Hazy Reflections In Mexico

Aquarian Weekly 12/10/08 REALITY CHECK

WE’RE ALL FINE Hazy Reflections On America’s Economy South Of The Border

“We’re going to be fine,” I told a young exporter from Cincinnati, as we sat with our wives in the cramped bar of a dilapidated restaurant on the Westside of downtown Cabo San Lucas. It had been another warm later-November day and the wife and I decided to interrupt our Mexican Booze Marathon to charter a sailboat at Puerto Los Cabos and watch the sunset. It was on route to a port along the Mar de Cortés when we offered passage to Mr. Cincinnati and his wife. I hadn’t so much as seen a JC & EM in Mexicosober American since being accosted by a round-faced Oklahoman at the pool bar fourteen hours earlier, but these people were different. They looked desperate, claiming to have been forced to dock an ill-conceived marlin expedition when two local fishermen brandished a pistol and summarily ordered the Gringos to “hand it all over”.

I was responding to a conversation that began when Mr. Cincinnati, drawing hard from a bottle of cheap Chablis, repeatedly bemoaned his doomed trade and the sinking American dollar. “I’m afraid,” he stammered. “I go to sleep with CNBC scrolling disaster every goddamned night and I am fully convinced my children will starve.”

“Don’t watch that miserable crap,” I told him. “Those people are programmed to peddle hype. It’s the first thing you learn in broadcasting school, how to pronounce “W” and pitch hype masked by news-speak. Fuck CNBC. All is well. You’re children may starve, but it won’t be a result of the American economy.”

“The stock market is killing my future!” he shouted.

“Future? It’s a myth,” I counseled him. “Live in the now!”

“Jesus, we forgot to cancel our stolen credit cards,” Mrs. Cincinnati interrupted.

“No problem,” my wife told her. “The people have controlling interest in the goddamn banks. I read it in my husband’s column.”

“Are you two with the press?” Mr. Cincinnati blurted, his sagging complexion turning a greenish alabaster as the ocean began to go haywire.

“Take that back,” my wife sneered, holding fast against the crash of erratic swells. “Just because my husband slums, does not implicate me as media.”

As we veered into the Pacific, a sudden bout of seasickness caused Mr. Cincinnati to violently disgorge what he said was once a fine platter of Chili Mariscos. A fair amount of it grazed my khakis and part of my wife’s sandals. She had ample opportunity to avoid the surge, but was transfixed by how Mr. Cincinnati’s weird combination of odd facial hues mixed with the crimson sunset. As he doubled over in retching convulsions, she clicked away on her Pentax K2000D proclaiming madly, “This is why you must always bring a fast-action shutter when boating!”

Appalled, and still in post-traumatic shock from the heist, his wife proffered a conciliatory dinner engagement if we “made it back alive”. Moreover, there were serious overtures to having an “in” with a select eatery only a few blocks from our hotel. “We’ve been coming here for over a decade,” Mrs. Cincinnati explained, as she frantically ushered her heaving spouse into the tiny bathroom below deck. “We have a 30-year timeshare.”

“I would sell that,” my wife chuckled, still clicking away. “The economy is screwed.”

“Fuck China?” my wife asked. “Fuck this hideous feed-shack! How long have we been sitting here?”

But safely back on terra firma, Mr. Cincinnati’s appetite was approaching ferocious, as was my beloved’s insatiable lust for stronger Tequila and a halt to our endless harangue on the Death Of The U.S. Dollar. She took to growling, “I swear I’ll open my wrists if someone mentions ‘fiduciary tailwind’ one more time.”

“Aren’t you the least bit worried that things are beyond repair?” Mr. Cincinnati asked.

“Fuck that noise,” I said. “America was never in a better place while crippled. This is not the Depression. Do you know anything about history, son? After ’29 the world closed its doors on us, and we recoiled in horror at the thought of international aid. Those days are over. In 1930, we hadn’t done a fucking thing for anyone. Shit, World War I? We came in for land grabs in the last seventeen months. Before that it was stealing this and colonizing that. Since then we’ve dumped billions upon billions all over this globe, not to mention bloodless coups and weird assassinations. Hell, we went to war for god-knows-what from Indo-China to Grenada, Lebanon, Kuwait and Nicaragua in order to drag the Third World into the 21st Century. We won’t be allowed to go under, not now, not ever.”

“What about China?” he argued. “They will eat us alive!”

“China? Shit, do you have the slightest inkling of what the average American citizen spends a year on crap from China? Our demise would be suicide. They’ll keep lending us money and we’ll keep spending it on their crap. We’re like a deadbeat junky to a dealer. No matter how deep in debt, he cannot afford to lose him. Fuck China. They need us. Everyone needs us.”

“Fuck China?” my wife asked. “Fuck this hideous feed-shack! How long have we been sitting here?”

“Nine Modelos, five Margaritas and one Tequila Sunrise ago,” Mrs. Cincinnati quantified.

“Holy mother of Christ, we need service here!” my wife yelled in the direction of the chubby waiter, who sprinted over to slam an entire tray of Pacificos on our table. He was sweating profusely from the heat and breathing dangerously hard. “On the house, señorita,” he exhaled.

“We don’t want this piss, bring us four more Modelos until a table opens,” I said.

“No table, amigo. We are overbooked.”

“I don’t care about food, four more Modelos!” I said.

Obviously frightened, the panting waiter whispered, “No more Modelo. We’re out.”

“Corona then,” the wife said. “Bring us four Coronas with limes, and no chincy curved slivers, real chunks of lime this time!” “Sorry, señorita…”

“No Carona?” my wife shouted. A hush fell over the bar. “Aren’t we in Mexico? Can you go into any dive in the U.S. and scare up a fucking Budwieser?”

“I’m going to pass out if I don’t get sustenance soon,” Mr. Cincinnati said, bolting from our table to confront the perpetually angry Maitre D’. For nearly two hours we watched in utter fascination as she physically evicted six patrons without explanation.

“That woman looks like a pissed-off Frida Kahlo,” the wife observed. “She’s going to kill that poor schmuck.”

“What the hell is wrong with him?” I asked his wife.

“Aside from being trapped in Los Cabos for Thanksgiving Weekend with a lousy time-share, robbed at gun point of everything he owns, and waking up in cold sweats for a solid month with the sound of his financial advisor repeating over and over that three weeks ago the Untied States fiscal stability hung by a thread, he’s pretty chipper.”

“You’ve got to ride this stuff out, take the blows and keep coming,” I instructed.

“I know,” she said, keeping an eye on her husband, who was raising the ire of the scowling Maitre D. “We’re weak.”

As she let “weak” escape her lips Mr. Cincinnati’s hapless recon mission had succeeded. Waving us over, we followed Frida through the crowded entranceway into a tunnel festooned with cheap jewelry and trinkets out to the main room. It was too bright, too loud, and reeking of dried sweat, stale beer, and soiled children. The sound of nervous laughter was oppressive. Mr. Cincinnati looked woozy, so we sat him down at an oval wooden table, where an imposing gray-haired waiter stared us down. “You are in a rush, no?” he asked.

“Rush, yes,” my wife told him. “This man here is dying; he is living in fear…an expatriate who has suffered a grave injustice at the hands of pirates. He needs refried beans and guacamole immediately or there could be an unpleasant incident.”

Looking perplexed, the gentleman smiled, “Who told you we served refried beans and guacamole here, señorita?”

With that the wife and I got up from our chairs, and walked briskly to a waiting cab and back to our corner table at La Guadalupana Cantina. Before the door closed we could see Frida smiling broadly.

We never saw the Cincinnatis again. They’re weakness was not needed stateside. This is the Land Of Survival. We would be there soon to weather any storm. But first, Cohibas, refried beans, guacamole, and two Caronas, please.

 

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Auto Industry Bailout

Aquarian Weekly 12/3/08 REALITY CHECK

BEGGARS & CHOOSERS Hard Promises On The Road To Automotive Welfare

History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we make today. – Henry Ford Interview in Chicago Tribune May 25th 1916

Henry Ford’s bastard children are currently suspended in the slow ascent of Oliver Twist’s empty gruel plate. Attached as if by a pulsing umbilical cord is the world economy, jobs for thousands of tax paying consumers, several and varied satellite industries from media, transportation, culinary, service, litigious, and big labor, not to mention the entirety of the technological engineering fleet of American Century sad sacks looking for a peculiar method to prop up our past and sell it as progress. The American Auto Industry is weeks from going belly up in an already eroding economic slog, and with the federal government in transition, over half the states already bankrupt, and what is left of Wall Street becoming a drooling Dali rendering, there is not much choice but to turn to us, the American Tax Payer.

Beginning Of The EndThe People’s Republic Of America to the rescue!

These are curious days and we are crazy with empathy now that the Lefty is on his way to the White House to put right all the crimes of Captain Shoo-In, who is now officially the only sitting president of these United States to be completely ostracized from the reconstruction of his own shit’s nest.

Yes, Virginia, we’re going to keep America strong in the global economy, secure its national defense, and restore order to our fiscal sovereignty, but not without conditions. Those who sit idly by and rail against the demise of the free market system with the manufacturing hub of this economy on its last legs whistle past several graveyards. These are the same sub-mentals who would pitch the fit of all fits if the president allowed our national defense to go under. However, only suckers hand over blank checks to doomed business templates. If it means raping and pillaging this broken monstrosity called the American Auto Industry, then so be it.

Our first act as The Controlling Interest begins with the sacking of the entire management teams at Ford, GM, and Chrysler for fucking the workers and screwing consumers with their half-assed, greedy, mendacious falderal masquerading for countless decades as good, old-fashioned American ingenuity. These dunderheads must suffer banishment from all modes of future free-enterprise leadership until which time the debt has been paid in full with fair interest. Their time has quite obviously passed.

The new blood will be made to endure a rigorous baseline IQ exam, and not just business acumen, but also the basic function of reason in which they must at least hit the sixty percentile or be forced to walk from coast to coast beneath a dunce cap. These tests must be passed on C-SPAN with Ivy League business professors looking over their shoulders mocking them verily.

Secondly, and most pressingly, the United Auto Workers must either accept new rules on these insane demands for the workforce or there will be fatal cuts in personnel starting with reps, lawyers, and lobbyists. In fact, in trade for our boundless generosity the UAW must lend thirty percent of its employee base to do our bidding; rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, aiding in the withdrawing of troops in Iraq, and general everyday chores like garbage removal, babysitting and something in the line of sweeping.

Believe me when I tell you this take-over stuff is gangbusters.

When you consider that the whole of the American Auto Makers must adhere to a minimum of franchises per state, almost twice what they can afford, and that over 20% of the contracted workers are absentees per fiscal year while being immune to discipline or expulsion is beyond ridiculous. The gravy train stops under The People’s Republic Of America.

Look to the Auto Industry’s Grand Daddy, Henry Ford for wisdom in these dark hours of pending bankruptcy. His deranged fascist rants, while sounding like the plaintiff wail of a doomed dinosaur sinking beneath the tar pit of history, have a ring of veracity rarely heard in this bleating whine of present day entrepreneurship. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we make today.

It is a new dawn; embrace the future with aplomb and a frontier spirit. The Twentieth Century is dead. If you would like to join it, well, that’s entirely up to you. We, with the money, choose to look ahead.

Believe me when I tell you this take-over stuff is gangbusters.

I’m digging this ownership of the banking set thus far. I recently stormed into my Bank Of America branch and demanded all manner of perk and a drastic halt to all the passé, pre-bail nickel & diming. Using the tried and true James V. Campion method of sticking it to the “lenders”, I began throwing my primary stockholder weight around. No more paying for personal or company checks, no more fees at ATMs, no more jacking around with their five-layered incongruent Internet banking crap. I told the goddamned bank manager to stand down; the people are in charge now — and hell if he didn’t acquiesce.

It’s good to be The Man.

Look, these deadbeats are going to get the money. No way this economy can handle the dissolution of over a million jobs, both direct and tertiary to the auto industry, and survive. This country cannot function without some kind of domestic manufacturing. This is the time to put the hammer down, the hammer of The People.

It is not a question of IF these self-mutilating fossils of industry will get our money, but WHEN. And if it is WHEN then it’s under our conditions.

Take it or leave it.

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An Open Apology To America 2008

Aquarian Weekly 11/12/08 REALITY CHECK

AN OPEN APOLOGY TO AMERICA

Dearest United States (Most of),

I was wrong.

Despite my hard-line skepticism, serious doubts, and relentless cynicism born from over two centuries of recidivistic dementia, you did not elect a middle-aged Anglo-Saxon, Protestant white guy who pandered to your basest fears while treating you like a spastic ten year-old. You did the unthinkable, the historic; expunging the old-boy’s network filled with tired retreads with lobby-addled dance cards and corporate lackeys, labor racketeers with Birch Society, Morality-Quack, Hollywood, Oil Baron, Wall Street golf enthusiasts.

You did it. You made history. You buried history. You literally put a new face on your presidency. You voted in overwhelming numbers from middle class white single moms to lunch pail beer swillers to college dinks and fist-pumping queers and radical outsiders to fed-up genuine conservatives and leftist pinkos to disgruntled retirees and proud minorities and even weary first-timers nourished on well-earned apathy.

You put a man into your White House who only 21 months ago was nowhere. No money. No name. No affiliations. No press. No groundswell or demo-marketing focus group pollers. No favor-handing, my-turn party craven resume. No silver-spoon nepotistic underachiever credentials. No misogynistic double-talking viper psychosis. A first-generation American with a black father from the jungles of Kenya and a single mother from the wheat fields of Kansas having to leap frog the entire Democratic Smear Machine and the Republican Madhouse.

You said you wanted change, and instead of whipping yourself into a senseless frenzy and then looking the other way, you did the unthinkable. You voted for change. You went out and enacted the concept of democracy; however distorted, manipulated and dysfunctionally imperfect it remains. You gave the democracy thing a whirl.

And as astounding as it feels to actually write this, you did not need ugly rhetoric or wild shenanigans, under-handed tactics or silly slogans or scorched earth backbiting and angry retorts from every corner of the antiquated two-party death knell to do so. The steady, bright, even-keeled, unwavering hope peddler put it to you and you actually voted for him.

You kicked tradition in the balls. You stomped the terra and made history, and while you were at it, you did not ignore your darkest corners of it. You faced it, as the candidate faced it with you.

And I am especially pleased with your youth, which had been pummeled with nonsense for four decades when Viet Nam and riots and thug-police and a corrupt FBI and unbridled CIA and a lunatic president battling the fire-breathing, march-happy underground radicals obliterated the middle-ground of your body politic setting up one bummer after another; Kent State, Watergate, Malaise, Savings & Loan, Iran/Contra, Desert Storm, Contract With America, Monica Lewinsky, Ken Starr, 9/11, Patriot Act, Mission Accomplished, to name just a very few.

I did not think you had it in you. I had heard forever how motivated and pissed off and fired-up you were going to be, and come Election Day, I was disappointed in you every time. Every time. But not this time.

Granted, it took the greatest economic meltdown in 80 years and one car wreck of a campaign to move you quickly in this direction, but move you did. And I am proud of you and I owe you a public and humbling apology.

Four years ago, in the wake of the inconceivable re-election of George W. Bush, I wrote this about you…

“Turns out Zell Miller’s apoplectic lunacy at the convention three months ago was right on the money. He was goofy, but he spoke for the electorate. Miller represents the majority. It hasn’t changed in 220-plus years of this republic. You want to change the hearts and minds of the hinterland? You want to jerk the South from its Bible Belt? You had better get the army together, like Lincoln did. Burn their cities and teach them a thing or two. These people are still fighting the damned Civil War. Those people who were power-hosing the black folk in Alabama and Mississippi and the Carolinas during the Civil Rights movement? They’re still there, and they had children, and they’re not trading the country in for any slick talking Yankee lawyer who ain’t down with Jesus. Give them a smiling hick like Carter or Clinton or they’re sending you back to the Ivy League.”

Well, Virginia and North Carolina kicked my ass but good this time. Those states, along with Colorado and New Mexico out west, where the new economic centers are, beat the hell out of convention. The blaze of true change engulfed weirdly entrenched places like Missouri, Indiana and Iowa, and put old Democratic politico junctions in Ohio and Pennsylvania in their place. Barack Obama, the next president, didn’t even need them or the almost entirety of the south; like he didn’t need them to defeat Madam Hillary and put to shame the sad excuses offered up by losers like Al Gore and John Kerry. He did not need them to beat the white, military veteran who yelled “Socialism” and “Radical” from sea to shiny sea.

You kicked tradition in the balls. You stomped the terra and made history, and while you were at it, you did not ignore your darkest corners of it. You faced it, as the candidate faced it with you.

On the eve of the most unlikely victory in your rich and bizarrely brilliant ledger, Mr. Obama stood before a cheering mob in Manassas, Virginia, the site of the bloody battles of Bull Run, mere miles from the capital of the doomed Confederacy, and within shouting distance of the home of your father, George Washington and your most endearing author, Thomas Jefferson, who had both dreamed of and fought for liberty while inexplicably owning human beings. Then, after carrying that state in his improbable ride to the most powerful post on the planet, standing before a million weeping revelers in a park where 40 years before in the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination the Democratic Party went up in flames as thousands of protesters were beaten bloody by crazed cops on national television, in the home state of your greatest president, the emancipator of the slaves, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, 47 year-old junior senator, a black man, embodied your greatest promise; all men are indeed created equal.

It is a story of achievement so starkly inconceivable it does it no service to encapsulate it in the words bound by political commentary. Only poetry. Only song. Only someone not yet born will be able to immortalize it properly.

But until then I offer this humble request for forgiveness.

Now excuse me while I take a few weeks off and then get back to irrationally deconstructing everything you hold dear and reducing it to badly humored fodder.

Your proud son, jc

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What’s Worth Voting For 2008

Aquarian Weekly 11/5/08 REALITY CHECK

WHAT’S WORTH VOTING FOR A Final Demented But Well-Meaning Overview From The Middle Ground

Better fare hard with good men, than feast it with bad. – Thomas Paine

I’ve been howling politics from the rafters, on stages, in living rooms and kitchens, apartment stairwells and street corners, and in every bar from NYC to San Francisco with friend and foe for well over two decades. I have culled a paycheck to do so as a free-lancer and in this space for much of it. I have reveled in its oddities and absurdities, marveled at its prominent depths and smattering of heights, battled against and with the best and brightest, worst and dimmest, and occasionally even gotten involved. Much of it has been either to cause trouble or to plant tongue firmly in cheek and have a chuckle. But I have never taken The Vote for granted.

Grassroots RevolutionAround here The Vote is sacred.

I have yet to vote for a Democratic nominee for president of the United States. I voted for a Republican once in 2000. I did so assuming the candidate would likely be a minor disaster, which was proven understated. But it was never a vote of approval. I merely did so to aid in the eventual defeat of Al Gore with whom I had a personal vendetta. When I did vote prior, I voted Independent or not at all. Every trip to the booth has begun from a point of conscience and personal pride, exercising my right to choose the person I’d want on the job or I would respectfully abstain on the grounds that a vote for just anyone would incriminate me.

John Anderson, Ross Perot and Ralph Nader never had a shot, but I slept well with my decisions and laughed heartily during every minute of Iran/Contra through Monica Lewinsky and so on.

Seven elections, four Independents, two protests in absentia and one George W. Bush were always followed by the obligatory laughter.

But laughing along the sidelines will no longer be an option.

This week I cast my vote for Illinois Senator Barack Obama. I do so for reasons repeatedly established in this space since that evening way back in early January when the candidate stepped to the microphone in Iowa, having miraculously revealed chinks in The Machine, and delivered the finest stump speech in more than two generations. He has done nothing to shake my confidence over two campaigns, one brutally contested for his party’s nomination and one burped up by his opponent.

What this ultimately means is unlike almost every election I have followed and commented on since engaging in schoolyard fistfights over McGovern/Nixon in ’72, the candidate I fully endorse actually has a chance to govern.

How the hell did that happen?

For starters, I am pleased with Obama’s demeanor, cool sense of self and his overall decorum under the type of pressures no other presidential candidate in the history of these United States has had to face. He is the ultimate underdog; a ridiculously inexperienced, intellectual, Liberal, northern, African American senator. Nothing close to this list has come within a bullhorn’s shout of the White House in the 219 years we’ve been doing this. The fact that Obama has beaten the steepest of odds has already been interpreted here as victory.

Secondly, I have been duly convinced of Obama’s rational decisions at every turn and a somewhat sincere attempt at formulating ideas and alternatives to the madness that is our failed federal government. The only caveat to this assessment is his repeated denials of hanging with crazy people, which he most certainly has, and his choice of Senator Joseph Biden, who is as crazy as they come and another abhorrent Baby Boomer big mouth that thinks by simply showing up we’re all better for it.

But let’s face it; anyone who has ever served or lived for that matter has dabbled in matters of crazy. Lord knows you agree with that one.

Mostly, I strongly believe that it is his time, his generation’s time, and his culture’s time to give it a go. And so I shall vote for him.

Unfortunately for both the candidate and me, this is dangerous.

For the first time, a major party candidate did as little as possible to placate its base — Right or Left — and decided to go his own route in his own way; equal and effective parts grassroots, generational, technological, and oratorical.

First off — again, well established over the course of decades of printed material and four published works — I am a lunatic. Proud of it. Think of the most radical, cynical, vulgar and unconscionable ball-cracking contrarian and multiply it beyond your imagination. This is yours truly on a good day. I am a miserable, spiteful, vicious bastard the rest of the time. Pissing me off is not a good move. I tend to become a rabid mutant when disappointed; feral, spastic, and downright depraved when fed garbage and told its ice cream.

When I think something is already screwed, as it is 98.9% of the time, it’s easy to laugh it off, but when I am counting on someone or something and they fail to deliver, I tend to hurl derision every which way. It’s best when I have no expectations. Ask my wife, my family, what is left of my friends or any poor soul who spends five uninterrupted minutes in my company.

This is why I have found it far more pleasant to avoid expectation altogether. Whether I root for a team or purchase the talents/labor/utilities or heaven forefend, a product from anyone within our free-market economy, I expect to be hosed. I presume to fight, scratch and claw for every dime, right, or voice I attempt to infuse into a myriad of situations.

A good example of low expectations is my overview of the American electorate and its previous gaggle of victors.

I think most of what arises through the national political scene is akin to a sad parody of futile embarrassment. Most of what I have been forced to vote for, cover, or witness for the better part of my 46 years of existence has more or less resembled a steaming pile of horse feces. Thus, I have concluded that most Americans, like most humans, are a puerile collection of damaged goods, delusional egoists, or just plain stupid. Therefore, I count on these people getting the leaders they deserve; corrupt, lazy, and phony miscreant ignoramuses.

This, of course, translates nicely into the philosophy that John McCain is the perfect president. He is erratic, mean-spirited, confused, and at times downright scary. If you were to wrap the American psyche into a fun-loving ball and throw in a dapple of religious zealot gooberism with this vacant-eyed running mate of his, you’d have yourself a Clinton or Bush or Reagan or Carter or the usual mediocre fare.

This is why, along with he being a white, vaguely conservative, flip-flopping military veteran; I have been more than amazed McCain hadn’t wrapped this puppy up by Labor Day. Most candidates with this list merely have to avoid stabbing their mothers in daylight or kicking a paraplegic to be elected, especially when facing the Obama list. Apparently, somewhere along the line, voters thought whatever the Republican candidate was doing trumped these sins, which tumbled him into the unenviable position of being a symbol of the most unlikely of defeats.

Barack Obama is the first viable alternative to these repeated shams: Inarticulate, carousing, half-cocked, plastic, quasi-religious, social marauders, whipping up a frenzy of tired old proxies from long-dead campaigns. Obama has not pulled these tricks. He has not gone negative or petty or stooped to the latest feeble notion to appeal to The Dumb, despite long-discredited institutions like the NY Times or whatever passes for fading Sixties liberalism these days.

For the first time, a major party candidate did as little as possible to placate its base — Right or Left — and decided to go his own route in his own way; equal and effective parts grassroots, generational, technological, and oratorical.

Maybe it’s why he is considered radical and new and represents change and appears to some as un-American. Who the hell has grown up in this fixed and damaged national political environment and could aptly define someone uttering something smartly compiled and coherently processed?

Well, this weird angle worked like gangbusters around here and put me in the strange position I’m currently in: The cozy place normal voters have continuously settled with previous candidates, hope, enthusiasm, and (gulp) trust.

Hey, let’s not get nuts. I have no signs standing on my property or a bumper sticker on my car, and I do not own any article of clothing with the man’s name or face on it. As a member of the rogue press, I did not donate time or money to promote the candidate or his agenda. I certainly do not look for ideology in a candidate. No politician could begin to identify anything that rattles around in my head. It’s best that way. I do not expect this candidate to take on the entire establishment and turn this puritanical country into an unrecognizable frenzy of revolt.

That would be nice.

But I’ll take Barack Obama.

The closest thing I’ll get to a candidate with a chance.

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GOP R.I.P.

Aquarian Weekly 10/29/08 REALITY CHECK

GOP R.I.P. Exploring The Death Rattle Of Modern Conservatism

The Gipper's Last StandJohn McCain is correct about one thing; he is not George W. Bush. Bush won. Twice. McCain is not going to win. Not unless he begins to stand for one particular platform for more than three consecutive hours or starts throwing ugly and doing it soon.

These robo-calls about domestic terrorism and repeating Joe the Plummer over and over like a mental patient is not going to cut it. The ACORN thing is a nice touch; sets up an Al Gore kind of whining after the ignominious pummeling he is about to receive, but shan’t do the trick either. Socialism is always gangbusters with the base but didn’t work for the Goldwater crowd versus the Kennedy Machine in ’60 and is less likely to fool anyone now, especially since the Republican candidate voted for a massive socialism bill a few weeks back and his running mate takes oil company profits and distributes them among the citizens of Alaska.

No, the hole the Arizona Senator has dug for himself is too deep for cheap tricks and old routines. With two weeks to go he is staring down the barrel of the worst defeat a Republican candidate for president has endured in over eighty years. It is largly the fault of one lousy campain from the ground up, but it is also a serious defect within his party.

Unless the Obama campaign allows Nostradamus Biden to offer further dire prognostications or the candidate is found with a dead girl or a live boy, the state numbers, which have been steadily rising for five solid weeks in the direction of the Democratic candidate, looks to bury the Republican on 11/4.

Granted, national polls have taken more than their fair share of beatings in this space. Most of them, especially Zogby, have been proven less than useless. But the almost scientific breakdown of these averaged state polls on Rear Clear Politics or the Politico web sites are hard to ignore. From every corner of the contiguous United States, the trend toward the Democratic ticket is beyond anything most of us living have ever seen.

Virginia? A ten-point lead for the African-American Liberal in a state not won by a Democrat in 48 years is almost unfathomable. Indiana? The stronghold of Republicans for a century still in play boggles the senses. Florida? Teetering. Missouri? Slipping away. Gone is New Hampshire, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa. The South invaded; the Midwest swept away, the western rim a distant memory, the entire east coast under siege.

It will have to be a new day in true Conservativism — fiscal and anti-government Conservatism, with a healthy respect for environmental issues and staying out of the affairs of half the planet’s battles and its citizens’ bedrooms, churches and freedom of expression and dissent — or it will continue to rot away at its foundation…

Only the Reagan explosion in the final weeks of 1980 begins to approach this sudden tidal wave of upheaval. It is, like Reagan, the result of an independent electorate — and many refugees from across the aisle — witnessing the victorious candidate in a debate forum and surprised at not being confronted with a radical extremist nutcase, but someone quite astute, noble, and, well…presidential. It is as if all of the ridiculous fiction bouncing around Internet innuendo backfires all at once: Where is the man with the horns breathing fire? Why am I supposed to be afraid of this man?

The Democrats tried to demonize Ronald Reagan twenty-eight years ago, but went too far. Perhaps if they had reigned in their abhorrence of the California governor, Jimmy Carter would have survived those final brutal days of October. But they decided instead to go ballistic, painting Reagan as something right of Rudolf Hess, and it cost them. Reagan may have been a yawping mannequin or fabricated prop, but he was not Grendel. And that revelation, as the final undecided voters of this election have finally realized, can now be applied to Barack Obama, which may well end in the most unlikely landslide in the history of this nation.

The McCain camp, led by Rick Davis, has its collective finger in the damn. No money. No message. No momentum. No nothing. It’s just as well. Staying on the defenseive means not digging the hole deeper. The whole mess never did get off the ground, and then, for some mad reason, it took the safer candidate and unleashed him in several directions at once, throwing Hail Mary bombs when a fullback dive would have done the trick. The only two explanations involved either being intimidated by the Obama aura or frightened to death of simply being a Republican.

I’ll take the latter.

It’s not a good time to play for the Grand Old Party. In fact, you’d have to reach back past even the dark days of Nixon and all the way to Herbert Hoover to find a lower standing for Republicans. The Bush Legacy will ultimately be its near total destruction of the modern Republican Party. In its wake free trade is in ruins, foreign policy a circus fire, and almost the entirety of the legislative branch turned over to the opposition; political suicide in its purist form. Spread across the headlines like faded words on an ideological tombstone: Here Lies The Last Vestige Of Modern Conservatism — 1964 to 2008.

After McCain’s sorry carcass is dragged from the public eye, and Sarah Palin gears up for her weekday talk show opposite “Ellen”, the Party of Lincoln and T Rex and The Gipper is going to have some serious soul searching to do. Unless Obama is a total disaster — a tough act to eclipse considering the last six years of The Captain’s Shoo-In Follies — this will be a nation represented by an astounding shift: Astute reasoning, overt intellectualism, universal diversity, and an odd infusion of youth. It will hopefully be far more secular and less pandering to extreme social tyranny, less inclined toward international hubris, and exceedingly more articulate in the ways of governance.

The “Conservative Elite”, which the McCain campaign has been bashing along with the evil media and certain parts of the country that is cronies deem “un-American”, will have to begin erecting a different type of opposition. It will have to be a new day in true Conservativism — fiscal and anti-government Conservatism, with a healthy respect for environmental issues and staying out of the affairs of half the planet’s battles and its citizens’ bedrooms, churches and freedom of expression and dissent — or it will continue to rot away at its foundation as it has over these past years as the Tom Delays of the world began to tell people how to live and die and the Bill Bennetts began to tell people what is “acceptable humor, music, and modes of dress and decorum”, and the Fallwells of the world began to hijack faith, and the Rush Limbaughs of the world became performing donkeys and the Dick Cheneys of the world treated the American people as lab rats.

If Obama indeed builds a even bigger government on the backs of the American taxpayer — an unlikely scenario with the current and growing economic and military crisis long from ending and the government he inherits already bloated to distraction — then this new breed of Conservative will need to roll up its collective sleeve, dig in the heels and rail against it. And they will have my support; but only if and when they stop acting like populists with a theocratic social chaser and running inarticulate goobers as candidates.

But there’s always a third party.

Anyone?

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Joe Cool Down The Stretch 2008

Aquarian Weekly 10/22/08 REALITY CHECK

JOE COOL DOWN THE STRETCH Obama Pushes McCain To The Brink

Joe CoolThere is absolute chaos cast upon the land. The economy acts like a wild animal. The country’s banking system hangs by a thread. People’s investments hemorrhage by the hour. The unemployment rate spikes to new and alarming levels. The Middle East is a powder keg, which is nothing new, but now we’ve got six years of our own blood and treasure on the line. The president of the United States has never been more unpopular without a pending Civil War and Congress has voted for the most socialistic financial tourniquet since The New Deal. As a result, the American electorate is about as angry with government as it has been in over a generation.

In less than twenty days two men stand against each other to take over this mess; one, a cranky pre-Boomer warrior — grizzled, combative, and so desperate for his shot at the prize he emerged undaunted from a previously derailed presidential run while being summarily besmirched within his own party. The second; a young, meteoric African-American junior senator, has shown the grit and audacity to take on the most powerful of Washington political machines and managed to traverse fairly insurmountable cultural and ideological heights to be in position to make history.

After nearly one and a half years at peddling their integrity, philosophy and political prowess with decisions which have ranged from unerringly brilliant to queerly perplexing to outwardly dumb, these two combatants have displayed incredible staying power and an enviably finite belief in their abilities to fight on and never blink.

Until now.

In the past weeks, when times called for the cooler head, a more stately approach to handling crisis in a sprinting news cycle, and the unyielding clamor for a symbol of change became as serious as bone cancer, only one came to play.

Barack Obama’s campaign, unflinching from the start — grass roots, grounding, vast and penetrating during a vicious dogfight with The Clinton Mystique — has put the screws to this election season. Their candidate has been smooth under fire, handling appearances, both in the press and on the stage, like a master tactician. He has maneuvered through weird neck-wrenching shifts in the political and cultural climate and time and again endured blatantly racist and increasingly absurd attacks on his character with an almost regal flair.

In short, when the bell rang and the pressure was on, Obama has looked presidential and as cool as the proverbial cucumber.

At the same time, his esteemed opponent has gone off the rails; playing his campaign, which was in the driver’s seat historically and culturally, as if its candidate were the young, black, northern liberal Democrat. In one disastrous month he has gone from the self-described “steady hand at the till” to an erratic populist demagogue. One day he is a champion of low taxes and deregulation, the next he is buying up bad mortgages and restructuring national health care. He makes inroads to rise above Rovian ugliness and then unleashes a dimwitted harpy from the great north to rile up the Timothy McVeigh set.

In short, McCain has been such a catastrophe almost every right wing pundit, columnist, and now even anonymous members of the current Republican administration openly mock him, and far more damaging, for the first time since his opponent has been running, it is he and not the more experienced McCain who is considered the less risky choice for president.

Coolness is in and wild abandon is looking like a losing strategy. Liberalism and inexperience are no longer factors in this contest. With three weeks to go only the race of his opponent can save John McCain now.

The word from The Right is that the economic meltdown has doomed John McCain. Before that he was rolling. This is revisionist and whiney and it will not stand here. The numbers moved, as expected, in McCain’s favor slightly on the national level after his convention bump and radical VP pick of Sarah Palin, which began to backfire once the Alaska governor began to show a fantastically imbecilic grasp of almost every subject put to her. Then, before things had gone terribly wrong on Wall St., McCain denounced the Bail Out plan, followed by the inexplicable “suspension” of his campaign to ostensibly rouse Republicans — firmly against the bill — to rally in its favor.

It was at this point things began to shift.

The first debate, which many American began to believe McCain was trying to duck, clearly ended in favor of McCain. However, while forcefully illustrating his knowledge of foreign affairs, he subsequently came off as condescending and mean-spirited. The standard Democrat’s recipe for defeat ala John Kerry and Al Gore had suddenly convinced the independent voter that the Republican candidate did not respect his opponent. Thus began a disconnect that McCain has yet to mend.

Then there is the matter of the final debate.

The first, as mentioned, went to McCain on substance and performance. The second was a draw, with an uneven showing by McCain and Obama beginning to flex his centrist muscles. But let it be marked that on the fifteenth day of the tenth month of 2008, the 47 year-old Democratic Illinois Senator wiped the floor with the 72 year-old Republican Senator from Arizona and rendered the competitive nature of this presidential race to near critical.

While McCain spat out one accusatory canard and ham-handed non sequitur in his dizzyingly buncombe fashion, Obama calmly smiled, looked at the camera, and summarily defused each charge with well-framed proposals. McCain’s only retort was to make finger quotes to mock his opponent’s “eloquence”, as if being able to formulate difficult concepts into coherent points was some kind of anti-American con job.

For ninety excruciatingly pathetic minutes, McCain failed to illustrate, as the Weekly Standard’s conservative columnist, Bill Krystol pointed out on FOXNEWS, “one plausible reason to vote for him”. This point was echoed by NY Times conservative columnist, David Brooks, whose wincing analysis on PBS concluded with “I’m not sure the American people are prepared to have John McCain on their TV screens for the next four years.” Later on CNN, when asked what McCain can do to follow up his performance that night, a bewildered David Gergen, who has advised five of the past seven presidents said, “Beats the hell out of me.”

Contrarily, the next day conservative commentator, Dick Morris wrote in the NY Post; “Obama looked like the better president. Obama is smoother, prettier, younger and more presidential.” This was as word began to spread that the godfather of modern conservative letters, William F. Buckley’s son had written a column for the Daily Beast that he planned on voting for Barack Obama.

And at the time of this writing the usually silent and non-partisan Republican icon, Colin Powell was preparing to join these voices.

When the final face-off between the spastic rambles of the Republican candidate dismissed by the tranquil elusiveness of his Democratic opponent mercifully concluded, the only reason Barack Obama would not become the 44th president of the United States, is his race.

Perhaps myopic cheerleaders on The Right, the religiously motivated, or those rightfully worried about an all-Democratic federal government can honestly vote for John Sydney McCain now, but no clear-thinking unbiased observer with eyes, ears and most of its brain can seriously make this choice.

Coolness is in and wild abandon is looking like a losing strategy. Liberalism and inexperience are no longer factors in this contest. With three weeks to go only the race of his opponent can save John McCain now.

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The People’s Republic Of America

Aquarian Weekly 10/8/08 REALITY CHECK

POWER TO THE PEOPLE Bailout Crumbles Beneath Populace Outcry & Candidates Scramble To Keep Up

Power To The PeopleFollowing the most dramatic display of democracy in modern times, the electoral map has revealed a seismic shift. The American people have spoken loudly and the presidential candidates had better be listening. Congress sure listened. You don’t think so? When was the last time you witnessed a final and very public failure to pass a bill of such dire magnitude as that of the Bail Out? I can tell you, if you like? How about never. Bills that significant with that much pre-hype and unfettered grandstanding never fail that miserably when all indications were to the contrary. Illustration of this unprecedented congressional anomaly was a stock market in record freefall.

Normally congress, unless it is headed by puppet demagogues like Newt Gingrich, even at its most inept, is shrewder than this. It is regularly a body careful not to rock boats and appear as rudderless and foolhardy as it did last week. Normally votes are meticulously considered, vociferously argued and either pushed through with beating chests or abandoned outright, not changed on the fly and abjectly booted with millions of voters looking on aghast. Normally laws, as Benjamin Disraeli once mused, are like sausages; best not seen being made.

There could only be one reason for such an upchuck in spineless etiquette; the citizenry went ballistic, or as one congressional aid put it to me; “By Monday afternoon these people had the fear of God in them.”

Who put it there?

Angry constituents pummeling the Capital Hill switchboard in record numbers.

Not since the pending impeachment of Richard M. Nixon had the legislative branch of this government been harassed so vehemently. It was an unprecedented free-market protest that some deemed arbitrary and naïve and others as responsibly heroic. Either way, it’s ultimately what this democracy jag is all about.

Consequently, the fallout has rendered this most historic of presidential races upsidedown.

For the first time, this space is willing to concede that there is a serious chance Barack Obama could be the next president of the United States.

The Democrats are the ones handed the Golden Parachute. Let’s face it; if a Southern Caucasian were running instead of an African American Liberal, it would be a faits accomplis. McCain and this bespectacled hood ornament he calls a running mate could take their ball and head home, because it would be over and done. But, sadly, this is not the case, and even one of the most ineffectual and laughably goofy campaigns in recent memories still has a fighting chance.

For two solid weeks John McCain has acted as if he’d awoken from a frenzied round of shock therapy. His every move has sabotaged his candidacy. The “suspending of my campaign” and nearly pulling out of the debate for a Here Comes The Calvary two-step backfired when house Republicans flat-out ignored he and his lame-duck president, forcing McCain to scuttle to Mississippi where he spent two agonizing hours acting like a condescending jack-ass in front of millions of debate viewers.

The president can’t stop The Piper, nor could Congress, God or God’s God or even General Motors or Standard Oil or Donald Trump or The Saudis.

Ironically, it was the Arizona Senator who emerged the victor, but you’d never know it. His humorless crank show bogged down by wooden platitudes turned an extremely weak performance from his opponent into looking oddly presidential. In a weird twist of fate, this is works out better for McCain, since Obama’s ability to actually formulate coherant thoughts has always been a glaring drawback to obtaining the presidency.

Speaking of which, the Palin choice for VP, a queerly devised cocktail of ballsy desperatation just a few short weeks ago, has quickly gone from intriguing freak show to complete implosion. Two fairly timid network interviews revealed the woman as a stammering dimwit. Aside from authoring some of the funniest evening news soundbites in recent memory, it caused over a dozen prominent conservative scribes to demand her immediate dismissal from the ticket.

Palin’s entry into national punchline coupled with almost daily disasterous economic news, and McCain’s inability to have anything close to a singular position on any of it, began to heavily tip heretofore swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Wisconsin, and stunningly Virginia to Obama’s side. Top McCain aides, against their candidate’s wishes, received their week-long pleas to pull funds from Michigan completely, and within days even Ohio, for the first time since this battle was forged, had severely lessoned its Republican support.

But to the surprise of more than a few, the vice presidential debates did not bury the McCain ticket after all. Palin was not as dismally vertiginous as advertised, and at times even used her folsky populism to score points with the usual rube-voter block. Meanwhile, Joe Biden spent endless sentences displaying his wonky dance of the bland, regurgitating a mind-numbing rollout of facts and figures. Of course, Biden won the bloodless contest, as did McCain the week before, because he is better versed in the deeper details of governance. Obama, as Palin after him, has a broader appeal, both choosing to give speeches instead of answers. Throughout her overly rehearsed robotic performance, Palin completely ignored direct queries to meander aimlessly into melodrama.

(Fill blank in with question here)

Biden: Blah, blah 7,400, blah blah, forty-percent since 1984, blah blah, $600 million.”

Palin: Blah blah, gosh darn it, blah blah maverick, blah blah (add wink here).

Whether any of this makes a headline beyond the weekend is dubious. Soon the reformed Senate version of this massive federal government economic band-aid with its porked up millions for Puerto Rican rum and tax benefits for auto racetrack owners will head back into the House where it will surely pass this time.

And the temperature of the people will again be taken, and where that leads will inevitably decide how the last month of this election season goes.

At some point John McCain needs less more bold moves and bizarre forms of performance art or pulling distracting side-shows from his hat, and more finding of a way, any possible way, to not look like the poster boy of a stale government sitting on bad wars and a shitty economy.

And Barack Obama had better not think for one solitary minute he is still not the underdog.

 

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The People’s Republic Of America

Aquarian Weekly 10/1/08 REALITY CHECK

WELCOME TO THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF AMERICA Presiding Over The Ashes Of Free-Market Capitalism In The Age Of Avarice

This is a valley of ashes!-a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Socialist ConcressOccasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight. – F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby

And maybe all the things You thought you got coming to you Ain’t coming to you Not in this life And maybe all the promises You thought were broken Were never really made Promises never made – Dan Bern Toledo

Calvin Coolidge’s doomstruck “Every Man For Himself” convention speech of 1924 roused the tycoon brigade and whipped off a flapper-rich parade of blank checks from Wall St. to Main St. The Roaring Twenties were already careening into what F. Scott Fitzgerald later called the “greatest orgy of excess and greed known to modern man”. That night Coolidge was for all intents and purposes reciting The American Manifesto, the “Where’s Mine” siren to every Mr. Jones who lived under the illusion that a Golden Ticket was the birthright of a generation. Slick hucksters with nary a piss pot began living high on the hog on the backs of millions of ghetto rubes and sucker farm hands who were soon to be flattened by The Crash.

That was the year of the Awakening, when Land Barons & Fat Cats found Jesus and ran hat-in-hand to Mother Government, forging a golden age of American Socialism. The New Deal’s avalanche of investigation, transparency and oversight saved us from ourselves before WWII thinned us out for the Baby Boom and helped to wipe clean the nasty memories of economic suicide.

This was the vacuum later filled by Ronald Reagan and an eruption in rapacious lunacy to rival the darkest days of Nero. An army of yuppie zombies spent the Sleepless Eighties gorging on the fleshy innards of the crumbling middle class. Blind surfs who couldn’t be bothered knotting the thin power ties were ushered into a nether world of sad excuses and poorhouse hand-outs. But soon the Savings & Loan Crisis forced Mother Government back into the arena to wield her mighty rolling pin of taxpayer relief to the tune of $160 billion.

Fast forward to the Zany Nineties when everything appeared invincible in the cyber boon. Geeks got rich bilking nerd wannabes and consumer addicts while corporate lackeys spent trillions on researching how to rape the new Wild West. But it all went belly up in the summers of 2001 and 2002. It was not disaster but portended one, so there was nowhere for the money men to scramble but to Real Estate, where the Bubble was filled with the hottest most expensive air and Credit flowed like sweet nectar. No one claimed to see the bottom, thus it was called bottomless, and “no bottom” means not having to pay up. Ever.

The president can’t stop The Piper, nor could Congress, God or God’s God or even General Motors or Standard Oil or Donald Trump or The Saudis.

Oh, the land of Every Man For Himself returned in spades and mere speculation morphed into a riot of flat-out gambling. Eight year-olds and homeless junkies were good for six-figure plastic and hardened criminals on the lamb were buying up property on fake leases with fluxuating interest rates that began to expand with the fine print. Things looked so rosy in the lending field there was enough fun money to cover a nation. Shit, it covered many nations, all the way to China, via the White House, chief.

Ah, but the hardest lessons are learned by those in promise to the Piper. The Piper always comes, and sometimes The Piper comes in the form of a bank. And when the bank needs your capital and you have none, we all have a problem, especially when those banks are attached to the teat of Mother Government. And this is where we find ourselves today, bub, because Mother Government is us, and we have to pony up with $700 billion to slate The Piper or the Piper will get his one way or the other.

The president can’t stop The Piper, nor could Congress, God or God’s God or even General Motors or Standard Oil or Donald Trump or The Saudis.

And it became frighteningly apparent these past weeks the gang running for high office knows even less about this than you. Listening to Barack Obama talk about economic crisis is like the aimless rambling of a man learning that his wife has been moonlighting as a hooker and his kids’ college fund had been dumped on a three-team teaser. But it was far easier to stomach than John McCain, who appeared as a doddering stroke-victim wandering the halls of a sanitarium bellowing incoherantly about how he must suspend bingo and save the uiniverse. It’s as if the very notion of how money works is as alien to him as speaking without mini-flashcards.

These people talk as if The Market is some kind of ancient dragon that has devoured innocent Americans. It is not a mystical beast, it is the creation and manipulation of Americans; ones with retirement funds and pensions and college investments for their kids and leans on their cars and loans for their homes. And, as usual, it is never anyone’s fault. It’s the system! It’s the policies! It’s the evil Moneylenders!

Either way, we’ll soon be the proud owners of the fragments of Coolidge’s maniacal mantra. We will embrace the victims of Captilalism and become a government-run Market controlled by The People. That’s right; the People’s Republic Of America. The concept of a free market system is not only wounded, it is dead, and its ghost is named Socialism. The government, bloated beyond precedence and under the umbrella of a loser gaggle which still possess the balls to refer to their party platform as Conservative have sunk the ship. Now it will be time for a clean-up, and no matter what poor sap is unlucky enough to helm this gory economic afterbirth, it will ultimately be ours to control.

Where’s all the big government, Liberal bashing now?

Sorry, you can’t hear it under all the gimmie…gimmie…gimmie…

Freeloaders, deadbeats and gamblers rejoice!

We’ve got your back.

 

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The Total Eclipse Of McCain

Aquarian Weekly 9/24/08 REALITY CHECK

ADDIO STADIABronx Boy Bids Farewell To The Haunts Of Youth

One need not be a chamber to be haunted; One need not be a house; The brain has corridors surpassing Material place. – Emily DickinsonTime and Eternity

Maybe, if you’re lucky, there are a few places you can say you’ve frequented for a lifetime; places experienced through the eyes of a child to young adult to adulthood and so on. For someone, such as myself, who has called numerous and Yankee Stadiumvaried locales home and lived several lives throughout, those places are fleeting. When pressed, I could always recall two: Radio City Music Hall and two stadiums – Yankee and Shea. In a few weeks the latter two will go dark and be torn down to make way for new state-of-the-art 21st Century models. One in Queens and one in the Bronx, one closes 44 years and the other 84. One a symbol of the modern metropolis, erected in the wake of America’s excessive post-war boom, the other a monolithic outpost at the dawn of the Jazz age; both institutions going where most institutions in the greatest city in the world go, into the past to make way for profit of progress.

Yankee Stadium is hallowed sports ground. It has been called a cathedral, the home office for the most successful and renowned franchise in the history of team competition, whose prominent members have one time or another held or currently hold every pertinent regular season, post season, or career baseball record known. It has also hosted Popes, championship bouts, and what is still called The Greatest Game Ever Played by pro football historians, the 1958 NFL Championship.

Shea Stadium is the home of miracles, begun by Joe Willie Namath and the upstart AFL Jets in the winter of 1968 and completed by the unbelievable summer of ’69 when the lovable loser Mets became lovable champions. Then again seventeen years later when one of the most improbable victories in World Series history rolled through the legs of a hobbled firstbagger from Beantown. Oh, and along the way, there were the Beatles, the Stones, The Who, and most recently, Long Islander, Billy Joel.

But all of that means little for me. I humbly wish to bid farewell to the structures that housed those magical days and nights spent beside my dad, my family, my friends, and my media colleagues. I bid farewell to the wonders of youthful revelry at the end of those long trips of anticipation and drudgery into the realm of pressured deadlines and effusive ovations – the psychic manifestation of collective memory born in the shadow of brick and mortar surrounding a few hundred yards of dirt and grass. I bid farewell to a measure of my identity.

The first time I entered Yankee Stadium, I am told, it was in the belly of my mother; who is always happy to recount in one of the many stories used to illustrate my father’s obsession with what she dubs People Running Around With Numbers On Their Backs, a tale of sitting in the bleachers six-months pregnant. By then my father had been twenty years into a love affair with the place, begun in late afternoons when his school chum, the Yankees batboy, would sneak them into games after the sixth inning.

I was born soon thereafter in Northern Manhattan during a Red Sox/Yankees double-header in the Bronx, the same year New York got their National League team back; the year the Mets were simultaneously the most putrid and beloved team of a generation. Two years after that they christened their own stadium near Flushing Meadows during the World’s Fair, which I proudly attended by way of stroller. Two years after the Beatles showed up too.

By the time I was old enough to breath, eat, and even walk on my own, I entered both places during two disparate seasons; one awash in the glow of summer, the other beneath the frigid gale of winter. Through the imposing Yankee Stadium gates I strode, clutching eagerly to my father’s hand, up the dark tunnel into an explosion of greens, blues and the incredible white of the famed façade. For a city kid, it had the pastoral grandeur of Dorothy emerging from her black and white farmhouse into the glaringly multihued trip of Oz. Then it was onto the clamor and pomp of an AFL Sunday in the windswept cavern dressed as a miniature Nanook sweating with the anticipation of seeing the great Namath warm up.

There were the raucous Yankee Stadium trips of my pre-teen years when my family moved from the Bronx to New Jersey, Bat Day and Cap Day and sitting up in the left field upper deck sort-of near my idol Roy White. Then behind the dugout the time my Uncle Johnny scored the rare box seat and my cousin Michelle dumped a beverage on an unsuspecting patron who was merrily doused during a key Thurman Munson late-inning double to beat Boston.

The two Campion boys, just a couple of neighborhood kids visiting the Grand Old Lady one last time. We scored the game. Shared some stories. Cheered the home team. Said good-bye.

Onto my teenaged years with my friends, Roland, Bob, Chris and my little brother PJ sitting in the Stadium bleachers getting ripped on watered down beer and screeching obscenities at multi-million dollar athletes as we endured the squelching heat of endless double-headers. Across town we hatched the bright idea to parade around the entirety of Shea, a community replete with banners of all shapes and sizes, with a blank one. There is something abjectly satisfying in proudly displaying a completely stark sign to scores of dumbfounded fans as Dave Kingman uncorks one of his patented moonshots.

And then into my twenties and early thirties when I worked the stadia press boxes and clubhouses culling interviews for rat-faced producers, penning columns for fun loving sports editors, and phoning in reports to Westchester radio stations. I met my journalistic and broadcasting heroes, smoked my first cigar, picked the brains of grizzled pen-jockeys and veteran photogs, and stomped the terra with my pal, Mike, the best cameraman I have ever known.

From balmy late-summer evenings amidst eight thousand disgruntled fans to crisp autumn nights basking in the din of 56 thousand bellowing hordes cheering pennant winners. Waltzing through the grumpy army of press geeks with my dear friend and colleague, Rob during the World Series, fending off the jeers of beat lifers as we wrestled over boxed dinners during stifling press conferences. I watched from the main press box as the ball settled into the left fielder’s glove to win the last game of the 20th century and give the Yanks the 25th of their incredible 26 titles, jotting into my scorecard “For Vinnie” my great uncle, who had seen the Babe and Gehrig and DiMaggio there, before passing away only a few months before. Later, squeezing among the showering champagne celebrants, I was accosted into a bear hug by the general manager of the best team on the planet, who’d become my friend during the summer of my marriage.

The last time I saw Shea, it was from the darkened parking lot on a misty autumn evening during the late innings of Game 4 of the Subway Series in 2000; the roar of the crowd causing me to turn my head and peer through the opening in right-centerfield. The lights of October illuminated my solitary stroll to file my report.

I would spend only one more day at Yankee Stadium as a reporter; opening day 2001. Soon after I left sports reporting as a profession, but not as a passion. I had before, during since spent many games in the company of cherished friends during countless games and finally an annual trip with my wife, who last season sat next to me with my daughter in her belly.

Earlier this month I took her grandpa, returning a 40-plus year favor. The two Campion boys, just a couple of neighborhood kids visiting the Grand Old Lady one last time. We scored the game. Shared some stories. Cheered the home team. Said good-bye.

There’s always Radio City.

 

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The Total Eclipse Of McCain

Aquarian Weekly 9/17/08 REALITY CHECK

THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF MCCAIN Palin Plan Plagiarizes Change Mantra Into Driver’s Seat

President PalinThere is no point ignoring it any longer; John McCain’s brief stint as the focal point of the Republican ticket for president of the United States is over. Sarah Palin is in charge now. The polls, the press, the people, and the opposition party’s obsession with confronting her at every turn have spoken; it is all Palin all the time. McCain is simply in the way now. It was a magnificently forgettable few weeks, but his party didn’t want him in the first place, and this crazy idea that he even represented the slightest reflection of change was always taken as a mild pun anyway. The whole shebang was silly and pathetic and no one bought it and probably weren’t going to, which is why Palin is being paraded like a trophy wife across Marshal McLuhan’s roadmap. It is Palin, the New Generation Part II, whom we crave. It is Palin we want to see at rallies, hear in interviews, to challenge her resume, her experience and her policies. McCain’s role from here on in is nothing more than expensive chaperone.

This is where most columnists would squeeze in the odd I Told You So sentence; but you’ll get none of that here. We simply point out once more that this election from Day One has never been about Race, Gender, Economics, War, Poverty, Healthcare, Security, or any other banal subject usually tossed about during these things. It has been and will be, and right now is officially all about generation.

Palin, 44, is the GOP’s answer to the nineteen-month birthing of Change emanating from 47 year-old Barack Obama’s movement. All of that arduous battling against the Boomer Clinton hordes and entrenched Washington lifers merely set the stage for the quick-fix alternative; the New Coke for the giddy Pepsi Generation: The Monkees for The Beatles, Desperate House Wives for Sex In The City, Spin for Rolling Stone.

Remember a few weeks ago when the McCain Campaign ran that goofy ad portraying Obama as a fabricated amalgam of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears? Well now they have their own Lindsay Lohan/Christina Aguilera model, and suddenly being the sound, conventional, safer choice is dumped with the bath water.

But this could all turn out to be a colossal blunder. Although it tends to get dazzled for the short term, the American voter almost always chooses the entrenched historical imperative of Conservative/Military/White Guy over Liberal/Northern/New Guy (never mind black guy). Palin throes a rusty wrench into all of that, not the least of which is replacing “guy” with “gal”, and not to mention putting the Real Deal back into this wishy-washy, flip-flopping, fraudulent load of feces the previous candidate offered up. John McCain used to stand for a sound combination of moderate to social liberalism combined with an interesting dollop of conservative economic restraint, but has since traded the whole mess for a photo-op and a headline. But did it ultimately cost him the presidency?

It is Palin, the New Generation Part II, whom we crave. It is Palin we want to see at rallies, hear in interviews, to challenge her resume, her experience and her policies. McCain’s role from here on in is nothing more than expensive chaperone.

Loose Canon McCain, who was almost certainly the frontrunner when the dust settled in November even if he had picked a Buick as a running mate, was apparently not exciting enough for those Republicans who were still voting for Mike Huckabee weeks after he bowed out of the race. They needed a newer slice of the Wow. What they got was a whirlwind of equally doled-out manic press exuberance and disdain, celebrity clamoring and Flavor Of The Month histrionics.

But never mind the Longview, this is a quick-fix nation, and for now Palin is its perfect candidate. She didn’t have to survive months of vicious attacks from opponents, win/lose a series of tired primaries or bother to speak to actual reporters to defend vacillating positions. Instead she appears out of nowhere smiling facedly, spouting cute aphorisms, and playing the willing victim to Leftist-driven jealous rages and misinterpreted asides. All the while she is impervious to any of it. Florenz Ziegfeld, godfather of American cabaret, once mused, “When you’re rolling, Fame & Infamy stand side by side.” In other words, “Say what you want, just print a picture and spell my name right” — the oldest PR axiom in the book.

To Wit: Palin has lied repeatedly and unabashedly about halting the infamous Alaskan Bridge To Nowhere project against which her current running mate once led a crusade, yet by all accounts, including a three-day investigative report by the ultra-Right Wall Street Journal, Palin not only failed to oppose it, she championed it. And by all evidence since, the state she runs has yet to return the nearly $300 million of federal taxes used to pay for what is now universally depicted as a monumental boondoggle.

None of this matters one iota. She is the new Teflon Queen, a Bill Clinton V.2, unable to be impeded by mere rumor or evidence. In fact, like Clinton, as each dart fails to penetrate her armor she grows stronger and more appealing, almost robotically fierce.

But no matter how you slice the Palin phenomenon, John McCain’s sad shuffle into the shadows is complete. Watching him smile restively behind his proposed vice president as she laps up the limelight recalls a famous Life magazine photograph of Dean Martin working his way through a mediocre standard while Jerry Lewis is frantically camping it up out front; the older, less-talented Italian crooner expressing both relief and envy that a much younger, far more engaging character was carrying the day. It is the same look Hillary Clinton had those final weeks of the primaries when she was living in a bizarre fantasyland of comebacks. The only difference here is Clinton is yesterday’s news and McCain could very well still be president, while Sarah Palin is going to a ribbon cutting at a federal library opening.

And this is wrong, because according to most everyone with a pen and a microphone this puppy is Palin’s to win or lose. You can count me among them. There is no turning back for McCain now. He is our wrinkled Garfunkel. Tell me you won’t bristle with disappointment when he and not the Gun-Toting, Bible-Thumping Annie Oakley shows up for those debates with Obama.

A candidacy that David Gergen recently described as “bizarre to the point of absurd” has somehow trumped the illusion that Obama could actually run the Electoral map in the ultra-polarized puritanical fop that is the greater United States. Somewhere in the depths of the Republican psyche having the lily white, military vet, was not cutting it. Campaign czar, Steve Schmidt, a Karl Rove lackey — without all the Gin Martini abuse and chronic masturbation — concluded that this media blitz from Juneau was the elixir. History will eventually record that it was Schmidt’s bright idea to yank the first term governor of the fourth least-populated state in the union; pushing what can best be described as a complete novice on a ticket with a 72 year-old war veteran with an ambiguous medical history.

Some will say that its better to be interesting than good, better to have star power than a sure thing.

Problem is sure things win elections.

Star power goes on the lecture circuit.

That is until this improbable year of historical firsts when at least one Star is on its way to Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

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