Thursday, June 30, 2011

seriously addicted

-----------It was a very weird trip; [excerpt, Hunter Thompson]...Actually, the reason was...I was the only one in the press corps that evening who claimed to be as seriously addicted to pro football as Nixon himself. I was also the only out-front, openly hostile Peace Freak; the only one wearing old Levis and a ski jacket, the only one (no, there was one other) who'd smoked grass on Nixon's big Greyhound press bus, and certainly the only one who habitually referred to the candidate as "the Dingbat."

So I still had to credit the bastard for having the balls to choose me -- out of the fifteen or twenty straight / heavy press types who'd been pleading for two or three weeks for even a five-minute interview -- as the one who should share the back seat with him on this Final Ride through New Hampshire.

But there was, of course, a catch. I had to agree to talk about nothing except football. "We want the Boss to relax," Ray Price told me, "but he can't relax if you start yelling about Vietnam, race riots or drugs. He wants to ride with somebody who can talk football." He cast a baleful eye at the dozen or so reporters waiting to board the press bus, then shook his head sadly. "I checked around," he said. "But the others are hopeless -- so I guess you're it."

"Wonderful," I said. "Let's do it."

We had a fine time. I enjoyed it -- which put me a bit off balance, because I'd figured Nixon didn't know any more about football than he did about ending the war in Vietnam. He had made a lot of allusions to things like "end runs" and "power sweeps" on the stump but it never occurred to me that he actually knew anything more about football than he knew about the Grateful Dead.

But I was wrong. Whatever else might be said about Nixon -- and there is still serious doubt in my mind that he could pass for Human -- he is a goddamn stone fanatic on every facet of pro football.
--------------------- [end excerpt]
{Fear And Loathing: On The Campaign Trail '72,
by Hunter S. Thompson. Copyright, 1973.
Warner Books Inc., New York, N.Y.}

Yesterday when I was posting here, I was "swimming" (mmmmh) in another passage from this book and "George Romney" is mentioned: Google answered the question in my mind -- any relation to the current Romney in politics -- "Mit" ... "Mitt"?? Yes. George was Mitt's father.
(They're Mormons.)
Listen to this, from "Wikipedia" [quote]:
[George] Romney entered politics by participating in a state constitutional convention to rewrite the Michigan Constitution during 1961 - 1962. He was elected Governor of Michigan in 1962 and was re-elected by increasingly large margins in 1964 and 1966. Romney worked to overhaul the state's financial and revenue structure, culminating in Michigan's first state income tax, and greatly expanded the size of state government.

Romney was a strong supporter of the American Civil Rights Movement while governor. He briefly represented moderate Republicans against conservative Republican Barry Goldwater during the 1964 U.S. presidential election.

... Once elected president, Nixon appointed Romney Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Romney's ambitious plans for housing production increases for the poor, and for open housing to desegregate suburbs, were modestly successful but often thwarted by Nixon. Romney left the administration at the start of Nixon's second term in 1973. Returning to private life, Romney advocated volunteerism and public service....
[end Wiki quote]
Interesting resumé. Takes most of the "scary" off him, from the Mormon thing.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

talking football

[Hunter Thompson excerpt]----------------Four years ago I ran this road in a different Mercury, but I wasn't driving then. It was a big yellow sedan with a civvy-clothes cop at the wheel. Sitting next to the cop, up front, were two of Nixon's top speechwriters: Ray Price and Pat Buchannan.

There were only two of us in back: just me and Richard Nixon, and we were talking football in a very serious way. It was late -- almost midnight then, too -- and the cop was holding the big Merc at exactly sixty-five as we hissed along the highway for more than an hour between some American Legion hall in a small town somewhere near Nashua where Nixon had just made a speech, to the airport up in Manchester where a Lear Jet was waiting to whisk the candidate and his brain-trust off to Key Biscayne for a Think Session.

It was a very weird trip....
At one point in our conversation, when I was feeling a bit pressed for leverage, I mentioned a down & out pass -- in the waning moments of the 1967 Super Bowl mismatch between Green Bay and Oakland -- to an obscure, second-string Oakland receiver named Bill Miller that had stuck in my mind because of its pin-point style & precision.

He hesitated for a moment, lost in thought, then he whacked me on the thigh & laughed: "That's right, by God! The Miami boy!"

I was stunned. He not only remembered the play, but he knew where Miller had played in college.

{space in the text}
That was four years ago. LBJ was Our President and there was no real hint, in the winter of '68, that he was about to cash his check. Johnson seemed every bit as tough and invulnerable then as Nixon seems today . . . and it is slightly unnerving to recall that Richard Nixon, at this point in his campaign, appeared to have about as much chance of getting himself elected to the White House as Hubert Humphrey appears to have now, in February of '72.

When Nixon went into New Hampshire, he was viewed by the pros as just another of these stubborn, right-wing waterheads with nothing better to do. The polls showed him comfortably ahead of George Romney, but according to most of the big-time press wizards who were hanging around Manchester at the time, the Nixon-Romney race was only a drill that would end just as soon as Nelson Rockefeller came in to mop up both of them. The bar at the Wayfarer Motor Inn was a sort of unofficial press headquarters, where the press people hovered in nervous anticipation of the Rockefeller announcement that was said to be coming "at any moment."

So I was not entirely overcome at the invitation to spend an hour alone with Richard Nixon. He was, after all, a Born Loser -- even if he somehow managed to get the Republican nomination I figured he didn't have a sick goat's chance of beating Lyndon Johnson.

I was as guilty as all the others, that year, of treating the McCarthy campaign as a foredoomed exercise in noble futility. We had talked about it a lot -- not only in the Wayfarer bar, but also in the bar of the Holiday Inn where Nixon was staying -- and the press consensus was that the only Republican with a chance to beat Johnson was Nelson Rockefeller . . . and the only other possible winner was Bobby Kennedy, who had already made it clear -- both publicly and privately -- that he would definitely not run for President in 1968.

{space in the text}
I was remembering all this as I cranked the big green Cougar along U.S. 93 once again, four years later, to cover another one of these flakey New Hampshire primaries.
----------------------- [end excerpt].
[Fear And Loathing: On The Campaign Trail '72,
by Hunter S. Thompson. Copyright, 1973.
Warner Books, New York, N.Y.]


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

this kind of thing before

Bob Dylan's song, "Highway 61 Revisited" begins with this verse:

Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son,"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No", Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where you want this killin'
God says, "Out on Highway 61."

My favorite two verses of the song:

Well Mack the finger said to Louie the King
I got forty red white and blue shoe strings
And a thousand telephones that don't ring
Do you know where I can get rid of these things
And Louie the King said let me think for a minute,
And he said yes I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61.

{verse in between}, then --

Now the rovin' gambler he was very bored
Tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61.

["Highway 61 Revisited," from the album / same
title, Bob Dylan. August, 1965. Columbia
I did not hear this music when it came out. I was too young. I first heard this album early in my freshman year at B.U. A friend had it. (It was, like, "old" music -- from "back in the 60s" ...) The first time I heard it, I felt an impact -- as if I recognized the music -- except that I'd never heard it before. It was an unusual experience; you couldn't compare it to anything. It was strange and new (to me), and yet familiar.

The line, "He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before" really stood out, to me.

When I hear that line, and that part of the song, it makes me think of Vietnam, and Watergate. But when Dylan wrote the song, Watergate hadn't happened yet.

"He said, I never engaged in this kind of thing before
but yes I think it could be very easily done ..."


Monday, June 27, 2011

never engaged in this kind of thing

[excerpt]------------- "Essentially, the proposal was that there was to be a crew of people whose job it would be to disrupt the Democratic campaign during the primaries. This guy told Shipley there was virtually unlimited money available."

The caller didn't know the name of the man who had approached Shipley. "This guy was a lawyer. The idea was to travel around, there would be some going to towns and waiting for things to happen. For instance, some guy would be waiting to see if the Democratic candidates were renting a hall to have a rally. Then his job would be to call up the owner of the hall and say the event had been rescheduled, to fuck up the logistics."

The next day, Bernstein showed Howard Simons his notes and said he was convinced the information -- admittedly very sketchy -- was important. By itself, the Watergate bugging made little sense, particularly since it had occurred when the Nixon campaign was at its strongest. But if it had been part of something much broader, it might make some sense, Bernstein said. And there was evidence of a broader scheme, though the information was disparate. Among the things they were aware of had been the attempt to bug McGovern headquarters; Hunt's investigation of Teddy Kennedy; an investigation by McCord of Jack Anderson; the effort by Baldwin to infiltrate the Vietnam Veterans Against the War; Hunt's investigations of leaks to the news media; and McCord's rental of an office next to Muskie's campaign headquarters. Perhaps the White House had been in the political intelligence business in a much bigger way and for much longer than most people figured. Watergate could have been scheduled before the President's re-election chances looked so good and perhaps someone had neglected to pull the plug.
----------[end excerpt]
{All The President's Men, by Carl Bernstein and Bob
Woodward. Copyright, 1974. Simon & Schuster
Paperbacks, New York, New York.}

Friday, June 24, 2011

a powerful aversion

[excerpt // Hunter Thompson]
---------------------------------- Dawn is coming up in San Francisco now: 6:09 A.M. I can hear the rumble of early morning buses under my window at the Seal Rock Inn...out here at the far end of Geary Street: this is the end of the line, for buses and everything else, the western edge of America. From my desk I can see the dark jagged hump of "Seal Rock" looming out of the ocean in the grey morning light. About two hundred seals have been barking out there most of the night. Staying in this place with the windows open is like living next to a dog pound. Last night we had a huge paranoid poodle up here in the room, and the dumb bastard went totally out of control when the seals started barking -- racing around the room like a chicken hearing a pack of wolves outside the window, howling & whining, leaping up on the bed & scattering my book-galley pages all over the floor, knocking the phone off the hook, upsetting the gin bottles, trashing my carefully organized stacks of campaign to the right of this typewriter, on the floor between the beds, I can see an 8x10 print of Frank Mankiewicz yelling into a telephone at the Democratic Convention in Miami; but that one will never be used, because the goddamn hound put five big claw-holes in the middle of Frank's chest.

That dog will not enter this room again. He came in with the book-editor, who went away about six hours ago with thirteen finished chapters -- the bloody product of fifty-five consecutive hours of sleepless, foodless, high-speed editing. But there was no other way to get the thing done. I am not an easy person to work with, in terms of deadlines. When I arrived in San Francisco to put this book together, they had a work-hole set up for me downtown at the Rolling Stone office...but I have a powerful aversion to working in offices, and when I didn't show up for three or four days they decided to do the only logical thing: move the office out here to the Seal Rock Inn.

One afternoon about three days ago they showed up at my door, with no warning, and loaded about forty pounds of supplies into the room: two cases of Mexican beer, four quarts of gin, a dozen grapefruits, and enough speed to alter the outcome of six Super Bowls. There was also a big Selectric typewriter, two reams of paper, a face-cord of oak firewood and three tape recorders -- in case the situation got so desperate that I might finally have to resort to verbal composition.

...There is a comfortable kind of consistency in this kind of finish, because that's the way all the rest of the book was written. From December '71 to January '73 -- in airport bars, all-nite coffee shops and dreary hotel rooms all over the country -- there is hardly a paragraph in this jangled saga that wasn't produced in a last-minute, teeth-grinding frenzy. There was never enough time. Every deadline was a crisis. ...

Any $100-an-hour psychiatrist could probably explain this problem to me, in thirteen or fourteen sessions, but I don't have time for that.

--------------- [end excerpt.
Fear And Loathing: On The Campaign Trail '72,
by Hunter S. Thompson. Copyright 1973. /
Warner Books, Inc. New York, N.Y.]

The above is part of "Author's Note," the Introduction to Loathing / 72. Before the "Contents" page, there's a sheet that's all blank except for a quote:
"Between the Idea and the Reality....Falls the Shadow."
T.S. Eliot


Thursday, June 23, 2011

center of our story

Last night's Pres. speech -- liked the last part:

"This officer...spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one -- depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.

That's a lesson worth remembering -- that we are all a part of one American family. Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish. Now, let us finish the work at hand.

Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story. With confidence in our cause; with faith in our fellow citizens; and with hope in in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America -- for this generation, and the next.

May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America."


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I tell ya we're rollin'

A headline I read on the internet today (from a 2007 blog post) said,
"The Biggest Problem The World is Facing in the 21st Century

It's not terrorism. It's not environmental disaster.

It's Greed. Everything else is symptoms."

Sometimes I think something's up with the weather. It's different.
Monday night I left work at 10pm: ongoing pouring hammering rain, backgrounded with several kinds of lightning (the broad, light-up-the-night-sky kind, and the jagged streaking bolt kind, aiming toward planet earth as though looking to strike perpetrators of evil, or at least jolt 'em awake, and some other variations...)

The parking lot I had to cross to get to my car was a-slosh in water. Wonderful, now I'm a magnet for the lightning -- ran / slogged to car: usually I open either door to back seat or trunk, and carefully place lunch-box and paper-case inside, before opening front door and sliding into driver's seat with my purse in hand -- Monday night, instead of that, I CLICKED the door unlocked from key-ring, pulled driver's door open, and THREW my stuff -- and myself -- into front seat, BAM! - closed the door.

Drive home.

It was extra-dark because of cloudiness and thick sheets of pounding rain, reducing visibility. Every little bit -- minute -- seconds -- the entire sky would light up, as if the impostor Wizard of Oz were frantically pulling strings and pressing buttons to impress his public. I'm driving along, thinking,
"Too dark." Then
too dark
too dark

Told self, "I am not afraid of a thunderstorm." Thought of Tina Turner, because she is a figure of exquisite courage, to me.

Once I got home, I put on gym clothes and exercised for a little while, in my living room, in the interest of being as slim as possible, and strong / healthy / alive-not-dead-whatever.
Played songs from Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" CD (the soundtrack to the film-biography of her life) --
"I Don't Wanna Fight"
(There's a pale moon in the sky, the kind you make your wishes on,
Like the light in your eyes, the one I built my dreams upon
"Disco Inferno"
(...Folks screaming, out of control,
It was so entertaining when the boogie started to explode
I heard somebody say -- Burn baby burn Disco Inferno.
"Nutbush City Limits"
(...little old town in Tennessee
Quiet, little old community --
A one-horse town --
Gotta watch what you're puttin' down
"A Fool In Love"
(...You know you love him, you can't understand
Why he treats you like he do when he's such a good man...)

and "Proud Mary"
(Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis, pumped a lot of tane down in New Orleans.
But I never saw the good side of the city
Until I hitched a ride on the riverboat queen ...)


Tuesday, June 21, 2011


"No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices."

--Edward R. Murrow


Monday, June 20, 2011

(don't) make a list

When I posted here this past Friday I had idea in my mind: will read Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, beginning to end, in the coming weekend.

That didn't happen.
That's OK.
I can read that anytime I want to,
and I can do anything I want to on my weekend.

But I wondered -- why did I think I was gonna get that whole thing read?
3 reasons.
1. It's very interesting -- to me, "right up my alley" with the political campaign, mid-twentieth-century "history" / events, and Bob Dylan-esque (or Dylan-influenced) writing style -- like thunder rolling across a prairie -- it gets your attention.

2. Because was going to have three and a half day weekend, not coming to work until Tuesday evening, so pictured having all this Time, but then that changed -- guy didn't want time off following weekend after all, so my schedule stayed same, so -- Regular-sized weekend, no extra. And

3. Because a few weeks ago I read On The Road by Jack Kerouac in a weekend. So -- was thinking of myself as Person Who Reads A Whole Book In A Weekend.

Well -- that's OK. There are different goals in life. And there isn't only one Right Way.
And -- perhaps most important to note -- that weekend when I read On The Road, I had no plan to do so. No plan whatsoever. I just started in, went "Oh I see why people talk about this book," and just rolled on through. Felt right. Didn't need to sleep. (That'll do it, thanks!) But there was no PLAN to read the book in the weekend.
It just happened.

Maybe on the weekend, when we can, we need to Let things Happen instead of planning.
Now, in this past weekend I planned to read Loathing all the way through, didn't, but got a bunch of my own writing done. (Some weekends I don't write at all.)

List-making is a large part of my personality and daily functioning. And it works in many situations, and for many tasks and goals and accomplishments. Since it works well all week, it's a little hard to just abandon it on Friday afternoon. But that's what I need to do -- force myself to Not Make A List or "set a goal" for the weekend. Then the subconscious can direct me to do what's important (and enjoyable) on a deeper level.

Am putting that on list.
(Wait! No! Aaauuggghh!)


Friday, June 17, 2011

high brain rooms

"Obscene, horrid, repellent...driving, urgent, candid, searing...a fascinating, compelling book!"
is what the New York Post said about
Fear And Loathing: On The Campaign Trail '72, by Hunter S. Thompson.
Kurt Vonegut, Jr. said, "Hunter Thompson is the most creatively crazy and vulnerable of the New Journalists."

The New York Times: "Gaze in awe...Hunter Thompson does in his own mad way betray a profound democratic concern for the polity. And in its own mad way, it's damned refreshing."
------------------ {excerpt, from Thompson / Loathing}
In other words, the weight of the evidence filtering down from the high brain-rooms of both the New York Times and the Washington Post seems to say we're all fucked. Muskie is a bonehead who steals his best lines from old Nixon speeches. McGovern is doomed because everybody who knows him has so much respect for the man that they can't bring themselves to degrade the poor bastard by making him run for President...John Lindsay is a dunce, Gene McCarthy is crazy, Humphrey is doomed and useless, Jackson should have stayed in bed... {January 1971}

{excerpt - Loathing, May 1971} ------------- The only way to talk to [Ted] Kennedy these days is to spend a lot of time on the Washington cocktail circuit, which is not my beat -- but the society columnists and Gentlemen Journalists who do most of their work in that area are now convinced that Kennedy is ready to crank his weight behind McGovern any time the Senator asks for it.

The only reporter in WAshington who appears to believe that Teddy is marshalling his forces for a last-minute blitz for his own candidacy in '72 is Kandy Stroud of Women's Wear Daily. She says he is sneaking around the country on weekends, lashing together a very ominous coalition. She broke the story in WWD on April 25th, the same day George McGovern swept all 102 delegates in the Massachusetts primary.

"Quietly," she wrote, "as if it were being pulled by cats, the Kennedy bandwagon has begun rolling...."---------------------------
{excerpt, Jackie Style, by Pamela Clarke Keogh. Copyright 2001. Harper Collins, New York.]----------------
Robert Love, managing editor of Rolling Stone, [remembers] working with Jackie [Kennedy Onassis] on a collection of essays entitled Rolling Stone: 25 Years of Journalism on the Edge. They were first brought together by Jann Wenner, founding editor and editor in chief of Rolling Stone, and a longtime friend of Jackie's. One day, he told Bob he had a surprise for him -- they were going to have lunch with Jackie and the publisher of Doubleday at '21' to discuss book ideas. "So I wore my best Armani suit -- and I walked in and Jann said, 'Jackie, this is Bob Love, he's Hunter Thompson's editor.' And Jackie looked at me and said in that whispery voice, 'You don't look like Hunter's editor.' It was pretty funny."
------------ {end excerpt}
I remembered that my cousin Rick in Ohio met Hunter Thompson once, in California, in the 60s or 70s, at a newspaper, or journalism school, or something. With long weekend coming up, will read Fear - Loathing, then write to Rick and ask him to describe the event. Or -- moment.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

fear, loathing, love

Two interesting blogs I've discovered:

Achtenblog, by Mark Achtenberg


New York Gritty (Watching out for real New Yorkers), by Mike Vogel.

[I am not a New Yorker; and some days, not sure if am "real" but -- I like that guy's writing.]
Last weekend, began (only a couple of pages) reading
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72,
by Hunter Thompson.
Have had it for years, & had not read yet.
A real person I knew in the 90s, working in politics, is actually IN that book, quoted with something he said (which he might not have been eager to have memorialized for All Time in a book - ! - lol) but it's OK.
Love my lobbyist associate; love Hunter Thompson's book; ... it's all good.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

rain falling on my shoes

On June 14 post, was writing about Ira, truck cat -- and I knew I made an error -- I said his leash was attached to a collar -- that wasn't right, the Cat had a harness on, actually, which looked comfortable provided cat doesn't HATE it, which Ira didn't. It was his mode of travel (on foot -- paw) when not in truck.

Put me in mind of this lyric:

And I was standing on the side of the road
Rain falling on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I've paid some dues
getting through
Tangled up in blue.
{"Tangled Up In Blue." Blood on the
album. Columbia Records.
1974. Bob Dylan.}


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

morning I met Ira

Four years ago, as I began a part-time job, a truck arrived, 5:30am; since it was summer, it was bright and light already, at 5:30am -- truck pulls up, the driver had long hair, and a hat.
And a cat.

When I showed interest in the cat ("You have a KITTY!!") the driver told me how the cat found him:
the driver had stopped at a rest area in the state of Iowa, approximately two and a half years before, in October or November, "two weeks after I quit smoking," he said. He noticed the cat, at the far corner of the building. The cat was looking directly at him, and meowing loudly.

The driver walked away, trying to ignore it, but the cat followed him; after a little time, when the cat didn't seem to belong with anyone around there, the driver gave the cat some water to drink, then lifted him into the truck cab. He told me, when he started the motor and the cat didn't freak out, "I decided he must have been somebody's truck cat that somehow got lost from his owner."

The driver took the cat to a vet, to check his health, got cat food and a litter box, and Cat and Man had been driving together for the last two and a half years. He had named the cat Ira.

Ira was on a collar and leash, and seemed comfortable that way. It was one of those leashes that can get longer, or get shorter, if the person needs to protect the pet from something. (The driver told me about a time in Texas when he was walking with Ira, letting him explore in the grass, at night, and he noticed a big owl over on a fence, watching Ira speculatively: the driver described how he picked Ira up, (calmly, so as not to frighten Ira, but quickly, while thinking to the owl, "Oh no you don't...!")

He told me that Ira "has been to 48 states."
And I was wondering where he got a name like Ira.
("Is he, like, a Jewish cat, from New York?")
The truck driver explained: Ira. I - r - a. 'Iowa rest area.'
Because that's where he found him.
The cat found him, that is.


Monday, June 13, 2011

jazz economy

----------- In their optimism...[they] were taking their cue from no less than the country's leader. "Ours is a land filled with millions of happy homes blessed with comfort and opportunity," declared President Herbert Clark Hoover in his inaugural address to the American people on March 4, 1929. "I have no fears for the future. It is bright with hope!"

But on that sunny, cold day in Washington, the gleam was mostly in the skies and on the faces of victorious Republicans taking office with the new chief executive, who had solidly defeated his opponent, the Democratic governor of New York, Alfred E. Smith. On the dubious premise that Jazz Age prosperity would continue forever, Hoover had successfully mobilized the support of tycoons and moguls.

The facts of life for ordinary people belied any national euphoria, however. Throughout the 1920s, a greater and greater share of income went to an ever smaller number of extremely wealthy citizens... . But while businesses prospered as never before, workers received salaries less and less proportionate to what they produced for the rich. From 1923 to 1929, for example, productivity per person-hour grew by 32 percent while workers' pay increased by only 8 percent. To make matters worse, the Revenue Act of 1926 decreased by almost 70 percent the taxes of those making a million dollars or more. Corporate profits rose 65 percent in the same period, with the result that the rich became opulently so, and the poor came perilously close to penury: each of the top .1 percent of American families took in salaries equal to that of the entire bottom 42 percent.

The causes of the incongruity are, in retrospect, easy to identify. After the treaties ending the war in 1919, a kind of myopic, jingoistic individualism gripped the country during the Roaring Twenties. International and social concerns were not much emphasized by politicians or pundits, while new wealth, new fun, new fashions and a new impudence seemed to many the most desirable goals. Modern manufacturing techniques produced enormous quantities of goods, and an unprecedented array of new radios, automobiles and household appliances appeared in stores everywhere.

But demand had to keep pace with supply, and fresh, powerful and sometimes intimidating strategies for marketing and promotion were devised by the newly authoritative advertising industry. "The key to economic prosperity is the organized creation of dissatisfaction." Such was the shameless assertion of a General Motors executive in 1929 as he summed up the spirit of the decade. With alarming rapidity, ordinary people had been persuaded that they actually needed more and more possessions, greater and greater luxuries. That the exhortations were effective was because of another contrivance: credit, which is only a euphemism for debt. "Buy now, pay later" was the last push against the backs of those who had already been convinced by advertising that (a) all their needs could be met; (b) all their needs could be met by material goods; and (c) all their needs could be met by material goods immediately. "Why wait? Be the first one in your neighborhood to own..."

But even as the General Motors officer sniffed and perhaps lit a dollar cigar, his employees were accumulating so much debt that they could no longer continue to buy every attractive new item that appeared in the shop windows and in the mail-order catalogs; much less could they contemplate a new automobile.

By late winter 1929, the average gross pay for a white-collar worker in New York City was ...not much more than it had been a decade earlier.... Credit was stretched to the limit, and comparatively few people had notable savings. A day of disaster was imminent for the nation -- beginning with the fat, sleek corporations that counted on purchases [by] ordinary men and women. While Hoover concluded his inaugural speech to wild applause that March, company stocks everywhere were gradually but continually declining.
--------------------------- {end excerpt.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life,
by Donald Spoto. Copyright 2000. St.
Martin's Press.}


Friday, June 10, 2011

kiss kiss, bang bang

This morning I woke up thinking about three things -- or rather, three people:
Shakespeare, Nixon, and a friend I knew in college.

In my June 9th blog post I mentioned the time I was in an armed robbery in Boston -- (I've only been in one of those in my whole life -- that's plenty, thank you - !) -- and along with that I remembered a phone conversation I had that same day, with my friend L whom I'd known since the first day, freshman year, in the "dorm." When I described the guy with the gun going, "Where-za percodan, man, where-za percodan??!" L responded, in a tone both blasé and surprised, "They robbed a store for percodan?"

She was a person who actually took drugs, sometimes, so she had another slant on the incident. Apparently unimpressed with the recreational possibilities of Percodan....

One of the policemen who arrived after the incident was over and took the report said there had been raids and confiscations of -- real drugs -- the illegal ones, whatever, so there was a "shortage on the street" and that was probably the reason behind a rash of drug store robberies.

I was thinking about Shakespeare because of Congressman Weiner. With the media batting "sex-scandal" talk around like energetic felines with a new catnip-toy (whack-a, whack-a, race-chase-pounce!) it made me think about how media and advertisers use "Sex" to get our (the public's) Attention, all the time.

It's like the movies, and television -- sex and violence, sex and violence, sex and violence, and now & then, for a change, violence and sex.
Shakespeare said, "The audience takes irresponsible delight in vigorous events."
That's why they use the "vigorous events" to get our attention.
"Kiss kiss bang bang" was the title of a book of Pauline Kael's collected movie reviews.
(In her note on the title which begins the book, Kael asserts that these words are "perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of movies. This appeal is what attracts us, and ultimately what makes us despair when we begin to understand how seldom movies are more than this." The title itself is a reference to the character of James Bond, who was often referred to as "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" in international markets.) ------------ [excerpt from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
And last but not least, Richard Nixon, president from 1969 to 1973, and vice president during Dwight Eisenhower's administration in the 50s: the reason I started thinking about him was also rooted in this week's sex-photo-congressman-hysteria -- because my first awareness in my life, of taping people's private conversations and then how weird they can sound if other people listen to them, occurred when I was still a child and Congress started asking for then-President Nixon's tapes. And it was in the news all the time. (I didn't even watch the news, or read papers, I don't think -- it just seeped out and into your consciousness...).

When investigators in the Watergate case started listening to Pres. Nixon's tapes, and transcripts of some of the conversations became public, there would be this phrase "(expletive deleted)" to fill in where somebody had said a curse word or obscenity.
Late night TV comedians had a field day for a while with "expletive deleted" -- and the thing is, when you, as the listener, or reader, who was not present in the conversation when it took place, when you experience all that "expletive deleted" second-hand, like that, it seems worse than it probably was, for some reason.

It was like -- you ended up having the impression that all those high-level people in the White House simply -- sat around swearin' all the time - !
And if you think about it, you know that wasn't the case. But the colorful (or offensive) language is what jumps out at you, and it's what stays in your mind.
And it's because, I suppose, of the magnetism for us, as humans, of the
kiss kiss bang bang.
That's what grabs our attention.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

if we don't get some shelter

These two experiences occurred in my life, and after the second one, I connected them in my mind & thinking and wondering about them made me think about what it means about the society we live in.

I don’t think anything that scares me or inconveniences me is necessarily indicative of some Important Societal Impact; however, on the other hand, I also don’t think there is anything special about me that would cause certain kinds of incidents to appear in my life experience, and I don’t think there’s anything unusual or “special” about the town or state where I live, that would cause weird stuff to happen here, but not in other places. I figure we’re no different than any other place, and if it can happen here, then there’s a trend emerging.

(I was trying to write about this last week, and I couldn’t get into it. Often I purposely, or reflexively, forget negative things, to concentrate on the positive.)

I instituted the habit (policy) of locking my car door behind me, the minute I get in, to drive someplace, in – approx. spring of 2006. Before that, I never locked that door, just driving around town. I would just get in and drive. But one day I left a building, and as I was setting some things on the hood of my car, getting out my keys, unlocking the door, and organizing myself as far as where I wanted to put things, a man who worked there, exited the door and headed toward his vehicle.

He looked (glared) at me, and made a big show of walking very fast and hard, to show me that he was angry. That was something he did, sometimes. (Is it possible that it’s a form of “Dance”? – ‘walking angry’? I don’t know.) One other day, in that same small parking area, he had flipped me the finger. This guy was pushing 60, and I wondered why he didn’t behave in a more civilized fashion, and I wondered why his boss didn’t ask him to knock it off.

Like – “Take all of the time and mental energy you’re currently expending in trying to pick fights with your co-workers, and funnel it into your sales work, & customer service. You’re on commission, for Christ’s sake! You can’t afford to waste time like that!”

However, that didn’t happen. I think, the day he gave me “the finger” I just thought, “What an idiot.” But that other day when he did the walking-very-angry Dance-Walk thing, it was a little creepy – scary – because that behavior was escalating, and I was intimidated by it, and was, in turn, impatient with myself for being intimidated.

That’s the day I pressed the little square on the inside of my driver’s side door, and listened to the mechanism “pop” the lock into place. I knew that my other three doors were locked, and as I drove away, I thought to myself, “Well that’s one simple thing I can do to make myself feel a little safer. Not that I imagine this doofus is actually going to charge over to my car and try to harm me physically, but I do feel scared – maybe I am a ‘woos’ (sp?) – anyway, so what, I’ll just lock my car door, every time I get in. I can make that a habit!” I said, encouragingly to myself, in my mind. “I can do that every time I get in the car, even at home in the garage, just automatically lock that darn door, & at least I’ve done something to let myself feel a little safer – a little less vulnerable to unreasonable attitudes and angry behavior coming from – whomever.

Hey,” I went on, getting warmed up, “it’s an easy thing to do, it doesn’t cost me any money – I’m doing it! I vote yes, majority rules (I rule!), my car-door-locking procedure is cheerfully and firmly – schnapped INTO PLACE!”

So after that, I always locked the car door after getting in.
And approximately a year after the bizarre-angry-salesman incident precipitated the Door-locking Policy, this occurred: I arrived home with two grocery bags, one with perishable items in it. I wanted to hurry and put away only what had to be put away – the freezer and refrig. Stuff, because had to run to something downtown. For some reason, can’t remember, I didn’t put my car in the garage as would usually do – was something blocking garage door? I really can’t remember, but there was some reason why I stuck my car temporarily on a cement slab area, off to the side, just a little north of my garage and drive.

I hurried into my house with the bags, “threw” the cold items into fridge and freezer, and hurried back out to get into the car and drive downtown. As I came around the corner of my garage, I saw there was a bus there, on the cement slab, a little distance from my car, and the bus driver was just getting out. When he saw me go to my car and unlock it, he shouted rudely that I wasn’t supposed to park there.

I didn’t know if that was true or not, but I took what he said at face value – (I could see what he wanted – for me to move my car – and I was on my way to do that anyway), so, in the spirit of expedite and cooperate, I just automatically said, “Uh – yeah, OK! I’m moving the car right now. I’m sorry about that!”
And I got into my car, and as I automatically, by force of habit and my Famous Established Procedure from a year earlier, locked the driver’s side door, (“pop!”) I could see the rather surprising sight of the bus driver charging angrily toward me, his hand reaching forward, and he grabbed the door handle on the outside of the car, but of course that had no effect since the door was already locked.

By about 7 seconds.

There was a sort of mania of anger about the man’s face, and his hand tugged, and dragged at the car door handle for a moment.

I’ll never know precisely what that guy thought he was going to do if he could have got my car door open, and I don’t like to speculate.
It still makes me feel shaken-up, to think of it.

I drove to the police station, because I thought a person ought to report something like that. (What if the guy hurt somebody?) But when I spoke with a police officer who was available, and who, frankly, seemed to take barely perfunctory note of what I was telling him and didn’t seem sincere or sympathetic at all, I suddenly lost any feeling of wanting to “report” it – my overwhelming emphasis became, I didn’t want any formal “report” or “charge” or whatever they call it, because I didn’t want my name on it. The door-handle-attacking-bus-driver would find out my name, and he already knew where I lived, and I was – I guess you could say, kind of terrified.

I could only think of self-protection, and I couldn’t imagine that anyone anywhere would protect me or help me, except for myself.


Later, I put those two incidents side by side in my mind, and thought about them, and quickly realized that if the first guy, from the year before, hadn’t been so obnoxious and silly back then, I would never have started locking my car door, in which case the bus driver might have dragged me out of my car and beaten me to death. (Which was certainly not written on my calendar for that week - !)

That bus driver moment was even more frightening, to me, than the time I was in an armed robbery in Boston. I happened to be in a drug store on a Saturday morning, the year after I’d graduated from B.U., when two guys robbed the place, at gunpoint. (“Where-za percodan, man, where-za percodan?!”)Granted, that was scary. But those two guys (only one had a gun) didn’t do anything to me. And they didn’t hurt the drug store owner or his assistant. Really, when I think about it, they weren’t even rude. They weren’t contemptuous, or sarcastic, or angry. They were reasonable. I mean, they were breaking the law, but – fact remains, they were Not unreasonable.

They just did their “work” and got out. [Which was what I used to always think that angry-rude-salesman (the Walking Angry guy) ought to do. (Just finish your work and GO HOME!! Leave your co-workers alone! Don’t steal phone numbers off of their desks! Don’t leave snotty, anonymous notes on their desks, suggesting they “get a job on the internet”…)]


The Angry-bullying-walking-pestering-salesman,
and the Frenzied-bus-driver
to me,
more frightening
than the armed robbers because –
because –
I could see
That the armed robbers wanted to get
But those other guys, even though they didn’t have guns,
Wanted to harm me.
Or – somebody and I happened to be there.
There was no material motive – money, or drugs.
They were just
Angry. (Crazy?)

And that’s why those incidents make me think that there’s something different going on in our society – because, how could I live for as many years as I have and never have things like that happen to me, and suddenly I have two of those “Crazy-Angry-Incidents” occurring within a 12-month period?

I’m worried that people are feeling insecure because they fear they can’t make enough money to live, health insurance, security of their families, whatever, and because the politicians rant but don’t listen to us, there may be a lot of people who feel powerless, and closer to hopeless than they used to feel, and it’s making a new American landscape that is not as sunny as the one that many of us grew up with. And the insecure feelings people have, because of economics, etc., are going to come out in various different ways.

People won’t all express it the same way, but – keep your driver’s side door locked.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

at long last, decency

all the fuss about the congressman underwear photos on (twitter, facebook? whichever one it was)--

I see two sides of that.
Side one. That isn't "news." Leave people alone.
Side two. His behavior showed bad character. Too immature to be in congress. Liar.

Then, having played both sides of the "record," I read the "Liner Notes" on my (imaginary) album cover -- Why Do Congressmen Have Time For This Stuff? Why Aren't They BUSY -- WORKING -- Doing The People's Business?
(Some readers' comments on NY Times opinion - article):

"It is no wonder the media doesn't have to do much to distract us, and our country is sinking into greater mess and why the great lies and crimes go un-punished."
"Is there nothing else to write about in Washington? Evidently not. Never mind the homeless, the unemployed, the three wars that are bringing the country down. Never mind the bad immigration policies our clueless president has implemented. Never mind 44 millions people are Food Stamps and the foreclosue scandal. Now Maureen, that is a real scandal. And how about the $27 trillion ripped from our pockets and given to the richest criminals on Wall Street."
"Obviously the congressman has too much time on his hands. Why? He was elected to fix problems, not cause embarrassment. Not enough to do? I will give him a list."

That last comment struck a chord in my mind. I thought, "What a nice, crisp statement. 'Not enough to do? I will give him a list.'"
And I thought:
I like this. We should all be writing our congressmen and senators, all the time. And the president. Give them a list.
Give him a list.

One problem with all this new technology is that things can go so fast, that the -- speed and instantaneousness of Everything can encourage thoughtless behavior. Thoughtless reactions.

I listened to the representative in question once, on C-Span. I was impressed with his articulate case-making; at the same time that I liked him I thought maybe he was somewhat of a "smart-ass." Now what's the fine line between wit, which I appreciate, and being a smart-ass? Sometimes there's just a -- vibe.

One NY Times reader commented that this representative seemed "too clever by half." That's a funny, old-fashioned expression I had not heard in a long time. My father used to say it once in a while: "He was too clever by half."
Maybe he (congressman) imagined he was "too sexy by half."
What is that song?
(finger-snapping) I'M -- too sexy for my -- shirt,
too sexy for my dinner,
too sexy for my -- congressional committees...
----------- I don't know what it was, heard it somewhere.

Something else my father used to say -- I heard him tell this more than once, that Abraham Lincoln used to write letters to people and then leave the letters in a desk drawer, and eventually throw them away, or something ... the point being, you might feel things, sometimes, and think things, and imagine straightening someone out by writing 'em a letter and "tellin' it like it is," but it's wiser to Not Send the Letter.

Everything does not have to be Out There.
The lack of privacy which seems to now pervade our society (cameras everywhere and tracing things on the internet, whatever) -- is giving rise to a Culture Of Tattle.

Some of these media types and commenters (pundits), people with cable shows, and other politicians, seem to go into hysteria, or a frenzy, with the finger-pointing. They perform, very unattractively, in front of cameras, & seem -- I don't know -- proud of themselves.
It makes me think of what we learned in school about the "witch" hysteria in Salem, or the communist-accusations made by Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s (watch the film "Good Night and Good Luck")...["At long last, have you no decency, sir?"]

And all those comments about "men." "All men." "All men do these things."
I don't buy that bullshit.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

that floorflusher

Anyone who watches the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" on DVD will find the disc contains two extra features: in one of those a film guy says with amusement,

It was said of Charlie Wilson -- "he's the only man I ever met who could strut, while sitting down."
I had never heard that expression before, but it jumped out at me from footnotes listed at the back of Sally Bedell Smith's book, Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House.
"strut sitting down"
And they give you a page number -- It's up front, before Chapter one and the Preface -- a list of people.
McGeorge Bundy, 41. National Security Adviser. Admired for a mind of "dazzling clarity and speed." So supremely confident it was said he could "strut sitting down." An influential voice on foreign policy.
Two pages on, there's --
---------[excerpt] Lawrence O'Brien, 43. JFK's liaison with Congress. Son of a Massachusetts saloon keeper, highly regarded for keen political judgment. Bobby Kennedy said he could "talk the balls off a brass monkey."
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., 43. White House gadfly, troubleshooter, and unofficial historian of the Kennedy years. Dubbed the "court philosopher" by The New Yorker, Pulitzer Prize-wining author and Harvard professor. Adviser to Jackie on everything from books for the White House library to foreign films for the screening room.

Kenneth O'Donnell, 36. White House Appointments Secretary. Supervisor of JFK's schedule, logistical organizer, and political sounding board. Known as the "Wolfhound," the "Cobra," and the Iceman." Frequently abrasive, notoriously taciturn, and ferociously loyal.

For her social secretary, Jackie selected Tish Baldrige....Baldrige's father had been a Republican congressman from Omaha, Nebraska, so her rightward political leanings were even stronger than Jackie's. Baldrige had initially opposed JFK for president, calling him "that floorflusher Kennedy" (she doubtless meant "four-flusher") and wearing a large "Vixen for Nixon" campaign button.

But after Jackie offered the White House job following the Democratic convention, Baldrige was an instant convert....
------------------ [end excerpt]

And after picking up this book looking for other types of information, I became drawn into these descriptions of how they really ran things -- different ways to organize and accomplish ...
-- [excerpt] - The Eisenhower White House worked along a military model, with tight discipline, tables of organization, and lines of command that funneled decisions through a strong chief of staff. ...Kennedy and his advisers assumed that forceful subordinates such as Chief of Staff Sherman Adams and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had made the decisions. "President Kennedy was under the mistaken impression that was shared by all the liberal Democrats around him that Eisenhower was not in charge," said Douglas Dillon. "That was 100 percent wrong. Eisenhower did not advertise the fact that he decided everything."

Kennedy took a distinctly improvisational approach to his "ministry of talent." He slashed the size of the White House staff and literally reinvented the wheel, situating himself at the hub, with numerous spokes radiating out to his men. "I can't afford only one set of advisers," Kennedy told Richard Neustadt, who counseled him on White House reorganization. "If I did that, I would be on their leading strings."

To maintain control, Kennedy grasped all the strings himself. The aim, said Neustadt, was "to get information in his mind and key decisions in his hands reliably enough and soon enough to give him room for maneuver." Kennedy often gave the same assignment to several people,....Kennedy said he wanted the "clash of ideas" and "the opportunity for choice." In his compartmentalized fashion, Kennedy preferred to operate one on one, or in small "task forces" assigned to address specific problems. Not only did Kennedy insist on direct access to all his top advisers and cabinet officers, he felt free to dip into the bureaucracy and jump official channels to quiz experts on particular issues. He was the first president, said CIA official Richard Helms, to "deal up and down the line."
[end excerpt] --------------

{all excerpts from the book Grace And Power, by Sally Bedell Smith.
Copyright 2004. Random House Inc., New York.}


Monday, June 6, 2011

eggheads over easy

Someone called me "book-smart" a few weeks ago.
"You're book-smart. !"
It's amazing, the opinions I am treated to, without even having to ask.
One of those -- it's a compliment that sounds like an insult.
Or is it the other way around?

Egghead. That used to be an expression some people applied to anyone they thought was "intellectual." And maybe, the person was thought to -- know the concepts and answers in a classroom, or on a page, but they might not in real life. That was an "egghead." (I think they meant that the same as 'book-smart.')
When John F. Kennedy was president-elect, and was putting together his advisors and cabinet members, in late 1960, a lot of his picked names were Harvard-types: one commentator remarked that the new Administration would "have all its eggheads in one basket" ... : )

[excerpt, Grace And Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House]:
------------ During the campaign, Kennedy took impish pleasure when his academic allies were thrown in with hard-bitten political veterans, described by TIME correspondent Hugh Sidey as "brawling Irishmen." During a rally in Boston, Kennedy spotted Schlesinger and Galbraith in the crowd. Later, on the campaign plane, Kennedy asked Sidey, "Did you see Arthur and Ken trapped in the middle inhaling all the cigar smoke?" Said Sidey, "He enjoyed and respected them and their brains, but he understood the limits of intellectuals. He needed the stimulus but he needed the down to earth O'Donnells and O'Briens as well." [end excerpt]

Different people's perspectives are amazing -- what's unsatisfactory, or uncomfortable for one person, would be a Heavenly Career Option for someone else --
[from Grace / Power]: -------------- [Arthur] Schlesinger's wife, Marian, believed that her husband "would have loved to have had Mac Bundy's job," but settled for a more nebulous designation as "special assistant," what Galbraith described as "a good address but no clear function." The notion of an adviser with no definable responsibility initially disquieted Schlesinger. "I am not sure what I would be doing as Special Assistant," he said. "Well," cracked Kennedy, "I am not sure what I will be doing as President either." ------------ [end Excerpt]

I read that and think, You're "disquieted" to be an "adviser with no definable responsibility" -- DISQUIETED??? If it were me, I'd be, like, "WHERE DO I SIGN UP??!"
Lack of definition means lack of limits -- YAY! You would get to See The Big Picture and make connections and find better ways to make things work better -- or help other people do that. And other than that, stay out of the way. Be in the background.
See, to me having a non-specific, not-definable, whatever-it-was would be a terrific opportunity. But to some people, if they are looking around them & see other people with specific titles and lists of what's their turf, and they think they themselves are not having a title or a turf-list, it can bother the ego, and the person might worry about being on the bottom rung of ladder.

(If I had been there, I would have told him, "If you're getting paid, don't worry about rungs and ladders -- you're in the best position there is.")

[excerpt / Grace]: ------------ Schlesinger's most burdensome task, one that originated early in the presidential campaign and continued in the White House, was as the middleman between Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson. "Adlai was not in the inner circle," said Schlesinger, "but Jack Kennedy always wanted to know what Adlai thought." Schlesinger never tired of insisting how compatible Kennedy and Stevenson should have been.... [end excerpt]

Their incompatibility resulted mostly from their competition during the presidential primary; some people can put that in the past more easily than others. -- So -- Schlesinger was "resigned to his fate as intermediary for the next three years: 'on the phone between the two of them, trying to translate one to the other.'"
Being a liaison between the U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson: would have to be Best Job In World -- Hell-oh?!?!

one simple sentence: People see things differently.
another simple sentence: People see things differently, partly due to history and expectations.


Friday, June 3, 2011

opened up my eyes

Waitin' for the train that goes home, sweet Mary,
Hopin' that the train is on time ...


Thursday, June 2, 2011

poem of Cat

(a poem) -- "That Cat"

Grace and peace and wisdom
define the cat.
Affection and wonder
are where he's at.
I feel better as soon
as I pat the cat.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

bar the door

as I was saying in yesterday's entry,

An incident (or non-incident) which was only vaguely off-putting and creepy, about five years ago, caused me to begin the habit of locking my driver's side door, every time, right after getting into the car. And then a year later, a person who was mad about parking space (or maybe other stuff, too) tried to attack my driver's side door after I got in, and I was very glad I'd locked it.

This spaced-out sequence of events made me ask, in my mind,
"What is the matter with
this guy?
this town?
our society?
the world?
____ ?"

The second incident left me very shaken-up, but I told myself firmly at the time, "Hey thank goodness the first guy, from a year before, was rude and obnoxious, because it prompted me to take a precaution which protected me from the second guy who was, rather than only rude and obnoxious, possibly -- I don't know -- homicidal ??

Maybe I should go around thanking all the obnoxious and rude people for helping me learn to protect myself from the homicidal ones.
Is that what Norman Vincent Peale meant by "the power of positive thinking"?