Category Archives: Diary

Talking Turkey

The fog of scandal is thick and spreading. While it’s true that all roads lead to Russia, there’s at least a back road leading to Turkey. Trump loves autocrats and the Turkish model of government has long been elected autocracy. Erdogan is not the first Turkish strongman and he won’t be the last. It’s why Turkey has always been an odd member of NATO and cannot get into the EU: they have democratic forms but autocratic norms.

As a Greek American, I was raised to be skeptical of Turkish intentions. That upbringing has come in handy since the advent of the Trump regime. I’ve learned that many Americans are unaware of the back story of the Turkish Republic: the Armenian genocide and ethnic cleansing of Anatolian Greeks took place in the era of national hero Kamal Ataturk.

Ataturk was the first president of post-Ottoman Turkey and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hero and role model. Admiration for a murderous predecessor is something Erdogan and Trump have in common: Ataturk and Andrew Jackson are peas in a bloody pod.

Donald Trump’s business ties to Turkey lurk in the background of this self-created crisis or is that self-inflicted wound? It’s both. It’s time to revisit Kurt Eichenwald’s classic 2016 Newsweek story about the impact of Trump’s business dealings on US national security:

Trump already has financial conflicts in much of the Islamic world, a problem made worse by his anti-Muslim rhetoric and his impulsive decisions during this campaign. One of his most troubling entanglements is in Turkey. In 2008, the Trump Organization struck a branding deal with the Dogan Group, named for its owners, one of the most politically influential families in Turkey. Trump and Dogan first agreed that the Turkish company would pay a fee to put the Trump name on two towers in Istanbul.

When the complex opened in 2012, Trump attended the ribbon-cutting and declared his interest in more collaborations with Turkish businesses and in making significant investments there. In a sign of the political clout of the Dogan family, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Trump and even presided over the opening ceremonies for the Trump-branded property.

Dogan’s subsequent falling out with Erdogan may well have given the latter leverage over President* Pennywise. That’s unclear but what *is* clear is that this is a glaring conflict of interest. Trump has been mighty solicitous of the Turkish president even parroting Erdogan’s talking points about the Kurds as “terrorists” and “no angels.” Neither Erdogan nor Trump are angels either.

Trump’s henchman Rudy Giuliani followed in the footsteps of Mike Flynn and lobbied the president* to eject Muslim cleric and Erdogan foe, Fethullah Gulen, which is one of the Turkish regime’s top foreign policy objectives. In case you’re wondering why, Gulen is a former Erdogan ally who provided much of the intellectual heft in the early days of the ruling Justice and Development Party. Few feuds are bitterer than those between former friends. It’s another reason the US should not expel Gulen: we shouldn’t help a foreign leader in a personal vendetta.

I wonder if Trump either knows or cares that Erdogan’s party origins are Islamist. That’s right: the anti-Muslim xenophobe is in bed with an Islamist leader. All the Insult Comedian cares about are his personal relationships with foreign leaders even if his friendship with Erdogan makes him a hypocrite. Trump is used to accusations of hypocrisy: his record is full of contradictions, after all.

I also wonder if Trump knows or cares about Turkey’s ambitions to become a nuclear power. The United States used to oppose nuclear proliferation but if you flatter the Current Occupant that can change. Just ask the Communist dictator with the bad haircut: he’s been playing this president* with his “beautiful” letters.

If the Kaiser of Chaos had any knowledge of, or interest in, history, he’d know that Erdogan is a “bad hombre.” Hell, even if he read his briefing papers or listened to his military advisers, he’d understand that Turkish intentions in Northern Syria are malign. They want to drive the Kurds out of that area, which constitutes ethnic cleansing. The Turks and their Sunni Muslim allies are not above genocide either.

The horrible thing is that this crisis all started with a phone call and a green light. Trump’s latest self-inflicted wound is getting people killed. All the denials and fake cease fires in the world won’t wash the blood off Trump’s hands.

I wrote this first thing Monday morning, but I need a shot of whiskey. Some musical Wild Turkey will have to do:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Begin The Beguine

Masks by Emil Nolde.

It’s been a long week in New Orleans. The collapsed Hard Rock Hotel sits there like a dagger pointed at our municipal throat. That’s led to concerns about damage to the beautifully restored Saenger Theatre across the street and other historic buildings.

There’s also been some serious conclusion jumping and finger pointing. It reminds me that *all* Americans love to jail people, liberals and conservatives just want to jail different people. TFC. What’s that spell? This Fucking City.  I’ve created a Fish Cheer for 21st Century New Orleans.

In addition to my acronymic exploits, I have a new catchphrase via the Insult Comedian: “They have a lot of sand over there; a lot of sand.” Believe me.

Cole Porter wrote this week’s theme song in 1935 whilst taking a Pacific cruise. It debuted in the Broadway musical, Jubilee.

We have two versions of Begin The Beguine for your listening pleasure: Artie Shaw and his orchestra, and Sheryl Crow from the 2004 Porter bio-pic, De-Lovely.

A quick note about bio-pics. Cary Grant played Cole Porter as a manly heterosexual in the 1946 movie, Night and Day. In 2004, Kevin Kline played Porter as what he was: a gay man in  a “lavender cover-up” marriage with a woman. There was no sex in the first movie, way too much in the second. Neither movie did a good job depicting Porter as a genius songwriter. That’s why we remember Cole, not who he slept with.

Let’s jump to the break whistling, You’re The Top. That’s bound to guarantee a smooth landing unless we land on the Tower of Pisa. In that case, we’ll just have to lean into it…

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Dwight & Me

People who don’t read First Draft are always surprised that I like country music. I am emphatically a city boy, one might even call me urban or urbane. The second U-word is a value judgment so I’ll pass on that.

I don’t like all forms of country music but I like the real deal for the songwriting and singing. That’s why I like Dwight Yoakam who I saw live for the first time last night.

I’m notoriously stingy when it comes to concert ticket prices so I hadn’t planned to attend. I’d entered a contest but did not win freebies. On the day of the show, I received an email from the Fillmore informing me that two free tickets awaited at will-call. I was so skeptical that I called the box office for confirmation. Apparently, they were papering the hall because it wasn’t sold-out but it was my lucky day.

As someone who grew up in the Bay Area attending Bill Graham Presents shows, the name Fillmore is tinged with magic. I was too young to go to the Fillmore West but more or less grew up at Winterland, its successor concert hall.

I loved the venue. It would be a great place for a certain carnival krewe to hold its ball: hint, hint, hint. The Fillmore is spacious, well-ventilated, and attractive despite being attached to Harrah’s Casino. We did not gamble before or after. I didn’t want to press my luck.

I had high expectations but they were exceeded. Dwight Yoakam’s set was great. Dwight and his crack band played for two hours at a breakneck pace barely stopping for a second. It’s probably why Dwight’s sidemen are all younger than the star. They’re great musicians and rocked like crazy. It goes without saying that Dwight is one of the greatest singers to have ever walked the planet, with or without cowboy boots.

It was a night for doppelgangers. Dr. A spotted a guy who resembled Gret Stet goober candidate Eddie Rispone. Mercifully, it was not him. A guy who was a dead ringer for our pal the Bear Jieux danced with Dr. A as the band played Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down. Initially, she thought it was him but it was not: the doppelganger was equally hairy but too short.

You’re probably wondering about the post title, Dwight & Me. We had tickets to see him in Biloxi in September of 2005. The show was hurricaned out and we were in exile in Dallas in any event. It was a long time coming but I finally saw Dwight Yoakam. It was well-worth the wait.

I wrote about last night because I needed a respite from all crazy in the news. A post called Talking Turkey can wait until Monday. That crisis will still be there.

The last word goes to (who else?) Dwight Yoakam with his set closer and encore:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Something’s Gotta Give

Piazza d’Italia by Giorgio di Chirico.

It’s election day in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. As I stated in my last Bayou Brief column, I plan to affix a clothespin and vote for Governor John Bel Edwards. Here’s hoping that we don’t have a run-off with more visits from the Trumps and Mike Liar Liar Pence On Fire. They’ve held events in small-ish venues but there have still been empty seats. A good slogan for Pence’s next event would be: Empty Seats For An Empty Suit.

We’re having our first cool front of the year. Fall hasn’t exactly fallen but we’ll take what we can get. The only seasons you can depend on in New Orleans are summer and carnival. I forgot football season: LSU and Florida are squaring off tonight in Red Stick. Here’s hoping the Tigers feast on Gator.

I have a new motto: Surreal times call for Surrealist art. This week’s featured image is by the Italian Surrealist, Giorgio di Chirico who was originally a Futurist. That gives me an excuse to quote Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto: “Oh, maternal ditch.”

If you expect me to explain that quote, you’re out of luck. I’m feeling cryptic like a proper Surrealist if there is such a thing. There were more than a few improper Surrealists if you catch my drift.

The title of this week’s theme song aptly describes our current national situation: Something’s Gotta Give. It was written by Johnny Mercer in 1955 for the Fred Astaire movie, Daddy Long Legs.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Fred Astaire from the movie, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Lets make like Daddy Long Legs and crawl to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: You Win Again

The Sources of Country Music by Thomas Hart Benton.

It was the hottest September in recorded history here in New Orleans. It’s still fucking hot: we had record highs the first four days of October. I complained about it in the Bayou Brief the other day so I thought I should here as well. We’re allegedly getting some relief next week but I’ll believe it when I see it.

We went to an event at the fancy new-ish Picvocate/Gambit HQ to see local pundits and Adrastos friends Clancy Dubos and Stephanie Grace. I considered heckling but Dr. A wouldn’t hear of it. They talked local and statewide elections. I’m still having a hard time deciding who to support for State Rep since there are 4444 candidates running in our district.

They only took questions via Twitter so I was unable to do my Eddie Rispone impression on the live stream: “Hi, I’m Eddie Rispone. I’m a conservative outsider and Trump supporter.” It’s their loss, y’all.

For the non-Louisianans out there here’s one of Rispone’s ads:

Moderator and Paul Drake fan Kevin Allman moved the questions to the Tweeter Tube because he did not want to have long-winded questions. A wise choice since I was in the audience. To placate me, he asked one of my tweeted questions and Clancy dropped my name so I guess I’ll survive.

Here’s the video of the live stream:

This week’s theme song was written by Hank Williams in 1952. We have two versions of You Win Again for your listening pleasure.: Hank’s original followed by the Grateful Dead. I discovered this and many other classic country song because of them. Thanks, Jerry

Let’s pay a visit to Disambiguation City and meet up with singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. Her You Win Again was written and recorded in 1990:

Guess what? There’s also a 1987 Bee Gees song with the same title:

Now that we’re three-time winners, let’s jump to the break again and again and again.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Long Black Veil

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

This is the first time since the infancy of this feature that I’ve used the same featured image two weeks in a row. It captures my mood.

We’re attending a memorial service this morning for Gligamesh Homan who died in a horrible accident last week. He was the son of some old friends and was in his freshman year at LSU. I’ll have more about Gil in our second act. Suffice it to say that there’s an open  wound in my circle of friends right now.

I’m not feeling very expansive today so I’m going to keep this week’s outing relatively brief.

This week’s theme song was written in 1959 by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin for Lefty Frizzell. It’s become a staple of the country music repertoire and has been recorded countless times.

We have three versions of Long Black Veil for your listening pleasure: Lefty Frizzell, Gillian Welch, and the Chieftains with Mick Jagger on lead vocals.

Try not to trip over your long black veil as we jump to the break.

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Not Everything Sucks: Springsteen At 70

Athenae and I disagree about the Beatles but we’re in complete agreement about Bruce Springsteen. The Boss turned 70 today but Bruce don’t crack. He looks and, more importantly, sounds great.

It’s time for me to tell my Springsteen fan origin story. I hate hype so I was put off when this happened:

After the media hypefest abated, I heard and liked some of Bruce’s music but didn’t buy any of his albums. In retrospect, that strikes me as odd, especially since I wasn’t fond of either of the dominant musical trends of that era: punk and disco.

In December of 1978, my old friend Russell Cole called and told me he had an extra ticket to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at our favorite venue: San Francisco’s Winterland. The ticket was a mere $7.00 but I’ve always liked free stuff so I accepted with alacrity. Besides, Russ was good company and he drove. Win-win. Thanks for inviting me, man. I’m still grateful after all these years.

I had no idea that I was about to have a life-changing musical experience and learn how to chant BRUUUUUUUUCE. This concert on December 15, 1978 is the stuff of legend and I was lucky enough to be there. I don’t even mind admitting to my dotage. Hey, I still get around without a cane or walker and have more hair than Russ; not much but more.

From the opening chords of Badlands, I was hooked. It made me a Springsteen fan for life much like the kid in the recent movie Blinded By The Light. I guess I should grade it now: 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+ It’s a reminder of how much fun movies can be and how important music is.

The set was broadcast on Jive 95: KSAN-FM and is widely considered one of the greatest rock concerts of all-time. Here’s the set list in all its glory:

First Set:

  1. Badlands
  2. Streets of Fire
  3. Spirit in the Night
  4. Darkness on the Edge of Town
  5. Factory
  6. The Promised Land
  7. Prove It All Night
  8. Racing in the Street
  9. Thunder Road
  10. Jungleland

Second Set:

  1. The Ties That Bind
  2. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
  3. The Fever
  4. Fire
  5. Candy’s Room
  6. Because the Night
  7. Point Blank
  8. Mona / Preacher’s Daughter / She’s The One / I Get Mad
  9. Backstreets
  10. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

Encore:

  1. Born to Run
  2. Detroit Medley
  3. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  4. Raise Your Hand   
  5. Quarter to Three

The show was widely bootlegged. I had it on cassette at some point but lost it in one of my cross-country moves. Thanks to the internet I can give the Boss the last word. Happy Birthday, Bruce. Thanks for all the pleasure you’ve given the world over the years.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

I went on about Max Ernst at the Bayou Brief  so I decided to post another Ernst image here at First Draft. It’s surrealism at its finest. I don’t see a literal bird but that’s one of the things that makes it surreal. It’s weird, man.

I originally planned to put the bite on y’all for our annual fundraiser but I don’t have to. We met our goal so the tin cup rattling stops here and now. Thanks to everyone who donated. Our readers not only rock, they rule.

This week’s theme song was written by Neil Young in 1969 and was the title track of his second solo album. It’s old but still fresh; sort of like me.

We have three versions of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere for your listening pleasure: Neil’s original followed by covers from Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, and Dar Williams.

While we’re in Nowhereville, here’s a song that you may have heard. If not, climb out from under that rock:

Now that we’ve submerged, let’s splash to the break. Do submarines splash? Beats the hell outta me.  I’m claustrophobic so I’ll never be a submariner like our old pal Jude who was the Prince Namor of First Draft.

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Ten Years Of Stuff & Nonsense

Ten years ago, I received an email from Athenae asking if I’d like to join the First Draft team. It was a no-brainer: I said yes, yes, yes a thousand times yes.

My first post landed on 9/19/2009 and was called Greetings From Debrisville. That was my nickname for post-K New Orleans, which given the whole car in the drainage canal thing may be ripe for a revival.

You know much I love self-quotation so here’s how I kicked off my tenure at First Draft:

Thanks to Athenae for the invite and the warm welcome. She just did something either foolhardy or semi-brilliant by inviting me to join the gang at First Draft. I’ll let you be the judge of that. For my own part, I’m happy to be here: I’m a longtime reader, occasional commenter and sporadic passenger in the crack van. Love that shag rug, A. I hope that Scout will still bring the ham…

I’ve lived in New Orleans (aka Debrisville) since 1987 and have been blogging as Adrastos since December 2005. I suspect you can figure out what inspired me to start bloviating on the internets: Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent federal flood.

To paraphrase the late, great Greg Peters that qualifies as lazy quoting of myself. It beats the hell outta self-dealing. I’ll leave that to the experts in the Trump regime.

A lot of excellent writers have come and gone since I sold my soul to First Draft: Scout Prime, Virgo Tex, Doc, and Jude to name a few. I linked to their work because they’re all fine writers even if Jude is incapable of writing a paragraph without using the word fuck. That inspired this fucking closing of my fucking introductory post:

The only thing that gave me pause about joining the First Draft krewe is that I don’t say fuck as much as Athenae or Jude. Once I was assured that there wasn’t a quota I said: what the fuck, why the fuck not? But just in case I’m expected to swear like a Greek sailor, here’s Warren Zevon with My Shit’s Fucked Up:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpUaFSJS9ns

Our current krewe of writers may be motley but they’re equally wonderful: Michael F, Tommy T, and our awesome publisher, Athenae. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Tommy but I’ve hung out with both Michael and Allison. One thing that changed when we migrated First Draft to Word Press was that Allison and I revealed our “secret identities” which were lying in plain sight anyway.

Allison attended Rising Tide 6 and Dr. A took the obligatory picture of us with Michael F:

It’s not a particularly flattering picture but it’s all we’ve got so I won’t suppress it. Somewhere there’s a pretty good picture of Allison with the late great Oscar but I cannot find it. So it goes.

It’s been a helluva ride and we’ve only just begun to amuse, inform, and outrage you. We couldn’t do it without our readers. That brings me to the obligatory plug for our 2019 fundraiser. If you like what we do here at First Draft, please throw a few drachmas our way but do it in dollars: Greece adopted the Euro years ago. Click here for more information on how to donate from the boss lady.

Our plan is to go on and on and on; much like one of my windier posts. The last word goes to Neil Young and Stephen Stills:

 

 

Bayou Brief: Of Surrealists & Sheriffs

My second 13th Ward Rambler column for the Bayou Brief is online. It includes my very first Gret Stet Separated at Birth segment as well as a look at the Jefferson Parish Sheriffs race and a tribute to some friends who have suffered a grievous loss. Get thee to the Bayou Brief.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dark Star

Flying Eyeball by Rick Griffin.

Dr. A and I went to the batshit crazy Saints season opener against the Houston Texans. The game had everything: bad calls, great plays, and a crazy ending. Most importantly, the Saints won with a 58 yard field goal by Will Lutz. It was his career long. The crowd was stunned in a good way. My personal streak of the Saints always winning when I sit in our friend Fred’s end zone seats was imperiled but it’s intact. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter in 1968. The music of Dark Star is often credited to the entire band, which seems only fair as it’s the ultimate jam band song.

We have two versions of the Dead’s Dark Star for your listening pleasure. First, the single version, which clocks in at a modest 2:44. It’s followed by a more typical second set medley that commences with Dark Star. It comes from the 12/31/78 closing of Winterland show that my younger self attended.

It’s time for a visit to Dismbiguation City with a swell song written by Stephen Stills and recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1977.

Now that we’ve bathed in the glow of the Dark Star, let’s jump to the break before the Dead go into The Other One. “Coming, coming, coming around.”

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Garry Wills On The Rights Of Guns

Garry Wills is one of the smartest people and best writers in the country. He’s spent a great deal of time pondering the role of guns in American culture. He nails it in this piece for the New York Review Of Books:

“Gun rights,” as used by devotees of an absolutist Second Amendment, means their right to own guns. But as used in real American life these days (or real American deaths), it means the rights of guns. Guns themselves possess even more rights than persons do.

<SNIP>

Guns’ exemption from common-sense legislation guarantees them not only rights, but also rites. Guns are sacred objects. They should not even be insulted, which is blasphemy. They are “the American way.” They are more than things, more even than persons. They are an unstoppable force, a god. They are, indeed, Our Moloch.

Those are the first and last paragraphs in Wills’ recent piece, The Rights Of Gun. How right is he? Totally. The NRA has become a cult whose second amendment absolutism verges on idolatry. A good example is the fetish some gun worshipers have for strapping on their weapons to go shopping. Who the hell needs a long gun whilst thumping melons at Wal-Mart? Mercifully, they’ve banned such performative rituals and other retailers have followed suit.

I know many gun owners; none of whom feels the need to strut about in public with their weapons. Some hunt, others like to target shoot but they all lock their guns up. OTOH, at an estranged friend’s house, I once sat on the couch and felt something beneath me: a package of bullets. I think he was just a rotten housekeeper but I was not amused.

I’ve never owned a gun. They were verboten in my house. My father was a veteran but he disliked guns. Since he was an interpreter, I doubt if he ever shot anyone but he knew what pistols are for: to kill people. And rifles are for hunting, not grocery shopping. Assault weapons are for the military, not civilians.

I admit to being mystified by the religious fervor exuded by the more extreme gun worshipers. Perhaps it’s a result of having the man who played Moses, Charlton Heston, as NRA president for five years. Whatever it is, it’s creepy and the country is overdue for some sensible gun control measures. It’s time for people to have rights, not guns.

Eighteen Years

I try not to make solemn days of remembrance about myself. But I recently had jury duty, which is why I’m bending that rule on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. September, 2001 was the last time I had jury duty until this summer.

In 2001, you were obliged to serve the entire month, which largely consists of sitting in the over-cooled basement room called the juror’s lounge. It’s uncomfortable so little actual lounging happens there.

I recall hearing a gasp from one of our keepers, followed by a rush to turn on the teevee set. That’s when we saw for the first time the sickening sight of the airplanes taking out the Twin Towers. We were all numb and the room went silent as Dan Rather came onscreen looking shaken and somewhat disheveled.

We were dismissed for the day and eventually for the month. Nobody at Orleans Criminal District Court felt like trying any cases 18 years ago today. It was time to mourn our dead.

My friend Parenthetical wrote a guest post here in 2017. I think he summed my feelings about 9/11 quite well this morning:

Thinking today about everyone involved who didn’t see it coming and got away from it, and thankful for everyone who signed up for any kind of job where you realize what happened and run towards it.

He went on to quote Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising:

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
Make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me

Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
I was wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

The last word goes to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Town Without Pity

Cover art for Paul Eluard’s Reflections by Max Ernst.

Extreme heat is the price we’ve paid for missing out on Hurricane Dorian. As cranky as I am, I’m glad this heat-bringing high is warding off any tropical activity. I won’t miss it when it’s gone but I’m glad it’s here as Dorian creeps up the east coast. That storm is a relentless motherfucker. The fucker should return to the attic from whence it came.

Drew Brees ate my Friday morning. I hope he buttons his lip and keeps his foot out of his mouth until after Monday’s game.

The featured image is a collage done by the great Max Ernst for a book by his fellow surrealist, Paul Eluard. You may have noticed that I love surrealist art. I use it a lot in this space and have even threatened to post nothing but Ernst and Magritte featured images for Odds & Sods. I’ve also used an Ernst image for my new Bayou Brief column, 13th Ward Rambler.

This week’s theme song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for the 1961 Kirk Douglas film, Town Without Pity.  I’d never seen the movie until last weekend. It’s a cross between film noir, Italian neo-realism, German expressionism, and a Cassavetes flick. I liked it a lot and give it 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

We have three versions of Town Without Pity for your listening pleasure: the Gene Pitney original, Stray Cats, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. My boy Brian knows a hidden treasure when he hears one.

Let’s escape the bleak mean streets of a German town without pity by remorselessly jumping to the break.

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Drew Brees Agonistes

I wrote about Drew Brees and his unfortunate relationship with Focus on the Family in my new not-so secret identity as the Bayou Brief’s 13th Ward Rambler, I should give credit where it’s due to Jenn Bentley of Big Easy Magazine for breaking the story, which, in turn, raised a ruckus on social media. I have a reading assignment for my readers: watch the video, read my piece, then Ms. Bentley’s before proceeding.

Welcome back.

The Saints QB responded yesterday in an awkward not terribly straightforward way, which made matters worse with the folks who were angry and/or disappointed with him. He provided an answer to the question I posed at the Bayou Brief: Wingnut or Conservative. Unfortunately, it’s the former but he’s still a great QB.

My friend Picvocate/Advoyune columnist Stephanie Grace wrote about Drew’s weaselly response so I don’t have to:

After several day of controversy, Brees responded that he knew nothing of the group’s anti-gay activities or “any type of hate-type related stuff.”

“I was not aware of that at all,” he said. He also insisted that the video was not meant to promote any group, and certainly not any group “that is associated with that type of behavior.”

“To me, that is totally against what being a Christian is all about,” Brees said.

Maybe he should have just stopped there, instead of adding that it’s a shame that people are using the controversy to “make headlines” and get clicks. Brees really has nobody to blame for that but himself.

Yeah you right, Stephanie.

Liberal Saints fans seem to be divided into two camps. Those who didn’t already know about his politics are up in arms about the whole mess. Others, like me, are well-aware that Brees is a right-winger. His association with the Focus on the Family fucks dates back at least to 2015 and perhaps even farther. I’m inclined to view this flap as part of what might call the Brees bucket, which contains both The Bad and the Beautiful as the title of one of my favorite movies goes.

One thing we’ve learned about Drew Brees this week: He’s a genius on the gridiron, not off field. Nobody should be surprised by this: the NFL is full of wingnutty white boys. Drew Brees is just one of many.

This episode is simultaneously saddening and maddening. The New Orleans Saints have long been a unifying force in our community. When owner Tom Benson threatened to move the team to his other hometown of San Antonio post-K, the community arose in such righteous indignation that they remained here. Saints fandom was an integral part of what I’ve previously referred to as The Spirit Of ’05.

Drew Brees’ first year with the Saints was 2006 and the team went to its first NFC Championship game. Then they won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season. This season there are high hopes, which, hopefully, will not be dashed on the rocks of controversy.

This mishigas is a vivid reminder of the perils of athletes dabbling in politics, particularly in the Trump era. If you take a stand, someone in your fan base will be offended. That’s especially true in New Orleans, which is a very blue city whereas the Gret Stet of Louisiana is ruby red.

Repeat after me: I’m disappointed by his wingnuttery but not surprised.

The last word goes to one of my favorite writers, the 13th Ward Rambler:

Does this alter my Saints fandom? Hell, no. Football is full of right-wing white boys and I’ve known for years that Drew Brees is one of them. Besides, his views on the Kaepernick kneeling contretemps were more nuanced than expected; he even criticized  President* Trump. That’s why I have no plan to renounce my Saints fandom or return my tickets for the season opener.

I simply want to know if our QB is a wingnut or a conservative.

The answer is, alas, wingnut. As Stephanie put it, Drew Brees should have known better.

Bayou Brief: 13th Ward Rambler

I pitched a biweekly column to my Bayou Brief editor and he bought it. It’s called 13th Ward Rambler because that’s my Uptown New Orleans neighborhood. Some times it will resemble Saturday Odds & Sods only without the GIFs and Separated at Birth. They’ll simply have to remain apart, the poor devils.

The debut column is called Launching Into a Diatribe and features segments about Drew Brees, Gret Stet Lt. Gov Billy Nungesser, and cars in the canal. I come out firmly against meter maids morphing into mermaids.

Another I reason I called the column 13th Ward Rambler is that it evokes the classic New Orleans tune, Didn’t He Ramble. As you’re well-aware, I’ve been known to ramble on occasion.

The last word goes to Dr. John:

 

The Boy Ain’t Right: Hurricane Edition

It was the Sharpie mark heard round the world:

Heard was artistic license but Sharpies have been known to squeak. Squawk is a better word choice for what the Insult Comedian did after he was called out for providing false information on Hurricane Dorian. I follow Hurricane reportage very closely for obvious reasons. Alabama was never in the cone but Trump must always be right and cannot admit error.

This is the creepiest manifestation yet of Trump’s refusal to admit a mistake. This could have resulted in chaos and confusion in Alabama: that’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos. This is some dangerous, shit, yall.

Let’s face it: hardcore Trumpers are not the brightest bulbs in the hurricane lamp. Absent correction by the National Weather Service’s Birmingham office, they might have believed their Dear Leader. This what incompetent authoritarianism looks like.

This is some deranged shit, y’all. Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

Trump tweeted out a track that allegedly supported his preposterous position. All it did was show a few spaghetti models on August 28 that were headed towards Alabama and the Gret Stet of Louisiana for that matter. Alabama was never in the cone:

Remember when Kellyanne Conway talked about alternative facts? This involves alternative tracks. I’m a bit disappointed that Trump didn’t lie about Dorian heading to the Gret Stet: both GOP goober candidates have their heads permanently wedged up his ass. Believe me.

This is some deranged shit, y’all. Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

Then there’s the matter of who can request that a POTUS declare a state of emergency in a given state. According to federal law, only a Governor can make such a request. The Governor of North Carolina is a Democrat, Roy Cooper. He made the request as required by law. Here’s how President* Pennywise spun it:

Tillis is, of course, a Republican who is up for re-election in 2020.

This is some deranged shit, y’all. Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

The chart thing bugs the living shit out of me. As someone who was exiled from my home for six weeks in 2005, I take this personally. It’s not only illegal to deface a NWS chart and disseminate false information,  it’s dangerous and delusional. What’s next?  Is Trump going to nuke a future hurricane and claim he didn’t do it? He can’t say the dog ate his homework because he hates canines. My mother taught me never to trust someone who does not like dogs.

This is some deranged shit, y’all. Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

One more hurricane related item. Anderson Cooper hosted a climate change thingamabob on CNN last night. One of the candidates for the Democratic nomination sounded like a Republican politician circa 2005-2006:

Heckuva job, Bernie.

Her Uncompromised Mortality

This week Kick went to kindergarten. She put on her brand-new shoes and brand-new backpack and brand-new jacket and she marched up to the schoolhouse door. The bell rang, she took a deep breath, and she walked inside.

So how does this work, I’ve been asking my friends, the ones with older kids. I just, like, send her to school?

“Yup.”

If she does okay they don’t call me?  I don’t get pictures? There’s no minute-by-minute accounting of every second of her life away from me? If I call them to ask, just casually, like hey how’s it going, I am a crazy person who needs some kind of intervention?

“Yup.”

Ohhhhhkay. I mean, if that’s how it’s supposed to be done.

All day, during Kick’s first day, my friends with older kids kept asking how I was doing, as if I was the one who was going to a new place full of new people where nothing made any sense to me. As if I was going to have a tough day. I did not have a tough day. I went home and took a nap. One of the cats napped next to me like a stuffed animal.

I was not the one out in the world, crossing busy streets and going into buildings with little signs even my 5-year-old knows how to translate:

Did I think about her during the day? Of course I did. Did I think about her comfort, about her self-assurance, about how to make sure she succeeded in whatever number-awareness and reading-readiness she’ll be doing this year? Of course I did.

Mostly, though, I thought about this:

I research the statistics because the therapist believed it would help me stop catastrophizing: The smallness of the chances of a school shooting happening to her. The relative rarity of handguns in our neighborhood. The lack of any immediate family history of childhood cancer, while we’re at it, and how Mr. A is fanatical about carseat safety, and the way I smell the milk the day before the expiration date so we don’t ingest some kind of poison.

I don’t believe we can ever be safe. Nothing here is promised, not one day. Not to anyone, no matter the wall of concrete or money or solitude we place around each other. Still, we take precautions.

We take our vitamins. We look twice before crossing. We put antibiotic ointment on our scrapes. We eat healthy and visit the doctor once a year. We watch and breathe and pray and practice kindness, and every day we do it right, we still rock closer to the abyss.

Children know this, more than adults. That’s why all fairy tales are about the world beneath this world, why all nursery rhymes sing death: Children at the beginnings of their lives are closer to the darkness than we will ever be again until the end. Once upon not so very long ago the winters took more children than they spared. I thought of that at Kick’s christening, when she was still small enough to fit against my body: This comes from a time when we were likely to lose her.

I don’t know how to deal with people who think nothing bad can happen to their children. How to deal with people who lament their growing up, growing out, and becoming. How to deal with people who come up with reasons to hate their children and make them ashamed. All I think about is keeping my child alive, keeping her going, making sure I never see her ending. I try to imagine anything that would make me want to lose her, even for a moment, and shudder at bringing even the thought that close.

I feared her loss before I knew her name.

We take all these precautions. We pray all these prayers. We draw circles, ask for protection within and without, and then we send our children to school with bulletproof backpacks and call that security. Are there people who don’t feel this way about their children’s safety? I’ve seen people lose their children: to sickness, violence, war, depression. The protecting we do now — hide in the closet during “safety practice,” hide and be quiet — is inadequate to the point of laughter, is a dollar-store umbrella against Noah’s own flood.

A child of mine
Would eat fire, sing death
Still my hands forever
With her uncompromised mortality 

— Marilyn Hacker, The Song of Líadan

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Lament For The Numb

Pandora’s Box by Rene Magritte.

It’s been a rough summer in New Orleans. I’m ready for it to end without another flash flood or tropical system. That remains to be seen but one thing is certain: the heat will persist until early October. I’m hoping  my ennui will not.

Thanks, Ashley. I needed that. FYYFF.

We’re staying Down Under with this week’s theme song. Kiwi rock deity Dave Dobbyn wrote  Lament For The Numb for the 1993 album of that name. But it applies equally to America circa 2019. We’re all numb from the antics of our idiot president*.

Here’s another Dave Dobbyn song. It has no deep social significance. I just like it:

Now that we’ve gotten numb and danced with the belle of the ball, let’s jump to the break.

Continue reading

The Spirit Of ’05 Revisited

Root Beer Blues. Photograph by Dr. A.

Last year I decided to do something different on the Katrinaversary. I’m posting it again on the 14th anniversary:

I hate to go Dickensian on your asses but the period after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood was indeed the best of times and the worst of times. My Katrina experience was nothing compared to many people but it has stayed with me in a way that few life experiences have.

Each Katrinaversary gets a bit less painful. Today almost feels like an ordinary Wednesday but I still have the survivor’s guilt I wrote about last year when parts of New Orleans flooded on my birthday:

It’s a common malady for those of us who live in what has come to be known as “the sliver by the river.” We did not flood in 2005, so I do not like arguing with those who did. It makes me uncomfortable and uncharacteristically deferential. In the year immediately after the storm, I  cringed every time I had to tell *our* Katrina story to those worse off since we were so lucky. We did have $20K worth of damage and were in exile for 7 weeks but that was nothing compared to what so many others went through. Hence my survivor’s guilt and this weekend’s survivor’s guilt flashback. I re-posted my account of Dr. A and my sneaking into the city at First Draft in 2015. Here’s the link.

As bad as that period was for all concerned, there was an esprit de corps that I miss. Everyone was in the same leaky boat so we helped one another out. Spontaneous and random acts of kindness were commonplace. I recall a day when we helped our neighbors duct tape their dead refrigerators and drag them to the curb. It was dirty, stinky work but it felt good to help.

Cajun Tomb. Photograph by Dr. A.

The Spirit of ’05 endured for several years, which looking back is remarkable. It could not last forever but those were heady days. I wish we could recapture the camaraderie but crisis brings out both the best and worst in people. And when the crisis ends, everything changes.  I met many people after the storm, made some enduring friendships and others that were more fleeting. But I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, it has made me who I am in 2018.

The lasting impact of the storm on my life is that I started blogging. I never expected to still be at it thirteen years after the day that everything changed, but here I am. I landed at First Draft because of Scout Prime who not only wrote about her experiences helping in New Orleans after the storm, but came up with the idea for the Rising Tide conference. My friendships with Scout and Athenae are two that have endured over the years. Thanks for letting me tell jokes here, y’all.

Speaking of enduring friendships, here’s an apt tweet from my dear friend Julie:

In past years, the blog has stayed dark for the entire Katrinaversary thereby allowing this solemn image to dominate:

I decided it was time for a change. I also wanted to mention my empathy for the people of Puerto Rico where  2,975 American citizens died as a result of Hurricane Maria. It’s what happens when you have bad leadership: in our case it was the Bush-Cheney gang, with Maria it’s the Trump-Pence regime; both of whom lost the popular vote, then lost the thread when it came to hurricane relief. It’s what happens when you give power to people who hate government. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

The Spirit of ’05 is a touchstone for all that’s good about human nature. It’s still lurking in a city that has changed radically since the storm and its aftermath. Here’s how I put it in a post five days before the 10th Katrinaversary:

After the water receded, there was a second inundation of people flooding into the city. Some were do-gooders, some were hipsters seeking the next trend, still others were here to make a buck. Very few of them understood the essence of New Orleans and what makes the city and its inhabitants tick. Many of them, especially on social media, have come up with an orthodoxy of what it means to be a New Orleanian. That has come to be known as copping a NOLAier than thou attitude, a swell phrase that was coined by Karen Dalton Beninato.  Some of the NOLAier than thou set seem to have spent way too much time watching Treme. Instead of a Cabaret, life is apparently a second line, old chum.

On the 13th anniversary, we continue to struggle with what happened that August day. There’s still a special feeling among those of who went through it together. If only we could fully recapture the Spirit of ’05.

The last word goes to Peter Gabriel with a song that’s been on my mind and in my head thirteen times over: