Legally Bombed on the Poop Train

In the sixties cult classic, The King of Hearts, a Scottish soldier played by the late Alan Bates is dispatched by his commander to a small French village to diffuse bombs left behind by Nazis.  Once there, he tries to convince the townspeople of their imminent peril but they could give a rat’s ass.  Instead they insist on dressing in costumes and holding a carnival in the streets. 

At some point he realizes that he’s actually dealing with the patients of the local insane asylum. The other villagers fled to safety before his arrival, leaving the crazies behind.

Last Friday, aside from the usual “Trump fumes in tweet threat,” this was the headline in our local paper that first caught my eye: “Legally Bombed.”  It referred to the annual 4/20 Fest happening in Golden Gate Park.  This festival has been going on for years but this was the first time it was officially legal.  Yes, finally Gram and Gramps can smoke their weed in peace and we don’t have to worry about posting bail.

  

Then my eyes fell on this gem: “S.F. toilet monitor becomes a hero.” In San Francisco, public toilets or “pit stops” are so notorious for drug overdoses that they must be monitored by an actual human being.  So if you’re in SF and decide to use a pit stop, be aware that someone is counting how long it takes you to pee. I’m not sure what the accepted norm is, but don’t dawdle. Despite my snarkiness, this was actually a sweet story about an ex-con who saved the lives of two alleged junkies and was honored by the city.  No ticker tape parade but a commendation and a new uniform.

The next scratch-your-head-till-it-bleeds headline came from the great state of Alabama where they just executed an 83 year old man for the mail-bomb slaying of a federal judge back in 1989.  If they’d had him in prison for so long, why wait until he’s got one foot in the grave anyway? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. The last sentence of the article was the kicker:  He did not respond when an official asked if he had any last words.  Indeed.

But, boys and girls, I’ve saved the most bizarre news item for last. In addition to executing 83 year olds, Alabama is the final resting place for New York City’s poop. The residents of tiny Parrish found this out the hard way when one of the “poop trains” used to transport the shit sat on tracks outside their town for two months.Ten million pounds of poop left sitting in Alabama’s humid climate. It must have smelt heavenly. There is a plus to poop, of course. Shit processing provides jobs which the state desperately needs. But, who did the residents of Parrish blame the stench on? Lax environmental laws? The fact that their officials had no plan to transport the shit from the trains to the landfill?  No. You got it. The elite liberals of New York.  I can’t wait till Trump finds out.  What do you think he’ll tweet?

It’s time to find that insane asylum, folks, and beg for admittance.  By the way, Happy Earth Day. May you never find a poop train in your backyard.

Adventures in a Nash Rambler

I was too young to drive when I marched for the first time. I was also too young to understand the complexities of the so-called “conflict in Vietnam.” I only knew we were sending young men to die in a country on the other side of world; a country that didn’t seem to pose any real threat to the United States.  My father’s refrain (shared with most of his generation) was “when you’re asked to serve your country you just go. No questions asked.” Which seemed to be a stupid thing to do.

There were no anti-war marches planned in my hometown of Reno Nevada for two reasons. One, the good ole boys, who were proud they couldn’t even find Vietnam on a map, would have loved an excuse to commence a shootin’ party on the nerds who actually planned to graduate from high school.  And two, the city fathers would have loved  to advertise that Reno was “the place where them damn anti-war protestors got what was coming to them.”

From estuarypress.com

San Francisco, that was where it was all happening. So I hitched a ride to the City with my best friend, her father, and Dr. Mole (not his real name but what he looked like). The drive required us to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains which at any time of the year is a crap shoot (just ask the Donner Party) and sure enough we encountered heavy snow just past the summit and could barely see the road.  Then the radio, which had been iffy since we left Truckee, suddenly sparked to life.

The song that brought the radio to life was “If You’re Going to San Francisco.” I saw this miraculous coincidence as a validation that my deception had the cosmic seal of approval. You see, my parents thought I was going to a book fair with a friend who was an A+ student, her father who was a noted Chaucer scholar, and the dean emeritus of the philosophy department. Had my father known that I’d lied and I was on my way to an anti-war march with two socialist-leaning democrats, he would have had me locked up. 

After dropping Dr. Mole off at a shabby Victorian belonging to his elderly mother, the Chaucer scholar, A+ student and I checked into a motel near the UC Berkeley. It was one of those motels on University that generally rented rooms on an hourly basis which only sharpened the perceived danger of our escapade.  

In the morning we wandered around the campus where other anti-war rallies were being held and then met Dr. Mole at Moe’s Books on Telegraph. Moe’s is the sort of place that caters to obscure classics and rare out of print books. In other words, nirvana for any academic so soon both men were lost in the dusty back shelves. We had to constantly remind them about the march.

View from the water

If you’ve never been to San Francisco, there are only two ways to really appreciate the skyline for the first time; either by crossing the Bay Bridge or taking the ferry from Larkspur to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Some people may argue for the Golden Gate approach and I wouldn’t say they’re wrong but you don’t really get the whole skyline and it was spectacular on that day.

The parade started in the city’s crowded financial district and meandered up to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate park.  I don’t remember anything other than marching behind a flat bed truck from which Country Joe and the Fish played acoustic guitars and led cheers but it’s not a short distance and there are steep hills along the way.  Today that walk would kill me.  I do remember poor Dr. Mole complaining mightily when we finally reached the stadium and found a seat but it didn’t take him long to revive once the speakers began describing the horrors of a totally unnecessary war.  For such a little man, he could really let it be known how he felt “No More War!”

We drove back to Reno that night; this time there was fog on the summit and ice on the road.The old Nash Rambler’s electrical system shorted out somewhere along the Truckee and we had to stop while the two men, neither or whom had any mechanical skills, tried to figure out why the lights were no longer working. But the gods spared us that night, the lights miraculously came back on, and we all lived to tell the tale. However, after my father found out about my adventure, peaceful dinners at our house were officially a thing of the past. 

As I watched the recent marches for stricter gun control, I thought about the arguments my father and I had almost nightly during those years. What a waste. I hope that’s not a scene played out in the home of any young marcher but sadly, it probably is. 

I never thought back in the sixties that I’d be marching in my actual sixties…  Just goes to show that the fates are fickle and love to play a good prank or two on our sorry selves.

From the Solemn Gloom of the Temple

From the solemn gloom of the temple
children run out to sit in the dust,
God watches them play
and forgets the priest.
– Rabindranath Tagore

On an unstable day filled with hail bursts and wind gusts and a lightening strike or two, I watched Bill Maher’s movie Religulous.  It was, in a word, horrifying.  A horrification most likely amplified by the weather. Luckily the tree which always threatened to wipe out our house in such weather is gone.  Sadly, so is neighbor who refused to chop it down. But I didn’t do it.  Honest.  His was a natural death.

Bill Maher is a comedian with a nighttime talkshow which is, like all talkshows these days, highly politicized. He’s also famous for being an outspoken atheist and pot smoker.  Religulous (an anagram of religious and ridiculous) is basically about people whose beliefs cannot be swayed by any amount of logic. I don’t know how he rounded those folks up. That must have been some casting call.  

I’ve known and worked with Muslims, Jews, Sufis, Hindus, Witches, Satanists, Atheists, Agnostics and Transpeople of all varieties.  Not to mention a plethora of Christians.  Most did not feel the need to convince me that their path was the only one.  Oh, one particular Charismatic Catholic claimed that God had a message for me through her and it wasn’t good news. But since she specialized in only channeling dire warnings from the Supreme Being about my fate in the hereafter, I didn’t pay much attention. Although when you’re a child, it’s always upsetting to be bullied by God’s Special Whisperer.

Which brings me back to, how did Bill Maher find so many people who have no doubt they are absolutely right? The Bible was written by God; Mary was a virgin, Jonas lived in a whale and Jesus never had sex.  And if you doubt any one of these “facts” you are going to hell, even if you follow the commandments to the letter.

To me, this is intolerance and bullying. Because. . . 

I hope your celebration of spring is full of love and completely devoid of any discussion of hell.

Why we need Sheriff Taylor

The other day I watched an episode of The Andy Griffith Show while having tea. That show, for those of you who’ve never seen it, is unapologetically set in Trump country. That is, if Mayberry had been a real town and not a set on a backlot in Hollywood. 

Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife locks up the whole town for minor infractions of the law when Sheriff Taylor is out of town.

The townsfolk of Mayberry are not sophisticated or worldly.  Few have been far from the county line.  But they have a strong sense of pride in their small town and are hurt when outsiders call them country bumpkins. Of course the town did have its stereotypes: Otis, the town drunk,  Goober and Gomer, the village simpletons, and Floyd the barber who can’t stand electric razors.  But they are treated gently and shown to be, despite their gullibility, decent folk at heart.  It’s their lack of worldliness that causes them to leap to judgement and act accordingly. When a stranger comes to town claiming to be something he most definitely is not, they take him at his word.  Similarly if a stranger comes to town and keeps to himself then he must be hiding a deep, dark past.  The lack of regular interaction with strangers causes them to be either too trusting or too suspicious. In either event, it’s Sheriff Taylor who has to expose the truth, but, in a way that doesn’t make anyone feel foolish or cruel.  He knows that simply telling someone they’ve been duped will make them defensive and then they won’t listen.  And then they will make up alternative facts to believe.  Does it sound familiar?  

I found it fascinating that after Don Knotts’ death the actor Billie Bob Thornton wrote:

“Don Knotts gave us the best character, the most clearly drawn, most perfect American, most perfect human ever.” 

He was referring to the character of Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy sheriff of Mayberry. Barney is a mass of contradictions – overly confident (one might say self-delusional) one moment and full of insecurities the next. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, below is the shortest clip I could find.  Barney is the one in uniform.  What do you think?  Perfect human?

Art is not Breath and Blood

From the darkest moments come the perfect moments, if we’re lucky.

tin hats

Art is born by secrets, hidden in the fold of a dress, an afterthought of silence.   When we know, but cannot soften the blow, we make art and find glory in those perfect moments. Our hands and mind become the same and are exulted of this Earth.  Yet, there is always a missing.  A hole left to fill.  A darkness upon our brow as we betray what we call life and death.

Wrapping our arms around our bodies, in complete awareness, the secret unfolds across an ocean of pain and we circle down inside ourselves.  We turn others away.  Sleep is often a release, but it is in the work, the shaping of our personal hell, that we raise the walls and lock the gates.  Sometimes it is frantic; hopeless in the way of sending Morse code as the ship sinks and heavy eyes take us down.  Other times we…

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Just pictures, a poem and a song

We’re having the stone floors in the kitchen cleaned and the sound and smells are nasty.  Grinding machines and heavy duty chemicals. The poor kitty thinks it’s the end of the world, and Joel has fled to parts unknown.  I can’t even hear myself think.

Poor kitty hiding for dear life

 

March is here, but not Spring. Some days are sunny.

Some are dreary.

 

Warm places to hang are hard to come by. 

Time for poetry.

And a song. From the amazingly talented: That Happy Family.

I have to say something, sorry

It seems necessary to speak of it, even though it is unspeakable. Not to say a word and to continue writing posts absurd and silly, to keep things light and easy, knowing that in a couple of days it will be old news, well, that’s the smart thing for a blogger to do, isn’t it?  Besides, what more could I possibly add to the gun control debate? Nothing that hasn’t been said a thousand times before.

“There’s people that eats up the whole earth and all the people in it.”

“Then there’s people that stand around and watch them do it.”

When every reasonable suggestion to curb mass shootings receives responses so idiotic that they bugger the imagination and killings just keep on, the tendency is to give up. To accept the fact that there are people in this world with no empathy. Until their child, in a fit of rage or depression, kills dozens of kindergartners with a semi-automatic weapon that they swear was locked up and they become instant pariahs in their communities. Until they’re forced to change their names and move far away. Then they’ll get it. But then it will be too late.

“We’ll own this country someday. They won’t even try to stop us.”

As I was writing this post I heard that one hundred students from Florida are on their way to the state capital to try to talk to the legislators. Instead of thoughts and prayers, let’s send them something they really need: COURAGE, STRENGTH and LOVE.

The images in this blog are from the movie Little Foxes,  based on the play by Lillian Hellman.