12.30.2010

The Realities Of Driving Drunk

I derive no pleasure in providing you this video. But make your children and loved ones watch it before New Year's Eve. So we'll all have a Happy New Year...

Something more pleasant tomorrow.

12.23.2010

The Best Eight Minutes Of Christmas

Although the boys are (physically) grown and Santa bypasses The Dog Pound now, (but there are gifts!) there are still many Christmas traditions our family keeps. Many are video and food related--I guess that's not unusual.

We just have to re-visit Ralphie in A Christmas Story. It's not Christmas without sausage balls and some awesome Kringle. And there's my cottage bacon--a new tradition. It's "mandatory" that all four of us are present for choosing and decorating the tree. And, each year's Christmas tree is officially "the most beautiful Christmas tree we've ever had."

There are many others, and I'm sure there are many in your family. Yet the one that always stands out for me is the last thing we do on Christmas Eve before turning in. We watch a couple of short videos. Old videos that I remember from my youth. We found them over time from catalogues and even eBay.

The Wife loves the I Love Lucy Christmas Episode. And there's this surrealistic Santa Meets The Fairy Snow Queen deal that as children the boys thought was cool. Santa seemed so...so magical. Yeah, right. That one is so over the top from the '50s that I'd swear it was produced by the California porn trade on a slow day. Now, at 19 and 21 the boys agree. Now we watch it for a laugh. This may be the worst 14 minutes of Christmas.



And then, there is the old 1936 cartoon Christmas Comes But Once A Year. It's on that Rudolph VHS you see in the picture that the puppies have feasted on at some point. This is the last thing we watch before bed. It brings us back to the world's realities. It reminds us how blessed we are. It reminds me that I am a Lucky Dog.

To me, watching Christmas Comes But Once A Year is the best eight minutes of Christmas. Watch, and let me know what you think.

As Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, every one."


12.21.2010

Dear Santa...

Oh, sir...I know you are not responsible for my decision to turn in the BMW at lease end and buy two new Hondas. An Accord for The Wife and a CR-V for me. Yes, it's true that I am getting used to the change. I do like sitting up high and the CR-V is easier for an old geezer to enter and exit (I'm old physically, of course...in my heart and mind I'm still rockin').

The Dog's CR-V
An Urban Titanium 4WD unit
Nick, I have had to make some adjustments, of course; the most dramatic being the recalibration of when and when not to pull out on to Garrett Road from our residential street. Pulling out on Garrett Road during morning rush hour is a challenge and possibly deadly adventure even utilizing a twin turbo for velocity. Traffic at 60 mph in a 45 zone is a bitch. Especially when powered by a Honda lawnmower engine. That first time was dramatic!
Anyway Santa, it's not your problem but once everyone else is taken care of, if you've a mind, you certainly can surprise my ass off by plunking down one of the fine automotive specimens below in the driveway on Christmas. I swear I'll give the Accord to charity if you do. To be clear, sir: the Accord. The Wife really wants the CR-V.

In a perfect world the Porsche would be a first choice. And I'm diggin' the two door Bimmer at the bottom. Or thatM3... And really, now that I think of it, I doubt I could get my butt in the Lotus.  But hey, beggars can't be choosers. And I like surprises, so I'm leaving the choice in your good hands.

Have a good trip, St. Dude. And one more thing: if this drivel doesn't compel you to act extravagantly on my behalf, a good set of all weather mats for the CR-V would be nice. In black, please.

I'd never have to start the thing to feel really, really good.


Like a beautiful Italian woman,
the back side of the Maserati looks awesome.

Very likely the Lotus is butt-challenged
and low on head room...
But oh, that stilletto shape!


A great super car, but that snout...


A Mercedes for when I'm takin'
my posse out to
The Italian Olive Garden...


...and this Kraut Kruiser
for taking The Wife
to Magnolia Grill


(sigh...)

12.19.2010

Uberspunk

My youngest son is searching for his place in life, commiserating on a life's work that allows for more than a little adventure, physical stimulus and enough embedded machismo to bleed off his excess testosterone, which I believe can be a significant hazard in a young man's life. 

Swirling around in his head are such endeavors as UFC fighter, repo man (nights) and process server (days) and Humboldt County farmer. Or head shop owner. Personally, I think he should go to acting school and become his generation's Steve McQueen.

In many ways I admire his "my way or the highway" mentality, while praying that he comes to terms with the possible outcomes of what I call his uberspunk.  If I was his 20-something Best Bud I would share this video with him. But I'm not, so he will never see it.

God, I love that boy...

12.12.2010

Inner Peace: It's Easy

I am passing this advice on to you because it definitely works, and we could all use a little more calmness in our lives, especially at Christmas.
By following this simple advice heard recently on the Dr. Phil show, you too can find inner peace. Dr Phil proclaimed, "The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished." 

So, I looked around my house this morning before the family awoke to inventory all the things I've started and hadn't finished, thinking the inner peace would serve me well later today when I go on my Christmas shopping expedition.

After a thourough inventory of "The Unfinished", I finished off a bottle of White Zinfandel, a bottle Tequila, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake we made Saturday, and some Doritos. Also, I cooked up and ate the opened bacon in the fridge, chasing it with the half bottle of Rebel Yell bourbon I found hiding behind the wine bottles in the bar. I wondered what happened to that Yell.

You have no idea how freaking good I feel right now. Pass this on to those who you think might be in need of inner peace.

12.11.2010

The General And The King (And a Christmas Lesson)

I am very remiss for not noting the deaths of two very talented artists earlier in the year. Great musicians are passing faster than I can write about them.

Yet, based on my remembering something Solomon Burke said a long time ago, perhaps this is when this appreciation is meant to be posted. Now, closer to Christmas.

On October 10th Solomon Burke, self-proclaimed King of Soul, died in Amsterdam at 70 of natural causes. He was there to perform.

On October 13th Norman "General" Johnson passed away at his home at the age of 69. He had been fighting lung cancer. The General may be unknown to some of you, even though he wrote and performed many well known and revered rock/soul classics. In the US south he was--and is-- a music icon. He led the beach music group The Showmen, well known for songs such as "39-21-40 Shape" (mistakenly printed as "39-21-46" on the 45 label) and many others including as great a seminal anthem to rock & roll as ever recorded: "It Will Stand". More recently (and for decades) the General fronted The Chairmen of the Board.

These deaths touch me for very personal reasons. As a drummer in the soul and beach music group The Four Winds & Band during the late '60s, I've had the pleasure and honor to perform with both men.

The Showmen were great to back up. Back then beach headliners would often not travel with their own bands to save on expenses. The venue would bring in a backup band who would also play sets before and after the headliner's set. All the good regional bands knew the music and a rehearsal wasn't even needed. Just a run through of some behind the back hand signals the General would flash to direct us, like a third base baseball coach.

One night performing with them stands out. We were playing The Jokers Three in Raleigh. A big crowd. I was just a kid, at 17 not even legally old enough to be in the building. Thinking back on it, I may have been the only one on stage not high on something (I learned some great life lessons being "on the road").

The General was in a particularly good mood and there was lots of banter between songs. At one point after a song he stepped closer to me and it scared me to death, thinking he would tell me to tighten it up. Thankfully, instead he said "You got a fast right foot, kid. You're good..." I just about fell of my stool. My signature was "doubling up" on the bass drum. Don't ask. It's complicated. Sort of, anyway.

That was also the night our sax player, more "happy" than usual after the gig, became engrossed with the big, furiously spinning fan on the side of the stage. It was a beautiful rainbow fan, he said, just before sticking his left index finger through the grid, resulting in...well, you don't want to know. It was messy. And saxophone-playing limiting in the future. As I said, I learned some good life lessons travelling with that bunch.


IT WILL STAND

Rock-roll-rock-roll............

You take some music, music
Sweet flowin' music
Some movin' and groovin'
Rock and roll will stand

Take some heart beats drum beats
Finger poppin' and stompin' feet
Little dances that look so neat
You see why it will stand

Some folks don't understand it
That's why they don't demand it
They're out tryin' to ruin
Forgive them for they know not what they're doin'

Don't nick-name it
You might as well claim it
It swept this whole wide land
Rock and roll forever will stand

Hear those sax blowin'
Sharp as lightnin'
Hear those drums beatin'
Loud as thunder

Some folks don't understand it
That's why they don't demand it
They're out tryin' to ruin
Forgive them for they know not what they're doin'

Don't you nick-name it
You might as well claim it
It will be here for ever and ever
Ain't gonna fade
Never no never

It swept this whole wide land
Sinking deep in the heart of man
Come on boy join our clan
Come on boy take my hand
Come on boy be a man
'Cause rock and roll will stand

Let's do it all over again
I feel good let's do it again
It'll be here for ever and ever
Ain't gonna fade
Never, no never...





My one experience with Solomon Burke was much more farcical. We were the band on the one hour Solomon Burke Christmas Special produced for airing on some very dinky UHF TV station in Greensboro. Low. Budget. I don't really remember, but I think this was a paid-by-Burke deal, a religious program, really. Ol' Solomon was preaching back then, too.
But on to the farcical. Mr. Burke was a big star to me and I was mightily impressed when told about the gig. Until the gig played out, anyway. There would be some preachin' and then a little music. And unlike backing up The Showmen, we did not know the music so well. It was ugly. To say the least (but with great respect for his talent) Solomon was not in his element as a TV show preacher/host.

There was a stage for the band, a podium for The King's preaching, a fake Christmas tree a little skimpy on the ornaments, lots of bare concrete wall and a cardboard sign hawking the one sponsor Burke found for the production. It was a local butcher shop (who I'm sure created the sign as it was professionally done in the grocery store motif).

Allow me to cut to the chase: The music was awful because we only had about thirty minutes to rehearse. The preaching was of the Primitive Baptist style. When it came time for the butcher shop commercial, Solomon was so animated ("Good meat, I tell you!") that he kept slapping the masking-taped-to-the-wall sign until it fell off. That startled The King so much that he fell back into the fake Christmas tree, knocking it and him to the ground. The cameras--I mean the camera--was rolling. There were no "cut!" do-overs in this production.

He rallied gallantly, gently rising and reminding anyone who might ever watch (ha!) that it wasn't about him, or the sign or the fallen tree. "It's about Christ the King, our Saviour!" he rejoiced. And then all was good. Solomon got an audible "Amen" from the camera man. The next song sounded so much sweeter.

It was a crazy day. Not one of The King's finest. That day takes nothing away from his great talent, and I am proud to be able to say I played with The King--the great Solomon Burke, however unorthodox the event.



Rock & Roll. It Will Stand. Can I Get An Amen...
R.I.P. General Johnson and Solomon Burke

12.07.2010

The Mother Of All Arguments, At Christmas No Less

The Wife's college supper club Christmas party was over the weekend. It's a good group and we enjoy the event. Both sexes have one of those gift exchanges where you can "steal" someone else's gift or choose from the unopened ones. It's great fun unless your gift is the one that keeps getting handed over for a "better" one. I usually gift some eclectic CD and pass on the cigars, which finally are loosing favor as a gift to bring.

The event does bring back some bad memories. In fact, the Christmas party opens anew each year a "wound" that I will never let The Wife forget. As you know if you frequent this blog(and thank you for that!) I am a huge fan of the late Warren Zevon. If you are familiar with only his hit Werewolves of London you are depriving yourself of some wonderfully written and executed Americana rock music and many a touching ballad.

Warren Zevon was a true song smith and penned such well know hits as Carmelita, Hasten Down the Wind, Poor, Poor Pitiful Me and the lesser known Lawyers, Guns and Money (my favorite) whi
ch begins....

"I went home with the waitress, like I always do
How was I to know she was with the Russians, too

"I was gambling in Havana,
And I took a little risk
Send Lawyers, Guns and Money
Dad, get me out of this"

The song, and specifically those last two lines are my cell ring tone and it's a hoot when it goes off around people, who seem to enjoy it. It is not a hoot, however, when the phone goes off while meeting with a prospective older client with no sense of humor, as once happened. Oh, well. It's not so great when it goes off in traffic court, either. The judge was the only one not amused. I pleaded guilty, which I had not intended to do.

Several years ago Warren came to Chapel Hill's Cat's Cradle for a solo gig. I didn't know about it. Somehow I missed it even though I often troll the Internet sites of the local music halls looking for who's coming to town. She--The Wife-- did know about it, as she's fond of reading The Independent cover to cover.

But she didn't tell me. Because the supper club Christmas party was that same December Saturday night.

As someone who also likes to read The Independent (but unfortunately, not on a timely basis in this case) I saw the ad the following Tuesday.

"Damn!", I hollered, so belligerently that the beer can flew right off the side table as I jumped up.

"What's the matter, Honey!?" She's so sweet...

"I missed Zevon! He was at the Cradle!"

Silence on the other end. My ESP kicked in and I immediately knew...she knew.

"Did you know?"

Silence.

"You Knew!"

She walked in to the den and just stood there, head down but with a furtive look toward me. And, like the father accusing the mother in the great movie A Christmas Story of purposefully breaking the infamous leg lamp, I quietly yet angrily muttered "You...knew!"

"I knew you wouldn't go to the supper club party if I told you. It was on the same night..."

And then ensued the Mother of All Arguments. I slept on the couch three nights, barely spoke to her and when we passed as we made our way around the house I continued to mutter "You...knew."

The anger passed, of course. But I mark that episode as our worst argument ever in 30 years of marriage. I will never let her forget that. I know; I should let it go. I don't bring it up often but the music in the car on the way to the supper club Christmas party is and will always be Warren Zevon's Greatest Hits.

11.28.2010

She Knows What You're Re-Gifting

A pal sent this along to me yesterday and I've probably tried it a hundred times. I'm posting this in the spirit of sharing one's new-found addictions--in this case, attempting to trip up a computer (or something) with far superior skills than me. The only time I seem to beat this I realize I'm looking at the original number and not the resulting number after the math. So I look at the resulting number and damn...

How is this done?! Please. Somebody tell me how this works. I know I'll feel stupid, but what's new...

11.06.2010

Wisdom From A Civil Servant

"Well you see, Norm, it's like this . . . A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo; and when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers."

11.04.2010

Tush Hieroglyphics (Send Yours In)

(_ ^_)
sore ass

{_~~0~~_}
swishy ass


(_XXX!_)
kiss my ass

(_nO_)
leave my ass alone

(_zzz_)
tired ass

(_E=mc2_)
smart ass

(_$_)
money coming out of his ass

(_?_)
dumb ass

(_(real)_)
ass hole

(_*_)
tight ass

(_%_)
ass wipe

(_ =:^0 _)
ass face

)_ ? _(
bass ackwards

(_4Q_)
bad ass

(_''''o''''_)
hairy ass

( __(!)__)
big ass

(_-->O_)
ass hole buddy

(_"kick o-->"_)
kick ass

( ___=O=___ )
lard ass

(_(A+)_)
great ass
(_(10!)_)
perfect ass

(_nothing_)
lazy ass

( __!O?__)
^ >
^ >
^ >
jump your ass

(_Ouch!_)
smack your ass

(_>>>>O<<<<_)
shove it up your ass

(_09_)
asinine
(_mia =o= culpa_)
sorry ass

10.27.2010

A NY Subway Thursday

He rides this route five days a week. And often seven. From Lex at 57th downtown to the Bowling Green stop. He pats the bull on the head every morning. And on a bad market day or when he's sliding home late and half in the bag, he'll sneak up on the bull from behind and kick that bovine in the balls. It hurts, but he does it time and again.

There's this girl, or woman I should say, that takes up the ride a few stops later. Not every day, but most. He thinks she is beautiful. He is correct. And that body. Oh, that body.

Her style of dress tells him she doesn't work in a "traditional" job. Provocative in many ways, her style matches her natural physical gifts, he believes. He wonders what fills up her day. He is afraid to ask.

As possible he tries to stand near her, slowly moving around the standing room subway mob. Working through the mob so he can get a glimpse of her, focus on her angel face before he slides down her body, admiring her moderate breasts, often sheathed tightly and other times covered loosely in silk. On to her midriff, in summer often exposed and showing a navel piercing. Why do people do that, he wonders. In full-on winter he only gets to appreciate her seemingly endless supply of eclectic coats. And that beautiful face. She's partial to a tight pea coat. Purple. Worn with a bright green scarf tied wildly.

He prides himself in not being an ass man or a tit man or some other body part man. He fancies himself as a total package man; he appreciates the whole of a woman, her symmetry, her full aesthetic. But oh, her buttocks--her wonderfully formed ass. When she adorns herself in tight jeans or skirt. Or better yet, something stretchy like spandex.

He remembers a certain day painfully. And ruefully. This day he wore his best blue chalk stripe suit and sported a fresh haircut. Manicured nails but no top coat. A beautiful woven tie. Crisp white English spread shirt. Cap toes. It was the day he decided to approach her. He would jump out when she did, a few stops before his. He'd never felt this nervous or exhilarated.

As they departed the subway car he almost lost her. When he caught up, somewhat breathless, he approached her from behind. "Excuse me...Miss..." She turned her head, startled and continued walking, her gate widening.

"Beat it, Ass Hole!"

He stopped in his tracks as she strode quickly onward. She did not hear his apology. "I'm sorry I startled you, I just wanted to introduce..."

It was a long, painful walk to the Bowling Green Bull. He thought of how the encounter might have gone if he was back in his small South Carolina home town and they were getting off the bus to downtown. He believed she would have stopped, he could introduce himself and they could have a conversation. Maybe make plans for coffee. 

As he arrived at Bowling Green Park he patted the bull's head as always, knowing that tonight, fully in the bag, he would kick the hell out of those huge bronze balls.

Giants In Six & Rooting For Josh

I love me some baseball! And so tonight at 7:30 (just 30 minutes from now!) I will be tuned in to the Fall Classic, America's greatest sports spectacle, the World Season. I'll have my score card, my Buds and a big honkin' bag of Jimbo's Peanuts.

Super Bowl? Nah; been to one and it was boring (well, every time I went for a beer or to give one back somebody scored and I didn't see any of it). NBA? Please... Tennis? Hasn't been worth a damn since Jimmy and Mac. Horse racing? It's three minutes for goodness sakes. Soccer? I mean football. And you think baseball is boring!

My call is Giants in six. Willie Mays, Will Clark, former SF manager Roger Craig (born and raised in My Town), Alvin Dark, Bremley, that skinny kid pitcher with the long hair, The Panda and so many more that makes SF easy to pull for.
But I absolutely will be hoping that Josh Hamilton, from Raleigh, NC and picked by Tampa Bay when her entered the draft (and thus would come up possibly through the Durham Bulls...but then there was that drug problem and meltdown) has a fantastic series and wins the hearts of viewers. His story is a compelling morality tale.

It's 7:35. Gotta go!

10.23.2010

Steely Dan, Backup Singers In Red Leather & A New Jazz Find

Did I mention that Steely Dan is a favorite? Or that I have a thing for red leather? And that I always seem to focus on the female backup singers as much as the star of the show when attending a concert ? I'm working on that with my shrink.

Well, check out the middle backup singer in the Kid Charlemagne video below. Red leather pants and a rock babe attitude. Oh my. You get to enjoy a great song, too.

And then, listen to one of my favorite songs--My Old School, and you get to see Carolyn Leonhart (aka Lyn Leon) again, this time bustin' a midriff belly button thing and a bubble top. What man doesn't like a bubble top? Ya' never know...

Finally, get acquainted with a singer who paddles effortlessly between rock, standards and jazz. Whatever she's wearing, you'll like the music. I think I'm in luv. Check the iPod on the right for some great music.










9.30.2010

Old Friends & Facebook

I missed the Durham High School Class of 1970 Reunion recently. I was officially a 70's graduate even though I was a bone fide '69er by heart. I graduated in 1970 --it's a a long story and has to do with sex, drugs and Rock 'n Roll. Not much sex and drugs. And more soul than R&R, come to think of it.

There's just something about reunions...I don't go to my college reunions, either. And Good Lord, there has never been a family reunion that included my shadow. I guess I want to be remembered as young and full of spit and vinegar, like James Dean or Elvis. I'm not making that comparison, mind you, but whatever I was it ain't what I am now.

I like remembering the girls beautiful, innocent and pink-cheeked. With tight skirts. And tight sweaters. In their prime. Forever. Willin', but psychologically unable, unless you lived on Orient Street and then all bets were off. How I envied that panache.

One beautiful lass who corresponded with me via FB wrote "Oh, Tommy, the drummer with the Beatle haircut!" Goddamn, I hope that's not all she remembers. My memories of her (of us) are more...cerebral.

And the boys, I want to remember them cruising in pristine GTOs with red line Uniroyals, thanks to Daddy financing the ride. Or in a three speed on the column four-door Plymouth that was more than ten years old, if Momma stayed home and didn't work, too. Or my pal's MG Sprite.

In my dreams these boys wear Madras Gant shirts that would bleed, Scotch grain Weejuns and Corbin pants a little too tight and short in length. An Arnold Palmer alpaca sweater for every day of the week. With color co-ordinated monograms on the collar of a Gant 100% cotton button down. Smooth... Sixty days same as cash at the Young Men's Shop or Van Straaten's. Daddy just needed khakis or one suit and Momma had her house coats. There was a weird pecking order. Still is. What are your kids driving?

Facebook is an interesting phenomenon. I'm beginning to understand that Boomers and even their moms and dads are embracing FB as if it were Tops Drive Inn, The Blue Light or Honey's. If you went to DHS in the late 60's you remember those places. See and be seen. Keep up. Ride around in that GTO. Awesome.

Tell us everything! In detail. Via the world wide web.

I just finally replied to two wonderful people who sent me a FB message some time ago. Back in March I think it was, I was dragged kicking and screaming to the FB sign up page. I don't even remember who it was that browbeat me into signing up, but at the time it seemed like a fun thing to do. "You can re-connect with your high school friends." I can? After forty frickin' years? A little creepy, maybe. But that's just me. And I can't explain why.

Still, I owe a couple of replies. To good, good people. That I admire and remember fondly. I really would like to do the Facebook equivalent of screamin' and shoutin' and signifyin' about just how grand things were/are. But I can't. I don't know why. And why I can blog without that dread is a mystery. Do any of you 69'ers or 70's folks remember Antigue? In the Hi Rocket? Maybe that's why bloggin' doesn't seem as creepy to me as Facebook. I'm a columnist at heart, I guess. An observer of wonderful nows and thens. And tomorrows. Not so much a participant as an observer. At least not now.

So, just please know that now that I've put this blog address "out there", via Facebook--if you land here and read this (whether I've replied to your message or not) I cherish our mutual memories, our collective place in time, our quddity, our essence. High school was a bitter-sweet time for me. Maybe better for you. I hope so. It is what it is.

And this I know: I am nothing without you all. I know that. And I relish in it, every everything, and I absolutely and positively bask in the priviledge of knowing you, being some small part of your life, "back when" and in being remembered by you. But I won't be on Facebook anymore.

James With A "J"

9.23.2010

Thursday Already?

Remember when, after we made love
You gave me tokens,
Circle-toothed love bites
On my ass and thigh.
Well, they are all gone.
Annon. Duke Student Poet
Early '70s

9.18.2010

History Of The Middle Finger

Here's something someone told me while we downed cheap beer and chicken wings in a local bar. Now that I know it, I feel compelled to send it on to my intelligent friends in the Blogosphere.

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew".

The English defeated France and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, "See, we can still pluck yew!" Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodentals fricative 'F', (don't ask me; I have no idea) and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute. It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as 'giving the bird.'

I have no idea if this is true, but I like the picture. So pluck it.

9.16.2010

Another Thursday

For him it was a dark passage which led to ... nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, heavy on the elbows in the earth to nowhere, dark, never any end to nowhere, this time and again for always to nowhere, now not to be borne once again always and to nowhere, now beyond all bearing up, up, up and into nowhere, suddenly, scaldingly, holdingly all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them.

Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls

9.11.2010

Nine One One

On a beautiful, crisp early fall morning,
In a place where if you can make it there
You can make it anywhere,
Hate melted steel.
And flesh.

Hate evaporated dreams.
Eliminated the future.
Negated the beautiful baby that could have been
And wasted the wondrous gift of potential of those already born.

On that glorious day, full of promise
And anticipation for a thrilling rush of action and adventure that only the Center of the World could offer,
The thrill was not
Getting cross town in one piece, on the cheap.
The action was not
Closing the deal,
Trading the market for prop desk pennies, or
Finally winning three card Monte.
Adventure was not
Buying a Rolex in front of Macys or
The forty dollar burger at 21, expensed,
Nor a perfectly tailored suit at Paul Stuart.
Not even scoring a perfectly laced bit of heroin
Or arranging a tryst at The Plaza.

No,
The thrill became a frantic call for instructions on how to save your life.
Stay put. Help is coming.
But only from the grace of God
Who holds out the promise of eternal life.
The reality was a swan dive from the 40th floor after a cell phone goodbye.
Or burn to death.
The rush was a Pompeii ash-covered dash across a bridge,
Away from the collapse of Humanity.
The action was choosing to climb the stairs with your air tank and hose.
Or not.


In a blue lagoon sky at 30,000 feet the All-American form of valor and resolve
Steeled to meet the hate straight up and take it down,
With forearms shielding off the slash of box cutters in the rush,
Lest there be one more petulant explosive purge
Of religious rage, where unknown.
Take the hit for the nation.
One Nation, under God,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Let’s roll, one said—
An ordinary fellow, ordinary no longer
And extraordinary into eternity,
Who would stand as Man of the Year,
A symbolic proxy
For all his ordinary fellow passengers and crew,
Whether Time said so
Or not.

And so a hallowed, sacred, scarred field
Was formed to forever celebrate
The memory of untrained, unarmed warriors
Who blunted hate with no more than
Resolve, reached through the innate understanding that
This cannot stand
And bravery born in part to the resignation of approaching death.


All this, while in a five-sided bunker dedicated to war, peace and security—
In what order no one remembers,
The unambiguous symbol for America’s military might is targeted perfectly by
Someone who never learned to land an airplane—
Just how to fly it,
As what was to become another missile
Buzzes the Interstate, providing motorists
A brief yet brilliant 3-D shot of the red, silver and blue weapon,
Maybe looking like red, white and blue in all of its speed,
Thus, creating a seminal personal horror
To pass down through their generations.

And inside the bunker the management of might is in progress.
Young Marines stand guard in elegant dress blues with red-striped trousers,
Uniforms that are too beautiful for war.
Middle management military, draped in bland tan
Work quietly and with purpose
While the Generals, decked out in fine-cut olive worsted
And the Admirals, resplendent in blue surge or virgin white,
All weighted down by
Medals of Valor, some won on the backs of young grunts
And some well-deserved,
Are chauffeured in golf carts.

There are civilians there, too;
The Raytheon rep, dignified in tropical weight charcoal,
Although he can no longer button the coat thanks to his entertainment budget.
No match for the young Marines erect in their finery.
The civilian staff wears what they always wear.
It is just another day at The Pentagon.

For all in the bunker, it is the uniform that defines you.
It is a wonder that the young Marines are not in charge.
But today the uniform is meaningless.
All may as well be swathed in feathers and scales.
Because they are all sitting ducks.
Fish in a barrel.

No one stood at attention to portray their indignation
At being before a firing squad.
There was no skirmish between the foes. No hand to hand combat.
No defensive or offensive maneuver.
Just one airplane pretending to be a heat seeking missile.
And then that awful, awful explosion of hate.
The rest is known.


And so,
On a beautiful, crisp early fall morning—
At 8:46 and horribly again at 9:03 to be exact,
In a place where if you can make it there
You can make it anywhere, hate melted steel.
And flesh.

While soon after, from a blue lagoon sky and in a five-sided bunker
The day continued, all this misanthropic mayhem signaling a New Time
And a New Way.

The rest is yet unknown, except that we are at war
Whether Time or anyone else says so
Or not.


LD

9.09.2010

The Auto Parts Art of John Corbett

I have two pals that, to my dismay, spend lots of time sending out emails that...well, that we could do without. Except for the 30 slide Powerpoint of "The Beautiful Women of Europe" and such like.

Too often it's an email of an old joke, a picture from that Wal Mart spoof site that shows all these goofballs shopping, or some "pass this on or else" kind of thing that speaks of the seriousness of cancer, stroke warning signs or support for the troops.

Maybe I should tell these guys about how easy it is to start a blog.

I don't "opt out" because they are distant friends--one retired and one who should know better--and once in a while one of them sends along a real gem. Or a 30 slide Powerpoint of "The Beautiful Women of Europe" and such like.

The Art of John Corbett is one of those gems. I'd plop a picture up top to tempt you further but when a fellow that's good with a blow torch says don't use his pictures without written permission I take him seriously.

8.19.2010

It's Thursday Again

A One-Sided Conversation In LA

"Hello? Oh, hi Jerry. Sure, I can talk. I'm just walking back to the car... No, I can't tonight. Why? Well, as if it's any of your business I've got a date... Not that kind of a date, Jerry. You know I only work for you."

..."If you must know, I met him at the Porsche dealership...Yes, he's young. About my age I guess... No, nothing's wrong with the Porsche. I just take it in once in a while and they check the air pressure in the tires for me. They don't seem to mind and it's funny watching all the guys scrambling to get to me first with their tire gauge thingies... OK Jerry, I know I'm a tease--what's new about that?"

"No Jerry, I won't break my date... I don't care how important he is... No... Jerry, I said no... Jerry, I--... I'm hanging up now, Jerry..."

"Wait a minute! It's who?! You're kidding! You. Are. Kidding. Me! What time?... Where?... How long?... Anything special?... Him!? You're kidding... You just broke the spell, Jerry. But OK, I'll take the date. But it better be him, Jerry or when I see you I will break your legs!"

"OK, Jerry. Luv ya, too. Bye."

" I gotta get my nails done!"

8.14.2010

Chipper Jones: Baseball Great. Mortal Man.

It's a superstar nickname. Chipper, as in Chipper Jones. Sort of like Mickey, as in Mickey Mantle. Much more marketable than Larry Wayne Jones. Yet whatever his name, the kid (now 38) can play some baseball. He's considered to be the game's third best switch hitter. Behind fellows named Mickey Mantle and Eddy Murray.

He tore his ACL just the other day, for the second time in his career. Unfortunate, for many reasons. He is out for the rest of the season as his Atlanta Braves are two games up in the NL East. It's manager Bobby Cox's last season and a championship--even if only a divisional championship would have some real karma attached to it.

Unfortunate, because Larry Wayne Jones may have played his last game. During Spring Training Chipper made it clear that if his contribution to the team and his ability to play MLB-calibre ball were not up to his personal standards he would retire.

Today he will undergo surgery. At a press conference yesterday he expressed his intention to rehab and be ready for Spring Training. "I don't want to go out this way," he said. Chipper also expressed frustration that he's going to sit out the Pennant Race and that the Braves were on the verge of "doing something very special," an obvious reference to wanting Cox (and Larry) to go out on top with a championship.

His voice trailed off, in what I take as genuine, deep regret that even if his team goes all the way, he won't be running off the field to hug the crusty Cox--his manager for the great majority of his professional career-- then lock eyes and say, without uttering a word, "we did it for you, Bobby."

I don't think he'll come back. I don't think he would have played this year if it wasn't for the fact that it's Bobby's last year and there was just enough buzz about the Braves being legit contenders to go all the way. Going out with Cox as World Champions would be a story book ending to a great career.

I've met Chipper Jones twice, although the meetings were so impersonal it's almost a stretch to say we met at all. We did shake hands, anyway. The first meeting was when Chipper opened the 1992 season with the Durham Bulls. The Bulls always have a "meet the Bulls" party and that year it was held in a hotel bar. As I'm baseball-centric, I wanted my first son (a little shy of 4 years old, for goodness sake) to meet the already baseball-famous Chipper.

The bar was expansive, and at the time the "in" pick-up and after work place. When we arrived at the appointed time the place was already packed. With as many young women as bona fide Bulls fans. Not that women can't be fans, mind you...

The place was dark, there was no formal program and the players were seated throughout the bar. If one wanted to "meet the Bulls" you better know what they look like! So, since the only player that I even vaguely could recognize (and the only one I really cared about meeting) was Chipper, the plan was find Chipper, talk to Chipper, get picture with Chipper, autograph from Chipper and get the hell out.

We found him hunkered down at one of those built-in half round deals that you have to slide in and out of (is that called banquet seating?). Chipper was just off the middle of the curve, surrounded by four other players. A tight fit. Protected, one might say. So I swallow hard, adjust the son in my arms so I can quickly get out a NL baseball stuffed in the diaper bag (!) and walk up to the table. They all just look at me, blankly.

I look at the white kid at the table. "Chipper Jones?" I ask. He points to the good looking Latin guy next to him and the table explodes in laughter. I think we are the first to find him. I smile nervously and continue to look toward Chipper. "Well, welcome to Durham. All of you. I'm looking forward to watching you guys play, but I hope you don't have to stay here too long. The Show beckons."

Chipper's bored, awkward, out of his element facial expression warmed at that. He smiled briefly, said "Thanks" as the others at the table mumbled some response to to my expressed hope. All accepted my comment as genuine, and they warmed up a little, slightly embarrassed that they had a good laughed at my expense--someone who seemed to respect their talents.

The Latin guy pointed to my son, still up in my arms and wearing a Bulls cap and asked "whose the player? That your son?" So there were "introductions" all 'round, I apologized for not knowing the others and asked Chipper for an autograph...for my son. That got a laugh. He obliged with his trademark "Chipper J", the o-n-e-s one long ink line.

The Latin said "take a picture Chipper, he's got a camera." So Chipper Jones took our picture, then I got one with him holding my son. There were handshakes all around, profuse thanks on my part and we got the hell out. I was ecstatic, to say the least. Chipper was on his way to becoming the family's favorite baseball player (along with Will Clark, but that's another story).

That season Chipper played 70 games in Durham and we attended as many as possible, usually sitting in the left field bleachers. Because Larry played third. Every time I saw Chipper--including that evening in the dark, expansive bar--I thought of Mickey Mantle. Somehow I sensed something heroic yet flawed in both of them.

At the All-Star break Chipper was promoted. He reached The Show not long after, and a little before my sons grew old enough to want to watch Braves baseball on TBS with me. But soon we enjoyed following Chipper's exploits together, including the World Series Championship in 1995. And the heartbreak of World Series losses to the Blue Jays and Twins.

At our house the question was "is Chipper on tonight", rather than are the Braves on TV.

The second meeting was a few years later at a baseball card show. Chipper was the guest autograph celebrity. Signing for money. Now the boys were old enough to enjoy the experience of meeting Chipper, so we stood in line to get another autograph and to say hello. Chipper was polite but reserved and obviously in a hurry. The line was long. I mentioned the night in Durham a few years ago but he didn't remember. Maybe sort of...

His first wife was with him that day. She was drop dead gorgeous, looked prim and proper and was wearing the biggest diamond engagement ring I've ever seen. It was blinding. Larry must have been blinded too, in some way, when he met that Hooters waitress a few years later that swept him off his feet and bore his first child. The marriage ended, and he did not--as many think--marry the Hootress. I'm sure she gets a big tip each month, though.

Of course we were all disappointed by the news of Chipper's infidelity. One of my sons even shed tears. His hero proved to have flaws. A good life lesson for my son. In case later in life he's ever blinded. As we have all been, however seriously. But Chipper is not the only one, and it wouldn't be news if he were not famous. And if he were not famous the child most likely would have sadly been aborted. It took a while, but we forgave him. Sadly, the Braves are no longer on TBS virtually every night so following Chipper became more limited.

I'm thinking the final letting-go of my personal disappointment in Chipper was listening to that recent press conference in which it was evident to me that he understands how the stars are trying to align this season for the Braves. But he won't be part of it past last week. His star is now out of alignment. Yet he showed his passion and love for the game to me in that interview, so wanting to be part of whatever happens.

I believe he wants to run off the field victorious, and find Bobby Cox to hug more than anything. After all, he has spent his entire MLB career in Atlanta. There was more money elsewhere. And in 2005 Larry Wayne Jones reworked his 90 million dollar contract inked in 2000 and gave back 21 million of that contract so the Braves could afford to bid on some quality free agents entering the market. That's a team player if I've ever seen one. Rouges and "white trash"--as John Rocker once called him--don't do things like that.

But it's not going to happen that way. He won't be running anywhere for a while. And by January, just before Spring Training, Larry Wayne Jones will have come to terms with the fact that Bobby Cox is gone, the Atlanta Braves Karma Season is history no matter happens, the stars will never come close to aligning this way again for him and that he has nothing else to prove. As a baseball player, anyway. I wonder what kind of manager he'd be...

Accomplishments

1st pick overall in the 1990 amateur draft
TSN Rookie of the Year (1995)
5-time All-Star (1996-98, 2000-01)
National League MVP (1999)
2-time Silver Slugger at 3rd Base (1999-2000)
Holds the Major League Record for most consecutive games with an extra-base hit (14, tied with Paul Waner).
8 straight 100 plus RBI seasons (1996-2003)
Most home runs in a season by a National League switch hitter (45 in 1999)
Third most home runs for a switch hitter behind Eddie Murray (504), and Mickey Mantle (536)


Chipper's official website

7.27.2010

Investment Rules

In markets like this one I keep three lists handy and here is one of them; the famous 10 rules of former Merrill Lynch strategist Robert Farrell. Number 8 is especially constructive at the moment.

Bob Farrell’s 10 Rules of Investing

1. Markets tend to return to the mean over time.
2. Excesses in one direction will lead to an opposite excess in the other direction.
3. There are no new eras — excesses are never permanent.
4. Exponential rapidly rising or falling markets usually go further than you think, but they do not correct by going sideways.
5. The public buys the most at the top and the least at the bottom.
6. Fear and greed are stronger than long-term resolve.
7. Markets are strongest when they are broad and weakest when they narrow to a handful of blue-chip names.
8. Bear markets have three stages — sharp down, reflexive rebound and a drawn-out fundamental downtrend.
9. When all the experts and forecasts agree — something else is going to happen.
10. Bull markets are more fun than bear markets.

7.20.2010

Folk Art In Eastern North Carolina

"My knees are wore out." And so he can't climb to oil his works of art. So that they continue to move and spin and delight. Vollis Simpson's folk art whirligigs (this link is a couple of years old) are beloved in Eastern North Carolina and famous with the art crowd throughout America.

His outsider art (an April 2010 NYT story with wonderful photographs) has drawn new attention as the city of Wilson, NC and cultural agencies work to find a new home for his works, where they can be taken care of and enjoyed.

Below is an 8 minute introspective video in the style of those classic CBS Sunday Morning closing video essays.




Meet Vollis in the video below.


7.08.2010

Can You Name This Car?

Perhaps the revolution has begun; another brought to fruition by Silicon Valley engineers. High Tech, Beauty and Performance (like all autos should possess) plus Green.

Zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds. Three hundred miles between fill ups (I mean between charges). And zero tailpipe emissions. Zero. Plus, a new way to invest your hard earned money in the market.


About fifty grand. With no gas bill. And you've got to love those blue LED lamps. Not to mention the disappearing door handles.

Available in 2011. But you better sign up now.

I wonder if I can get a white one...with red leather. But I'll miss a throaty exhaust.







Tesla Model S