Sunday, November 29, 2009

thought for the day

Eugene V. Debs is visited in the Federal Penitentiary by his running mate, Seymour Stedman. From the Indiana State Library's photo collection

Obama is not a socialist. I am a socialist.

Christmas With The Devil

Devil Dick from The Devil's Music blog asked me to help him to understand the Holy Modal Rounders. I promised him a couple of downloads and, finally, here they are. Technical difficulties don'tchaknow. Merry Christmas Devil Dick. I'll be putting up my sparkly, black Elvis tree in a week or two.

Half A MInd- Holy Modal Rounders (Buy)

Dame Fortune- Holy Modal Rounders (Buy)

Here's a special holiday bonus. I've heard some of the New Weird America bands. Mostly, they don't work for me. Drakkar Sauna from Lawrence, Kansas comes closest to capturing the Rounders feel.

A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two Bush Administrations- Drakkar Sauna (Buy)

Christmas cheer.

A pack o' Luckies, a pint of Old Overholt and a pearl handled derringer for Christmas.

Big Rock Candy Mountain, an excellent music blog, will be posting tons of Christmas songs from now until December 25th.

I dislike Christmas music so intensely that I have become obsessed with finding bearable Christmas songs. What began as the Phil Spector Christmas album has expanded into an almost twenty four hour long playlist of Christmas tunes that don't drive me nuts. I'll try and post one occasionally. I suppose this means that I like Christmas music.

Christmas In Vietnam- Johnny and Jon (Buy)

C'mon Santa- Mach Bell and his Elves (Buy)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How I've been spending my time.

Trying to breath, very difficult, and convincing the large orange bridge that they shouldn't fire me because I am in the process of retiring. Worst comes to worst I will have to invoke my 'disabled' status (diabetes, asthma, PTSD) and start talking about lawsuits. I don't think it will come to that. All of this, especially the breathing part, makes it hard to get around to posting. My Doctor, Doctor Vacation, is on vacation, again. He has been on vacation for most of the time that my dubious health plan has assigned him as my doctor. Makes it hard to document that I am receiving ongoing treatment for long term medical problems. Actually, I am not receiving treatment. I am listening to recorded messages on a phone tree. This will all be over soon.

I had a terrific Thanksgiving with my oldest friend, Bob, and his family and friends. Lovely people and I hardly ever had to leave the room to spew snot.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why I Sometimes Spend Time With My Family

In The Pride of the Marines John Garfield played a Marine Corps vet who returned home blind. Here he endures a heartbreaking Christmas tree tragedy. I can't help it. Every time I think of certain mishaps, I laugh. In addition to knocked over Christmas trees, I laugh at the thought of dropped wedding cakes.

My father is a Newfie. Born in Newfoundland, Canada, in 1926. In Newfoundland it snows eight months out of the year. When my father was born, most people on the island did not have electricity. If families were unable to put enough food by to last the winter they might very well starve. When my father was a babe in arms, his mother took him to Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in Brooklyn before Brooklyn became stylish. Long before Brooklyn became stylish. He was raised in a three room tenement apartment with no hot water, no bath tub and a communal toilet that was shared with the other apartments on the floor. My grandmother lived there until I was in my teens. My aunt, uncle and cousins lived downstairs. It was a very New York arrangement.

My grandfather was an alcoholic New York City Ironworker. He was one of the men who built the New York skyline, when he could get work. If he could get work he had a tendency to drink up his paycheck and leave his wife and six kids at home. My father's people were Ironworkers, Teamsters, maids, longshoremen and cooks. They were the salt of the earth, which is another way of saying they were poor.

In 1943 my father graduated from Boy's High and joined the Marines. He was sent to California and from there to the South Pacific, the Solomon Islands and war. He served with the First Marine Division and rose to the rank of Sergeant. It is probably for the best that he did not have to participate in any of the horrendous amphibious assaults, but he heard plenty of shots fired in anger and endured regular bombardments. Even though he was discharged from the Marines in 1946, my father stayed a Marine sergeant for the rest of his life. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Semper Fi.

In 1949 my parents met and got married. The newspaper article announcing their wedding was headlined, "Miss McCarl to wed Marine sergeant.

One of my father's prized possesion was a book, "The Old Breed- A History of the First Marine Division in World War II". When I was a kid I was fascinated by that book. I spent untold hours studying the photographs and looking at drawings and paintings by Marine Corps artists. In addition to a detailed and very readable history of the First Marines the book served as a sort of high school yearbook of World War Two. Every Marine who won the Medal of Honor had his picture and a paragraph or two describing what he did to earn the US Military's highest honor. Most of them won the medal for falling on a Japanese hand grenade, absorbing the impact of it's explosion and saving the lives of his comrades. At the end of the book is fourteen pages of small type: a list of every member of the First Marines who died in World War Two.

As a boy, I was terribly proud of my father. He had a Globe and Anchor tattooed on his shoulder with the dates he served and the words "Semper Fidelis". Sometimes he would let me wear bits of his old uniform, his hat, or one of his campaign ribbons. When I played war I never played Army. I made my friends play Marines.

My father hung on to his copy of "The Old Breed". As an adult every time I went to visit my parents I would take it down from the shelf and look it over. When he moved to California this year, I looked around his new apartment and asked him if I could look at the book. When I put it back on the shelf I told him, "Look, Dad, you don't owe me anything. You did right by me and I'm grateful. I just hope someday that you'll pass that book on to me. When I was a kid, I was so proud of you. You were my hero. " He didn't say anything back.

A couple of weeks ago I was back visiting him. He mentioned something about his property and who would be getting what.

"Give it to Heather. She's a good daughter. You'd be dead without her. You know the only thing I want from you is that book."

He was quiet for a minute, then he said "Take it with you today."

I put my hand on his arm and told him, "That means a lot to me."

He looked away and said, "Means a lot to me too."

I am hurt and angry when my father continues not to recognize me; when he can't seem to hear me; when he fails to show the slightest curiosity about the man I've become. Still, I weep to see him old and frail. Like so many things in my life, he's not much, but he's all I've got.

Stars and Stripes Forever- Jake Shimabukuro (Buy)

Jake Shimabukuro is a Japanese-American. He is considered, along with James Hill, to be one of the two great masters of the ukulele. The ukulele in it's present form is a truly American instrument, like the Sousaphone and the banjo.

Old and In The Way

I rented two punk rock movies from Netflix. This is not a movie review. I don't remember the names of the movies.

The first one was a sort of biography, told in reminiscences, of Joe Strummer. It was pretty good. Joe Strummer wasn't necessarily a nice man. He wanted to be an artist and a star, sometimes one more than the other. He really did suffer for his art though. He wanted to have integrity. He wanted to be a creator. He was constantly looking for new ways to be Joe Strummer. It was kind of inspiring.

The second one was a biography of the Ramones. They were a hell of a band. Some of the performance footage is mind blowing. Also, there's a picture of my friend, Kim, talking to Joey Ramone in Arturo Vega's apartment. I liked that. The rest of the movie is old guys complaining. I found it depressing and dull.

Of course, nowadays I'd rather listen to The Handsome Family.

LInger, Let Me Linger- The Handsome Family (Buy)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why I Do Not Waste A Lot Of Time On My Family

I called up my father to try and explain my health problems and my decision to retire. He kept interrupting me to tell me that he was fine. Finally I managed to speak my piece.
My father: "So, you sound great. You feel great. That's all I need to know."

Me: "No, Dad, listen. I've been sick off and on for a year now. I've been having a lot of trouble with infections. I've been having real bad problems with asthma and I'm having trouble controlling my diabetes. That's what i've been trying to tell you."

My Father: "The doctor says I've been doing as well as can be expected for my age. I guess that's all you can hope for. I'm glad you're doing good too."

Me: No, Dad, listen. Like I said, I've already started the paperwork. I'm going to retire in April."

My Father: "OK, well, that sounds great. Did you figure out how to get over here yet?"

Me: "Yeah Dad. There's a bus straight from the train station. It drops me off at your front door."

My Father: "Well, I just wanted to say. Don't come by here tomorrow. I'm busy. The rest of the week should be OK."

Me: "OK Dad, I'll see what I can do. I just wanted you to know that this is pretty serious. I can't keep working seventy hours a week. I'm going to have to take care of myself so I'm retiring. "

My Father: "Retiring? How the heck are you gonna retire? You don't have any money."

Me: "Dad, I have a pension. I have savings. My medical insurance is paid for the rest of my life. I'm not too worried about that."

My Father: "You have savings? When did you get smart? You were never smart. "

Me:" Jesus, Dad, I've worked for the bridge for 22 years. What do you think I've been doing all these years?"

My Father: "Don't let them talk you into buying one of those big stretch limousines and working out at the airport!"

Me: "What?"

My Father: "That's how they get you. They make it sound like you'll make a lot of money but it's not true. They end up taking all of your money."

Me: "Hey, Dad, I've been in this business since I was a teenager. I know all about all of those owner/operator scams."

My Father: "OK, well, I'll let you go. Everything here is OK. You sound great. I'll talk to you."

Me, Yeah, OK. Bye Dad"

You might think that the communications problems have something to do with his age and hearing problems. This was a better than average conversation with my father. He's been like this my whole life.

Family Bible- Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen (Buy)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Still Not Blogging About My Cat

Now this is a bus crash. People weep about their creased fenders. Babies, nothing but babies.

I'm still not blogging about my cat, but I might as well be. Nothing but personal blah blah to be found here. Tentative date for retirement has been set for April 5, 2010. Makin' me jittery. Paperwork should be arriving next week.

Gettin' The Corners- The Now Time Delegation (Buy)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Don't waste it on dogs!

I can't tell if these poems were supposed to be funny. They're certainly funny as read. Anybody who has ever written poetry has written some bad poetry. Don't take it hard Suzanne.

What the hell just happened to the font?

We are living in a Police State

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Post Halloween Post

A tiny witch in San Francisco's Cole Valley. Photo stolen from SFist.

There's two kinds of incredibly stupid discussions of Halloween going around, both coming from grown ups. First there's the incredibly stupid claim that Halloween is a Satanic holiday that should be boycotted by all gosh fearing Xtians. If you're reading this blog you don't need to hear my opinion on that one. An even more tiresome incredibly stupid discussion is coming from GROWNUPS who in some way disapprove of Halloween because it is just not fun enough for them. "Halloween in The Castro was ruined by straight teenage tourists." or "I'm so wild and free that every day is Halloween for me. I leave October 31st to the amateurs who've ruined it for us real free spirits."

Oh POOP, Halloween is for kids and kids unfailingly do a great job of celebrating Halloween. I saw a ton of incredibly cool costumes last night. All of them being worn by kids. Halloween addresses all kinds of kid issues about fantasy and fear and being someone else and kids, for the most part, get it just fine. Costumed grownups pouting about Halloween are about as attractive as grownups who cry at Christmas because they never got a pony. Let kids have some fun for a change without your cranky grownup ass getting in the way.

Diablo Con Antifaz (Devil In Disguise)- Baldemar Huerta as Freddy Fender (Buy)

I couldn't improve on this one

The Calling of Saint Matthew by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome. (1599-1600)

I haven't had a lot of luck explaining the Jesus thing. It usually comes down to a discussion as to whether or not I really believe some story from The Bible. That, or there's the shoulder shrug and "Whatever works for you."

It's OK. I'm not much for preaching I'd rather let my actions be my message. Still, just because I like the story, I wish I could get across what it was that happened to me. I wasn't a bad person that got turned into a good person. I don't think I'm better than you. If anything I felt guilty and unworthy of the loving kindness I was being shown.

I have always been a dork and a friend to dorks. In gym class the biggest whitest jocks would be appointed captains and told to pick their teams. After the real players got picked the captains would argue over who was going to get stuck with me and my dork friends. Some of us were 'brainiacs', kids who were so scared of our own bodies that we retreated into our heads and got good grades. Most of us weren't good at much of anything. Not even dodgeball.

When the door opened and the light shone on me I felt like I had just been picked for the team. My first response was, "You've got the wrong guy. I'm not good at that kind of thing. I'm not good at much of anything."

Daisy Deadhead of Daisy's Dead Air is someone I actually, briefly met almost thirty years ago. I don't remember her, but we were in the same places at the same times, protesting the Republican convention in Detroit and getting stuck in the middle of a gigantic fist fight at a Rock Against Racism show. From what she's said about those events, I'm certain that we met.

Nowadays she's an unrepentant feminist, radical, resident of South Carolina and faithful Catholic with little or no respect for the church hierarchy. She just posted something about Carvaggio's painting and All Saint's Day. It's as good a sermon as I could wish to preach, if I was the preaching type. Read it here.

How He Delivered Me- Juanita Johnson, The Gospel Tones (Buy)
I highly recommend buying the Smithsonian Folkways compilation, "Every Tone A Testimony".

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