Category Archives: Diary

Saturday Odds & Sods: Right Place, Wrong Time

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

I finished this post before hearing the terrible news about Our Della Street. I usually apply another layer of polish before publishing but I wasn’t feeling it. If it’s disjointed, so be it. Apologies to our late night Odds & Sods readers, I wanted my Della tribute to be at the top until 8-ish. She would have insisted.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming:

A wee cool front hit New Orleans this week. It’s still hot but not as muggy. It’s nice to step outside without breaking into an insta-sweat. It’s a minor triumph but we’ll take what we can get. It will be gone just in time for the weekend. So it goes.

The big local story comes from St. Tammany Parish. It used to be country but morphed into white flight suburbia in the late 20th Century. It’s the most Republican parish in the Gret Stet and its residents are wont to lecture us depraved city folk about morals and crime. They should knock it off. Former St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain was arrested this week on rape and incest charges. He spent several nights in the jail he ran for 20 years. Schadenfreude thy name is Adrastos.

I still have the late Dr. John on my mind so this week’s theme song is his biggest hit: Right Place, Wrong Time. He wrote it for his 1973 album In The Right Place, which was something of a New Orleans musical summit meeting. It was produced by Allen Toussaint and The Meters were Mac’s backing band on the album.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a 1996 teevee performance with Eric Clapton.

I’m desitively confused by this song. I actually called it Right Time, Wrong Place when discussing Our Mac with my barber the other day. Mac’s penchant for malaprops seems to be contagious even for a man of my edumaction. Let’s jump to the break before I get even more tongue twisted.

Continue reading

New Orleans Culture: Lost In The 21st Century?

As you can see above, my latest column at the Bayou Brief has a click baity title that I’m oddly proud of. I hope everyone falls for it.

Since I quote my First Draft tributes to Dr. John and Chef Leah Chase at the Bayou Brief, it’s only fitting that I quote my Bayou Brief piece here. Damn, my head is spinning:

A word about language: I hate the term “culture-bearer” as it sounds pompous, pretentious. and a passel of other P words. I also dislike “icon” or “iconic.” Perhaps it comes from growing up Greek Orthodox, a faith in which icons are religious artifacts to be worshipped. As a writer, I’m a satirist, which makes me an iconoclast. If I see an icon, I want to smash it.

Yet that’s not my reaction to our local heroes. Dr. John and Chef Leah should be loved, respected, and admired, not worshipped. They were unpretentious people; let’s keep them that way after they’ve departed this mortal coil.

The last word goes to Dr. John and Danny Barker with a tribute to Buddy Bolden:

The song was written by Jelly Roll Morton. Now that’s New Orleans culture, y’all.

Donald Trump Says The Darndest Things

There’s a theme to this week’s posts: mouthy septuagenarian tricks. Joe Biden seems determined to talk his way out of the Democratic nomination. And the Insult Comedian seems to determined to talk his way out of the White House and into federal prison. He has friends in jail, maybe he could bunk with Paul Manafort.

After reviving the your president* speaks feature, I eventually decided it was best to adhere to the informal Maddow Doctrine: Watch what they do, not what they say. There are exceptions to any rule and this one is no exception. I don’t want to be doctrinaire, after all.

The Kaiser of Chaos has been shooting off his big fat bazoo in a way that could come back to bite him in the ass. Twice this week, the president* has shot himself in the foot, then inserted said wounded foot in his mouth. (He did it more than twice but I don’t feel like writing a 1,500 word post. That’s what I do on Saturdays.)

We’ll take it in reverse order. Yesterday, ABC News released a Trump interview with my diminutive countryman, George Stephanopolous. The president* revived one of his greatest hits: “Russia, if you’re listening.”

I’ll let the good people at TPM do the heavy lifting:

In a new interview released this afternoon by ABC News, President Trump tells George Stephanopoulos that he’d take information from a foreign government if one offered dirt on his 2020 opponent. “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening.”

President Trump rejected the idea that such foreign government interventions amounted to election interference. “It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

When Stephanopoulos told Trump his own FBI Director, Christopher Wray, said he should contact the FBI if a foreign government approached him with information about a political opponent, Trump said Wray was wrong. “I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.”

This is Trump’s world view in a nut shell. If it’s good for Trump, it’s good; if it’s bad for Trump, it’s bad. I have a feeling that Rudy Giuliani would have torn his hair out if he still had that epic combover. He’s probably pulling Jay Sekulow’s hair out instead. He can always borrow one of the Insult Comedian’s extra weaves to cover up Rudy’s giant teeth marks. Did I say tear? I meant bite.

Not only is Donald Trump too dishonest to be president*, he’s too stupid; hence the Magritte dumbbell caveman featured image. After years of screaming “no collusion, no collusion,” he admits that he’d do it in a heartbeat. Make that do it again. It’s time for a musical interlude:

Word Of Mouth would also work as a post title but I wanted to connect Trump and Joey the Dinosaur. They have one important thing in common: a fatal inability to STFU.

The weirdest bit in the Stephanopoulos interview is when the Insult Comedian used Norway as an example of a country that might peddle dirt on one of his opponents. Give me a break: the Norwegians may be taller and whiter than the Russians, but they’re not known for their espionage exploits. I can feel my late mother rolling in her grave at the thought that her countrymen would collude with this president*. He should be sentenced to a steady diet of lutefisk as punishment.

The other Trumpian comment that obliged me to violate the Maddow Doctine was about his BFF, Kim Jong Un. The Insult Comedian received another “beautiful letter” from that bloodthirsty Communist dictator, then commented on reports that the diminutive dictator had his uncle murdered for spying. I’ll let Vanity Fair’s Tina Nguyen do the heavy lifting this time around:

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator once described by Donald Trump as “short and fat,”had a suspected traitor in his midst: Kim Jong Nam, Un’s half brother. Nam was considered by U.S. intelligence to have little insight into the inner workings of the Kim regime, according to former U.S. officials, but nonetheless was suspected by the Malaysian government to be a CIA source. In February 2017 he was killed in Kuala Lumpur when two women smeared a nerve agent on his face, causing his sudden death within an hour. Both later claimed that they had been recruited into participating in what they believed was a hidden-camera prank show.

Did Trump care, reporters asked the next day on the South Lawn? “I saw the information about the CIA,” he acknowledged, and “I would tell [Un] that that would not happen under my auspices.” In essence, Trump told a dictator that the agency would stop spying on him.

The typical “what if Obama had said this” trope is inadequate for this moment. Here’s my historical variation: what if JFK had banned spying on Cuba before, during, and after the Missile Crisis to make nice with Fidel? He would have faced withering criticism from both sides of the aisle and possible impeachment. Jack Kennedy, of course, could have charmed his way out of it but he would have been in a world of hurt.

I have an assignment for the MSM as well as constituents of Congressional Republicans. Every time you see a GOP senator or congresscritter, ask them if they would accept opposition research from a foreign power. There will be a chorus of noes. The follow-up question is obvious: if that’s  the case, why is it okay for president* Trump?

The last word goes to Joni Mitchell with a song in which she confesses that she talks too much.  I thought I should bring some class to this post.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Estimated Prophet

Le Cirque by Henri Matisse.

It was a difficult week in New Orleans. In addition to the passing of Dr. John, we lost Chef Leah Chase who died at the age of 96. Her family’s Creole eatery, Dooky Chase’s, has fed presidents, civil rights leaders, and freedom riders as well as the hoi polloi since 1941. A reminder: feeding an integrated group such as the freedom riders was against the law in the Jim Crow Era. Chef Leah did it anyway. After her death, Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry wrote a piece about Chef Leah’s role in the Civil Rights movement. She didn’t scare easily, not even when a bomb was thrown at her Orleans Avenue restaurant.

As she aged, Chef Leah was the smiling, welcoming face of this Treme institution but she never stopped cooking. In recent years, she was a sort of secular saint in our community; something most would find burdensome but she wore it lightly. She led a long and eventful life. She will be missed.

Last month in this space I mentioned the Krewe of Nyx’s hare-brained scheme to stage a summer parade. The city government has finally responded. Here’s how Gambit editor and Adrastos crony Kevin Allman characterized it on the tweeter tube:

This week’s theme song, Estimated Prophet, was written by Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow in 1976. It was tested onstage many times before it became the opening track on one of the Dead’s better studio albums, Terrapin Station.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the studio original, then a boss reggae cover by Burning Spear.

Now that we’ve visited the burning shore of California, let’s jump through a hoop of fire to the break. Hopefully, we won’t get scorched.

Continue reading

Dr. John, R.I.P.

Dr. John as Krewe du Vieux King, 2010.

New Orleans takes its local heroes seriously, especially the musicians among them. We’ve lost one of the greats, Malcolm John Rebennack who was better known by his stage name, Dr. John.  His friends called him Mac, I referred to him as Our Mac because he was such an important part of the extended New Orleans family. Dr. John died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 77.

There’s usually only one degree of separation between your humble blogger and even the best known New Orleanian. I had the pleasure of some brief encounters with Our Mac but did not know him personally. I have friends who knew him well and one of the advantages of social media is hearing their stories. Like most New Orleanians, Mac was an unpretentious and friendly man. It’s why we feel so close to our local heroes. But their realness is a quality that seems to be receding like the Louisiana coastline.

Our Mac spoke his own language. It’s often described as “hipster patois” but I’m not fond of the term. It made him sound like a a man-bun wearing Bywater dweller who was always looking for the next trend to hop on. Mac was a trend-setter, not a trend-hopper. My favorite Dr. John-ism was on the subject of Katrina and the Federal Flood, he said that we were “traumaticalized.” Yeah, you right, Mac.

The music is what mattered most to Mac. He had wide-ranging musical tastes and was open to new players and styles even in his Seventies. Be it funk, blues, jazz, rock, R&B, or standards, Mac translated the music and Dr. John-ized it. His gruff, husky, and heavily New Orleans accented voice was instantly recognizable even in jingles or Disney tunes. Eclectic thy name was Dr. John.

This is the second major blow to New Orleans culture this week. Chef Leah Chase died at the age of 96. I’ll have more to say about her tomorrow. It’s a sad but fitting coincidence that these two greats died this week: they both contributed mightily to who and what we are as a city. The grief for both is genuine as are the fears that what they represented is slipping away.

New Orleans is blessed with some fine music writers who have already chimed in about Our Mac’s passing:

What’s a tribute to Dr. John without some music? I decided to focus on his love of music from the Great American Songbook, which he, of course, Dr. John-ized.

We begin with a happy song to mark this sad occasion:

Mac loved Johnny Mercer:

Since Mac was New Orleans royalty (including his reign as Krewe du Vieux King in 2010) he had a natural affinity with Duke Ellington:

Finally, I’ve had Mac’s take on this Leadbelly classic in my head ever since hearing the news:

Goodnight, Mac. I’ll see you in my dreams.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wooden Ships

A New Frontier by Alan Bean

Summer colds are the worst. I have one so I’m keeping this introduction brief. This time I mean it.

This week’s theme song, Wooden Ships, was written in 1968 by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills. There are two original versions of this song but I’m posting the Crosby, Stills & Nash one first because it was released in May of 1969 whereas Jefferson Airplane’s version came out that November.

Now that we’ve fled planet Earth, let’s jump into the void, I mean, jump to the break. I’m not sure if Kantner, Crosby, and Stills provided parachutes. They were hippies so I have my doubts. I’ll guess we’ll find out on the other side.

Continue reading

Memorial Day: Who I Remember

There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic.This post is making its tenth annual appearance at First Draft. It was also published in our anthology, Our Fate Is Your Fate.

I realize it *should* be posted on Veterans Day since my remembered soldier survived the war BUT old habits are hard to break. Besides, I would face the wrath of both Athenae and Dr. A if I didn’t post it. So, here we go again:

The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.

Soldier Boy

My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clad, and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape. 

Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running an army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…

Eddie died 5 years ago [2005] and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone and confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”

Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.

I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Want You Back

Rayograph by Man Ray.

This is the week Mother Nature flicked the celestial switch to turn on the steam bath that is summer in New Orleans. It hit 90 degrees for the first time in 2019. The cats slowed down, and your humble blogger started sweating like Bogie in the greenhouse scene in The Big Sleep. This sort of heat is why people in more sensible countries such as Spain and Greece take siestas. Did I just call the Greeks sensible? There’s a first time for everything.

The big local story was the death of writer, raconteur, and local character Ronnie Virgets at the age of 77. His prose style was unique as was his voice, which landed him on local teevee and radio. Ronnie was a man about town so I ran into him from time-to-time over the years. The last time was at the Krewe du Vieux captain’s dinner. Ronnie was our king in 1996. I told him how much I missed his Razoo column in the Gambit. His reply: “I ran out of shit to say.” It was said with a wink so I didn’t believe it for a second. Our mutual friend, Clancy DuBos, wrote a lovely tribute to Ronnie in which he compared him to both Damon Runyon and Jimmy Breslin. Yeah, you right, Clancy. They broke the mold when they made Ronnie Virgets.

Motown May continues with this week’s theme song. I Want You Back was written in 1969 by “The Corporation” aka Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonso Mizell, and Deke Richards. The song was originally intended for Gladys Knight & the Pips but ended up being the Jackson 5’s first hit. Let me address the monster in the room: Michael Jackson did monstrous things as an adult but he was an abused child in 1969. Besides, my favorite thing about I Want You back is the production, especially the guitar riff that propels the song.

We have two versions for your entertainment. The Jackson 5 original and a cool cover by Graham Parker:

I hope you’ll still want me back after we jump to the break. If you don’t, who can blame you?

Continue reading

The Crazy, It Burns

Yesterday was one of those days when the deadly absurdity of the Trump regime got to me. The president* had public meltdowns two days in a row. Speaker Pelosi knows what buttons to push and when to push them. She doesn’t do it so often that the first dolt will figure out what she’s up to, but his inability to deal with a powerful woman results in craziness. Bigly.

I sometimes wonder if we’re living in Freedonia, the fictional country of which Groucho Marx was the president in Duck Soup. Groucho was a benign, albeit lecherous, lunatic whereas the Insult Comedian is a malign lunatic with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. I guess I should resume calling him Trumpberius, which is a nod to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Life not only imitates Duck Soup, it imitates I Claudius as I wrote last August:

Trump increasingly reminds me of another crazy Caesar who was also depicted in the classic teevee series, I Claudius: Caligula’s predecessor, Tiberius. In that great 1976 series, Tiberius was installed via the machinations of his mother Livia. That, in turn, left him dubious of his own legitimacy and led him to do crazy and extreme things. Sound familiar?

At the end of his life, Tiberius isolated himself from the court at Rome and spent most of time debauching at his version of Mar-a-Lago: his villa on the Isle of Capri. Neither golf nor cable teevee had been invented at that point but I’m sure Tiberius would have dug them.

Yesterday as the “extremely stable genius” made his aides publicly attest to his stability and all around awesomeness, I kept waiting for burly men in white to place this deranged narcissist in a strait-jacket. This insecure lunatic should be on Nurse Ratched’s ward, not in the White House. (That’s right, life also imitates One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.) Even for the Trump regime, it was a  bizarre spectacle to behold; with horror. Wednesday’s meltdown may have been calculated, this one was not.

Writing for First Draft is my therapy. The whole country is going to need therapy when this mishigas is finally over. The good news is that I believe that voters will vote to stop the madness next year. The bad news is that we have to put up with this insanity until January, 2021 since his cabinet is populated with non-entities and lackeys who cannot count to 25 as in the 25th Amendment. And impeachment is merely an invitation to remove an errant Oval One; only the voters can remove him since the senate obviously will not.

The last word goes to Rufus T. Firefly:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Toff On The Farm

John Creasey was a successful and highly prolific crime fiction writer. And when I say prolific, I mean it: he wrote over 600 novels using 28 pen names. He made Stephen King look like a slacker.

The Toff was one of Creasey’s best-loved series. He was a gentleman detective who specialized in “fish out water” stories: hence the urban and urbane Brit at a farm.

My late mother was a fan of Creasey’s work and they were among the first grown-up books I read as a tadpole. No wonder I’m an Anglophile, eh wot?

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Golconda by Rene Magritte.

After a deluge on Mother’s Day, we’re having Indian spring in New Orleans. Is there such a thing? If there’s not, there should be. The best thing about it is that the oak pollen that plagued me got its ass kicked by the rain.

I’ve never re-used an Odds & Sods featured image within a month before, but it’s a perfect fit with this week’s theme song. Besides, if you blog long enough, you end up repeating yourself, repeating yourself, repeating yourself. One side benefit of the vinyl revival is that everyone knows what a broken record is, what a broken record is, what a broken record is. It’s time to lift the needle and move on.

Motown May continues with the Supremes. The crack songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote You Keep Me Hangin’ On in 1966. It was a number one hit song with a bullet, with a bullet, with a bullet. The preceding was an inside joke for hardcore Zappa fans. Everyone else can move on to the next paragraph.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Supremes original and a 1967 “psychedelic rock” cover by Vanilla Fudge, which was also a  top ten hit. I put psychedelic rock in quotes because it’s one of those phrases that’s like ketchup or mayo: some people slather it over everything.

Now that we’ve hung on as well as out, let’s jump to the break. Perhaps all this hangin’ means we’ll land in a hangar. One more thing:

Continue reading

Doris Day, R.I.P.

My parents were both Doris Day fans, so I grew up watching her eponymous sitcom, then her movies on the late, late show. They owned some of her records and my mom was known to sing along with Doris. She got a kick out of informing me that Doris Day was my dad’s celebrity crush. His response, “She’s my type. She’s a beautiful Midwestern blonde. Just like your mother.”

Doris Day died today at the age of 97. She lived a long, productive, and difficult life. She was a survivor: she made it through a series of bad marriages and outlived her only child, Terry Melcher, by 15 years. Terry was Manson’s real target on the night that Sharon Tate was murdered. He was never quite the same again but his mother persevered. People who grew up during the Great Depression and lived through World War II were as tough as nails; even America’s Sweetheart.

As much as I loved her movies with Rock Hudson and Tony Randle, it was a revelation when I saw her in the two movies whose lobby cards are this post’s featured image. She was a mom and wife in the Hitchcock flick but her turn in Love Me Or Leave Me as Ruth Etting, a torch singer married to a gangster, was unlike any other part she ever played. Ruth was one tough cookie as was Doris.

Doris Day was a legend: singer, movie star, actress, and animal lover. What a life, what a broad. She will be missed.

The last word goes to Doris herself with the theme song from Love Me Or Leave and the song from The Man Who Knew Too Much that became her signature number, Que Sera, Sera:

 

Memories Of The Muskie Administration

The MSM punditocracy hasn’t learned anything from the 2016 election. They’re still fixated on early polling and “discovering” bright shiny objects instead of reporting the campaign. I *had* hoped they’d learned that insider political journalism was bankrupt as declared by Ben Smith last summer. But they haven’t learned a damn thing and continue to focus on the horse race aspects of the “why not me” campaign. Remember the Avenatti boomlet? I’d prefer to forget it.

After declaring Joe Biden’s candidacy DOA, many in the punditocracy now think that he’s the inevitable nominee. They’re wrong in both instances. Frontrunner status has a way of bringing a candidate crashing to earth, especially in such a large field. Remember President Dean?

I have fond memories of the 2009-2017 Hillary Clinton administration. She was the frontrunner that time around and ended up losing the nomination. Secretary of State was a pretty damn good consolation prize. Thanks, Obama.

The ultimate Democratic frontrunner who failed was Senator Edmund Sixtus Muskie of Maine. 1972 was my formative year as a political junkie. It was the first time I was old enough to pay attention. I supported George McGovern but liked Muskie and didn’t understand why he was torn down by a media that had built him up as the inevitable nominee for two years. I was too young to get it then.

Ed Muskie was Hubert Humphrey’s running mate in 1968. The contrast between him and the man I refuse to claim as my countryman, Spiro Agnew, was stark. Muskie was calm, thoughtful, and qualified. The self-loathing Greek, Ted (Don’t Call Me Spiro) Agnew, was the exact opposite: bombastic, shallow, and unqualified. He was also a crook who took bribes while serving as Veep.

One of the best ads of the 1968 election cycle mocked Agnew:

Back to Ed Muskie. He emerged from the ’68 campaign as a national figure. His calm, reasoned reply to a frenetic midterm broadcast by Tricky Dick in 1970 made him a star and the ’72 frontrunner. The tall Senator was called Lincolnesque by many observers. What candidate wouldn’t want to be compared to Honest Abe?

Muskie led in every Democratic preference poll from that moment on. He was frequently ahead of Nixon in head-to-head polls through the early months of 1972. One of his campaign themes was Trust Muskie, drawing an obvious contrast to a president whose nickname was Tricky Dick.

This button is a good example of Muskie’s message:

Muskie was inevitable, until he wasn’t. His frontrunner status made him a target for Nixon’s dirty tricksters and at 6’4″ he was a big target. Attacks on his wife, Jane, caused Big Ed to snap and cry in public, which in the uber-macho atmosphere of 1972 helped doom his candidacy. Nixon and his lackeys had the opponent they wanted in the general election.

Among the many ironies of Muskie’s doomed campaign is that he actually won the New Hampshire primary, but the punditocracy, unaware of Nixonian dirty tricks, declared McGovern the “winner.” Muskie’s campaign might have come a cropper anyway: he was over reliant on big name endorsements and blurred his strongly liberal political views into blandness on the advice of his advisers.

Muskie was also dogged in 1972 by a bizarre and untrue story concocted by Hunter S. Thompson about his use of a hallucinogenic drug, Ibogaine. Thompson later claimed it was a joke and that nobody believed the story anyway. That just wasn’t so. I think of Ed Muskie every time I hear Hunter Thompson lionized as a voice for fearless independent journalism when, in fact, he was in the bag for Team McGovern. Projection thy name is Hunter S. Thompson.

What lessons can be drawn from my memories of the Muskie administration?

It’s not over until it’s over.

Don’t trust the MSM punditocracy and early polls. They’re both eminently changeable. Just ask former media darling Beto O’Rourke.

Insider political journalism *should* be dead, but it’s not.

The last word goes to Alice Cooper with a hit song from 1972:

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Haven’t Done Nothin’

Der Vogelmensch by Max Ernst

It’s been a good news, silly news week in New Orleans. I’m a good news first person: with the help of Governor Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has secured millions in tourism money to help fix our aging infrastructure. Here’s what I mean by aging infrastructure:

In silly local news, the Krewe of Nyx is planning a summer parade. Just what we needed: a sweaty-n-steamy faux Carnival parade. This is why I call them the krewe of mediocre themes and bad ideas. The only good thing is that they won’t be sweat-rolling on the traditional parade route near Adrastos World HQ. It’s a terrible idea: the allure of Carnival is enhanced by its seasonality. This is like eating oysters in a month without an R. Shorter Adrastos: Nix on Nyx.

Motown May continues with this week’s theme song. Stevie Wonder wrote You Haven’t Done Nothin’ in 1974 in response to the news of the day: Watergate. That’s right, it’s about Nixon. I’ve used it before but never as an Odds & Sods theme song. Since we’re in a slow-motion constitutional crisis, it works. Just think of Trump instead of Tricky Dick.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Stevie’s original and a 2018 cover by Roger Daltrey.

Now that we’ve trashed talked Tricky-n-Trumpy, let’s jump to the break.

Continue reading

Not Everything Sucks: Springsteen At Jazz Fest 2006

An early high point of the Katrina/Federal Flood recovery era was when the Boss played the first Jazz Fest after the storm. It was one of the best sets I’ve ever seen.  It closed in a way that guaranteed there wasn’t a dry eye at the Fairgrounds:

F Is For Fluid

I took a mental health break from political news and social media this weekend. We attended a Kentucky Derby party at the home of some friends who hail from the Bluegrass State. I drank too much Bourbon from our host’s collection. Like Maximum Security, I was disqualified…from driving. I may, however, have bumped someone for all I know.

Upon my return to the fray, there was panic and paranoia in the air.  It’ seem to be taken as a given in some quarters on the left that Trump *will* be a dictator unless impeachment proceedings were started yesterday. And that anyone who disagrees is like a German Jewish merchant who refused to believe that the country of Bach had become a country of pogroms. I wish I had “liked” that tweet but it was so OTT hysterical that I moved on. Team Liberal Freak Out is playing into the Trumpers’ hands. They want us to turn on one another. It shows that someone is paying attention to Democrats’ tendency to form the proverbial circular firing squad. Don’t do it, y’all.

Sowing chaos and confusion is what Team Trump does best. That’s why I adopted the phrase the Fog of Scandal and call the president* the Kaiser of Chaos. The Trump regime press operation is a giant smoke machine and sometimes they hit the target.

A more understandable reason for alarm is that Bill Barr is the first major figure in Trumpworld who is neither stupid nor incompetent. He’s a wily bastard who engineered the end game of the Iran-Contra cover-up so neatly that his role was forgotten until he took on the Kremlingate cover-up. He’s a cover-up specialist disguised as an establishment lawyer

One thing I’ve learned in life is that freaking out never made anything better. Observing a relative who has spent their life freaking out over everything has led me to skew in the opposite direction. Team Liberal Freak Out would be well-advised to take a deep breath and calm down. We need clear heads to fight Trumpism. Repeat after me: freaking out never made anything better.

I realize that the worst case scenarists could be right. In my thirteen years as an internet pundit, I’ve been wrong before and I could be again. The only certainty in the fight against Trumpism is that the situation is fluid. Trump changes his mind on important things at least twice daily. He acts out of anger, panic, and fear, which is why his opponents should think things through and act out of reason, not blind emotion. I seem to be channeling Mr. Spock today: better a Vulcan than a Ferengi. Trump is the latter:

Actually, he’s a Ferengi who thinks he’s a Klingon. End of Star Trek fanboy digression.

At the risk of sounding like the late mystery writer Sue Grafton: F Is For Fluid. Anyone who is certain they know how this will turn out is kidding themselves. It’s like the out of control carousel at the end of Strangers on a Train: round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows. In that Hitchcock classic, the carousel was wrecked but the good guys prevailed in the end  Let’s hope life imitates art.

The last word (video?) goes to the aforementioned carousel scene:

Saturday Odds & Sods: What’s Going On

Jazz Fest is in its second weekend. I used to love this event, but it’s like an ex-girlfriend who I still like but am not always eager to see.  It’s become just another pop/roots rock/kinda sorta jazz festival in the last decade, which has made me lukewarm about attending. I broke up with Jazz Fest a few years ago and have an awkward relationship with it. I still may go this weekend but the thrill is gone, y’all.

In other New Orleans news, a water main broke a few miles from Adrastos World HQ. We had no water pressure for a few hours and are still under a boil water advisory. The pipe was laid in 1905. I should make a crude joke at this point but I try to ignore my inner Beavis and Butthead.

This week we celebrate the music of Marvin Gaye who would have turned 80 on April 2nd, which was the day that the USPS issued the Marvin Gaye stamp. I remember the dark day in 1984 when I heard about Marvin’s death at the hands of his father. It was April Fool’s day so I wondered briefly if the news was a cruel hoax. It was not. I even shed a few tears. I rarely cry but I wept that day. Rage, jealousy, and firearms are a toxic combination. For Marvin, they were fatal.

This week’s theme song was the title track of Marvin’s best album.  We have two versions of What’s Going On for your listening pleasure: Marvin’s original followed by a swell 1986 cover by Cyndi Lauper who really rocks Marvin’s composition.

Now that we’ve seen what’s going on, let’s jump to the break with our eyes wide open. I’ll skip the obvious Kubrick joke.

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Back In The High Life Again

Mesas In Shadows by Maynard Dixon

I had a stupid kitchen accident this week. The sink was full-ish so I decided to pour boiling water into an airborne/hand-held colander. I missed and mildly scalded my left hand. It hurt like hell for a day or so but barely qualified as a first degree burn. I did, however, feel like a first degree dumbass. It was not unlike being an honorary Trump.

I just finished reading John Farrell’s fine 2017 biography of Richard Nixon. I learned two positive things about Tricky Dick. First, he broke his arm as a young politician after slipping on the ice outside his DC area home. The break occurred because he held onto his daughter instead of bracing for the fall with his hands. Second, Nixon was a good tipper. He tipped 25% in the late Sixties when 10% when standard and 15% was a big tip. Hell has frozen over: I just said something nice about Nixon.

After last week’s sad theme songs, I decided to elevate the tone a bit. Back In The High Life Again was written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings in 1986. It was a big hit; surely aided by James Taylor’s gorgeous harmony vocals.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Winwood’s chirpy original and a mournful interpretation by Warren Zevon, another wry and sardonic guy. We’re everywhere, y’all.

Now I want some Miller High Life, which is my favorite cheap beer. It’s even good enough for my beer snob/home brewer friend Greg. On that note, let’s take a swig of Miller, then jump to the break. Try not to spill any. Wasting beer is a sin.

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Without You

Vue de Notre-Dame de Paris by Pablo Picasso

It’s been a tough week that got off to a bad start with the Notre-Dame fire. Instead of uniting people in solidarity, it led to petty bickering on social media as to which was worse, that fire or the church fires perpetrated by a racist in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.  They’re equally terrible in their own way: there’s no need to weigh them on a scale of horror. Notre-Dame will be rebuilt and there’s an online fundraising effort afoot for the churches in Louisiana. Click here it you’d like to donate.

I nearly wrote a post about all the crazy hot takes on the tweeter tube until I realized that the last thing the world needed was my hot take on hot takes. Instead, here’s a funny story about flies. We’ve had some aggressive flies in the house this year: Paul Drake likes to chase them but rarely, if ever, catches them. His frantic efforts remind me of my father’s reaction to flies. Lou was obsessed with swatting and killing them. He was relentless. After years of observing him in action, I finally asked him why. It had to do with his service in the Pacific theatre in World War II. There were so many damn flies there that he hoped never to see them again once he was home. It made perfect sense so I stopped teasing him about his fly swatting exploits. It’s a good thing that he never lived in the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

Sorrowful times call for sad tunes. Pete Ham and Tom Evans wrote Without You for Badfinger’s 1970 No Dice album. The ultimate version of this song was recorded the next year by Harry Nillson who wrung every ounce of emotion out of the lyrics and melody. It was a monster hit: sitting atop of the US charts for 4 weeks.

It’s disambiguation time. This Without You was written by John Wetton and Steve Howe for Asia’s eponymous 1982 debut album. Holy power ballad, Batman.

Now that we’ve established our self-sufficiency, let’s jump to the break; either alone or together alone.

Continue reading

Our Lady of Paris

I lit candles for Kick at every church in Paris.

I visited for the first time when I was heavily pregnant, against the advice of everyone but my doctor. An overnight transatlantic flight at seven and a half months gone, plus a week of walking nonstop, climbing stairs and taking trains and buses and cabs, in what was going to be a chilly November the week before Thanksgiving? Ridiculous.

Kick’s coming wasn’t known to anyone outside our families, then. Even among our close friends, I shunned mention of the pregnancy, fear lingering from the decade of trying before her conception. Paris was yet another way of denying the inevitable, of protecting myself. We planned the trip, rented the apartment, and I slept intermittently from from O’Hare to Charles de Gaulle.

The first morning, we walked up the hill in our neighborhood to Sacre Coeur, and I stopped in front of a row of votives. My wish for my future daughter, for myself: Courage. The strength to take up a task when it presents itself, and to pursue it despite obstacle and ridicule, failure and fear. I lit a candle there, and prayed for the child that rolled and twisted inside me: Please, let her be brave.

The second to last day, at Notre Dame, I did the same. In the shadow of the stained glass, beneath the stones as old as the city, at the shrine of Joan of Arc, I prayed for her future, for health strength love joy power, for the saints and angels to watch over her, in whatever form they took.

I am not a good Catholic. I am a practicing one, in that I make attempts, motions, that often feel clumsy and false and out of tune. I stumble over the words of childhood prayers and forget the Holy Days of Obligation and joke that Jesus and I are fine but His friends are another matter. My husband and I did not attend Mass in Paris. We were going to the churches as tourists, not faithful.

But I lit candles at every single one.

It felt fraudulent. Notre Dame was not my parish, and I was barely its parishioners’ co-religionist. It was presumptuous, and likely foolish too. But if there is a place for presumptive fools, it is the Church, and we are all unworthy at its table. If it does nothing, I told myself, if it’s only light, there are worse things than light.

Today Kick ran home from school, healthy and strong and brave and joyous. The sanctuary where I prayed for all those things is ash. The candles would have guttered out an hour or two after we left, but I have thought of them every day since, knowing nothing but that what I prayed for came true, whether through my prayers in that place or not.

Our children are brave, though the world is burning, the irreplaceable places crumbling into dust. They aren’t ours, except that we pass through them and leave our prayers behind.

A.