Category Archives: Diary

Good night, Jack Hamilton

(Posting a bit early because of a sad bit of news. Hope it’s acceptable. – Doc.)

Of all the baubles and trinkets I’ve collected over the years that adorn my office, one of my favorite ones is a baseball signed by Jack Hamilton, who died earlier today.

Hamilton

The reason I got it was that I taught one of his grandchildren during one of my many stops in journalism education. I still remember her approaching me during our introductory reporting course to ask for special dispensation when it came to her profile.

“I know you said that we can’t do this on family members, but…” she began.

I had heard all sorts of excuses over the years: “I don’t have time to find anyone else,” or “My mom is my hero” or “I don’t know who else I’d do.”

I kind of did that “Justify your existence” thing and said, “Who and why?”

The answer was “My grandfather and he used to pitch in the major leagues.”

I decided it would be OK. After all, I let some kid do a piece on her grandmother because she was Jerry “Beaver Cleaver” Mathers’ mom, so why not a pitcher? Besides, I liked baseball. It was only after she turned in the piece that I realized who this man was.

Jack Hamilton had a relatively pedestrian career record of 32-40 during the heart of the 1960s. He bottomed out with Cleveland and the White Sox in 1969, going 0-5 before retiring. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, he wasn’t a giant, but a solid man who could mix his pitches well. His best season ended up being his most memorable one for all the wrong reasons.

In 1967, he started 2-0 for the New York Mets, who sent him to the Angels for Nick Willhite, who would retire from the game following a 0-1 campaign for New York that season. He was 8-2 and on the way to his only double-digit winning season on Aug. 18 when he threw the pitch that would define his career.

“It was a fastball that just got away.” I remember reading that line in my student’s profile. It stuck with me all these years and it hung with me today. I never heard the man’s voice, but I can hear it over and over in my head.

The one that “got away” smashed into the head of Boston’s Tony Conigliaro, a promising slugger who had already hit 100 home runs faster than any man in the game. The pitch fractured Tony C’s cheekbone, dislocated his jaw and damaged his retina. He sat out all of 1968 and would never really become the player everyone thought he would be.

Hamilton finished the season with an 11-6 record, but he too would never be the same.

“I had trouble pitching inside,” he told his grand-daughter. I didn’t blame him.

I remember reading that profile my student wrote, almost in awe and yet almost in shame. I felt like I was leering in on this man’s most difficult moment. I was thinking, Good God, man… you let this student ask her grandfather about all this? The hell is wrong with you? Still, I had to grade the thing so I kept on reading and I was glad I did.

He left baseball and settled in Branson, Missouri, where opened up several restaurants and raised a family. People liked him for who he was then, not because he was “a former baseball player.” He was just a great guy.

A year or two later, the student was working in the newsroom near Thanksgiving when we started chatting about something or other and she mentioned she was going home for the break.

“Are you seeing your grandpa?” I asked. “If so, tell him I loved reading about him.”

She said she was and that he’d be glad to hear that someone liked reading his story. I laughed a bit and tossed in a line: “Tell him I’d love to have his autograph.”

When she returned from Thanksgiving, she handed me a baseball. She had explained our exchange to her grandfather and my ask, he got this great big smile on his face and asked, “Really?” He then went out and actually bought a baseball so he could sign it for me. (I would have taken a turkey-stained napkin, for Pete’s sake.) His hand writing was a tad jittery, but right across the sweet spot, he inked his autograph for me.

I bought a plastic container to display it and subsequently found a 1968 copy of his baseball card. It was amazing but I could really see the family resemblance between that man on the card and his grand daughter in my class. I found it to be a nice reminder of a wonderful moment.

He also served as a reminder to me about how life can mix things up on you from time to time, but in the end, if you know who you are and you value the right things, everything will turn out OK. When I finished reading the profile on him, I felt I knew him and how he had become comfortable in his own skin.

He was just the kind of person you’d want as a grandpa.

So, good night, Mr. Hamilton. I hope you are at peace knowing you really were an incredible man.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Fever

The Grand Jatte Hibernators by Max Ernst.

We’ve put Carnival in the books and my repentance comes in the form of a cold. Mercifully, it’s not the flu, but I’m still going to keep it extra snappy since I might get the vapors at any moment.

There was sad news for New Orleanians Thursday night. Arthur Robinson, better known as Mr. Okra died at the age of 75. I’ll let Advocate food writer Ian McNulty tell you a bit about him:

For decades, Arthur “Mr. Okra” Robinson provided one of the distinctive sounds of a city famous for its music, but he didn’t play the trumpet or the piano.

He was a roving produce vendor, traveling the neighborhood streets in a heavily-customized pickup truck and using a loudspeaker to sing the praises of his oranges and bananas, his avocados and, of course, his okra.

<SNIP>

The young and old alike knew Robinson as Mr. Okra, and he was a frequent sight across many different neighborhoods. In his trade, he was a link back to a different era in New Orleans when everything from ice to charcoal was sold door to door. For Robinson, the job was actually part of a family tradition, one he picked up from his father, the late Nathan Robinson.

It was a pleasure to hear Mr. Okra’s voice echo through my neighborhood. I couldn’t always catch up to him, but when I did I enjoyed chatting with him and squeezing the odd piece of fruit. He will be missed.

Since I have one, I selected Fever as this week’s theme song. We have two versions for your entertainment: Peggy Lee and the Neville Brothers.

I have very little gas in the tank right now, so that’s it for this week. I’ll be back with a full-blown Odds & Sods next Saturday. Let’s finish up with one of my favorite bat memes from 2017: the Spitting Images Genesis puppets.

 

 

Happy Mardi Gras

Dr. A and I are on the disabled list this year. She has a bad cold and I have a gimpy leg; nothing serious or permanent. We were the krewe of the couch and watched parade coverage on WWL-TV. The krewe of kitties named for Perry Mason characters approved.

The fact that Mardi Gras day coincides with the Ice People Olympics means that it’s time to revive a classic moment from the 2014 Krewe du Vieux parade. It’s the Drips and Discharges Skating Dick.

To quote an old proverb, it ain’t over until the dick skates. Did I say old? I meant odd.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Box Of Rain

It’s been a somewhat stressful Carnival season thus far. The reason has been the weather: it’s been chilly and wet. The skies opened and poured down rain on the all female Krewe of Nyx on Wednesday night. We braved the elements and watched large chunks of the parade because we have friends in it and wanted to show our support. We can also run home and change clothes if we’re soaked. Props to the ladies who rode and survived the deluge of 2018.

Our annual Muses open house was a roaring success as was the parade itself, which took place on a dry Thursday evening. Half of New Orleans seems to come to Adrastos World HQ every year and 2018 was no exception. We had a record number of children including the legendary child army. New kitty Paul Drake came out to meet company but eventually got spooked by a close encounter with Lagniappe who is the craziest, cutest, and funniest 2+ year old I’ve ever met. Believe me.

Muses is another all-chick krewe who are famous for their shoe throws and marvelous themes. This year’s theme, Muses Night at the Museum, was their best yet. They riffed on masterpieces by artists such as Seurat, Magritte, Matisse, and Hopper and gave them a satirical twist. It was brilliant thematically and beautifully executed. My years in Krewe du Vieux have made me something of a parade critic but I have no criticism of this parade. It was stone cold brilliant. Four stars all the way, y’all.

Muses has a swell slide/show photo gallery of their floats at their Facebook page. Take a peek you’ll enjoy it, even this one:

Here’s the counterpart to that float. It’s as wistful as hell:

I know what you’re thinking: another Grateful Dead tune as the theme song? It’s actually tied to Carnival by analogy. We live inside what is referred to as the parade box. On parade days, except for Mardi Gras day itself, our movements are constricted by the parades. We even have parking wars.  This forecast for the rest of the weekend is a shit ton of rain. Hence Box Of Rain:

I have just two articles to suggest this week, so we’ll forego the break and usual segment format. I’m not sure if it’s innovative or lazy; probably the latter since hosting a party of 100+ people is hard work. I feel as if I was run over by a float.

Dr. A wanted to see the Super Bowl half time show even though we only watched snippets of the game. She was disappointed by it as was Vulture’s Brian Moylan who was inspired to write a list ranking Super Bowl half time shows from worst to best. Moylan is something of an Irish Shecky who is known for his hilarious recaps of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills aka Rich Ladies Doing Things. I particularly enjoy how he rags on one of the husbands. He once called this chap a pustule with legs. Now that’s entertainment.

It’s Black History Month everywhere except the Trump White House. The Failing New York Times published a list of must-see movies:

It’s a great list. I’ve only seen half of the films listed so I have some catching up to do. I am pleased that they like Devil With A Blue Dress as much as I do.

That’s it for this week’s limited edition of Saturday Odds & Sods. I can’t assure you that it will grow in value but it’s mercifully short. That’s something, innit?

The last word goes to the Krewe of Muses:

Everybody Loves A Parade

Carnival swings into high gear this evening. We live inside the parade box, which is even more intense at the beginning of the route where Adrastos World HQ is located. A highlight of every parade are the military marching bands, especially the Marines in their gorgeous dress blues.

Everybody loves a parade including the Current Occupant:

President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.

Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top-secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.

“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning discussions are supposed to remain confidential. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”

Everybody loves a parade including Third World tyrants and the Banana Republican who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at the moment. I wonder if the Kaiser of Chaos plans to repair the streets that are damaged. Not that he’s thought that far ahead: he’s a tween who wants what Macron has. But that sort of parade *is* a tradition in France, not in America. It’s not a parade to celebrate the military but to celebrate Trump’s ego and prove that his dick is bigger than the handsome young French president’s.

In many parts of the world, tanks in the streets means that there’s a coup d’etat in progress. I heard stories of Athens, Greece in 1967 from my de facto Uncle Lou who was stationed there with NCIS when the colonels overthrew the duly elected government. (A quick personal story. Lou is the reason I cannot watch NCIS: New Orleans despite being a Scott Bakula fan. In his many years of service, he never drew his weapon. He would have considered it a failure to do so. Real NCIS agents are investigators, not action heroes.)

The building on the right is parliament at Syntagma Square. That’s constitution square for anyone keeping score. The score that day was colonels ten, democracy zero.

The Greeks have learned their lesson about tanks in the street. It’s what happens when democracy fails and authoritarianism prevails. Is that what we want to see in our nation’s capital? A parade staged to gratify a vainglorious despot wannabe? No fucking way.

Trump recently called Democrats “un-American” for not applauding him during his desultory state of the union speech. What’s un-American is staging a military parade when we’re not celebrating the end of a war. It’s an act of egomania conceived by an insecure man who is called Cadet Bone Spurs by a real war hero, Senator Tammy Duckworth. Believe me.

America should be secure in the knowledge that our military is second to none. We don’t need tanks in the streets to gratify an Insult Comedian with a dead nutria atop his head.

Everybody loves a parade.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Night and Day

The Night Cafe by Vincent Van Gogh.

Carnival kicks into full swing this weekend. We’re about to have parades and company up the wazoo. I remain uncertain as to what the wazoo is but I think it’s first cousin to the ying-yang or the place where the moon don’t shine.

One downside of Carnival are the creeps who try to appropriate the public green as their own private space. We call them the Krewe of Chad or Chads for short. For the first time in years, the city decided to enforce the existing ordinances against ladders, couches and such being left on the sidewalks and neutral grounds. The Chads were outraged. They’re always either outraged or entitled hence the 2016 Krewe of Spank theme, Clash of the Entitled.

You may recall the mishigas over the Forever Lee Circle beads.  In a fit of hashtag activism, someone decided to do something about it:

Since we have both night and day parades, I picked a classic for this week’s theme song, Night and Day. It doesn’t get more classic than Cole Porter, y’all. We have two versions for your listening pleasure, Ella Fitzgerald  followed by a swell 1995 version by the Temptations.

Now that we’ve heard the boom, boom of the tom-toms, let’s jump to the break. See you on the other side.

Continue reading

Spanktuary City

Photograph by David Aguiar.

The forecast was dire for last Saturday’s Krewe du Vieux parade. I am the Krewe of Spank’s voice of weather doom but I was wrong. It poured off and on until 3:30 PM, then the front moved on leaving us with slightly slippery streets and a dry parade.

The sub-krewe of Spank’s theme this year was Spanktuary City. I’ll let a neutral observer, my boy Kevin Allman of the Gambit Tabloid, describe it for you:

Krewe of SPANK, which always mounts ambitious floats and even more ambitious themes, paid tribute to the pushme-pullyu over New Orleans’ status as a sanctuary city with the theme “SPANK-tuary City” and a float with an elaborate, moving whack-a-mole game.

Time to edit the editor. There’s no hyphen in Spanktuary, dude. It’s our pun and we’ll decide how to punctuate the sucker. Besides, we’ve used that moniker for our annual parade route party since its inception. Additionally, it’s Spank-a-Mole as you can see in these pictures taken by Dr. A:

Spank-a-Mole is a game of endurance wherein you beat the mole into submission. That’s what the anti-Trump resistance has to do: keep spanking the ugly orange mole. I understand the SOTU was an endurance test as well. I skipped it. 80 minutes of an Insult Comedian with a dead nutria atop his head? No thanks.

It’s time for some non-Spanky pictures involving members of Drips and Discharges. They mocked pervy NOLA celebrity chef John Besh. This headpiece won the parade:

My buddy Brother Bob Bolin is also in Drips. Here he is slumming it with me:

Here’s a close up of Bob’s sign:

A reminder: Krewe du Vieux is a homemade parade. All the work was done by the talented members of the various sub-krewes. That’s what makes it so distinctive and great. The satire is pretty darn good as well

A quick shout-out to my fellow Spankster and Deadhead David Martin for turning me on to the marvelous parade route photo by David Aguiar. Thanks, man. To read more about the parade take a closer look at Kevin’s instant analysis.

Finally, this year members of the Krewe of Spank costumed as Lady Liberty with blue togas. We looked like an inebriated gang as we marched. I’m not sure if we were the Jets or the Sharks. We *were* the first Blue Wave of 2018:

Four

Kick, today you are four, and I am ready.

I am ready to give up.

I have had fights about food and fights about toys and fights about TV and fights about books. I have listened to you argue convincingly that you should not wear a hat when it is five below, that you should wear your boots to bed, that we should find a Lego Moana figurine for you in the bottom of the car upon arriving home at 10:30 p.m. after an absolutely bitching 3-hour drive in the snow. I have listened to you argue that you did NOT just promise to pick up your crayons when you DID, I have listened to you argue for another story after we’ve read five, and I have listened to you argue that baths are for staying in until they’re almost outdoors-cold.

It’s impossible to justify the cost of the fight any longer. I can’t do it. I’m done.

These are the terms of my surrender:

First, you will not give the kittens any peanut butter. Or any chicken. Or any peas. Or any bacon. Or any human food at all. Nor will you entice them onto the table, inside the dishwasher, into your room, under the bed or anywhere else you know they are not supposed to be.

You will not instigate bad behavior with the kittens. They are not soldiers in your resistance army. You’re going this alone.

Second, you will go to bed on time. I don’t care what you do while you’re in bed. You can sing to yourself, play with your stuffies, have one hand tell stories to the other hand, whatever. You can launch the space shuttle from your rocking chair for all I care, so long as you are in your room. I cannot make you sleep, but I can make you go to bed, so you’ll do that at a time of my choosing.

Third, you will not be rude to people, nor rude to me in front of people, especially if you are hilarious about it. The other day we were at your Nana and Papa’s house and I asked you to help clean up the toys there because we were getting ready to leave. At the top of your considerable lungs you yelled, “I’m BUSY!” I would prefer you rephrase to something like, “May I please have a moment to finish what I’m doing first, mama,” because your grandmother almost choked to death laughing and we’d like to have her around a bit longer.

Fourth, and most importantly, you will stay approximately this age forever. FOREVER. This age is awesome.

Let me tell you something about you right now, as you drive me absolutely up a wall: You are so freaking happy. You are delighted, as always, by everything, but now you are old enough to poke holes in the dirt with a stick by yourself, and run past me up trails and down hills, and you are a mere HALF INCH from being my roller coaster buddy (your father being, as I’m sure you’ll one day learn, a chickenass about rickety carnival rides).

You are not a chickenass. You are afraid of nothing. Oh, you pretend you are sometimes, to get attention, to get snuggles, to get an extra story or a treat or some time with the kittens, but really nothing scares you. This past summer you and I rode in a Ferris Wheel so high I could see the lake from well inland, and I was clutching the sides of the tiny bench we sat on, and you looked around serenely confident that that which had lifted you up high would set you safely down. You patted my hand condescendingly and then told everyone we met that afternoon how scared your mama had been but not you, you had been brave.

You’ve learned so much in the past year: how to write your name, how to dress yourself, how to play games that involve counting and turns, how to play almost half of hide and seek (you tend to wander off, leaving your poor friends hidden waiting for you long after you’ve forgotten them), how to pet cats gently and talk to littler kids sweetly and hang up your backpack each day, clear your place at the table, put your coat on its hook.

You like ponies and princess things and dinosaurs and books, but your ongoing and violent lack of interest in “playing mommy” never fails to warm my heart. The other day one of your little friends really wanted you to play with her baby doll. She kept trying to hand it to you. “Hold the baby,” she kept saying, shoving the (naked, natch) (mangy, kind-of) doll at you, until finally you lost it and slapped it out of your hand and said forcefully, “I DON’T WANT A BABY.”

“Use your words and say ‘no, thank you'” I told you.

ATTAGIRL, I thought.

That’s my fourth condition. Stay this age forever, cuddled up under my chin as we read in your rocking chair, your tiny hands always in motion, making shadow puppets and butterflies and now and then reaching up to twine through my hair the way you did when you were a baby, both a moment and a thousand years ago. Stay this age, rolling out of bed all sleepy and confused, asking why the bears in your dreams have such big feet and don’t like flowers in their hats.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s all I need.

Beyond that, have at it, kid.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Cold Cold Heart

The Messenger Boy by Childe Hassam.

To say that it’s been a crazy week at Adrastos World HQ is an understatement. It’s been crazy even for New Orleans but in a dull as opposed to a lively way. Multiple hard freezes have made a mess of our water system. Our water pressure is lower than the Insult Comedian’s IQ and we’re under a multi-day boil water advisory because of all the broken pipes in the city. I am stoical in the face of this mishigas since our pipes did not burst but it’s a major pain in the keister, booty, butt, hinder, or whatever you call your ass.

Our houses are not built for this weather. My Jazz Age era house is raised on piers and our pipes are under the house, semi-exposed.  It helps the house breathe during our usual severe weather season: the summertime. There’s no way to winterize a semi-tropical burg like New Orleans. And even if we threw billions, that we don’t have, at the problem, it wouldn’t work. We haven’t had a hard freeze since 2015, snow since 2008, and multiple hard freezes since 1995 and 1989. We *do* need to upgrade our drainage and basic water infrastructure but it’s summer that really matters, not the winter. Geography is destiny and we’re destined to have more hot weather than cold. Okay, I’ll dismount my soap box now and play some music.

This week’s theme song is the Hank Williams classic Cold Cold Heart. Why? Because I’m fucking cold, that’s why. I have three versions for your listening pleasure: one from the songwriter as well as renditions by Nat King Cole and Aretha Franklin.

I love Nat’s interpretation. It truly melts my cold cold heart, especially when he plays the Hammond B-3. As the Beatles once allegedly said: “Turn me on, dead man.”

As it’s been hard for me to maintain any writerly rhythm, I’m going to keep it relatively snappy this week. Btw, rhythm is one of those words I am incapable of spelling without consulting  Mr. Google or Otto Correct. I’ve let down Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire and the rest of Yes West. Sorry, chaps.

I’m only linking to one article today but it’s a must read for Peanuts fans. I’ll let the Failing NYT icon thingamabob serve as the segment header.

That’s right, it’s been 50 years since Franklin joined the Peanuts gang as a supporting player. Sparky Schulz was reluctant to add a black character because he didn’t want to be accused of tokenism. Then a reader changed his mind:

Mr. Schulz wrote back to Ms. Glickman within two weeks, but only to tell her he couldn’t fulfill her request. He and his fellow white cartoonists, he said, were “afraid that it would look like we were patronizing our Negro friends.” Undaunted, Ms. Glickman sent another note, asking if she could share his letter with black acquaintances. Mr. Schulz assented, though he again expressed reluctance to introduce a black character into “Peanuts.”

Ms. Glickman wasted little time in enlisting her friend Kenneth C. Kelly, a black father of two, who told Mr. Schulz, essentially, to get over his anxiety.

“An accusation of being patronizing would be a small price to pay for the positive results that would accrue!” he wrote. Mr. Kelly suggested that Mr. Schulz begin with a “supernumerary” black character, a de facto extra, who “would quietly and unobtrusively set the stage for a principal character at a later date.” This cautious approach would serve the dual purpose of not burdening Mr. Schulz and “Peanuts” with the duty of making a Major Social Statement and presenting friendship between black and white children as utterly normal.

I halfway expect the Bigot-in-Chief to denounce the Franklinversary as a plot to deprive the blond pianist Schroeder of precious Peanuts panels. Oops, I forgot that he’s the least racist person you’ll ever meet and doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. As if one could find any bones amidst the blubber.

There hasn’t been much to do this week as the city has shutdown because of icy roads but we’ve done some major teevee watching including a smashing Amazon series. Sounds all jungley and shit but it’s not.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a series created by Amy Sherman-Palladino who is the woman behind Gilmore Girls. I have been told repeatedly over the years that I’d love that show but have yet to view it. I do, however, love Sherman-Palladino’s latest effort.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is set in the late 1950’s and tells the story of Miriam (Midge) Maisel an upper-middle class Jewish housewife who is an aspiring stand-up comedian. A show with the word marvelous in the title had better be good since they’ve provided their own straight line. As Johnny Mercer might say at this point, it’s too marvelous for words, but words are all I got so I’ll keep writing. The show is a winner.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is full of wacky situations and zany characters. It’s chock-full-o-Sheckys. I kept waiting for Buddy Sorrell to show up and insult every bald guy in sight.

The main reason I tuned in is the presence in the cast of Tony Shalhoub as Midge’s eccentric father, Abe Weissman. I know what you’re thinking: he always plays quirky characters. Adrian Monk makes Abe look like Ward Cleaver. Not really but hyperbole is the name of my game.

The writing and acting are superb. It’s a star making role for Rachel Brosnahan as the preternaturally sassy Midge. Alex Bornstein as Midge’s androgynous manager Susie is also a stand out. She reminds me of the writer Fran Lebowitz and is almost as funny.

It’s trailer time:

As I watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,  I kept thinking of Barry Levinson’s great 1990 film Avalon. It’s set in a similar cultural milieu and also stars Kevin Pollack. That’s high praise indeed: Avalon is on my top twenty favorite movies list. Remember: Never cut the turkey without me.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is streaming on Amazon. I give it 4 stars, an Adrastos Grade of A- and a big thumbs up. It has a chance to become a classic.

Saturday GIF Horse: I mentioned my love of Tony Shalhoub’s work. His best known character is the OCD teevee detective Adrian Monk. Here he is tidying things up.

Checkmate? Speaking of Chess Records.

Saturday Classic: The freaky winter weather has given me the blues. Hence this 1963 LP by the great blues harmonicat, Marion Walter Jacobs aka Little Walter.

That’s it for this week. I guess one could say that I came, I thawed, and I conquered. I’m not exactly sure what or how I conquered but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The last word goes to Abe Weissman and his kooky daughter, Midge Maisel.

 

 

NOLA Snow Day

It’s 20 degrees as I write this. It wasn’t exactly a blizzard but we had snow last night. My front stairs are treacherously icy and I’m too comfortable in my study to take a picture of them. The smallest room in the house is the warmest by far. Yay, warmth.

New Orleans is cut off right now as most of the bridges and elevated highways are closed. I kind of like it when we’re an island. It keeps the riff raff out except for those who are already here. I’m more raffish than riffish myself…

Here’s a spectacular de facto ice sculpture picture from the news director of WWL-TV:

The local media once again has a raging snow boner. I should trademark the phrase, but only a bonehead wants a t-shirt or cap with Snow Boner on it.

One positive of the extreme (by New Orleans standards) cold is that new kitty, Paul Drake, joined us in the bedroom last night in order to worship the space heater. Della Street was a bit grumpy about it but it’s too cold to chase him so all she did was hiss. It’s slow progress but progress nonetheless.

I realize that the hardcore ice people out there are rolling their eyes but it’s cold here, y’all. I never said I could live through a Wisconsin winter: I’d wind up like the Donner Party only without the cannibalism. My late mother grew up on a farm in rural Wisconsin and she *hated* the snow and ice and was thrilled to live in California. She was too nice to gloat about the winter weather to her relatives in Cheeseland but every time it snowed back home she’d smile and say: “Don’t miss it at all.”

That concludes this brief meteorological foray. Repeat after me: wintry mix.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Eyes Of The World

Train Smoke by Edvard Munch.

It’s going to be another cold weekend in New Orleans. Yesterday’s high temperature was at midnight, and it steadily declined thereby requiring me to layer up; beats the hell out of lawyering up. I’m not sure if I looked more like a seven-layer burrito, a wedding cake, or the Michelin Man. It was a dress rehearsal for today’s den day. The Den of Muses is a warehouse and it holds the cold. Holy Raymond Brrrrrr, Batman.

The big local news is that the Saints won their first playoff game and are playing in the frozen North against the Minnesota Vikings. I’m glad it’s in a domed stadium for two reasons. First, many New Orleanians are attending the game and we’re not used to the arctic cold. Second, a domed stadium is the Saints natural habitat: Drew Brees is one of the greatest indoor athletes ever. Hmm, that sounds naughty but you know what I mean. I hope all the Packers fans out there are rooting for my guys.

I chose a lesser known painting by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch because it’s bloody cold and I mocked Norwegian food on Thursday. The post title is one of my better efforts so it bears repeating: Shithead Says Shithole.

Munch’s most famous painting is, of course, The Scream. When Dr. A was writing her doctoral dissertation, she had a blow up doll of The Scream dude in her office as a stress reliever. She passed it on to our friend Dr. Bonster so she could do likewise. I’m not sure what happened to the blow-up screamster. Perhaps it ended up in the office of Richard Belzer who played Detective John Munch on Homicide and Law & Order SUV. I’ve always wondered what kind of SUV it is: a Ford Exploder? Yeah, I know it’s SVU but it’s a pun I’ve been making for years and you know how I am.

January in my house means the music of the Grateful Dead. I’ve been indoctrinating young Paul Drake in the ways of the Deadhead and he seems down with it. This week’s theme song was written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter in 1974 and became a fixture on the band’s, and its spin-offs, set list. First up is the studio version from Wake of the Flood followed by an epic 1990 live version with Branford Marsalis on saxophone. I could call it When Homies Collide but I won’t. Oops, guess I just did. Never mind.

Now that we’ve awakened to discover the new day or some such shit, let’s jump to the break. We better make it snappy after that awkward paraphrase of Robert Hunter’s lyrics.

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A nation of shitholes

GreatGrandpa

This is my great-grandfather. A farmer by birth, a carpenter by trade, a factory worker by necessity.

He came to this country in his early 20s, leaving behind his family and everything he ever knew to start a better life in America. Shortly after he left Bohemia, it no longer existed, as it was swallowed up through the consolidation of what became Czechoslovakia. He lived to be 100 and died when I was 12. His wife, my great-grandmother, lived to be 96 and they were married for more than 70 years. They had four children who lived and never moved from the house he built for them shortly before my grandfather was born.

WeddingGreatGrandparents

These are my mother’s grandparents, immigrants from Poland. I never knew them, other than through the tales my grandfather and mother would tell me. They would tell stories about family members back in the old country and have half the family rolling on the floor with side-splitting laughter. The other half? They didn’t speak Polish.

Factory workers, farmers, carpenters, barbers, artists and homemakers. These are my roots. Poland, Bohemia, maybe pre-1900s Germany. These are my lands.

These people were not the countries’ “best people” sent as emissaries, but rather as hard-working, hardscrabble people who wanted to make better lives for themselves. This country gave them hope. It gave them help. It gave them a new home.

Today? It never would have given them a chance.

A lot has been made of our president’s question about why we’re getting people from all these “shithole countries.” His indignation, venom and disgust flow freely in that two-word phrase and it represents how many people feel about these “Johnny Come Lately” immigrants who are just stealing from the “real Americans.” A lot of people believe this because they can’t see back far enough (or they just don’t want to) to understand that every, single person out there came from somewhere else (except for the Native Americans, who we shuffled around like the queen in a game of three-card monte). And every, single person who came here from elsewhere came from a shithole somewhere.

And the people who were here already had no problem letting them know that.

You had the “thieving wops and dagos.”

You had the “drunk, lazy Micks.”

You had the “stupid Poles.”

You name a group, you can guarantee the group that got here six minutes earlier already had a disparaging name for it and a “there goes the country” attitude about it.

People in this country essentially live this paradox:

I know where I came from and I know that it took a lot for us to get here and become who we are. My father, who in his later years has become more introspective, has noted to me a few times recent, “We were poor. I never thought about it at the time, but we were really poor.” My mother’s grandparents survived through the Depression because my great-grandmother rented rooms in her upstairs to workers from the slaughter house and the foundry. Her husband was a barber, and there wasn’t a lot of hair being cut at 25 cents a head back then.

They came at a time when I’m sure many in this country wanted to turn on the “No Vacancy” sign or at least they didn’t want “those people” here. To say now to the next group, “Sorry. We’re not taking any of you shithole immigrants” is unconscionable.

Those of us who came here from shithole countries need to stand up to this shit-talk from this asshole and speak to him in his native tongue.

“Pardon me, Mr. President, but fuck you.”

A Very Stable Genius or a Horse’s Ass?

That’s a rhetorical question. I think you know where I come down. I’ll skip the jokes about cleaning out the Augean Stables but it’s what the next Oval One will have to do. That’s recent American history in a nusthell: Democratic presidents cleaning up messes made by their Republican predecessors. The Insult Comedian will leave steaming piles of shit everywhere. So much for skipping the stable jokes. I was not up to the Herculean task of restraining myself.

There was a parade of crazy, no make that a freak parade, last week. I’m glad that the president* raised the subject of his mental incapacity in the wake of the Wolff book because the MSM has been reluctant to do so. At a minimum, he’s extremely insecure about his intelligence. Nobody who is secure in their intelligence talks about their “very good brain” or calls themselves a “very stable genius.” That’s a sign of raging insecurity and, in this instance, horse’s assery and downright lunacy. Believe me.

Genius is one of those words that is overused and misapplied. Genuine geniuses are few and far between in any field of endeavor. When I was a kid, I tested at the genius level IQ-wise. Was I then or have I ever been a genius? Absolutely not. I used to get solicitations from MENSA and I always threw them away. The group sounds like a self-congratulatory circle jerk to me.

Donald Trump is not a very stable genius, he’s a very unstable menace. I think he’s mentally ill but I agree with something Josh Marshall wrote the other day:

That brings us back to the point. It’s really only the behavior that matters to us as citizens. A diagnosis would only be helpful to learn about behavior we don’t know about or predict future endangering behavior. Since we know about the behavior we’re talking about, none of that matters or applies. In common sense, every day rather than clinical language Trump is clearly unstable, erratic, impulsive. In a word, he’s nuts and not well. As citizens, we are entirely able and entitled to make these determinations. They are ordinary English language descriptors that the psychiatric profession doesn’t control and shouldn’t want to control. The entire debate over whether Trump is “mentally ill” is simply a diversion, premised on the idea that we need either permission or dictation to say he is not able to safely or competently fulfill the job of President. We don’t. The observed behavior is really all that is necessary and all that matters. It’s very clear.

It is indeed. Josh has a “very good brain” but he’s not a “very stable genius.” Believe me.

Repeat after me: it’s the behavior, not the diagnosis that matters.

Speaking of freak parades, the last word goes to Todd Rundgren and Utopia:

Then There Were Two

Internet, this is Ada. Ada, this is the Internet.

Ada — so named for Ada Byron Lovelace, given her lovely Victorian collar — came home from the vet Wednesday. She and Slade were littermates, and they seemed attached to one another in the shelter. It also seemed rude to have just one kitten, and we had room for two, even if we’re presently trying to figure out where to put all the shit they immediately acquired.

These are the most spoiled cats in the entire universe. They’re also kind of puppy-like. They follow Mr. A around the house. Slade plays fetch for HOURS with this jingly feather toy he has. Ada will sit directly in front of whatever book or screen I’m trying to read until I give her the pets she is due. We actually had to separate Kick and Slade for a while because HE wanted more togetherness than she did.

It’s great having animals again. Yes, it’s an unholy chaotic mess, but Jesus, these days what isn’t, and more time shaking a ribbon for kittens to dance at means fewer dollars spent at therapy.

A.

 

Twelfth Night Odds & Sods: Iko Iko

1912 Twelfth Night Revelers Invitation.

It’s the first day of Carnival. In New Orleans, the Epiphany means we can consume king cake and hang our krewe flags outside the house. A reminder of mine:

Our cold snap continued all week, which meant dripping faucets to prevent bursting pipes and huddling around space heaters inside our drafty houses. It’s nothing compared to the winter hurricane hitting other parts of the country but neither our people nor our houses are built for freezing weather. Anyone who wants to mock me as soft should try living through a New Orleans summer. I double dog dare you.

Since it’s Twelfth Night, we have a seasonal classic as our theme song. The Dr. John version features Mac performing with Ringo’s All-Starr Band featuring three members of The Band and Joe Fucking Walsh among others.

The big story of the week was Michael Woolff’s “fly on the wall” account of life in the Orange House. I wrongly thought Reince swatted all the flies when he was head lackey.

Crying Woolff: Like Doc, I have reservations about the Wolff book. He’s an unreliable narrator as well as a raging, gaping asshole. His method is akin to that of Merle Miller whose book of Harry Truman interviews, Plain Speaking, was a monster hit in the 1970’s. Miller let Truman speak his piece and didn’t fact check the former president’s most egregious whoppers.

There’s an interesting piece by James Warren about Wolff’s method at Vanity Fair’s Hive that has people buzzing. Warren’s conclusion is that Trump and the creep with the extra f in his name deserve one another. “They’re like conjoined twins tied at the ego.”

In the end, Woolf confirms many things we already knew about Trump’s West Wing: it’s loaded with knaves, morons, and buffoons.

Steve Bannon’s current problems can be traced to a fatal inability to STFU as you can see in a piece  by Gabriel Sherman at the same publication. One of the interesting things we learn is that Sloppy Steve’s nickname for the hardcore MAGA Maggots is “Hobbits.” Btw, I think Sloppy Steve is one of the Insult Comedian’s better derogatory nicknames.

Before we move on, a musical interlude from Todd Rundgren:

Let’s transition from the West Wing to the Old West.

Godless is a revisionist Western mini-series produced by Netflix. It stars Jeff Daniels as Frank Griffin a half brilliant half crazy outlaw/preacher. He’s a complicated character who informs us throughout the series that “I’ve seen my death and this isn’t it” even when he expires in the final episode. Uh oh, the spoiler police will be all over me now. I don’t care: Frank Griffin is your basic doomed outlaw.

Godless centers around the town of LaBelle, New Mexico whose population is 95% women because of a mining disaster that killed almost all the men.

The cast is outstanding and includes Scoot McNairy of Halt and Catch Fire and Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery. The only thing her character Alice Fletcher has in common with Lady Mary is a love of horses and a bad attitude.

Here’s the trailer:

Godless is streaming at Netflix. I give it 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos Grade of B+ and an exuberant thumbs up.

Tweet Of The Week: This one comes from lil’ ole me. The current Veep and former Veeps Fritz Mondale and Joe Biden met up this week when the two formers attended the swearing-ins of baby Senators Doug Jones and Tina Smith. Selina Meyer was not there. Of course, she’s fictional, which could explain her absence. It would fun to see Julia dance like Elaine on the Senate floor but it was not to be.

Saturday GIF Horse: I had an Epiphany this Twelfth Night and decided to post two Carnival related GIFs. Apologies for the exclamation points in the second one.

Let’s shut this party down with some music.

Saturday Classic: For a fleeting moment, Mac Rebbenack was a rock star with hit singles. This 1973 album, In The Right Place, contains both of them.

That’s it for this week. Since I mentioned Selina Meyer, I’ll give the last word to her and her “crack” staff; make that crack me up.

Why I don’t like rap

Athenae said this was a “post what you will” day, so here goes:

I think rap stinks on ice, but for a different reason (probably) than most, and it’s not racial or cultural.

I hate poetry read aloud.
I can’t stand it.
I thought beatniks doing it at coffee houses in the 50s sucked.
I think their later incarnation of “slam poetry” sucked.
Dressing it up with drum machines and other people’s sampled music doesn’t make it suck any less.
I have nothing against poetry per se, but it should be read by the consumer, so that it’s a private experience, in the voice that the reader gives it internally. To me, it’s a personal communication from the writer to the reader, not some kind of “listen to ME” declaration to an audience.
I guess I could read poetry out loud in a public transit situation, at the top of my lungs (and I have some powerful lungs), but that would probably be annoying.
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Happy New Year From The Big Freezy

No, I did not give Tommy T his cold. That was an exercise in blame shifting. I prefer shape shifting myself. It’s not my fault even if I do have a mild version of the crud. It’s cruddy but I’ll survive, just like the country will survive the misrule of the Insult Comedian.

I’m on the record as hating New Years Eve. I also hate the cold weather. It was 26 degrees when I awoke this morning and it’s still below freezing as I write this. It’s going to be colder than a polar bear’s ass all week as you can see from this image stolen from WWL-TV.com:

That may not sound like much to those of you in the frozen North but our houses are built to deal with the heat, not the cold. My house is about 100 years old with high ceilings and it’s raised to allow air circulation during the summer. We have a lot of summer here. As a result, we’re ill-equipped and downright whiny when it’s this cold. Our hardwood floors are as cold as a Foreigner song but they keep us cooler during the summer, which is our severe weather season. So it goes.

It’s frigid and sunny right now which means this tweet is in effect:

The best thing about the new year is that Carnival commences in five days with Tweflth Night, which means I am finally allowed to fly my Spank freak flag at Adrastos World HQ:

Today I plan to huddle on the couch with the space heater cranked and watch my LSU Tigers play Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl. Using mascot logic, we’ll win: a Fighting Tiger should be able to maul and eat the Fighting Irish. I hope it doesn’t lead to either indigestion or a second-hand hangover but ya never know.  It’s time for Notre Dame to lose one for the Gipper.

Here’s hoping that 2018 is a better year than 2017. The rotten weather means it’s a good time to read about last year this year in the Best Of Adrastos 2017.

Let’s close on an optimistic note. The last word goes to Bryan Ferry singing a Bob Dylan classic:

Ring It In, Bitches

Here’s to becoming a menace to our enemies this year.

Here’s to being tired and scared and DOING THE JOB ANYWAY.

Here’s to remembering nobody wants “she was very well-rested” on their motherfucking tombstone.

Here’s to saving who’s in front of us, who we can, and if all that means is saving ourselves here’s to that being enough.

Here’s to saving each other.

Here’s to reminding ’em they ain’t killed us yet.

Here’s to standing our punishment like men and women, and giving some back.

Here’s to the art that kept us alive and the money that kept us alive and the medication that kept us alive and the stories that kept us alive.

Here’s to this campfire, this hollow, this home, that you build with your words every day.

Here’s to showing our scars, not our medals. Here’s to scraping our lives dry for each other. Here’s to sleepless nights and thin morning light and the last drop of gas in the tank.

We’re not in this for peace, assholes.

Quo vadimus. Can’t stop the signal. Get it done.

What do you hear?

Nothin’ but the rain.

A.

It’s Not Too Late

Hecate pointed my way to this today: 

Fear of failure, of course, can dim the pleasure of new beginnings and cause creative paralysis at this crucial time. When such anxieties arise, I remember this useful advice from Helen Keller’s mentor, Anne Sullivan: “Keep on beginning and failing,” she said. “Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose — not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.

Now’s the time when I see so many people trying to justify the things that didn’t happen. When I look back at the things I was gonna do and didn’t do, the things I began and discarded, the effort I didn’t make. I spent yesterday asleep under a cat when I should have been cleaning/cooking/writing/working, I mean, come on.

I don’t know if most normal people live with half-told stories in their heads but I’ve got a bunch of works in progress up here and sometimes they talk to each other about history and war.

A woman’s hands in flour for pie crust, going still as her granddaughter asks her a question about a boy in a photo. The kitchen window is open and outside a man mows the lawn.

I want to tell that story because it might save your life. Or mine.

This is going to be a year of hard choices.

Every day’s a fresh start. Every minute, every hour. Push a little harder.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Best Of Adrastos 2017

2017 was a terrible year for the country but a great year for satire. It made it hard to winnow down this list. It kept growing like topsy. I’m not sure who or what topsy is but it grows like, well, topsy. I suspect topsy is somehow related to turvy, but where the New Orleans jazz singer Topsy Chapman fits into the scheme of things is unclear; much like this sentence…

I *had* hoped to get the list down to a top forty like the AM rock stations of my youth. It wasn’t happening so I got it down to a top fifty. Yeah, I know: who the hell has ever heard of a top fifty? You have now. Besides, I posted a grand total of 483 times in 2017 so a top fifty is only slightly OTT. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Here it is in chronological order:

1/12/2017: The Fog Of History: Mark Twain On The First Gilded Age.

1/16/ 2017: The Gong Show Presidency.

1/23/2017:  Mock Jazz Funeral For Lady Liberty.

1/25/2017: Sean Spicer Can Lie & Chew Gum At The Same Time.

2/8/2017: The Fog Of History: Explaining Trump.

2/15/2017: Power Before Country.

2/22/2017: The Worst Person Ever To Live In The White House.

3/13/2017: King Of The Bigots.

3/18/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: Disturbance At The Heron House.

3/22/2017: Tea About The Tillerson.

3/29/2017: The Americans Thread: The World According To Gorp.

4/12/2017: Gret Stet Grifter.

4/17/2017: MOAB DICK.

4/19/2017: The March Of Autocracy.

5/2/2017: Lost Cause Fest: The May Day Melee.

5/8/2017: Le Sigh.

5/17/2017: The World Of President* McBragg.

5/18/2017: The Spirit Of ’73: The Unraveling.

5/24/2017: Book Review: The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith.

5/31/2017: Glengarry Glen Ross On The Potomac.

6/14/2017: Tweet Of The Day: Larry Tribe Edition.

6/17/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: Get Back.

6/29/2017: Mr. Bad Example.

7/3/2017: Back To The Nineties.

7/12/2017: The Beguileds.

7/19/2017: The Finger Of Blame.

7/26/2017: Follow Me Boys To The Trumper’s Jamboree.

7/29/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: I Should’ve Known.

8/3/2017: The Fog Of Cosmopolitan History.

8/14/2017: Lost Causers Fester In Charlottesville.

8/21/2017: The Fog Of History: There Is No Such Thing As White Culture.

8/23/2017: The Primal Scream President’s* Ego Rallies.

9/13/2017: Walter Trump: Teevee Western Con Man.

9/20/2017: Your President* Speaks: Apocalypse UN.

9/21/2017:  Malaka Of The Week: Bill Cassidy.

9/25/2017: Malaka Of The Week: Frank Scurlock.

10/2/2017:  Oscar R.I.P.

10/19/2017: Quote Of The Day: Movie Monsters Edition.

10/23/2017: Bottom Of The Barrel.

10/25/2017: Flaking Out.

11/8/2017: Fuck Yeah, Virginia.

11/9/2017: Putting The Dope In Papadopoulos.

11/13/2017: Judge Pervert’s Ten Commandments Of Love.

11/15/2017: Malaka Of The Week: Rob Maness aka Col. Mayonnaise.

11/21/2017:  Now Be Thankful.

11/29/2017: The Ugliest American.

12/9/2017: Saturday Odds & Sods: Cold Rain and Snow.

12/13/2017: Fuck Yeah, Alabama: A Perfect Political Storm.

12/14/2017: Only A Memory: Pat DiNizio, R.I.P.

12/18/2017: Seven Dirty Words, 2017.

12/21/2017: Welcome To The New Gilded Age: The Great Tax Heist of 2017.

12/27/2017: Headline Of The Day: The Power Of The Butt.

Some of our more anal retentive readers may have noticed that the final tally was 52. I *had* to include the butt post since the headline was written by First Draft pun consultant James Karst. It was one of the dear boy’s career highlights so what the hell else could I do?

That’s it for this year. The scariest thing about this long and winding list is that it could have been even longer: 483 posts, y’all. The final closing bat meme of 2017 is a tribute to the late Rose Marie who died this week at the age of 94. It was a long life, well lived. Sally Rogers lives on.