Dec 30, 2010

No doubt you read about the study at University College London suggesting that conservative brains are structured differently than the brains of other people.

According to the initial news report, people with conservative tendencies have a larger amygdala and a smaller anterior cingulate than other people. The amygdala -- typically thought of as the "primitive brain" -- is responsible for reflexive impulses, like fear. The anterior cingulate is thought to be responsible for courage and optimism.

According to the report, since only adults were included in the survey, researchers were unable to determine if cerebral physiology drives politics or if political beliefs change the brain.

A previous University of California study suggests the former is possible, isolating a so-called "liberal gene" -- the neurotransmitter DRD4 -- responsible for an increased receptiveness to novel ideas.

Meanwhile, conservatives point to both studies as proof of their biological superiority. In the conservative blogosphere and twitterverse, DRD4 was cited as the underlying cause of the "mental illness" known as liberalism; and some conservative tweeters have even tried to claim that the enlarged amygdala just means that conservatives "have bigger brains." Of course, the first claim begs the question, and the second ignores the shrunken anterior cingulate.

I think it makes perfect sense. Hate radio is thick with fear and paranoia. It's all about fight or flight. I can see a time when politicians wouldn't be allowed to take office until their brains had been measured to insure their politics were aligned with their brains. That way you eliminate frauds.

I could see having to wear baseball caps, and skull caps for that matter, with your brain ID on the bill. I could see whole a new possibility for restaurants, immigration and postal offices, hospitals, psychiatrists, and zoos. And what about a new olympics? Or new Harvards, one for each kind of brain.

Dec 29, 2010

We went to the de Young Museum today to see, "Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond." The show was jammed, and with overcoated people. The whole place was black and blue with overcoats.

As for the paintings, they were among those familiar canvasses that arrive every year or two with great fanfare. The images are always stunning, and comforting in their way. I have no argument, although I'm becoming more drawn to the abstract, literally and figuratively. I'm less drawn to depictions of life than interpretations.

"What an idiot you are," an educated critic would say, "You don't know anything. What are you talking about? Many of these paintings, even the lesser ones, are filled with abstractions. You just can't see them...."

What I was going to say, before I so rudely interrupted myself, was that I have less interest in Impressionism, had less interest until I rounded a corner at this exhibit and there was Vilhelm Hammershøi's 1905 painting, Rest.

This is the small painting of a young woman sitting in a chair, facing the wall. We see only her back.

Here is part of a description of the painting from the Musee D'Orsay

A descendent of Vermeer or a forerunner of Hopper? Hammershøi, a Danish painter who made his reputation in the 1880s, is without doubt neither. The minimalist intimisme of his interiors and the disturbing atmosphere that emanates from his apparently rigorous approach are sufficient proof of that.

Hammershøi most probably invented the back portrait, as opposed to the existing full-face or side portraits. This seated woman—we cannot tell whether she is a maid or a member of the bourgeoisie, or even guess what she is doing—is intriguing because of her displyed indifference to the spectator. The silent figure has been brushed in a refined range of greys and browns, showing the artist's deep sensitivity to indoor atmospheres.

The composition is a series of right angles: the lines of the chair, the skirting board and the sideboard divide this eulogy of absence into squares with a sort of Protestant rigour. But it would be an error to jump to the conclusion that the painting is an allegory of solitude or human tragedy. Because the real subject is perhaps the nape of the neck, the most indecent part of the body to oriental minds. Just as the few unruly wisps of hair, the opening of the blouse which gives a glimpse of white skin, in counterpoint to the flower-shaped bowl laid on the sideboard, are radical antidotes to the temptation of a purely puritanical interpretation.

I would never have thought of this as an allegory of solitude or human tragedy and I don't agree with this idea of her 'displayed indifference'. I have the sense that the woman has been asked to sit just this way, and that she's well aware of her sensuality. She could as well have just come from the arms of her lover.

She may be at rest, but from what? If she is exhausted, it is not a sign of weakness.

Perhaps she's angry, or just petulant. The way her right arm hangs on the chair suggests to me a woman unsettled. There's an emotion in that arm and the way her blouse catches on the chair.

I find her irresistably sexy and very powerful — on her own, regardless of her status in society. Above all there is the desire to see her, to confront her or reassure her, or else kiss the back of her neck....

Dec 17, 2010

Jennifer Jones is dead, at 90. She was an actress among other personas and was nominated for five academy awards. Her second husband was David O'Selznik who produced several films in which she starred. Most unnotably, Duel In The Sun.

Here's an anecdote from that time.  My father was O'Selznik's publicity man, and toward the end of O'Selznik's run, when the job was to promote films that were not successful.

Often, my father would have dinner with O'Selznik, in his home.  This was when Jennifer Jones was the new bride, and David was still smitten, having left his wife who had done so much to help him.  And as the martinis were being served, Jennifer would come down the spiral staircase asking David if this dress was right for the evening.  It was inevitably not.  And so another presentation, and another.  And another. Until finally something was right and then dinner and Jennifer Jones in the candle light, and for that moment, the most beautiful and dangerous woman who ever lived.

Dec 12, 2010

Frank Capra’s 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, is forever timely but especially just now. Whenever you see it the film works as a cultural astrolabe, measuring the distance between the broad moral convictions we held in common 70 years ago, even if we didn’t act on them, and the narrow moral understandings and fine-print ethics that divide us now.

Still, a few things haven’t changed. Bernie Sanders’ (D.Vt) filibuster last week may have lacked Jimmy Stewart’s heart-wrenching theatrics, but there was the same feeling of tilting at windmills, and the Kafkaesque sensation that fairness itself was on trial, and found wanting.

What's changed is the moral fantasy itself — then it was that a senator might suddenly come clean and admit publicly that he or she had been wrong, the way Mr. Paine burst on to the Senate floor to say he’d failed his country and himself, and it was high time to denounce ‘the machine’ and vindicate Mr. Smith.

Now the fantasy is commonground and bipartisanship. And if you did some terrible thing, you cheated on your wife or courted house pages, then you concede. As little ground as you can, but you concede and make an elliptical statement of apology, equalizing the matter, making it clear that "yes, America, I did something wrong but this is the result of the times we live in and my opponents are no better."

Remember that Mr. Smith is neither Republican or Democrat or Independent. He is simply our better side, our good, old-fashioned free self forever in the thrall of a big idea, and the thrill of riding into town on a motorcycle, in the middle of a parade. That was the original ending of the film: Mr. Smith returning to town on a motorcycle with his legislative aid and fiancé, and then while riding down Main Street in a motorcade to celebrate his victory over the dastardly machine, he spots Mr. Paine, stops the procession to draw him out and takes him along to see his mother. Redemption, completed.

Seventy years ago that ending seemed dispensable for the audiences solicited to help cut the film, which was incredibly long. But that was Capra’s intent: to finish with a true reconciliation.

Capra’s fantasy also offers an interesting commentary on ‘the machine'. In Capra’s time, the machine was a bunch of cog heads from the unions, the accessor’s office, the police, the local newspaper chain, the state senate, and maybe a few US senators, all in the chain gang of a greedy developer-magnate intent on building a dam.

These days the magnate is the journalist-barron, surrounded by people formerly known as journalists, and who really just want a job. Yet as rich and powerful as Murdock is, with his bright yellow eye on China’s vast markets, he’s just a middle man. The real power is further in the shadows, the likes of the Koch Brothers and a handful of other wealthy people who play the working class for fools using the likes of Mark Levin et al. The preeminent sentimentalist and political fabulist who insists he is open to opposing view points until the caller says something stupid or argumentative and the Levin has no choice but to open the electronic trap door.

Seventy years ago there were also hate radio characters, the likes of Father Coughlin. They did their schticks, often at outdoor rallies, but the audience was limited and in the Depression that kind of talk had little traction. Unlike periods of inflation, recession and economic depression tends to bring people together.

You could argue that's true even now when you look at polls that show the president remains popular and that what people hunger for is not Republican policies but effective policies.

But what's really different now, from Fr. Coughlin's era, is the unrelenting flow of propaganda and the unrelenting indifference and ignorance of an electorate that seems unwilling to seek other points of view.

Which is why, as insufficient and unjust and undemocratic as it seems, it’s time to reconsider the Fairness Doctrine. I never thought I would get to this point. And I say that not sanctimoniously, but as someone who feels defeated at the prospect.

Nov 23, 2010

While the A-list pundits debate security on airplanes vs. privacy at airports, the pump house gang, 'serfers' if you will, including the likes of Mark Levin and his pinkie puppet, Michael Berry, are still trying to pin the tale on the donkey. As though at the President's finger snap Janet Napolitano devised a scheme to show how Vic Tanny the government is these days and so alienate as many more 2012 voters as possible.

Meanwhile, the call to be like Israel, where profiling is not merely clever college students looking through one way glass for behavior cues, but relentless algorithms crawling about your bank and credit card accounts, your licenses and business connections, and no doubt through your online personas. So that by the time you get to the airport big brother has already seen your most private parts...

Your "junk" in a very real sense.

What a strange word for genitalia. Where did it come from?

A corresponding term expressly for women is va-jay-jay, but that has a lyrical quality and runs with words like Fugazi — the name of a bad film, a punk band, and the term used by Johnny Depp in the film Donnie Brasco for something that's fake.

But junk is junk. Whether drugs or refuse, junk has no good connotation. There's nothing lyrical or creative about the word. Nothing ironic or funny. It's as if to suggest the end does not justify the means. The whole process of reproduction comes from junk and the 'issue' itself is junk.

In a way, this whole privacy business is a reflection of our puerile modesty, which no amount of porn, or even genuine eroticism, can hide. Perhaps, "junk" is merely a current bout of self-loathing, and just plain frustration with the material unit.....

Nov 15, 2010

Having watched Social Network I came away struck not only by the squalid culture in which Facebook was born, but more by the feeling of having been drawn into somebody's personal drama, 'my own private Eliot House', and from there into a childish ambition to create a gated community where the standard of living is not related to quality of life.

Whatever the new functionalities — however Facebook is becoming the universal dashboard and throttle to drive your online identity, it's not about building 'social capital', which is a good and necessary thing. This is something else. It's about building the biggest country club. It's about persuading people that they are a measure of their 'social graph' — that there is little more important than being able to look over the backyard of yourself and say, 'my, don't I have a long list of friends!'.

And you wonder, who are all these friended people? How many do I really know?

In fact, this social graph is a measure of the size of your phone book. That's cockspeak for advertisers, and you'll remember, advertising was not part of the original offering with mashbook.

But what about this obsession with being social? And what has the word come to mean? 'Being social' was once a rite of passage, perhaps more common in the suburbs, but always a test of maturity, an unwelcome obligation to some, where you reached out to people, for good reason or bad, but you faced them. At a dance, a wedding, over a martini at a restaurant, or a tea party at home. The risk was that you would be rejected, that having exposed yourself you would not be included in the local society.

But now in these new realms you can escape rejection because you don't face anyone. You are merely a persona, invulnerable to your girlfriend's truth, that you can be smart AND an 'asshole'.

In the new East Indies it's about your persona not your person. It's about tarring over every last bit of free time and quiet with noise and distraction, functionality and illusion, and the strange conviction that you are a user, not one of the used.

(The question of FB's social significance is also part of the broader issue of how these different messaging tools affect political action. Here's an interesting article in that regard: )

Nov 8, 2010

We've been without power for over 10 hrs and now we have no water. We're told to prime the well pump but we don't know how. We've never had this problem before, or we can't remember when we did because it's been so long ago. Can anyone help?

Here's what to do. Get on your best and fastest horse and ride a hundred miles to the nearest Pete's coffee. Or Starbuck's, if you have to, and remember there you can wear a gun in the open. Both stores have wifi. Don't forget your i-pad. The pastry/drink specialist will give you a code at Pete's. At Starbuck's you can just open your browser.

When you get online, Google "priming a well pump." You'll get something like this, "Here's how to prime an electric pump." These are the directions:

— Half-fill a watering can (do not use a hosepipe as the pressure is too high!).
— Pour water down the pump outlet pipe, lifting the pipe so that the water goes all the way down to the pump. It will take about 2 litres (half a gallon) to prime the pump.
— Switch on the pump.
— Most pumps are "self-priming", i.e. you only have to do this once, afterwards it keeps the water itself and does not drop the water back into the well. The bottom of the collector pipe at the bottom of the well should have a non-return valve.

Now you have the knowledge. Get back on your best and fastest horse and return home, and on the way you might think about 'priming the pump' as a metaphor for an economic problem. Right away, if you have any education at all, you'll remember that this was exactly the strategy FDR used in 1933 to get the economy back on track — using increased government spending, lower interest rates and tax reductions.

That's very similar to the strategy economists have been recommending for the last two and a half years and it has nothing to do with socialism.

Then when your home is in sight, and your wife is standing on the veranda in her nighty and slippers, perhaps you'll think of the great power of metaphors in general and how telling it is that we don't remember this particular metaphor, much less how to prime a pump.

How could we be expected to? We've moved off the land to cities. We don't know anything about fixing pumps ourselves. That's part of the new esoteric knowledge.

Keep going with this thought and you realize that without well thought out metaphors, it's hard to explain to people complicated things that they might otherwise understand, and how easy it is for people to come under the spell of lies and misinformation.

Nov 1, 2010

The question is, why have largely single, white women forsaken Obama?

(Which brings to mind the old quandary over Jesus' lament, "Oh God, why has thou forsaken me?" Which you may know is a misinterpretation, according to the late Aramaic Bible researcher George Lamsa who insisted that the correct translation from Aramaic should be "Eli, Eli, lemana shabakthani" or "My God, my God, for this [purpose] I was spared!")

In fact, not all single white women have forsaken The Annointed One, as the radio rats always call him, particularly penny-annity, but based on a verifiable poll of two or three friends I found out this widespread truth. Some women were pissed that he compromised before he had to, on the health care bill especially. He gave in and there was a hint of that in his books, a little suggestion that he might do that, that he was not just pragmatic but something else. Something a little distasteful, frankly. Turned out some women felt jilted. It was as though the man you fantasized about every day in the office really didn't have any interest in you. The smile you hoped was for you, wasn't.

And so these women that were running away with him every night in their dreams, like Beckys after their Toms, in moonlight off the Mississippi, were undone that in real life he had no interest in them. It was as if to say, as if women could say to him, privately of course, "I knew Bill Clinton and you're no Bill Clinton" — that dirty, sexy, terminally boyish rascal who could be forgiven on a smile, because after all his only crime was that he loved women too much. But that's good. Women prefer a man with simple faults, with common despicables.

With Obama it's different, because the smile is not about turning you on. It's about something else, who knows what. He's in the mind, not in his body, so you can't get an easy read. Can't figure out who he really is. Can't control him, that's what it is. The 'helpful crone' understand this but not others.

"They fell out of love with 'the dark one'," as a friend put it so derisively, referriing to her suddenly spurned sisters in Berkeley. I should add that she herself has always had only black lovers, and as far as she's concerned this is all just more of that old black-magic racism.

Bottom line: you can't trust a good man. Just not used to it. They make you feel uneasy, unsettled. What kind of man could be so calm, reserved. Doesn't waste a single syllable of body language. Doesn't have time, doesn't need to.

At least let's have Sidney Poitier, nostrils flaring, mouth-a-grimace. That man who said, "A good deed here, a good deed there, a good thought here, a good comment there, all added up to my career in one way or another." But he was emotional, he showed his anger. His characters all had one thing in common, they knew that America loves a fighter.

You can still hear his voice. You literally had to hold his characters back when the injustice went too far. And for damn sure none of his characters would have compromised with the likes of one of these potato-colored farts like John Boehner.

Oct 25, 2010

The refrain is, "should I be who you want me to be?" Certainly most teenagers would agree they don't want to be who their parents want them to be. Most Tea Party members don't want to be who party elders would prefer them to be. Rush Limbaugh would agree. This is the cry of the iconoclast. Ayan Rand would agree.

And after all, this is the era of I. Or my. Mine. Not yours.

Eventually, 'me' will give way to 'we', but not yet.

And isn't this exactly the point. Didn't the creators of this ad get the irony of the question? Or did they?

Or, was this merely a sophisticated if muddled attempt to rebrand James, to camouflage a terrible mistake and help Nike recoup a market.

Who knows. That's part of the new shtik and cynicism. Don't take a position. Be elusive, elastic. Be ready to adapt.

For me this ad makes the point exactly. This problem with Lebron James' decision to duck out on a city, and duck out on a personal challenge, is that the decision came down to i. The unarguable i. i, above all.

In fact, I is not necessarily more important than You, which in this ad has a pejorative sound. It's the genius of a 'creative director.' Of quick-cut logic and take-your-mind-off-the-ball visuals. That's what so interesting, and disheartening — the way the media has become a self-service pump that very few people understand how to operate. The ad is cast as an op- ed piece, a proud statement of identity. Of attitude. A defense of i, in the video-game language of images and bits of ideas.

But not a whole idea. Nothing is worked out here.

"Should I be who you want me to be?" Maybe. Sometimes. It depends.

Should a young drug addict or gangsta or kid criminal, or any criminal, regard the wishes of parents and society to be responsible? Yes. Absolutely. That's the least.

If you think about this enough, if you look at this a few times, you may hear the very genuine voice of a child named Lebron James. He really doesn't know the answer. He's never asked the question, himself.

Oct 24, 2010

Not a good day for canvassing. The rain, the 'who cares', the plutocracy of it all.

But you start off with high hopes. Before going to the party headquartes, you stop by Clooney's, a five-star dive on the corner of 25th and Valencia. Open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. At that speed you have just enough time to get home, pass out, and crawl back.

As one reviewer puts it, whenever I stop by Clooney's someone is either yelling or crying. And there are reports that at the drop of a hat one of the crazy tenderettes will drop over the bar and throw your drink in your face.

It's just past 10 a.m. You walk in, it's pitch black, the Sunday games are kicking off and the bartender has a bowl of cheerios, right up to her face, which is from Fresno or the central valley, wizened and red-eyed. Four or five flat screens up high, along with relics from the era of Saint Joe and Lord Rice. Meanwhile, the men and a single woman sit around the horseshoe, in their 49er galore, and in their cups, their Buds, and in their angry-as-hell — even though the Giants got to the World Series last night, and even though the 49es score a touchdown on their first possession this morning.

Half an hour later you're on the 3100 block of 23rd Street. Just off Shotwell. You have your list, your map, your clapboard, your door hangers, your four-color mailbox material, in Spanish and English, your script, your pen and paper.

You're just down the street from where you lived for more than 10 years, yet you have no desire to see that apartment, to see what became of the garden you created in the backyard or what kind of people are living there now. The connection is completely broken. You feel like Ned in Cheever's Swimmer. You've come back to a place that's empty.

You ring at the first address on the printout. No one answers. You mark that as NH (not home). The mark runs like mascara in the rain. The second address and the third and all the way down the page, and no one is home or they're not answering. The truth is the people here are sick to death of the ringing and knocking. On Saturday, they get the Adventists and the Mormons. On Sunday, they get Move-On and OFA. During the week they get people that need a phone or a loan or the bathroom.

Finally, somebody comes to the gate: A young woman, mid 20s, pretty, blonde, barely dressed, looking sleepy and here it is 11:30. You explain. You're asking her to commit to vote. To vote for Dems is best, but to vote at all is good.

"I'm not interested in that," she says. She has a worried expression as though she cannot process the question, as though she cannot believe someone would come to her door with that request. There must be something else...

"Why not?" you say.

"Because I'll be traveling next weekend."

Absentee ballots you say.

"I'm really not interested in voting at this time."

She sounds automated. 'Are you hardcore,' you're thinking.

"Why aren't you interested in voting?"

"It's all stupid. I have other things to think about." She turns away and disappears. On the back of her underpants, across the ass: Go Cal Bears

You keep going. You walk up a driveway, past some white vans. A man appears. He's in his 50s, striding toward you, a sandwich in his left hand. "Whata ya need."

You go through your spiel.

"I don't give a shit."

So you won't vote at all.

He shakes his head. You ask why not.

"Who the fuck am I gonna vote for? I don't like the rich on the one hand or the lazy on the other. I hate 'em all. I'm what you might call one cynical, Darkness-At-Noon bastard. I don't see anything in it for me from any of these people."

Not even the Tea Party.

"No, not them either."

But what about the idea of a handful of people and large corporations running these elections....

"What's new?" He's opening the door to one of the vans. He's a contractor. He has to get back to Oakland. You're holding him up.

"Here's the truth." He's saying, and smiling, but it's a weird ironic smile. "I don't mind the oligarchy, so long as I'm in it. I'm not in it but I'd like to be...."

A little cynicism, a little truth.

The rain is speeding up. The enthusiasm gap is too great.

You go back to Clooney's. Without a George. That's what it needs. Or Looney's, you're thinking. The 49ers are tied (and they'll go on to lose). A man at the bar has got his dander up, spit flying every which way. "It was Clinton that got us in this mess," he's saying. "You know and when he went to Korea and got those people out. And look at Carter, look what he did. They're making this into socialism and one day they'll round us all up. They're workin' on it right now. Obama is. They don't want you to have a job. See, that's the secret. All you can feel good about these days is Uribe. The dumb wetback did good, didn't he?"

Oct 23, 2010

The take of a fellow journalist: Juan Williams should not have been fired, especially in a phone call. He should have been given the chance to reconsider and recast his comments. And, he should have been told to make a choice between working at NPR or Fox.

On the one hand, the whole matter is much ado about nothing, egos and sensibilities to toss on a scrap heap. On the other hand, this has badly undermined the credibility of NPR, and particularly its CEO, Vivian Schiller, and it tweaks public distrust of institutions just on the eve of the most important American election in decades.

And how easily the whole thing might have been avoided.

Had Williams run his feelings through his intellect he might have found an equally resonant but more profound point to make. He might have said something like, "Whenever I board a plane and see swarthy looking young men, in Muslim garb or not, I get nervous. How can you not help but think of 9/11? Or half a dozen other incidents....

"And by the way I know that the people to be afraid of are a tiny minority of Muslims (which Williams actually had said at one point) and that the Koran doesn't countenance terrorism. And I'm also aware that the drug cartel terrorist from Latin America may now be as dangerous as the radical member of Al Qaeda. 'Swarthy young men' describe a variety of threats....

"But there's something else here. This has been an interesting experience for me, a revelation, to feel afraid of someone on the basis of their clothing or skin color. I've written several books on civil rights but now I have a renewed sense of what it means to hate and be hated, and I am trying to take the lesson that this is a time, if there ever was, to use reason in relating to both people and events. Now is the time to resist an emotional response, especially to issues that we may not understand or have thought through."

Naturally, it's easy to cast what might have been said after the fact. On the other hand you might wonder why a pundit, who spends all his time thinking about such things didn't have a more thoughtful commentary at the ready.

There is something else to remember. This business is all in line with the collapse of a profession. Once upon a time, say 20 years ago, the career arc of a journalist was to be a reporter, on either a newspaper or a magazine, and then work his or her way up to be an editor, and then to be an editor at an ever larger, more prestigious publication.

Now the arc stretches from reporter to pundit. You may or may not pass through editorship. Not unlike the entertainment industry, where there's an arc from actor to director. The notion now is that the most sought after position is where you get to speak rather than to listen.

Once upon a time there was a check and balance within the profession. Lippmann and Murrow in their day were the authoritative voices of reason. Cronkite and Reston in theirs. Now it's cacophony, it's anybody's game. There is no wise voice saying, 'this is the way to handle this and the way to see this...'

Which brings us back to Juan Williams, himself. Now grasping at the role of whining victim and accepting his compensation: a $2 million contract from Fox. And for what? To be a political prisoner of war, to be a kept man, to be a respected and pitied scoundrel. To be used as a turncoat. In the end, he's a scoundrel, not for what he said about Muslims but for how he handled a misspoken word, for the example he sets, for his lack of integrity and common courage.

Oct 22, 2010

The Power Hour With Mr. Slither

Whenever Mark Levin is on, I drop everything. "Dr. Levin is on," I shout out. He comes on right after Hannity and before Dr. Laura and then it's Coast to Coast. I fiddle with the dial on the old Philco, until he's coming in loud and clear. I like that part in the beginning of the show where the scary voice is talking about how he's our leader, coming to us from an underground bunker in a nondescript building somewhere in a large city. And that urgent, kinda metally rock music. I love that. When I hear that I really feel like we've been taken over by aliens or socialist types...

And I never miss a day, because you know, otherwise, he might think I was one of the miscreants or thugs threatening our way of life. My wife's the opposite. She calls him Mr. Slither, and she'll come runnin' from God knows where and she'll be all heated up and I'll say, let's open the radiator cap on that one.' And she'll say, how the hell you gonna listen to that maniac.

I tell her, I feel more educated when I hear Dr. Levin talking about the Constitution and his dog, Griffon, who is suffering from cancer and that's the real reason he can't come to any of the Tea Party rallies right now, not unless he can get there and back in the same day. Dr. Levin just wants you to know that while the president is a jackass, and a lot of people out there are morons, and all these repubicans and backbenchers, which I don't quite understand, but anyway Griffon is fine. You can bet on that.

Today, he was interviewing Tom Tancredo, who somebody said looked like Jimmy and Tammy Faye Baker in the same body, and Jon Stewart refers to as, “the man Mexicans tell their kids about to make them eat their vegetables". I don't believe they really say that but you never know. Congressman Tancredo wanted to impeach Obama and I sure support that.

But now what's real important is for us to join Americans for Prosperity, which has 1.5 million members and they're kind of bipartisan because they didn't like the out-of-control spending under Bush either. So I sent in my $20 and a picture of our house and our dog, Sparky. And right away my wife said we got an email from the head of Americans For Prosperity, somebody named Phillips and he asked if we could send in some more money.

Now some people say this Americans for Prosperity is run these two brothers named Koch, real rich guys somewhere in the midwest, along the Mississippi Rive, but it doesn't say on the website, so I think that's probably wrong.

The problem is they want $1,000 to be a Thomas Jefferson Member. They say that Thomas Jefferson said, "The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

I sure agree with that and I'm glad our $1,000 goes to train and mobilize 20 activists for our 'Sick of Spending and November is Coming' Project. I'm glad we have paid activists. I would be an activist if anybody ever asked, but they don't.

All I know is we just gotta get this country back on track. Those people in Washington never ask us what we need, just what they think we need. We know what we need and it's not what they need or what these zillionaires need....

Oct 17, 2010

Last evening in the Berkeley hills, at an October Fest: 17 Hippies in the background; Little blonde girls dressed like 1939; and the hostess, a noblesse-faced redhead from Bavaria offering a bouncing display of breastage and beer, sausage, cakes and light conversation to go with a lavish garden. The cigarette smoke was just hanging there above our heads, not moving at all.

These were some real accent carrying Germans, deep in the lederhosen — shop customers, fellow parents, people from the university, and a man in a black suit, black hair, white shirt, open at the collar, wearing a ponytail. He was in his late 40s, with a rectangular face, bad skin and a dark expression — imagine if Rudolph Steiner had come back to life, having built the Goetheanum in West Hollywood and was still offering prominent past lives to potential investors.

Of course, he was actually from Croatia.

And then sitting next to me, a little precariously on the folding chair, a woman in middle age. I ask her who she's going to vote for. "Can't," she says. "There's no place to vote where we are and we never got any ballots in the mail. It's too late now."

She's 55, to put it kindly, with baby soft gray hair and a five-year-old boy on her lap, her own boy, spoiled as der Pfirsischs. She explains that she's living out in El Sobrante, which is over the hills from this place, beyond El Cerito, over still more hills and then you come to a funky man's Woodside, horses and hay and such, and where according to this woman it's no holes barred. Which is to say there's a lot of adultery going on.

She's a scientist, with slightly bulging eyes and a deep Brooklyn accent, every story she tells is more bizarre than the last, but of course she's very aware, she knows exactly how she's appearing. And finally she says, "And you know the name of the place where we live, you know what it's always been called, from Indian times?"

"Screwball hill," she says nodding. "And that's true."

Oct 14, 2010

Watching the Rachel Maddow show tonight you had to shake your head. And then later bang it against the wall....

The news of the day, of course, is the U.S Chamber of Commerce — that elderly sweater girl with her pompoms for American business and clearly suffering from dementia. It's stunning when you think of it, how the same Chamber that so pleaded for the stimulus is now allied with the Tea Party and a handful of unidentified millionaires, and some 80 foreign corporations, now chomping to bring down Obama's job agenda. All in the name of the free market.

The clip to go with the Chamber story showed Tom Donohue, head of the chamber and the standardbearer of old white guys — all I could think of was Orwell's "Shooting the Elephant" or Kiplings's Gunga Din — with the straight hair, the straight suit, the straight lace and face of it all, talking about how there was nothing wrong with shipping jobs overseas. Nothing wrong at all. Thinking, one assumes, in the most practical terms, that the bottom line is after all the shareholder not the worker. Even in a great recession.

It was a callous remark and politically deaf, a Scarlet Letter of sorts, and a precious gift to Dems, just in the nick.

Then a few segments later you have Miss Rachel, from dykes on bikes, as it were, towering, elegantly and safely queer one could say, inexhaustibly animated and smart, but still a dyke, still at the edge of the tent, sounding like Teddy Roosevelt, talking about the importance of infrastructure, celebrating the new bridge just opening next to the Hoover Dam and lamenting New Jersey Gov. Christie's efforts to kill that new tunnel to Manhattan; and what a calamity it is, she went on, how we've so lost our way, our balls, our convictions, our dreams, even the capacity to dream.

She said it so well. So eloquently. You wanted to weep and cheer. And shake your head.

But how did we get to this turn? The Republican "man" has become an incoherent midget, an intellectual gopher, while the tall, big-boned gay lady shows the grand old strength, moxie and wisdom.

But here's the part where you want to bang your head to smithereens. A nation of stupidos has no ear for the message unless it comes out of an idiot's mouth. If Sharron Angle says it, it must be true. If Christine O'Donnell feels it, it must be real.

From birth of a nation to death of a nation. And one hopes to birth again. But the place will look and sound a lot different then....

Oct 12, 2010

The question is, how would you address the likes of Rush Limbaugh if you were Barack Obama. Limbaugh was only lightly wounded the other day when the President replied to a reporter, in effect, "I'm too busy to think about him."

But that doesn't work. That's a milkshake for the blissfull fatty. With that the Excellencior of the EIB network can compare himself, can talk about how little golf he's played in the last three weeks, next to the president who, Rush says, plays every day. But what is true?

No, you have to come toward the problem and forget the notion that to notice is to elevate. Here's what you say....

"You want to know what I think about these right wing talk show hosts? Not all of them — some are just in for the shtick, but two I can think of. These are people who create nothing, build nothing, manage nothing, found nothing, spend all day working at nothing. Yet, they're paid huge sums of money to be obscene and disgraceful, to spread lies and encourage ignorance and fear. They're vultures who feed on hopelessness and anger. They bring nothing to the table but what is putrid and foul."

Oct 8, 2010

I just got off the phone with Charlotte. She was fit to be tied. "Would you like a comment?" she asked. "I know you're doing phone banking and you can't spend too much time with any one person, but would you like a comment?"

Absolutely, I said.

"Okay then. I've been political all my life. From childhood. I can't remember not being involved somehow. I went to Florida in 2004. I went all over the country in 2008. I've spent my life supporting progressive candidates. But now I'm just sitting on my hands. I am so disgusted I can't tell you."

Well, tell me anyway.

"Why on earth have the Dems allowed Republicans to take over this campaign?"

How do you mean?

"The way they respond."

You mean the messaging.

"Yes, the messaging. How can they let these smears, the hypocrisies, the lies go unchallenged. I just don't understand."

Give an example that really bothers you.

"I was just watching Rachel Maddow and she had somebody on, I don't remember his name. He was saying something about how there was no rational reason to block this particular piece of legislation because it "would just drive us further into a".... And what do you think he said next. What would the next word be?"


"Exactly, a ditch. But you know what he said?"


"He said, a 'double dip recession'. Now you hear that and it doesn't really register. That's not what comes to mind. Don't they know anything about cadence, about framing an idea....."

Cadence, yes that's an interesting point, I said. Charlotte was like horses let out of the coral.

"They're still acting as though this was all a civilized debate, like we're still living in a civil society. The whole language of debate has gone out the window. There is no civilized society any more."

So how do you want Dems to act?

"I want them to be less corrupt, because both sides drink from the same trough. And I want them to stand up and fight. Alan Grayson. Weiner. Like the way those two fight. I'm just sitting here in horror watching all this. You know what Bill Clinton said that's really true? He said, people respond to a leader who is strong and wrong much better than a leader who is weak and right."

"Every day I become more discouraged," she went on.

People have lost the ability to think critically, I said.

"Yes, and you know where that started. That started with No Child Left Behind. And who handled that? Neil Bush handled that. And what was that about? It was about teaching to the test and so we have a generation of kids who were taught to take a test, don't remember anything from the courses they took and never learned to think critically, never learned to question or analyze....

You believe that was a conspiracy.

"I do and I'm not a conspiracy theorist. But I believe that. Read Crashing the Gate. It's the 'conspiracy of self interest.' Not a literal conspiracy, but a conspiracy of self interest. Everything is for money. That whole education initiative was for the economic benefit of the testors. And then of course if they don't teach to the test, the school gets no money, and the whole cycle tightens. And that's how you get a permanent underclass."

She paused.

"So that's why I'm not getting involved this time. I'm just too discouraged. I feel further and further distanced from everything I believe that's good in this country. And by the way the other day I went to visit the San Francisco Unified School District and I met some of the lower income workers, not teachers, but security guards and the people who work in the cafeterias, those unions have all but collapsed, and what's interesting is how conservative those people have become. They're the ones listening to Rush Limbaugh and they honestly believe that the Republicans have their interests at heart. I know someone else. A friend of a friend's father. He always thought the way to be rich was to be a Republican. And now it's all these years later and he still doesn't have any money and he's a still a Republican. How do you describe the stupidity of people in this country? Seriously, how do you?"

I don't know. It's a job for H.L. Mencken. But I'm asking you one more time if you won't reconsider and come out and help us.

"Okay. Where do I go? When does it start? How many calls do I have to make? We're all going to hell in a handbasket, I might as well....

Oct 6, 2010

"I'm not a witch.

I think you look fabulous, babe! Hair's a little flat, but the plain everywoman look comes right through.

"I'm nothing you've heard."

Dearie, you're sounding a little Orwellian. But never mind and incidentally I never said anything. It's just between us. Okay? Everything that happened on that altar and the baby sacrifice thing, I didn't say a word. By the way have you ever heard my Boris Karloff imitation? "Monsta? I'm not a monsta."

"I am you."

I know you are, babe, but can I say this? Don't take this too personally, but the outfit, the black whatever it is and the black background kinda reminds me of someone out of The Crucible. Can't you take some of that campaign money and get something decent? Or else Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. You don't want to look like that!

"None of us are perfect."

No, no she had more glamor and humor than you do but that's okay. And you know I love your pouty, kookie look. Plus, I'm know what you're saying, I get the code words, this is something the Koch-head brothers dreamed up, right, 'to take away the sins of the world', to get the common man in the public mind, and what you're really trying to say is that you did pleasure yourself. Right? 'You did have sex with that woman', as it were. Yourself, I mean. But I'm not saying a word. That's okay. Nobody is going to burn you at the stake, or put you in the ground up to your shoulders and stone you to death for committing adultery with yourself. What are you kidding? Are you happy now?

"None of us can be happy when when we see what's all around us."

I'm sick about it and I'm sick of it. I hate these people...

"Politicians who think spending, trading favors and back room deals are the ways to stay in office."

Absolutely. Right on. And I'm just so happy they let Gene Cranick's house burn to the ground. Along with three dogs and a cat. These are the malingerers Mark Levin is always talking about. The layabouts and thugs, the union types. No, this is the kind of lesson we need to teach people. Now some may call it revenge; I call it what's 'meat and right so to do'. You want government, we're gonna give you government. We make government the old fashion way, as John Houseman used to say in those Smith Barney ads, "We earn it." By the way whatever happened to Smith Barney?

"I'll go to Washington and do what you'd do."

Thank you! Finally! Thank you. Someone is making sense. By the way did you hear about the clown in Rio or someplace. A real clown and the people voted him in to office. Why? Because he was absolutely genuine. He said, 'I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know anything about politics, but I'll just go in there and tell you what I see.' But now here's the point: here's what I'd do, if I were you, I'd go to Washington and just kill everybody in government. Just shoot the bastards. You know what I mean? Just take no hostages. And then I'd have a big lavish party like Ronald Reagan used to have. You know what I mean? Betsy Bloomingdales, Nancy fancy. Those were our people weren't they?

"I am you."

I know you are, babe. I love it when you say that. I'm you too. We're just all each other. I love it. And the real America is just around the corner.

Oct 5, 2010

The fall soccer season is underway, and frankly not all for the better. Yesterday, we drove out to a night game in San Ramon with Frederick, the father of one of the other players. It was a disaster.

Behind his back we call him Frederick “How-great-I-am” because he has an irresistible tendency to draw attention to himself. He’s Boston ‘Southie’ Irish, a middle weight boxer in college, with a blown up photo of Robert F. Kennedy in his office, a degree in the Classics from Cambridge, a geologist by trade, and now a white-haired, deeply disheveled man, whose whiny voice always soars above the crowd. He’s the one that yells at the ref, “Hey, hey, don’t give up your day job.” Or, as an aside in the stands, “Get a Lasik you fuckin’ idiot.”

Over the years the team has suffered several penalties and admonitions because of his uproarious commentary. He even criticizes our players and he’ll be standing right in front of the player’s parents. He doesn’t care. He criticizes his own son to high heaven, and finally, the coach has realized that Frederick’s son, who is already high strung and tentative, cannot play within earshot of his father.

Incidentally, this is a U-19 league. Whenever he hears that, in whatever setting, Frederick calls out in a thick Nazi accent, “Attenzion all U-boats, Zis is zee Kaiser sprekenng: Zink za Lusitania”.

This team includes an ethnically diverse collection of players from San Francisco and, San Mateo, and a couple from the Central Valley. They’re in the top division, playing top ranked teams in the state and the nation, but now, just a month into the season, are 1 and 4.

So yesterday afternoon we went off with Frederick, who actually can be very refined, even urbane — you couldn’t imagine that but it true. The problem is he played high school football and has never accepted the more demure culture of soccer. “TAKE HIM OUT,” he’ll yell at the top of his lungs if he sees an opposing player who does too many tricks or is a dirty player. “Just take him out, what are you waiting for?”

Speaking of culture Frederick has taken up listening to hip-hop, partly in an effort to co-opt some of his son’s other interests and partly because he enjoys annoying whomever he can. And so as we go tooling down Tassajara Rd. in heavy traffic, past the gated entrances to Black Hawk, Frederick has K’naan on heart thumping boom base singing the refrain….

So what’s hardcore
Really, are you hardcore? Hmm
So what’s hardcore?
Really, are you hardcore? Hmm

Frederick sings right along himself looking people down in passing cars. He’s from his own particular hood of mind and loves these lyrics above all:

In the day you should never take the alleyway
The only thing that validates you is the AK...

This is not all the alter ego-fanaticism of an older man with a screw loose, ever looking to bleed a snotty nose. He’s also a dedicated enemy of the Tea Party and assumes, sometimes wrongly, that everyone he sees outside the city is a party member. He’s forever telling people to read Frank Rich, or his real hero, Paul Krugman.

And so we arrive last night at the Mustang soccer complex. This is one of these state of the art facilities that includes not only the finest turf, on two fields no less — and an elaborate sunshade for spectators, designed by a famous architect —but a two story club house, with veranda and Spanish tile roof.

The game starts out well enough and at the end of the half there’s no score, but early in the second half our team’s defense begins to falter and the mid-field can’t get the ball to the forwards. Then the goalie is called for obstructing play, which leads to a score on a penalty shot and things go down from there. Suddenly, it’s 3 nil, Frederick is seething and in his tantrum blocks the view of a parent from the other team.

“Hey, take a seat, soldier,” says the parent.

“What did you say?” asks Frederick, who hasn’t confronted anyone like himself in ages.

“I said it would be nice if you would sit down so the rest of us could watch the game. What can’t you understand?”

Frederick is stunned by his doppelganger and the drama is on.

“Here’s what I can’t understand,” says Frederick, now standing in front of this man who’s sitting a metal bleacher with about 20 people, all fans for the other team. “I thought they only let you out of your little gated community at night.”

“What?” asks the doppelganger in disbelief. Someone else yells, “Go away old man.”

“Does the institute know you’re out here,” ask Frederick. “Did you sign out? Aren’t you supposed to be with a supervisor at all times?”

“Listen, asshole. Get out of my sight.”

“I’m sorry, is this the Black Hawk charm I’ve heard so much about? The discrete charm of the boobie bourgeoisie?

“Hey, can’t you just leave?” yells someone in the bleacher.

“Please sir,” adds a woman in the front row.

“How much ignorance can a woodchuck chuck?” asks Frederick.

“Who is this guy?” someone asks.

“He’s an idiot,” someone else says. “It’s people from San Francisco, they’re all wing nuts.”

“Wait a minute,” says Frederick. “How many people here are Tea Party members? Raise your right hand. That’s your heil hand for those of you who can’t remember. “

He does his heil salute.

“This guy is nuts,” someone says.

Frederick looks at the crowd carefully. “I see only one person wearing their brown shirt. The rest of you are on report.”

“I’m calling security,” someone says taking out their cell phone. The parent who originally confronted Frederick stands up. Another man sitting further back jumps off the bleacher.

“If you come any closer I’ll have Christina O’Donnell start masturbating,” says Frederick who would love a fight and just at the moment there’s another Mustang goal so now he’s Monsieur Kamikaze Miserable at the ramparts.

His doppelganger and sidekick sense that this is not someone they should fool with. Frederick is not a big man but gets a few inches with sheer moxie and the sense this is really someone who likes reckless abandon.

“Okay let’s just watch the games,” says one of the mothers who steps in between the gentlemen and that’s the end of the matter.

After the game, we get back in Frederick’s car. He’s beyond himself, but at the same very calm, deliberate. He turns on the music and it’s K’naan singing smile….. He turns up the volume and we slowly, you can’t believe how slowly, roll out of there.

Smile When you struggilin
Smile when Your in jail
Smile When your deadbroke
Smile And the rents due
Smile You ain’t got friends now
Smile And no one knows you
Never let them see you down smile while you bleeding
Smile When he leaves you
Smile Cause girl he needs you
Smile Plenty single mothers cry the tears you do
Smile dispite the war
Smile dispite the pain yo
Never let them see you down smile while you bleeding

Sep 24, 2010

(cockroaches, part 2)

From the Insect edition of The Daily Beast I'm getting this: in New Zealand female snails exposed to the chemical TBT grow penises from their heads. An invasive species of predatory shrimp in England often leaves its prey uneaten after killing it.

You can only conclude: the insects are different than you and me.

As for cockroaches the more I find out, the more I respect the power of their culture. And fear it. You'll shake your head but it's a little reminiscent of the Tea Party Movement: relentless, oblivious. Instinctively proud. Seemingly fearless. Bound by a Darwinian obsession that anger, not might, makes right. And the more you say, 'but you are of no consequence, you don't represent anything significant. You just live...." The more they smile condescendingly. "Go Crimson, boom-ba," they say and so caustically.

Go Crimson boom-ba to you, you say, but you're not serious. You have no idea what you're saying, but they do.

It's their intelligence I've begun to understand. I see it. After all, they've been here for 2 billion years; they must have experienced some evolutionary upgrade. Recently, a scientist counted 1,000,000 brain cells in a cockroach, a fraction of the 100,000,000,000 humans have, but the point is they're on the board. They're still way down the totem but they're starting to make a run. And so when they feel the heat wind of your presence they can drop off a counter, a four foot free fall, with no thought, as though they're genetically trained for this, which I suppose they are, and then land like moon rovers and move off.

Moreover, they're don't have a hive like ants. There's no Hq. They operate much like al qaeda cells. And they're always looking for a new forward operating base. When you find one on a chair two rooms from the kitchen then you're seeing a searcher. A probe. And when they see you they spread the word. I am convinced they use a kind of neural IM facility. Insect telepathy. How else to explain the way they scatter, no two in the same direction. They know what they have to do as individuals in order to survive as a group.

And where do they hide? In a place "where they can feel pressure on their back." This according to the Terminex man. Like those bed-in-a-drawer stops in Japanese airports. It's as though you liked to sleep under the sofa, or in the overhead compartment in an airplane, or if you had the capacity to get in the crawl space behind the books in your bookshelf.

As an aside, this is from "Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge," written in 1983, in answer to the question, what's the best way to kill cockroaches?

Calm yourself and pay attention to your Uncle Cecil. There are two proven approaches to dealing with la cucaracha: (1) borax, and (2) arson. Assuming your landlord objects to the latter line of attack, hie yourself down to the basement and mix up the following recipe: 4 parts borax, 2 parts flour, and 1 part cocoa powder.

Now, you may regard borax as "pansy-ass," but that's because you're young and ignorant and haven't yet grasped the subtleties of Total Insect Warfare, which requires fanatical dedication. You must mix up oodles of this stuff and apply it with the enthusiasm of Robert S. McNamara dumping Agent Orange on the Mekong Delta. Pour it in a continuous line along the walls. Put an extra dose under sinks and around kitchen cabinets. Hell, fill your damned house to a depth of one foot with the stuff. The little bastards will die piteously, I promise.

Incidentally, should you also be happen to be troubled by rats, I have here an ingenious formula for inducing rat death: Mix equal parts cement and flour. Place a pan of this powder out next to a pan of water. The rats eat the cement, then they drink the water, and by the next morning their bowels have turned to concrete. Sadistic, eh? I knew you'd love it.

We tried all that. Maybe it works. Not clear. Or else simply soapy water in a plastic spray bottle, envelop them in dish soap and they die right before you, suffocated, but you have to clean up, otherwise, night of the living dead, they revive, pick themselves up out of the drear and zombie back to the survival at hand. But yesterday the Terminex man arrived; an Irishman no less, the Terminating Angel; Sir-X-terminator, or simply Charon, the ferryman, coming for his vermin passengers.... And that is the best word to describe them: vermin — as difficult as that word is to use. Even now. When I grew up "vermin" was like "The Holocaust"; it had only one context, Jewish extermination. The word was out of bounds. If you used it in any context other than this particular historical one there was the suggestion, and the feeling just by saying it, that you were being anti-semitic.

Nevertheless, lately in my doldrum — when I turn on the midnight kitchen light and there they are, a dozen in all sizes, as though caught in some pornography, Satanic insect-baby abuse, suddenly six legs to the wind, running for any corner or shadow — that's when the word rings true. Even the sound of it is precise and evocative. Vermin. Something underneath, subterranean, but versatile, a smoothly adaptive thing like vermouth. Vermin. Verminesque. Verminating. Vermined! As though the despicable nature of roaches is below mentioning, at the root's end of evil — and incidentally we're including rats but not foxes or birds, although they're vermin.... As though the despicable nature of these creatures is boundless, beyond God or His understanding — and they don't care, they don't know, it's not efficient to worry, only to survive, so they're always on the move. Don't you marvel at the roach reich's ability to direct droids to find sustenance in shit, rot and grease; even the detritus you'd find in a dust breeze: body parts, fecal and pusicles. They are the filthiest of filthy, not to mention eating the glue that holds books together, undoing civilization, itself.

They've drawn me completely into their little 'talk shows'. That's where it's at. I think of little else. And now all the analogies and metaphors are merging. I don't know what's right or wrong. And it's so subtle, but also insistent, insatiable. I don't go into the kitchen anymore, ever, without having to confront their existence, without having to arm myself, to get set to kill. Anybody that knows about this, knows it's total war. Late at night I've been conceiving of an autobiogaphy. The title is "Call Me Gregor Samsa".

Sep 12, 2010

Three months ago an advance guard of German cockroaches arrived in the kitchen. They took up positions under the oven and frig, and, for a time, in the frig door hinges, as well as in a stereo receiver above the frig and in the microwave on a nearby counter. I can barely stand to use the microwave anymore.

Several even made their way down a short hall into the HP printer in our bedroom. The printer sits on a 20-inch high wooden book case. Wires from the printer run up to a table with an i-mac. Occasionally, you'll be looking at the screen and on top of the computer frame you'll notice something, and then you realize what it is and that you're being observed, by an intelligent life form, no less — by what looks like a little brown man crawling along with a surf board on his back.

I kill it immediately, and wherever there's one there's always another one. I kill them all immediately. And now it's become what you might think of as hand-to-hand combat. I, and now we, use books, magazines, the bottom of bottles, cans, plastic bags, old sponges, the broom, cooking tins, and our shoes. Roaches are prevalent around midnight, according to one sources I found. I verified that and sometimes — although it's hard, I have an increasing aversion — but sometimes I'll show up just then, throw on the switch and sure enough they're scurrying between oven and the frig. I step on them as quickly as I can. I may get 10 or more and make a special effort to get the smallest ones. I hesitate to use the word 'babies'.

Through an exterminator we traced the invasion to a man living in a downstairs apartment. He eats largely fried foods, the smell is horrific. The exterminator told us he'd never seen such a dirty kitchen. By the way, the man smokes himself to death. He must be in the last stages of emphyzema, the sound of his wretching late at night or early in the morning is death-defying. Yet whenever I see him he's striding down the street at a fast clip, with a placid expression, in his blue baseball cap with the name of a U.S. navy destroyer over the bill.

Lately, I've begun to think he may have lost his job because I hear him during the day, which I never did before. I assume he watches the Horse Racing Network because I hear him yelling out, "C'mon run, c'mon you can do it, run you bastard'. And then suddenly, inevitably silence.

I've asked the landlord to say something but he's reticent and doesn't. There is an illegality here that I won't go into. In any case, the exterminator comes every six weeks but he needs to come every day for six weeks. We've begun using Borax powder, spreading it in all the usual places, on ingress and egress routes as we used to say at SAC Hq.

Naturally, we have employed roach motels. But I've found the roaches always find a counter measure. I look in the motels and there are rarely any residents. These roaches are nearly human in their ingenuity and determination. I feel I am now leading a counter insurgency but frankly I don't know if I can win. This is the problem: I have no hearts and minds to convince.

Or do I? This is what I'm getting to.

You understand what I'm facing. The other morning, around 11, I walked into the kitchen unexpectedly and approached the sink. I didn't see the roach but it saw me and jumped off the top of a bread board on to a counter, which is fake, black fleck marble. I couldn't see the damn thing. I slammed the toaster on a shadow, I hammered the plastic dish rack on where I thought it might have gone. I tore everything up and nothing. I don't if it got away or not.

Later, I remembered two interior designers I interviewed years ago. Husband and wife. Quite attractive people but strange. One of them, I can't remember which now, had a withered arm. I think it was the woman. They always wore black. Black suit, black shit; black pants, black blouse. Their design breakthrough they told me was that they always did kitchens in black marble. This was their signature. It seemed like magic to them because they claimed that with black counters you couldn't see a mess. You could leave the dishes after a dinner party and it looked like an interesting photograph or painting. With black any deformity became artistic.

But you see now I don't know whether I killed that roach or not. I assume it's still there, out in that black marble no-man's land, but I don't want to look too earnestly. The other day I threw up just thinking about going in the kitchen...

If I had my way the kitchen would be virgin white. I would design miniature search lights and barbed wire. I would employ gheckos. Which I did years ago. This was in the mid 1970s. I lived in an apartment at 94th and Riverside Dr. in Manhattan. Nat King Cole's daughter lived on the same floor. Terrible infestation of roaches. So I bought a gecko and set it loose in this little pullman kitchen. You'd come home at night and that thing would be upside down on the ceiling. Sometimes it would run very fast from one end of the room to another. It made a lot of noise.

I don't know if it made any difference. I went away once on a trip out of the country and a colleague stayed in the apartment. He claimed he got the gecko stoned on dope. I don't remember what happened after that.

(end of part 1)

Sep 10, 2010

Jimmy? Not the brightest bulb on the porch and sometimes, it goes out altogether. Just pitch black and you can whack it all you like and it still won't come on. Mamma Jimmy says, not her fault she always put that Borax in his cereal. So he does a little time here, a little time there. Then his friend Mikey Areola has an idea. It’s big. We gonna rob Peter to pay Paul. Sound good? Jimmy’s all ears: “what’s the plan?” You like hospitals right, says Mikey? “I don’t go to any”, says Jimmy. That’s okay, says Mikey, there’s a VA down in Escondito. We go down there, I know a nurse, we get to look around, maybe see where the meds are. You know what I mean? Sure, Jimmy gets it. “I like meds. That’s easy, then whatta we do?” Then, says Mike-o-rama, we sell ‘em. “Like out on the street?” says Jimmy. Out on the street, says Mikey. Real easy. Can’t miss. “I’m in”, says Jimmy. “I like it when it’s easy.”

So they hop down to Escondito, slip into the emergency room where Big Joannie does security. Carries a stick and a real mean expression. People look at Big Joannie and they’re thinkin’, I don’t like you. That’s okay, says Mikey, you’ll get used to it. “Yea, but I still don’t like her,” says Jimmy. “Plus who made her that big? That’s big.” Leave it to me, says Mikey. So he talks to Big Joannie on her break and says, now you know I’m gonna cut you in 50/50. Like old times, right? You just get us some — he pronounces it ‘more fine’ — some morphine and we’ll be gone and I’ll send you the proceeds in about a week. Shouldn’t be any longer than that. If it is, I pay interest.

Joannie’s not a smiling person but the bulb is always burning. Plus she’s got kids. She loves those kids. Little Bubba and Littler Bubba. Sure, says Big Joannie, with her sly eye real big. You just stay right here.

So she’s gone like maybe 20 minutes. Jimmy’s feeling good already. He likes the emergency room. Plus they got good magazines. So Big Joannie comes back with a little white bag. Here it is, she says but nothing is gonna put a smile on that face. You just run along now, she says and they do.

But just as soon as they’re out the twirling doors boys ‘n blue are all over that case. “What’s this?” says Jimmy. Grand theft, says the cop throwing on the links, fooling with a police officer, possession of stolen stuff, on and on. And meanwhile, Big Joannie’s lookin’ out. Like a bee, she’s saying, and dancn’ up and down.

Aug 6, 2010

Twenty years later Mr. Walsh returns, the ever reluctant visitor, driving alone up out of the flats, past Our Lady of the Good Cadillacs and the Polo Lounge, martinis forever in mid-air. The patrons in those days, old friends of his father, the likes of Katleman and Bautzer, were $1,000-a-point backgammon players and idea tycoons, much bigger than Mad Men. They wore diamonds in their cufflinks and oversized dark glasses, and carried alligator skin address books filled with the unpublished numbers of studio heads, Vegas casino owners, and starlets held in private-reserve.

The reluctant visitor —the ‘late Mr. Walsh‘ is how he thinks of himself — continues up Coldwater Canyon, turning left at the fire station and the park where he once ran down fly balls by the bucket full, past the orange grove, underneath hanging tennis courts, and up beyond the house where one of Errol Flynn‘s ex-wives once lived. Everything once and once upon a time.

Eventually, he comes to the fork. To the right, the road runs up and over a ridge to Franklin Canyon and then up a long fire break through this part of the Santa Monica mountains to a ridgeline and Mullholland Dr., where forty-one years ago, in a ravine off the Drive, a Great Dane found...

Aug 4, 2010

On the way to Providence, we stopped in Manhattan. I hadn't been back in years. It was younger and richer, thinner and cleaner than I remembered. More women than men; less diverse and vacant, at least just west of Grammercy Park, where everywhere you looked office space was up for lease or sale. Otherwise, the last of July was just as humid and earthy as I remembered.

We stayed with my wife's friend, Justine. She lives off 5th down almost to 14th Street. The building is completely anonymous and one would never guess the wealthy dwellers inside, including, did I get this right, a designer for Donna Karan, whose nanny has two assistants. And then the building’s owner, a nefarious fellow on the top floor with a wheel on his terrace, an enormous wheel that looks like a gyroscopic sculpture entitled, The Zodiac. It has a six-foot diameter; and the challenge is to mount it and hang upside down like a bat and then rotate as though you were on a rotisserie.

Justine’s apartment is in that New York, but perhaps more Jewish tradition. Piles of books and articles, the newest issue of Granta, a C. Bechstein piano with a sheet of Ernest Bloch, for flute and piano, above the keys. Stories by Saul Bellow. Supersex, by Tracey Cox, Stacks of The New York Review of Books, not to mention collection of personal kitsch here and there. And Justine’s own projects. She ghost writes for much less talented people who pay her a good deal of money to describe their trip to the far end of the earth, and occasionally even their emotional trips.

Justine is a talented writer and musician and has various other specialties, obsessions and guises, along with two husbands. One lives in Seattle; the other in Berlin. Interestingly, she spends most of her time in New York. Part of her secret is the distance she keeps, so that she is always hotly desired in some city or other.

It will come as no surprise to add that she is also a member of the Polyamorous Association of New York. That’s not quite the right name — I believe it 's an institute — and so you imagine going to a large second story men’s club, with every wall covered in books and the occasional original drawing or painting of nudes and naughty, and perhaps a small bar in one corner where colleagues stand around and discuss Leon’s Foucault’s pendulum and Michel Foucault’s history of human sexuality, taking time for a little hug, a complement about how great we’re all looking in middle age and perhaps you’d like to see the upstairs…. Justine told me the atmosphere was stodgy, not sexy and that recently she was rudely hugged by a huge man with TWO monocles.

By the way, Justine’s marriages are both legal and each man knows about the other. Although not always happy with this arrangement they abide and one has to assume that sex soothes all disappointments. Exactly the case. Justine is a sex goddess. Not in the conventional sense of the full boobied, blue-eyed blonde, although Justine has large bosoms, which is just the right word in this case, large bosoms, but she is dark, European, with a low woman’s voice — it’s hard to imagine Justine ever having been a girl — and an enveloping, overwhelming earthiness, a de facto sensuality that transcends guilt, shame or perhaps even consciousness itself.

When she decides to sally forth she announces her coming with just the right card, something you’d find at the Met, and you open to find a short, erotic poem that might begin with, “And now let’s get biblical.”

Jul 16, 2010

Just back from lunch with the city's 'last icon'. After all, who better represents the incestuous, convoluted, and contradictory nature of this city? Who better exemplifies its heart and total disregards?

As we sat down he asked if I had any appointments for the afternoon. I shook my head so he ordered drinks and when we finally left the restaurant an hour and some later we were both bobbing and weaving. He was once a middle-weight prize fighter, and showed he could still bob and weave with the best of them.

He looked great by the way. And for a man in his 70s he said he was feeling well, although his left shoulder still gives him fits and a few times I noticed he had difficulty lifting his arm. I told him it was just as well; he shouldn't be diving off any more cliffs up at Yosemite. He did that once, in his 50s, dove off a high cliff into a shallow mountain lake and should have died.

"Yea, don't count me out," he said.

If there's one thing you know about the boss, it is that you never count him out.

He had his characteristic smile; his hair was long and majestic. But at the very top of his forehead the hair turned in a curlicue and from time to time he looked like a laid-back toddler, but salty-mouthed and feisty. He was ever so glad, giggly at the thought, that Ms. K was having some bad hair days lately.

"That little shit," he said.

We traded stories, gossip. Just like the old days. But it was the last story you want hear. I asked him to clarify a long-standing rumor that he'd had a 3-way with Janis Joplin and one of her Lesbian lovers. He smiled his mischievous smile and said that actually there had been a third woman involved and that was the one he fell in love with and who later "saved" him.

Saved you? I asked.

Yes, he said, Janis had gotten jealous of his wandering affection for her friend, woman no. 2, and so gave him a stiff shot of heroin. An injection not to kill him but more to throw strange sand in his face. In that purple haze he remembers being with a lot of people in a public space and then seeing a huge shadow, which at first terrified him and then turned out to be the shadow of an enormous bird that picked him up in its clutches and flew off. He remembers looking down at the world and then it was as though the bird was clobbering him with its wings. The next thing he knew he woke up and there was a woman slapping his face, trying to get him to come to.

Which he did finally, he was saved, and then sometime later he fell in love with that woman, woman no. 3.

I told him it was high time to write his autobiography. He agreed and added that this was probably the right moment because the statute of limitations has run out on most of the crimes he's ever committed.

Jul 4, 2010

If you're a petition gatherer with white hair, listen up. First thing you need to know is, you're threatening to people. That's why you're not having a lot of success. Now don't get excited. Throttle back. This is not personal, but you need to get a hat.

I got this advice earlier today from Martin at the Fillmore St. Jazz festival while trying to sign up people in support of Wall Street financial reform. This was at the Organizing For America booth in front of the Junior League thrift shop. You couldn't miss it because there was a life-sized cardboard replica of the president, in a superman outfit.

Martin explained this to me. He's an old hand with petitions. First thing is you have to accept that you can be threatening just by the way you look. You could have the heart of a Golden Retriever, the animosity of a shag carpet, but the white hair throws people. It reminds them of the future. If you're 25, even 35, or God help you if you're 45, the last thing you want to think about is getting old. You want Comedy Central. You want cheery. You keep going back to, "There's something about Mary."

But I can hear you saying "yes, but I'm asking people to sign a petition for Wall Street reform and if you've read Paul Krugman we're in for the third great depression since 1873 and there's absolutely nothing we can do about it. The 'Repubicans' are going to block any policy they didn't intuit from watching Ronald Reagan doing 20 Mule Team Borax ads. The world is deserting us. This is serious. The whole culture is bankrupt. And bankers are the most bankrupt of us all, morally speaking."

All true but that's why it's so important to be calm and friendly. You want to think of 'Good morning, America' as you say to people, "Would you like to sign a petition in support of Wall Street financial reform?"

That's actually long winded, because by the time you've said, "would you like to sign a petition," the person or the couple are past you and they're saying over their shoulder, "No thanks." Or, "maybe when I come back." Or, "I did already." Or, "Nope, leave the banks alone and why don't you get a real job."

But isn't activism a real job? It's not what Mark Levin does but it seems like a real job.

Martin says not to go there. "Don't ever be sarcastic. Someone says that and you wish them a happy day with all the genuine good feeling you can. Pretend everyone is your grandmother."

Now by the same token you don't want to look like a smiling psychopath, but you want to look easy, you want to look like what people see when they look in the mirror: wisps and filaments of themselves, a flattering hologram, a fond memory of cheek, an abstraction of neck.

So, you buy a hat and the next thing you might want to do is put on a lot of stickers. Put 'em everywhere. All over your shirt, your hat, make a boa out of a sticker strip. Look a little disorganized. Practice dishevelment. Look harmless but not clownish. Have a couple of clipboards but be careful that the sign-up sheet has at least one signature. Nobody wants to be first. You're looking for the follower. Remember that the Willy Loman in you is always in search of the Willy Loman in someone else.

Now for example here's a man coming toward you but it's the couple behind him that you really want so you say to the man you know you won't get, "would you like a Vote 2010 sticker", so that the couple behind him is now put at ease, they think they're going to get something, and then when the man passes — and says under his breath, "get away from me, creep" — you say, "well have a great day, sir", and now the couple thinks that that man was rude and they've arrived at the IHOP and everything is cool. So then you say to them, "and would you like to support Wall Street reform, as though you were saying, "would you like to support motherhood?" "Would like to put in a good word for Jesus?"

Now there's a couple of other tricks. Don't bother to ask Asian-Americans to sign a petition. Don't approach white men over 50. If in doubt you want to kowtow a little more. You want to remember that every kid under three is the cutest you ever saw. You want to remind people that even on the Fourth of July it's okay to be conscious. It is a holiday, and this is a jazz festival, and you know people are busy and even though they call it Independence Day it's really just a holiday and you know you don't ever want to get heavy and talk politics. That's for Thanksgiving.

One last word of advice: be politically androgynous. This is San Francisco but remember there's a lot of closet conservatives. What they won't say to you, or even their good friends, is that they believe that anybody without a job is lazy and extending unemployment benefits is just playing to people's base instincts. So sound moderate.

And don't mention Obama unless you're talking to black people. Just say, "this is not about socialism. This is not about the end of free markets." which is true, but it sounds better, more neutral if you don't mention the president's name.

Above all, what you don't want to do is to defend the president. What you don't want to say is, "the president is not a socialist", or "Obama has no intention of ending free markets". Why? Because people just don't believe that and they won't believe YOU. They'll think you're just another spitting liberal.

Like the short Jewish man who got right up to my face. "Afghanistan?" he said. "Afghanistan? Do you have any idea how much money we've spent in Afghanistan? Do you even know who the Taliban are? Do you? Ok, then don't talk to me about Afghanistan."

But you wonder how it is the President has gotten such a bad rap. Well, it's the times, it's just so easy to fall in to line. people don't know where they even got it, or where they first heard all these bad things, somewhere they did, they heard that this effort to bring the banks to account, to make them take responsibility is not as simple as it seems because the banks have to lend money, they're just businesses, like the bakery down the street, and they're already regulated, taxed half to death, and it really is all Obama's fault we got in this mess. We knew he knew Lew Ayres but we didn't know the rest of the story and now we do.

The little Jewish man is back in your face. He's got his cell phone up to his ear. You can hear his wife saying, "I'm lost, I'm lost. Where are you?" He's going to clear that up in a minute but first he's got to tell you something. And you realize that even the old guard has turned. "You want people to sign up for financial reform? Are you kidding me? You think Obama is interested in financial reform? He's another Judas. Have you ever heard the names, Geithner and Summers? Have you? Well look them up and get out of my face."
A four-bedroom villa at the end of a cul de sac, around Redwood Shores, in the shadows of Oracle, a boat tied to the dock, Huis Clos literally and figuratively; a two story facade over the mantel; a heartland inside. Good people, the hosts, very good people, kind and straight, hard working, and not vulnerable to nonsense, what can you say. Sometimes, our friends don't reflect who we are.

The sign in the often remodeled kitchen, set above the sink, says, "Happy Fourth." The center of this kitchen is a 25-foot-square island of stone. Nearly a dozen women are holding on for dear life. Drinks in one hand, dipped chips in the other. And on the tip of their tongues: Brazilian wax, unsightly moles, viagra for women, tattoos and Pilates.

"Is that Pontius Pilates you're talking about?" asks one of the outlier husbands moving uneasily through the area, leaning on the back of a high chair, then reaching for the top of the refrigerator, as though he were lurching down the passageway on a sinking ship.

"There's my baby-Jesus," says the man's wife, with a mock Southern accent. "You just let him through there. He'll pass out in a little while."

Much is mock here, or to be mocked. But of course you get anyone alone, pick them out of the pack and they'll tell you about their breast cancer or the mother with dementia, or the real financial situation at home, or some excruciating bed death, or really and truly, they would tell you, even if they can't look you in the eye and hold it that they're just so damn tired of spending and spending.

You'd never imagine it but right in the heartland of the material world, folks are sick and tired of it all.

Even the men are tired of it. Sure, they're tea-party regulars underneath, which is about the right to and the rightness of spending,  but even the head of a local nonprofit that sends recycled medical supplies to the poor black folks in old Africa, and thinks this administration has got to get its checkbook in order — and if millions of people have no jobs as a result, it's a horrible shame, but it has to be, and it would all be fixed over night if the Government would finally just scrap taxing business.... Even he will tell you that materialism has gone too far.

And if you don't think he's serious, why recently he and his wife throttled back from more than 5,000 square feet to less than 3,000 square feet. And they bought a Prius. They're so proud of what they've done. And if they can do that, you see anyone can do that. It's all proportional. It's just common sense.

Meanwhile, the house we're talking about is at 68 degrees. Just the way the wives like it. But the pack-husbands have gone outside, where it's 80 degrees in the shade, two hours from dusk, no breeze, still as still, not even a far away sound of firecrackers, not a single song bird, just the murmur of males on Independence day.

By the way, they're all wearing coordinated shorts and long shirts, high end sandals. Everything is the finest beige: skin, clothes, temperament — except for one gentlemen in his teal best and wicked tongue.

These middle aged men look seven months pregnant is what they look. One man is standing with the palm of his hand on the top of his hip, the way women do when their bone-carriage is about to break. They're all good Catholics by the way.

And they're all mostly salesmen. They work in large corporations or large dealerships. They have long commutes and closely cropped hair. Their children are the pride of Pleasanton, although lately there's been a rash of car crashes, including one in an empty parking lot at the mall.

"Yea," says Alpha-in-teal, "when the police called me, I said, 'hell, it may be the same last name but that meat-head is no relation of mine.' I said, 'maybe you could use some of that overtime you guys are getting down there to look it up in the phone book. There must be ten thousand Corey Mosbeckers on Night Hawk Lane. Why pick me? Whose ever kid that is I wish 'em luck."

One man is crying it's so funny to hear that. Funny and true. Because in middle age it's not only materialism you're fleeing, but teenagerism.

Then everyone tells a story about going to Europe with their kids and how tough it is to see nine countries in eight days and, 'yea, no we had a ball, but you know what? I was glad to get home. Joanne says, 'why don't we stay over a week?' You know, yea, but I'm thinking... I mean I like Europeans and even if they've been done in by Socialism, which I just keep thinking is gonna happen here with this jigaloo in the White House, there is something to be said for that culture. But I just wanted to get back. You know why? Go out to PacBell and just watch Tim Linescum throw. Right? Just watch him throw a ball. I mean to me that's beautiful. That's as beautiful as....."

He checks himself because he doesn't want to sound ignorant, he's never forgotten that he went to Cal Poly not Stanford, and so he dutifully adds, "Well, maybe not the Mona Lisa but who's then who's that guy that does the horses rearing up on their hind legs?"

A senate of nods. Everyone takes another sip and thinks, "aren't we lucky to be sitting right here, right now"

"Did I tell you," asks one of the men, a wannabe-an-alpha-so-badly-but-I-just-can't, "that when I was in Russia I had to have half a dozen body guards. That place is intense."

"Well that's because everybody knows how scary you really are," says the real Mr. AlphaTeal, an especially big man with ferocious lips and a strange little mustache that smells of Grecian formula. You can smell it no matter where you're sitting.

"Speaking of you," he goes on. "I looked you up the other day."

He turns to the others at the table to explain. "Whenever I meet someone I always look up their company. I go right to the web site, find the organizational tree and see where they are, and then I find out if maybe anyone's leaving that division because there might be a spot and now I know somebody who maybe can help me get in."

"But now in your case," he says, and suddenly you realize that the lingual toreador is preparing his first kill of the evening — even as the bull has no idea, he's getting the cream cheese with strawberry jam smeared double thick on his wafer, and he's just opening his mouth.

"I could hardly find you," says Senior Alphanso, sticking the pica in as far as he can. "You are so deep down in that place. I mean it must have taken me an hour to get down that deep. What do you do there anyway?"

The man who was crying before is crying again. "He is so funny, isn't he?" he says to no one in particular.

Jun 22, 2010

Here's what's happened. Let me begin by saying, a little immodestly, I am a tennis blue blood. The B-player but from 'Old Tennis.' As though you were from old money in Old Westbury.

I took my first lessons from Lester Stoefen (B. March 30, 1911 in Des Moines, Iowa - D. February 8, 1970 in La Jolla, California), who was 6'5", or maybe it was 7'5", in his late 40's in the mid 1950s when I knew him, when he stood out on court 2 at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club shoveling one ball after another, to kids of all ages, the littlest standing four across at the base line. He was the machine before machines, hour after hour, in sun glasses and rumpled hat, looking at the tennis on the next court, looking at anyone who came in the front door of the club, looking up at the moon for relief. Thinking of rum cokes in the club bar... In the '30s he won three grand slam events, including the doubles championship at Wimbledon.

On my mother's side we go back to the beginning of the Lawn Tennis Association. And to all those clubs, like Maidstone at the end of Beach Lane in East Hampton. My mother learned how to play the game from Bill Tilden. She was in her thirties. This was when he was living in ignominy at Charlie Chaplain's and had a drink or two before every lesson.

Years later she was "involved" with Tony Trabert. Perhaps this was just in my father's mind. Perhaps, there was no intimacy at all. Years later my mother like people to think there was. This was the kind of drama I grew up with.

There's one other thing. My mother got to be an excellent player. She taught the game for a while, at a doctor's club in San Diego. But late afternoons, weekends, she was out on the show court at the LBT&T Club, usually with three men. She could get to the net in a flash, she had a flat, hard first serve. She had great ground strokes and played like a "tiger" at the net. And that's what she told her doctor students. At the net be like a tiger.

Until recently, I could have cared less about my mother's forehand or my Old Tennis connections. But now I've begun to see it all as a chapter from the Camelot years. It's as though you remembered some famous actor from the 50 and suddenly, for very sentimental reasons, knowing that actor makes you imagine the past as a cure for the present.

But here's what's happened. All these years later, I'm out on Vincente and 23rd. Lets' just say, there's been some big time downward mobility. It's also cold, windy, no matter what time of year; two of the courts are knee-deep in pine needles. One of the nets looks like a Halloween spider web from two years ago. Completely shot through.

And of course no would think to fix the net or bring a broom. Actually, one of the players owns a body shop down the street. He put together a piece of tire at the end of 10 foot long steel pole. You have to be a weight lifter to work the damn thing. Which is shaped like a huge eyelash

And then on one of the other court one of the stanchions is bent in, like a davit on the Lusitania as the stern rears up.

Get the idea? This is outcastville. This is not maidstone, this is tombstone.

Plus everybody's psychotic. Shouting, fighting. You hear about everyone's life, things you don't want to hear. I don't want to know, for example, that

There's about 25 regulars and half as many irregulars. The cuckoo's club: Cab drivers, the professor, a couple of dentists — they're both getting sued — a gyno, and of course, Archibold who broke out of Australia years ago and is still on the lam. He's 71. No matter how close to the line your shot he always calls it out. "Oh that was out," he'll say. "Come and look at the mark." He's got the head of his racket right on the spot, which is a foot away from where you saw the ball hit.

And then he'll hit a winner and shout "Yeeha". And he'll keep shouting that out until the next point is about to be played.

And now the doctor is laughing himself sick. I think he's a gyno. He's in his 60s going on twice that at least. He bends over after every shot, leans on his racket. Are we going to have another heart attack? That's all I want to know. He's bent over. He's wearing a wrestler's eight inch black leather truss. You understand the picture he's low and fat. Real fat, but hard. You can tell it's hard fat, so if you gave him a body shot he'd laugh himself sick. Shorts half way down his thigh, like a little rich kid in 1950. Hahahahaha, he's saying. You make a mistake: Hahahahahaha. Over and over. I want to put the racket right on his temple. Hahahahahahaha.

Not a point goes by when he doesn't go into a paroxym. I'm praying he has a heart attack.

And he's not the only one. This is a street club for the insane. I'll tell you about the fight we had in a minute....