Category Archives: R.I.P.

Thank You

I’m not sure if I’m going to be up to writing today. We’re going to the vet and making arrangements for Della’s remains this morning as well as dealing with a few loose ends.

I’d like to thank everyone for the kind wishes about Della Street here, on Facebook, and Twitter. I’m a bit overwhelmed but Della would consider it her due. She’d be right.

I’ll be back on Wednesday but until then a few pictures of the late, great Della Street:

Finally, a picture of Della with her beloved big brother, Oscar.

The last word goes to Sly and the Family Stone:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Right Place, Wrong Time

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

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

Back to our regularly scheduled programming:

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

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

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

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

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

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Della Street, R.I.P.

Our mouthy, smirking, cranky, and gorgeous internet rock star, Della Street, died today. It was a shocker. She had a chronic thyroid problem that we were dealing with. She took ill at the beginning of the week, then rallied on Thursday night when we watched the NBA finals together. She even went to the door and stared down the pit bull next door.

This morning she took a dramatic turn for the worse. Dr. A is out of town so our good friend Brett went with me to the vet. We dropped her off at around 10 and she was gone a mere 6 hours later. Della was 12. We’ve seen other elder kitties go downhill but not this fast.

I am genuinely shocked and, as you know, I neither shock nor scare easily. Della was Dr. A’s cat so I thought she’d hang on until her human returned home, but she was ready to go out on her own terms, that was our Della.

I know some might find it odd that I’d sit down and write a tribute to Della so soon. I knew that our readers would want to know as soon as possible. That’s what I love about First Draft, we’re a community. And Della has been entertaining you with her antics since she was 2 years old. Ain’t it funny how time slips away?

I don’t cry easily or often but I did upon hearing this stunning news. I rallied because I knew the last thing Della Street would want is for me to be maudlin over her passing. She was a tough and feisty cat who was best known for her smirk and glare. She was the queen of dirty looks and I was the happy recipient of many of those looks as was her pesky kid brother, Paul Drake, who is even more confused than usual by her absence.

She will be missed but never forgotten.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Estimated Prophet

Le Cirque by Henri Matisse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dr. John, R.I.P.

Dr. John as Krewe du Vieux King, 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mac loved Johnny Mercer:

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

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

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

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Leon Redbone

Leon Redbone was a world class character. He burst on the music scene with his retro stylings in the late 1970’s and kept at it until his death last week at the age of 69.

Redbone was as mysterious and enigmatic as a Le Carre character. His web site even claimed that he was 126 when he passed. They could not let down the side.

The best thing I’ve ever read about the man and his music was published in the Oxford American last March. Meghan Pugh’s piece was titled Vesel Of Antiquity. She nailed Leon Redbone’s style and mystique.

Redbone’s album covers were always interesting. Below are two of them side-by-side:

In lieu of the albums, here’s a poorly lit 1981 live performance by the man, the myth:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Want You Back

Rayograph by Man Ray.

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday Odds & Sods: You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Golconda by Rene Magritte.

After a deluge on Mother’s Day, we’re having Indian spring in New Orleans. Is there such a thing? If there’s not, there should be. The best thing about it is that the oak pollen that plagued me got its ass kicked by the rain.

I’ve never re-used an Odds & Sods featured image within a month before, but it’s a perfect fit with this week’s theme song. Besides, if you blog long enough, you end up repeating yourself, repeating yourself, repeating yourself. One side benefit of the vinyl revival is that everyone knows what a broken record is, what a broken record is, what a broken record is. It’s time to lift the needle and move on.

Motown May continues with the Supremes. The crack songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote You Keep Me Hangin’ On in 1966. It was a number one hit song with a bullet, with a bullet, with a bullet. The preceding was an inside joke for hardcore Zappa fans. Everyone else can move on to the next paragraph.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Supremes original and a 1967 “psychedelic rock” cover by Vanilla Fudge, which was also a  top ten hit. I put psychedelic rock in quotes because it’s one of those phrases that’s like ketchup or mayo: some people slather it over everything.

Now that we’ve hung on as well as out, let’s jump to the break. Perhaps all this hangin’ means we’ll land in a hangar. One more thing:

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: Love Me Or Leave Me

I did a search for Doris Day album covers. They were all flattering head shots and not terribly interesting. The cover of the soundtrack album of Love Me Or Leave Me was as atypical as her performance as torch singer and tough broad Ruth Etting. Does this look like a “professional virgin” to you?

Here’s a glamorous lobby card as lagniappe:

Finally, here’s the whole damn album:

 

Doris Day, R.I.P.

My parents were both Doris Day fans, so I grew up watching her eponymous sitcom, then her movies on the late, late show. They owned some of her records and my mom was known to sing along with Doris. She got a kick out of informing me that Doris Day was my dad’s celebrity crush. His response, “She’s my type. She’s a beautiful Midwestern blonde. Just like your mother.”

Doris Day died today at the age of 97. She lived a long, productive, and difficult life. She was a survivor: she made it through a series of bad marriages and outlived her only child, Terry Melcher, by 15 years. Terry was Manson’s real target on the night that Sharon Tate was murdered. He was never quite the same again but his mother persevered. People who grew up during the Great Depression and lived through World War II were as tough as nails; even America’s Sweetheart.

As much as I loved her movies with Rock Hudson and Tony Randle, it was a revelation when I saw her in the two movies whose lobby cards are this post’s featured image. She was a mom and wife in the Hitchcock flick but her turn in Love Me Or Leave Me as Ruth Etting, a torch singer married to a gangster, was unlike any other part she ever played. Ruth was one tough cookie as was Doris.

Doris Day was a legend: singer, movie star, actress, and animal lover. What a life, what a broad. She will be missed.

The last word goes to Doris herself with the theme song from Love Me Or Leave and the song from The Man Who Knew Too Much that became her signature number, Que Sera, Sera:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter

Sunrise by Roy Lichtenstein

I bet you thought I was done with the epistolary references but I’m made of sterner (sillier?) stuff than that. There’s even another Bill Barr reference coming up. Does that make this a red-letter day? Beats the hell outta me.

Since, unlike the first Barr letter, the post title is so damn long, the intro will be mercifully brief. I’m even skipping another epistle pun just to prove that I’m capable of restraint. Anyone buying it?

This week’s theme song, I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter, was written in 1935 by Fred E. Ahlert and Joe Young. It was introduced to the world by the great Fats Waller and has been recorded a zillion times over the years.

Since it’s one of my favorite tunes, we have a slew of versions for your listening pleasure.

Now that we’ve finished our correspondence, let’s put a stamp on it, mail it, then jump to the break. Continue reading

Post Mayhem Rituals

There are things that happen after every mass shooting. Right thinking people deplore the violence and call for changes to gun laws. If the incident involves a minority religious community, the outcry is even more fervent and leads to shows of inter-faith solidarity and unity. These are positive post mayhem mass shooting rituals, and they’re happening in the aftermath of the New Zealand mosque attack.

As to negative post mayhem rituals, right-wingers sent their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims but refuse to acknowledge any role their pro-gun, Islamophobic ideology might have played. When Barack Obama was president, they insisted that he use the T word (terrorism) to describe every incident in which white people were hurt. He did so whenever it was appropriate, but Obama liked to think things through as opposed to the daily flow of diarrhea spewed by the Current Occupant.

These right-wing post mayhem rituals are writ large in President* Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy. He usually claims ignorance despite his conspicuous cable news consumption. His response to the Christchurch massacre is similar to his reaction to Charlottesville. While it’s true that white supremacists who shoot up mosques are a small group, that’s precisely why it should be easy to condemn them. Trump will not because he sees them as part of his base, which should be worshiped and deferred to at all times. This is, of course, crazy but so are they.

My post mayhem ritual is to write a post deploring the violence and urging people not to be comfortably numb. I did so after the 2015 San Berardino massacre and the 2017 Vegas concert bloodbath. I wish I didn’t feel compelled to write but I do. I wish to retain my capacity for outrage in the face of repetitive violence.

These sort of attacks are even more shocking when they occur in countries we don’t associate with gun violence such as Norway and New Zealand. But white supremacists are everywhere and the Norwegian butcher, Anders Breivik, has become a demonic hero to many.

I applaud the response of Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to the mosque massacre. She’s proposing common sense gun control reforms, which will ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons. But the mosque murderer was able to buy his weapons legally, which he could not have done in his native Australia, which is why he exported his crime to New Zealand. Score one for the Aussies.

BUT white supremacist thinking is widespread in Australia and has gone mainstream there in recent years. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a noted xenophobe and has whipped up Islamophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment nearly non-stop since being ousted from the top job. That’s why it’s no surprise that this happened:

Good on the egg teen and boo to the racist senator. We have more than a few of the latter and need more of the former.

One answer to mass shootings are tighter gun control laws BUT New Zealand’s laws were already restrictive and it happened there. We need to stop othering people who look, act, and pray differently than ourselves. It won’t be easy with leaders like Trump, Abbott, and Orban whipping up hatred but nothing worthwhile is easy. It beats the hell out of being comfortably numb.

The last word goes to Pink Floyd with a song that the band described as part of “the violence sequence” as it was written for Michelangelo Antonioni’s movie Zabriskie Point. The director rejected the song as “beautiful but too sad.” We need more beauty and less sadness in the world, y’all:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rocky Road

Charing Cross Bridge by Andre Derain

Carnival was alternately exhausting and exhilarating. I love it but I’m always glad when it’s over, especially when the weather is cold and wet. This year was physically difficult for me as I was in pain for the last week of the season. I ended up on the disabled list and stayed home on Mardi Gras day but I don’t regret not resting on Lundi Gras as you can see from this tweet:

Proteus is one of the “old line” krewes and their den is around the corner from Adrastos World Headquarters. They were indeed as drunk as plutocratic skunks. Watching them set up to roll is one of the pleasures of life inside the parade box. Where else can you watch three fake kings-Proteus, Comus, and Rex-toast one another on the street?

This week’s first theme song was written by Nick Lowe and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke for Nick’s 1990 Party Of One album, which reunited him with his musical partner in crime, Dave Edmunds.

It’s disambiguation time: a different tune with the same title. Our other theme song was written by Steve Tilston but I first heard it done by Fairport Convention. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Fairport live followed by the songwriter.

Now that we’ve traveled down several rocky roads, it’s time to jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Fly Like An Eagle

Women and Birds at Sunrise by Joan Miro

Once again, New Orleans showed the world how to turn adversity into a party. I’m talking about the widespread local boycott of the Super Bowl. It was easy for me. I rarely watch unless I have a rooting interest in one of the teams. I wasn’t down for some of the dumber aspects of “no-call gate” such as claims that the Saints wouldn’t have gone to the big dance after a similar bad call, or that the Rams were cheaters BUT we *wuz* robbed. I blame the league and the referees, not the Rams who lost in one of the dullest Super Bowls in years. Yawn. Brady and Belichick won again. Yawn.

New Orleanians quickly moved from the Super Bowl controversy to an argument over the Krewe of Chewbacchus. It’s a geek/sci-fi parade that sprung up a few years back. I like the idea but hate the execution. I like parades to move quickly and not stall for hours as Chewbacchus invariably does. Yawn.

The head of the krewe styles himself, not as a humble Captain, but as “The Overlord.” He floated a trial balloon that they *might* exploit a loophole in city ordinances and allow commercial sponsorship. That’s a big NOLA no-no: the krewes, not corporations, throw a party for the city and its citizens. The “Overlord” quickly crawfished and claimed he was just joking but I know a deflated trial balloon when I see one. Pop goes the geek weasel.

This week’s theme song was written by Steve Miller and was the title track of his1976 hit album. The Fly Like An Eagle single was a monster hit, peaking at number two on the Billboard charts.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the original SMB hit, a live version with guitarist Joe Satriani, and a cover by my homeys, the Neville Brothers:

Now that we’ve soared like eagles, let’s jump to the break, Hopefully, there will be a tailwind so we won’t break our tail feathers or is that bend? Beats the hell outta me.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: I Love Paris

The French jazz pianist, songwriter, and Oscar-winning film composer Michel Legrand died recently at the age of 86. His long list of film credits can be seen at IMDb.

1954’s I Love Paris was Legrand’s first album. It was re-released many times over the years with more than a few covers. Here are four of them;

Here’s the album in two parts with a variation on the original cover:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tangled Up In Blue

The Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

The weather has been wild and wacky in New Orleans. It was 80 degrees last weekend, then it plummeted to a day time high of 50 a mere two days later. It’s like being an extra in The Pit and The Pendulum. I have no idea what that means but it sounds good.

We had some car trouble this week. We convinced ourselves we might have major electrical issues. It turned out the car needed a new battery. Whew. Dr. A has named the new used car Hildy, after Rosalind Russell’s character in His Girl Friday. Neither Cary Grant nor Ralph Bellamy were consulted.

Am I allowed to brag? I promise not to go all Insult Comedian on your asses. The response to my Neelyisms: Translating Louisiana’s Junior Senator piece has been very favorable indeed. Thanks, y’all. I hope it will further one of my quirkier causes: getting people to stop calling him by his real name instead of my nickname for him. Repeat after me:  In politics, there’s only one John Kennedy, and his middle initial was F, not N. Just call him Neely.

This week’s theme song was written by Bob Dylan for his great 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. Tangled Up In Blue is one of my favorite Dylan tunes. It’s an almost foolproof song, which is why it has been covered so many times.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Dylan’s original, a 2017 cover by Joan Osborne, and a live version by the Jerry Garcia Band.

Now that we’re all tangled up, let’s jump to the break. I hope I can find my blue ripcord.

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On Ceremonies

I hadn’t planned to watch any of Poppypalooza. I tuned into see how Trump interacted with his predecessors. Protocol saved the former presidents from having to sit next to the Current Occupant. They appear to have taken his phone away from him for the duration so the crazy anti-Mueller tweets will just have to wait.

Back to the state funeral. I sat down and was hooked. I’m a sucker for pomp and ceremony and since I’m neither a Poppy Bush hater nor idolator,  I enjoyed the speeches, especially the funny bits. It’s gotten a bit noxious to hear the political media go on about Bush but these were his friends and family. They’re entitled to gush. It’s human nature.

I’m honestly surprised that Poppy outlived his wife of 70 years by 8 months. My parents were married for almost 60 years and my mom lasted for only 5 months after Lou’s passing.

I mention my father not because he was a Poppy Bush fan (he was) but because we once had an interesting conversation about ceremonies when Jimmy Carter was president.

Lou: Why has your man Carter dropped so many public ceremonies?

Me: He ran as a man of the people.

Lou: <snort> The people *love* ceremonies. Hell, even you love ceremonies.

Me: You’re right. He should bring some of them back.

Lou: <laughs> I’m right? Maybe we should call your mother at work and tell her you said that.

Me: Well, there’s a first time for everything.

We rarely agreed on much of anything, which brings me to my next point. I saw some lefty twitteratti hating on Joe Biden for saying nice things about Poppy Bush as a person. People who say shit like that have probably never worked in politics. Like everywhere else in life, personal relationships matter in politics. It’s okay if Joe liked Poppy as a person. He still opposed his policies and planned to run against him in 1988 until fate, in the person of a Neil Kinnock speech, intervened.

The weirdest Poppypalooza tweet of the day came from a former W flack who is *not* a nice person:

Uh, Ari, he was there. The star of the show, in fact. Ari has never been able to get his facts straight. Long before Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Ari was a liar for hire.

I didn’t say you had to like everyone in politics.

UPDATE: Fleischer is an Ari head. My man Walter Mondale was not there and Poppy was. It was his funeral, dude.

Poppy Bush

The MSM tends to the hagiographic when a former president dies. They were even relatively charitable when Tricky Dick went straight to hell without passing go. In the case of Poppy Bush, the people who covered him liked him as person, which makes it easier to gloss over his political flaws and vices. This was my initial reaction upon hearing that he’d died:

In its rush to paint Bush as a “kinder gentler” president, the MSM has focused on his thank you notes instead of his record.  As president, Poppy Bush was determined to disprove this Newsweek cover:

That was when Newsweek was owned by the Grahams and what it said mattered. Bush was a genuine war hero who should have been secure in his masculinity, but instead was overly fond of military solutions to political and diplomatic problems. His former boss, Ronald Reagan, spent Word War II in uniform in Hollywood, but he was more secure than his Veep so there was tougher rhetoric but fewer military deployments when he was what Gore Vidal called “the Old Television President.”

My head started spinning when I heard CBS’ Bob Schieffer claim that the “Wimp Factor” flap was caused by Poppy’s niceness and good manners. Wrong. It was caused by his obsequiousness as Reagan’s Veep. Bush was a moderate Republican who abandoned most of his previously held positions in a full embrace of Reaganism. It was Bush who dubbed Reagan’s tax cut plan “Voodoo Economics.” Bush arguably moved to Reagan’s right because the hardcore wingnuts never trusted him, so he was obliged to appease them. Appeasement is never appealing.

While we’re on the subject of Newsweek covers, Gary Trudeau did the mud bath cover that is this post’s featured image. He also did a hilarious strip wherein Poppy Bush “put his political manhood in a blind trust” for the duration of the Reagan-Bush administration:

Repeat after me: the Wimp Factor was about George HW Bush, subservient Veep. It was particularly noteworthy as he followed in office the first modern Vice President, Fritz Mondale. Mondale saw his mentor, Hubert Humphrey, humiliated by LBJ and insisted on becoming the first Veep to have any power and influence. Poppy Bush was a throwback Vice President as was his own Veep, J Danforth Quayle.  Ironically, W followed the Carter-Clinton model and gave Dick Cheney too much power. So it goes.

I gotta give Poppy Bush credit for being able to laugh at himself. He befriended Dana Carvey who was best known for his Bush impression on SNL. Carvey portrayed Bush as an amiable somewhat dim aristocrat. Carvey famously said his Bush combined Mister Rogers and John Wayne. It’s a good day in the neighborhood, Pilgrim.

Poppy even invited Carvey to do his impression at the White House:

There’s been a lot of babble on the MSM about Poppy’s decency. It’s been exaggerated BUT I’ve enjoyed it when it serves as a rebuke to the Insult Comedian. Trump has not been barred from the DC memorial service so, he’ll be there. I hope he’s not allowed to speak: eulogies are supposed to be about the dead guy, not the speaker. I don’t think Trump is capable of that. Besides, he might confuse Poppy with Jeb and say 41 is too low energy,

I still have mixed feelings about Poppy Bush’s presidency. He signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law and presided over the demise of the Soviet Union with skill and tact. His weaknesses on the domestic front emboldened the Pat Buchanans and Newt Gingrichs of the world, which gives Poppy some responsibility for the GOP becoming the Party of Me. I never voted for him and would give him a gentleman’s C as president. The worst thing about his Presidency is that it made the Bush-Cheney administration possible. I give them a lout’s F.

I wish hagiography weren’t the American way, but it’s as old as the Republic itself. See Weems, Parson. George HW Bush was neither all bad nor all good. I didn’t like his policies but, unlike the Current Occupant, he was not a raging gaping asshole whose hand I would have refused to shake. That’s about the nicest thing I can say about a Republican in 2018 except this: Poppy Bush was the best of a bad lot.

Willie McCovey, R.I.P.

Willie McCovey was one of my childhood heroes. His death at the age of 80 makes me feel old, old, old. I was too young to be gutted by the savage line drive he hit for the final out of the 1962 World Series but I’m crushed in retrospect. Charlie Brown was crushed at the time:

Willie McCovey was a tall and graceful man whose nickname was Stretch. Previous players had been called that, but it fit Willie Mac like a glove; a baseball glove.

I was a baseball nerd in my youth. I loved going to the ballpark early to watch batting practice. The main attraction was Willie McCovey. His swing was savage yet still elegant. One could almost feel the breeze stirred up by his mighty swing. Of course, that was at Candlestick Park where the wind was so ferocious that I once saw a small pitcher blown off the mound.

I was lucky enough to meet Stretch several times when he was still an active player. He was always gracious and friendly. It’s one of many reasons he belonged to San Francisco Giants fans in a way that his teammate Willie Mays never did. Mays remains the greatest all-around player I’ve ever seen but interacting with fans, especially kids, was not his forte. Willie Mac always had a smile on his face as well as the firmest handshake I’ve ever encountered. Crunch.

Stretch was one of those players who played in difficult circumstances. He played in a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s era but still hit 521 career homers, led the league in homers 3 times, and was National League MVP in 1969. If he’d played in the 1990’s, he might have hit over 700 homers and made vast sums of money, but it never bothered him. Willie McCovey’s picture was in the dictionary next to Gentle Giant.

I learned patience and fortitude growing up a Giants fan. We were always in contention but always fell a bit short. I’ll never forget then Giants owner Horace Stoneham’s 1972-1974 fire sale when he traded Mays and McCovey. He was trying to keep the lights on and the liquor flowing. His liquor: Stoneham was rumored to have traded Gaylord Perry to Cleveland for Sudden Sam McDowell to have a drinking buddy. Perry went on to win 2 Cy Young Awards and 180 more games. McDowell  won 19 more games and drank his way out of baseball by 1975.

I attended Willie McCovey’s return to Candlestick as a San Diego Padre. He got a standing ovation and we all commented how terrible he looked in the Padres shit brown uniform of that era. Mercifully, Stretch returned to the Giants for the last four years of his career. Back where he belonged.

I also attended Stretch’s final home game. Willie’s knees were giving out and word got out that he planned to retire mid-season. It was Thursday July 7, 1980. They played the Cincinnati Reds.  I hopped on the bus and saw his last home game alone. I wasn’t really alone: I had 26,133 friends with whom to cheer Willie’s every move. It was a  big crowd for a Thursday afternoon game for a mediocre Giants team destined for fifth place. The Giants won 4-3 and Stretch knocked in a run. Everything he did merited a standing ovation. I was hoarse from hollering for my favorite player. Our favorite player.

There have been ballplayers with gaudier stats but Willie McCovey was one-of-a-kind. He was a genuinely modest superstar who lived a long life and was loved by the Giants fan base. The man even has a statue and a cove named for him at the Giants’ current ballpark. He will be missed but McCovey Cove is eternal as are my memories.

The last word (image?) goes to Willie McCovey’s hall of fame plaque:

Kristallnacht In Broad Daylight

Writing for First Draft is one of my passions. It’s often my therapy. This has been one of those times. The MAGA Bomber’s failed attempt at mass assassination shook me to the core. Then, the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh left many of us questioning what it means to be an American in the Trump era.

I am proud to be an American, but I am ashamed of our current leadership’s inability to respond with an ounce of human decency or a scintilla of empathy. As far as the president* is concerned, it’s an inconvenient interruption of rally mania. As far as I’m concerned, Trump and his allies have blood on their hands, if not literally, then symbolically.

I’m not the only one questioning what it means to be an American in 2018. Veteran political journalist Howard Fineman grew up in Pittsburgh as a member of the Tree of Life community. His op-ed in Sunday’s New York Time was deeply moving:

I was taught in Squirrel Hill that we were in the one country that was an exception to the history of the human race in general and the Jews in particular. Founded on Enlightenment principles of individuality, freedom, tolerance and justice, the United States was the only place besides Israel where Jews could live at one with their nation, unburdened by fear or confusion about identity.

Now I must wonder: If Pittsburgh isn’t safe for Jews, if Squirrel Hill isn’t safe, if the Tree of Life isn’t safe, what place is? Without diminishing anyone else’s suffering and death, it’s a sad fact that the Jews often are the canaries in the coal mine of social and political collapse. So, what does the bloodshed in the Tree of Life mean?

It is a sign that hatred of The Other is poisoning our public life. It’s always been a vivid strain in America, stimulated by the stress of immigrant waves, but one we have overcome time and again. Although we often honor it in the breach, our founding idea remains: that each person here is precious and born with unalienable rights. Now, political enemies in America deny each other’s humanity.

It is a sign that communications can foster something less than understanding. Social media allows us to be connected but also caricatured as propaganda in campaigns of dehumanizing division.

It is a sign that President Trump’s remorselessly cynical, jungle-style vision of how to conduct business and politics is ripping apart a society already under the stress of generational, demographic, technological, economic and social change.

Once again, Donald Trump read a prepared statement in a flat, emotionless voice to signal the more mindless members of his personality cult that he didn’t really mean it. Then it was back to throwing raw meat at crowds of ravenous MAGA Maggots. He had the chutzpah to lecture the grief-stricken people at the Tree of Life Synagogue that armed guards could have prevented the slaughter. Wrong: Three police officers were wounded by the anti-Semitic gun man whose name I refuse to say. This recitation of the NRA line in the wake of a massacre sickened me.

I felt even sicker when the list of victims was published on Sunday morning:

  • Daniel Stein, 71
  • Joyce Fienberg, 75
  • Richard Gottfried, 65
  • Rose Mallinger, 97
  • Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
  • Cecil Rosenthal, 59
  • David Rosenthal, 54
  • Bernice Simon, 84
  • Sylvan Simon, 86
  • Melvin Wax, 88
  • Irving Younger, 69

Who kills octogenarians and a 97 year-old woman? Only a monster. A monster whose worst impulses were exacerbated by a national dialogue in which George Soros is the stand-in for Jewish demons conjured up in the fever dreams of the far-right. Donald Trump uses their vile rhetoric laced with anti-Semitic code words and names: Soros, globalists. Rinse, repeat, and wash.

Defenses that Trump cannot be anti-Semitic are out there already. His son-in-law is a Jew, his daughter a convert, and his grandchildren are Jewish. All true but there’s a difference between personal and political bigotry. His kinfolks are the good ones, a credit to their faith. Soros is a bad hombre who is flooding the country with brown Central Americans. Ergo Trump cannot be anti-Semitic according to his defenders. This is, of course, nonsense. Demagogues do not need to believe in their rhetoric to inflict damage. Is it better that Hitler believed in his rhetoric as opposed to Trump’s cynical exploitation of ancient hatreds? I think not.

What happened Saturday morning at Squirrel Hill was an American Kristallnacht in broad daylight. It inspired the students at a nearby high school-Howard Fineman’s alma mater-to hold a candlelight vigil at which the chant was for not for vengeance, but for people to vote.

These are terrible times for our country but it’s time to fight back in the way that Americans traditionally have: by voting the rascals out. There has never been a midterm election as important as this one. Vote like your life depends on it. The future of the Republic certainly does: 8 days until the midterms. Tick tock, motherfuckers.

The events of last week have not only broken the social contract, they have smashed it to smithereens. I never, ever thought I’d compare something that happened in the United States of America to Kristallnacht but it’s inescapable in 2018. Godwin’s law is dead, long live Godwin’s law.

These ugly times call for some beauty. That’s why the last word goes to Paul Simon. The final stanza of American Tune gets me every time:

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest