I had hoped to come roaring back with tales of my Hurricane Ida experiences. Most involve heat, sweat, and tedium. I’ve also been sick with a combination of heat exhaustion and a mild case of CO poisoning. My back fence neighbor’s full house generator is too close to our bedroom. It’s both noisy and noxious.
I spent the beginning of the week angry at Entergy and my back fence neighbor. Then I heard that my friend Will Samuels had died of cancer at the age of 52. He was a larger than life character who was a glass 3/4 full optimist. My rage died down upon thinking of his wife Jennifer and young daughter Livia. We’re good friends and I had only seen them once in the last year and a half because of the pandemic.
I know what what Will would have said about my incandescent rage: “I thought you were a get even not mad kinda guy.”
I try to be.
We cleaned up the cemetery at which Will be laid to rest this morning. I saw many friends who I haven’t seen since before the lockdown. It’s a reminder of how much we’ve lost during the pandemic. It’s a sign of how much I love the Samuels family that I did what amounted to yard work today. I don’t usually do yard work but did it to honor Will. He would have found it hilarious.
Here’s a picture from happier times on the parade route near Adrastos World Headquarters:
Jennifer, Livia, Will, Adrastos, and Greg.
Dr. A and I were helped by many people during Ida’s aftermath. We helped a few ourselves. It’s what New Orleanians do.
We’re masking up and attending Will’s memorial service tomorrow morning. I hope it will lead to my writing more but I’m also having computer problems. It was a struggle just to write this post. Oy just oy.
When I heard that my power had finally been restored, I thought of an old song by my Bay Area homies. The last word goes to Hot Tuna:
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.
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.
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:
A service update. I’ve had a constructive conversation with @toupsmeatery. They agree that the service my party received is unacceptable and not up to their standards. I think they’re sincere and am willing to give them another chance. https://t.co/dLDn2xc92F
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.
Well, as you’ve probably heard by now, bassist for ZZ Top Dusty Hill left us this week. In early 1971, even journeyman musicians like me knew them well from reputation alone. They had just put their first album out. So on a cold day early that year, I saw them at a dive bar (R&B joint, actually) called the Mark III club in my hometown of Waco. Capacity was probably 60 people, and it was about half full. Mostly local musicians, unsurprisingly
Guitarist Billy Gibbons was using two 100-watt Marshall stacks, and Dusty was using two 200-watt Marshall Major stacks. That’s outdoor/stadium stage amplification, not dive bar amplification.
To say it was loud would be an understatement. Playing three-piece rock music pretty much dictates a lot of volume, to keep the sound full, but – damn.
By the time they got to their third song, I looked around, and there were only about 15 people left. Including me. They didn’t care. They threw down like they were playing for the tens of thousands they would one day be playing for.
I’ll never forget it
Oh – I was going to Adrastos-post their “hit” Shaking Your Tree from that first album, but I changed my mind at the last minute.
Here’s a heaping helping of Brown Sugar for ya. (while they were recording this, they sent their manager out for food so he couldn’t put the kibosh on overdubbing guitar leads)
I have mixed emotions about Edwin Edwards who died yesterday at the age of 93. He dominated Louisiana politics for a quarter of a century. He served 2 consecutive terms as Governor followed by 2 non-consecutive terms for a total of 16 out of 24 years. He won 4 of 5 statewide elections the most important being 1991’s election from hell when he defeated David Dukkke. A victory for which I remain profoundly grateful, but I still have mixed emotions about the man and his political legacy.
Edwin Edwards was more than just a politician. He was a folk hero with a Cajun swagger. He charmed his way out of trouble. That’s how he got away with the shenanigans that eventually sent him to prison after 3 corruption trials.
By any standard, his first two terms were a success. I’m not going to repeat in detail what’s being said in the Gret Stet MSM about the 1974 constitution and his concern for the poor and elderly. I think that Edwards’ greatest accomplishment was being the first Louisiana governor to treat Black folks as full citizens. As a result, the African American community became his base through the trials and tribulations of his less successful third and fourth terms.
My first Gret Stetwide election as a Louisiana resident was 1983. The Edwards campaign was a well-oiled machine that year as he defeated Dave Treen a nice but dull man who was the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Edwards had a lot of fun mocking Treen as a stiff. He later regretted being so snarky about Treen who supported efforts to commute his sentence in the 21st Century.
I voted for Edwards in 1983 and 1991, but not in 1987. His third term was something of a disaster. The oil bust led to cuts in state spending and higher education took the biggest hit. He spent a hefty chunk of that term on trial. He was not convicted but it left a cloud over him that led to his primary loss in 1987 to Buddy Roemer who also died this year. Edwin’s passing leaves the world’s youngest hasbeen, Bobby Jindal, as the only living former Gret Stet governor.
In defeat, Edwards proved his political genius. He declined to face a run-off against Roemer. This has been painted by many as a sign that he knew he’d lose. That’s true but his motivation was to kneecap Roemer politically by limiting his vote to 33%. It worked: in 1991 Roemer got 26% finishing third in the primary.
I’m often asked by out-of-state friends if Edwin Edwards was a liberal. He was by Gret Stet standards but not by national standards. His record on Civil Rights was good but he gave the oil, gas, and chemical companies free reign as long as they paid tribute in the form of higher taxes and campaign contributions. The same went for gambling interests. The latter led to his downfall.
I paid tribute to my late mother-in-law Louise Couvillion on Monday. She had a series of black cats; three of whom were named Walter. The Walters were unfriendly. Caspar was a sweetheart. Here he is with Louise:
I was asked by a friend why I didn’t post a certain song by Ernie K Doe in my tribute. I didn’t have a good answer, so here it is:
I woke up this morning feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. It was a stressful weekend. On Saturday, we hunkered down for a tropical storm that didn’t impact us. Tropical Storm Claudette’s only affect on me was a weird dream from watching too much teevee. I was in a ballroom with Penn and Teller. They were nothing like their stage personas: Penn was mute, and Teller wouldn’t shut up.
On Sunday, we attended an informal but still moving interment ceremony in Hammond, Louisiana for mother-in-law #1 Louise Allen Cobb Couvillion who died after a long illness at the age of 99.
Dr. A suggested that we follow the Quaker tradition and tell stories about Louise. I was the comic relief and told several amusing stories as I stood next to a row of headstones marking those who had preceded her in death including my first wife and her brother. Both of whom died far too young.
Louise’s ashes were in a lovely box made by monks at a nearby monastery. She was laid to rest between her two husbands: that’s a story for another time. Per her request, her grandson sprinkled some her of ashes on the other graves.
In addition to telling a few funny stories to break the tension, I read some lyrics from a song by David Bankston who knew Louise for most of his life. It’s a song he’d hoped to sing in person, but he couldn’t make it.
LOVE LEAVE ITS MARK by DAVID BANKSTON/BMI
I was born on a muddy river a long time ago My heart is always haunted by voices I used to know
Stories are my religion, music my praise Sweet or salty I celebrate the days
I hear my mother singing Daddy’s laughter is deep and dark Battles or Blessings Let love leave its mark
Memories are precious they glitter like gold Crowns found in an ancient tomb from a King’s stronghold
I hear my mother singing Daddy’s laughter is deep and dark Battles or Blessings Let love leave its mark
Voices call me I’m close to the river’s end When time becomes more precious May death become my friends
David sang this song at a memorial service for his late parents Al and Dorothy who were close friends of Louise’s and two of my favorite people. I doubt that my recitation lived up to his singing, but I did my best.
Afterwards, we gathered at a restaurant that Louise loved: Middendorf’s on Bayou Manchac. The place was packed for Father’s Day, so we had to wait. I realized that I’m still apprehensive in crowds after all that time in lockdown, especially given the Gret Stet’s low vaccination rate. I survived but, unlike many, I’m not ready to return to full normalcy or normality whichever is your preference. Life is still weird, y’all.
Louise was a remarkable woman. An instinctive feminist and liberal in a conservative state who remained vital and curious to the end. She always treated me like a son and Dr. A as her second daughter.
We had our ups and downs like most families, but always came together in a crisis. It’s why I believe that family by choice is the best family. There was only one blood relation of Louise’s at the table yesterday, but everything felt right.
The post title comes from a Crowded House song written by Neil Finn. It’s part of what I’ve come to think of as his mortality medley.
The Long Line Of Texas. Near Dallas by Dorothea Lange.
It’s Juneteenth. It marks the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned that they’d been freed two years earlier. It’s been a Texas holiday for decades and just became a federal holiday over the objection of 14 Republican congresscritters.
The featured image is a photograph by Dorothea Lange when she worked for the WPA documenting the ravages of the Great Depression. The number at the top is its Library of Congress reference number. I’m not quite sure that I get the title, but the picture was taken in Texas.
This week’s theme song was written in 1969 by Glenn Martin and Dave Kirby. I’ve always associated it with Doug Sahm, but it was first recorded by Charlie Pride.
We have three versions of IsAnybody Goin’ To San Antone for your listening pleasure: Charlie Pride, Doug Sahm, and the Texas Tornados.
Since I mentioned Galveston, let’s run this Glen Campbell-Jim Webb song up the flagpole and see who salutes:
Now that we’re done saluting, let’s jump to the break.
Good morning, everyone! Get your ISO suits on, because not only are we doing a deep dive into stupidity, we’re going into a highly infectious COVID-19 zone.
If you weren’t already aware of it, there’s been a frequent series of threads entitled “Flubros and flubras” aimed at COVID-19 deniers, even as the pandemic has slain Americans by the hundreds of thousands It follows the former guy’s dictum of :
Finally, after deciding that he’s beating a dead horse (another Freeper started a mocking series of posts entitled “The Butcher’s Bill(it’s just the flu, bro)“, the “Flubros and flubras” originator, “impimp” (insert your own joke here) is giving up, but is still a disbeliever.
There are a few TBD items with the Coronavirus: 1.Will they resume the lockdown in the fall/winter when flu season picks up? 2.Will there be a vaccine passport in any way? 3.When will laggards like churches, schools and hardcore blue states finally see the light?
I will post a Flubro thread if anything related to these items, or something else interesting pops up. But the daily thread is over now that the CDC has relaxed somewhat. It’s been great fun and I have enjoyed discussing Coronavirus items with Flubros and Flubras over the past 15 months. I like to think that we influenced many Freepers, who are, of course, more influential politically than the Illuminati. I also like to think that in some small way we made things better and freer here in America. Well done FRiends!
Then, the author of the “Butcher’s Bill” posts just has to ruin “impimp”s fun :
+39,095 NEW CASES
***599,314** TOTAL DEAD
31 posted on 5/15/2021, 10:20:11 AM by Kozak (The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. TV)
Fortunately, it’s just the flu.
TED NUGENT ON COVID-19 FIGHT: ‘I DIDN’T THINK I WAS GONNA MAKE IT’ UltimateClassicRock ^ | April 28, 2021
Posted on 4/29/2021, 1:56:38 PM by nickcarrawayTed Nugent has revealed that he feared for his life during his recent battle with COVID-19.”Five or six days ago, it was really bad. I didn’t think I was gonna make it,” the guitarist declared during a live webcast tonight. “I literally couldn’t function for about 20 hours… I’ve never been so scared in all my life.”He described his symptoms as a “six-foot-two, 225-pound headache, like nothing I have ever experienced. I mean, from the tip of my toes to the top of my hair I literally was dizzy and weak and struggled to get up to go to the bathroom.”Nugent then explained that a group of doctors came to his aid, with one even paying for a private plane to take him to a hospital. “They came from around the world, they go, ‘Uncle Ted we got the stuff, Uncle Ted don’t worry we got you covered, Uncle Ted we’re sending a plane and we’re taking you to the UT medical center and we got ya, man!’ I could literally cry, it was so powerful.”
What a difference a year makes. Last year I wrote an introduction for this annual post in which I deplored then President* Pennwyise’s indifference to veterans despite his so-called super-patriotism. And that was before his “suckers and losers” comments led to one of my most scathing posts of 2020, My Uncle Was A ‘Loser’.
This year, Joe Biden is doing what presidents customarily do. Marking this holiday with the solemnity it deserves. Thank you, Mr. President.
It’s also a solemn day at Adrastos World HQ. The woman who brought the man I honor annually into my life died last Friday at the age of 99. I wrote about my mother-in-law turned “outlaw” Louise Allen Cobb Couvillion in the 2019 edition of my annual Thanksgiving post. She was an educator with a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue. Her passing is the period at the end of a long and glorious sentence. She will be missed, especially during the holidays.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic. This post is making its eleventh 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.
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  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.
John Warner, Elizabeth Taylor, and Fritz Mondale after the Veep swore in the new senator.
I used to have many conservative friends. I enjoyed discussing, debating, and arguing the issues of the day with people who disagreed with me. I miss those exchanges. I learned how to argue politics from my father who was a center right Republican himself. He taught me that friendship was more important than politics. Lou knew how to disagree without being disagreeable. That’s how it should be in a democracy but no longer is.
Things started to go haywire during the Iraq War when some of my conservative friends argued that torture during wartime was acceptable. I never agreed and never will, but I could still cite conservatives such as John McCain and John Warner as being on my side. They don’t make Republicans like the two Johns anymore.
Warner was a senator out of central casting: charming, genteel, handsome and on the verbose side. He usually voted with his party but could be persuaded to break with his fellow Republicans if a strong enough case was made. He was conservative but open minded.
John Warner always tried to do the right thing. After allegations of fraud were made in the super-close 1996 Louisiana Senate runoff between Mary Landrieu and wingnut Woody Jenkins, the ball landed in Warner’s lap as chairman of the rules committee. Warner ran a fair process, no fraud was found, and Landrieu was seated. The minute I heard that Warner was in charge, I relaxed because I knew he was a fair and decent man. For more on that crazy election, read Lamar White’s piece at Bayou Brief.
There’s a wonderful tribute to John Warner by New York Magazine’s Ed Kilgore who worked in the senate as a Democratic aide when Warner was an important member of that body. Kilgore maintains that Senator Warner should be remembered for opposing extremism in his own party:
His long congressional career, which ended in retirement in 2009, was marked by his lofty position in the bipartisan-defense establishment, tons of military pork to keep restive Virginians satisfied, and, despite a generally orthodox Republican voting record, occasional high-profile acts of heresy. It was no great surprise when Warner announced support for Democrat Mark Warner (no relation) as his successor, and he was among the early Republican supporters of Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump in 2016. Years earlier, he staved off the takeover of his party by right-wing zealots such as Oliver North that would presage the danger to come.
… Warner was an exemplar of the days before ideological rigidity gripped the GOP. Despite supporting some abortion restrictions, he was fundamentally pro-choice, which is a nearly extinct point of view among Republicans today. He joined his friend Ted Kennedy in opposing Robert Bork’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, a cause that is still dear to an older generation of conservatives. He supported the Brady Bill and other gun-safety measures. Even on defense issues, he was not entirely predictable; as Armed Services chairman, he opposed the Bush administration’s last “surge” in Iraq and joined John McCain in opposing torture by the military and intelligence agencies.
It was his willingness now and then to buck party discipline even in elections, though, that is now so amazing. In 1994, Oliver North — the key Iran-Contraoperativeconvicted for lying to Congress who became a right-wing hero (sort of the Michael Flynn of his era) — won the GOP nomination to take on Warner’s Democratic colleague, Chuck Robb, who looked doomed by allegations of sexual misconduct and drug use. Instead of putting on the party harness, Warner endorsed an independent bid by moderate Republican Marshall Coleman, which split the GOP vote and made it possible for Robb to survive in a very Republican year. That Warner was renominated twice after that episode was a testament to his appeal and perhaps to the now-departed tolerance of Republicans for dissent.
Unlike the cowards and radicals among today’s Republican senators, John Warner was a true conservative. He wanted to preserve what was best about America but was willing to discuss ways to improve it. In that way, he was like my conservative friends and father who kept the lines of communication open despite our disagreements. Those days are long gone, but I miss them and always will.
I concur with Ed Kilgore’s description of John Warner as a “glamorous Republican heretic.” He practiced what he preached. The man *was* married to Elizabeth Taylor who was a liberal, after all. Rest in peace, Senator.
They don’t make Republicans like John Warner anymore. Isn’t it a pity?
We had another bout of heavy rain overnight. We only had minor street flooding but the folks in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles took it in the neck. I feel terrible for Lake Charles: they were slammed by Hurricane Laura last summer and now this.
Weather paranoia makes sustained thought difficult, so I thought I’d throw some random shit against the wall and see how much of it sticks. But first a musical interlude:
In the Middle East, the death dance between Hamas and the Netanyahu government has resumed. The carnage on the Gaza Strip has been terrible. The political results in Israel have been terrible in their own way. Bibi appeared to be on his way out until he wagged the dog, which led to the cancellation of coalition talks that would have installed a new prime minister.
Netanyahu has convinced a substantial slice of his country’s electorate that only he can keep them safe thereby proving that Americans are not the only people who can be conned by an unscrupulous leader. As long as Netanyahu is in power, the cycle of violence will continue.
In Congress, KMac continues to have a spine of aspic. He was for a 1/6 commission before he was against it. I have the feeling that he got an angry call from Mar-a-Doorn, which changed his mind such as it is.
In a recent post, Josh Marshall nailed KMac: “McCarthy’s empire is built on subservience and militant toadying to the former President.”
Militant Toadying would be a great band name. They could play this King Crimson song as a tribute to KMac’s fecklessness:
A title change is in order as well. How about this? Forked Tongues In Aspic. I aspic the truth about KMac…
News on the COVID front continues to improve. It’s amazing what a difference having competent grown-ups in charge makes.
I remain cautious and still wear a mask when out and about and am still leery of large groups of people. I may be completely vaccinated but I can still catch the virus from some cretinous peckerwood who declined to get jabbed. The illness would be less severe, but I haven’t gotten sick since March of 2020 and I like it that way. I usually catch something every December. A holiday ritual I can do without.
In Gret Stet news, former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer died at the age of 77. He was an eclectic politician who started off as a conservative Democrat but changed parties while in office. His finest moment as Governor was when he vetoed a radical anti-abortion bill. He was also surprisingly good on environmental issues for an oil state politico. I told you he was an eclectic politician.
Roemer’s 1987 campaign was a classic. He started off as a decided underdog but tapped into voter anger with the corrupt incumbent, Edwin Edwards. This ad helped put him over the top:
Unfortunately for Roemer, wily Edwin laid a trap for him by withdrawing from the race before the runoff, leaving Roemer with 33% of the vote. Not much of a mandate to “scrub the budget.” A phrase Buddy repeated ad-nauseam during his governorship.
Roemer’s re-election campaign laid an egg and he finished third behind Edwards and David Duke in the primary. He would have beaten either in a runoff. Oh well, what the hell.
Then Senator Walter Mondale throws out the first pitch at a Minnesota Twins game.
I was lucky enough to meet Walter Mondale in between national elections sometime in the early 1980’s. It was at some sort of Congressional function. I can’t remember if it was on or off the Hill, but I made a beeline for him and introduced myself.
Me: Nice to meet you, Mr. Vice President.
WM: Former Vice President.
Me: Mr. Mondale then…
WM: … just call me Fritz.
I did and I still do,
I knew that he loved the Minnesota Twins, so I mentioned meeting Jim (Mudcat) Grant who was one of the stars of the 1965 team that lost to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers in the World Series.
WM: Great nickname. Great guy. Did you know that he was a heckuva singer and had a nightclub act called Mudcat and the Kittens?
Me: I did not know that.
I lied to one of the most honest men in American public life because I didn’t want to slow his roll. I also skipped my stock line about the 1980 election: “I voted for Mondale for Vice President.”
Much to my surprise, we chatted for about ten minutes. He liked talking to young people. Believe or not I used to be young.
Fritz Mondale died yesterday at the age of 93. He was a modest man from a humble background who never forgot his roots or his commitment to the poor, minorities, and the elderly.
Mondale should be remembered for revolutionizing the Vice Presidency, not for his blow-out loss to Ronald Reagan. But that led to one of my favorite Fritz Mondale stories:
Some time after Mondale lost overwhelmingly to Reagan in 1984, Mondale called his old friend George McGovern who had also lost 49 states to Nixon in 1972. "George, this is tough. How long does it take to recover from a big defeat?" "Fritz, when it happens, I'll let you know."
He liked telling that story. He said it kept him humble.
He conducted his 1984 presidential campaign with dignity and honor. He lost but he was true to himself and his beliefs. He also made history by picking Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. It took 36 years for a woman to be elected Veep. The current Vice President Kamala Harris was among the last to speak with her predecessor. Fortuna’s Wheel keeps spinning.
I chuckled when I read that Mondale was selected by Carter because of his Washington experience. That’s only partially accurate: Carter was mistrusted by the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and organized labor. Fritz Mondale was their guy.
Fritz Mondale and his mentor and fellow Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey had many things in common. Mondale was appointed to fill HHH’s senate seat when the latter became Veep. Humphrey urged him to accept the Vice Presidency despite Hubert’s appalling treatment by Lyndon Johnson. They were both Democratic nominees for president and both lost. More importantly, they were good and decent people who helped steer the Democratic party “out of the shadow of states’ rights and …. into the bright sunshine of human rights” in Humphrey’s memorable phrase.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar won Twitter last night after her mentor’s passing:
Walter Mondale was my mentor from the first time I worked for him in college. My job then? Doing the furniture inventory.
He encouraged me to run for office and was always there for me. But I wasn’t the only one. He saw his mission as preparing a new generation of leaders. pic.twitter.com/LEa87Lt4vs
On the wall of the Carter Library is a quote of Walter Mondale’s at the end of their time in office: “We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace.” That pretty much sums up Walter Mondale’s life and service.
Fritz Mondale lived a long and glorious life. Instead of mourning his death, we should celebrate his life and legacy as a heckuva nice guy and the greatest Vice President in American history. Along with Hubert Humphrey, he was the best president we never had.
The last word goes to Mudcat Grant at a memorial service for his teammate, Harmon Killebrew:
The weather has been horrendous in New Orleans this week. We’ve had high winds, thunderstorms, and torrential rain. One day it looked as if we were having a tropical system out of season. I hate thunderstorms, they’re like heavy metal. I hate heavy metal.
It’s been so bad that we’ve had to work around the weather for fear of street flooding. Dr. A went to work preposterously early yesterday because she was administering an exam. I was so grateful that the garbage men closed the bin lid that I went on the porch and thanked them.
This week’s theme song was written by Francis Rossi for Status Quo’s 1968 album Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo. How’s that for a long ass title? It was to be the band’s only major hit single in the US&A.
The song was inspired by the paintings of Mancunian artist LS Lowry. He pretended to be an unsophisticated artist but had serious chops as a painter. Lowry also excelled at myth creation often telling wildly contradictory stories. His painting Main Press is this week’s featured image.
There’s some dispute as to whether Lowry should be called a Mancunian artist since he lived in nearby Salford. But I like saying Mancunian so I’m sticking with it. FYI, a Mancunian is someone who hails from Manchester, England, mate. Who the hell wants to be a Salfordian or is that Salfordite?
We have three versions of Pictures Of Matchstick Men for your listening pleasure: the studio original, Status Quo live, and a 1989 cover by Camper Van Beethoven, which was a hit in the US&A.
We’re not finished with matchstick men, here’s a 2018 song written and recorded by Mark Knopfler:
Now that we’ve pondered matchstick men in music and art, let’s strike quickly and jump to the break.
The cold weather is back but it’s not as bad as last month’s hard freeze. As I watch things unfold in Jackson, MS, I realize how lucky New Orleans was. Our water infrastructure is just as ancient and with a more prolonged freeze it could have been us. We dodged a bullet this time. Our luck is bound to run out at some point. Our pipes are old, old, old.
I posted a version of Mean To Me when I wrote about Neera Tanden before her nomination was pulled. I stand by what I wrote then, but I should have added that, in some ways, she was a surrogate for those on the far left and right who hate Hillary Clinton.
As far as Joe Manchin is concerned, I’m beginning to think he likes being the key vote in the Senate and was flexing his muscles on the Tanden nomination. I guess Tanden had a blind date with the Man of La Manchin, not destiny. So it goes.
Neil Finn wrote this week’s theme song in 1986 for Crowded House’s eponymous debut album. It’s the first track on the record and is a frequent set opener when the band plays live.
We have two versions of Mean To Me for your listening pleasure: the original promo video and a 1988 live version.
It’s time for a visit to disambiguation city with a 1929 song of the same title. We have a double dose of Ella Fitzgerald. First with the Nelson Riddle orchestra followed by a more intimate recording with Oscar Peterson:
Have I mentioned lately how much I love Oscar Peterson? That goes for Ella Fitzgerald as well.
On that upbeat note, let’s jump to the break. And I mean it this time.
I’m about to do something I’ve only done before on special occasions: repost a previously published piece. This qualifies as a special occasion. The great American poet, bookseller, and rabid San Francisco Giants fan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has died at the age of 101.
Larry was not only a literary legend, he was a helluva nice guy. I knew him in another lifetime. Last October, I wrote about it in A Coney Island Of The Mind.
I closed by saying:
“I originally planned to save this story for a tribute to the great man but thanks to Amy Coney Barrett, I’m telling it today. Go figure.”
Ever since the Impeached Insult Comedian nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, I’ve had Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry collection, A Coney Island Of The Mind on my mind. I know it’s strange, but you must be mindful of how my mind works. I’m not only a punster, I free associate like crazy. Just don’t call me crazy, okay? If I were rich, you’d call me eccentric.
Another reason I have Felinghetti on my mind is a thread going around Twitter asking who is the most famous person you’ve ever met and spoken to. My reply was “a toss-up between Frank Sinatra and Willie Mays.”
I also met Lawrence Ferlinghetti in my wayward youth but beat poets aren’t as famous as saloon singers and baseball superstars.
I used to hang out at Vesuvio Cafe, which is a bar in San Francisco across the alley from Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore. I got a kick out of bellying up to the Beatnik Bar, drinking Irish coffee, smoking Camels, and pondering if Jack Kerouac or Neal Cassady had ever sat on the same bar stool. The only beatnik accoutrement I lacked in those days was a proper beret.
One day a bearded gent sat next to me and struck up a conversation. I realized that it was the legendary poet. I knew Ferlinghetti loved baseball, so we talked about the Giants Sixties glory days when immortals such as Mays, McCovey, and Marichal were blown about windy Candlestick Park. I told him that I knew Gaylord Perry from my suburban neighborhood. I scored points by telling him that Perry’s daughter, Allison, deflected the notion her dad threw a spitball by calling it “a hard slider.” It was a wet slider: Gaylord’s memoirs were called Me and The Spitter.
Being a relatively well-brought up young man, I called him Mr. Felinghetti. He shook his head, slapped me on the back and said, “Call me Larry.”
I chatted with Larry several times without getting the sub-text until he joined me and my future first wife at a table at Vesuvio’s; not its name but I always called it that. Dee was more of a poetry buff than me, so they talked about Anne Sexton and Sylivia Plath instead of flashy former Giant infielder Tito Fuentes who was a particular favorite of Larry’s. I realized that she was holding my hand rather tightly. She explained why after Larry left us:
“He was cruising you.”
“Really? I had no idea.”
“It’s okay. He’s obviously a man who can take no for an answer.”
I realized she was right. It was the first time she’d been with me when I spoke with Larry. I was flattered then and even more so as I look back on that evening in North Beach. Nobody’s going to cruise me in my current decrepitude so it’s nice to remember that I was once cruiseable.
I originally considered weaving my thoughts about Amy Coney Barrett into this post but why spoil a pleasant memory?
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is still very much with us at the age of 101. His longevity is impressive but unsurprising. He’s a life force.
And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleachers go mad with Chicanos and blacks
and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
“Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!”
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don’t come back at all,
and flees around the bases
like he’s escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he’s beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.
I originally planned to save this story for a tribute to the great man but thanks to Amy Coney Barrett, I’m telling it today. Go figure.
The last word goes to Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading Baseball Canto: