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Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

Tune o’ the Day

George Harrison’s first solo album after the breakup of the Beatles was “All Things Must Pass” in 1970. The album was a great success — as well as proof that Harrison was the creative equal of Lennon and McCartney, thank you very much.

The album also showcased Harrison’s Hindu spiritual and philosophical beliefs. “Beware of Darkness” is one of several examples.

In the song, Harrison warns against the corrupting influences of pop idols (fallen singers), con men (soft shoe shufflers), politicians (greedy leaders), and negative thoughts (thoughts that linger). For good measure, Harrison tossed in a line about the Weeping Atlas Cedar, a tree of which he was especially fond.

Beware of Darkness” is Harrison’s baby, but my favorite version is by Concrete Blonde. It was on the group’s magnificent 1986 debut album.

Concrete Blonde never recorded a dud.

Beware of Darkness

By Concrete Blonde, 1986
Written by George Harrison

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of fallen singers
Dropping all around you
The pain that often mingles
In your fingertips.
Beware of darkness.

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of thoughts that linger,
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night.

Beware of darkness.


It can hit you,
It can hurt you,
Make you sore, and what is more,
That is not what you are here for.

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sideboards
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly.
Beware of darkness.

Watch out now, take care, beware
Of greedy leaders.
They take you where you should not go,
While Weeping Atlas Cedars,
They just want to grow.
Beware of darkness.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/beware-of-darkness.mp3

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Highlights and Lowlights

But… so… I think… I think it would be… I think it would be very, very… I think we’d have a very, very solid — we would continue what we’re doing. We’d solidify what we’ve done. And we have other things on our plate that we want to get done.

Donald Trump, when asked to elaborate on his plans for a second term.

———

Well, Joe Biden is now the official Democratic nominee for president, and, although I usually tune out both conventions, I watched about half of the Democratic proceedings. The party did surprisingly well. They got creative and made the event enjoyable despite the absence of the usual crowds and hoopla.

As for the Republicans, I didn’t watch a single second of their rubbish. I did some reading, and I watched DVD movies instead. CNN and MSNBC reported the GOP lowlights in great detail, so I was adequately informed about the lies, poison, and alternate reality that Trump’s relatives and sycophants were selling.

You’re aware, I assume, that holding campaign-related events at the White House and other public properties is illegal. You can’t use a government facility as a political prop, so the Republicans were in egregious violation, numerous times, of the Hatch Act. I’m sure the Attorney General will do his job in that regard.

And, always classy, the conservatives sat shoulder-to-shoulder and declined to wear face masks at the GOP events. No surprise there.

No surprise, either, that the two conventions so perfectly highlighted the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Especially in these wretched times, the two parties are as different as the Elves of Lothlórien and the Orcs of Mordor. And we all know which is which.

Consider the following excerpts from speeches by the Trump people, who were in wild-eyed-and-hysterical mode.

———

Kimberly Guilfoyle

This election is a battle for the soul of America. Your choice is clear. Do you support the cancel culture? The cosmopolitan elites of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Biden, who blame America first? Do you think America is to blame? Or do you believe in American greatness? Believe in yourself? In President Trump? In individual and personal responsibility?

They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live. They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal victim ideology to the point that you will not recognize this country or yourself.

Don’t let the Democrats take you for granted. Don’t let them step on you. Don’t let them destroy your families, your lives, and your future.

Don’t let them kill future generations because they told you and brainwashed you and fed you lies that you weren’t good enough.

Matt Gaetz

I’m speaking to you from an auditorium emptier than Joe Biden’s daily schedule. But we are a nation of full hearts and clear minds. We see the choice clearly: strength or weakness, energy or confusion, success or failure.

We must fight to save America now or we may lose her forever. Joe Biden might not even notice. Settle for Biden — that’s the hashtag promoted by AOC and the socialists. The woketopians will settle for Biden because they will make him an extra in a movie written, produced, and directed by others.

It’s a horror film really. They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.

The McCloskeys (Who pleased Trump by waving guns at protesters walking near their mansion)

Mark McCloskey: Whether it’s defunding the police, ending cash bail so criminals can be released back out on the streets the same day to riot again, or encouraging anarchy on our streets, it seems as if Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens.

Patricia McCloskey: They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning. This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods. President Trump smartly ended this government overreach, but Joe Biden wants to bring it back.

Mark McCloskey: At this moment in history, if you stand up for yourself and for the values our country was founded on, the mob — spurred on by their allies in the media — will try to destroy you. Trump brought us the greatest economy our country had ever seen. The Democrats have brought us nothing but destruction.

Jim Jordan

The Republican party is the pro-America party. President Trump is the pro-America candidate. This election is about who can preserve the values, principles, and institutions that make America great.

Don’t believe me? Look at what’s happening in American cities — cities all run by Democrats, crime violence and mob rule. Democrats refuse to denounce the mob, and their response to the chaos: “defund the police,” “defund border patrol” and “defund our military.”

While they’re doing all this, they’re also trying to take away your guns. Look at the positions they’ve taken in the past few months, Democrats won’t let you go to church, but they let you protest.

Donald Trump, Jr.

People of faith are under attack. You’re not allowed to go to church, but mass chaos in the streets gets a pass. It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work, and school vs. rioting, looting and vandalism — or, in the words of Biden and the Democrats, “peaceful protesting.”

Anarchists have been flooding our streets and Democrat mayors are ordering the police to stand down. Small businesses across America — many of them minority owned — are being torched by mobs.

Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness Monster of the Swamp. For the past half-century, he’s been lurking around in there. He sticks his head up every now and then to run for President, then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between.

So if you’re looking for hope, look to the man who did what the failed Obama-Biden Administration never could do, and built the greatest economy our country had ever seen. And President Trump will do it again.

Nikki Haley

Last time, Joe’s boss was Obama. This time, it would be Pelosi, Sanders, and the Squad. Their vision for America is socialism. And we know that socialism has failed everywhere.

They want to tell Americans how to live and what to think. They want a government takeover of health care. They want to ban fracking and kill millions of jobs. They want massive tax hikes on working families. Joe Biden and the socialist left would be a disaster for our economy.

———

I repeat: wild-eyed and hysterical.

Too bad they didn’t have time to mention the rampaging pandemic that, on their watch, is killing one thousand Americans a day.

To be clear, I don’t think most Republican politicians are bark-at-the-moon crazy. I think they’re just opportunists and hypocrites. Based on the messaging, however, they do seem to think their followers are hopeless loons. And maybe they’re right.

For a refreshing contrast to the feverish ranting of the Trump people, consider these excerpts from several Democratic Party speakers.

———

Jill Biden

How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole: with love and understanding, and with small acts of kindness, with bravery, with unwavering faith. You show up for each other in big ways and small ones, again and again.

We’re coming together, and holding onto each other. We’re finding mercy and grace in the moments we might have once taken for granted. We’re seeing that our differences are precious, and our similarities infinite. We have shown that the heart of this nation still beats with kindness, and courage.

Michele Obama

So what do we do now? What’s our strategy? Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, “When others are going so low, does going high still really work?” My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight.

But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.

Kamala Harris

I’m inspired by a new generation of leadership. You are pushing us to realize the ideals of our nation, pushing us to live the values we share: decency and fairness, justice and love.

Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high? They will ask us, what was it like? And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.

Joe Biden

All elections are important. But we know in our bones this one is more consequential.

America is at an inflection point. A time of real peril, but of extraordinary possibilities. We can choose the path of becoming angrier, less hopeful, and more divided. A path of shadow and suspicion. Or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite. A path of hope and light.

This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And, most importantly, who we want to be. That’s all on the ballot. And the choice could not be clearer.

———

Could not be clearer, indeed.

The best GOP line of the week came from Congressman Gaetz, who said, “They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.” I know the quote is genuine because I saw the video clip.

That statement is so absurd, so over-the-top, so Kafkaesque that it warrants special mention. Gaetz deserves a creativity award in the category of histrionics.

This is the way I see it: Democrats are not hard to understand. They simply want to make life better for themselves and others. Liberals are honest and straightforward about their main goal, which is to pool and use our resources for the greater good. No need to lie or obfuscate.

But conservatives are virtually the opposite. For assorted reasons, mostly related to mental and emotional abnormalities, they are frightened, angry, and defensive. Which makes them small-minded and closed-minded.

The Republicans have devolved into cartoon villains, which might be a source of macabre amusement if their actions weren’t so harmful — if they hadn’t saddled us with Donald Trump, an immoral, no-talent conman, cheat, and traitor.

Trump should not hold elected office of any kind because he is solidly under the control of Vladimir Putin. Trump knows Putin can ruin him in a heartbeat by calling in all those decades of shady loans and spilling all those decades of accumulated dirt.

I thank God I’m a liberal. I am so grateful to have nothing whatsoever in common with the conservatives, or with our disgrace of a president, or with the certifiable wackos of the right-wing. (A juicy example: the QAnon nut-jobs who claim Trump was elected to save us from the secret worldwide cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophile cannibals. Seriously?)

The right-wingers have been a steadily growing menace for decades. Now, owing to their criminal mishandling of the pandemic, they are literally killing people.

Vote! And for crying out loud, vote for Democrats. We need to let the fresh air back in. We have a mess to start cleaning up.

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Crème de la Crème

I spent some time recently, probably too much time, reading up on the all-time best guitar work in rock music. Or, more accurately, various opinions on the subject.

A good guitar riff is a deeply satisfying thing. And, because tastes vary widely, the subject is gloriously, wonderfully subjective.

I’m partial to Hotel California, Bad Moon Rising, and Money for Nothing. I don’t care much for Iron Man and Smells Like Teen Spirit. But that’s just one dude’s opinion.

My research protocol consisted of reading countless online lists of favorites compiled by fans, music pros, etc. Sometimes, the lists ranked the songs in order, sometimes not. When ranked, Smoke on the Water appeared in first place most often.

My takeaway: regardless of personal taste and the subjectivity angle, most of the lists contained — would you believe it? — more or less the same songs.

Namely, these 25, which I list alphabetically; ranking them would be presumptuous and not cool.

———

Another One Bites the Dust, Queen
Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Back in Black, AC/DC
Black Dog, Led Zeppelin
Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
Day Tripper, The Beatles
Enter Sandman, Metallica
Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Heartbreaker, Led Zeppelin
Hotel California, The Eagles
Iron Man, Black Sabbath
Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry
Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Rolling Stones
Layla, Derek and the Dominoes
Money, Pink Floyd
Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison
Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
Satisfaction, Rolling Stones
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple
Sweet Child of Mine, Guns n’ Roses
Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Voodoo Child, Jimi Hendrix

———

That, my friends, is a righteous list of tunes.

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Hi-Yo, Silver!

In the 1940s and 1950s, veteran announcer Fred Foy introduced the Lone Ranger on radio and TV thusly:

Hi-Yo, Silver!

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty ‘Hi-Yo, Silver!’ The Lone Ranger!

With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early Western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice!

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”

Americans were introduced to the Lone Ranger, Tonto, and their valiant steeds Silver and Scout in the early 1930s. Today, the Lone Ranger is considered ancient history — just some do-gooder cowboy from yesteryear. More often than not, he is now a source of humor mixed with ridicule, à la Colonel Sanders.

That’s a shame. The Lone Ranger is an appealing character and a man, albeit fictional, of admirable integrity.

The Lone Ranger was created for radio in 1933 by writer Fran Striker and producer George Trendle. The program first aired on radio station WXYZ in Detroit. Within a few years, it was being carried on over 400 radio stations across the country.

Striker and Trendle gave the Lone Ranger a compelling backstory. He is a Texan named Reid, first name originally not given. He is the only survivor of a group of six Texas Rangers, one of them Reid’s older brother Daniel, who were ambushed by outlaws.

Tonto finds the wounded Reid and helps him recover. Thereafter, wearing a black mask made from his late brother’s vest, Reid roams the west as the Lone Ranger, helping those in need and fighting evil and injustice.

The Lone Ranger is a man of impeccable character who follows a strict moral code. He never shoots to kill. He doesn’t drink, smoke, or womanize. His grammar and pronunciation are always precise. He is an intelligent version of Dudley Do-Right, minus the humor.

From 1949 until 1957, a popular TV version of the radio show was aired starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

Six Lone Ranger movies have been made, the first in 1956, the most recent in 2013. A comic strip, various comic books, and 18 novels also have been published.

The Lone Ranger has given us some wonderful cultural tropes — Fred Foy’s dramatic introduction. The cry of “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” Silver bullets left as calling cards. The theme music from the William Tell Overture. A bystander inevitably asking, “Who was that masked man?”

LR&T

And then there is “kemosabe,” as Tonto calls his masked companion. Usually, the term is described as meaning “faithful friend” or “trusty scout.”

The meaning has generated jokes, too. In one, kemosabe means the rear end of a horse. In another, it means “meathead.”

Maybe the meaning is cloudy, but there is evidence of the word’s origin. Jim Jewell, who directed the radio show from 1933 until 1939, said the name came from a boys’ camp in Michigan, Kamp Kee-Mo-Sah-Bee, founded by Jewell’s father-in-law.

The father-in-law is believed to have taken the name from a 1912 book on Indian lore by one of the founders of the Boy Scouts. In the book, the term kee-mo-sah-bee is said to mean “scout runner.”

The term may have come from the Minnesota Ojibwe word giimoozaabi, which means “he who peeks” or maybe “sneaks.”

One last anecdote before I allow the Lone Ranger to ride into the sunset…

After the TV series ended in 1957, actor Clayton Moore began a 40-year career of making public appearances as the Lone Ranger, masked and in costume.

In 1979, TV producer Jack Wrather, who had obtained the legal rights to the Lone Ranger, was preparing to release the film “The Legend of the Lone Ranger,” in which Moore did not appear.

Convinced that Moore’s public appearances would hurt the film at the box office, Wrather obtained a court order that blocked Moore from appearing in public as the Lone Ranger.

Moore counter-sued, and he continued making public appearances wearing Foster Grant sunglasses instead of the black mask.

Moore C

The lawsuit was a disaster for Wrather. Public opinion overwhelmingly was with Moore. Wrather became “the man who sued the mask off the Lone Ranger.” When Wrather’s movie came out in 1981, it lost money and, for good measure, was panned by critics.

In late 1984, Wrather was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Soon thereafter, he lifted the restraining order, freeing Moore to resume his appearances as the Lone Ranger. Two months later, Wrather died.

Wrather’s final gesture to Moore was noble and generous. It was worthy of the Lone Ranger himself.

 

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Last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made a speech on the House floor that was a pleasure to hear and will be remembered for a long time. I chased down the transcript.

———

Thank you, Madam Speaker. And I would also like to thank many of my colleagues for the opportunity to not only speak today, but for the many members from both sides of the aisle who have reached out to me for support following the incident this week.

About two days ago, I was walking up the steps of the Capitol when Representative Yoho [Rep. Ted Yoho, R-FL] suddenly turned a corner — and he was accompanied by Representative Roger Williams — and accosted me on the steps right here in front of our nation’s Capitol.

I was minding my own business, walking up the steps, and Representative Yoho put his finger in my face. He called me “disgusting.” He called me “crazy.” He called me “out of my mind.” And he called me “dangerous.”

And then he took a few more steps, and after I had… recognized his comments as rude, he walked away and said ‘I’m rude? You’re calling me rude?’

I took a few steps ahead and I walked inside and cast my vote, because my constituents send me here each and every day to fight for them and to make sure they are able to keep a roof over their head, that they are able to feed their families, and that they are able to carry their lives with dignity.

I walked back out, and there were reporters in the front of the Capitol, and in front of reporters, Representative Yoho called me, and I quote, “a fucking bitch.”

These were the words that Representative Yoho levied against a congresswoman, the congresswoman that not only represents New York’s 14th Congressional District, but every congresswoman and every woman in this country, because all of us have had to deal with this in some form, some way, some shape, at some point in our lives.

And I want to be clear that Representative Yoho’s comments were not deeply hurtful or piercing to me, because I have worked a working class job. I have waited tables in restaurants, I have ridden the subway. I have walked the streets in New York City. And this kind of language is not new. I have encountered words uttered by Mr. Yoho and men uttering the same words as Mr. Yoho while I was being harassed in restaurants. I have tossed men out of bars that have used language like Mr. Yoho’s, and I have encountered this type of harassment riding the subway in New York City. This is not new. And that is the problem.

Mr. Yoho was not alone. He was walking shoulder to shoulder with Representative Roger Williams. And that’s when we start to see that this issue is not about one incident. It is cultural.

It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that. Because not only have I been spoken to disrespectfully, particularly by members of the Republican party and elected officials in the Republican Party, not just here, but the President of the United States last year told me to “go home to another country,” with the implication that I don’t even belong in America. The Governor of Florida, Governor DeSantis, before I even was sworn in, called me a “whatever-that-is.”

Dehumanizing language is not new. And what we are seeing is that incidents like these are happening in a pattern. This is a pattern of an attitude towards women and dehumanization of others.

So while I was not deeply hurt or offended by little comments that were made, when I was reflecting on this, I honestly thought that I was just going to pack it up and go home. It’s just another day, right?

But then yesterday, Representative Yoho decided to come to the floor of the House of Representatives and make excuses for his behavior. And that I could not let go. I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls that I go home to, I could not allow victims of verbal abuse and worse, to see that — to see that excuse — and to see our Congress accept it as legitimate, and accept it as an apology, and to accept silence as a form of acceptance. I could not allow that to stand, which is why I am rising today to raise this point of personal privilege.

And I do not need Representative Yoho to apologize to me. Clearly, he does not want to. Clearly, when given the opportunity, he will not, and I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language towards women.

But what I do have issue with is using women, our wives and daughters, as shields and excuses for poor behavior.

Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too.

My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House towards me on television. And I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter, and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.

Now, what I am here to say is that this harm that Mr. Yoho levied — tried to levy — against me was not just an incident directed at me, but when you do that to any woman, what Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters. In using that language in front of the press, he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community, and I am here to stand up to say that is not acceptable.

I do not care what your views are. It does not matter how much I disagree, or how much it incenses me, or how much I feel that people are dehumanizing others. I will not do that myself. I will not allow people to change and create hatred in our hearts.


And so what I believe is that having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize. Not to save face. Not to win a vote. He apologizes genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on.

Lastly, what I want to express to Mr. Yoho is gratitude. I want to thank him for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women. You can have daughters and accost women without remorse. You can be married and accost women. You can take photos and project an image to the world of being a family man and accost women without remorse and with a sense of impunity.

It happens every day in this country. It happened here on the steps of our nation’s Capitol. It happens when individuals who hold the highest office in this land admit — admit — to hurting women and using this language against all of us.

But once again, I thank my colleagues for joining us today. I will reserve the hour of my time and I will yield to my colleague, Rep. Jayapal of Washington. Thank you.

———

Several other House Democrats spoke after her. They had a tough act to follow.

Few Democrats get under the skin of the conservatives like AOC. She has a knack for making Republican politicians, chiefly the men, apoplectic with rage. They seem to abandon reason when she is involved. Invariably, they accuse her of being a socialist. Oh, the horror.

Who cares if she’s a socialist? More to the point, she believes in egalitarianism, not the “I’m for me first” philosophy of the Republicans. She supports Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, addressing climate change, and not being a jerk to women. Good for her.

The congresswoman has valuable skills, and she is a potent weapon for the Democrats. I hope the party has the sense to use her intelligently.

AOC

 

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My default position on movies is to ignore romantic comedies and chick flicks, most of which are formulaic and silly, usually on purpose. My snooty self prefers intelligent movies — thoughtful films that tell plausible stories in a satisfying manner. In my experience, the good ones come in all genres except rom-coms and chick flicks.

Sometimes, a single scene stands out. I’ve featured some of my favorite movie scenes previously on this blog, namely here, here, and here.

Below are more gems, in my subjective opinion.

———

I Want My Two Hundred Dollahs.”

From “Paper Moon,” 1973

Paper Moon

(In 1936, grifter Moses Pray and nine-year-old orphan Addie Loggins are having lunch in a Kansas diner while waiting for the train that will take Addie to live with her aunt in Missouri. Addie’s mother Essie May recently died in a car wreck, and Moze, who once had a fling with Essie May, has accepted $200 in hush money from the family of the driver.)

Addie (Tatum O’Neal): How good you know my mama?

Moze (Ryan O’Neal, Tatum’s real father): Good enough to know you can be real proud of all the happiness she give to people. Eat your Coney Island.

Addie: You meet her in a barroom?

Moze: Why would you have a question like that?

Addie: I hear Miss Ollie talk to the neighbor lady. They was wonderin’ if you’re my pa.

Moze: Well, don’t the world have a wild imagination. Now eat your Coney Island.

Addie after a long pause: You my pa?

Moze: ‘Course I ain’t your pa. (He pauses.) I’ll getcha some relish. (He retrieves a jar of relish from the next table and spoons some on her hot dog.) There ya are. Coney Island’s no good without relish.

(Addie looks at the hot dog, then glares at Moze.)

Moze: Now, look, I know how ya feel. I lost my ma, too. Even lost my pa. Don’t know where my sister is… Look, I wish I could tell ya I’m your pa, but it just ain’t like that.

Addie: Ya met her in a barroom.

Moze: Just ‘cause a man meets a woman in a barroom don’t mean he’s your pa. Eat your Coney Island.

Addie: Well, then, if you ain’t my pa, I want my two hundred dollahs.

Moze: How’s that?

Addie: I want my two hundred dollahs. I heard you through the door talkin’ to that man, and it’s my money you got, and I want it.

Moze: Now, just hold on a second.

Addie: I want my money. (Then louder) You took my two hundred dollahs!

Moze, as others in the diner turn to look at them: Quiet down, ya hear?

Addie, louder: I want my two hundred dollahs!

Moze: Alright, alright, just hold on. (He smiles at the other customers, then turns back to Addie.) Let me explain somethin’ to ya.

Addie: It ain’t as how you was my pa. That’d be different.

Moze: Well I AIN’T your pa, so get it out of your head, you understand? I don’t care what those neighbor ladies said.

Addie: I LOOK like ya.

Moze: You don’t look nothin’ like me. You don’t look no more like me than that Coney Island. Eat the damn thing, will ya?

Addie: We got the same jaw.

Moze: Lots o’ people got the same jaw.

Addie: But it’s possible, ain’t it?

Moze: No, it AIN’T possible.

Addie: THEN I WANT MY TWO HUNDRED DOLLAHS!

Moze: Alright, maybe we got the same jaw. Same jaw don’t mean the same blood. I know a woman looks like a bullfrog, but she ain’t the damn thing’s mother.

Addie: But you met my mama in a barroom.

Moze: For God’s sake, you think ever’body gets met in a barroom gets a baby?

Addie: It’s possible.

Moze: Dammit, child, anything’s possible, but possible don’t make it true.

Addie, loudly: Then I want my money! (All the other customers are looking at them.)

Moze: Will you quiet down! (Then in a low voice) You don’t have no appreciation, that’s the trouble with you. Maybe I did get some money from that man. Well, you’re entitled to that. And I’m entitled to my share for getting’ it, ain’t I? I mean, if it weren’t for me, where’d you be? Some orphan home, that’s where. You think them folks’d spend a penny to send you east? No sir. But who got you a ticket to Saint Joe? Who got you a Nehi and a Coney Island? And I threw in twenty dollahs extra, plus 85 cents for the telegram. Without me, you wouldn’t have any of that. I didn’t have to take ya at all, but I took ya, didn’t I? (He pauses.) Well, I think that’s fair enough. And we’re all better off. You get to Saint Joe, an’ I get a better car. Fair’s fair. Now drink your Nehi and eat your Coney Island.

Addie: I — want — my — two hundred dollahs.

Moze: I don’t HAVE two hundred dollars no more, and you KNOW it!

Addie, menacingly: If you don’t give me my two hundred dollahs, I’m gonna tell a policeman how ya got it. And he’s make ya give it to me, ‘cause it’s mine.

Moze: But — I — don’t — HAVE IT.

Addie: Then — GIT IT.

(The waitress approaches and addresses Addie.)

Waitress: How we doin’, angel pie? We gonna have a little dessert after we finish up our hot dog?

Addie, staring at Moze: I dunno.

Waitress: What d’ya say, daddy? Whyn’t we get Precious here a little dessert if she eats her dog?

Moze, staring back at Addie: Her name ain’t Precious.

———

“The Prize is Winning.”

From “Bite the Bullet,” 1975

Bite the Bullet

(In 1906, somewhere in the American west, 15 contestants are competing for a large cash prize in a grueling, 700-mile cross country horse race, sponsored by a newspaper. One night during the race, former Rough Rider Sam Clayton and an aging cowboy known only as “Mister” have made camp together. Mister is weak and exhausted, and he admits he has a heart condition.)

Clayton (Gene Hackman) covering Mister with a blanket: Why would a sick old man like you get tangled up in all this? Why in the name of sweet Jesus? What is so important about this gut-twisting, back-busting, man-killing goddamn race? The money?

Mister (Ben Johnson): The prize.

Clayton: The prize IS the money.

Mister: The prize is winning. Lose, you’re nothing. Who remembers a loser, or even cares? Win, you’re somebody. What you done, it’s printed. It’s in the newspaper. And when it’s printed, it ain’t brag. It’s real. Suddenly, everybody knows you, or wants to. Strangers shakin’ your hand. “Pleased to know you. Have a drink. Have a cigar. Meet the wife.” Everybody’s friendly and welcome. And I got a lifetime hunger for being welcome.

Clayton: No family?

Mister, gesturing toward his horse: Him. You know saddle tramps. They sign on, drive the beef a thousand miles. Make your mark, draw your pay, and move on to the next ranch. Another roundup, another drive. Hired, fired and move on.

Clayton: Well, it never bothered me none.

Mister: No, me, neither — when I was 30 years lighter.

Clayton: Ever prospected? Ever hit pay dirt?

Mister: I’ve dug for gold, silver, lead, mercury. I’ve dug more holes than a whole regiment of gophers. Ain’t never dug out a decent day’s wage yet. God, what ain’t I tried? Pony Express rider, Overland Stage driver, lawman, gambler. River man, rancher, rodeo hand, barman, spittoon man, old man. Nothing much to remember. Of course, ain’t nothing much to forget, neither. (He pulls the blanket closer and chuckles.) Nobody’s got much use for an old man. Can’t blame ’em much. That’s why I’m gonna win me this here newspaper race. When I cross that finish line, I get to be a big man. Top man. A man to remember.

(Mister turns and looks up at Clayton, then slowly closes his eyes and slumps over, dead. Clayton stands for a moment in respectful silence.)

Clayton: I didn’t even know your name, Mister.

———

You Smart College Guys!”

From Mister Roberts, 1955

Mr Roberts

(During World War II, the captain of a cargo ship refuses to allow his cargo officer, Lt. Roberts, to transfer to a fighting ship. Captain Morton also refuses to grant long-overdue liberty to the ship’s crew. The ship is in port, and Roberts has convinced one of Morton’s superiors to give the men a night ashore anyway. Morton is furious.)

A sailor on deck, expecting to hear that liberty will be announced: Here we go! Here we go!

Morton: This is the captain speaking. l just found out that there’s men on this vessel expecting liberty. I don’t know how this rumor got around, but I’d like to clear it up right now. On account of cargo requirements and security conditions… which have just come to my personal attention… there will be no liberty while in this here port! That is all. (Morton turns off the microphone and looks at his watch. There is a loud banging on his door.) Come in, Mr. Roberts. Twenty-eight seconds! Pretty good time. You see, l’ve been expecting you.

Lt. junior-grade Doug Roberts (Henry Fonda): Okay, when does this crew get liberty?

Morton: ln the first place, just kindly hold your tongue. l’m still Captain here.

Roberts: When are you gonna let this crew ashore?

Morton: l’m not. lt was not my idea coming to this liberty port. lt seems one of my officers arranged it with a certain port director. Gave him a bottle of scotch whiskey, compliments of the Captain. The port director was kind enough to send me a thank-you note… along with our order. Sit down, Mr. Roberts. Now, l admit l was a little provoked about not being consulted. Then l got to thinking. Maybe we ought to come to this port… so as you and me could have a talk.

Roberts: All right. Take it out on me, but not the men. (A band can be heard playing onshore) Don’t you hear that music? Don’t you know it’s tearing the guys apart? They’re breakable, Captain! l promise you.

Morton: Now you listen to me. l’ve got two things l want to show you. That is the cap of a full commander. l’m going to wear that cap some day, and you’re going to help me. lt won’t do any harm to tell you that you helped me win that palm tree by working cargo. Don’t let this go to your head. When Admiral Finchley awarded me that palm tree, he said, ”You’ve got a good cargo officer. Keep him at it. You’re going places.” And l went right out and bought that hat. And nobody is gonna stand between me and that hat! Certainly not you. Now last week it was agreed that there was to be no more of these ”disharmony” letters.

Roberts: l didn’t say that.

Morton: And what do l find on my desk this morning? Another one. lt says here, ”friction between me and the commanding officer.” That ain’t goin’ in, Mister.

Roberts: How are you gonna stop it?

Morton: l ain’t. You are. Just how much do you want this crew to have a liberty? Enough to stop this ”friction”? Enough to stop writing letters, ever? ‘Cause that’s the only way this crew is going to get ashore, this day or any other day. Now we’ve had our little chat. What do you say?

Roberts: How did you get in the Navy? How did you get on our side? You ignorant, arrogant, ambitious — keeping men in prison ’cause you got a palm tree for the work they did! l don’t know which l hate worse, you or that other malignant growth… How’d you ever get to be commander of a ship? l realize in wartime they have to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but where’d they ever scrape you up?

Morton: There’s just one thing left for you, mister. A general court-martial!

Roberts: Fine, court-martial me! l’m asking for it! lf l can’t get transferred, l’ll get court-martialed! l’m fed up! You’ll need a witness. Call your messenger. l’ll say it over again in front of him. Go on, call him! You want me to call him?

Morton: You’re a smart boy, Roberts. But l know how to take care of smart boys. l hate your guts, you smart college guys! l’ve been seeing your kind around since l was ten years old, working as a busboy. ”Oh, busboy, it seems my friend has thrown up on the table. ”Clean up that mess, boy, will you?” And then when l went to sea as a steward, people poking at you with umbrellas. ”Oh, boy! You, boy! Careful with that luggage, boy!” And l took it. l took it for years! But l don’t have to take it anymore! There’s a war on, and l’m captain of this vessel. Now you can take it for a change. The worst l can do to you is to keep you right here, mister! And here is where you’re going to stay! Now, get out!

Roberts: What do you want for liberty, Captain?

Morton: You are through writing letters, ever.

Roberts: Okay.

Morton: And that’s not all. You’re through talking back to me in front of the crew. When l give an order, you jump!

Roberts: ls that all, Captain?

Morton: No. Anyone know you’re in here?

Roberts: No one.

Morton: Good. Then you’re not to go blabbing this around to anyone, ever. Might not sound so good. l don’t want you to take credit for getting this —

Roberts: You think l’m doing this for credit? You think l’d let anyone know?

Morton: l’ve gotta make sure.

Roberts: You’ve got my word, that’s all.

Morton: Your word! You college boys make such a great show of keeping your word. (He turns on the PA system and picks up the microphone) Now hear this! This is the captain speaking. l’ve got further word on the subject of liberty. lt gives me great pleasure to announce liberty for the starboard section —

Roberts: The whole crew, or there’s no deal! l mean it!

Morton into the microphone: Correction. Liberty for the entire crew will commence immediately. (Loud cheers erupt around the ship.)

Roberts: You don’t have to tell them again. They heard you.

————-

That’s Envy, My Dear.”

From “Harvey,” 1950

Harvey

(In Charlie’s Bar, a doctor and a nurse are trying to convince Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is an invisible six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey, to return with them to Chumley’s Rest, a sanitarium. While they are dancing, Elwood wanders out into the alley. The doctor and the nurse quickly follow him.)

Dr. Sanderson (Charles Drake): Where’re you going, Mr. Dowd?

Elwood (James Stewart): I’m just looking for someone.

Sanderson: Why don’t you come back inside?

Elwood: Oh, all right, if you want me to. I — it seemed to be so pleasant out here. You know, you — you two looked very nice dancing together. I — I used to know a whole lot of dances. The, uh, Flea Hop, and — and, let’s see, uh — the Black Bottom. The Varsity Drag. I don’t know, I — I just don’t seem to have any time any more. I have so many things to do.

Nurse Kelly (Peggy Dow): What is it you do, Mr. Dowd?

Elwood: Oh, Harvey and I sit in the bars — and have a drink or two. Play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people, they turn toward mine, and they smile. And they’re saying, “We don’t know your name, mister, but you’re a very nice fellow.” (Elwood sits down on a bench and looks up at the night sky) Harvey and I — warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We’ve entered as strangers. Soon we have friends. And they come over and they — they sit with us, and they drink with us, and they talk to us. And they tell about the big terrible things they’ve done, and the big wonderful things they’ll do. (He smiles and looks at Sanderson and Kelly) Their hopes and their regrets, their loves and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then, I introduce them to Harvey. And he’s bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed. The same people seldom come back, but that’s — that’s envy, my dear. There’s a little bit of envy in the best of us. That’s too bad. Isn’t it?

Sanderson: How did you happen to call him Harvey?

Elwood: Harvey’s his name.

Sanderson: How do you know that?

Elwood: Uh — there was a rather interesting coincidence on that, Doctor. One night several years ago, I was walking early in the evening down along Fairfax Street. Uh, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth. Do you know the block?

Sanderson: Yes, yes.

Elwood: I’d just put Ed Hickey into a taxi. Ed had been mixing his rye with his gin, and he — I just felt that he needed conveying. Well, anyway, I was walking down along the street, and I — I heard this voice saying, “Good evening, Mister Dowd.” Well, I — I turned around and here was this big six-foot rabbit leaning up against a lamp post. Now, I thought nothing of that, because when you’ve lived in a town as long as I’ve lived in this one, you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name. And naturally, I went over to chat with him. (Sanderson and Kelly lean in, listening intently) And — and he said to me, he said, “Ed Hickey was a little spiffed this evening, or could I be mistaken?” Well, of course, he was not mistaken. I think the world and all of Ed, but he was spiffed. Well, we talked like that for a while, and then — and then I said to him, I said, “You have the advantage on me. You know my name, and I don’t know yours.” And — and right back at me, he said, “What name do you like?” Well, I — I didn’t even have to think twice about that. Harvey’s always been my favorite name. So I said to him, I said, “Harvey.” And he — and this is the interesting thing about the whole thing — he said, “What a coincidence. My name happens to be Harvey.”

———

We’ll Always Have Paris.”

From “Casablanca,” 1942

Casablanca

(In 1941 Casablanca, police try to arrest Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo, but are stopped at gunpoint by American expatriate Rick Blaine. Blaine and Laszlo’s wife Ilsa are former lovers, and they are tempted to rekindle the romance. At the airport, police Captain Renault expects Rick and Ilsa to fly together to America. With one hand on the pistol in his pocket, Rick hands the Letters of Transit to the police captain.)

Rick (Humphrey Bogart): If you don’t mind, Louie, you fill in the names. (He smiles) That will make it even more official.

Renault (Claude Raines): You think of everything, don’t you?

Rick: And the names are Mr. and Mrs. Victor Laszlo.

Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman): But why MY name, Richard?

Rick: Because you’re getting on that plane.

Ilsa: I don’t understand. What about you?

Rick: I’m staying here with him [Renault] ’til the plane gets safely away.

Ilsa: No, Richard! No! What has happened to you? Last night, we said —

Rick: Last night, we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I’ve done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you’re getting on that plane with Victor where you belong.

Ilsa: But Richard, no, I — I —

Rick: Now, you’ve got to listen to me. Do you have any idea what you’d have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine chances out of ten, we’d both wind up in a concentration camp. Isn’t that true, Louie?

Renault: I’m afraid Major Strasser would insist.

Ilsa: You’re saying this only to make me go.

Rick: I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

Ilsa, in tears: What about us?

Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have it — we’d — we’d lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.

Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.

Rick: And you never will. I’ve got a job to do too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. (She is on the verge of crying, and he consoles her.) Now, now. (He raises her chin) Here’s looking at you, kid.

 

 

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Eye in the Sky” is a pleasing soft rock tune from the 1982 album of the same name by the Alan Parsons Project. The song rose to number three on the U.S. charts, the group’s all-time best effort.

The lyrics are considerably less cheerful than the melody. They tell of the end of a relationship when a man discovers that his girlfriend is not who he thought she was. He feels victorious and empowered, but also angry and disappointed.

Parsons said co-writer Eric Woolfson came up with the title after spending time in Las Vegas.

“He had a certain fascination with the hidden cameras that were there watching the tables, taping the games and what have you,” said Parsons. “It was more than just the hidden cameras. It was also kind of 1984 syndrome. It covers the fact we can never be left to our own devices; we will always be watched.”

Eye in the Sky

Eye in the Sky

By the Alan Parsons Project, 1982
Written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson

Don’t think sorry’s easily said.
Don’t try turning tables instead.
You’ve taken lots of chances before,
But I ain’t gonna give any more —
Don’t ask me.
That’s how it goes,
‘Cause part of me knows what you’re thinkin’.

Don’t say words you’re gonna regret.
Don’t let the fire rush to your head.
I’ve heard the accusation before,
And I ain’t gonna take any more —
Believe me.
The sun in your eyes
Made some of the lies worth believing.

I am the eye in the sky,
Looking at you.
I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools.
I can cheat you blind.
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.

Don’t leave false illusions behind.
Don’t cry, ‘cause I ain’t changing my mind.
So find another fool like before,
Cause I ain’t gonna live anymore
believing some of the lies
while all of the signs are deceiving.

I am the eye in the sky,
Looking at you.
I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools.
I can cheat you blind.
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.

I am the eye in the sky,
Looking at you.
I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules,
Dealing with fools.
I can cheat you blind.
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.
I can read your mind.

 

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Surreal Times

In my heart, I knew — knew with absolute certainty — that the right-wingers eventually would politicize COVID-19. I know these people.

For them, it is perfectly in character to object to physical distancing and wearing face masks because doing so infringes on their rights. And, for good measure, shows personal weakness.

These are, after all, the white MAGA faithful. These are manly men who brandish guns and Confederate flags in public. These are self-righteous women who cough on store clerks.

I’ve been around for a long time. My memories go back 65 or 70 years. I’ve watched in real time as the American political landscape has devolved from policy disagreements to a conservative right that has spazzed out and gone insane.

The political left, mind you, has changed very little over the decades. The liberal views and goals have remained quite consistent and, for the most part, rational and fair-minded. Meanwhile, the right wing has spiraled steadily downward into madness.

When I was young, conservative Republicans were led by honorable men. Dwight Eisenhower. Henry Cabot Lodge.

But over time, the Republicans morphed into caricatures of themselves. Eisenhower and Lodge became Nixon and Reagan.

Now, Nixon and Reagan have been replaced by a sea of cartoonish villains — McConnell, Cotton, Cruz, Hannity, Limbaugh.

And then there is Donald Trump.

To be clear, Trump is neither a Republican nor a conservative. He is a self-serving leech. But the Republicans, in a veritable pact with the devil, choose to stand with him.

As President, Trump is the personification of incompetence. And he has committed enough crimes — treason chief among them — to have been routed from office a dozen times.

Recently, news is out that Russian military intelligence paid bounties to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to kill American troops. Trump is aware of this, but voices no objection. Now he claims the report is fake news and a hoax.

My first thought about this was of Trump’s sycophantic relationship with Putin. Trump won’t confront Putin about anything because Putin could ruin him. Putin is Comrade Trump’s banker.

My second thought was to marvel once again that Trump is “Teflon Don,” seemingly immune from being held accountable and ejected from office, as anyone else certainly would be.

The Access Hollywood tape came out, and he won election anyway. Illegally withholding military aid to Ukraine did not bring him down. Nor did obstruction of justice. Nor do daily violations of the emoluments clause.

Now Trump looks the other way while Putin offers cash to kill American soldiers. This is treasonous. Malfeasance. Dereliction of duty.

And the Republicans say nothing.

These are surreal times:

Trump’s shockingly awful and inept performance as president. The cowardly behavior of the Republicans. The fools at MAGA rallies, sitting shoulder to shoulder during a pandemic. The selfish jerks who endanger the health of others by refusing to take sensible precautions.

The oblivious crowds in bars and on beaches. The pathetic government response to COVID-19. The continuing spread of the virus in the U.S. while much of the rest of the world recovers.

I am ashamed of my country.

Trump bounty

Trump 1998

 

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My dad was a career officer in the Air Force, and from 1957 to 1960, our family lived in Stuttgart, Germany. I attended a high school there for American military dependents.

Because of the place and time, life for us male students at Stuttgart High School was heavily beer-centric — the German beer being, as you might expect, of superb quality.

Further, unlike teens back in the U.S., we had unusual freedom when we ventured off-base. The Germans despised and mostly avoided us, so as long as we were smart and stayed out of trouble, we had easy access to the taverns and the beer.

I have fond memories of those days of my friends, the adventures, the occasional misadventures — but it happened a long time ago, and, sadly, much has faded from my aging brain.

Some things, however, are indelibly etched in my memory banks. I was reminded of that the other day when, alone in my car, I began spontaneously singing the chorus of the Hofbräuhaus Song, which every kid knew back in my high school days.

The Hofbräuhaus Song is a German oom-pah tune that celebrates the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich. It was written in 1935 by Wilhelm Gabriel (nicknamed Wiga), a Berliner whose other hits were patriotic marching songs for the Third Reich. Most people prefer to ignore that part.

Specifically, I belted out this refrain from the song:

In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus.
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus.
Eins, zwei, g’suffa!

Translation:

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

I pronounced every word correctly, precisely, and with the appropriate gusto. Wiga Gabriel could not have done better.

Here is the German version of the song.

And here is the English translation:

The Hofbräuhaus Song

There, where the green Isar River flows,
Where you greet people with “Good day,”
Lies my beautiful city of Munich,
The likes of which you have never seen.

Water is cheap, pure, and good,
But it thins the blood.
Far better is some golden wine.
But best of all is this:

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

There’s always some fellow there
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

You don’t drink out of a glass there.
There’s only the “big beer mug!”
And when the first mug is empty,
The waitress Reserl will bring you more.

Sometimes, his wife at home is worried
Because the man is gone so long.
But the good neighbors,
They know better!

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
There, many kegs are emptied.
One, two, drink up!

There’s always some fellow there
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

Although many other cities have sights to see,
One thing is nowhere else but here:
Munich beer!
He who wrote this little song
Has for many long nights studied Munich’s beer
And sampled it comprehensively.

In Munich stands the Hofbräuhaus.
One, two, drink up!
Where the kegs are always flowing.
One, two, drink up!

There is always some brave fellow
One, two, drink up
Who wants to show how much he can drink.
He starts early in the morning,
And only late in the evening does he come out,
Because it’s so great at the Hofbräuhaus!

———

For details about the Hofbräuhaus, a truly marvelous institution, here is Rick Steves with an overview.

In summary, I may forget what I had for lunch yesterday, but the main chorus of the Hofbräuhaus Song is still fresh in my mind, 60 years later.

Eins, zwei, g’suffa!

Hofbräuhaus crowd

Many kegs are still being emptied today at the Hofbräuhaus.

 

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Random observations / recollections / stories...

———

Staredown

For at least a year after I adopted Jake, I didn’t allow him out of the house off-leash. But I slowly began to trust him, and it was obvious he wasn’t going anywhere. Now I allow him to wander freely while I work in the yard, take out the trash, etc. He never strays far, and all is well.

A few days ago, I heard the familiar sound of the mail truck in the cul de sac, and I said, “Hey, dude, wanna go check the mail?” He executed a vigorous happy dance.

So we walked up the driveway, and I got my mail. When I turned to go back to the house, I was surprised to see Jake in full alert mode. He was fixed in a slight crouch, stock still, eyes blazing, staring at something behind me. I turned to look.

It was a cat, a coal black adult cat, sitting next to a car across the street. He was barely 15 yards away, returning Jake’s stare with murderous yellow eyes. Whether he was confidently standing his ground or afraid to run for it, I can’t say.

Jake,” I said calmly, “Don’t do it. Stay.” He remained frozen, staring at the cat.

Forget it. Stay here,” I told him, taking one step toward the house. “That cat would hurt you. Let’s go.” I took another step.

As if a switch were thrown, Jake emerged from his trance and relaxed. He turned and trotted ahead of me back down the driveway.

I was very proud.

Jake-3-20

———

Disappointment

I’ve been good lately about staying home, physical distancing, wearing a mask, etc., but I still take Jake on regular morning walks somewhere around Jefferson. Also, since the restaurants have switched to takeout, I’ll often pick up lunch somewhere and go find an empty picnic table at one of the parks or schools.

Not long ago, the idea of having a couple of Krystal hamburgers popped into my head. The nearest Krystal is 10 miles away, but, hey – my schedule can handle that. So I drove to Commerce and ordered two Krystals and French fries at the drive-through.

Commerce has a large outlet center whose stores are closed, so I decided to go there to enjoy my Krystals.

Five minutes later, I was sitting on a sidewalk bench at the outlet center, looking out at the empty parking lot, enjoying lunch and listening to the silence.

I wasn’t alone for long. I heard footsteps and looked up to see a uniformed sheriff’s deputy walking toward me. He was a white guy in his 40s or 50s. He carried a long silver flashlight, I assumed making security rounds.

When he got within speaking distance, we exchanged greetings. I made a sweeping gesture toward the parking lot. “This is weird,” I said. “I’ve never seen this place empty.”

Me either,” he said. “But it’s nice and quiet.”

For the next several minutes, we chatted about the new normal, the abundance of birds hopping around the pavement, the warm weather, and the puffy spring clouds.

What would you be doing today if this coronavirus thing hadn’t happened?” he asked.

I gestured toward the row of stores on the other side of the parking lot. “I’d probably be here anyway, browsing in Marshall’s,” I said.

Then the conversation went south.

I’ll be honest,” he said, “I don’t trust the news media. I wonder if this virus is being blown out of proportion – if it’s really as bad as they say.”

Oh, crap. A Fox News type. Jerry Falwell, Jr. is probably his source of information about the pandemic. Man, I thought, are the infection rates and the deaths a fiction? Are the videos of patients and doctors and nurses staged?

But, instead of calling him a moron, I just said, Well, viruses can mutate. They can become harmless or become worse. You never know.”

What a disappointment. We were having a nice conversation, and he spoiled it.

Yeah, anything could happen,” he said. “But I think the news media will do anything to hurt the President. I can see them exaggerating this.” I reached into the bag for the other Krystal and didn’t respond.

Well,” he announced, “I’ll let you finish your lunch. Nice talking to you.”

I nodded, and he walked on.

I finished lunch in a funk. What a disappointment.

Tanger

Weird.

———

Green Anoles

At the corner of my house, beside the garage door, is an aluminum downspout that sits flush to the wall. No light shows behind it. The wall itself is covered with overlapped horizontal siding.

This arrangement, I discovered, has created an ecosystem of nooks and crannies behind the downspout. I know this because one day, I noticed a small green lizard peeking out at me.

Specifically, it was a green anole, a common lizard in these parts. When I was a kid, we would catch one of the little guys, tie a piece of thread around its neck, and tie the thread to a buttonhole on your shirt.

The lizard would sit stoically on your shoulder, or sometimes wander around your back, until you got bored and let him go. Typically, anoles don’t bite, but they’re capable of it, and those little jaws are surprisingly strong.

Anyway, it was a green anole peeking out from behind the downspout, and when I got too close, he retreated into a crevice, out of sight.

After that, I regularly looked for him when I passed the downspout. During the warmer months, he always seemed to be there.

Just when I was about to give him a name, I discovered that he wasn’t my only resident lizard. Several times, I saw two of them sunning themselves.

The lifespan of a green anole in the wild, I learned, is about three years. Because my first lizard sighting was several years ago, it’s possible the original fellow is still around.

This year, now that warm weather is back, my lizards are out again.

Anole

 

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