Aerosmith – On Tour, 1973-85 – Julian Gill (2021)

Author and rock historian extraordinaire Julian Gill has done it again. Aerosmith – On
Tour, 1973-85
is living antiquity, an exhaustive, extensive, unbelievably detailed trip across a decade of road stories, trinkets, facts, side stories, statistics and images that
frame one of the most impressive touring runs in the pantheon of rock and roll.

Laid out in a dual compendium with his online archives, much as Gill has
accomplished for Aerosmith’s contemporaries, KISS, this tome (and man is it ever, the
author warned me not to drop it on my foot) covers every aspect of Aerosmith’s journey
from Boston bar band to the heights of 1970s superstardom, the band’s implosion and
retooling, which culminates with their comeback pre-mid-1980s revival (previewing the
most unlikely and spectacular second acts in rock). I was at one of those reunion shows at
a stormy Orange County Fairgrounds in 1984, and it remains one of the best concerts I
have ever seen by any band. And Julian’s got it cold, even hinting that there might be a
recording of it!

No Aerosmith fan, hell, no fan of 1970s rock can live without this book. It is the
collection of all collections (he even has solo projects and ensuing tours), and to think
Gill is threatening to keep going – a follow-up volume into the second-act career – even
going so far as to reaching out to readers to contribute. This is a true grassroots
book/online effort that is so unique it may spawn imitators, but in no way duplicators.
Gill’s ability to mine minutia, find the gems, and get to the crux of the facts is without
peer, and this volume may be his finest achievement.

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Music is History – Questlove (2021)

At one point in his exceedingly enjoyable Music is History, Producer/Drummer/Educator/Author, and shameless fellow music geek, Questlove astutely quotes nineteenth century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” This pretty much explains what music journalists (de facto historians) do when we attempt to frame music in the context of its times and beyond. Questlove brilliantly balances this axiom/call to arms in the personal and cultural for music is in his DNA as a musician and an intellectual. And if there is a more entertaining book on music as history, I defy anyone to name it.

To say I loved Music is History is an understatement. It spoke to me the way I usually speak to others, or more to the point write in this paper, magazine pieces, and my own books on music. Questlove has found a voice so filled with deep minutia and profound conclusions, it is quite intimidating. If I weren’t having so damn much fun discovering and rediscovering the songs/albums/artists that run a historical thread through Music is History, I might be pissed at him for this fantastic idea!

The highlights of his journey from birth (1971) to the present, include but are not beholden to the author’s deconstruction of samples through hip hop’s evolution to bridge the gap between generations of celebrated soul/funk artists whose work was reimagined and rediscovered through the art form. There is also the discussion of musical appropriation, the slow erosion of the cultural purpose behind rap/hip hop, the primacy of the Em bass line in dance music, musicians as confessors, and how history can be viewed through the prism of our personal connection to music.

Moreover, any book that dedicates a chapter to Prince and the Revolution’s underrated1985 masterpiece Around the World in a Day is a winner for yours truly. This was so much fun!

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UH-OH

Aquarian Weekly
5/11/22
 
Reality Check
 
James Campion
  
UH-OH
Preparing for Women to Become Government Property
 

Fans of my decade-plus pounding of these keys for Marriage Equality and years of calling for the expunging of Donald J. Trump from anything resembling the White House will get a huge kick out of the next few months. Because although I have touched on the issue of Roe v Wade and equal rights for women before around here, and most recently this past December, things got real this past week when some enterprising American hero leaked what can only be described as the most heinous judicial attack on the personal liberty of the taxpaying citizenry yet. Get ready. This will be a continuing topic. When 51.1 percent of the populace have their bodies become the property of the U.S. government, it’s worth getting obsessed about.

None of this is surprising. This had been coming for some time, but really a deadlock certainty once the new “conservative judges” (we’ll get to that semantic clusterfuck later) took their places. No one with half a brain thought that when all three – Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh – interviewed for the gig and claimed that Roe v Wade was “settled law” it was remotely true. The man who appointed them, the aforementioned Trump, put out a litmus test that only “Pro Life” (a euphemism for allowing the government to fuck with a woman’s bodily functions) would be his picks. This was why Republicans held their noses to vote for this dink. Therefore, this is the entire point of them even being on the Court. It’s not like they were any good. The last guy was a drunk, and not even a good drunk, one that leans into you and smells bad and tells you about how he could have played centerfield for the Red Sox and then tries to grope your date.  

The Religious Right (not particularly conservative) was allowed into American politics in the 1980s, because Ronald Reagan mistook them for lobbyists, and because, well, you know, Reagan. And it’s been a fun ride ever since. They hijacked what was merely a fiscally conservative, warmongering racist organization and decided to go all-in on the culture wars tearing the mantle of conservatism from the likes of William F. Buckley and George Will and handing them over to southern charlatans like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Falwell and Robertson were part of a long line of religious loons that have been trying to tell us what to do, how to act, how to dress, what art we can consume and how guilty we should feel unless we give them money for Jesus since the dawn of civilization. But we had an awakening here in the early part of the twentieth century and it made them nervous. And until the 1980s things were moving along nicely away from government-controlled human behavior rat science to a reluctant form of enlightenment. We called this period the 1960s and 70s, during which the idea that women should have control over their bodies became law. But even the 1980s would not kowtow to the medieval idea of enslaving women – nor did the 90s or the first two decades of this century.

Then this week a leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case challenging the constitutionality of a fifteen-week abortion ban in Mississippi emerged. In it, Alito becomes another justice ignoring the progress of rights in this country to myopically return the nation to the dark ages. “Until the latter part of the 20th century,” he writes in an enviably spectacular stupor reserved for the victims of blunt head trauma, “…there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Zero. None.”

Alito, in essence, is granting the government the right someday to force abortions like in China.

And before 1865, owning humans was legal. There was no constitutional right to obtain freedom for Africans stolen from their homeland to do our bidding for free. Zero. None.

Alito, who also voted against and wrote a bigoted screed against marriage equality seven years ago, evokes the word “abortion” here because he misunderstands the concept of the Fourteenth Amendment that grants protection to every citizen, even ones with vaginas, against “any state to deprive its citizens of life, liberty, or property.” The fundamental disconnect between abortion and property=body is at the heart of this. Alito, in essence, is granting the government the right someday to force abortions like in China.

Alito’s goofy “zero-none” nonsense is brilliantly framed from a woman’s perspective in a piece in the latest New Yorker that every American, male or female, who gives a shit about personal liberty should read. Titled “What’s Missing From Alito’s Decision to Revoke the Right to Abortion”, author/journalist Jessica Winter writes, “Alito is entirely correct that, in 1973, the Supreme Court was somewhat out of step with its time in codifying women’s rights. When Roe was decided, a married woman in the United States needed her husband’s permission to get a credit card, something that did not change until 1974. No state outlawed marital rape until 1975. No man was found liable for sexual harassment until 1977. Pregnancy was a fireable offense until 1978. Alito does not itemize forms of gender-based subjugation that persisted after Roe, many of which might be persuasively argued as ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.’”

Ouch.

And all of it true.

This is why Religious Right Republicans – you can’t call these fascists conservatives anymore, it’s silly – are up in arms about Critical Race Theory. The truth is painful. The truth is messy. But, as the man says, the truth will set you free. Or at least set women free. But the truth is going bye-bye.

Granted, I am writing this from a comfortable seat of freedom from judicial tyranny here in New Jersey, where my wife and daughter reside. We have strengthened our right to exist free of government enslavement. This column merely points out that the threat to the Fourteenth Amendment for women’s rights against “any state to deprive its citizens of life, liberty, or property” is wrong and should not exist in a purportedly “free” country. However, currently thirteen states are challenging this amendment by banning abortion after fifteen weeks, which may seem fairly reasonable to government-control freaks who are obsessed with its complete sovereignty over the bodily functions of its citizens, but all of those states have “trigger-laws” that kick in once this glaringly apparent Supreme Court ruling comes down, which grants state governments the complete power over the innards of over half of its public.

This statement and the ruling it precedes will effectively put all American women in the servitude of the federal government. There really is no other way of looking at this and calls into question contraception and the like. Because the ruling will not rid the nation of abortion – you can take an abortion pill for that anywhere. You don’t need a clinic or the drunk guy’s vote on the Court to get it. Abortions, just like the failed Drug War, is a pacifier for the Religious Right that will not curtail a single abortion, but it will affect women’s health care, and as stated here more than once over the years, the personal liberty of the female citizen. And this ruling will give rise to the attacks on contraception, another biggie for religious fanatics.

The one thing conservatives fear, government control, will be lasting and comprehensive once this all comes down in a month or so. To wit: Supposed conservative Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, recently told CBS News that with the felling of Roe v Wade, “Each of those elected representatives can make the decisions that they view best for their constituents.”

Let me qualify the horrors of this statement and apply it to amendments you dig, like the First or Second Amendment: “Each of those elected representatives can MAKE THE DECISIONS THAT THEY VIEW BEST for their constituents.”

Making decisions they “view best for you.” Remember all those wusses who wouldn’t wear a cloth over their face for a few months, they now want the government to crawl inside the body of a woman for a lifetime.

Let that sink in, conservatives. Unless you are a member of the Religious Right, let that sink in, ladies.

In the coming weeks we will cover what this means for the 2022 midterms and the rest of our lives in voting booths, which has pitted the concept of America with one party that has chosen to dismantle personal sovereignty.

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RON DESANTIS IS DEFINITELY NOT A CLOSET TRANSGENDER COMMUNIST MEMBER OF THE KKK INSPIRED BY MEIN KEMPF

Aquarian Weekly
4/27/22
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
RON DESANTIS IS DEFINITELY NOT A CLOSET TRANSGENDER COMMUNIST MEMBER OF THE KKK INSPIRED BY MEIN KEMPF
Dismantling Scurrilous Rumors About the Florida Governor One at a Time
 
 
It is better to cast your seed in the belly of a whore than spill it on the ground.
                                                                     – Genesis 38:8
 
The rumors are not true. In fact, I am here to defuse the furor over claims that beleaguered Florida Governor, rising Republican star for the 2024 nomination for president, was born a woman, and his anti-LGBTQ laws to attack these children at a vulnerable age is a prime example of Freudian sex-identity self-loathing. This is madness and an obvious attempt by radicals to attack his origins and dilute his influence over a dying economic state and add to his plummeting approval ratings. There is also no truth to the allegations that his using the state government to pass laws as blatant attacks on business rights for political vengeance is a prime example of his communist leanings. Nor is this nonsense that his constant parading of the term “grooming” as a systemic mind-control of the state’s youth by the gay community is lifted directly from the third chapter of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kempf, substituting Jews for Homosexuals. And just because the Republicans have voted to disenfranchise Black congressional districts to skew election results, does not cement DeSantis’s membership in the Klu Klux Klan. Come on. This craziness has to stop. Now.

I am no fan of DeSantis. He is a charlatan selling fear and the over-coddling of children for their inability to process information on their own without the help of the government. His banning of math books because it may upset white people is cancel culture run amok. Sure, he’s an opportunist who exploits whatever wind is blowing – anti-science, anti-gay, and whatever crap it takes to get elected. But who doesn’t? I get that. I have been at this a long time. I lived through Just Say No and Freedom Fries and Muslim Bans. I’m a big boy. I do not hate Ron DeSantis. Even though I think he is silly, his kind interests me. Like studying the grazing habit of the dung beetle.

If anything, I pity DeSantis. He is clearly mentally challenged, and these attacks are just a cheap form of bullying. For instance, I am appalled at these memes and repeated video clips played over and over on YouTube of his drooling. This is absolutely not a sign of stroking. Are these people doctors? No. And do they care that his administrative assistants are forced to calm his late afternoon crying jags or deflect these tall tales of his manic jacking off to Donald Trump sweating through interviews? They do not. Instead, they just take to the Internet to hammer on him. Where is the compassion? Maybe it is this low-rent treatment that has led him to act as a psycho bigot. Has The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, or pretty much any Dr. Suess (his canon does tend to drive a singular concept home) taught us nothing?

The state manipulation of a private business concern is not communism. The state using its powers for personal gain and vengeance for a business not supporting its ideology is not communism.

I do not have to agree with someone’s politics to defend their character against mean-spirited political mudslinging. I support LGBT rights. I do not want to see any state, even a sinkhole like Florida, either run by Democrats or Republicans disenfranchise African Americans to better the chances of electoral victory. Having read Mein Kampf and found eerie similarities between most religious-based governing and its dangerous baby, patriotism disguised as state-mandated mugging, I can state with confidence that it is a stretch to take out one or two sentences in a deplorable document to prove DeSantis is a Nazi. Enough with the Nazi comparisons. As if that is ever going to happen again. Great defenders of freedom like Vladimir Putin are putting an end to fascism in Ukraine right now. We are all safer for it. He is a great hero. At least that’s what Trump and Fox News says, and why divert any belief system beyond what a game show host and a tainted news organization have to say? There is no time for that.

Or maybe Putin is a despot? Hard to tell. I’ll have to do my own research and investigation once I am done deconstructing the quasi-science of the Covid virus. I heard a good place to start is Season 26 of The Bachelor.

Can I just break the fourth wall for a moment? I just wrote that there are 26 seasons of something called The Bachelor, wherein strangers find spouses for life on a reality TV show. That is a thing that is true. It has happened and keeps happening. The National Broadcasting Company would not put this on if it didn’t make a shit-ton of money and get big ratings. A quarter century of The Bachelor. Let that sink in.

Okay, back to the satire.

While it is true that DeSantis and his Republican-controlled government is pissing on Ronald Reagan’s grave by stripping the legal right for the Disney Corporation to control land it has built on its own with its own funds, maintain its debt, infrastructure, and other amenities, freeing tax-payers and the local government of the fiduciary burden, he is doing so in the defense of the right of parents against the company’s evil anti-DeSantis ideologies. The state manipulation of a private business concern is not communism. The state using its powers for personal gain and vengeance for a business not supporting its ideology is not communism. It is hardly communism for the taxpayers to absorb the business expenses of private enterprises, thus making it state run. This is like saying that a president not agreeing to the results of an election, trying to use the awesome powers of his office to remain in charge, and then commandeering an insurrection on the federal Capitol building is fascist. Absurd.

Finally, the most outlandish of any of these fast-moving rumors is that Ron DeSantis has had sex realignment, that he was born a woman, and he is using this crusade against the LGBTQ community and, (gulp!) LGBTQ children as a front to deflect the truth. This one is easy to refute. Firstly, no respectable Trans would ever dress like him. Have you seen his suits? It’s like a 1970s Caldor blew up and landed on his back. His gait is also far-too simian to have any female origins. And while I support his right to self-identity as sacrosanct and defend his personal choices to not be defined as a threat by the government, it is beyond believable that this man has ever been anywhere near women, much less was once one.

Okay, so maybe this Roy Cohn-esque boondoggle does come with photos of the former Ronnie Dee-Lite dancing at Birds of a Feather Lesbian Lounge in Miami Florida in 2001. And, admittedly, there are intriguing resemblances to what some, not me, might judge as pre-surgery female DeSantis. But come on. I might be led to believe Marjorie Taylor Green was a man or that Lindsay Graham was thrice the grand marshal of the Mermaid Parade, but DeSantis as a woman just doesn’t wash.

In conclusion, despite actions leaning in this direction, Ron DeSantis is not a self-loathing transgender, nor is he a devout communist, influenced in any way by the writings of Adolf Hitler, nor a member of the KKK – at least not a card-carrying one. But I will be doing further research on this. The Green Bay Packers QB is helping me out.

Considering how gullibly fickle our electorate is, and his preternatural ability to tap into the whiny zeitgeist, Ron DeSantis is probably going to be our next president.

So, come on. Leave him alone

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“PLENTY OF PRETTY VOICES WITH NOTHING TO SAY”

Aquarian Weekly
4/20/22

Reality Check


James Campion


“PLENTY OF PRETTY VOICES WITH NOTHING TO SAY”
In Praise of Coda

Coda – Children of Deaf Adults
Coda – The concluding passage of a piece or movement

One of the tragedies of the Will Smith/Chris Rock slapping fiasco was that it happened as Rock was about to announce the Oscar winner for Best Documentary, which deservedly went to Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Summer of Soul. I wrote extensively about this film (https://www.theaquarian.com/2021/07/21/reality-check-the-politics-culture-spirit-of-soul/) last year, and it is still kicking my ass. Later that evening, also lost in all the “post-slap” hubbub was Coda winning Best Picture. I had not seen Coda yet. It was on my list, and although I saw nearly every film nominated, it slipped our schedule. I finally got to it last weekend, and as it unfolded, I began to realize that in many ways it stands beside Summer of Soul as a celebration of the spiritual power of music and its impact on us personally, generationally, and permanently.

Written and directed by Sian Heder, Coda is an otherwise quaint “coming of age” story we have seen hundreds of times, but in a rarity to Hollywood these days Heder’s story is original and steeped in symbolism presented in a less opaque style prized by outside-the-mainstream films that openly trade in that artistic currency. And while there is zero pandering in Coda, there is the expected emotional manipulation we all recognize having grown up at the movies. I applaud this craft in Coda but was ultimately endeared to it because it is a living, breathing hymn to something I figured out some time ago – and it has proved me correct time and time again – music is an essential ingredient to living. To some, it is air to be breathed and the terra firma beneath our feet. Some make music, others, like me, can do it occasionally these days, but writing about it serves its mastery to the gods of bliss.

This is what Coda (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pmfrE1YL4I&t=1s) is for me.
I am going to tread a fine line here in trying to not spoil this for someone who has not seen the film. For starters, I went in cold, and without subtitles. This was an important element to understanding its characters better as someone who does not communicate with the hearing impaired on a regular basis. Unless you know sign language, you don’t know what the deaf actors are communicating specifically, but you get it. Just like music – there is an emotional, not literal, translation. It is a whole new way of “watching” conversations and not focusing on words, but actions and emotions. A piece of music, a simple song, like the interaction of the family in Coda, should move you, speak to you, without lyrics. The music will tell you. Here, the signs, the facial expressions, the raw human emotion conveys what you are missing in pure translation.

The plot revolves around a young teenage girl, Ruby in the final months of her senior year of High School working on a boat alongside her brother for her fisherman father. Her mom appears to be a loving, pragmatic homemaker and business mind of the operation. The family, except for Ruby, are deaf. The father, Frank Rossi, is played with broad intensity by Best Actor winner, Troy Kotsur. He is animated, lovable, playfully determined, and childlike. His wife, Jackie (famed deaf actress, Marlee Matlin), plays off him brilliantly, as does Leo, Ruby’s older brother (Daniel Durant), who could have been merely the “older sibling that doesn’t understand what the more determined younger one needs to find her path,” but instead becomes a crucial pillar to what it is like to grow up in silence along with parents who live in the same silence.

Filled with music, the soundtrack of life, Ruby has one foot in this silence and one far beyond those of us able to hear.

If there is such a thing as love in this world it is seeing that something special that makes a person who they are and having the guts to make sure they do not waste it.

Emilia Jones, as Ruby, is a talented twenty year-old who absolutely nails the frustrations, insecurities, and general freakiness of merely being a teenager, coupled with her crushing responsibility to be the social thread to society for her family. There is never a moment in this story, where Emilia doesn’t convince me of her travails. She does not represent every teenaged girl I have ever seen in rote “personal discovery” movies, firstly because she is a fantastic actor, but with the added powers given to her in the script, the story comes alive. Ruby knows she is special talent from the opening scene on a boat with her brother and dad, as she sings along with “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” a six-decades old soul song sung by the inimitable Etta James. And that something for Ruby is music. You can see in her face; she is filled with such joy. She already adores singing the way one must adore the music to be sung, as it is to live in its disciplines and ecstasies and struggles.

And it is something, sadly, she cannot share with her family This is where Heder’s tale hits the hardest, going beyond symbolism into the social construct of everyday life, how it obliterates the over-used fictional archetypes; the parents who do not understand what their child is about because she does not fit neatly into their familial framework or how they envision her life to be. That has been done to death. But what choice does Ruby have with hearing-impaired parents who cannot fathom her one, true passion? Although Heder hints that this may one day be the case, as Frank cranks up Etta on the boat to better feel the bass and the groove – later, we learn he loves to blast Gangsta Rap for its pounding, repetitive rhythms. We feel for the parents. They are beyond one-dimensional caricatures in their inability to hear, both literally and philosophically. They live proudly, and unerringly, with their “impairment.” It is their special language and connection to each other.

But I found myself rooting hardest for Ruby, because I see her as not merely discovering her talents, she needs for everyone else to discover what she is, to show her little New England fishing village what she truly can and will be. This is realized through her connection with choral teacher, Bernardo Villalobos, who, in symbolic terms again, if I may, becomes the human equivalent of Ruby’s passion for music. Bernardo is music. He insists from the first to “roll the r’s” of his name, the music of his Latin ancestry. He is a Berklee School of Music graduate, a man who has given into the call for the struggle and the joys of being music. Someone finally sees this in Ruby. She knows this. Bernardo and Ruby are the platonic love story here, even though there is an obligatory teenaged one.

Again, I am trying extremely hard not to spoil anything here, but if there is such a thing as love in this world it is seeing that something special that makes a person who they are and having the guts to make sure they do not waste it.

Vitally, Heder’s choices of songs are on the money. There is not a wasted metaphor for the scene you are watching (listening to), and the music, like the sign language – the unspoken secret language of its melodies and rhythms – is telling a second story: If you open your ears, and you can let that in, then you can better relate to the Rossi’s world of silence and Ruby’s journey to self-discovery.

There are two gorgeous scenes in the movie that depict this – one that brought me to tears, being the dad of a teenage girl now, and another that helps you to empathize with those who cannot hear the music, that do not know about all the air and the terra firma. And let’s face it, if they are going to put Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” in a movie, I am all in. And man, does Heder put this in the right spot to get the most from its eternal message of seeing the tragic beauty of existence.
Joni. What more needs to be said there.

In the end, Coda is about family. It’s about being who you are. It’s about how those things can be difficult to balance. And it is told through the method of barriers – most pointedly deafness and giving oneself completely to the secret language of music – but really, it is a generational tale of creativity and discovery. It is a beautiful film.

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PAY BALL!

Aquarian Weekly
4/6/22

Reality Check

James Campion

PAY BALL!
New Rules for NYC – Courtesy of the Yankees & Mets $$

In the most expected outcome for us stalwart cynics, the New York Yankees and Mets used their hefty financial clout to bypass health mandates for vaccinated workers in New York City, something not available to the over 1,400 workers sacked due to their refusal to get vaccinated. Unvaccinated millionaire baseball players can now ply their trade come this week for opening day as people who make something in the ballpark (pun intended) of $30,000 to $60,000 a year stay unemployed by the same city. In a world filled with examples why things ain’t fair, this one is a doozy. Especially for those who believe, as we do here, that rules for the rich and famous – also massive corporations like Major League Baseball teams – do not apply to the rest of us.

This was the week of the infamous Slap Heard Round the World, which I was tempted to write about – saw it live and found it hard to fathom even after watching uncensored versions of movie star Will Smith assaulting comedian Chris Rock on live TV – but then I thought, if two men in their fifties can’t control their school-yard level teasing and vengeance, why should I comment? Shit, this is a space written weekly by a man in his fifties who challenged a sitting U.S. congressman to a fist fight (https://jamescampion.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c9c075c37aeb02bd04a4e7dfb&id=2999703be6&e=c1ab353e46) in print. Cops were involved. Campaigns were upset (https://jamescampion.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c9c075c37aeb02bd04a4e7dfb&id=0a3f7a5072&e=c1ab353e46) . It was a merry time of misrule, but I had enough clout to get away with it (https://jamescampion.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c9c075c37aeb02bd04a4e7dfb&id=aa447d4ce6&e=c1ab353e46) , so I am the problem as much as the solution.

I am not saying I am rich (I am not, by Smith, Rock, or baseball standards for sure) nor famous, but if you have the First Amendment and the guise of satire behind you, there is some rope provided columnists that you might not have if you are not a member of the Fourth Estate and threaten to pummel politicians with their phone. Just ask the suckers on their way to jail for January 6.

Speaking of which, consider the ongoing mess that is Donald J. Trump, who has committed more crimes than any politician in our lifetimes, and that’s before he became president of the United States. Can’t seem to get an indictment on this guy. More investigations. Sure. Investigations. Ha! We understand that means – rich and famous people don’t get busted for shit that would put us in jail for years. That’s how it goes around here (Cue “God Bless America” while throwing up) The Academy Awards Committee (whatever the fuck that is) is investigating an assault every human has seen a dozen times all over the planet. What is there to investigate? They should have ushered Smith out of the building into a police car. Just like they should have impeached and removed that thug Trump when he was in office and then ushered him into a police car. You know that would have happened to 99.9 percent of us. But that’s not how the world works.

What changes from a transit worker and Aaron Judge? Money. Lots of money. That’s it.

Back to the Yankees and the Mets, who convinced the city of New York, one of the most hardcore purveyors of Covid-19 rules in the United States (I need to show a Vax card to get a slice of pizza), to toss its stringent restrictions so unvaccinated players can make that money. It doesn’t hurt that many of them are top stars. The Yankees best player, Aaron Judge is allegedly not vaccinated and didn’t plan to be, and as many as ten Mets, including the games’ best pitcher, Jacob deGrom, are also reported to not be vaccinated. Keeping them from filling the stands and bloating the TV and radio ratings won’t do for multi-million-dollar entertainers. So, the Mets new billionaire owner, Steve Cohen, who incidentally donated (invested, it turns out) $1.5 million to the current mayor’s 2021 campaign, got on the horn and made some inquiries. So did Yankees President Randy Levine, esq. (the key to that prior sentence is esquire), running interference for billionaire son of George Steinbrenner and current CEO of the Yanks, Hal. They both worked Eric Adams like a hand puppet for weeks to get this new ruling.

To bury the lede, Mayor Adams held a press conference to lift health restrictions for all of NYC’s “entertainers” everywhere (good cover to lump in mimes and buskers with MLB power) at the N.Y. Mets’ Citi Field. No more blatant spit in the face of health concerns and the ignoring of the 1,400 city workers could have been conjured by a Hollywood PR firm that frantically tries to paint Will Smith’s brutish behavior as a noble attempt to protect his wife, his race, and his profession’s honor by acting like a jabbering ass-hat.

I jest in place of rage. This is a fucking travesty. What changes from a transit worker and Aaron Judge? Money. Lots of money. That’s it. Cash. Not science. Not health. Not the greater good for the community or the city. Nothing. This is as craven a cash grab as can be displayed in broad daylight. (Cue “Money Makes the World Go Round” while you go fuck yourself).

And let’s face it, who cares about sanitation workers, firemen, cops, and the rest of the city’s civil workers when we can see baseball? I mean, I don’t live in NYC, and I am barely part of the human race, much less a functioning citizen of this long-line of bullshit country, so if I can see my Yanks and my friends can see their Mets, then I guess all is good. But is it, really? Is it more of the hold-your-nose kind of thing we’re doing with the evils of the NFL or college sports and the moral sinkhole that is the Olympics? Or the NBA, for that matter, as the Brooklyn Nets used several lobbyists at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars harassing the mayor’s office for months to get their flat-earth jackass point guard, Kyrie Irving back in business.

So, the answers are: Yes, all is good, and: No, hardly anyone one cares. I haven’t seen much outrage for this than usual. I think maybe a boycott might be in order for those who move with the whims of the almighty dollar, but, alas, I only watch the Yankees now. That is what is left of my interest in sports. So, fuck it. If this is how NYC and Mayor Adams wants to play this, I shan’t argue. Free market capitalism at its best.

When nurses ask me why people playing a child’s game make fifty time what they do, I point to the utter, sad, fucking horsecrap hypocrisy of this. Because that’s what we do here, make it clear we are all full of steaming shit. So we can go back to watching the curveball snap and someone go yard. Let us all bask in its obvious disregard for sanity, comportment, morality, and reason.

And play ball!

Or… ahem … pay ball!

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DEATH RATTLE BATTLEFIELD

Aquarian Weekly
3/23/22

Reality Check

James Campion

DEATH RATTLE BATTLEFIELD
How Putin’s Folly in Ukraine is Systematically Destroying Russia

Things are actually going worse than I predicted two weeks ago (PUTIN’S FANCY CLUSTERFUCK) when this ill-conceived and badly figured military invasion of Ukraine began for Russia. Vladimir Putin’s utterly insane idea with no rational endgame to occupy a neighboring nation with a subpar, hardly motivated army, (more confused by the reasoning for the fighting than motivated to “win”), has turned into a bloody stalemate that will only worsen when the tough part of the war inside the urban slaughterhouse commences. The Russian Army has been exposed as ill-equipped and badly led. The entire enterprise has caused a once proud nation to be dragged into economic and moral calamity. It, and its beleaguered tyrant president, has been summarily shunned by the rest of the world. It would seem Russia is on the brink of complete anarchy in less than a month, purely on the whims of a madman.

Putin has done what no NATO coalition could have done. He has doomed Russia. The country is bankrupt, ostracized from the 21^st century global economy – more than 400 hundred western companies have abandoned it, throwing thousands of citizens out of work, and in the process dragged the last thirty years of progress and assimilation since the fall of the Soviet Union into a new dark ages. It is so bad Putin is forced to beg China for much-needed help and then take to the airwaves to shout about “traitors and scum,” many of whom cling to a harsher reality of food shortages, gas hikes, and an isolation from the goods and services in which they rely.

That is to say nothing of the Russian troops who routinely abandon tanks to run scared into the Ukrainian forests or put down their weapons in an open act of desertion. And who can blame them? According to Pentagon officials quoted in a recent NY Times article, more than 7,000 Russian troops are already dead, a greater number than American troops killed over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. To gain a starker perspective on this, the article goes on to state that “in 36 days of fighting on Iwo Jima during World War II, nearly 7,000 Marines were killed. Now, 20 days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Putin’s military has already lost more soldiers.”

General don’t die. Russian generals are dying. Daily.

And through the “fog of war” these are conservative estimates. Some in the U.S. military have been given greater numbers of deaths, which they describe as “staggering.” As many as 10,000 Russian soldiers have likely been sacrificed for this boondoggle, due to Belarusian morgues filling up daily with the slain.
This nearly one-month offensive, predicted by Putin’s brain trust (many of which have likely been executed by now or thrown in prison) as originally taking three to four days, has eviscerated Russian troop morale. Motivation for this mess was already shaky due to soldiers having to murder many of their fellow Slavs for what sounded to them and the rest of the planet as a goofy propaganda ego-circle-jerk by a mentally challenged dictator. The general rule of war is that a ten-percent casualty rate, which includes wounded, for a single unit renders it unable to carry out combat-related tasks. The estimate so far is nearly 21 thousand total wounded, which is nearly ten percent, as there are reportedly more than 150,000 Russian troops in Ukraine. And the kicker might be that four Russian generals have also been killed, a number that usually hovers around zero for generals. General don’t die. Russian generals are dying. Daily.

Considering a lunatic like Putin won’t be quitting this folly anytime soon, he has upped the ante on this losing bet by slaying civilians, using illegal weapons, calling in mercenaries from Syria and the black ops the Russians normally used to assassinate journalists and dignitaries. A kitchen sink tossing is sure to follow. These are desperate times for a despot living in a fantasy.

Ever more galling to Putin is Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, former comedian and TV star, being the toast of the western world and recently enjoying a standing ovation during a speech to the U.S. Congress. Zelenksy has made a very public mockery of the false bravado of his enemy, as women, children and young civilian men join forces with the undermanned Ukrainian Army to thwart the “mighty” Russian Army that staggers around looking to move forward while barely holding flank. And all of it is televised 24-hours a day and flashed on social media: The failures, the embarrassment, the eventual surrender.

While invading Ukraine was never going to end well, not even I could have predicted that there is a chance that Putin may actually lose this war. The longer this bloodletting and destruction of the Russian Army continues this is becoming more of a reality. As stated here a month ago, even if he eventually holds out, after thousands and thousands of his troops are slaughtered and he massacres thousands of Ukrainians, implants a puppet government, and claims some kind of empty victory, then he becomes nothing more than a flaccid occupier, continuously fending off insurgencies and domestic terrorism. All the while continuing this dance of economic suicide with his people and the rest of the civilized world.
Putin is going to lose this eventually, be tossed into the rancid dustbin of history like all the crazies who attempted this stupid shit. But what is to become of Mother Russia, its people, and its general standing in the world, economically, politically, morally? What of the people who endure the last vestiges of this maniac, who has gambled their fortunes on a losing and deadly proposition?

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KEROUAC CENTURY

Aquarian Weekly
3/16/22
 
Reality Check
 
James Campion
 
KEROUAC CENTURY
A Saint Jack Commemorative 
 
Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac was born on March 12, 1922, the same day, decades later, as my mother’s birth. This was a long-standing joke of mine for years: Both gave me life. One literal. One inspirational. It didn’t come right away with Saint Jack. His was a gradual nudging. Sure, it was immediate when I read On the Road, the same boring story that every young man told in the mid-to-late- twentieth century. I was nineteen. It was the late-winter, spring of 1982. Maybe March. I can remember first cracking it. I was at college in Trenton, N.J. My friend, and soon roomie, Jake Genovay gave me a copy. Or maybe it was his twin brother, Joe. I don’t remember that. I do remember the zang! of it. It knocked me back like a gust of wind or a glancing blow. This was writing as music; strange, intangible music that had meters and melodies from places that I had not visited before; even considering my high school affections for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Slaughterhouse Five. Kerouac’s free-flow dance electric word boogie was as arresting as its themes in lust for the spirit of living, freedom as sacrament, and grief as promise. But it wasn’t perceptibly permanent in my maturation as a writer, so much as an evolution of being, and not just this amalgamation of youth-orientated ego-boosts – rock and roll being one of those that had the most lasting effect – but the frame of being less boy than man.

Although now thinking about it, I did not get Bob Dylan until I read On the Road, as I always equate stepping through a secret invisible door when Dylan songs began to open me up. Dylan was my gateway from monosyllabic sex-metaphors riding irresistible gut-rhythms to the insular wandering through cerebral puzzle prisms, and thus, an awakening of sorts. This is what happened to a young Robert Zimmerman discovering Woody Guthrie in 1959, a year or so after digesting Kerouac’s mad stream-of-consciousness that took the author six long years to realize. Begun in 1951, before the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 (the year Elvis Presley shook his ass on national TV and corrupted a generation of pimply-faced, white, middle-class, sex-crazed teenagers – one of them being Zimmerman), Kerouac’s On the Road captured the final leg of American progress that F. Scott Fitzgerald tuned to a high white note in his pristine ballad to our sins, The Great Gatsby.

But by the end of the 1950s, when the novel was published, the idea, the plan, the geography, the very landscape of America had been homogenized. The towns and roads Kerouac molded into lore began to fade. Our path west, a Manifest Destiny of carnage and mayhem, was complete. The American Century had arrived with a vengeance. We now drove through our past as afterthought, and Saint Jack sang its requiem.

It was this distillation of prose-tune that I came to define as the first pangs of maturity, or let’s say an emerging from youthful illusions to aging crystalline that confronted Zimmerman in 1959 and Campion in 1982, thanks to Saint Jack.

Kerouac was arguably the most famous of the Beats (with props to Allen Ginsburg and his fierce, queer, yawping siren, Howl). Beat is a generational humdrum moniker best described by Wikipedia these days as “the rejection of standard narrative values, making a spiritual quest, the exploration of American and Eastern religions, the rejection of economic materialism, explicit portrayals of the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs, and sexual liberation and exploration.” But this is true of every generation. I can tell you (a man who hails from a generation without a fancy name) it sure as hell was my truth at nineteen. But for Kerouac, Beat meant the spiritual connotation of Beatific, while also being beaten, torn to shreds and left to rot. And in the course of this existential tumble, there is an element of exhaustion, ala beat.

If you are a testosterone-addled, faux-cowboy, plastic-bravado dickhead like all boys, and most men, you are turned sideways by Kerouac.

On the Road, a book I have written about more than any other since I started this column in August of 1997, runs a course through the author’s halcyon period; a productive fuck-around in an unhinged religious and social ad hoc existence that resulted in his early New York City quadrant of novels, The SubterraneansDoctor SaxTristessa, and Desolation Angels that have not had the legs of his 1959 masterpiece, but have moments, like Dylan’s “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” or Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” (and pretty much everything on the Boss’s first two albums, which sound like a beatnik primer set to noisy passion). Kerouac, a confessed jazz addict and devout Catholic who off-and-on lived with his mother until his untimely but predictable early death at forty-seven in October of 1969, became the reluctant literary godfather of the rock era, notable for post-be-bop-aloola mind-screw lyrics and psychedelic resin that continues in some form even today. Much to his lasting chagrin, Kerouac was worshipped like hedonistic catechism by the Boomers, who would go on to dominate culture, politics, and America’s long descent (ascent) from the post-war traumas the Beats spun into gold.

Kerouac was a rambler in both life and verse. He is the sentient conundrum of the early twentieth-century American man – born in New England, son of immigrants, escaped to the Big City, played football for Columbia University, became a U.S. Merchant Marine, was arrested, ran away from home, and then ran from that home (the road) and searched for things beyond his grasp to find bi-sexuality, drugs, Eastern philosophy, random bouts of violence, and misogyny. The most significant being a weirdly constructed idea of First Thought/Best Thought, often contributed to him and not Allen Ginsberg, who heisted it from Gertrude Stein, a woman, who in many ways is the godmother of the Beats. No one, in any generation, save for maybe Ernest Hemingway (who learned this from Stein) or Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (who got this from Papa), understood the role of writer as icon, symbol, celebrity and myth-maker better than Gertrude Stein. Not that Kerouac could sell this concept like his forebears, in fact he was shy, mostly drunk, incredibly conflicted about his influence, and exceedingly insecure. And that is the nugget in his writing you don’t get anywhere else – if you are a testosterone-addled, faux-cowboy, plastic-bravado dickhead like all boys, and most men, you are turned sideways by Kerouac. There is vulnerability in those early books and definitely in the cries for help in On the Road often missed at nineteen, but glaringly obvious when read in your early thirties and conveniently dismissed as claptrap, and then rediscovered in your forties as holy scripture.

When I began writing what would become my first published book, Deep Tank Jersey, in the spring of 1995, I was just merely, and badly, aping Kerouac. I have written about this before and admitted it sheepishly in interviews over the years and with friends who care to enter the confessional, (I even came clean in the foreword to the twentieth anniversary of the thing in 2016). But I learned during those months to steer away from the Kerouac, as all writers in his thrall must. Although, I did read Big Sur for the first time that summer. Big Sur is my favorite of Kerouac’s work now. Because of everything I penned above, sure, but mainly for its dreamy acceptance of the escape methods used by Kerouac in life – primarily alcoholism, Buddhism, and other isms the author battled with in relative isolation in the most beautiful place in this country. It may be the most beautiful place in the world. Moreover, it is as far west as one can go in the continental United States. The Kerouac of Big Sur is the hazy vestige of the man who sought out the road in 1947 and ended up in deep contemplation and deeper depression (consolation) in the autumn of 1961, one year before I entered the human sprint – the book actually hit the shelves two days (9/11) after my mom gave me my first and most important birth (9/9) in 1962.

And this brings us back ‘round again. The circle in writing is something I certainly did not learn from Kerouac. He was never linear and did not care for silly concepts like narrative or plot (when I first gave the book to my wife-to-be, she wondered aloud more than once where this thing was going), he only cared about the music of the prose, which is what anyone worth a grain of salt in this craft can hope for. Make those words dance, I like to say when I start a writing project, and when I am inevitably stuck in that writing project. It is what a generation of seekers turned into the really good music and to some extent really good writing. It would take another fifteen hundred words, at least, to list all the writers trying to be Kerouac over the years, so I will leave us with Big Sur and this photo I had in front of my writing desk when I worked on my first three published books – an aging, bloated Kerouac clutching his beloved cat, looking into the lens as if a man who had too many stories to tell and not enough speed, grit, pulse, and beatific allusions to get down.

Here’s to Saint Jack, who came, and saw, and made the words dance.

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PUTIN’S FANCY CLUSTERFUCK

Aquarian Weekly
3/9/22
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
PUTIN’S FANCY CLUSTERFUCK
Stark-Naked Emperor Stumbles Into Infamy
 
 Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
                                       – Michael Gerard Tyson
 
 What the fuck is Vladimir Putin doing?

This is not rhetorical. I have no idea. And from all I have read, heard, and/or deciphered from this Russian invasion of Ukraine, no one – and there has been nothing viably coherent from the man himself – has a goddamn clue. We are a couple of weeks into this ill-conceived, terribly executed military mission, and despite becoming an international pariah and sinking his nation’s already anemic economy, this entire mess has done nothing but effectively lift the veil on whatever myth the Russian president has been concocting for decades: He is shrewd global manipulator.

Suddenly, the man looks spectacularly stupid and embarrassingly weak. Add in a sprinkle of pettiness, a dab of irrationality, and top it with pure idiocy. Certainly, our politicians, including our last president, who carried the tyrant’s water bucket for four years and just this week called him “a genius,” figured this guy was shrewd and cunning. Fox News spent the past few weeks ejaculating over his brilliance as a proud world leader with his finger on the international pulse, understanding the brutal nuances of world politick and acting with swift and measured precision. Wherein our old, clueless president is unmatched. Shit, say what you want about cranky Joe Biden, he has played this like a champ. So far, he has rallied the world to put the screws to Putin’s hubris move. If anything, it has revived his nearly flat-lined presidency.

It is an understatement to stress that now in the wake of this super-botch, everyone may have miscalculated Putin. That is except Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom Putin has turned into a rock star and the world’s superhero – another hidden prize of his grand blunder. Let’s face it, Zelensky’s defiance has turned this into a hack move made by a third-world chump, as if Saddam Hussein had come back as a bald, fat goon, whose only hope for anyone to pay attention to him is to bully the country next door. Putin has created a quagmire of human misery and destruction that has the distinct look of a man trying to open a tuna can with sledgehammer. Four days into this, even Donald Trump was faking love for NATO.

The confused torpor that was George W.  Bush suddenly looks like a mighty warlord compared to this stooge.

Vladimir Putin was supposed to be our worthy adversary, akin to Rommel vs. Patton instead of Mike Tyson vs. the town drunk. He appears to have no endgame beyond what he, I guess, claimed was defense against NATO’s influence too close to his border, but instead has created the worst possible scenario: An angry and motivated enemy at his border. Dead mothers clutching charred infants have a way of getting the locals riled. He thought no one would have the stomach to oppose him, and before the week was out, everyone did, even China, who acts like an ally but would just as soon move on as a solo act, and Saudi Arabia, who positions itself to absorb Putin’s fleeing oil customers.

Of course, any act of war is going to bring hardship. But most dictators worth a shit would have weighed this against what riches and real estate might be available once the carnage is done.

To wit: One can deduce the actions of Adolf Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland in five seconds. It was horrible, immoral, and world-shattering, but it made military, economic, and national defense sense for Germany. What does Russia get out of “owning” Ukraine? A money-pit headache. Moreover, Hitler’s burgeoning economy was built on a war machine that not only revived the nation’s solvency but had already done some nasty shit for months before this. It appears the lapdog generals in charge of this operation did not have what it takes to tell Putin his heretofore latent army sucks ass.

The Hitler comparison makes Putin uncomfortable? Okay, take Napoleon in the opening years of the nineteenth century. The French had been preparing for war for decades and possessed what turned out to be an unstoppable force to expand the parameters of his rule in Europe. Putin’s army has had a hard time even getting a foothold in the country across the fucking street. He could have gotten a Northern California biker gang to pull this off quicker. So, now he has exposed his military as wildly overrated and undermanned, and his generals as stupefied neophytes. If Stalin had this force, the Nazis would have glided into Moscow in 1944, Russian winter and all.

I don’t know who talked up the Russian invading army as potentially impressive, but Jesus Bicycling Christ, this whole thing is a stumble-bum fiasco manned by frightened nineteen year-olds with no over-arching plan to refuel vehicles, secure flanks or deal with street-to-street combat. The first week of the invasion will be studied by war historians as a primer on what not to do – overwhelming the botched United States Iraq invasion in the early aughts. In fact, I would say the confused torpor that was George W.  Bush suddenly looks like a mighty warlord compared to this stooge.

And so, predictably, desperate and exposed as a fraud, Putin “readies his nuclear capabilities”. Yawn. The oldest and laziest Cold War maneuver. This is what you do when you fail to learn your own nation’s military history, which would have clued Putin in that both Napoleon and Hitler were eventually defeated by fucking Russia! And mainly because they could not occupy nations that didn’t want to be occupied. Failing that, all he had to do was call up Dick Cheney. The former VP might have told him that the place you are wrecking will not likely be welcoming you as liberators.

But, of course, history is pretty much bloated with tales of once powerful nations taking over other nations who did not like that so much. Soon, there will be, for Russia, the exhausting task of fending off insurgencies and weeding out coups. This is far more difficult than poisoning journalists in London, jailing Pussy Riot, and fucking with other country’s elections. Those things gave him an air of invincibly that this invasion has summarily obliterated.

So far, just moving in has been a humiliating slog against civilians brandishing homemade weapons, further revealing half-assed Russian ground-war capabilities. It has alienated the only economic partners keeping Russia a viable nation, unleashed crippling international sanctions, and ceased a crucial oil pipeline partnership with Germany. Remember, Putin is pulling this horse-turd under the auspices of a global economy that his country relies on desperately. Hitler and Napoleon had no such troubles. They were self-contained nations built for war. No oil money. No Russia.

Invasion is the easy part. Occupation is where things get hairy.

Again, I state, this makes zero sense for Russia, and even less for Putin, who clearly has never given a flying mist-fart about Russia. He has a raging hard-on for the tattered myth of the Soviet Union, conveniently forgetting that what ultimately sunk it was stretching its lust for colonization, which is what also sunk every world power since the dawn of civilization.

Putin has made the ultimate mistake of the grifter, believing his own con.

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SADIE – 2006 – 2/22/22

Aquarian Weekly
3/2/22

Reality Check

James Campion

SADIE – 2006 – 2/22/22

My thoughts recover
The days that are over,
And I weep.
        – Paul Verlaine

And though she be but little, she is fierce.
               – William Shakespeare


It was a day I have dreaded for years. You can say, even mentally and emotionally prepared for. It came. And none of that mattered. When my wife and I took our sixteen year-old feline lady of the house, Sadie to die at the West Milford Animal Hospital, it took pieces of me I don’t believe I’ll get back. I have never decided that something so dear, so seminal in the ecosystem of my family needed to die. She suffered these past few weeks, but even until the last moment I wrestled with this and thought how can any human do this, never mind willfully hunt and kill an animal? Because they don’t name her and live with her and cuddle her and sing songs to her and watch her capture the essence of your daughter from the moment she slept in the crib with her, and then on the day she dies, Scarlet, now thirteen, tearily says, “She was my first friend?” Then you can kill them? Well, good luck to you and your soul. It took everything in me not to grab her little, barely breathing body and run for cover. Let her die at home, naturally. But that is selfish and stupid and very human. She did not deserve another long night of pain. She deserved peace. She gave that to us for sixteen years. We had to give it back, in the most horrible of circumstances.

Sadie was, as I wrote when her brother, Salinger died six years ago, a “two-for-one deal that my wife, of course, talked me into – little black cats jammed into a box together, licking each other and snuggling and biting and fighting and being a classic duo.” They were our Little Pishers, who breathed new life into things around The Clemens Estate after the untimely and mysterious death of The Gueem. We were unsure even then that Sadie would make it through that first year, making so many days to an animal hospital up in Newton, that when Scarlet was born, in a “people hospital” up there, I got to know that run so well, it was a snap.    

Sadie led the way.

This made more sense, as very soon, she and Scarlet would be inseparable. Nothing made my daughter laugh or gave her such joy. These last few years Sadie roomed with her. She had to. The invasion of the once feral cat, now a member of the family, Bukowski terrorized her, and she found refuge there. Every morning when I would wake a grumpy Scarlet for school, Sadie would be at attention meowing, doing her thing. I would implore her, “Wake up your baby sister already!” She would look at me as if I were mad; “You know who this is lying here, right?” I could almost hear her say. “She hates school and loves sleeping; good luck to ya.”

Sadie always found a way to communicate to us. I know I have waxed poetic in this column over the past twenty-five years about the passing of our cats (the aforementioned Gueem, Salinger, and our beloved Queen of Vernon, Mazzy), but none of them had the communicative inter-species talents of Sadie. The second you were in her space, if you approached her, or you did not get that she needed water or maybe a treat, or the desire to sit by her cherished fireplace (man she liked it warm – watching her turn her face to the sun in summer was a transcendent experience) she’d let you know it. There was very little guessing with Sadie, there was within her, as Ernst Hemingway once mused in his cats, an “absolute emotional honesty.” Papa should know. He owned dozens of them.

Sadie was our constancy, our north star.

A key aspect of having a cat for sixteen years (a record around here) is that there is a pure lineage to it. For instance, Scarlet did not know a world without her, and just this morning my wife said,” When I lost Gueem, I had Mazzy, and when I lost her, I had Sadie, I feel like I don’t have any comfort now.” Of course, I argued for the boys, but Mo, our gray cat of thirteen years and the new guy, Bukowski do not make themselves available – they are in and out and all around, disappearing to do God know what. Unless food is in the offing, other than that, it’s freewheeling. Sadie was our constancy, our north star. When we went away, she would have that look that let you know you were leaving her and the home, and when we returned, she had that pissed countenance, like, “How dare you?” But she would be here waiting. Patiently. To be Sadie.

I was doing what I call “cat math” with my extended family this past weekend in Syracuse. And I have come to some harsh conclusions about how many of these felines I have left in me. If I get a kitten this year – and you can bet your ass it will be a black male that I have been waiting for since Salinger ditched me – and if the little bugger lives as long as Sadie, I’m looking at seventy-fucking-six. And if I’m still writing this column then you can drive me to the vet and let me go quietly. There won’t be any goddamn eulogy for him.

Okay, it’s getting late, and I have to end this. But I don’t want to. I want to keep writing about Sadie. Makes me feel less sad. It is, as my managing editor wrote me this morning, cathartic for writers to deal with grief. I’m reminded of what Charles Bukowski wrote about his cat, how “it walks with a surprising dignity” and think of how elegant Sadie was until the end, trying to be Sadie, as her body failed her. She never wavered from being her.

But I guess I’ll leave you guys now and keep writing and talking and celebrating the sixteen special years we had this magnificent creature.

And while I do that, hug your pet.

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