Category Archives: Diary

Ryne Hancock: The Son, the Estranged Mother & the Hurricane

Imagine this for a second.

Hours after you have a small glimmer of hope with your power, only to see that extinguished because a transformer blew out five minutes later, you’re once again forced to take your laptop and cell phone to your friend’s art gallery in the Quarter to charge, a practice that you’ve been repeating for the last six days.

Your legs and entire body feels sore as shit due to the constant biking for wi-fi, charging stations, and food. You’ve had to sleep on the porch of your building a couple of days at night because of no electricity. You have a neighbor that is a complete doofus that has driven you crazy for the last week and you’re praying to every higher power for electricity.

After milling about for a few hours in the Quarter, you return to your neighborhood and make a stop at the library. You’re not paying attention to your cell phone or notifications while you bike, just the road. Once you sit down and log into the wi-fi at the library, you pull out your phone and check your notifications. A Facebook notification about a comment from a video you posted on August 28th appears from a longtime friend of your mom, a person that basically watched you grow up. You don’t think anything about the notification or even the comment, you’re focused on the now.

Then you read it. It’s your estranged mom, who watched a video that you posted from a week ago, prior to the landfall of Ida, about why you didn’t evacuate. Instead of being understanding about why, you’re cursed out.

“Your ass didn’t want to come home,” she wrote. ‘

Granted, I didn’t help matters by saying at the end of the video I knew where my true family was, which some took as shade towards the city of Memphis and relatives, but the fact that I chose to ride out a hurricane and not evacuate to Memphis over dealing with a mom I hadn’t spoken to in six years, speaks volumes.

Not to mention that the fact that the first communication in six years is a rebuke about a video in which I laid out my reasons for staying instead of seeing how I was doing.

That was the upsetting part.

If you have the energy to say things like that in a comment section about a video, then you could have used said friend’s account to check on how I was doing.

In times of crisis, people’s true colors show up. Sometimes for good and sometimes for bad.

What happened on Saturday showed my mom’s true colors.

For the worst.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Key Largo

This is a reprint of a post from 8/14/2014. It struck me as relevant as I just spent many days cooped up with Kitty Claire Trevor. Besides, Key Largo is the best hurricane movie ever. I give it 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A.

KEY_LARGO_22x28_B

Key Largo is not really pulp fiction, but I felt like stretching the definition a bit today to honor Betty Bacall. [She died two days before this was posted.] It was based on a 1939 play by Maxwell Anderson and the war in question was the Spanish Civil War but it was also an allegory about Fascism. The adaptation by director John Huston and future director Richard Brooks nails the political aspects as well as how damn spooky tropical systems are.

What’s particularly scary about the Big Blow depicted in Key Largo is that information was so sketchy. There were no spaghetti maps , no tracking maps, no local weather pukes shitting in their pants or advising you to go to the attic with an ax if there’s flooding. Dr A and I watch this great film as a form of reassurance when there’s something gathering in the gulf. Besides, the acting is sensational.

It goes without saying that Bogie and Bacall lit up the screen together but Edward G Robinson is spectacular in a role that implicitly revisits his first big hit, Little Caesar. He went from Rico to Rocco if you catch my drift. Speaking of name changes, he goyed up his name by changing it from Emmanuel Goldenberg. Unlike Betty Bacall, he liked his goyish moniker and was known to all as Eddie.

Lionel Barrymore is supposed to be a sympathetic character as Bacall’s dead hubby’s father but he reverts to snarly Mr. Potter mode for much of the film. Nothing kosher about this big slice of ham. He was lucky Rocco didn’t roll him off the pier…

The best performance in the film is by Claire Trevor as a washed up alcoholic canary in love with Rocco. He mistreats her rather badly. Anyone shocked? I thought not. Trevor, always a personal favorite of mine, won an Oscar for this part. She played a long string of femme fatales and hookers with hearts of gold. Her character in John Ford’s Stagecoach was a template for all the goodhearted whores and madams to follow.

A last word about Betty Bacall. There are some good Bacall articles floating about the net, but there are some that do not mention director Howard Hawks. You cannot write about Betty Bacall without mentioning Hawks. He took a chance on an unknown model and gave her a juicy role playing opposite one of the biggest stars in the world in her first film. His gamble paid off big-time for all concerned.

I showed you a lobby card above, here’s the highly evocative poster

Poster - Key Largo_03

Finally, here’s the trailer:

Home To Debrisville

It’s been a longer and stranger trip than expected. We’re fine. Our house is fine. The cat is fine. We evacuated to friends in the suburbs who have a whole house generator. We arrived acquaintances and left good friends. Thanks, Brenda and Mike.

We have the Gret Stet trifecta: power, internet, and cable.

The city is beaten up but it’s not Katrina bad.

I am beat, beat, beat today. I’ll fill in some details either later today or tomorrow. All I wanna do is see Erika Jayne tell Sutton to STFU on RHBH. Sorry for the acronyms but I am tired, tired, tired,

I’d like to thank the First Draft team for keeping the lights on when I didn’t have any myself. Tommy T, Michael F, Shapiro, and Cassandra not only rock, they rule.

Finally, my old friend Ethan Brown reminded me that I coined the term Debrisville after Katrina and the Federal Flood. In fact, my maiden First Draft post was called Greetings From Debrisville. It’s high time for a revival. Hence the post title.

The last word goes to Talking Heads:

Adrastos Update

From Adrastos:

Dr A, Claire, and I are fine. Just hot and sweaty. There was minimal damage to our house but the power is still out. Absent a return of power, we’ll be going to some friends in the Shreveport area tomorrow.

I’ll have more to say by Saturday.

That is all.

The Spirit Of ’05 Revisited

Root Beer Blues. Photograph by Dr. A.

In 2018, I decided to do something different on the Katrinaversary. As Hurricane Ida arrives in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, I’m posting it again on the 16th anniversary of the storm that changed my life:

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

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

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

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

Cajun Tomb. Photograph by Dr. A.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Odds & Sods: Paint It Black

Got Me Rocking by Ron Wood

The summer of our discontent continues with Hurricane Ida in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. A and I are planning to ride it out. I’m not eager to evacuate with Claire Trevor. She hates riding in the car and she’s a biter. She’s not as sweet as she looks but we love her anyway.

The weather is one reason I’m keeping this week’s entry short and focused. The second act is a tribute to the late, great Stones drummer Charlie Watts. Hence the Ron Wood featured image.

This week’s theme song was written in 1966 by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It’s as good an example of Charlie’s drumming as I can think of. Bim-bam-boom.

Since this is a tribute to Charlie Watts, I’m skipping the covers of Paint It Black and sticking to the Stones. A solid plan in my estimation. We have three versions: the studio original and live in 1990 and 2006.

I almost forgot this version by Charlie Watts with the Danish Radio Big Band:

Now that we’ve faded away and not faced the facts, let’s jump to the break.

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Afghanistan: The Media Tantrum Continues

Image via learnin.grow.com

The MSM continues to pitch a fit about something that’s going about as well possible: the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. A retreat by a losing army is always chaotic. Repeat after me: our side lost the war.

As of this writing, over 80,000 people have been airlifted out of Kabul.

Thus far, there have been no American casualties since the Afghan government collapsed. None, zero, zilch.

The MSM’s accusations that Team Biden is detached from the reality on the ground amount to projection. Someone else is into projection and pitching fits until he gets his way:

I didn’t know that Garbage Pail Kids were around in 2016. It works in 2021 as well. Topps is the top as Cole Porter would have surely said at this point.

The MSM’s creepy attachment to Trump is behind the tantrum. It’s a sick S&M relationship. During the Trump regime, the MSM were the masochists, now they’re the sadists inflicting pain on Team Biden for not being like cruel, criminal, and cretinous Trumpers. It’s all summed up in this song by The Tubes:

Ouch.

One could even call the MSM Trump fetishists.

Speaking of great music from the 1970’s, this Kinks song sung from the perspective of a twisted headmaster who enjoys spanking students works as well.

Sometimes being old comes in handy.

I, for one, am appalled by this OTT display of displaced rage. The media’s clicks are down because the Kaiser of Chaos is no longer in office. They’ve opted to punish President Biden for something that was inevitable unless we stayed forever. Repeat after me: our side lost the war.

Don’t trust me, listen to a disabled Afghanistan veteran, Dan Berschinski:

When the twin towers fell, I was a high school senior deep in college applications. The United States Military Academy topped my list. Watching the devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold, I knew the Army would be part of the response, though I figured that response would be over by the time I graduated from West Point. Never did I imagine that, eight years later, I would be leading soldiers in a war provoked by that one terrible day.

Yet lead them I did, across Afghanistan, witnessing horrors and enduring losses I still struggle to describe. What I saw there convinced me that the awful scenes we are now witnessing were inevitable — and that President Biden deserves credit for nonetheless braving the fallout to do the right thing by our troops.

I saw early warning signs as a U.S. Army infantry platoon leader on my first mission in Kandahar in 2009. In my very first conversation with a local, a shopkeeper told me: “Lieutenant, I met the previous American lieutenant 12 months prior, I will meet another American lieutenant in 12 months when you leave.” He did not like the Taliban, the shopkeeper told me, but it would be in Afghanistan long after I would — and so he had no choice but to deal with it.

It’s their country, not ours. It certainly doesn’t belong to the tantrum throwing American media who pine for worse times under the Impeached Insult Comedian. Think about that: they want things to be worse so they can have higher ratings and more clicks.

Even some of the military brass who oversaw our Afghan misadventure have seen the light:

Then-Vice President Joe Biden was right when he urged then-President Barack Obama to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday, adding that the US could have left Afghanistan earlier.

“I thought we could turn it around, obviously, I was wrong,” Mullen, who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, told ABC News on “This Week.”

Mullen also said that the US should have withdrawn its troops after the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Who are we going to listen to: the MSM and former Bush officials or Mike Mullen?

Joe Biden was right from the start.

Being loud does not make you right. Some of us learned that from the Trump regime. The MSM has not.

We all threw tantrums when we were children. My mother would let me cry it out, especially if it was an unreasonable tantrum. That’s all we can do with this ongoing tantrum by the MSM. Unfortunately, this tantrum will have unpleasant and even dire consequences.

If only it were possible to put the MSM into a time-out. They’ve clearly lost their minds. The last word is a chill pill from Steely Dan.

Shitshow On Fraternity Row

I’m late to this stinky story but as your resident LSU alum and shit stirrer I felt compelled to write about it. Besides, post titles like this don’t come along every day.

The Advocate had the first shot at this headline but they blew it because of that whole pesky family newspaper thing:

Members of all LSU sororities and some fraternities must get tested for COVID-19 after the school found traces of the virus in the wastewater system serving their area of the campus.

The university sent members of 15 Greek chapters an email Thursday notifying them that they must be tested at one of the three on-campus testing sites within 48 hours. School spokesman Ernie Ballard said that students have until 11 a.m. Saturday, the first day of Greek recruitment, to meet the testing requirement.

After the shit hit the fan,  there was a follow-up story:

LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said the call for testing came after the school detected “high traces” of coronavirus in the sewage from Greek Row. And with just two days to comply, some 3,000 members of 15 Greek chapters lined up in cars to get swabbed at the school’s drive-through clinics.

Abbie-Grace Milligan, Greek senior and vice president of student government, said she got an email at noon Thursday instructing her to get tested at one of three on-campus testing sites. She waited in line for nearly two hours on Gourrier Avenue near the UREC field testing site but left without getting swabbed.

“It was an absolute nightmare,” she said. “I saw five people run out of gas while waiting. People were even getting out of their cars to use the bathroom on the side of the road. It was madness.”

I guess you could call that the shitstorm after the shitshow. No shit.

The kids should consider it a test-drive for the next hurricane evacuation. Those are usually shitshows as well.

After the feces hit the fan and the Pfizer vaccine was formally approved by the FDA, LSU belatedly and begrudgingly changed their vaccination policy:

The announcement is full of loopholes, but it’s better than the previous policy which was “Y’all come,”

This stinky situation calls for an antidote. There’s one that  I wrote about 7 years ago in a post called Smells Like School Spirit.

Ladies and germs, I give you the LSU scent circa 2014:

Oddly enough, the scent was called LSU Mask. They need more of those on the Red Stick campus as well.

In honor of the LSU’s latest attempt to get ahold of the pandemic, the last word goes to Stephen Stills and Manassas:

The Katrina-Kabul Connection

One reason I’m feeling so cantankerous of late is that it’s August. Everyone in New Orleans gets tetchy at this time of year as the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent Federal Flood approaches. It’s been 16 years since the most important moment of my life. You might not be reading this if not for that epic disaster. It’s why I became an internet writer or blogger as we used to call ourselves.

I’m struck by the similarity of the MSM’s coverage of Katrina’s aftermath and the collapse of the Afghan government. The words that come to mind are shrill, hyperbolic, and over the top. To watch CNN after the storm was to believe there was widespread looting, arson, and mayhem. The looped footage typically included people clinging to rooftops, stealing teevees, and images of the Beer Looter Dude. Over and over again.

In August and September of 2005, the MSM floated unsupported rumors of murders at evacuation sites such as the Super Dome and Convention Center. Over and over again.

I recall watching a reporter do a standup in front of some burning houses and proclaiming that the “Garden District is on fire.” It was not. The burning houses were on Napoleon Avenue, which is not in the Garden District. The looped footage and misattribution continued. Over and over again.

There *was* chaos in New Orleans after Katrina and the Federal Flood but it was not as widespread as the MSM coverage would have you believe. That coverage inspired my skepticism of all on-the-fly live reporting from a disaster area or war zone.

In 2021, the MSM is whipping up hysteria over events in Afghanistan by looping footage of children being lifted over razor wire and desperate people hanging onto airplanes. Over and over again.

There *is* some chaos after the fall of Kabul. Losing armies tend to collapse at the end of a losing war. Make no mistake about it: the side we backed lost this war. Much of the MSM, however, seems disinterested in reporting items such as this:

As always, Chris Wallace is willing to sail against the prevailing winds of his own network.

As for the lemmings of the MSM, they prefer headlines like the “Calamity Plane” headline in the feature image. It’s a good pun but an inaccurate headline.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Tired Of Waiting For You

The Chair Car by Edward Hopper.

There’s an environmental component to my righteous indignation this week. It’s fucking hot even for New Orleans. There’s a high keeping tropical stuff away from us but that puts us in the high Nineties. Oy just oy.

On to more pleasant things.

Ray Davies wrote this week’s theme song in 1965. It was one of the earliest Kinks hits.

We have three versions of Tired of Waiting For You for your listening pleasure: the Kinks original, a 1994 live version, and a brilliant cover by Dwight Yoakam in which he transforms it into something that would fit in on the Friday Cocktail Hour.

I assume that you’re not too tired to hear this swell tune by Dwight and Deanna Carter:

It’s time to escape Hopper’s chair car by jumping to the break.

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Righteous Indigination

I’ve been angry all week. It’s not the ranting, raving, and yelling kind of anger. It’s more of a slow burn over the egregious stupidity and malakatude in the news. I dislike feeling this angry, I prefer to be detached from the news of the day, ice it down with sarcasm, and dismiss it with mockery. I used to compare my style with Athenae’s by calling her fire and me ice. I’m feeling fiery this week, but at least it’s with righteous indignation.

I remain vexed and worse by the MSM coverage of Afghanistan:

In its desperation to nail Biden, the DC MSM has neglected to mention the creeps who got us into the Afghan mess:

Cable news is full of former Bush officials attacking the withdrawal. The worst are the Never Trumpers who are showing their true colors by waving their neo-con freak flags. Imagine if Biden had stayed with the small force bequeathed to him by Trump. The Taliban was still likely to make their move and 2,500 soldiers could not have defeated them. That would have led to a genuine bloodbath.

Speaking of former President* Pennywise, there’s a conspiracy theory that he set a trap for Biden with last year’s deal with the Taliban. While it may have turned into a trap, I’m skeptical that it was planned. For one thing, Trump never looks more than a week down the road. For another, he expected to win the election and still believes he did. I think he could pass a polygraph test about the “rigged election.” Believe me.

One more tweet from someone else on how Democrats *should* be reacting:

I for one refuse to give an inch and be reasonable. Any withdrawal was going to be messy. It’s what happens when you lose a war.

Stick to your guns, Mr. President. The war was wrong to begin with. It’s time for it to end.

Also inspiring my righteous indignation are the Covid deniers and mask warriors. Anyone surprised?

Freedom, man.

Yesterday, a friend reported about going to his local CVS. It was jam packed with people buying a new home COVID test in order to comply with the city’s vaccination/test mandate. The tests are five bucks a pop and only valid for 72 hours. It would be much easier and cheaper to get jabbed but that would violate their rights or some such shit.

Freedom, man.

I wrote about wingnut preacher Tony Spell for Bayou Brief last year. He flooded a state education board meeting with his unmasked parishioners forcing them to stop debating whether or not school kids should mask up. Governor Edwards thinks so and so do all rational people. Freedom. man.

We’re all sick and tired of being sick and tired of the anti-mask and anti-vaxx crowd. The burden of everything COVID related is being placed on those of us doing the right thing. I hate wearing a mask, but I do it. Adults do things they don’t like because they’re the right thing to do. Something the Covid deniers will never understand. Hence my righteous indignation.

Freedom, man.

The last word goes to Ron Sexsmith with a song whose title is a play on the word indignation.

Quote Of The Day: Ron Rivera Edition

I’ve been off sports since the pandemic began. I’ve found that I can easily live without them. To be blunt, I’m worn out by all the stories about money, money, money. My favorite sport was baseball, but I find it impossible to identify with players who make $20 million plus per year. It’s taken much of the fun out of sports for me. The LSU football sexual assault cover-up story didn’t help matters either. I’ve gone from Go, Tigers to No, Tigers because of that.

My dormant sports interest was piqued recently by a fabulous profile of Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera. I didn’t know much about Rivera previously, but was under the impression he was one of the good guys in his profession. Albert Breer’s Sports Illustrated piece confirms that.

Rivera was terribly ill with a virulent form of skin cancer last year. He had to struggle to get the right treatment. That opened his eyes to the ugly reality of our current health care system: even an insured well-known NFL coach had to fight to receive the proper treatment.

Rivera’s illness has turned him into an advocate for COVID awareness and vaccination. He finds it frustrating that players who can easily obtain help are turning it down and referring to it as a “private and personal” matter.

That brings me to the quotable Ron Rivera:

“I had a player come to me when we first got back and we’re getting ready to go to camp,” Rivera said. “He came to me, and he had a big smile and said, Hey coach, just got my second vaccine. I said, Right on. He said, Had to, mama, new baby, got to, coach, gotta be careful for others. I said, That’s great, plus with that variant … He looked at me and said, What variant? I said, You know, the new delta variant, you know about that?

The player in question had no idea. Rivera asked if the player watches the news. The player said no, and raised his phone to say, “I get all my information from here.” Which, right there in the moment, Rivera recognized as the problem.

“Gen Z is relying on this,” said Rivera, now holding up his phone. “And you got some, quite frankly, fucking assholes, that are putting a bunch of misinformation out there, leading people to die. That’s frustrating to me, that these people are allowed to have a platform. And then, one specific news agency, every time they have someone on, I’m not a doctor, but the vaccines don’t work. Or, I’m not an epidemiologist, but vaccines are going to give you a third nipple and make you sterile. Come on. That, to me? That should not be allowed.”

The sports world needs more people like Ron Rivera. He’s shown remarkable growth for a man in his late Fifties. Now that he’s found his voice, I hope he keeps speaking out.

I do, however, have one suggestion for Coach Rivera. Y’all need a new nickname: the Washington Football Team just doesn’t cut the mustard. They’ve supposedly narrowed the list down to three. It’s time to pick. My personal favorite, the Solons, is not on the preliminary list. But anything is better than Redskins or Football Team with the possible exception of Armada. Singular nicknames suck.

I guess I still care a little about sports, after all.

The last word goes to Fountains of Wayne:

 

Shut Up and Strum

Alt-country singer-songwriter Jason Isbell is one of those artists I’ve been meaning to familiarize myself with for quite some time. What I’ve heard has sort of a Band/Lowell George/Rodney Crowell vibe to it, which is a good thing indeed.

I enjoy following Isbell on Twitter, he’s one of the more intelligent and insightful musicians on social media. Recently, he’s been outspoken in his pro-vaxx and anti-mask warrior views.

Isbell is putting his money where his mouth is  by requiring concert attendees to be either vaccinated or tested:

From the conduct of such artists, to the criticism of Isbell’s virus precautions, the pandemic has laid bare one of country music’s longest running divides. Before those ongoing rows, Isbell regularly traded barbs with right-leaning followers who implored him to focus on music and forget politics.

<SNIP>

A greater part of country lore occurred backstage at Willie Nelson’s 70th birthday concert in 2003, when a Nashville chart topper argued with elder singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson about his “lefty shit”.

“There’s more than one kind of country singer, and if everyone outside our community learns we aren’t all big dumb hillbillies then that’ll be a nice side-effect to all this. But I’m not setting out to do that, I just want everyone to be safe,” says Isbell. “A lot of country stars look just like me. And we have a lot of white men in our audiences who feel disadvantaged these days. But if the music had been more inclusive of other stories, we’d have a broader cross section,” he says, before adding that this has compelled him to support female African American country singers like Adia Victoria, who has frequently opened for him.

The music world needs more people like Jason Isbell and fewer people who tell him to shut up and strum.

Since Kris Kristofferson is a fellow San Mateo High School graduate, here’s a longer version of the “lefty shit” story from a Rolling Stone article written By Ethan Hawke:

Up from the basement came one of country music’s brightest stars (who shall remain nameless). At that moment in time, the Star had a monster radio hit about bombing America’s enemies back into the Stone Age.

“Happy birthday,” the Star said to Willie, breezing by us. As he passed Kristofferson in one long, confident stride, out of the corner of his mouth came “None of that lefty shit out there tonight, Kris.”

“What the fuck did you just say to me?” Kris growled, stepping forward.

“Oh, no,” groaned Willie under his breath. “Don’t get Kris all riled up.”

“You heard me,” the Star said, walking away in the darkness.

“Don’t turn your back to me, boy,” Kristofferson shouted, not giving a shit that basically the entire music industry seemed to be flanking him.

The Star turned around: “I don’t want any problems, Kris – I just want you to tone it down.”

“You ever worn your country’s uniform?” Kris asked rhetorically.

“What?”

“Don’t ‘What?’ me, boy! You heard the question. You just don’t like the answer.” He paused just long enough to get a full chest of air. “I asked, ‘Have you ever served your country?’ The answer is, no, you have not. Have you ever killed another man? Huh? Have you ever taken another man’s life and then cashed the check your country gave you for doing it? No, you have not. So shut the fuck up!” I could feel his body pulsing with anger next to me. “You don’t know what the hell you are talking about!”

“Whatever,” the young Star muttered.

One of the best dressing downs of a chicken hawk I’ve ever heard.

The “lefty shit” story is a good example of what artists like Jason Isbell have to deal with.

Keep up the lefty shit, sir. Never listen to anyone who tells you to shut up and strum.

The last word obviously goes to Jason Isbell as suggested by Val McGinley:

Another Bright Shining Lie

I’ve often written that Watergate was my formative political experience. I hereby amend that to primary formative political experience. Recent events have reminded me that the Vietnam War also shaped my worldview. It’s the ultimate cautionary tale: wars should only be fought in the national interest and should not be entered into lightly. That was the original sin of the Afghanistan War: we intervened in a hurry without thinking things through. The bill finally came due in 2021.

My family was divided during the Vietnam conflict. My father was a hawk. My mother was a dove. She wasn’t crazy about the hippie protestors as they offended her Scandinavian sense of order and decorum, but she still quietly supported the anti-warriors.

I recall a fierce argument between my parents over one of mom’s bridge playing buddies. Betty was a Quaker and a pacifist. She strenuously objected to all wars but once Richard Nixon, who was raised a Quaker, was president she became an anti-war activist because of his blatant hypocrisy.

My memory is hazy, but I recall that Betty and her fellow Friends staged a sit-in at a military installation somewhere in the Bay Area. They were arrested. Betty was the spokesperson for the group and appeared on the local news. My father thought this was a bridge too far and demanded that my mother bar Betty from their home. He argued that it would be bad for her real estate business to associate with a radical peacenik. Mom stood her ground and refused to go along. Her dovish hippie wannabe son was proud of her.

That brings me to the post title. Last night, Lawrence O’Donnell opened The Last Word with a segment comparing Vietnam and Afghanistan. He lamented that his dream guests, David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan were no longer alive. They wrote the best two books about the American misadventure in Vietnam. Sheehan’s book, A Bright Shining Lie inspired the title of this post. I only steal from the best.

A Bright Shining Lie told the story of American counter-insurgency guru John Paul Vann who was a true believer in the Vietnam mission. Vann loved the country and its people and became frustrated with the military brass who saw them as pieces to be moved around as if in a game of Risk. Hence the featured image.

The bright shining lie told to the American people during Vietnam was that the war was winnable and worth the sacrifice. The same lies were repeated by the Bush-Cheney administration and their supporters in the media about Afghanistan and Iraq. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Washington Post and New York Times became cheerleaders and apologists for Team Bush’s mendacious war effort. The past is prologue as both news organizations dusted off their pom-poms and went into action over the Afghanistan mishigas without, of course, mentioning their complicity in the initiation of our endless wars. Why ruin a sensational story with the facts?

The collapse of the Afghan government and army confirms the truth of a phrase attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “”Events are in the saddle and ride mankind.”

That’s truer now than in Emerson’s day. They didn’t have to deal with hot takes on the Tweeter Tube.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Summertime Blues

Two Boats by Henri Matisse.

I’m keeping the nautical theme this week. That harbor water looks cool as well as cooling. Anything to beat the August heat in New Orleans. Merci, Monsieur Matisse.

Dr. A is visiting family in Richmond, Virginia. She’s braver than I am and flew. She double masked on the flight and seems to have survived nicely. My goal during her absence is to convince young Claire Trevor to become a lap cat. Last night, she sat on an end table by the couch and nearly jumped in my lap. Close but no cigar. Stay tuned.

I did something last Monday that I never do on First Draft. I complained about restaurant service in a post about the difficulty of living in TFC: This Fucking City. It’s important to me since I come from a restaurant family. I suspect you’ve heard of Greek diners. My folks never ran one, but my extended family is honeycombed with restauranteurs.

In this case, a public complaint resulted in burying the hatchet (cleaver?) with the eatery in question:

Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written in 1958 by Eddie Cochran and his manager Jerry Capeheart. It’s been covered many times but I’m sticking to three versions. We begin with the Cochran original followed by Brian Setzer who played Eddie in the 1987 Richie Valens biopic La Bamba,

As far as I’m concerned, the definitive version of Summertime Blues is by The Who. It’s long been a highlight of their live shows, especially when John Entwistle was still with us.

We’ll continue our search for a cure for the summertime blues after the jump.

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Book Review: My Father When Young

This Tisserand tome was my birthday present from Dr. A. Thanks, babe.

Michael Tisserand is the author of The Kingdom Of Zydeco, Sugarcane Alley, and Krazy: George Herriman In Black and White as well as a charter member of the NOLA Twitter Pun Community. He’s better known at First Draft as the Parade Route Book Signer. I might as well share the historic Twitter exchange:

Sometimes Twitter can be fun.

Michael’s latest book is a collaboration with his late father Jerry Tisserand. An alternate title for My Father When Young could be What I Did During The Lockdown.

After his father’s funeral in 2008, Michael brought a bunch of boxes home to New Orleans, which he didn’t open until the pandemic. One box contained a treasure trove of slides:

“I pulled a few slides at random and held them to the light. Then a few more. At first, I didn’t understand what I was seeing. Then I realized: the photos had been taken by someone I never knew—my father when young.”

Michael had no idea that Jerry’s hobby had been photography. Tisserand the Elder stopped snapping pictures when he became a family man. Not only was Jerry a photography buff, he had an uncanny eye for a compelling image.

I recall when Michael first started posting his father’s pictures on his Facebook feed. I believe my initial reaction was: Damn, these are good. Others encouraged him to do something special with his father’s treasure trove. A book was born.

The most startling revelation to the son was that the father had visited New Orleans during Carnival 1959. Jerry’s pictures of the French Quarter on that long ago Mardi Gras day document a lost world. He also inadvertently stumbled into members of one of the first gay carnival krewes, Yuga. Jerry’s pictures of gay Mardi Gras don’t judge, they document. That’s the essence of good street photography.

The book is divided into three parts. The first, Taking Leave features pictures taken when Jerry was in the Army and stationed in Europe. My favorite European snapshot was taken in Barcelona and is called Children and Pigeons. Its centerpiece is a toddler dressed in a white church dress. I hate pigeons but I love this picture.

The second part of My Father When Young documents Jerry Tisserand’s return home to Evansville Indiana, which he called E-Town. I have conjoined favorites: pictures called Lighter and Smoke. They depict some Hoosier ladies lighting up cigars. I’m not a fan of cigar smoke but I am a fan of these images. They remind me of this Cole Porter song:

Anything Goes fits the third part of My Father When Young as well. I mentioned Jerry Tisserand’s Mardi Gras trip earlier. It’s the grand finale of the book in a segment named for a Professor Longhair song: Go To The Mardi Gras.

My favorite Mardi Gras photo is called Searching For A Zulu Coconut. In part, because it shows how much smaller Zulu’s floats were in 1959. The guy begging for what remains Zulu’s signature throw isn’t stretching or jumping, he’s hoping to be handed a prized coconut. I like smaller-scale Carnival. It’s one reason I’m in Krewe du Vieux.

My Father When Young is a work of love. Michael’s introduction tells the story of the father he knew and the gifted photographer he discovered. That makes Michael a lucky man. I’ve had friends who learned less salubrious things when they went through their parents’ possessions. Instead, Michael learned that, for a brief moment, his father was the Robert Frank of E-Town.

I mentioned that My Father When Young was a birthday present from Dr. A. That led to another exchange with the author:

He also threatened to make me recreate the book cover when it’s re-autographed. I couldn’t do a headstand when I was young and thin let alone now. Never gonna happen, my friend.

It’s time to grade Michael’s lockdown homework. I give My Father When Young 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A. Well done, sir.

You’re probably expecting the last word to go to Ringo Starr with George Harrison’s Photograph. I like to keep my readers off balance, so the last word goes to Gary Louris with the opening track of his new album, Jump For Joy. Its alternate title could be: What I Did During The Lockdown. Well done, sir.

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding

I read a bunch of stuff written by selfish dumbasses who are inconvenienced by being asked to literally do the least they can to help quell the ongoing pandemic. Like many of you, I am on my last nerve with these people.

But then I found someone who was worse than an anti-vaxxer:

He isn’t some some random tweeter—he’s supposed to be a conservative intellectual. The sheer number of erroneous assumptions in that short statement are immensely irritating.

First, the “average American” has a co-morbidity. That’s our brand, so the idea that most of us shouldn’t care is wrong. Also, the rise in hospital admissions for Covid patients has now put the ICUs of some hospitals at capacity. This means if someone else needs an ICU bed for something non-Covid-related, they may not get the treatment they need in a timely manner.

What else? Well, unvaccinated people run the risk of infecting children under 12 or people who are immuno-compromised, i.e., people who literally cannot be vaccinated right now. A rise in transmission rates leads hospitals and surgical centers to cancel elective surgeries, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you’re suffering from something, it’s quite a lot.

Now those are all fact-based reasons, and so they’re not going to resonate with a right winger like Rothman. But there is another reason, and it’s tied to the crap that Republicans used to love to pontificate about.

We all live together in a society, and each of our lives is linked to lives of people we don’t know. We care about the low rate of vaccination because we care about others in this country. I mean, although it is hard at times to put aside the righteous anger at the stupid intransigence of the anti-vaxxers, it’s not like we want them dead. We just want them vaccinated—they are part of the same society we live in, and their vaccinations protect vulnerable people.

But the right in the US has a different view, one that for years I have been calling “I gots minez”.  It’s not just Covid—they just don’t care about anyone in this nation who is struggling in any way, unless they can bribe those people for their votes. I don’t know how to fix that.

 

Life In TFC: The Summer Of Our Discontent

I’m paraphrasing, not misquoting Shakespeare’s Richard III. The Stratford Man never lived through a New Orleans summer, so what did he know from seasonality? The TFC, of course, stands for This Fucking City my acerbic nickname for my city at its worst.

After Katrina and the Federal Flood, I called New Orleans Debrisville. Perhaps I should call it Diseaseville as the Delta variant has struck hard. This time, cases among children are on the rise.

I went to bed cranky last night and awakened even crankier. Yesterday was not a good day for residents of New Orleans or for me personally.

On the personal front, Dr. A and I dined out with a friend whose birthday is near mine. We went to a highly regarded and nationally known local eatery, Toups’ Meatery. I’d even rooted for Chef-Owner Isaac Toups when he competed on Top Chef.

The food was good, the service was slow and haphazard, but we were patient and polite. We’d ordered a three-course meal and at the 2 hour mark had not received dessert. Our first complaint was met with a sneer by our server who proceeded to ignore us. Our second complaint to the manager produced results but by then we’d been seated for 2 hours and 15 minutes. I’m a patient person but not that patient, especially since other diners received prompt service. I was angry, so I did not enjoy my dessert.

It was my second time at Toups’ Meatery: the first went well, the second was hell. The third time will not be the charm because it won’t happen. As the restauranteur Danny Meyer has said, “The first time you go for the food. The second time for the hospitality.” BTW, Meyer is requiring staff and indoor diners at his restaurants to provide proof of vaccination. Smart man.

It felt good to vent. Thanks for listening. On to more significant matters.

The big New Orleans news yesterday was the second cancellation of Jazz Fest 2021. I’d regarded the fall rescheduling as an act of hubris. Even then the Delta variant was at work in the UK, India, and elsewhere. The re-cancellation seemed inevitable, but I won’t say “I told you so” because I have friends among the players, vendors, and others who work Jazz Fest. They’re taking another hit after TFC and Jazz Fest bigwigs gave them false hope by moving the event to the fall. Wishing and hoping ain’t getting as the old saying goes.

Jazz Fest honcho Quint Davis tried to make it “too big to fail” by scheduling a Rolling Stones day. Again. The first was supposed to be in 2019, but it was cancelled due to Mick Jagger’s health problems. It would be funny if it didn’t affect the livelihoods of people I care about, but it does so it’s not funny.

This latest blow to the local culture and economy was greeted with anger and dismay by New Orleanians on social media. I share their anger at the selfishness and stupidity of the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. They’re why we can’t have nice things as the saying goes. Life in TFC has always been tough, tough, tough, but this is ridiculous.

A case study in Gret Stet COVID era malakatude occurred across Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish. It’s the richest and most Republican parish in Louisiana. One would expect prosperous people to be well-educated and receptive to science and medicine. For years, Gret Stet GOPers told us that all the good people of Louisiana are Republicans. The Trump regime blew that notion to smithereens.

Last week’s school board meeting was a clusterfuck. The Mask Warriors insisted that mandatory masking was a communistic infringement on their freedom, man. Trust me, if this were a communist country, they would have disappeared after their fatuous protests. Freedom, man.

This sort of idiotic protest is happening across the South and in Red States generally. They seem to believe the COVID BIG LIE that it’s no big whoop, just a worse form of the flu. If that’s the case, why are there 617K+ COVID related deaths?

I’ll call it what it is: the freedom to die and infect others. Freedom, man isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So much for being pro-life.

A reminder to all the stubborn and stupid people out there:

FYI, I dislike wearing a mask, but I do it to protect myself and others from the virus. It’s a simple act that saves lives, so the discomfort is worth it.

These are tough times, they do not need to be made tougher by rampant stupidity and selfishness. The Delta wave was going to happen, but it didn’t need to be this bad. That’s why I used the image from Samuel Fuller’s Underworld USA. We’re being mugged by a reality that other choose to ignore. Shame on them.

That concludes this rant about the Summer of our Discontent In TFC. The last word goes to the Rolling Stones with a song I quoted earlier. She-doo-be.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Sail On, Sailor

Fishing Boats by Georges Braque.

My birthday was last Thursday. We celebrated by going to Brigtsen’s a great restaurant in Uptown New Orleans. It was my first time eating out with a mask mandate in place and only my third time in an eatery since the lockdown. It was kind of weird but so am I.

As a result of the weeklong festivities, this edition of Saturday Odds & Sods will be somewhat truncated. Pity that I’m not a show biz kid so I can’t make this pun: “born in a truncated.” I guess I just did…

Cubist artist Georges Braque may not be synonymous with summer, but the Beach Boys are. This week’s theme song was written by Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks and two dudes I’ve never heard of for the Beach Boys 1973 album Holland. It’s nautical yet somehow still naughty or some such shit.

We have three versions of Sail On, Sailor for your listening pleasure: the studio original, Ray Charles with the Beach Boys live, and Los Lobos from their new album of California songs, Native Sons.

Now that we’ve sailed the ocean blue but not in 1492, let’s jump to the break.

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Fox News Pest In Budapest

I didn’t plan to become First Draft’s Tucker Carlson correspondent, it just turned out that way. He’s the most dangerous Fox News Pest ever: smarter than Hannity, more extreme than Bill-O. Those guys occasionally told the truth. The Mothertucker never does.

Tucker took his act to Hungary this week. I wonder if it has anything to do with this?

Sorry. That joke about the Swanson Frozen Food heir was from hunger, man. It’s a pity that there’s not a Hungry-Man goulash, but that would be too exotic for MAGA palates.

Hungarian strong man Viktor Orban has become the It Dictator for American wingnuts. He’s anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-Soros, and pro-Trump. Frankly, I think his country is in need of Orban renewal…

After the euphoria of the collapse of Communism faded, the former Warsaw Pact countries have been at risk at going from far left to far right dictatorships. The older members of the population are used to being told what to think and there’s nostalgia for more orderly times among many Eastern Europeans. In the case of Hungary, order meant the Soviet invasion to crush the 1956 revolution.

It’s downright bizarre that the Tucker Carlsons of the world are infatuated with crypto-Commies such as Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin. I call them that as both are nostalgic for the Cold War and its accoutrements such as the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. I think the Magyar Menace DBA Viktor Orban is ready to erect a Paprika Curtain on the Danube to keep Western cooties out or some such shit.

Right-wing Americans used to groove on anti-Communist dictators such as Somoza, Marcos, and Pinochet. What’s next? The rehabilitation of former leftist Daniel Ortega? It makes as much sense as Putin love.

I, for one, have no Cold War nostalgia whatsoever. Nuclear war never appealed to me somehow. I was one of those liberals who was delighted when Thatcher and Reagan did business with Gorbachev. Perhaps the splotch on his head made him seem more trustworthy than Brezhnev or Andropov. I’m glad that they engaged and that the wall came down.

Another recent development I find vexing is Marxist nostalgia in some quarters on the authoritarian left. I’m not down with that at all. I remember hearing horror stories about the “family” policies of the Greek Communist Party during the 1946-49 Civil War. They thought families were bourgeois, so they opted to destroy them. This policy was a loser with your average Greek who was raised to trust only their own kin.

The world has been turned upside down in the last five years. In the 1990’s, we were told that dictatorship was dead and that free market capitalism was the wave of the future. In the last few years, we were told that democracy is at death’s door and right wing populism is the future. I was skeptical in the Nineties and I still am. Nothing is written.

Back to Tucker and his little buddy Viktor Orban. It’s creepy to watch the Magyar Menace suck up to the Mothertucker as if he were a future Oval One. He’s just a cable news hack with delusions of glory. Of course, former President* Pennywise was just a reality teevee hack when he threw his weave in the ring in 2016. Stay tuned.

The last word goes to Jethro Tull with a song written and recorded before the Iron Curtain was shredded: