" etc. Everyone else had turned off their Christmas lights, but the lights across the street continued to shine until I fell asleep.

Nothing was said about it in the morning.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas is here

I watched Bad Santa today. I was going to put up my Elvis Tree, but I never got around to it. I'm so full of the Christmas spirit I could pop.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Click here. It's cool. Really, it is. I'm doing without badly needed sleep to post this.

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