Category Archives: Diary

Johnny Clegg, R.I.P.

Johnny Clegg and Nelson Mandela in 1997.

This news felt like a gut punch. The great South African singer-songwriter and anti-Apartheid activist, Johnny Clegg has died at the age of 66.

Dr. A and I have many of Clegg’s albums with both Juluka and Savuka. We saw him perform live on several occasions. Most memorably at Tipitina’s when he played New Orleans in support of his Heat, Dust and Dreams album. We spoke to him at the stage door. I don’t recall the contents of the conversation but I recall the warmth and kindness exuded by the artist. It’s a pity that it was pre-camera phone so we don’t have a picture with us to remember him by. But we have his music.

The best tribute to any musician is the music itself. Here are a few old favorites:

Finally, a song that Johnny Clegg wrote in tribute to his fallen friend and band mate, Dudu Zulu:

I hope his crossing is a smooth one.

I Come To Bury Barry, Not Praise Him 2

Barry was a non-event in New Orleans. We did not have a “big blow” like the storm in Key Largo, which is my favorite hurricane season movie. Hence the featured image.

Barry was such a nothing burger for us that we didn’t even watch Key Largo. When it came time to view a classic film, we went with Sunset Boulevard. Unlike our past cats, PD had never seen it. It was time to correct that oversight.

Speaking of Paul Drake, here’s some bonus catblogging:

What Barry was in New Orleans was boring. There were some major rain bands to our west and east but they bypassed us. We were lucky but anyone who follows the Euro forecasting Model had an inkling of what Barry would be like in the Crescent City. We had much more rain last Wednesday.

The only entertaining thing about Barry was the national media coverage. Any time a storm *may* hit New Orleans, they’re like a dog with a bone and fixate on us. It was the story of a lifetime for many in the MSM and they’re eager to repeat it. We are not.

My friends Kevin Allman and Lamar White Jr. both wrote pieces scolding the MSM. Thanks, y’all. My phone and social media feeds blew up on Friday and Saturday with people thinking we’d die if we didn’t evacuate. I informed them that we were bored instead of scared.

After Friday’s post, my contribution to the online dialogue was this tweet:

As to the second point, WDSU has a weatherperson who is famous for freaking out whenever there’s a storm in the Gulf. She’s obsessed with people having an ax handy just in case they’re stuck in the attic and have to chop their way out. Pondering her past antics led to another Shecky tweet:

It’s back to what passes for normal in New Orleans. I guess it’s time to catch up on the national news, which I skimmed over the weekend. To distract attention from the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, Trump was a racist asshole again. The MSM falls for it every time.

The last word goes to Roxy Music:

Yeah, I know, Neil Young wrote the song:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Other Side Of Summer

o-GUSTON-900

City Limits by Philip Guston.

I wrote the opening, now second, paragraph below before posting yesterday. I’m too stressed and/or lazy to change it. So it goes:

It’s been the week from hell in New Orleans. Our car flooded during Wednesday’s deluge and there’s a tropical system nearby. I’m writing this on Thursday: our internet is wonky so I want to have something in place in case it and/or the power goes out. I refuse to be buried by Barry.

I don’t have the full-blown Odds & Sods spirit BUT since I’d assembled a post,  I figured I’d put it out there for y’all to enjoy. I know our Saturday readership is devoted so I don’t want to let you down. Instead of our usual three acts, we have a first act followed by what would usually be our third act of regular features. Highly irregular but what can ya do?

Elvis Costello wrote The Other Side Of Summer for his 1991 album, Mighty Like A Rose. I used it the other day in the post about my Bayou Brief newspaper war piece. This time we have two versions: the video and EC live.

Now that we’ve seen the other side of summer for what it is, let’s jump to the break.

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I Come To Bury Barry, Not Praise Him

Legendary New Orleans weatherman and folk hero Nash Roberts in his prime.

I didn’t plan to write a pre-storm post but my phone and social media feeds have been blowing up. Thanks to everyone who reached out. If this post sucks, blame them, not me. Damn concerned friends and readers.

Barry is a disorganized mess of a system, which is having a hard time getting its shit together. But wherever it lands, it’s going to be wet and sloppy.

It’s almost a perfect metaphor for the Trump era, which is not reassuring but it’s a helluva one-liner. They can’t get their shit together either. At least Alex Acosta is quitting, which means I won’t get to use one of my punnier potential titles: The Acosta of Freedom.

Back to the lay of the land at Adrastos World HQ. We’re going to be fine: we live on high ground in what locals call the “sliver by the river.” It was a sketchy neighborhood when we moved here and now its full of yuppies since it didn’t flood in 2005. I’ll sing the gentrification blues another time.

There was a torrential downpour on Wednesday morning. Dr. A went into work and got caught in a flash flood. She works in an area that rarely has such high water. It did this time. The car is going to the shop today. Hopefully, it will pull through. We’re holding off on renting a car until Barry be gone. It will be one less thing to worry about.

The Wednesday flood is why so many New Orleanians are extra jittery about Barry. The trend seems to be favorable for us as of this writing. My hurricane ghoul is relieved that it *may not* be as bad as expected. I have friends who live in flood prone areas who are evacuating out of an abundance of caution. I wish them well. See y’all on the other side of this mess.

We’re hunkering down. We have enough food, water, bourbon, and PD supplies to make it through. We may lose power but there are worse things than sweat and boredom.

That concludes this brief update. There *will* be a Saturday Odds & Sods even if our power is out. My tropical system plan  includes a First Draft sub-plan.

The last word word goes to Barry White. It seemed only fair after quoting Shakespeare in the title:

Bayou Brief: The New Orleans Newspaper War

My latest piece for the Bayou Brief is a news analysis of the New Orleans newspaper war: Suddenly, This Summer. The title is a take on the Tennessee Williams/Gore Vidal movie set in Uptown New Orleans. It’s particularly apt as cannibalism was involved. FYI, Suddenly, Last Summer was number six on my Louisiana movie list.

The original title of the piece was The Other Side Of Summer: The End Of An Era but Dr. A suggested we steal from Tennessee and Gore and who am I to object?

The unused title was lifted from Elvis Costello. Even though it will be this week’s Odds & Sods theme song, I still want to give Declan Patrick MacManus the last word:

Did you dig that plug within the plug? I may be getting too meta for my own good but nobody will confuse me with Meta World Peace aka Ron Artest.

Summertime Blues

I usually bitch and moan about the heat on Saturdays. There’s an exception to every rule: the heat has been inescapable and oppressive the last few days. It’s been as hot as I can ever recall since I moved to New Orleans in the Eighties. Our air dish keeps the house nice and cool when it’s 90 but struggles in the heat of the day when it’s over 95. We’re forced to huddle in cooler/smaller enclaves such as the study and guest room when it’s this hot. Cower might be a better word than huddle. It’s too damn hot, y’all.

The heat has got me down but so has the news. It’s the summer of child abuse stories. Notorious super-perv Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested by the feds for assorted disgusting malefactions including child trafficking. He supposedly has bipartisan buddies: the feds should follow the facts and disregard who ends up in the bulls-eye. Let the chips fall, y’all.

A worse example of child abuse is the ongoing babies in cages scandal perpetrated by the Trump regime. The reason it’s worse is that cruelty is the point of this despicable exercise. The regime claims that it’s not that bad, that it’s all fake news, but it’s said with a wink by liars.

I’m not much on soccer but the victory of the American women in the World Cup was uplifting as was this chant:

One could call it beautiful noise for the beautiful game.

The last word goes to Eddie Cochran and the Who:

Saturday Odds & Sods: America

Subway Portrait by Walker Evans.

I spent a lot of time this week researching and writing a piece about the New Orleans newspaper war for the Bayou Brief. It will be dropping in the next few days. That’s why I’m keeping this introduction, well, brief.

This week’s theme song continues the patriotic theme of the week. The left should never have let the right hijack patriotism in the Sixties, which was when Paul Simon wrote America. 1968, the year from hell, to be precise. It was one of many stellar tracks on one of Simon & Garfunkel’s best albums, Bookends.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the S&G original and a brilliant 1971 cover by Yes. It features some of Steve Howe’s finest finger picking and that’s saying a lot.

Now that we’ve counted the cars on the New Jersey turnpike, we’ll jump to the break and bypass Saginaw even though Michigan is nice at this time of year.

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Hey Baby, It’s The Fourth Of July

Two Flags by Jasper Johns.

I’ve already taken a wack at Trumpalooza so I don’t need to repeat myself on that topic. I am, however, repeating myself with this 10th annual Independence Day post. It’s quite fitting: my mother used to call me Pete and Repeat when I talked too much. It was the only time she ever called me Pete. In our family my uncle was Pete and I was Peter. That concludes this edition of story time with Adrastos.

One more thing about the Current Occupant: don’t let that evil, stupid motherfucker ruin Independence Day. I’ve never let past piss-poor presidents ruin it and I’m not about to let an Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop his head spoil America’s birthday. It’s what he wants: don’t fall into his trap, y’all.

Anyway, I wrote the text below for last year’s post and it holds up quite well with a few minor alterations. Let’s do it again, do it again, do it again:

It’s time for my 10th annual Fourth of July post. It seems like a good day to suggest that people take a mental health day away from political news. There’s so much going on that we all need to take a break to avoid burnout. In the intense days right after Katrina and the Federal Flood. I saw people lose their shit because they were so focused on dealing with the disaster. So, do whatever floats your boat today and put the news on hold. It will still be there tomorrow. You can’t resist, if you’re burned out.

I usually post Dave Alvin, the Dead, and Bruce Springsteen but Neil Young joined the Americana fray last year with a video celebrating the resistance.

Happy Birthday ‘Merica.

Pulp Fiction Thursday will return next week. It needed a mental health day too.

The Dictator & The Dotard Do The DMZ

Original image by Greg Biermann.

I know I shouldn’t have been, but I was stunned by the MSM’s sycophantic coverage of Trump’s “historic trip” to the Korean DMZ. For the acronymically impaired, that’s demilitarized zone. While it’s true that Trump is the first American president to set foot on North Korean soil, it wasn’t much of a trip. The real history is that Trump walked anywhere. I guess the North Korean secret police didn’t let them bring a golf cart along so the president* was obliged to waddle across the border.

The MSM showed additional mass gullibility in accepting the notion that this happened on a moment’s notice after a tweet by the Insult Comedian. I concur with New York Magazine’s Chas Danner:

Trump later said that he was also willing to cross the border into North Korea. Pyongyang eventually responded that it was an “interesting” idea, but was waiting for an official proposal before agreeing. Within less than a day, the meeting was on. But while few people are as impulsive as Trump is, there are several holes in his spontaneity claim (apart from the fact that he rarely tells the truth, or the full truth, ever.)

First, the two leaders exchanged letters earlier this month. And the New York Times reported on Sunday that an unannounced visit to the DMZ was already part of the Trump team’s itinerary and that the president “had actually been musing out loud about [meeting with Kim] for days in advance.” He’s also been dreaming of a DMZ meet-up since last year.

Furthermore, there are doubts that the meeting could have possibly been organized by both countries on such a short timetable, as one expert commented to the Washington Post:

“Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, said it was inconceivable that the leaders of two powerful nations had arranged a meeting at such short notice, calling it a “show” designed to send a political message, without raising expectations about them making actual progress.”

Bravo’s Andy Cohen would be more skeptical of a Richards-Vanderpump reconciliation on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills than the MSM was of this publicity stunt. The reality teevee allusion was deliberate: Trump has deployed reality teevee tropes throughout his presidency. Not an original observation but an accurate one. Hell, Real Housewives Nene Leakes and Theresa Giudice were contestants on Trump’s crappy reality game show.

I’m old enough to recall the impact of Tricky Dick’s visit to China in an election year. That trip, however, accomplished something as opposed to the emptiness of this visit, which was shorter than Trump’s memory. Once again, the Dotard gave something of value to the Dictator without getting anything in return. Why not ask for the release of  foreign nationals held by the world’s last Stalinist regime? Why not ask the North Korean secret police not to assault his own press secretary?

In addition to the whopper about the “spontaneity” of the trip, Trump claimed that this “visit” was something his predecessor was desperate to do:

“President Obama wanted to meet, and Chairman Kim would not meet him,” the President said. “The Obama administration was begging for a meeting. They were begging for meetings constantly, and Chairman Kim would not meet with him.”

“Trump is lying,” tweeted Ben Rhodes, who served as Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications during the Obama administration. “I was there for all eight years. Obama never sought a meeting with Kim Jong Un. Foreign policy isn’t reality television it’s reality.”

We’re all used to Trump’s incessant and egregious lying but it isn’t as funny as it used to be now that he’s “palling around” with dictators. He also plans to run against Democrats in 2020 by denouncing them as “socialists.” The nerve: his little North Korean buddy is an old school communist. I remember when conservative American presidents denounced dictators, especially communist dictators. That’s another reason president* Trump gets an asterisk: he’s an illegitimate president* who thinks human rights are for suckers.

A closing note about the featured image. The Magic Mirror Maze was created by Greg Biermann from the hall of mirrors/fun house/crazy house scene in the Orson Welles classic The Lady From Shanghai. It has particular resonance for me as that scene was filmed at Playland at the Beach in San Francisco; a place that I frequented as a child with my parents. Playland closed in 1972; as we New Orleanians would say, “Ain’t dere no more.”

I used the image in a June post, The Fog Of History: Semantic Antics and brought it back because it’s perfect for this moment in history. These are crazy times and our political life is replete with fog, mirrors, and lies. As the Seventies British band Slade put it, Mama Weer All Crazy Now. They get the last word:

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Monkey Speaks His Mind

Woman and Monkeys by Henri Matisse.

The leading lights of New Orleans culture keep leaving us. This time it was Dave Bartholomew who died at the age of 100. He was best known for his collaboration with Fats Domino as his arranger, co-writer, producer, and band leader. Bartholomew was a formidable trumpeter in his own right. He was also one of the contenders for the title of father of rock and roll. If nothing else, he was present at the creation.

In her tribute to Bartholomew the fabulous New Orleans music writer Alison Fensterstock wrote about some of his solo recordings including this week’s theme song:

But the sides he did record for himself in the ’50s were masterful and diverse, from the clattering Caribbean rhythms of “Shrimp and Gumbo” to the goofy novelty “My Ding-A-Ling” (which Chuck Berry unearthed for a 1972 hit) to the singular grinding blues “The Monkey Speaks His Mind,” a strange fable that questions whether humans, with all their sin, are truly superior among the primates, and which showcases his bellowing, stentorian baritone.

This week’s theme song is best understood as a parable of the civil rights movement. Did that make Dave Bartholomew rock’s own George Orwell? Beats the hell outta me.

The Monkey Speaks His Mind was written and recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1957. It’s been recorded by a variety of artists. We have three versions for your listening pleasure:

It’s time to stop monkeying around and brachiate to the break. There will be a banana for everyone willing to take the plunge.

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The Fog Of Scandal: Perpetual Crisis Care

The 24-7 news cycle has been frantic for quite some time but in the Trump era it’s like a hyperactive child in need of medication. The child in question is, of course, the Insult Comedian.

After losing to Jack Kennedy, Richard Nixon wrote a pretty good, albeit self-serving, book called Six Crises. The Current Occupant has more like Sixty Crises some of which are so repetitive that the people and the media are becoming numb to them. It’s the presidency, in E’s memorable phrase, as Novocaine For The Soul.

This political numbness must be resisted at all costs: it’s okay not to be SURPRISED by presidential* antics but we should be SHOCKED by all the crazy the Trump regime throws our way. We conclude this opening sermonette with a musical interlude: a Fall Out Boy song whose protagonist sounds eerily like Trumpberius.

This is a black, black ski mask song
So put all of your anger on
In the truly gruesome do we trust
I will always land on you like a sucker punch
Singing I am your worst, I am your worst nightmare
I am your worst, I am your worst nightmare

Indeed you are, Donald, indeed you are.

Two of the major crises du jour are the internment camps on the border, especially the one at Clint, Texas, and the slagging match with Iran that could result in another stupid war in the Middle East. Trump relies on his gut when it comes to foreign policy, and *my* gut tells me that he’s bluffing in his face-off with Iran. BUT the chance for miscalculation is great when his senior advisers, Bolton and Pompeo, are salivating over the prospect of regime change in Iran. We’ve seen that movie before. It didn’t play well in Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iran is a more formidable foe than the decadent dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Stay tuned.

As to the migrant concentration camps, only a hardcore, heartless racist could fail to be moved by accounts of children living in their own filth without soap or toothbrushes. Since my eyesight and hearing are crappy, I have an acute sense of smell and the stench coming from children who have no soap with which to bathe is a notion that haunts me.  It’s slow motion torture, which is a stain on our national honor. It’s a rotten lead up to Independence Day.

There’s been a lively discussion in the corners of social media that I frequent about what issue we should focus on. We need to multi-task because the Trump regime will always trump up something to distract us. Diversion is the only thing they do well. Remember the Maddow Doctrine:

There’s one Trump crisis that the MSM is particularly numb to: We have a president* who is a serial sexual assaulter who sees women as prey, not people. The Gray Lady primly did not publish a story about E. Jean Carroll’s credible rape allegations for days after they broke. The depressing consensus among the Cult of the Savvy and GOP bigwigs seems to be that the voters knew about Trump’s rapey ways and elected him anyway. The NYT has admitted error and Trump has, predictably, said she was not hot enough for him to lust after. In a word: gross. Donald Trump is a pussy, he should grab himself.

If you haven’t read Dahlia Lithwick’s brilliant piece about the Carroll allegations, make sure you do. Dahlia points out that Carroll did it on her own terms in a way that none of Trump’s manifold manhandled accusers have done:

I understand why so many people think the media’s failure here is the result of boredom. One reality of the Trump era is how profoundly boring it is—we watch the same dramas unfold, again and again; we debunk the same lies, again and again; and we issue the same warnings, again and again. But I don’t think that what happened here is the result of boredom so much as an almost perfect journalistic incapacity for telling any story it hasn’t told a thousand times before. Maybe we’re not bored. Maybe we’re just boring.

Because E. Jean Carroll flipped the script. Having watched, and watched, and watched the #MeToo stories play out over the past several years, she decided she wasn’t going to do it as it had been done. She was going to tell her own story on her own terms, publishing it in her own book. Because, as she wrote in the excerpt published in New York magazine last Friday:

“Why haven’t I “come forward” before now?

Receiving death threats, being driven from my home, being dismissed, being dragged through the mud, and joining the 15 women who’ve come forward with credible stories about how the man grabbed, badgered, belittled, mauled, molested, and assaulted them, only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten, and attack them, never sounded like much fun. Also, I am a coward.”

She’s the opposite of a coward. E. Jean Carroll is my new hero. It takes guts to deal with a traumatic episode with wit and humor; two qualities her rapist notably lacks. All he knows how to do is attack, belittle, degrade, and divert attention from his crimes.

The last word goes to Eels:

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Every Picture Tells A Story

The Sorrows Of The King by Henri Matisse.

It’s a solemn day in New Orleans: Dr. John’s memorial service and second line are later today. There was already an informal, impromptu second line but this is the real deal. Rest in peace, Mac. We’ll miss you.

The news has been relentlessly bleak of late, which is why I’ve turned my attention to the New Orleans Pelicans success in the recent NBA draft. Zion Williamson seems to be a real game changer. While I’m uncertain if he’ll be the next LeBron James, he may be the next Charles Barkley. We needed some good news after the way Anthony Davis pouted his way out of town. New Pels honcho, David Griffin, took the Lakers to the cleaners in trading away AD and seems to have drafted and traded wisely. This pre-draft tweet sums things up quite well:

Here’s hoping the Zion era doesn’t end like the Baron Davis, Chris Paul or Anthony Davis eras. That concludes the inside New Orleans basketball portion of the Saturday post.

I’m “I remember when Rod Stewart was a respected artist and critics darling” years old. This week’s theme song was the title track of Stewart’s 1971 commercial breakthrough album. Every Picture Tells A Story was written by Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. It’s the opening track of one of the best albums of the 1970’s. Unfortunately, Rod the Mod threw it all way artistically when he moved to Los Angeles and released the shitty “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and other horrendous hits. I hope I didn’t give anyone an earworm.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original and a live medley of Too Bad and Every Picture Tells A Story. The Faces are the backing band in both instances and, as always, they rock hard.

Now that you’ve got the picture, let’s hop into one of those prop planes and fly to the break. I’m reluctant to say jump because I don’t want to bail out on y’all.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Right Place, Wrong Time

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

I finished this post before hearing the terrible news about Our Della Street. I usually apply another layer of polish before publishing but I wasn’t feeling it. If it’s disjointed, so be it. Apologies to our late night Odds & Sods readers, I wanted my Della tribute to be at the top until 8-ish. She would have insisted.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming:

A wee cool front hit New Orleans this week. It’s still hot but not as muggy. It’s nice to step outside without breaking into an insta-sweat. It’s a minor triumph but we’ll take what we can get. It will be gone just in time for the weekend. So it goes.

The big local story comes from St. Tammany Parish. It used to be country but morphed into white flight suburbia in the late 20th Century. It’s the most Republican parish in the Gret Stet and its residents are wont to lecture us depraved city folk about morals and crime. They should knock it off. Former St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain was arrested this week on rape and incest charges. He spent several nights in the jail he ran for 20 years. Schadenfreude thy name is Adrastos.

I still have the late Dr. John on my mind so this week’s theme song is his biggest hit: Right Place, Wrong Time. He wrote it for his 1973 album In The Right Place, which was something of a New Orleans musical summit meeting. It was produced by Allen Toussaint and The Meters were Mac’s backing band on the album.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a 1996 teevee performance with Eric Clapton.

I’m desitively confused by this song. I actually called it Right Time, Wrong Place when discussing Our Mac with my barber the other day. Mac’s penchant for malaprops seems to be contagious even for a man of my edumaction. Let’s jump to the break before I get even more tongue twisted.

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New Orleans Culture: Lost In The 21st Century?

As you can see above, my latest column at the Bayou Brief has a click baity title that I’m oddly proud of. I hope everyone falls for it.

Since I quote my First Draft tributes to Dr. John and Chef Leah Chase at the Bayou Brief, it’s only fitting that I quote my Bayou Brief piece here. Damn, my head is spinning:

A word about language: I hate the term “culture-bearer” as it sounds pompous, pretentious. and a passel of other P words. I also dislike “icon” or “iconic.” Perhaps it comes from growing up Greek Orthodox, a faith in which icons are religious artifacts to be worshipped. As a writer, I’m a satirist, which makes me an iconoclast. If I see an icon, I want to smash it.

Yet that’s not my reaction to our local heroes. Dr. John and Chef Leah should be loved, respected, and admired, not worshipped. They were unpretentious people; let’s keep them that way after they’ve departed this mortal coil.

The last word goes to Dr. John and Danny Barker with a tribute to Buddy Bolden:

The song was written by Jelly Roll Morton. Now that’s New Orleans culture, y’all.

Donald Trump Says The Darndest Things

There’s a theme to this week’s posts: mouthy septuagenarian tricks. Joe Biden seems determined to talk his way out of the Democratic nomination. And the Insult Comedian seems to determined to talk his way out of the White House and into federal prison. He has friends in jail, maybe he could bunk with Paul Manafort.

After reviving the your president* speaks feature, I eventually decided it was best to adhere to the informal Maddow Doctrine: Watch what they do, not what they say. There are exceptions to any rule and this one is no exception. I don’t want to be doctrinaire, after all.

The Kaiser of Chaos has been shooting off his big fat bazoo in a way that could come back to bite him in the ass. Twice this week, the president* has shot himself in the foot, then inserted said wounded foot in his mouth. (He did it more than twice but I don’t feel like writing a 1,500 word post. That’s what I do on Saturdays.)

We’ll take it in reverse order. Yesterday, ABC News released a Trump interview with my diminutive countryman, George Stephanopolous. The president* revived one of his greatest hits: “Russia, if you’re listening.”

I’ll let the good people at TPM do the heavy lifting:

In a new interview released this afternoon by ABC News, President Trump tells George Stephanopoulos that he’d take information from a foreign government if one offered dirt on his 2020 opponent. “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening.”

President Trump rejected the idea that such foreign government interventions amounted to election interference. “It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

When Stephanopoulos told Trump his own FBI Director, Christopher Wray, said he should contact the FBI if a foreign government approached him with information about a political opponent, Trump said Wray was wrong. “I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.”

This is Trump’s world view in a nut shell. If it’s good for Trump, it’s good; if it’s bad for Trump, it’s bad. I have a feeling that Rudy Giuliani would have torn his hair out if he still had that epic combover. He’s probably pulling Jay Sekulow’s hair out instead. He can always borrow one of the Insult Comedian’s extra weaves to cover up Rudy’s giant teeth marks. Did I say tear? I meant bite.

Not only is Donald Trump too dishonest to be president*, he’s too stupid; hence the Magritte dumbbell caveman featured image. After years of screaming “no collusion, no collusion,” he admits that he’d do it in a heartbeat. Make that do it again. It’s time for a musical interlude:

Word Of Mouth would also work as a post title but I wanted to connect Trump and Joey the Dinosaur. They have one important thing in common: a fatal inability to STFU.

The weirdest bit in the Stephanopoulos interview is when the Insult Comedian used Norway as an example of a country that might peddle dirt on one of his opponents. Give me a break: the Norwegians may be taller and whiter than the Russians, but they’re not known for their espionage exploits. I can feel my late mother rolling in her grave at the thought that her countrymen would collude with this president*. He should be sentenced to a steady diet of lutefisk as punishment.

The other Trumpian comment that obliged me to violate the Maddow Doctine was about his BFF, Kim Jong Un. The Insult Comedian received another “beautiful letter” from that bloodthirsty Communist dictator, then commented on reports that the diminutive dictator had his uncle murdered for spying. I’ll let Vanity Fair’s Tina Nguyen do the heavy lifting this time around:

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator once described by Donald Trump as “short and fat,”had a suspected traitor in his midst: Kim Jong Nam, Un’s half brother. Nam was considered by U.S. intelligence to have little insight into the inner workings of the Kim regime, according to former U.S. officials, but nonetheless was suspected by the Malaysian government to be a CIA source. In February 2017 he was killed in Kuala Lumpur when two women smeared a nerve agent on his face, causing his sudden death within an hour. Both later claimed that they had been recruited into participating in what they believed was a hidden-camera prank show.

Did Trump care, reporters asked the next day on the South Lawn? “I saw the information about the CIA,” he acknowledged, and “I would tell [Un] that that would not happen under my auspices.” In essence, Trump told a dictator that the agency would stop spying on him.

The typical “what if Obama had said this” trope is inadequate for this moment. Here’s my historical variation: what if JFK had banned spying on Cuba before, during, and after the Missile Crisis to make nice with Fidel? He would have faced withering criticism from both sides of the aisle and possible impeachment. Jack Kennedy, of course, could have charmed his way out of it but he would have been in a world of hurt.

I have an assignment for the MSM as well as constituents of Congressional Republicans. Every time you see a GOP senator or congresscritter, ask them if they would accept opposition research from a foreign power. There will be a chorus of noes. The follow-up question is obvious: if that’s  the case, why is it okay for president* Trump?

The last word goes to Joni Mitchell with a song in which she confesses that she talks too much.  I thought I should bring some class to this post.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Estimated Prophet

Le Cirque by Henri Matisse.

It was a difficult week in New Orleans. In addition to the passing of Dr. John, we lost Chef Leah Chase who died at the age of 96. Her family’s Creole eatery, Dooky Chase’s, has fed presidents, civil rights leaders, and freedom riders as well as the hoi polloi since 1941. A reminder: feeding an integrated group such as the freedom riders was against the law in the Jim Crow Era. Chef Leah did it anyway. After her death, Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry wrote a piece about Chef Leah’s role in the Civil Rights movement. She didn’t scare easily, not even when a bomb was thrown at her Orleans Avenue restaurant.

As she aged, Chef Leah was the smiling, welcoming face of this Treme institution but she never stopped cooking. In recent years, she was a sort of secular saint in our community; something most would find burdensome but she wore it lightly. She led a long and eventful life. She will be missed.

Last month in this space I mentioned the Krewe of Nyx’s hare-brained scheme to stage a summer parade. The city government has finally responded. Here’s how Gambit editor and Adrastos crony Kevin Allman characterized it on the tweeter tube:

This week’s theme song, Estimated Prophet, was written by Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow in 1976. It was tested onstage many times before it became the opening track on one of the Dead’s better studio albums, Terrapin Station.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the studio original, then a boss reggae cover by Burning Spear.

Now that we’ve visited the burning shore of California, let’s jump through a hoop of fire to the break. Hopefully, we won’t get scorched.

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Dr. John, R.I.P.

Dr. John as Krewe du Vieux King, 2010.

New Orleans takes its local heroes seriously, especially the musicians among them. We’ve lost one of the greats, Malcolm John Rebennack who was better known by his stage name, Dr. John.  His friends called him Mac, I referred to him as Our Mac because he was such an important part of the extended New Orleans family. Dr. John died of a heart attack yesterday at the age of 77.

There’s usually only one degree of separation between your humble blogger and even the best known New Orleanian. I had the pleasure of some brief encounters with Our Mac but did not know him personally. I have friends who knew him well and one of the advantages of social media is hearing their stories. Like most New Orleanians, Mac was an unpretentious and friendly man. It’s why we feel so close to our local heroes. But their realness is a quality that seems to be receding like the Louisiana coastline.

Our Mac spoke his own language. It’s often described as “hipster patois” but I’m not fond of the term. It made him sound like a a man-bun wearing Bywater dweller who was always looking for the next trend to hop on. Mac was a trend-setter, not a trend-hopper. My favorite Dr. John-ism was on the subject of Katrina and the Federal Flood, he said that we were “traumaticalized.” Yeah, you right, Mac.

The music is what mattered most to Mac. He had wide-ranging musical tastes and was open to new players and styles even in his Seventies. Be it funk, blues, jazz, rock, R&B, or standards, Mac translated the music and Dr. John-ized it. His gruff, husky, and heavily New Orleans accented voice was instantly recognizable even in jingles or Disney tunes. Eclectic thy name was Dr. John.

This is the second major blow to New Orleans culture this week. Chef Leah Chase died at the age of 96. I’ll have more to say about her tomorrow. It’s a sad but fitting coincidence that these two greats died this week: they both contributed mightily to who and what we are as a city. The grief for both is genuine as are the fears that what they represented is slipping away.

New Orleans is blessed with some fine music writers who have already chimed in about Our Mac’s passing:

What’s a tribute to Dr. John without some music? I decided to focus on his love of music from the Great American Songbook, which he, of course, Dr. John-ized.

We begin with a happy song to mark this sad occasion:

Mac loved Johnny Mercer:

Since Mac was New Orleans royalty (including his reign as Krewe du Vieux King in 2010) he had a natural affinity with Duke Ellington:

Finally, I’ve had Mac’s take on this Leadbelly classic in my head ever since hearing the news:

Goodnight, Mac. I’ll see you in my dreams.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wooden Ships

A New Frontier by Alan Bean

Summer colds are the worst. I have one so I’m keeping this introduction brief. This time I mean it.

This week’s theme song, Wooden Ships, was written in 1968 by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills. There are two original versions of this song but I’m posting the Crosby, Stills & Nash one first because it was released in May of 1969 whereas Jefferson Airplane’s version came out that November.

Now that we’ve fled planet Earth, let’s jump into the void, I mean, jump to the break. I’m not sure if Kantner, Crosby, and Stills provided parachutes. They were hippies so I have my doubts. I’ll guess we’ll find out on the other side.

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Memorial Day: Who I Remember

There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic.This post is making its tenth annual appearance at First Draft. It was also published in our anthology, Our Fate Is Your Fate.

I realize it *should* be posted on Veterans Day since my remembered soldier survived the war BUT old habits are hard to break. Besides, I would face the wrath of both Athenae and Dr. A if I didn’t post it. So, here we go again:

The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.

Soldier Boy

My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clad, and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape. 

Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running an army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…

Eddie died 5 years ago [2005] and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone and confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”

Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.

I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Want You Back

Rayograph by Man Ray.

This is the week Mother Nature flicked the celestial switch to turn on the steam bath that is summer in New Orleans. It hit 90 degrees for the first time in 2019. The cats slowed down, and your humble blogger started sweating like Bogie in the greenhouse scene in The Big Sleep. This sort of heat is why people in more sensible countries such as Spain and Greece take siestas. Did I just call the Greeks sensible? There’s a first time for everything.

The big local story was the death of writer, raconteur, and local character Ronnie Virgets at the age of 77. His prose style was unique as was his voice, which landed him on local teevee and radio. Ronnie was a man about town so I ran into him from time-to-time over the years. The last time was at the Krewe du Vieux captain’s dinner. Ronnie was our king in 1996. I told him how much I missed his Razoo column in the Gambit. His reply: “I ran out of shit to say.” It was said with a wink so I didn’t believe it for a second. Our mutual friend, Clancy DuBos, wrote a lovely tribute to Ronnie in which he compared him to both Damon Runyon and Jimmy Breslin. Yeah, you right, Clancy. They broke the mold when they made Ronnie Virgets.

Motown May continues with this week’s theme song. I Want You Back was written in 1969 by “The Corporation” aka Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonso Mizell, and Deke Richards. The song was originally intended for Gladys Knight & the Pips but ended up being the Jackson 5’s first hit. Let me address the monster in the room: Michael Jackson did monstrous things as an adult but he was an abused child in 1969. Besides, my favorite thing about I Want You back is the production, especially the guitar riff that propels the song.

We have two versions for your entertainment. The Jackson 5 original and a cool cover by Graham Parker:

I hope you’ll still want me back after we jump to the break. If you don’t, who can blame you?

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