Category Archives: Diary

Saturday Odds & Sods: Lover Of The Bayou

Photograph by CC Lockwood.

Fall has fallen. We finally had a week of temptingly temperate temperatures. Unfortunately, it’s oak pollen season, which means I’ve been wheezier than Weezer or Isabel Sanford who played Louise (Weezy) Jefferson on the electronic teevee machine back in the day. Where have you gone George Jefferson? Achoo.

It’s the week after the primary election and the Mayoral  run-off campaign is mostly bubbling under the surface. There was some horrible news involving third-place finisher Michael Bagneris. His daughter, Mia, was hit by a drunk driver while exiting her car after attending her father’s election eve soiree. Since New Orleans is the world’s largest small town, we have several friends in common. Her injuries were severe but it appears that she’ll make it. It’s going to be a long recovery. Best wishes to the Bagneris family. Drunk drivers are the worst.

This week’s theme song was written by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy. It has an interesting history. I’ll let the Wikpedia entry for the Byrds album (Untitled) fill you in:

For most of 1969, The Byrds’ leader and guitarist, Roger McGuinn, had been developing a country rock stage production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt with former psychologist and Broadway impresario Jacques Levy.[16] The musical was to be titled Gene Tryp, an anagram of the title of Ibsen’s play, and would loosely follow the storyline of Peer Gynt with some modifications to transpose the action from Norway to south-west America during the mid-19th century.[5] The musical was intended as a prelude to even loftier plans of McGuinn’s to produce a science-fiction film, tentatively titled Ecology 70 and starring former Byrd Gram Parsons (no relation to Gene) and ex-member of The Mamas & the PapasMichelle Phillips, as a pair of intergalactic flower children.[12] Ultimately, Gene Tryp was abandoned and a handful of the songs that McGuinn and Levy had written for the project would instead see release on (Untitled) and its follow-up, Byrdmaniax.[4]

I told you it was a long story. We have two versions for your enjoyment, the original live Byrds version and a cover by Mudcrutch, which was Tom Petty’s original band brought back to life in 2008. Holy reanimation, Batman.

That concludes our trip to the bayou or does it? You’ll find out after we jump to the break.

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A Slice of Time

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It was a fortuitous tweak of timing that landed us at Francisco’s restaurant Saturday night: A baseball card show that had me in Milwaukee. A phone call my mom got from an old friend. Another restaurant with a wait time that we all knew my father wouldn’t tolerate.

The place had changed names over the years, but for us it would always be Francisco’s.

And this might have been the last night we ever got to see it.

Mom and Dad used to go there when they were first dating in the 1960s. It was about the width of a hospital hallway in those days. Booths lined one wall and tables seemed to randomly spring up wherever space would allow. The kitchen in the back could be seen from the street, with swinging old-west barroom doors separating the patrons from the prep staff.

As we pulled up last week, Dad pointed to a spot on the corner of Oklahoma and KK, noting, “When your mother and I would come here way back, this was always our parking spot.”

We pulled around the corner this time and parked a bit down the street. The dull awning and spackled-over brick just a few yards from where the car came to rest.

The large wooden door led into a vestibule I’d entered hundreds of times before: A group photo of some long-gone collection of black and white figures at some event I never knew, a few fliers for events or services, a small note tacked here or there. Random elements I took more seriously this time.

The second door led to the main room. To the left was the “original” part of the restaurant while the right contained a larger bar and seating area. Somewhere during my lifetime, they bought out whatever business was on the corner and opened up this newer, bigger part of the restaurant. A neon sign proclaiming pizza, pasta and drinks faced outward from the picture window onto the street where people waited for the 51 and 15 buses.

I’d been coming here since before I could remember. Friday nights were the day my folks decided they deserved a break, so they would eat out. Francisco’s and its pizza was a staple of our restaurant rotation. It was a dimly lit restaurant that had the charm of a single waitress who knew your name and jukebox that always seemed to call to me but was never played. It was the first time I’d ever heard of  “Pink Floyd” because the label on the box told me they had a song called “Run Like Hell.” At age 6, hell was pretty serious stuff.

Today, that whole side of the restaurant was dark. No one would be serving food there. The sign that usually told people to wait for the hostess to seat them noted simply: “Limited menu. Pizza, Italian Sausage Sandwiches.”

The bar was where the “action” was, to use the term loosely. About six people were in there and we knew four of them. I was the youngest person in there by at least 15 years.

We weren’t there so much for the food or the company as we were to remember something special.

Francisco’s had closed in February when the owner, Franny, had a massive stroke. Nobody knew if he was going to make it or what would happen to the restaurant. His wife and longtime waitress, Kathy, stayed by his side and kept him going through it all. He recovered well enough to use a wheel chair and maybe be around some friends, so tonight she opened up the restaurant for a “look-see” at what was possible.

“She always loved you to death,” Dad always told me. “Even when you made a mess with all your crackers and you were loud, she loved you.”

I remembered her as being somewhat of a mother figure and somewhat of “Flo” from the old TV show “Alice.” In my mind, she was always about 35, dressed comfortably and doting on us, me in particular.

Tonight, she was noticeably older to me. Haggard. Rushed. Distracted. It took her three trips around the bar to get us a drink order, even as the only other people in the place had been well served and two guys at the end were watching “Jeopardy!” on an old tube TV.

I leaned on the old brass bar rail, which had been unpolished for quite some time. A slight scent of must and stale air lingered, reminding me the place had been closed for more than half a year.

Finally, she came back for a food order. Dad took charge:

“Large pizza. Cheese, Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions.”

For as long as I could remember, that was our pizza order.

Cheese, Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions.

On an extremely rare occasion, we deviated from that. Once in Mexico we had pizza with pineapple before that really became a thing. When I was old enough to get a vote on food, I occasionally bargained to get black olives tossed into the mix.

Aside from that, it was always Cheese, Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions.

Kathy wrote it down and strode slowly toward the kitchen as she sidestepped something we couldn’t make out in the left corner of the bar.

It was Franny, sitting quietly in his wheelchair, watching “Jeopardy!” with the two guys we didn’t know.

Eventually, he rolled toward us, using a single foot to power his glide in our direction. He didn’t seem to recognize us, even though my father would make regular walks from our house to his bar for a beer on a weeknight when they were often the only two guys in the whole place. He mumbled politely to people who were praising him for how good he looked and expressing thanks that the place had opened on this one day. Nobody was sure if this was the start of something more regular or a last hurrah for the place. Even with no real parking to speak of, the building was at a prime location. It would likely draw interested suitors if they couldn’t keep it going. Still, the restaurant had been life: He owned and operated it, Kathy waitressed for it.

What else was there?

A few people wandered in and out. One was a representative of the arch bishop, who had been invited via the same basic phone call my mother got: Franny is opening up on Saturday. You should come down. The source of the call was Kathy’s brother, Bob, who had become close friends with my mom through her work at church.

A few mixed drinks dotted the bar as the smell of food began to fill the room. “Jeopardy!” had given way to “Wheel of Fortune” as we chatted with some folks, occasionally glancing at the TV to see if we could solve the puzzle. Franny had wheeled away and disappeared once again.

Kathy arrived with the pizza and placed it in front of us at the bar.

Cheese, Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions.

A fresh beer for dad. A Diet Coke refill for me.

The steaming thin-crust delicacy disappeared one square at a time. The outer edges were cracker-like in their wonderful crunch, the inner pieces were softer and contained heavier toppings.

Usually when we got one of these, we had about three or four pieces left. Today, even though we were really full, we kept eating. Maybe we wouldn’t get this again and besides, it never tasted quite this good.

Kathy swung by, handing out pizzas to the two people at the bar who had been waiting. One of them disappeared with the bagged pie while the other decided, after some deliberation, to order another drink and eat it there. We chatted with this lady, a local lawyer who helped my dad settle my grandmother’s estate, about various things she was doing now in retirement. Poetry, some work, being a Grammy (not a grandma, mind you. She told us she’s not old enough to be a grandmother. My mother, a “nana” by her own choosing of nomenclature, nodded in agreement.).

The woman also reminded me I was the person who told her Trump would never win.

I grimaced and turned back to my last two bites.

Kathy came by to pick up the battered metal pizza tray.

“This was delicious,” I told her. “Thank you so much for this.”

She looked at me and said without a smile, “Some things in life don’t change.”

Quote Of The Day: Movie Monsters Edition

I’m not talking about scary clowns, vampires, or reanimated monsters, I’m talking about monsters who make the movies.  One of the best things I’ve read about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, or as I call it Shitstorm Harvey, was written by Lindy West for the failing NYT:

It is unclear what possessed Woody Allen, of all people, to comment on the accusations of sexual predation against Harvey Weinstein, when he could have just not said anything, not expressed sympathy for an alleged serial rapist, not accused long-silenced women who said they were sexually assaulted of contributing to “a witch hunt atmosphere” and not felt compelled to issue a pouty follow-up statement in which he didn’t apologize but, in fact, reiterated how “sad” he feels for Weinstein because Weinstein is “sick.”

I’m kidding! It’s totally clear why Allen would issue such a statement — why he wouldn’t hesitate to include the astonishing confession that “no one ever came to me or told me horror stories with any real seriousness,” implying that people did tell him about Weinstein but he, with that odd omniscience native to the very rich, deemed them insufficiently serious. It’s also totally clear why Allen felt untouchable enough to add that even if he had believed the “horror stories,” he wouldn’t have been interested, let alone concerned, because he is a serious man busy making serious man-art. He said people wouldn’t bother coming to him anyway, because, as he described it: “You’re not interested in it. You are interested in making your movie.” (That last bit is fair, actually. If I’d been sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, literally my last instinct would be to go to Woody Allen for help.)

It’s clear because the cultural malfunction that allows Allen to feel comfortable issuing that statement is the same malfunction that gave us Allen and Weinstein in the first place: the smothering, delusional, galactic entitlement of powerful men.

We already knew that monsters can make great films. Roman Polanski has. Woody Allen has. Harvey Weinstein has. I can still watch Woody Allen’s old movies with *some* enjoyment but I’ll never like them quite as much as I once did. For 25 years, Allen was my favorite film director even though hints of his perviness showed up in movies such as Manhattan. I think he’s made one good film in the 21st Century. At this point it doesn’t matter, his name has quite deservedly been dragged through the mud and I’m inclined to think that a guilty conscience has something to do with his artistic decline. I would hope that a man with his talent would have a conscience but it’s hard to tell as he natters on about witch hunts. STFU, Woody.

As to Harvey Weinstein, he’s a disgusting pig who was widely known as an asshole’s asshole before the shit hit the fan. It’s quite fitting that Ronan Farrow wrote one of the Shitstorm Harvey  exposes. He’s allegedly Woody Allen’s bio-son but, damn, he looks like Mia Farrow’s ex-husband Frank Sinatra. I’d rather have Frank in my gene pool than Woody any day.

The #metoo discussion that has popped up online in the wake of  Shitstorm Harvey has been moving and seems to be leading to a more open discussion of sexual harassment and assault. It seems that most women of my acquaintance have, at the very least, been subjected to unwanted groping.  It’s a sad commentary on the world and it’s been going on long before any of us were around. I hope that the open dialogue sparked by this will lead to improved behavior on the part of many men. I have no illusions that all men will pay attention but if there are fewer Woodys and Harveys out there, the world will be a better place.

My parents were conservative in many ways but my brilliant and accomplished mother was an instinctive feminist.  As a successful professional woman, she taught me by example that women could do anything and should be treated with respect. My father was sexist in some ways BUT he taught me to keep my hands to myself and treat women with respect and old-fashioned courtesy or as he liked to say, “be a gentleman, not a bum.” Bums groped, gentlemen did not.

The Jayhawks get the last word with a song that bids adieu to monsters of all types:

Quick & Dirty Thoughts About The NOLA Primary Election

It was an eventful weekend at Adrastos World HQ. The LSU Tigers came back from a 20-0 deficit to the Other Tigers of Auburn to win 27-23.  Auburn has still not won at Tiger Stadium in the 21st Century. The Saints won a wild and wacky home game against the Detroit Lions. It resembled a rugby match at times but a win is a win is win.

The most important event, of course, was the New Orleans primary election. For the majority of you who don’t live in New Orleans and need some context, here’s a link to my page at the Bayou Brief. I need to pitch something there soon but the Oscar crisis and its aftermath left me lower energy than Jeb Bush. Believe me.

The headline is that two African-American women will be competing in the run-off and one of them will become the first woman mayor in the city’s history. LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet combined for 69% of the vote. It was expected to be a close three-way struggle but Cantrell led by 9%; the other major candidate Michael Bagneris (also African-American) won among white voters but finished out of the money with 18%. Bags pandered to wealthy local Lost Causers by criticizing the removal process, calling for a referendum on future controversies, then declining to say how he would vote. Oy just oy. To be fair, none of the candidates wanted to go there but he gave the worst answer by far.

A quick note about also-ran and recent malaka of the week, Frank Scurlock.  My friend and Bayou Brief publisher Lamar White Jr. crunched the numbers and informed us that Scurlock spent more per vote than any candidate in Gret Stet history, $926 per vote. He received 385 votes. He said he’d stimulate the economy and he kept that promise.

The run-off campaign should be more interesting than the primary. The two contenders are fairly close on the issues but have contrasting styles and backgrounds. The front-runner, Councilmember LaToya Cantrell, is a transplant who made her bones as a post-Katrina/Federal Flood activist. She’s a little rough around the edges but in a good way: it makes her interesting and somewhat unpredictable. She has a bit of a potty mouth, which is something we at First Draft fucking like. And she’s been known to call a motherfucker a motherfucker. There are many of those in local politics. Fuck, yeah.

As to Desiree Charbonnet, it’s become a truism to say that she’s the establishment candidate. As you know, I hate to echo the Conventional Wisdom, but in this case the truism is true.  She raised the most money and gained the most endorsements, which is a two-edged sword. On the sharp side, she has the support of Congressman Cedric Richmond; on the dull side, District Attorney Leon Cannizzarro who is unpopular in many circles because of his office’s habit of coercing witnesses to testify. Canny has the demeanor of an irritable undertaker so seeing him next to the chipper candidate on election eve was most amusing. Smile, Canny, smile.

Back to  Charbonnet. She’s a polished speaker and the camera loves her. Those should be advantages but her poorly run campaign hasn’t taken advantage of her talent. They’ve given her dubious advice about how to deal with criticism as I pointed out in a post called The Empty Podium Ad. I’ve had a series of run-ins with her supporters online. They seem to regard her as the Creole messiah or some such shit. That’s another contrast with her opponent: Charbonnet comes from an old Creole family who have been in New Orleans forever. One of her cousins implied on election eve that differences between locals and transplants that would be a theme of her run-off effort. Of course, she has so many relatives that this guy may not be in the loop. In any event, it’s a rotten idea.

LaToya Cantrell ran first for several reasons: an Obama-style GOTV effort, and negative ads run by Charbonnet’s detractors. It’s unclear how resonant those attacks will be in the run-off but Cantrell benefited from them and the back-and-forth between Charbonnet and third place finisher Michael Bagneris. Charbonnet may have made it difficult for Bags to endorse her because of the nature of her attacks on him, especially comments in the final televised debate implying that he cheated on his wife: “he has a lovely wife who has stood by him.” I know how to read between the lines, y’all.

The open question is who, if anyone, incumbent Mayor Mitch Landrieu will endorse. Despite taking a well-deserved beating over drainage issues, his approval rating remains in the mid to high 50’s. He’s neither politically nor personally close to either candidate so he might be wise to stay out of the fray. I asked around yesterday and the consensus is that the Mayor is unlikely to endorse soon. I think his best course is to praise both candidates, the history they’re about to make, and stay out. Mitch can read the election results and they favor Cantrell. They’ve had a prickly and contentious relationship but she’s the front-runner until proven otherwise.

I didn’t support any of the leading candidates in the primary. I leaned towards Cantrell but have reservations about her position on short-term rentals. I also had a friend and krewe mate, Ed Bruski, who ran as an outsider candidate so I was one of 450 people who voted to give New Orleans a Bruski. In the run-off, the choice is clear. Cantrell is my council member  and she has been responsive to her constituents, which means she’ll listen to the voters. As to Charbonnet, she’s the latest in a long line of machine politicians to run as a reformer or, as she is fond of saying, an innovator. I don’t have a problem with machine politicians but I prefer they be honest about it. My rule of thumb in Louisiana politics is that when someone calls themselves a reformer, check your wallet. C Ray Nagin ran as a reformer, after all.

It looks as if  my post title is a misnomer. It was dirty but not quick. Hell, it could have been longer but I decided to skip the Councilmanic races. That would have been far too manic. I guess that means I should give the Bangles the last word:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: So Far Away

Speciality Drawing by George Herriman, 1936.

It’s election day in New Orleans. It’s time to winnow down the lackluster mayoral field from 3 major contenders to a face off in the run-off in this off-year election. I hope that wasn’t off-putting. Only a mug would try to predict who will be in the run-off with the so-called big three clustered so tightly in the polls. As Dan Rather would surely say at this point: it’s tighter than a tick. Besides, I threw away my crystal ball after it cracked on 11/9/2016.

One more note on the New Orleans municipal election. I did a podcast about it with my friend Ryne Hancock yesterday. Here’s a LINK.

The featured image is a 1936 drawing by the great George Herriman. In hopes of uncovering a title, I asked Herriman biographer Michael Tisserand. It is, in fact, untitled. It was executed by the artist for a fan named Morris Weiss. It’s unclear if he was a Morris dancer. Btw, if you haven’t read Michael’s book Krazy, pick up a copy. It’s one of the best biographies I’ve read in years. He’s funny on twitter too. Believe me.

This week’s theme song was used in the penultimate episode of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, which is one of the most underrated teevee shows ever. There’s only one more episode left in the series but the first three seasons are streaming on Netflix. Check it out and tell them Adrastos sent you; not that they’ll give a shit but it will be good for my self-esteem.

So Far Away is my favorite Dire Straits song. I’m a big fan of wistful lyrics and Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing. This song obviously has both. I’m throwing in a partially acoustic live version as lagniappe.

 Since we’re so far away from one another, let’s bridge the gap by jumping to the break. I hope that made more sense to you than to me. Adrastos thy name is confusion.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Some Fantastic Place

Early Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper.

I suppose you won’t be surprised that I’m not up for a full-blown Saturday post. It’s been a difficult week at Adrastos World HQ, which has left me too pooped to pun.

I should mention that a tropical system, Nate, is headed to the Gulf Coast. The good news is that it’s no Harvey, Irma, or Maria. It’s going to be a fast and dry system and it’s trending eastward as of this writing.  In the immortal words of Pete Townshend: it’s Going Mobile. The bad news is that we may lose power even if we’re just sideswiped. If I’m scarce next week, that will be why.

We’ve had a bit of fun this week because my 4-year-old de facto nephew is also named Nate. I was hoping that this would be the only Nate we’d encounter this weekend:

That’s why I call him Food Face Nate.

Speaking of messy and sticky situations, former New Orleans Congressman Dollar Bill Jefferson is about to be released from prison after 5 years. 7 of 10 corruption charges against him have been thrown out because he was convicted under the same law that the Supremes ruled portions of unconstitutional in the Bob McDonnell case. There will be a re-sentencing hearing at some point, but if his lawyers are any good, Dollar Bill may end up being sentenced to time served. Stay tuned.

Even abbreviated Saturday posts deserve a theme song. Some Fantastic Place was written by Difford and Tilbrook in honor of a close  friend who had died. It could be called Squeeze Goes To Church:

While we’re on the subject of mortality, this funereal Jayhawks song was originally titled Old Woman Of Red Clay. It features Heartbreaker Benmont Tench on keyboards:

One more morbid song. This Garica-Hunter tune is narrated by a man on his death-bed:

That’s it for this week’s truncated and morose edition of Odds & Sods. Things should be back to semi-normal next week. The last bat word goes to Della Street:

Tom Petty, R.I.P.

Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, and Tom Petty at Jazz Fest 2017.

I rarely take celebrity deaths very hard and almost never personally. Tom Petty’s passing at the age of 66 is an exception to the rule. In part, because of the lengthy confusion as to whether he was alive or dead and, more obviously, because we’d made the difficult decision to put Oscar to sleep that morning. And because TP’s music has been a part of the fabric of my life for longer than I care to admit. Did I really say “fabric of my life?” Somebody call the cliché police.

The first time I heard Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was when American Girl came on my car radio. I was convinced it was a new Roger McGuinn song, which given my Byrds fixation is high praise indeed. It was a blast of fresh air in the disco era, especially since I was not much on punk rock either. It was something new and old wrapped together.

I avidly followed the twists and turns of TP’s recording career. Despite playing with the same musicians, each album sounded different from its predecessors. Petty’s knack for melody and deceptively complex lyrics kept his sound fresh over the years. I have most of his albums and there’s not a stinker in the bunch; even lesser Petty is better than the rest.

I also admired Petty’s willingness to stand up for himself and other musicians against the record labels. The people who ran the music industry were mostly a pack of thieves and TP refused to let them push him around or rip-off his fans. He lived the lyrics of I Won’t Back Down: “You can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down.”

As a band leader, TP brought out the best in the Heartbreakers. They went from being a band who played their songs note-for-note from the records to skilled improvisers. It helps when you work with the likes of Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench for 40 years.

Condolences to all the Heartbreakers and the Petty family. TP was a grandfather, y’all. Put that in your hookah and smoke it. Then don’t come around here no more…

The terrible coincidence of Tom Petty and Oscar dying on the same day is something for me to hold on to:

We could all do worse than that. Not bad company for a big-eyed cat from New Orleans.

After seeing TP and the Heartbreakers last April, I burned a CD of my favorites.  It’s structured like a short live set. Here’s The Portable Tom Petty as a YouTubular playlist:

Album Cover Art Wednesday will return next week.

Oscar, R.I.P.

It’s a terrible morning everywhere because of the horrendous mass shooting in Las Vegas and the ongoing tragedy in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Closer to home it’s an extra sad day: we had to put Oscar to sleep after a prolonged illness. His legs simply stopped functioning yesterday although he tried putting a brave face on it for his humans.

We’ve been going to the same vet for 30 years and we’ve been through this with four cats. We trust his judgment and when he told us that the best Oscar could hope for was a few good days, we knew it was time to say goodbye. It would have been selfish for us to keep him around. A long goodbye was not in the cards. When elderly cats go, they go fast.

I kept my social media friends apprised of Oscar’s situation and those who had never met him IRL said the same thing: “I felt like I knew him.” He was a sweet, lovable, and gregarious kitty who brought a lot of joy into everyone’s lives. Della Street is confused that we came home without her big brother. Oscar left a giant hole in the hearts of his family, Dr. A, Della and me.

I posted my favorite picture of the Big O at the top of the post. This week’s catblogging will be an extended tribute to Oscar and his giant cartoon-like eyes.

I’m not superstitious but it began pouring as we drove home from the vet so I quoted an old blues song to Dr. A. I’ll give it and Eric Clapton the last word:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tenderness On The Block

Surrealism and Painting by Max Ernst.

It’s still too darn hot in New Orleans and the municipal election drones on like annoying background music. I should be more engaged but (with the exception of Frank Scurlock’s malakatude)  it’s duller than tarnished silver. Hopefully, the run-off will be more interesting.

There is an interesting political story happening next door in Jefferson Parish. I wrote about Parish President Mike Yenni’s perv issues in this space last year. Yenni survived a recall attempt and is clinging to office. One sign that he doesn’t expect to be re-elected is that he’s spent over $200K  to redo his office to make it look like George W. Bush’s Oval Office. I am not making this up.

I hope Mike doesn’t get a Yenni to invade Arabi in nearby St. Bernard Parish. There’s enough weird shit happening in Da Parish already y’all.

This week’s theme song is Warren Zevon’s Tenderness On The Block. I have a confession: I like Shawn Colvin’s 1992 cover even more since it features my homeys, the Subdudes:

Speaking of subdued, I’m feeling that way this week because of Oscar’s illness so I’m going to keep this snappy. So snappy, in fact, that I’m skipping the break and jumping in with both feet or something like that.

My Anglophilia is in bloom this week so we begin with a hilarious piece by the Guardian’s Marina Hyde about the recent Labour Party conference in Brighton. I dig the headline; here it is in its exuberant entirety:

Oh Jeremy Corbyn. I Bet You Think This Song Is About You: The reason I love the Guardian so much is the quality of the writing. They let their funny people be funny. Ain’t nobody funnier than  Marina Hyde:

If you are a political archivist, there are two seriously covetable gigs in the world right now. The first is conceptualising the unprecedented annals facility that will one day be the Donald Trump Presidential Library. The second is collating the many different euphemisms for the Labour party having not won the recent general election.

At party conference in Brighton, you gotta catch ’em all. “We didn’t lose,” Emily Thornberry declared. “The real losers were the Tories.” At Momentum’s parallel event, the official literature noted that Labour had “witnessed possibility being snatched from the jaws of disaster”. In the conference hall proper, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey elicited a huge cheer for “the biggest narrowing of the polls in British electoral history”.

My favorite bit was about the folks from Momentum, which is a hard left pressure group made up of British dudebros:

Momentum gets a lot of stick for a certain strain of its needling – branding people “centrist dads” and so on. But it rather reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where Bart inquires of a man: “I’m Bart Simpson – who the hell are you?” “I’m Dave Shutton,” comes the stuffy reply, “an investigative reporter who’s on the road a lot, and I must say that in our day we didn’t talk like that to our elders.” “Well, this is my day,” shrugs Bart, “and we do.” And so with many of Momentum’s in-jokes – there is something Bartishly irreverent and invigorating about them, and pants ought not to be wet in response. All the grownuppery was far more off-putting, anyway. Emily Thornberry kept insisting Labour were “the grownups”, while Keir Starmer echoed that the party was “the grownups in the room”.

It’s unclear as to whether Labour’s performance in the late election was a real political shift or a massive anti-Tory protest vote. I lean in the second direction: many of the new, younger Labour voters are passionate “remainers” whereas Corbyn’s inner circle are soft-Brexiteers. It will be interesting to see what happens when UK voters go to the polls believing that it’s possible for Corbyn to be their next Prime Minister. I threw away my crystal ball on 11/9/2016 so I make no predictions. Stay tuned.

We remain in England (not the EU) for our next segment, which is about one of the more sympathetic royals, the Queen’s late kid sister Princess Margaret.

Princess Margaret’s Misadventures In Bohemia: I’ve long had sympathy for Margaret because she’s one of the few people my main man Gore Vidal never said anything catty about. Hell, Gore even mocked people he liked and admired but not Princess Margaret. He felt sorry for her and admired her snooty wit. Gore was always big on snooty wit.

The Guardian has published a fascinating excerpt from a book by Craig Brown about Margaret, Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret. I knew that she hung out with the Rolling Stones when they were at their most hedonistic but I did not know that Pablo Picasso was madly in love with the Princess and hoped to marry her. I am not letting the catty cat out of the bag by telling you this never happened. Picasso may have not been a surrealist artist but he was a surrealist in everyday life.

I’ve had Puerto Rico on mind since Hurricane Maria. I posted a series of pictures of great Puerto Rican baseball players on Twitter, which led to this list, which is strictly for baseball history buffs but what can I say? It’s made up of players who were born on the island.

Adrastos’ Puerto Rico All-Star Team

1B: Orlando Cepeda.

2B: Roberto Alomar.

SS: Jose Valentin.

3B: Mike Lowell.

OF: Roberto Clemente, Carlos Beltran, Bernie Williams.

DH: Carlos Delgado.

C: Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez.

Starting Pitchers:  RH:Javier Vasquez. LH: Juan Pizarro.

Relievers:  RH:Roberto Hernandez.  LH: Willie Hernandez. No relation.

The outfielders, catchers, and first basemen were the toughest position to winnow down. Pitching, however, is not a strength. So it goes.

That concludes this tribute to Puerto Rican baseball. Let’s go back to woody old England.

Saturday Classic: Steeleye Span were one of the bands who helped create British folk rock. Parcel of Rogues was one of the albums that emphasized the rock part of the equation. As always, Maddy Prior’s vocals are sublime.

That’s it for this week. I wrote about Ripper Street last week. This time around I’ll give the last word to the cast in their Victorian finery:

How trying to make free speech free can really not do that

The state of Wisconsin is in the process of considering a bill that would allow for higher levels of punishment against UW folk who “disrupt” the free speech of others. On its face, the idea seems good: Everyone has a right to speak, so let’s make sure that we let all voices be heard.

Naturally, that’s not the point of this, as previous writers have pointed out. Republicans who supported this bill (all but one of them voted for it; naturally all the Democrats opposed it) believe college campuses are filled with weed-smoking hippies who hate anyone conservative enough to wear socks, so the law is needed to even the playing field. After all, how would a campus be able to host a shy butterfly and resident Crypt Keeper Ann Coulter if a law wouldn’t allow the U to clear away the raging liberal scum so her voice of reason could rise above the hysterics of the crowd?

Today, the board of regents sent out a policy document draft that outlined its response to the bill:

The State of Wisconsin Legislature is currently considering a bill that would direct the Board of Regents to adopt a policy on free expression that includes disciplinary sanctions for those who disrupt the free expression of others, and includes other accountability requirements.
The attached Regent Policy Document, “Commitment to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression,” communicates the expectations of the Board of Regents regarding academic freedom and freedom of expression, expectations for those who violate the free expression and others.

<SNIP>

Finally, the proposed policy supersedes and nullifies any provisions of institutional policies that improperly restrict speech, and requires UW institutions to revise or remove any such policies.

This is a good opening and a strong first step, especially considering how the regents are basically Scott Walker drones, to say, “Look, we abide by that whole ‘sifting and winnowing’ thing somebody wrote a long time ago, so let’s not get bent out of shape that Milo isn’t coming to town unless we can guarantee everyone in the audience will give him a hug.” That said, this is embedded way deep in the document (bolding is mine):

4. Restriction of Expression
UW institutions may restrict expressive activity not protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or Article I of the Wisconsin Constitution, including any of the following:
(a) Violations of state or federal law.
(b) Defamation.
(c) Harassment.
(d) Sexual harassment.
(e) True threats.
(f) An unjustifiable invasion of privacy or confidentiality.
(g) An action that materially and substantially disrupts the function of an institution.
(h) A violation of a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction on expressive activities.

<SNIP>

Of course, different ideas in the university community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they, or others, find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the university greatly values civility, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members within the university community.

Time-place-manner restrictions are part of law, so that’s always been there. The idea of function disruption is also fairly common. The key issue is WHO gets to decide WHAT is a clear violation of the items listed there? I like the explanation that we can’t just rely on civility to say, “Go away. We don’t want you here.” If that weren’t the case, I’d probably never be able to leave my basement and I’d be given food via clothes chute. However, rules are always applied at the behest of the beholder, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this stuff. If you want to make a statement to the regents on this, you can do so here.

 

Heckuva Job, Trumpy

I rarely write the  next day on the same topic as Athenae. It has to be important. It is: Puerto Rico is drowning and the current administration* is throwing it a life-preserver weighted down with conditions. That’s not how our government should treat American citizens. I’m not even certain that Trump knew Puerto Ricans are Americans before Hurricane Maria decimated that beautiful island. If it’s not about him, it doesn’t matter.

I guess Fox News is running stories about Puerto Rico. That could explain why the president* interrupted his #takeaknee diversion with some stray commentary on Puerto Rico’s plight. In his pea brain, if it’s important it must be tweeted about:

This coming from a man who stiffs contractors and declares bankruptcy as often as some people change their socks.  Also, Texas and Florida are not “doing great.” A friend of mine volunteered in Port Arthur, Texas last weekend and they still need help.

The Insult Comedian spoke more positively later Monday about helping Puerto Rico, but with this bozo the initial, off-the-cuff reaction is what matters. He only pretended to give a shit after being subjected to withering criticism. The proof is in the administration’s* refusal to waive provisions in the Jones Act that are interfering with the relief effort:

The Trump administration on Tuesday denied a request from several members of Congress to waive shipping restrictions to help get gasoline and other supplies to Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declined the request to waive the Jones Act, which limits shipping between coasts to U.S.-flagged vessels, according to Reuters. DHS waived the act following hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit the mainland U.S.

The agency has in the past waived the rule to allow cheaper and more readily-available foreign vessels to supply goods to devastated areas. But DHS said Tuesday that waiving the act for Puerto Rico would not help the U.S. island territory due to damaged ports preventing ships from docking.

 “The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection told Reuters.

In a letter to the department on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urgedDHS to rethink the decision, citing the agency’s willingness to waive the Jones Act for relief efforts in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“The Department of Homeland Security has been given the ability to waive the Jones Act to accommodate national security concerns, and has done so twice in the last month,” McCain wrote. “These emergency waivers have been valuable to speed up recovery efforts in the impacted regions. However, I am very concerned by the Department’s decision not to waive the Jones Act for current relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria.”

The fact that John McCain is one of the members of Congress urging a waiver makes the more cynical among us (myself included) wonder if this is payback for his role in scuttling Graham-Cassidy. It’s doubtful that this decision went to the White House but some ambitious bureaucrat might be pandering to the Idiot in Chief. Let’s hope not. The waiver should be granted. Pronto.

Even if revenge is not involved in this decision, discrimination is since waivers were granted in Florida and Texas, both states with Republican governors. I guess Houston is lucky that Trump thinks it’s a town full of plucky white people instead of one of the most diverse cities in the country. As many have pointed out, one reason Puerto Rico is dying is that Trump doesn’t like “brown people.” That led me to point out something on the Insult Comedian’s favorite medium:

That’s right, folks, Puerto Rico is a white supremacist’s nightmare. It’s enough to give the average MAGA Maggot a migraine or Jeff Sessions a seizure. The late great Roberto Clemente would tell them to STFU and roll up their sleeves to help his people; make that our people. As New Orleans writer Edward Branley said on the book of Zucker:

My post-Katrina/Federal Flood PTSD has not been far from the surface of late. Watching the events in Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands reminds me of the dilatory response of the Bush administration as New Orleans flooded. Dr. A and I were in exile in Bossier City and Dallas during the worst parts of the disaster and I recall being approached in the parking lot of an upscale mall in Plano, Texas where we went to use the internet because the cousin with whom we were staying has mildly Luddite tendencies. We were hailed by a man wearing a classic Dallas power outfit: an expensive suit, Stetson, and hand-made cowboy boots. Initially, I thought he was a wingnut prepared to dance on my city’s watery grave. Instead, he said in a thick Texas accent, “I see from looking at your car that y’all are from New Orleans. I bet you’re pissed at that pissant president for fucking you over.”

I bet people in Puerto Rico are pissed at *this* pissant president* for fucking them over. Obviously, NFL protests are more important than suffering in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. #sarcasm. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

Our fate is your fate.

UPDATE: After days of lame excuses, the administration* has waived the Jones Act. It’s unclear if a player to be named later was part of the deal.

Saturday Odds & Sods: How About You?

Court of the Patriarchs by Ansel Adams.

We had another boil water advisory in New Orleans this week. I’ve gotten used to them by now and don’t freak out. I’m married to a microbiologist so we ignore the “don’t shower” bit. It’s okay to bathe as long as one doesn’t have wounds or open sores. Besides, I’m not about to be stinky because the Sewerage and Water Board can’t get its shit together. Fuck that shit.

Oscar Update. It looks as if doubling his head meds and changing his diet has done the trick. Knock on wood. He hasn’t marked in several days and doesn’t look and act  like a scaredy cat. His tail is in the air when he walks instead of drooping. Let’s hope it lasts. Knock on wood. I had forgotten about that live Bowie version. Make sure you click on that last link.

In other New Orleans news, I wrote a second column for the Bayou Brief about the Mayors race. The campaign is so dull and listless that I refer to the candidates as The B-List.

This week’s theme song is inspired by last week’s Gershwin brothers reverie. How so? The opening lyrics:

I like New York in June, how about you?

I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?

That works for me.

How About You? was written by Burton Lane and Ralph Freed for the 1941 MGM musical Babes on Broadway starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. We have two versions for your enjoyment. First, the Chairman of the Board with a Nelson Riddle arranged version from an album you’ll hear more about later. Second, Harry Nilsson did an album of standards with *another* Sinatra arranger, Gordon Jenkins. Harry’s version was featured in Python alum Terry Gilliam’s best film, The Fisher King.

Heh, heh, heh. We just saw Robin William’s furry butt, he said in his best Beavis and Butthead voice. On that supremely lowbrow note, lets jump to the break.

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Memento Mori

I was sitting in my basement early this week, sorting through the dozens of things I had to do when my wife came down to add one more:

“Do you have anything you’re doing this weekend?” she asked.

I tried not to flinch as I tried to answer in a vague way that would allow me somehow get out of whatever she was about to ask me to build, fix, move or buy while still not admitting I wanted a free weekend.

“I’m not sure right now. Why?”

“There’s that benefit at the park for Jacob…”

Jacob is a 9-year-old boy I’ve written about here before, who has lived through two bouts of brain cancer . We bought his family’s home a few years back and had such trouble doing it, I honestly thought I was going to lose my mind. (Turns out, it was a shitty real estate agent on both ends and we ended up becoming more than friendly with the whole family.) The family moved into a home up the block and he would often stop by to play with The Midget. We still run the occasional stray letter or package for them that lands on our doorstep over to their house.

Now, he has leukemia and some friends are putting on a benefit this weekend for him. It includes a golf outing, food in the town park and a series of raffles. There are silent auctions, T-shirt sales and other similar things happening to raise money to help his family pay what have to be astronomical medical bills.

Fucking cancer…

I learned a long time ago while publishing a study in a journal of thanatology that I was an “instrumental griever.” The term came from the attempt to de-gender the idea of what had previously been deemed “masculine” and “feminine” grieving behaviors. Intuitive (formerly feminine) grievers deal with death, sadness and loss through things like crying, wailing and emotional expression. Instrumental (formerly masculine) grievers feel the need to “do something” even if that “something” has no hope of actually fixing the problem. People talk about instrumental grievers starting a MADD or SADD chapter after losing a child in a drunken-driving accident or carving a tombstone/memorial to commemorate the departed. The idea is that we act, even in the face of overwhelming odds that what we do won’t matter worth a pinch of shit of a difference. We’re not going to stand there with thumbs in our asses just waiting to “take it” from whatever is fucking with us.

Twenty minutes after I learned of all this, I was tearing through my basement, looking for things I could donate. I found the Facebook page for this event and discovered they were taking “silent auction baskets” to help raise money. What I saw was really nice stuff but most of it had a similar vibe: Cooking stuff, food stuff, grilling stuff, some lottery stuff… I figured some sports stuff might make for a nice complement to this, so messaged the folks in charge and asked if they were still taking donations.

They were, so there I went… The instrumental griever on a mission.

I started with the idea of one thing and ended up putting together four baskets of stuff: A collection of Packer items, one of Brewer items, one of “man cave” items and one a labor of love. The Mitchell and Ness Bart Starr jersey I always wanted but never wore? Fuck it. It’s in there. The autographs I gathered at the Lombardi open from Packer hall of famers? In the fucking box. The autographed football I had from somewhere? In there. The Max McGee autographed card I scored somehow? Tossed in without a second thought.

A Bob Uecker autograph that forced me to run across a golf course and wait for him to give enough of a shit to let his bouncer let me ask? Yep. Brewer Box. Autographed Gorman Thomas ball? Somebody’s gotta want that. The Robin Yount Rookie Card in about a two-inch-thick bulletproof plastic case? In there. Cards, posters, pennants, game-worn jersey card… I just kept adding to it. I yanked one of my newest neon signs off the wall and carefully walked it up to the truck. I tucked it next to the giant NFL Coors light mirror.

Then, I built a binder full of all my favorite refinishing projects and topped it off with a “gift certificate” for me to fully refinish ANY item somebody wanted me to rework. I don’t care if it’s a chair or great grandma’s fully dining room set. You win the bid, you make me your bitch. I once told my buddy Matt about wanting to do this for some sort of charity thing and he asked, “Don’t you worry that someone is going to make you redo something ridiculously large and it’ll cost you a ton?” Nope. Don’t give a shit. You got the cash, you win the bid, you get the job you want done. I did put in a caveat about pianos and wooden floors, as I’m not moving either of those, but for the most part, you get what you want.

Just help this kid…

I spent last weekend at a card show where I added yet another half-dozen bobbleheads to my already ridiculously huge bobblehead collection. Until I heard about Jacob, I had planned to spend the weekend trying to build some scaffolding to hold more of those damned things in my office. Now, it feels borderline pointless. What sits in my mind is not flipping furniture or going rummaging, but this image in my mind of his round, little face. The thick glasses, the almost impish smile. The superhero T-shirts he wears and how he’d march up the driveway while I was working on something or other and ask if my kid could come out and play.

I still see him and his folks last Halloween. He came dressed as Harry Potter. His tiny sibling, still in a stroller, was dressed as Hedwig. He had been feeling better that year. I threw as much candy as I could into their buckets until his folks basically made me stop.

I’m torn daily between between two wildly swinging emotional states:

  1. Persistent workaholic urgency. I have this almost guttural urge to do something, anything more to help these people and make this kid’s life somehow a little better. My baskets of shit aren’t going to cure cancer or make him better. I know that. And yet, here I am trying to figure out something else I can do that will. My wife gets it: She’s thinking about how she can make “freezer dinners” for their family so they don’t have to cook and can still have nice meals. We have to do SOMETHING.
  2. Blind visceral rage. I hate politics so much because it always feels like emotionally detached deities playing chess. The pawn doesn’t bleed or cry when you sacrifice it for something else. The rook doesn’t know it will die in three moves because you chose for that to happen.
    But guess what, assholes? The people you serve AREN’T FUCKING CHESS PIECES. We’re in the middle of yet one more attempt to “repeal and replace Obamacare,” this one even worse than the last one. Why? Because we said we would, that’s why? What’s in the bill? We don’t know, but what we have is “like Thelma and Louise” going off a cliff, so this has to be better. How do you know that? Have you read this thing? No.
    This kid is 9 years old and is basically one giant pre-existing condition. I’m sure he’s not the only one out there like this. I have no idea how Jacob’s insurance works, but if any single kid like Jacob gets fucked over just so you, Mr or Ms. Congress-critter, can say you “won” and defeated the evil Obama-Kenyan-Socialist, you need to be on the back end of Ezekiel 25:17.

This uncertain brevity of life has always scared me. Funerals make me twitch. Terminal illness horrifies me. Even though I’m a Catholic and I have that “whole better place” waiting on me (I hope), I hate change and the unknown. I’m basically Jack Burton in a a fucking elevator: In the midst of magic, afterlife and the unknown descending upon me, I’d rather climb up a three-story elevator cable because it’s real and I can touch it.

If you feel the same way, please give this page a look . Jacob deserves all the help he can get right now, whether it fixes the problems of the world or not.

First Draft Potpourri: Why Not Madman Across The Water?

Remember when weekends used to be relatively quiet and people could focus on sports and other leisure activities, not national politics? It wasn’t that long ago. Although in my case the change might be a good thing: my San Francisco Giants are having their worst season since the 1980’s, LSU was blown out in Starksville, Ms of all places, and Saints fans are ready to wear bags after yesterday’s thumping at the hands of the Patriots. Perhaps I should skip the sporting lamentations and get down to it

Rocket Man? One of the reasons I nicknamed Donald Trump the Insult Comedian is his propensity to nickname his enemies. He’s not that good at it: Low Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted, and Crooked Hillary are uninspired but serviceable. He’s no threat to me or Charlie Pierce or my friend Dakinikat at  Sky Dancing who calls Trump, Kremlin Caligula. Of course, John Hurt as Caligula was much better looking and I shudder to think of Donald dancing in drag:

The Insult Comedian decided to take his empire of shtick abroad by nicknaming his fellow lunatic leader, Kim Jong Un:

I bet the South Korean President is over the moon after that call and subsequent tweet. I wonder if they discussed the local milk people as well or whether that topic is reserved for Aussie PM Malcolm Turnbull? I’m sure Malcolm would be willing to share: he’s used to being in the middle…

Trump clearly think he’s being clever, but nicknaming a crazy man with nukes is unwise. Like the Kaiser of Chaos himself, Kim Jong Un is not known for his ability to take a joke. Remember the shitstorm over the James Franco-Seth Rogen movie The Interview? Like Trump or any other bully, Rocket Man can dish it out but not take it. I’m concerned that Trump will follow-up the Kim Jong Un dubbing by posting this infamous version of the John-Maupin hit:

I suppose we should be grateful that Trump didn’t nickname Kim Jong Un after another Elton John song even if that would have been wittier:

We don’t want Rocket Man to Burn Down The Mission, after all.

Ty Cobb Slides Into Trouble: The MSM keeps telling us that Trump mouthpiece Ty Cobb is somehow related to the baseball hall of famer of that name. They never bother to explain the consanguinity. It’s starting to feel like my father’s tales of being related to scads of prominent Greek-Americans but I digress.

It seems that Cobb the lawyer *does* have some qualities often ascribed to the Detroit Tiger great, he’s hyper aggressive and has a big mouth:

The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for “some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said “tried to push Jared out,” meaning Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been a previous source of dispute for the legal team.

 After The Times contacted the White House about the situation, Mr. McGahn privately erupted at Mr. Cobb, according to people informed about the confrontation who asked not to be named describing internal matters. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, sharply reprimanded Mr. Cobb for his indiscretion, the people said.

Mr. Cobb sought to defuse the conflict in an interview over the weekend, praising Mr. McGahn as a superb lawyer. “He has been very helpful to me, and whenever we have differences of opinion, we have been able to work them out professionally and reach consensus,” Mr. Cobb said. “We have different roles. He has a much fuller plate. But we’re both devoted to this White House and getting as much done on behalf of the presidency as possible.”

Ty Cobb, Esquire is better known for his exuberant mustache than sharpening his spikes, but he clearly has a sharp tongue. And like the ballplayer, he feuds with his “teammates.” I love stories of disarray at the Trump White House, especially when they make it apparent that the “Kelly discipline effect” is having limited impact. Keep up the good work, y’all.

Here’s the Original Ty Cobb “sliding” into home plate. Looks more like a kick to me. Dan McGhan better watch out.

The Trump-Russia scandal seems to be heating up again. It’s time for another dose of dossier dish.

The Not-So Dodgy Dossier: The original dodgy dossier was assembled by British intelligence to help Tony Blair sell the Iraq War to a wary Labour Party and a skeptical public. Many people thought that the dossier former British spook Christopher Steele assembled about the Trump-Russia mishigas was equally dodgy. One reason for  that was the incessant, infantile focus on the so-called pee tape by the twits of twitter.

There was an excellent piece on the Steele dossier last week in Slate by former American spook John Sipher. Sipher argues that much of the dossier has already been verified and that Steele is a credible person.

Given his name, I was relieved that the Sipher piece wasn’t written in cipher. I hope Sipher’s meticulous analysis will help dampen down the golden showers chatter amongst the resistance.  Toilet humor is for lame bro comedies and elementary school kids. It should be flushed by adults.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Nice Work If You Can Get It

Golconda by Rene Magritte

U2 came to town this week but I was involved in another spectacle: babysitting the legendary Child Army so that their parents Cait and Dave could see the Bono bunch. I like early U2 and even the Mick and Keith dynamic between Bono and the Edge but I’m not a fan. Why? I detest the preternaturally pompous Paul Hewson.

Additionally, U2 played the Superdome and I hate, hate, hate stadium concerts. I saw the Stones at the Dome and the sound was atrocious. Dealing with the Benevolent Dictator, Gladowling, and Lagniappe (their social media names) was just as raucous and none of them is a pompous prat like Bono.

Here’s a photo taken by Dr. A that could be entitled Child Army Surrealism. Note the smiling malice of the girl child Lagniappe who is a cross between a cat and Harpo Marx; only she hands you objects instead of her leg.

Lagniappe and the Gladowling.

Eat your heart (hat?) out, Rene Magritte.

Oscar Update: He continues marking but otherwise is feeling fine. We’ve tried everything suggested by the vet and various kitty savants, but are starting to feel like people on My Cat From Hell. At least we understand that it’s not about us but Oscar’s own furry demons. It doesn’t make it easier to deal with. The good news is that our vet has a new plan: to up Oscar’s meds and change his diet. Hopefully, that will help; otherwise we may need Jackson Galaxy.

You may have noticed that I love George and Ira Gershwin’s music. This isn’t the first Gershwin tune to be the Saturday Odds & Sods theme song and it won’t be the last. Nice Work If You Can Get It was written for the 1937 Astaire-Rogers movie A Damsel In Distress. It’s lesser Astaire BUT a major Gershwin tune. I’ll shut up and let Tony Bennett and Billie Holiday carry on.

My friend Kevin at the Gambit Tabloid and I use different words to describe what’s about to happen. He calls it a jump, I call it a break. This insignificant dispute leads to the inevitable Gershwin joke: you say jump, I say break. Let’s call the whole thing off.

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My Tribe: 22 and counting

I didn’t know they sucked so bad when I fell in love with them. Given my life-long love of the underdog, I might have picked the Cleveland Indians as my team anyway.

I was about 10 or 11 years old, I think, when my dad bought into a season-ticket package with a bunch of guys who had four front-row seats at Milwaukee’s old County Stadium. The seats were along the tarp, between third base and the outfield wall, giving us the visitor’s view of the field.

When you’re a kid, you have certain magical ideas about what can happen when you are THAT CLOSE to the action. I think it comes from the old movies, where players sidled up to the railing and signed autographs or shook hands with the fans.

For me, all I wanted was a ball. The idea that a major leaguer (or two or three of them) had touched it made all the difference to me. Now, I see those balls, fouls caught by fans or batting practice tokens tossed to the stands, at rummage sales for a couple bucks apiece. You can buy brand new ones, still in the box, online for less than $20 each.

Back then, though, the only way to get one was to have a player toss you one. Your hand grabbing the orb first in that sea of hands along the edge of the field.

In our first game in those seats, it rained. My dad bought me an Indians hat so maybe one of the guys would come by and say hi or at least wave. As I sat there, a little drown rat alone in the front row, Jamie Easterly emerged from the dugout with another player and began walking toward the bullpen.

If you don’t know who Jamie Easterly is, you’re not alone. A second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1971, Easterly and I crossed paths near the end of his amazingly pedestrian 13-year career in which he went 23-33 with a 4.62 ERA. He played for the Brewers during their 1982 World Series run before being sent to Cleveland in 1983, which at that point served as the Devil’s Island of baseball.

Easterly was walking away from me, the distance nearly 20 feet and growing, when I surprised him and myself by yelling, “Throw me a ball!” For a polite, diminutive hermit of a child, that was pretty damned bold. However, I really wanted that ball.

Easterly took the ball out of his pocket and flipped it at me. I was alone, so it was mine for sure. It got closer, closer and then…

Bam. It hit my hands and bounced out, trickling out onto the stadium’s warning track. A precious prize, just out of reach.

I stared at it, as if I could some how make it come closer. There it was. Here I was. Never the twain shall meet. It was over. My ONE shot at a ball, done in by my complete lack of coordination.

Easterly looked back and noticed my plight. He stopped walking toward the pen and jogged over to the ball.

He picked it up and placed it firmly in my hand. “Now don’t drop it this time, kid, OK?” he said with almost a chuckle in his voice. He then trotted back to his teammate and prepared for the game, the rest of which was a total blur for me.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Jamie Easterly had set me up for a lifetime of heartbreak and disappointment. There was no rationale reason to like the Indians other than that one moment. However, they just grew on me. The more the guys at school teased me about my choice, the more I dug in and learned more about “my guys.” The worse they got, the more I kept waiting for “next year.”

I didn’t care that Sigmund Snopek was an asshole who wrote and heartily performed a song at Summerfest each year called, “Thank God This Isn’t Cleveland” in which he always promised if the Indians EVER finished higher than the Brewers in the standings, he would stop singing it. I think ten years had passed between his pledge and that moment. Even so, it was just because both teams sucked that year. My team just happened to suck less.

I so wanted Brook Jacoby to be the next Mike Schmidt when he slugged 32 homers in 1987, seemingly on an upward trajectory toward stardom. Instead, he became the next Joe Charboneau of my life: A brief flame, doused by the nature of playing in Cleveland. He would only hit 44 homers over the rest of his career, petering out in the early 1990s.

Greg Swindell would anchor a pitching staff that looked like it was put together for some goofball comedy. We had Tom Candiotti, a young knuckleballer, and Phil Niekro, an old knuckleballer. About 20 years separated the bookends of a “ship of fools” approach to pitching.

Still, I remember those guys like Rich Yett, Scott Bailes and Jim Kern because they would come to the rail at County Stadium every time I went to a Brewers/ Indians game and they would sign autographs for fans who essentially said, “Hi, could you sign this to me from whoever you are?”

I also remember someone telling me that when you’re a Cleveland fan, you don’t just get the regular heartbreak. God goes out of his way to really fuck with you.

We had Ray Chapman, the only man to be killed while playing a baseball game, in our history. We had the Curse of Rocky Colavito. We had Gabe Paul, who ran the team for about 20 years and treated it like a delusional family member standing over a brain-dead relative, saying, “I think he twitched there! He’s going to make it!”

However, in my lifetime, we had Little Lake Nellie, something that sounds far too benign to ever bring heartbreak. In 1993, the team looked a little less lifeless. Mike Hargrove was the manager (the man who played for us in the 1970s and ’80s and who was once dubbed “the Human Rain Delay” for his at-bats that seemed to last longer than the director’s cut of “The Godfather.”) and he had his guys moving up in the world. Young talent was surrounded by a few veteran pick ups and hope was eternal.

As a reward for a strong effort in spring training, Hargrove gave his guys a day off. Tim Crews, Steve Olin and Bob Ojeda decided to go fishing, using the time to bond as new teammates. What happened that day still has not been fully understood, but somehow, Crews had failed to see a 165-foot dock and slammed into it at a high rate of speed. Olin died instantly, Crews shortly after. Ojeda survived, but he would never again be the same. The team had to trade pitcher Kevin Wickander, as he couldn’t handle being in the locker room where he always saw his best friend, Olin. The team staggered to a sixth-place finish in the old AL East.

Even when we became good, it was always someone else’s year: In 1995, we bludgeoned our way to the World Series, pairing an aging, retread pitching rotation with a murderer’s row of homerun threats. When all-star Jack McDowell gave up six runs in five inning to the Tribe, a reporter asked about his performance. “It’s pretty fucking good when you only give up six runs to those guys,” he replied.

Still, our year turned out to be the year the Braves finally got their ring.

In 1997, it was the Marlins’ turn to show that a team whose owner was willing to spend ridiculous sums on a group of mercenaries could buy a World Series title before gutting the team and dumping players all over the league.

In 1998, it was the Yankees and their record-setting pace.

In 2001, it was the Mariners and their record-setting pace.

In 2007, it was 3-1 in the ALCS when Boston decided it needed another World Series.

Last year, it was the Cubs’ turn. Up 3-1 in the World Series, we couldn’t get it done.

Sisyphus in cleats.

There was always a reason why: Jim Poole’s slider to David Justice, Joe Brinkman running Doc Gooden out of the game, Ichiro, Ichiro, Ichiro…

Eric Wedge going for the kill in Boston, pushing his two best pitchers to go on short rest, getting drilled for it. Cliff Lee going from pitching God to shitbox for that ONE YEAR WE NEEDED HIM to pitching God again.

Fucking Trevor Bauer’s drone injury. Who else but the Indians would lose a guy to a fucking drone?

How we still have fans, I’ll never know.

And yet, there I was last night, glued to my TV, watching as the Tribe went for 22 wins in a row, a sentence so absurd to my younger self that it seems foreign to type it.

Down 2-1 to the Royals, the Indians had run themselves out of multiple chances:

  • Runners on first and second, two outs in the fourth. 0 runs
  • Ramirez caught stealing on a bullshit play in the sixth, right before Encarnacion singled and Bruce walked. Should have been bases loaded, one out, but instead it was first and second, two away and Santana grounded out to end the threat.
  • Bases loaded, one out in the eighth with our two best hitters coming up. Both fouled out.

The pattern of that game and the history of that team just screamed, “Yep, this is my Tribe.” We’re batting against a closer with 26 saves and a nearly triple-digit fastball. We haven’t done shit since the third inning.

And yet, down to our last strike, the fans were screaming. They weren’t beaten. It was Francisco Lindor, who had gone 0-for-4 to that point in the game, who took a fastball the other way and smashed it off the wall, just grazing the tip of the outfielder’s glove, driving in pinch runner Erik Gonzalez to tie the game.

In the 10th, Ramirez led off with what should have been a pedestrian base hit, but instead, he was flying out of the box and went for two. This is the same guy who got caught stealing earlier in the game. The same guy who wouldn’t be playing this year at second if Jason Kipnis weren’t constantly injured. He’s a utility guy that looks more like your local grocer than a baseball player, at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds.

He challenges the arm of one of the better centerfielders in the game, who had no reason to be concerned that this human fireplug might try to take an extra base. The fact Ramirez did startled him and the throw was off line. The next batter, Jay Bruce (a financial dumping trade by the Mets), lined a pitch into right field, scoring Ramirez.

22 in a row. And counting.

I don’t expect the Indians to keep this up. In fact, watching this streak, the Indians fan in me keeps saying, “They’re peaking too soon!” I see a 3-2 series loss in the Division Series and a lot of people second-guessing Terry Francona and asking if the streak did more harm than good.

I see more heartbreak, because that’s what you get when you are a Tribe fan.

And yet, I’ll be back again.

Watching, hoping, aching, crying.

And I never once got mad at Jamie Easterly for getting me into this mess in the first place.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy

From Rock Dreams by Guy Peellaert.

We’re in the throes of our annual autumnal tease in New Orleans. Summer isn’t over yet but the lower humidity is a sign that the end is nigh. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to enjoy it since I’ve had a bug that left me woozy and congested all week. So it goes.

I’ve got nothing to complain about since Hurricane Irma is going to Florida. I always feel faintly ghoulish at this time of year. It’s not that I *want* a storm to hit Florida or Texas, I just don’t want one to visit Southeast Louisiana. I have friends in South Florida and my thoughts are with them whether they’re evacuating or hunkering. Be careful out there, y’all.

A quick note about the featured image. It comes from a 1973 coffee table book with art by Guy Peellaert and text by Nik Cohn. I chose it because it’s Hopperish: Edward, not Dennis. Rock Dreams was quite the rage when I was a young rock fan; so much so that somebody stole the book from me not long after I moved out of my parents house. Another Rock Dreams image will turn up later but not the one with the Rolling Stones as SS officers. Oy just oy.

We’re back in almost identical title/different song territory this week. Ray Davies and the Kinks and Paul Rodgers and Bad Company offer their own takes as to what a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy is. I love both songs but if I have to choose, my money is on Ray. Sorry, Paul.

The Kinks got there first so we begin with A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy from 1977’s Misfits album:

Bad Company’s less morose Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy comes from 1979’s Desolation Angels.

If you’re thinking that this week’s focus is music, you get a cookie. I’m not sure what kind but probably one with lots of nuts because Odds & Sods is a nutty feature. We’ll go from nuts to soup after the break.

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The Buck Passer In Chief’s DACA Debacle

We all knew it was coming. We all knew that Donald Trump would rescind DACA. I actually believe that he has qualms about ending the program, not because he “loves the dreamers,” but because even he understands the optics of rounding up some 800K young people and deporting them. The title of Josh Marshall’s blog post after the announcement says it all:

Trump Wishes Dreamers Luck as He Tosses Them Out of the Plane

As does this passage in Josh’s post:

What the President is doing is the executive action equivalent of flying the plane up to 10,000 feet, tossing the Dreamers out the door and yelling after them, “I hope you have a parachute or if you don’t that Paul Ryan can get you one really fast!’ Actually, one small difference. He had Jeff Sessions toss them out of the plane.

Yowza.

Trump the phony tough guy  once again proved his cowardice by having true believer white supremacist Jeff Beau make the announcement.  As always, Jeff Beau prevaricated and demonized his way through the statement. I’m surprised he didn’t gleefully rub his hands together in celebration like a cartoon villain. Bigots like Jeff Beau have much to celebrate: mass deportations of service people, first responders, teachers, and on and on and on. DACA has a rigorous vetting process so its beneficiaries are the best of the best. I doubt many people at the Trump White House could pass muster. Slumlord Jared would have to amend his form because he’s such a forgetful boy.

What Trump has done is to punt this clusterfuck to the Congress. The six month deadline is an arbitrary one and major legislation rarely passes both houses in six months or less. The president’s* sole aim is to accept as little responsibility as possible for this heinous and callous action. Feral Trumpers will howl in approval but this is yet another incredibly unpopular move done solely to placate the MAGA Maggots.

There *may* be majorities in both Houses of Congress to pass a new Dream Act. I’m uncertain if there’s a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and dubious that it can get past the so-called Hastert Rule in the House. The rule named for Coach Pervert applies to the Republican caucus: only legislation with majority support in the caucus reaches the floor. There are enough nutbars and white nationalists to keep it off the floor UNLESS the GOP leadership gets around a rule named for a convicted felon. It’s a caucus rule, not a law, after all. Stay tuned but I am not optimistic. Speaker Ryan is as cowardly as the Insult Comedian.

The administration* is sending mixed messages about its DACA debacle. Trump is holding out hope of a change in plans but nobody believes anything he says about anything. If LBJ had a so-called “credibility gap” on Vietnam, Trump has a credibility canyon on everything. I put more stock in a White House memo telling dreamers to prepare for deportation.

A detestation of buck passing was instilled in me as a child. I always got in more trouble with my parents if I deflected responsibility for my words and deeds. They went easier on me if I fessed up and took the blame. Donald Trump is incapable of taking responsibility for his actions. It’s never his fault, the finger of blame always points elsewhere.

Trump’s perennial buck passing made me think of Harry Truman who famously had “the buck stops here” sign on his White House desk. This is Trump’s second pairing with a man whose ass he is not fit to wipe. Trump’s stunning 2016 electoral college victory surpassed Truman’s 1948 shocker as the biggest upset in American political history. Thanks to the DACA debacle, Trump is now fated to be the anti-Truman. Just call him the Buck Passer in Chief.

A new nickname has been born. And a new benign earworm has hatched. Let’s hope it doesn’t come true.

I’ll give the last-ish word to the late Ted Kennedy. It’s the closing passage of his 1980 speech to the Democratic convention. It is *not* about the dreamers but it could be:

For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

It’s time for people to both hit the streets and call their GOP Congresscritters. Make the fuckers squirm like the worms they are.

First Draft Potpourri: Belabored Labor Day Edition

It’s been a long, hot holiday weekend in New Orleans but not as hot as in my native Bay Area where San Francisco had the hottest day in recorded history, topping out at 106 fucking degrees. It’s not supposed to be hotter in San Francisco than New Orleans in September. Climate change? What climate change?

The heat is one reason I changed my mind about joining Dr. A and our fellow Spanksters in the Decadence parade. My only regret is not seeing the expressions on the faces of the BYU fans who were in town to lose to my LSU Tigers. Decadence is a gay, not a Mormon, thing.

My main reason for bagging the parade is that I’m feeling rundown from a month of dealing with Oscar’s issues.  I don’t need to add heatstroke to the list of *my* issues. It seems almost silly to be this wrapped up in caring for an ailing pet but it’s how I’m wired. I come by it honestly: the only reason my mother didn’t have a massive menagerie is that Lou put strict limits on the number of pets in the house. One could even call it a critter quota. Okay, it’s time for me to stop all of my sobbing and move on.

The national media’s insistence on being upbeat about progress in Houston drives me nuts. The people who were flooded are about to face the reality of what they’ve lost. They’re throwing things out and eventually gutting their flooded houses. It’s going to be a long, slow road back, especially for those without the resources to rebuild quickly. The poor always take in the neck, alas.

The Jolly Insult Comedian: Donald Trump justifiably took a lot of heat for his inability to show empathy on his first Harvey related trip. He went to Houston and Lake Charles, LA and tried to show empathy but he cannot even fake it. You can tell he’s faced very little genuine adversity in life because he just doesn’t get it. He tried but wound up making small talk as tiny as his hands. By way of illustration, here are two tweets from Mark Knoller of CBS News:

I guess jolly platitudes are better than talking about your margin in Texas but only marginally. At least he and Melania didn’t wear those damn caps again. I thought that her FLOTUS hat was even tackier than his. I hope it wasn’t the millinery equivalent of a name tag. She’s not the only one who has a hard time believing she’s FLOTUS.

I did not, however,  join in the twitter mockery over Melania’s stilettos earlier in the week. It was classic tweeter tube dispshittery: focusing on the trivial, going for the cheapest laugh possible.

Speaking of shoes, I got a kick out of this picture from the Gret Stet leg of the trip:

The sign is swell BUT the t-shirt worn by the teenybopper is downright weird. It features the slogan of the Civil Rights movement and an image of Trump. Trump shall overcome what? His disastrous first 226 days in office? The country will have to overcome the way he’s hollowed out the EPA and State Department. Heckuva job, Donald. (Instant Update: Take a look at the comment by Alger below. The shirt says We Shall Overcomb. My eyesight sucks. But the paragraph is too good to cut.)

Joy Reid posed an interesting question on her teevee show on Sunday morning. Why does the media keep expecting Trump to act like a normal president? In a word: history. One of the founding myths of the republic is that presidents grow in office. It doesn’t matter that many have shrunk in office, it’s the myth. Trump is who and what he is. There will be neither growth nor a pivot. Believe me.

Let’s pivot to a loss suffered by rock music fans everywhere.

Walter Becker, RIP: Some sad news came our way on Sunday morning. Steely Dan co-founder  Walter Becker died at the age of 67. Becker was the quiet one of the songwriting team of Becker and Fagen. He let his music speak for itself.

Social media was abuzz about Becker’s passing. Here’s a wee sampler. First, from his old friend and partner in crime, Donald Fagen.

I shared a few thoughts of my own about Becker’s role in Steely Dan:

Finally, a cartoon in the style of Charles Schulz:

I recently assembled a Portable Steely Dan CD, which includes hits as well as lesser known album tracks. My tribute to Becker is to reproduce it here via the magic of the YouTube playlist format. There will be the odd commercial but what can I tell ya? Becker and Fagen are odd guys.

I was one of the lucky people who saw Steely Dan before they got off the road to focus on recording. That was how artists made money in the Seventies. That’s certainly changed. Steely Dan opened for Yes who were touring in support of Fragile. It was a Bill Graham bill made in music geek heaven. I saw Steely Dan several times after they reunited, most memorably at Jazz Fest in 2007.

One of the best loved lines in any Steely Dan songs is an odd one. Anyone surprised? I thought not. It comes from Kid Charlemagne: “Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the car.” It looks like that mythic car finally ran out of gas for Walter Becker. He will be missed.

I just realized I wrote a Labor Day post without reference to the holiday itself. It’s supposed to be about working men and women, not grilled meat. It’s also about New Deal style Democratic politics as you can see from this sample of 2016’s Labor Day post showing Jack Kennedy speaking at a 1960 rally organized by the UAW in Detroit:

Happy Labor Day whether you’re laboring or not.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Stormy Weather

The Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer.

First, thank you for making our Houston Food Bank fundraiser such a rousing success. We raised more than $3,100. Our readers and friends are the best even if Della Street is trying to hog the credit. Let’s say thanks with a cat meme:

It’s been a difficult week. I don’t have the all-out Saturday Odds & Sods spirit so I’m going to do something a bit different. I feel like a pitcher who gave it his all in his last start but has no stuff in his next outing. In short, I have that ennui that the late Ashley Morris warned us about:

One reason for my ennui is Hurricane Harvey. Everyone who lives in New Orleans long enough has ties to Houston. Plus, the people of Houston helped us in innumerable ways after and during Katrina and the federal flood as my friend Clancy DuBos pointed out in the Gambit Tabloid. It’s dispiriting to see people evacuated from their homes by helicopter and boat. It makes me queasy and gives me a sinking feeling. Pun intended; it always is. I’m not sure if one should call it PTSD or survivor’s guilt but I got it bad and that ain’t good.

The other thing on my mind is Oscar’s health. There has been a recent influx of street cats in our neighborhood, which has resulted in Oscar marking his territory inside the house. Marking is, of course, a polite term for peeing. The good news is that he only marks in one place and on towels we’ve provided. We took him to the vet last week and none of our worst case scenarios materialized. It’s all in his pretty big-eyed head. So, our vet gave him what we like to call kitty Prozac.

The jury is still out as to whether the  kitty Prozac will work because Della freaked out for the first five days after Oscar returned home from 2 hours at the vet; something that had never happened with our past cats. Catblogging fans know that Oscar and Della are besties. In fact, our running joke is that she’s Oscar’s cat. The good news is that she’s back to normal. The bad news is that we’re starting from square one with Oscar and his meds. Hopefully, we can teach this old cat some new tricks. It would be nice not to feel like a combination geriatric cat nurse and laundryman. In short, I am worn the fuck out by the situation. Thanks for listening, y’all.

This week’s theme song is a no-brainer, a good thing since my little gray cells are frazzled. Stormy Weather was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler in 1933.  Here are versions by two of my favorite divas.

This week’s edition eschews links to long form articles and if you think I’m eschewing up, what can I tell you? It’s going to be a bit more like a First Draft Potpourri post only without the smelly stuff. Btw, potpourri is one of those words I cannot spell without thinking about it. I guess that makes me a piss pourri poor excuse for a writer…

Holy Freudian Slip, Batman: A certain president* neglected to use his spell checker whilst tweeting. I reckoned he might delete it so I took a screen shot:

Trump *is* a heel who thinks that healing Texas will be fast and easy. It will not and cannot be. Recovery is a long slog. In fact, help will be needed in Southeast Texas long after the teevee cameras are gone and Trump is removed from office. Believe me.

In other Insult Comedian news, he “pledged” a million bucks to Harvey relief efforts. I hope he actually pays: he pledged 2 million bucks to Superstorm Sandy relief and never paid up.

I suspect the relief agencies will be singing this song as they wait and wait and wait for Trump’s check:

Silly Bare Naked Canadians.

Tweets Of The Week: They both come from First Drafters or is that Draftees? I’m not quite sure which.

Scout appears to have streamlined her twitter account so the picture is gone with the wind. It’s a photo of a woman holding a sign saying Our Fate Is Your Fate, which became the title of the First Draft anthology.

The next tweet comes from lil’ ole me on a windy day in New Orleans:

Let’s play some music before shutting things down.

Saturday Classic: The Band by The Band sounds like it should be a debut album. It’s their second record. Hardcore fans call it The Brown Album. Boring title notwithstanding, it’s a great album.

I hope everyone has a labor free Labor Day weekend. Even though I hate the heat, I will be marching (sweating is more like it) with the Krewe of Spank in the Southern Decadence parade tomorrow. There may even be some biblebangers protesting since it’s a gay thing. They’ll leave me alone, I’ll be wielding my Spank paddle. In fact, we’ll have a bunch of them. Thwack.

That’s it for this week. I’ll give Oscar the last word with a re-meming of the fundraiser picture. I hope the dear boy is feeling better soon.