Category Archives: Diary

Saturday Odds & Sods: Up Above My Head

Trout and Reflected Tree by Neil Welliver.

The weather rollercoaster continues unabated in New Orleans. We’ve gone from air dish weather to heater weather and back again. One day of the French Quarter Fest was rained out, which resulted in wet tourists whining about the wash-out. It was a day I was glad to no longer be a shopkeeper. Dealing with drowned Quarter rats was never any fun.

One of Grace’s colleagues gave us fancy club seats to the Saenger Theatre’s Broadway series complete with free food and valet parking. Thanks, Ritu. We saw Rent, which I liked a lot. The best part of the evening was a bossy African-American woman usher who combined sternness and politeness.  One patron was confused about how they ordered the rows and the usher said, “You’re in row H. It’s the alphabet, m’am. It’s the alphabet.” Fuckin’ A.

You’re probably wondering why an agnostic is posting a gospel tune as this week’s theme song. It’s because Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an amazing singer, songwriter, and character.  Up Above My Head is also a real toe-tapper. What’s not to love about a church lady with an electric guitar? We have three versions: Sister Rosetta, Rhiannon Giddens, and the Jayhawks.

Now that we’re imbued with the spirit, let’s jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Shoot Out The Lights

Deux Fois du Noir by Yves Tanguy

We resume our regularly scheduled programming after my Wag The Dog Incoherently post. Somebody’s gotta be normal in these abnormal times.

It’s been an interesting week in New Orleans. A 4,200 gallon oil spill isn’t huge by oil industry standards but it’s stinky enough that residents are raising a stink about it. A good thing: minor oil spills are way of life on the Big Muddy, which could be re-nicknamed the Big Oily or Big Greasy. Either way it’s not good. It’s actually diesel fuel. Vin Diesel was unavailable for comment…

The big local story this week was the sale of Gambit Weekly to the Advocate. Because of savvy management by owners Margot and Clancy DuBos, Gambit is one of the few alt-weeklies that has thrived in the internet era. The deal includes retention of Gambit’s crack editorial team including my friend Kevin Allman as editor. (In the interests of full disclosure, Clancy is also a friend.) Kevin helped bring the publication into online era, which made it an attractive proposition to the Advocate. One reason for the staff retention is that Advocate publisher Dan Shea was purged by the Picayune and has some empathy for other journalists. Imagine that. Besides, the Gambit staff is as talented as all get out. As far as I’m concerned, this is good news as it will allow Gambit to survive in a tough environment for alt-weeklies. Here’s hoping that the Advocate people will keep their word about letting Gambit be Gambit. So far, the signs are good.

This week’s theme song is the title track of one of the greatest break-up albums of all-time. It’s eerie to hear Linda Thompson sing sad songs written by her soon-to-be ex-husband. Shoot Out The Lights has developed into one of the signature songs of Richard Thompson’s live set. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original and a swell cover by Los Lobos.

Now we’ve shot out the lights, let’s take a shot at jumping to the break.

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Never Again

It’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s a movable commemoration so perhaps I should post this explanatory passage from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

The internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah. When the actual date of Yom Hashoah falls on a Friday, the state of Israel observes Yom Hashoah on the preceding Thursday. When it falls on a Sunday, Yom Hashoah is observed on the following Monday.

In 2018, today is the day. I take this solemn event personally because one of my mother’s closest friends was a Holocaust survivor. She was always Mrs. Rosenberg or Mrs. R to me. I don’t think I ever knew her first name. That’s okay, I don’t need to know that to honor her memory and that of those who were murdered by the Nazis.

I wrote about Mrs. R twice in 2016. The first passage was written after a series of horrors. I was trying to make sense of things that do not make sense.

July 17, 2016:

In searching for an antidote for this palpable fear and paranoia, I thought of the Holocaust survivors I’ve met. One of whom was one of my mother’s best friends, Mrs. Rosenberg. She was a plump and cheerful woman who lived down the street from us when I was a small child. One day I noticed the tattooed numbers on her arm and asked her about them. I was about 8 years old and my mom gave me a stern look but her friend waved her off and told me what they signified. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the Shoah. I was horrified and asked how she could be so cheerful after so much loss and suffering. Mrs. Rosenberg smiled, patted me on the head, and said: “When you’ve been to hell and back, nothing else ever seems so bad.”

My first post 2016 election post, Sitting Political Shiva, also mentioned Mrs. R.

November 10, 2016:

I’m an agnostic who was raised Greek-Orthodox but most of my mother’s bridge playing and real estate cronies were Jewish, so I learned about sitting shiva as a child.  I remember going with her to Mrs. Rosenberg’s house when her husband died.  Mrs. Rosenberg was the Holocaust survivor I’ve written about before.  I didn’t even complain about going because Mrs. R and I had a mutual admiration society. She remains one of my heroes. She was also as funny as hell. I’m convinced that I learned the essence of black comedy from her. It’s the Shoah survivor’s ethos: nothing will ever be as bad as what they went through, in her case at Treblinka.

Never Again.

Speaker Disconnected

I’m old enough to remember when being Speaker of the House was the ultimate accomplishment for Congresscritters. There was a long line of Speakers who, for good or ill, served forever. Gerald Ford accepted the Vice-Presidency because his ambition to be Speaker was thwarted by Democratic control, which lasted until 1995. Wise choice, Jerry.

The great Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn served as Speaker from 1940-1947, 1949-1953, and  1955-1961. Mr. Sam loved his job and his members as did Tip O’Neill who was Speaker for 10 years. Those days came to a screeching halt after the Tea Party wave election of 2010. Paul Ryan has finally had enough and decided not to run for re-election this fall. I, for one, am not surprised.

The most ardent teabaggers have morphed into the so-called Freedom Caucus who have specialized in making first John Boehner’s, then Paul Ryan’s life a living hell. We all know the line about herding cats. Dealing with the so-called Freedom Caucus is like herding FERAL CATS. Do I have any sympathy for the man Charlie Pierce memorably dubbed the Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver? Hell to the no. I never bought into his previously glowing reputation, which is gone, gone, gone after 2 years of bowing and scraping to the Kaiser of Chaos.

There have long been rumors that Jenna Ryan is not down with her husband’s politics much like Ronald Reagan’s chirren with Nancy. Snopes has found these rumors to be unproven. I have something to throw in the hopper. It’s more in the nature of gossip or hearsay but I hope it’s true. I have a friend who has a friend who knows Jenna Ryan quite well. Supposedly, she’s banned all mention of Donald Trump from the family home and dinner table. Who could blame her?

The other good news is that Ryan’s seat could flip in the fall without him defending it:

In the words of the Insult Comedian, that would be beautiful, tremendous. Not as beautiful as Ryan losing to a Democrat in the fall but still tremendous. There’s a chance that up to 50 House Republicans may retire instead of facing the voters. Those skeptical of a Blue Wave can put that in their pipe and smoke it.

Ryan’s Randian views have long been repugnant to right-thinking people BUT he used to have the reputation of being a nice guy off-stage. That ended with the advent of Trump. Speaker Ryan is the latest in a long line of Trump dignity wraiths. Everything Trump touches turns to shit.

I wrote about Ryan on the day he became Speaker in 2015. In a fog of history post, I compared Lyin’ Ryan to James G. Blaine “the continental liar from the state of Maine.” I also posted a Separated at Birth image of him and Eddie Munster.

I’m sure Grandpa Munster would have been disappointed in him: the late Al Lewis was a lefty activist when not playing a zany vampire. We do not have to Snopes that.

The last word goes to Keane with this peachy video with a horror movie feel. Much scarier than the Munsters’ house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane but not as scary as the current House of Representatives or one led by the Gret Stet’s Steve Scalise.

Travel Gaps and Politics

This gets at certain aspects of something I’ve been trying to figure out for a while: 

In the past decade, travel publishers have become much more active in promoting ideas like environmental and cultural conservation. Guides, for example, now routinely warn readers against attractions, such as poorly run safaris or trained-animal acts, that put wildlife at risk, or against activities that could compromise forests, mountains, or barrier reefs. The results have been promising.

It’s not such a huge step to imagine someday that future travel articles might bake into the cake a subtle (or not so subtle) promotion of democratic practices and human rights as well. I’m not sure how it would all work, but it’s conceivable.

As for boycotting destinations or blacking them out – intentionally or not – I still believe that’s simply the wrong way to go (leaving out travel to countries that promote grievous crimes like genocide or human-trafficking). As they say, travelers visit people, not governments, and the potential benefits of travel, including seeing, learning and making friends, outweigh, for me, the possible hazards. And the converse is often true as well: not going simply strengthens the hand of bad actors. I see no good reason to skip travel to Russia (or Cuba, Belarus, Iran, or almost anywhere else) if that’s where your heart takes you.

I’ve written before about the gap not just between rural and urban, between city mouse and country mouse, but between people who travel routinely and people who don’t. I’m not talking about CAN’T, I’m talking about don’t, like they have the money and ability and sit right in their houses doing jack, who act like going to a new grocery store makes them Shackleton at the Pole. The people who say Europe is a commie shithole and won’t drive anywhere outside their subdivision, you know them all.

And the reason that gap is important isn’t that everyone MUST see Paris or whatever, it’s that traveling exposes you to your own prejudices and limitations, and demonstrates that you are willing to face them. On honeymoon in Ireland, I discovered I was married to mealtimes and also kind of hypoglycemic. At work in Jordan, I realized I was reckless (as I followed a strange man down an unfamiliar side street in a country where I did not speak the language because he’d promised to show me something like that’s not how all kidnappings start) and tended to spend money stupidly on the road. In Paris my tin ear for languages reared its ugly head, and in Jamaica I learned I was very, very sheltered when it came to beach nudity and marijuana.

Forget overseas; in Napa I learned I liked wine and in New York I learned not to drink with 22-year-olds and in Kansas City I lost my way in a snowstorm and in New Orleans I ate hog balls and saw the Blessed Virgin and somewhere in the back of my mind there’s a memory of riding up a mountain in Wyoming in a truck with my father that never fails to make me smile.

Travel also teaches you what you won’t face, what you can’t change, and what you love about where you’ve chosen to be. Even if it’s the next town over, you come back to yours knowing its distinctions, and hopefully knowing it’s where you belong.

And as I was reading Mark’s piece up there, I was thinking about what I’d have missed if I hadn’t gone those places. It’s not just about “where your heart takes you,” it’s about what you bring back. There are ways to travel more ethically than not, making sure your money stays local for example, and ways to stay safe wherever you are. But you can always find reasons not to go somewhere, and those reasons are always sad and lonely, because everywhere has faces you haven’t seen and all of them are necessary and all of them are God, even the ones that are monsters.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: In The Mood

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

It’s crawfish season in New Orleans. I’m talking about eating, not catching them. I leave that to the experts. We went to our longtime boiled crawfish restaurant, Frankie & Johnny’s, with some friends from Richmond this week. Several of them were uncertain they’d like the mudbugs but they did. It may be hard work peeling them but it’s worth it. Mmm, berled crawfish.

We’re attending a benefit crawfish boil tomorrow. It’s in support of Team Gleason, a group dedicated to helping ALS patients and their families. It was founded by former Saints player Steve Gleason who has ALS but keeps on fighting the good fight. He’s a remarkable man and it’s a worthy cause. Plus, there’s crawfish and beer involved.

I’m in a swing mood this week so it’s time to break out some Glenn Miller. We have two versions for your musical amusement: Glenn Miller and his orchestra in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade and the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s Gettin’ In The Mood with lyrics by Mike Himmelstein. The tune is the same. Oh yeah.

Now that I’ve got you Lindy Hopping, it’s time to jump to the break but try to do it on the beat.

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Why I’m Not Writing About 2020 Yet

Several people asked me this week about the 2020 presidential election. They want to know why I’m not writing about it yet. The main reason is that it’s too damn early. I prefer to focus on the fall election, which may well be of greater significance than 2020. I’m going to break my rule this one time in order to explain my temporary silence.

Another reason to skip 2020 chatter is that we’re uncertain if Trump will run again and who will muster the balls to challenge him in his own party. Republicans are all profile and no courage. It will take a deluge this fall for a candidate to pop their head above the parapets and challenge the Insult Comedian. I hope for a challenge because incumbents tend to lose when they face a serious primary opponent. Hell, even Poppy Bush lost in 1992 and his challenger was proto-Trumper Pat Buchanan. I’m skimming over the Perot factor because that was a fall phenomenon.

On the Democratic side, the early field is depressingly elderly. Surely we can do better than a septuagenarian: Biden, Warren, Hillary, and the gruff independent will all be too old. I’m not sure which fresh face I’d like to see atop the ticket but we’ve done well with candidates under 50 in the past: JFK, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama spring to mind this spring.

Then there’s the ultimate “why not me?” pretender: outgoing New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Trump’s fluke electoral college win will inspire others. It reminds me of the post-1976 political environment when Jimmy Carter’s out-of-nowhere victory inspired a generation of “why not me?” candidates. The chances of a big city mayor being nominated by either party are slim. The last former mayors to be Oval Ones were Calvin Coolidge and Grover Cleveland; both of whom became Governors first and one of whom was an accidental president. Remember the 2008 Giuliani or 1972 Lindsay farces? I thought not. Sorry, Mitch.

Endless speculation about 2020 is for weak minds like Chris Cillizza. Surely nobody out there wants me to be like that dolt? Besides, Democrats have been *too* fixated on the White House at the expense of down ballot races. Flipping Congress and as many leges and Governorships as possible is a worthy goal and will send a message to the Kaiser of Chaos.

I realize that I just wrote a quick and dirty essay about 2020 to explain why I’m not writing about it yet. It’s akin to falling off the wagon and explaining one’s fall. I hereby renew my pledge not to write about 2020 until the votes are counted this November. I almost said “believe me” but I’ve been admonished not to do so. I could bring back Carter’s “you can depend on that” line but given how that worked out in 1980, I’ll pass. Instead, let’s revive Al Gore’s line from 1992: “It’s time for them to go.”

Why Is It Hard To Denounce Neo-Nazis?

It’s the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis. Meanwhile the Tennessee lege is having a hard time passing something that *should* be an easy lift:

Twice this spring, lawmakers in the Tennessee Assembly have tried to promote resolutions condemning neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Both times those efforts have failed.

The second attempt was abandoned just this week, after a Republican lawmaker unsuccessfully tried to alter the motion’s language to make it more palatable to his caucus.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Rep. Ryan Williams’ resolution reworked one put forth by Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, which died in mid-March after the three Republican members of a House subcommittee declined to offer motions to discuss it.

This smells like Trump’s “both sides” comments after Charlottesville. I rarely play the son of  a veteran whose brother was killed in action during World War II card, but there’s no time like the present. We went to war to fight the Nazis and passing a measure against their political descendants should be easy. Unless, that is, you’re a Republican who relies on white nationalist votes. Another reason to vote the fuckers out this fall.

The last word goes to John Legend:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Be Cruel

Two Flags by Jasper Johns.

I suspect you recognize the featured image. I’ve used it many times during government shutdowns; most notably in my epic America Held Hostage series in 2013. It’s nice to have some Jasper Johns flags about the virtual house to plug-in when the GOP next decides to shut the government down. If only they’d shut their fucking mouths…

Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day coincide this year. I  expect more bunny related hoaxes than resurrection pranks. The pagan spring fertility thing is more palatable than what Easter means to believers. I’m not one but I like holidays to be straightforward. Now that I think of it, I’m surprised that the biblebangers have never banged on about a war on Easter. It’s bound to happen, they’re the whiniest people in the country. It’s probably why they like the Insult Comedian. It can’t be the hair.

This week’s theme song was written by Otis Blackwell in 1956. Don’t Be Cruel was originally the B-Side of Elvis’ Hound Dog 45 before becoming a hit in its own right. We have two versions of the Blackwell song for your listening pleasure. One from Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show, the other from Cheap Trick.

It’s time for Nick Lowe’s variation on the cruelty theme with Cruel To Be Kind on Live From Daryl’s House:

Now that we’ve declared our hostility to cruelty, let’s jump, jive, and wail to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Caravan

The Egg by Tarsila do Amaral.

We suffered from weather whiplash in New Orleans this week. It was 84 degrees on Monday within 36 hours the temperature had dropped 40 degrees. My, my, my.

It’s election day in next door Jefferson Parish where they’re about to elect a new Sheriff. Long-time incumbent Newell Normand resigned last summer to become a talk radio big mouth. I don’t get talk radio: the idea of listening to anyone bloviate for three hours does not float my boat. It might even sink it.

The one certainty of the race is that a Republican with an Italian name will be elected. Interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto was anointed by Normand who, in turn, was anointed by the late Harry Lee. His opponent, John Fortunato, was the department spokescop for many years. He’s best known for bringing Steven Seagal and his crappy reality cop show, Lawman, to Jefferson Parish.

If Lopinto wins, it may be down to an error made on live teevee by Fortunato. He said that he’d support pervy parish President Mike Yenni about whom I’ve written in this space. Oopsie. He changed his mind but the damage was done. This ad tying the unfortunate Fortunato to Yenni has been running constantly this week:

It’s a powerful job and Lopinto has momentum as the campaign winds down. Winning the election could be a guarantee of lifelong employment: Lopinto is only the fourth Sheriff since 1964.

Welcome to Disambiguation City with this week’s theme song. (It’s not far from Sufragette City. Wham, bam, thank you m’am.) We have three different songs titled Caravan for your listening pleasure. I give you in chronological order: Duke Ellington, Van Morrison with The Band, and Todd Rundgren and Utopia.

Now that we’ve ridden across Eastern Europe with a Romany/Gypsy caravan, it’s time to jump to the break. Happy landings.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: The Irish Rover

High Spring Tide by Jack Butler Yeats.

The Irish Channel Saint Patrick’s Day parade is on the day itself this year. I’m not sure if this will increase drunken revelry but I plan to do some day drinking. Dr. A and I have been going to our friends Greg and Christy’s open house for the last 11 or 12 years. It’s hard to be precise since whiskey and beer are involved. Whiskey, of course, is the devil.

The big local news is the death of New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson at the age of 90. The local media has done some cringeworthy coverage of this gruff car dealer whose demeanor and voice reminded me of Archie Bunker. The hagiography is a bit much given Benson’s attempt to move the Saints to his *other* hometown of San Antonio as the region reeled from the Katrina and the Federal Flood. He sent his image to rehab with donations to charity, the Super Bowl win didn’t hurt either. He was also a supporter of the GOP and other dubious conservative rich guy causes. As Archie would surely say at this point, goodnight nurse.

This week’s featured image is by the Irish painter Jack Butler Yeats. And, yes, he was related to the poet William Butler Yeats: he was his kid brother. I’m uncertain as to whether he was a pesky one. It would be poetic justice if he were…

Our theme song is a traditional Irish folk song. The Pogues and the Dubliners recorded The Irish Rover together in 1987. It was a hit in Ireland and the UK.

Now that we’ve taken a trip on a ill-fated ship, let’s jump to the break and hope we land in a lifeboat.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Heart Of Gold

Tree Of Life by Gustav Klimt.

The weather is playing tricks on us. We’re having February weather in March. That’s fine with me. It beats the hell out of an early New Orleans summer. But the cool temperatures have brought the pollen that torments me in the Spring. Achoo.

In local news, the Mississippi River is on the rise, so it’s time to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway to divert river water into Lake Pontchartrain to prevent flooding. It has me pondering the way folks in South Louisiana pronounce French words. We’re usually off but as not badly as with the Spillway: the local media insist on saying Bonny Carry. That sounds like a blue-haired old lady up river in Duluth. It drives me nuts, y’all. I feel like taking a stroll up Charters (Chartres) Street.

This week’s theme songs are inspired by the layers of golden pollen that are everywhere in Uptown New Orleans. Achoo. Neil Young’s Heart Of Gold was the first of many sonic departures he was to take in his career. It worked: it was Neil’s first big solo hit.

Ray Davies has told two stories about the Kinks’ Heart Of Gold. One is that it was inspired by the birth of his daughter. The other story is that it was inspired by Princess Ann telling some photographers to “naff off.” Only Ray knows for sure. If you asked him, I suspect he’d come up with a third story.

I love Ray’s chorus:

Underneath that rude exterior,
There’s got to be a heart of gold.
Underneath that hard exterior,
Is a little girl waiting to be told,
You’ve got a heart of gold.
She’s got a heart of gold.

Let’s take our rude and hard exteriors and jump to the break. “Watch out, don’t get caught in the crossfire.”

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Love For Sale

At The Moulin Rouge by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

It’s been a relatively uneventful week at Adrastos World HQ. My cold has gone; only to be replaced by allergies since we’ve gone from winter to late spring without skipping a beat.  It’s hard to believe how damn cold it was just a few weeks ago when we’re slowly moving into air-dish season.  The good news is that a cool front just arrived. It won’t last long but we can dream, dream, dream.

The Toulouse-Lautrec featured image was inspired by a local news story. Last month, some Bourbon Street dancers staged a protest after a police crackdown on strip clubs in the Quarter. They had a lot of support in the community because New Orleans has always had strip clubs and always will. We’ve also always had people who wanted to close or tightly restrict the clubs. The beat goes on.

I suppose I should apologize for using a Cole Porter song for the second time in a month. I decline to do so: Cole was the master. Love For Sale was my earworm when I wrote the Senator For Sale post last Monday. That’s why it’s the theme song. I hope you won’t give me a Cole shoulder for being repetitive…

We have two radically different versions of Porter’s Love For Sale. First,  Anita O’Day’s torchy and sultry version recorded in 1959 with Billy May and his big band. Second, Miles Davis from Kind Of Blue featuring some of his best sidemen: Trane and Cannonball among others.

I should have mentioned the great Bill Evans but he didn’t have a colorful nickname. He was merely a brilliant pianist and arranger.

It’s title disambiguation time. That’s a big word but I bet the brainy members of Talking Heads know it:

Now that I’ve sold you love or some such shit, let’s jump to the break before you demand a refund.

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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: