Category Archives: Diary

Saturday Odds & Sods: Life Is A Carnival

I’m deep in the Carnival bubble, which is a wondrous albeit crowded place to be. We’ve had big company and small company. It’s been fun but as always I’ll be glad when it’s over. I’m so pooped that I’m repeating last week’s featured image.

There was a parade-related accident at the corner where I’ve been watching parades for the last 20 years. A parade-goer was run over by a float in the Nyx parade near the corner of Magazine and Valence. It was fatal, alas.  I’ll have more about that and other Carnival related issues in next week’s 13th Ward Rambler column for the Bayou Brief.

This week’s theme song was written by Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, and Levon Helm for The Band’s 1971 Cahoots album. The horns were arranged by New Orleans’ own Allen Toussaint.

We have three versions of Life Is A Carnival for your listening pleasure: the studio original, a 1995 teevee appearance by The Band, and a cover by Norah Jones, which is new to me

Lest you think I’ve strayed too far from New Orleans Carnival music, here’s Our Mac:

I try not to spend too much time peering around corners looking for spy boys, skeletons, or baby dolls. If you understood that sentence, you know enough about Carnival, New Orleans style to jump to the break without crash landing.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Straighten Up and Fly Right

I’m exhausted from the lead up to and the aftermath of this year’s Krewe du Vieux parade. There were a series of mishaps and missteps that made it stressful for me. The political news hasn’t improved my mood either. I’m trying to get in the Carnival spirit by posting the 1939 poster seen above. Additionally, we have company tomorrow so it’s time to straighten up and fly right.

This week’s theme song was written in 1943 by Nat King Cole and Irving Mills and is based on a folk tale involving a buzzard and a signifying monkey. I am not making this up.

Straighten Up and Fly Right was the biggest hit the King Cole Trio ever had. We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the original, Diana Krall, and an instrumental by the Skatalites:

Now that we’ve straightened up, let’s fly right to the jump.

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Peter Gabriel & Me

I am officially old. One of my musical heroes, Peter Gabriel, turned 70  today. I’ve been a fan since he had hair and I had more hair. Happy Birthday and many returns of the day from one Peter to another.

I’ve seen PG many times, especially when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was lucky enough to see him twice with Genesis including the epic The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour. I was in high school and went with my closest cronies. You know who you are. All of us except the driver dropped acid. I had a test the next day, which I aced. A minor miracle but my teacher knew I was high. He pulled me aside after class. Fortunately, he was a cool teacher. I told him I saw Genesis and he turned out to be a fan so he let me slide. I was not a low maintenance teenager. Anyone surprised?

I recall seeing PG”s first solo tour at my home away from home, Winterland. King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp was in the band. But he was introduced as “Dusty Rhodes” and played the entire show in the shadows

I had a close encounter with PG during the Peter Gabriel 3/Melt tour. It was at the Warfield Theatre on Market Street. I’d just finished using the facilities when I walked into the lobby and ran into Peter Gabriel and one of his roadies. He was about to enter the theatre via the center aisle; initially in darkness until the opening notes of  Intruder started.

I had heard that there was some talking during a quiet moment in his Arthur Bremer song, Family Snapshot, the previous night. I took it upon myself to apologize for other’s loud mouthery. He shrugged and said, “It’s rock and roll, man.”

In honor of Peter Gabriel’s 70th birthday, here’s a shit ton of live music:

Bayou Brief: Painted From Memory

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is one of a personal nature. I write about the time that one of my favorite people at LSU, Coach Jay McCreary, introduced me to Pistol Pete Maravich. It happened many years ago hence the title, Painted From Memory: Coach Jay, Pistol Pete, and Me.

The last word goes to Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Talk To The Lawyer

Courtroom Scene by Honore Daumier.

I’ve been preoccupied with two things this week: Krewe du Vieux and the removal trial. I’ve been living the former and following the latter. KdV has obviously been more satisfying.  As expected, the evil fucker is going to get away with it; for now. We’ll make him pay in November. Fuck him and the entire Republican party.

I selected Talk To The Lawyer as this week’s theme song because I’ve spent so much time watching lawyers on the teevee. Great lawyers like Adam Schiff and the sleazy lawyers of Team Trump. My personal bete noir is that awful dweeby pasty-faced motherfucker Philbin whose first name I refuse to learn. Every law school class has 3 or 4 Philbins. The Philbins of the world are usually kept out of court because they’re so boring. Additionally, your basic Philbin looks like they just stepped out of a coffin.

Talk To The Lawyer was written by David Lindley for his 1982 album, Win This Record. We have two versions for your listening pleasure; one studio and the other live.

Before we jump to the break, we should consult with opposing counsel:

Yeah, I know Jackson said the song isn’t about lawyers. What the hell does he know? He’s only the songwriter.

Let’s assume some liability and jump to the break. Last one on the other side is an officious intermeddler.

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Six, and Beauty

kick.six

Dear Kick,

Today you are six, and you are beautiful.

I don’t mean that in some metaphorical way, like your soul is beautiful, though it is. You are relentlessly cheerful and generous and always thinking of something you can do to make other people smile. You are kind to animals and strangers and homeless people on the train, patient with younger children, dedicated to your schoolwork and your chores. And physically, you are beautiful, to the very T of American beauty standards. You are slim and strong. You have long straight fair hair and wide blue eyes and perfect delicate features and every time you turn around someone is commenting on your looks.

Which you barely seem to notice. It happens to be true: You are lovely. But usually after someone says something like that, they add in something else. Something like, “I hope you’ve got a gun, dad, because the boys are coming.”

Or, “Don’t let her look too grown-up, too fast.”

Or, “You’re going to have trouble when she’s a teenager.”

I don’t even think we hear ourselves, half the time. Society, I mean. I don’t think we hear what we’re saying when we say that beautiful young girls require this kind of caution. That when you start wearing a bathing suit or shorts or a pretty dress, when your hair gets long or your smile gets sly, it’s not time to marvel at your coming into your own, it’s time to recoil with dread.

It’s part and parcel of what I talked about last year around this time, the idea that we should be in mourning for the past and always looking backward with longing for who you were, instead of ahead with excitement as you rush forward to the future. It’s such a reductive, shitty, joyless way to look at childhood and this is just another extension of it, the intonation of “here we go” that tells you we don’t approve of and don’t like and don’t enjoy you exactly as you are or want to support you in your becoming.

Our culture imposes on young girls as a rule; makes them the carriers of shadows and secrets, makes them guardians of virtue and the sacrifices of the same. We shrink them down to that, talk about them as if they’re not there, and as much as we all rail about objectification, that’s just as much of it as catcalling is. It’s still putting you in a box, and maybe it’s more insidious, that it’s meant to be some kind of protection.

Protection from whom? From what? We certainly don’t tell you. We don’t say that girls have to be careful because society gives men a pass, we don’t say that your dad needs a gun because some other dad never taught his children what love looks like and how power is used. We don’t talk about that.

No, we say, you are the danger, and you are the enemy, even unto yourself.

What I don’t want for you, as you grow up, is for you to be afraid of your body, to think that what you are is “trouble.” It makes it impossible to accept desired affection, makes you think there’s something bad about wanting or being wanted, adds so much weight to interactions with your peers.

Does your every new hairdo — curls! — or foray into lipstick — for a Halloween costume, fer chrissakes — or nail polish have to be an opportunity for fear and shame? Must we always withhold approval, admiration, out of terror that you might come to like being approved of, or being admired?

Can’t you enjoy it, being beautiful? Shouldn’t it be something to enjoy?

The whole “Dads Against Daughters Dating” t-shirt industrial complex has been constructed without a single thought as to what happens to those daughters. Who do they become, loaded up with the knowledge that their parents fear and resent their loveliness? What does that teach them about  their qualities, their abilities, things they had no choices in?

A girl who is beautiful according to our — false, ridiculous, harmful — standards doesn’t choose it any more than one who isn’t.

It’s not possible to force you — strong-willed, wild, glorious you — into a box of childhood forever. So how best to help you? Shield you from a world that sees your beauty as a guarantee of future pain, guard you with a gun, bar the door with “jokes” that aren’t funny and pretend your parents are somehow obligated at a certain age to begrudge you?

Or show you that yes, this is one thing you can be, among a thousand, and not place too much importance on it, either by validating the focus on how you look, or denying the fact of it out of fear.

The other day, you called me over to the back door during breakfast to look at “the amazing sunrise” and as we stood there, I leaned down to kiss your head and asked you to promise to remember this moment when you grew up and we were driving each other crazy. I’m sure we will. I’m sure you’ll be infuriating and I’m sure I’m already infuriating with my insistence you let me brush your hair — you don’t get all the tangles out! — and check on your loose teeth and try to make sure you’re wearing warm clothes.

I’m sure the worries I have for you will grow and change as you grow and change, but I promise you I will try to remember which are my concerns for you, and what your obligation is to them.

Which is nothing, absolutely nothing, at all.

You are beautiful. I hope that, like all your other gifts, you can claim it as your own, glory in it, carry it as lightly as you do your impulse to help and heal, your need to follow rules, your love for LEGOs and Carmen Sandiego, your loathing of onions. There’s no part of you I want you to be afraid of. There’s nothing about you I want you to deny.

I want you to love everything about you as much as I do.

Always,

Mama

Saturday Odds & Sods: Handle With Care

Saturday Morning by Edward Hopper.

It’s been a busy week. so I’ll keep this introduction brief. And I mean it this time.

This week’s theme song was originally supposed to be a George Harrison single, but it turned up on the Traveling Wilburys first album in 1988. The song is credited to the band, but the primary writer was George. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We have four versions of Handle With Care for your listening pleasure: the Wilburys original, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Stephen Stills & Judy Collins.

If you can handle it, let’s jump to the break but with care. Always with care.

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Bayou Brief: A Tale Of Two Tones

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. The writing process was somewhat unusual. I had a mostly humorous piece ready to go when the exposed corpse at the Hard Rock Hotel collapse site story exploded. I kept the first segment about the aftermath of LSU’s national championship intact. I ripped apart the TFC segment and toughened its tone considerably; hence the title A Tale Of Two Tones: Of Tigers and TFC.

FYI: TFC stands for This Fucking City.

I did a phone interview with Richard Fausett of the New York Times for a story he co-wrote with Katy Reckdahl about what could be called Tarpgate. I was even mentioned. The way to get a mention when you’re interviewed as background for a story is to get the reporter laughing. It works every time:

“Peter Athas, a political blogger and columnist for The Bayou Brief, an online news site, has accused Ms. Cantrell of clumsily handling the disaster, and aligning herself too closely with the developer.”

Thanks for indulging that bit of egomania.

There will be a protest march this afternoon against the city’s mishandling of this disaster. Mayor Cantrell’s team is circling the wagons and lashing out at critics. The proper approach would be to distance the administration from developer Praveen Kailas and his partners. A bit of humility is in order but it’s in short supply on Team Cantrell.

This tweet concisely sums up my attitude about the Mayor:

I have a new sign off as the 13th Ward Rambler. I stole it from Walter Cronkite’s closing during the 1979-1980 Iran Hostage Crisis. I only steal from the best. I might as well use it here today:

And that’s the way it is on the 104th day since the Hard Rock Hotel collapse.

It’s A Removal Trial, Not An Impeachment Trial

I almost called this post Confessions of a Slacker Blogger but the reason I was silent about the removal trial is that I was crazy busy the last two days. I was preoccupied with writing my latest 13th Ward Rambler column for the Bayou Brief. When it was finished, more shit hit the fan in the Hard Rock/Kalias collapse story. A major rewrite ate yesterday morning and the trial gnawed away at my afternoon.  More on that later.

I have a few random thoughts and scattershot comments about the big shebang going down in the Senate right now:

The post title says it all. Impeachment has already happened. Trump will forever be the Impeached Insult Comedian. The purpose of the trial is to decide whether Trump will be removed from office. I realize that I’m howling at the moon on this point, but I like calling things what they are. Trump, like Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, will always wear the scarlet I for Impeached.

The House managers have done a superb job, especially Adam Schiff who opened and closed the first full day of argument. He spoke like a latter-day Clarence Darrow only without suspenders. Snap.

Jerry Nadler is not half the orator that Schiff is, but his presence surely irked the Impeached Insult Comedian. Nadler fought valiantly against a Trump real estate development on Manhattan’s West Side and succeeded in reducing its scale and footprint. That’s why Trump’s hate for Nadler is pure. The congressman welcomes his scorn.

There are still people looking for a savior. Chief Justice John Roberts is the latest candidate. Never gonna happen, my friends. Roberts is a Rehnquist protege and the latter conducted the Clinton removal trial with a light hand. For good or ill, Roberts is staying in the Rehnquist lane.

There’s been much grumbling from Senate GOPers about how “boring” the removal trial is. It’s what you wanted, STFU. And sit in your seats. That’s your job. You work for us, not vice versa.

The outcome seems preordained but the House managers aren’t just speaking to the Senate, they’re speaking to the country. Their goal is to put Senate Republicans on trial and they’re off to a good start in that regard. Keep the pressure on them, make them regret their time as Trumper toadies.

Speaking of false saviors, never trust Susan Collins. I’ll believe that she and other Senate “moderates” will act when it happens. The guy to watch is Lamar Alexander. While he’s unlikely to vote for removal, he might vote to hear witnesses. He’s already announced his retirement so he’s not subject to the same red hat political pressure that other GOPers face. Besides, he’s the first Senator on the roll call, if he votes to hear witnesses others could follow. Senate Republicans are followers, not leaders. Will this happen? Beats the hell outta me.

A removal trial is neither fish nor fowl. This one feels fishy and has a foul odor attached to it. The Senators are both judge and jury. Past removal trials had witnesses and evidence. Mitch McConnell prefers a see-no-evil approach. It may work in the short term, but voters want a fair trial and that includes evidence and witnesses not named Biden. The political blowback over this show trial could be fierce among educated suburban voters. It’s up to the House managers to make it so.

Repeat after me: It’s A Removal Trial, Not An Impeachment Trial.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Save It For Later

Rain, Steam and Speed by JMW Turner.

The weird weather continues in New Orleans. I’ve compared it to a yo-yo or a rollercoaster in the past. This week’s analogy is a pendulum only with fog. Fog is the only constant. January skies are on the gloomy side: gray, overcast, and depressing. If only it were overcast in August when it’s blazing hot. So it goes.

We’re in throes of preparing for Krewe du Vieux.  It’s early this year: February 8th, a mere 3 weeks away. This strikes me as a good time to link to last year’s Bayou Brief piece, Confessions Of A Krewe du Vieux Member.

This week’s theme song was written by Dave Wakeling for the Beat’s 1982 album, Special Beat Service. It, in fact, has a beat and you can dance to it. Uh oh, I’ve morphed into Dick Clark in my dotage. What’s next? A gig hosting a game show?

We have two versions of Save It For Later for your listening pleasure. The original studio version by the English Beat (the Beat to me) and a live version by Pete Townshend.

Before jumping to the break, another song with save in the title:

All that saving made me feel like Mariano Rivera. OMG, a Yankee reference. I’m going to hell but on the way, let’s jump to the break.

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Ride The Tigers

I’m uncertain if I have a coherent post in me today. You’re probably saying: when was he ever coherent? I started Monday off by giving y’all a straight line, be nice.

Since I still have King Cake on my mind, I’m going to cut this post into slices.

Geaux Tigers: I’m as nervous as Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof about tonight’s national championship game. I’m not sure if I’m Brick, Maggie, or Big Daddy; mercifully, there’s nary a no-neck monster in sight and PD is undercover as a big blue lump on the bed. Make that under the covers…

My LSU Tigers have had a magical season, but they face a formidable foe in the Clemson Tigers. Formidable as in defending national champs and winners of two of the last three titles. The good news is that Coach O gets it. He was in the same position as an assistant at USC when the Texas Longhorns hooked the defending champion Trojans in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

LSU doesn’t  have the mascot advantage for a change; it’s the Tussle of the Tigers. We do have two of the three colors of Carnival on our side: purple and gold. Clemson’s color is orange. Not one of my favorite colors even though the fruit is swell and citrusy.

It’s time for a semi-relevant musical interlude:

The long layoff has me worried. One team is apt to be rusty, the other to be prepared. Let’s hope it’s the right Tigers who do the riding or some such shit.

I’d like to call your attention to an article in the Failing New York Times, which gives my main man Coach O his due:

Ed is officially a folk hero now but that doesn’t ease my pre-game jitters. The last word of the segment goes to Brian Setzer:

Speaking of riding tigers, the impeachment process is finally moving to the Senate.

Cover Up, Trump Style: Speaker Pelosi tried to nudge and/or coerce the Senate into giving a shit about its reputation, but Moscow Mitch seems to have dug in his heels. He’s declined to relinquish his iron hold on his caucus, which makes a fair trial much less likely. Mitch doesn’t give a damn, Harry Reid said last year that his former colleague had ruined the Senate. The ruination continues apace.

I’m still glad that Nancy Smash pulled the Tribe Gambit. It has made GOPers look bad to fair-minded members of the public, and resulted in a series of meltdowns by the Impeached Insult Comedian.  He continues to play the victim card. Apparently, he’s the most mistreated and misunderstood president* in history. Who knew? Imagine a president being impeached with such a strong economy. Just ask Bill Clinton about that, Donald.

It’s time for a relevant musical interlude:

These opening lyrics could easily be sung by President* Pennywise:

Just want to be misunderstood
want to be feared in my neighborhood
Just want to be a moody man
Say things that nobody can understand
I want to be obscure and oblique
Inscrutable and vague
So hard to pin down
I want to leave open mouths when I speak
Want people to cry when I put them down

That Pete Townshend is a smart fella. He’s the Cyrano of rock music, after all.

Speaking of heels, Trump is refusing to let John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and Mike Pompeo testify; even behind closed doors. Clearly, they have nothing to hide. #SARCASM

If the terrible trio had exonerating testimony, Trump would beg them to appear in public. This has nothing to do with executive privilege or national security. It’s defiance in the face of the facts. I suspect Pompeo is pleased not to have to perjure himself. He can stick to lying on the Sunday shows.

Frank Rich wrote a great piece for New York Magazine, What Will Happen To The Trump Toadies? In which he posits that they’ll get their comeuppance sooner or later. Nick Lowe said much the same thing way back in 1983:

Who knew that Pete Townshend and Nick Lowe would prove to be so prescient about the current president*? Not even a fan boy like me.

Let’s finish this potpourri post on a lighter note. It involves chicken, not tigers.

I Yam What I Yam: A contestant on the Canadian version of Family Feud mixed up her food groups; substituting chicken for spinach as Popeye the Sailor’s favorite food:

Love that chicken from Popeye’s.

I wonder if the toon liked yams since he was wont to say this:

His moocher pal, Wimpy, preferred hamburgers, and Olive Oyl seemed not to eat at all; certainly not fried chicken. Where the hell is this going? In the direction of the last word.

Since I originally called this post Monday Morning, the last word goes to Fleetwood Mac and Death Cab For Cutie:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Life Is A Minestrone

Campbell’s Tomato Soup Cans by Andy Warhol

It was a long, weird week in New Orleans. I’m one of the officers of the Krewe of Spank and krewe stuff ate my week. We have an early parade date, Saturday February 8th so the typical tumult and chaos have arrived early. If you’re religious, pray for me. If not, have a drink in my honor. This too will pass.

I selected this week’s theme song because all the talk in my latest 13th Ward Rambler column about Spaghetti Westerns gave me an earworm, which led, in turn, to the Warhol featured image. I seem to be more impressionable than I thought.

Life Is A Minestrone was written in 1975 by brothers-in-law Lol Creme and Eric Stewart for 10cc’s Original Soundtrack album. It’s a cheerful ditty with surreal, punny lyrics so, quite naturally, I like it

What’s not to love about a song whose chorus goes like this:

“Life is a minestrone, served up with parmesan cheese.

Death is a cold lasagne, suspended in deep freeze.”

Now that we’ve had soup and an entree, it’s time for dessert:

I had never thought of those tunes as musical kin before but they are. Surreal food wordplay reigns supreme as we jump to the break.

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Lagniappe Catblogging: Twelfth Night/Gotcha Day

I had an epiphany this morning and realized it’s Twelfth Night. Just kidding. I knew that already. Saints fans are drowning their sorrows with King Cake after yesterday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Oh well, what the hell can ya do? Not a damn thing.

In addition to kicking off the Carnival season, Twelfth Night is also Paul Drake’s Gotcha Day. We adopted the mischievous bugger in 2018. Here’s PD’s adoption day picture with Dr. A:

He’s a lucky cat and I’m a lucky man.

Are you ready for some lagniappe lagniappe catblogging? Dennie the Den of Muses Cat has retired from her duties. She’s living at home with her human. Here’s a blast from the past of Dennie with the Spank flag:

The last word goes to Al “Carnival Time” Johnson:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: So It Goes

Spellbound set design by Salvador Dali.

Carnival and Paul Drake’s gotcha day loom. We adopted the dear boy on Twelfth Night in 2018. I guess that means we must consume King Cake on Monday. Poor us.

I said all I have to say about the latest mess in Mesopotamia yesterday. Suffice it to say that I don’t think it’s an Archduke Ferdinand moment but it’s some serious shit,

This week’s theme song was written in 1976 by Nick Lowe for his kinda sorta solo album Jesus Of Cool, which was released in America as Pure Pop For Now People. I said kinda sorta solo album because it featured Nick’s band Rockpile on all the tracks. More about them later.

We have two versions of So It Goes for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a live medley with Heart In The City.

Both Nick Lowe and I picked up the phrase “so it goes” from Kurt Vonnegut. So it goes.

Before jumping to the break another Rockpile tune. This time the guys are backing up Nick’s then wife Carlene Carter:

Now that we’ve got all that crying out of our systems, let’s dry our eyes and jump to the break.

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This Will Be Our Year?

I don’t have a hangover but something about New Year’s Day makes one move as slowly as a dial-up internet connection . We had an early supper with some friends, then hung out at home as the fireworks and the odd gun shot went off. My neighborhood was positively sulphuric, which did not amuse Paul Drake. He’s not terrified of loud noises but isn’t crazy about them either. Who can blame him?

I’ve been in the mood for old movies of late. We saw Shadow of a Doubt the other day, which is best described as Hitchcock Americana. It’s a great movie because of its likable villain: Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie.

Last night’s viewing featured an unlikable, sociopathic villain: Robert Mitchum as Max Cady in the original Cape Fear. I’m still unclear as to why Martin Scorsese decided to re-make it in 1991. DeNiro and Nolte were unable to match, let alone surpass, Mitchum and Peck. It always amuses me to see Peck turn into a vigilante to rid his life of his hulking stalker. A bonus is the presence of Maybe Cousin Telly Savalas as a shamus with hair no less.

I almost compared Max Cady to the Impeached Insult Comedian who is a combination national nightmare and stalker. Cady, however, is a smart bastard and Trump is as dumb as dirt and twice as ignorant. We need a few more Gregory Pecks to rise against him and expel him from office. He has a death grip on the GOP similar to this headlock at the end of Cape Fear:

Everyone should remember that Trump wants us rattled and fearful. He feeds off the fear like Stephen King’s evil clown in It. That’s why I call him President* Pennwyise. Fuck him.

2019 was a terrible year for some of my friends. I’ve written about the Homans at the Bayou Brief. My friend Kyle of Little Buddy fame lost both his parents in rapid succession last year. It was a rough ride but he posted some hopeful song lyrics today, which inspired the post title albeit with a question mark:

“You don’t have to worry. All your worried days are gone. This will be our year. Took a long time to come.”

The song in question comes from the Zombies classic 1968 album, Odessey and Oracle. They get the last word:

The Decayed Decade

There’s nothing like the end of a decade to inspire what I like to call Listomania. I succumbed to that temptation at the end of the aughties myself. I’m going to spare you another list after going on and on and on with the Best of Adrastos.

Instead of a list, I’m going to reflect on the downward national political trajectory of the Decayed Decade. I had forgotten that my 2009 list was called Listomania: The Decayed Decade so I’m repeating myself title-wise. Good wordplay is a terrible thing to waste.

The dawn of the 2010’s found us with a Democratic Congress and the first African American president in our history. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, which was a first step in the direction of universal health care. The combination of “death panels, socialized medicine” and racism led to the Tea Party backlash midterm election of 2010.

The 2010 election was just the first backlash against the social changes sweeping the country. It’s not much discussed in 2019 but it opened the door for Trumpism, which is teabaggery without any pretense to principle. The Tea Party wave election dumbed down Congress and brought birtherism to the forefront of the national dialogue, which was capitalized upon by rank opportunists such as the Insult Comedian. The Koch brothers found Trump distasteful, but they set the table for a president* with lousy manners. The Trump regime belches Koch policy preferences without so much as an excuse me:

The political scene got dumber and grosser as the Decayed Decade marched on. Things got so bad in the House of Representatives that Speaker Boner stepped aside in 2015 as he couldn’t control his caucus because of all the yahoos and proto-Trumpers. It’s revealing of our current circumstances than I feel nostalgic for the Cryin’ Ohioan. He at least told the truth as he saw it as opposed to the rank fantasists who currently control the Republican party.

Lies and conspiracy theories became increasingly popular on the right as the Decayed Decade advanced. Democrats and Republicans now live in alternate universes. This is as good a time as any to re-quote a great American:

I wrote about the avalanche of mendacity and bullshit that overwhelmed our political dialogue in a recent post, Sound of Lies. The teabaggers and birthers got the ball rolling, then Fox News and Donald Trump brought mendacity into the mainstream, which is now muddier and more stagnant than a backwater swamp. The word fetid comes to mind.

The backlash was perfected with the 2016 election. The least qualified candidate in American history was elected president* with the help of the Russians and an archaic electoral college system. We’ve had rich businessman candidates before-Wendell Wilkie and Ross Perot spring to mind-but they had longstanding interests in public policy. Wilkie in foreign policy and Perot in the budget deficit. They both brought something to the table: Trump brought nothing but his ego and hollow rhetoric about “the swamp” and “forgotten man.” Both of which he forgot about upon his inauguration.

I don’t have to tell you in detail about the Trump regime’s small-minded and vindictive parade of policy horrors. Suffice it to say they were cooked up by Republican extremists long before Trump was taken seriously as a potential Oval One. Trumpism is Republicanism gone haywire. Extremists such as Stephen Miller realized that Trump was an empty vessel ready to be filled with xenophobic and hateful notions that had been percolating on the far right forever.

The result of the Decayed Decade is a GOP unrecognizable to Eisenhower Republicans such as my late father. They’ve gone so far off the schneid that I believe that Ronald Reagan would find it impossible to vote for the Impeached Insult Comedian in 2020.

A reminder that Reagan was a moderate on immigration and anti-Russian to his core. Putin is a KGB colonel who runs the successor state to the Soviet Union. His goals are indistinguishable from those of pre-Gorbachev Soviet leaders: destruction of NATO and the EU as well as a passion to regain lost territories such as the jewel in the crown of the Russian Empire, Ukraine. It’s called irredentism and Putin has a bad case of it. And Trump has a bad case of loving Putin:

Now that I’ve bummed you out, there are two positive indicators that the Twenties will be better than the Decayed Decade. Images of flappers and Gamaliel are dancing through my head now. The 1920’s roared until they didn’t.

First, the 2018 midterms were a pointed rebuke to the GOP and Trumpism. If not for gerrymandering, the seat pickup would have been greater as Dems won the popular vote by 8 points. For point of reference, the Reagan landslide in 1980 was by the same margin.

Second, impeachment. It shows that Democrats have become battle hardened by three years of resisting Trumpsim. I still hope that some Senate GOPers will vote against the party line BUT impeachment was a major triumph for the resistance. House Democrats did the right thing regardless of the political implications, which I happen to think will be positive. Of course, I’ve been wrong before and will be again. At least I get to call the president* the Impeached Insult Comedian. Thanks, Nancy and Adam.

It’s a relief that the Decayed Decade is just about done. Here’s hoping that the 2020’s will be politically kinder to the country. Who knows: perhaps the Charleston and Lindy-hop will stage a comeback? You never can tell.

The last word goes to Roy Orbison and Squeeze with different tunes titled It’s Over:

Foggy Day Thoughts

We spent Christmas day with the nonagenarians in Red Stick. I didn’t eat off anyone’s plate this year but still seem to have come down with some sort of bug. I may have caught it from my personal rabbi Jerry who has lived to be 98 without eating any vegetables in the last 50 years.

It’s the time of the year in New Orleans when it gets foggier than hell. It’s not super thick today, but it’s gloomy enough to make me feel dense and dim. Or is that the wee bug I have? Beats the hell outta me.

When we were in Baton Rouge, we stayed at a pretty darn nice hotel on the LSU campus. It adjoins the Alumni Center and is chock-full-o-donor plaques. which is kinda weird at a hotel but what’s not to love about a Shaq plaque?

It’s really more of a lounge than a lodge but who am I to argue with Shaquille O’Neal? I’m no Kobe Bryant. I pass the ball and play defense…

I am, of course, excited about tomorrow’s LSU-Oklahoma playoff game in Atlanta. It should be a peach of a game at the Peach Bowl. I expect the Tigers to win, which means I can continue doing my Coach O impression:

In blogosphere related news, it’s time for the annual Jon Swift Roundup of the best posts of the year. After Jon Swift/Al Weisel passed away, our friend Batocchio of  Vagabond Scholar fame picked up the torch and continued the tradition. I submitted one of the first posts I wrote in 2019, The Wind Cries Willard, which is about a certain Mittbotic Senator who blows with the wind. It will also be the first post in this year’s Best of Adrastos, which lands tomorrow.

I don’t want to worsen my condition by writing about President* Pennywise. What’s more nauseating than an impeached Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop his head?

That concludes this potpourri post, which was all sizzle and no steak. The mere thought of Kobe Beef or Bryant makes me feel foggy and wobbly. I should lie down because Shaq isn’t here to catch me and Paul Drake is too busy marking his latest box to help:

The last word goes to BNL with a song that aptly describes this post:

On Ice

Kick loves ice skating.

As a profoundly un-athletic person whose only physical effort was a running routine that went tits-up after my back got destroyed three years ago, I have refused to invest any emotional energy into my child’s physical prowess. I have no idea if she can do a somersault. She runs kickball bases like a drunk freshman headed for Taco Bell. It’s all fine. She’s tried soccer and tennis with middling enthusiasm, but last winter, she begged to go skating.

Her first lesson, she spent on her butt.

I mean, typical, of course, but she didn’t know that, and she was PISSED. She threw her tiny baby helmet across the park-district locker room like an NHL player denied the Stanley Cup and said, “I am NEVER doing that again.”

I got down on my knees in front of her and looked her right in her red, embarrassed, angry face. “Yes, you are.”

Most of the time this child — with her thinky-face, and her insistence on reading and following directions to the letter, and her boundless loyalty — is her father. But some of the time she’s me, and this was one of those times.

“You sucked at this today. You were really bad at it.”

“I KNOW, and I –”

“And you’re gonna go out there next week and suck at this again.”

Silence.

“You’re gonna suck at this every Saturday for nine more classes because that’s how many Mama paid for. And because EVERYONE sucks at EVERYTHING the first time they do it. And you might get to the end of these nine lessons and still suck.

“At which point you tell me you want to quit, and off we go. But you don’t know yet if you’ll keep sucking so you gotta suck a while longer.”

She nodded. This, God help her, made sense to her. She did the next nine lessons, plus a practice a week. She did the next class, plus two practices a week. She got her own skates, her own skate bag, an outfit just for skating. She asked to go to open skates and get extra ice time. She befriended her teacher and classmates and watched skating videos online. She laughed when I called her my rink rat.

She got promoted from the baby class to the big-kid class.

And here’s where things came to a screeching halt again.

Drew Magary wrote this last week, about the economy: 

It’s perfectly natural to only want to work with, and employ, the best people possible. I know I feel better working alongside people I respect and admire. But what about everyone else? What about the B and C and even D players? Do they deserve to eat fucking rat bones for the rest of their lives, just because they couldn’t magically invent gorilla glass on demand for Steve Jobs?

This is the quiet tragedy of 2019 America. Our economy has been optimized and perfected into rendering the bulk of the workforce unacceptable to those in power. If you didn’t fucking graduate from MIT at age 15 and win three different seasons of Shark Tank, you’re fit to be cut. Consulting firms are paid handsomely to sniff you out and prevent you from hindering your poor company’s progress. You are not an A player, and therefore you deserve to rot. Only the special are allowed to survive.

I don’t want to lionize mediocrity or laziness, but: No matter how hard I practice and how much I learn, I am never going to be a concert pianist or a fighter pilot or cure cancer, and there is something deeply wrong with a society that tells us all that we have to dream that big.

I have an acquaintance whose spouse is the sort of person who gets two glasses of wine in her and starts thinking everyone agrees with whatever’s in her head; we were at a party recently and she started bitching about her “loser” son. He lacks ambition, he just screws around, he doesn’t want to make anything of himself, never does anything, blah blah blah.

Did he live with her, smoke weed all day, sell crack to the local kindergartners? Was he in jail, had he impregnated a member of the clergy, did he have to steal for his food? Nope. Turns out this young man has a job, pays his rent on his own place, and on weekends what he most likes to do is play with NERF guns, which honestly sounds fun as hell.

It took everything in my body not to say WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, DO YOU NOT KNOW PEOPLE’S KIDS ARE DEAD OR DYING OR IN CAGES? I do not get why our standards have to be sky-high for everybody. Why can’t some of us be okay? “You could have been an astronaut” is not actually TRUE, not for all of us, and there needs to be a place for those of us who are claustrophobic and can’t do science to still exist.

I am hard on my kid; I make her do more schoolwork than her teacher requires and I’m strict about manners and behavior with guests and screen time and such. It feels mean, a lot of the time, because I don’t know where the line is between teaching her something and becoming the villain in a story, because none of us know that line, we’re all just guessing. I know I am hard on her. She knows it, too, but:

I do not care one whit if she can axel or lutz or hip-check bigger kids into the boards. I don’t care if she competes or wins trophies or which trophies, if she does. It does not matter at all to me if she’s good at this or at anything else. Of course I don’t want her to starve or end up being exploited but I live in an area with a lot of competitive preschooling, you know? Like they need to know four languages and be reading textbooks by second grade. And it’s such, such, such bullshit, and it doesn’t produce success, and even if it does, do you know how many miserable smart people I know?

Our expectations cannot be sky-high for everybody. And if the best we can hope for is okay, then we need to be okay with that, and not look at our kids like every thing they do is going to be THE THING, the moment when they shoot into the stratosphere. Some of ’em will be right here on the ground. They’ll have to live here. They’ll have to know how.

In Kick’s big kid class, she wasn’t the fastest anymore, or the best. She was the slowest, again. She fell down the most, again. She flunked the first go, couldn’t go on to the next class, got a “needs improvement” report card, and she’s five, I mean, she doesn’t have a ton of experience with failure.

One day in big-kid class she fell, hard, like I HEARD it sitting in the soundproofed parents’ area where we all try really hard not to watch our kids so that our kids won’t look at us watching them and will pay attention to their own stuff. I heard her just absolutely eat it and I saw her stay down for a minute and I ran over to the other side of the rink figuring that even if she hadn’t cracked her tailbone she’d never want to skate again.

Her teacher had helped her up and they were sitting on the bench by the time I got over to them, and I stopped before they saw me. They were talking, and I saw the teacher ask her a question. I don’t know what she said, but I was watching when Kick answered.

“I’m ready,” she said. “Let’s go back out.”

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Swinging On A Star

Tchoupitoulas Christmas House photograph by Dr A.

We’ve been on a weather yo-yo all month. There have been several days where the drop in temperature was so drastic that the high was at midnight. It’s not Wisconsin cold but it’s damp and humid, which exaggerates how chilly it feels. It’s fucking cold, y’all.

New Orleans is an old city with an aging infrastructure. It seems to have rebelled this week: we’ve had collapses, explosions, water main ruptures, and a literal shit storm. The citizenry are getting cranky and blaming the current Mayor for decades of neglect. It’s unfair but she makes it worse by speaking in jargon. Mayor Cantrell actually said that she was “leaning in and being intentional” to help solve our infrastructure woes. It would help if we understood what the hell she means.

This week’s theme song was written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke in 1944 for the Bing Crosby movie, Going My Way. It was one of the biggest hits of the year and won Oscars for best picture, actor, and supporting actor. Der Bingle was the show biz king that year.

We have three versions of Swinging On A Star for your listening pleasure: Bing Crosby, his frenemy, Frank Sinatra, and an R&B version by Big Dee Irwin and Little Eva.

I’m a bit dizzy from swinging on that star so let’s pause before jumping to the break.

Continue reading

Regular Order, Irregular Times

I took most of the weekend off from the political brouhaha. Call it a mental health break, call it what you will, it’s necessary to retain a measure of sanity. I briefly saw a panel of accomplished people on AM Joy freaking out over statements from McConnell and Graham. What did they expect? The Marquis of Queensberry Rules? This is a time for bare knuckle brawling as our opponents fight dirty. Above all else, this is no time to freak out.

Freaking out never helped anyone. I’ve known several people who freak out over everything that comes at them in life. It makes them and everyone around them miserable and I’ve chosen to have little or nothing to do with them. I’m not talking about venting: I’m talking about melting down. That never helped anyone. Ever.

I know about the dangers of freaking out because I had some of the same tendencies when I was younger. I confused anger with passion. Using Star Trek mythology, I was like the Vulcans before they discovered logic. I’m not quite Vulcan icy but I lean in that direction while maintaining my human sense of humor. Nobody ever called Spock, Shecky, after all.

I try to apply the lessons of everyday life to my life as a political pundit. There are things that piss me off, but I prefer to process the facts and figure out how to respond in a way that won’t make matters worse. Freaking out over the predictable Senate GOP response to impeachment helps the Trumpers, not those who see him as a clear and present danger to our national security and political system. Repeat after me: freaking out never helped anyone.

I’m not saying there’s nothing to be angry about, there certainly is. Anger is not the problem, wallowing in it is. Get it out and channel it in a positive direction. Let the GOP be the angry party. Their president* is the one who tweeted 123 times in a day recently. And they claim he welcomes impeachment and thinks it will help him. Another day, another dozen lies.

You’re probably wondering about the post title. I find it reassuring that, amid all the tumult and fear in the air, the House is processing impeachment via regular order. The investigating committees wrote reports, the Judiciary Committee wrote articles of impeachment, which are headed to the Rules Committee before being voted on by the full House. In a time when GOPers are trashing the norms and mores of our system, this adherence to regular order shows us a way forward as we try not to become the thing we hate. Who wants to be an Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop their head?

I hope that Senate Democrats show the same steely resolve as Chairman Schiff and the Speaker. It doesn’t come naturally to the genial Chuck Schumer, but he needs to channel his inner Harry Reid, get in the ring, and start throwing punches. He’s showing signs of doing so but he better wear a cup, McConnell and his underlings fight dirty.

It’s easy for those of us who follow politics closely to forget that most people do not. I genuinely believe there’s a large slice of conservative leaning voters who are sick and tired of the daily drama involving Trump and his party. They’ll do what the Senate is unlikely to do and help vote the Insult Comedian out of office. Some call it a restoration of normalcy, I call it regular order in irregular times.

The last word goes to Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. His spirit sat on my shoulder as I wrote this, you can get off now, sir.