Sunday, September 28, 2008

Our Paul Newman

I didn't think we'd ever lose Paul Newman.

It sounds crazy to say that, but for some reason I thought we'd have him forever. I know everybody dies, but, come on--Paul Newman?

I know he was old; I know he was sick. I know he was just a human being and not the supernatural spirit that we like to think certain movie stars are, but I'm greedy. I don't want to let him go.

One time when my father was talking about Joe Louis and other fighters of that day, he paused and said with deep conviction "you thought these guys would never grow old."

That sounded so odd to me back then, so ridiculous, but when I heard about Paul Newman's death on the radio yesterday, my father's words came back to me. I didn't think Paul Newman would ever die.

My mother, like several million other women on earth, had the most incredible crush on Paul Newman. In fact, whenever she spoke about him, she always tacked on the singular possessive, saying "my Paul Newman" each and every time she mentioned his name.

She said it so often that in my mind they're kind of a couple actually--no offense to Joanne Woodward.

I would have loved to see the two of them get together. Maybe now since they're both gone, my mother is finally getting a chance to meet her Paul Newman. That would certainly be her idea of paradise.

Newman was such fine actor and, I believe, a fine human being, even though I obviously never met the man. He always delivered the goods, even if the material he was working with was sub-standard.

Of course I loved his politics and the fact that he irritated a whole bunch of people that I didn't like.

The guy seemed real, so real that I can't accept the grim reality that all of us, no matter who we are, only have a short time on this earth, that we all grow old and die. Even Joe Louis and Paul Newman.

My sister and I once saw Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward--really. It was several years ago and we had gone to see some incredibly forgettable play. We saw them during the intermission, in one of the front rows.

He was older then, with a full beard that tacked on a few more years. But he was still Paul Newman.

I've been trying to pick my favorite Paul Newman film, but I honestly don't know if I have one in particular. I just liked watching the guy work.

There's a scene in The Hustler when he's marveling at Jackie Gleason's pool playing skills. That's how I watched Paul Newman on the screen. I sat back and thought, "look at the guy go."

I saw The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean at the Alpine Theater on 69th Street some 30-odd years ago (oh, God...) and even though it was a turkey, I liked it.

My favorite came at the end, when Bean returns from a long self-imposed vanishing act and faces down a crew of Industrial Age hoodlums who have invaded his once-small town.

"Who are you?" one thug asks.

"Justice, you sons-of-bitches!" Bean shouts before unleashing holy hell.

Like a lot of things, it sounded great when Paul Newman said it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Party's Over

I've been sick for the last few days, so I've been following the stock market's demise from home.

I honestly don't think I could help much anyway.

It's not like some old football movie, where the injured player rushes to the coach at a critical point in the game and cries, "you gotta let me play!"

No, I thinking more of one of my father's lines, when he was really beat or fed up and he'd say in a bogus brogue, "Take me out, coach, I've had enough!"

I started feeling lousy on Friday, so I stayed in the entire weekend, thinking I'd beat this thing by resting.

But then Monday morning rolled around and I woke up with a headache worthy of a three-day bender. Only there was no bender to justify this misery, which makes me really angry.

It felt like someone had driven a railroad spike into the side of my head.

I usually fight going to the doctor, resisting until my friends and family are ready to drag me there, but this time I made the decision myself, and rather quickly, too. I needed something for the pain.

I've got some kind of sinus infection, so my doctor recommended plenty of liquids and--thank you so much--a prescription, which I promptly got filled at a drug store a block away from his office.

This place is one of the few independent pharmacies left and the owner is apparently a gun lover, judging from the NRA sign on the front door and the copies of American Rifleman that were kept near the counter.

While I waited for my prescription to be filled, I read about the joys of shooting various large animals to death. I guess you can sell medicine to heal people and love killing things in your spare time, but it seems a little odd to me.

"How to Bring One Down!" one headline shrieked from the cover. I'm not sure what particular hapless beast the "one" was referring to, but I was feeling so lousy at that moment that someone could have brought me down with a rolled up magazine.

The people behind the counter seemed very nice, gun magazines notwithstanding, and I cheerfully popped my first pill as soon as I got out of the store and swallowed it sans water.

I must have looked like some Fifties movie junkie desperate for a fix, but I didn't care. My head was killing me.

I live alone in the family house and while I was stretched out in bed, I thought of how my mother used to take care of me when I was a kid. I couldn't swallow aspirin whole back then so she'd mash it up and mix with applesauce.

I'd be there in bed and I'd hear her coming--tick-tick-tick--as she used the spoon to mass the aspirin and mix it up so I wouldn't taste it.

Invariably there was one decent sized piece that had her escaped her notice and I'd bite into and wince--yuk!

Still it was nice to be pampered. I didn't mind being sick back then because it passed quickly and it got me out of school. And I had my mother to take care of me. I remember how much I enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, The Land of Counterpane, about a boy who turns his sick bed into an imaginary world.

"When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day."

I half-expected (wished?) to see my mother yesterday when I woke up from one of my naps, coming toward me with the plate in hand--tick-tick-tick.

But now I'm an adult, more or less, and I have to fend for myself. I'm listening to the radio and hearing how Wall Street is going through these tremendous changes, how brokerages that have been around for years are disappearing or being bought or becoming bank holding companies.

The whole financial landscape is changing so quickly and radically. I guess these "financial professionals" weren't as smart as they thought they were.

I'm hearing about bailouts and cries of "cash for trash." I'm hearing about a three-page document that will apparently give the Treasury Secretary unlimited power in his bid to clean up this toxic financial mess. Only there is no guarantee that he will succeed.

The rush job bothers me, because I recall how this country was stampeded into approving the Patriot Act and the Disaster in Iraq, and golly, they turned out so well, didn't they?

I haven't even looked at the state of my own financial holdings. That's probably not smart, but there's not much I can do about it and I already know what a downward pointing arrow looks like. I don't need to see any more.

I should come up with some kind of plan for my savings, but for now I'm going to resort to the old childhood method and hide my head under the covers.

When I was a kid and I did something really awful, like made one of my siblings cry, my mother would put her hands on her hips and announce so the whole world could hear, "well, I hope you're satisfied!"

Oh, God, that was the worst! There was something about that phrase and the way my mom said it that made me feel like Hitler. I think I actually shrank a few inches in an effort to escape her wrath and my guilt.

The thing was, I knew she was right. Whatever I did was wrong and she knew just what to say to drive that point home. Even now I cringe at the memory of those words.

Too bad my mom isn't around today. I'd like to get all these Wall Street high rollers and their enablers in Congress together in one room and let her deliver her famous line: "well, I hope you're satisfied!" The whole pack of them would run screaming out into the street.

It's time to take your medicine, boys. And I'm afraid we're all out of applesauce.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dirge for the Surge

And so now the final lie is put to rest.

For ages, the neocon chicken hawks who so bravely supported the Disaster in Iraq—as long as someone else does the fighting—have been blathering on about…the Surge.

The surge was the latest bonehead stunt put together by the same group of corrupt oil company lackeys and flag-waving yahoos who brought us the lies about weapons of mass destruction and an Iraq-9/11 connection.

These were the same geniuses who told us there were be no insurgency—are you listening, William Kristol?

Along the way, the pro-war crowd attached the patriotism of anyone who dared disagree with them and dismissed the abuses of Abu Ghraib and similar incidents as mild detours on the road to democracy.

Of course they were wrong on every count. But rather than admit their lies and failures--oh, please!--the pro-war bunch came up with another lie…the Surge.

The surge was supposed to be it, the strategic move that would wipe out the insurgency—the one that wasn’t going to happen—and put an end to the war.

“Let ’em win!” the armchair warriors bellow into any TV camera they can find.

Once the surge went through and the number of killings began to come down, immediately the Republican dead-enders began to crow about their success; ignoring their staggering series of failures that created this mess in the first place.

Any attempt at disagreement is quickly greeted with the brain dead sing-song response “the surge is working! The surge is working!”

Neocons are fond of slogans, as they eliminate any need for facts or reason and can be easily memorized. It’s like “smoking gun turning to a mushroom cloud” or “I’d rather fight them over there than fight them over here.”

Lately, the anti-environmentalists slobbering over the thought of offshore drilling have been knuckle-walking around hollering “drill, baby, drill!” I think that’s what Sarah Palin’s daughter said to her boyfriend, but that's another story.

Let's get back to…the Surge, yes, the…Surge. Weak-kneed Democrats are trying to tiptoe around this issue by saying they’re against the war, but, yes, the surge is working, the surge is working, for fear of being branded America-haters.

Just tonight on "60 Minutes," Steve Croft was asking Barack Obama about his calling for a troop withdrawal before the...Surge. Obama very forcefully reminded Croft that McCain & Co. have been wrong on this war for the last five years.

But the thing is, the Surgeisn’t working. Reuters recently did a story about a UCLA study that found ethnic cleansing and not the surge was responsible for the drop in violence in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad.

In other words, so many people were being killed or driven away that there are no longer enough people to kill or drive away.

"By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left," geography professor John Agnew of the University of California Los Angeles, who led the study, said, according to Reuters.

Get in, neocons? Your sainted surge did nothing. Your precious General Petraeus is not a military genius, just another George Bush hack.

I know that the current Wall Street meltdown has been dominating the headlines lately, but even so, there is no reason why this story about the bogus surge is not spread all over the newspapers and television.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the traitors, yes, you read right, traitors, responsible for this mess should be hauled before Congress to explain their newest lie. After that we can talk about prosecutions and jail time.

I’m sure most neocons haven’t seen this report and they wouldn’t “see” it even if had someone read it to them through a bullhorn.

And even now I’m sure they’re working on a new little ditty that can replace the now defunct “the surge is working!” that they can feed to their followers.

I’m thinking of my own little ditty for the neocons. It goes back quite a ways, actually, a real classic, but I think it still does the trick. It goes something like this—

Go to hell.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What Might Have Been

“When you really look for me, you will see me instantly.
you will find me in the tiniest house of time,
Kahir says: Student, tell me what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.”
--Kahir, Indian Mystic 1440-1518 A.D.

Whenever we went on vacation and my father thought he was doing too much driving, he had a common line he’d always fall back on.

“I’m tired of being chained to the wheel!” he’d declare.

My father wanted to stay put and relax at wherever we were staying, while the rest of us wanted to drive over hill and dale—with him doing the driving, of course.

Being a salesman he drove every day, but being kids we didn’t care about that. We just wanted to go places.

I did a ton of driving Sunday, but it was nice to get behind the wheel after nearly a year of being car-free.

And I combined two good causes—taking my sister’s cat to the vet in Manhattan and then going to visit our parents’ grave in Staten Island.

I’ve been trying to recall the last time I went out there and I think it might actually have been the day of my father’s funeral, in January 2007. Has it been that long?

I can’t say it felt good to be there, but it felt like the right thing to do, especially after all this time. Last Thursday was my father’s birthday and the day before was my parents’ anniversary (something I completely forgot about) so it was good to be there, even if the day was so bloody hot.

I missed going to church on 9/11, my father’s birthday, so I went down to Trinity Church the next day on my lunch break. I got in the habit of going to Trinity when I worked just a short walk from the place, but now I’m actually closer to a Catholic church.

Being a good Catholic boy, I can’t help but feel a little guilty—well, extremely guilty, actually—that I’m walking down to a Protestant church, when there is a perfectly good Roman Catholic Church just a block away from my office.

The thing is…I like the services at Trinity better. I like the people, both at the lectern and in the pews.

I believe the difference is minor, that God isn’t going to mind which church I go to as long as I show my face in one of them.

Whether I play for the Mets or the Yankees, I’m still playing for New York, right? (Diehard baseball fans are probably gnashing their teeth at that one, but you know what I’m getting at.)

I just have this nagging fear that one day the Pope is going to jump out from behind a hotdog stand, kick me in the privates, and shout "how do you like me now, baldy!?!" I sort of hope that doesn't happen.

I got a bit of a jolt during Friday’s sermon when the priest, Mark Bozzuti-Jones, said that he believed the 9/11 attacks had made America a better country.

That’s a little tough to hear, especially since Wall Street had born the brunt of the attacks.

Obviously Father Mark was not saying the attacks were good or that they should have happened or that we’re all sinners and we deserved it, or that we were attacked because of the gays and the lesbians, and the Teletubbies and the Shriners and the Chicago Cubs and late night infomercials.

He meant that we as a nation had come through that horror and destruction and emerged as better people.

How I want to believe him. I desperately want to believe that something came out of that senseless, tragic day; that all those precious lives weren’t destroyed for nothing.

But when I look back over the last seven years I really have to wonder.

When I see how 9/11 has been used—as an excuse to launch a phony war, a ploy to re-elect a phony president, a justification for abolishing some of this country’s most cherished principles, and now as a campaign marketing tool for yet another snake oil candidate—well, I’m not so sure.

A Walk Down Broadway

One of the reason I enjoy the sermons at Trinity is that they are instructive. The priests actually try to engage with the congregants, they talk about real problems and how difficult it can be to hold onto your beliefs.

By contrast my Catholic upbringing was something along the lines of “you’re a no-good worthless slug who is destined to spend all eternity backstroking around the Ninth Circle of Hell, oh, and by the way, Jesus loves you.

Now I can’t quite explain it, but for some strange reason, I didn’t take much comfort from this approach, and that might explain my lunch time hikes down Broadway.

And don’t get me started on the religious right, who, like the late and unlamented “moral majority,” are resoundingly neither.

I cannot abide this dangerous and patently un-American mixture of religion and politics. “Separation of church and state” isn’t just a catch phrase to me; it’s the law of the land.

And then there’s the war on science. Since everyone and his brother feels free speaking for God, I think I’ll join the club because I don’t think God wants us to remain ignorant, to refuse knowledge and learning.

Science is never going to steamroll religion and nor should it. I think we need a spiritual side to our lives to get through the tough times in life—like 9/11.

An engineer can tell you exactly what made the twin towers come down—that the heat had reached a certain level and the metal began to melt, and the buildings collapsed.

But that engineer can’t help us deal with the tragedy; he or she can’t offer you comfort in the face of such a mind-numbing loss.

I was walking through Union Square in the early days after 9/11 and a crowd of people had gathered in a circle and were praying together. Yes, in the middle of godless, depraved, sinful New York City people had come together to pray.

I had never seen anything like that, but, of course, we had never experienced anything like 9/11.

Nobody wanted to talk to an engineer at that moment. What was happening then was beyond any kind of science.

I’d like to think that we learned something from that terrible time, and, like Father Mark, we are better for it. But some days I have my doubts, which is why we have religion in the first place, I suppose—to get us through the doubts.

Father Mark spoke a lot about suffering during his sermon, how the more we love God, the more it seems we are tested.

"When the Buddhists say that life is suffering," he told us, "they were on to something."

Fortunately there are people like Father Mark around. When it was time for communion, a woman approached the altar holding her infant son.

After giving the woman the host, he took a second to touch the boy’s cheek and give him the most beautiful, loving smile that had so much warmth I could feel it in my heart.

And there’s always little things that give you hope. When we were leaving the cemetery on Sunday, a large Hispanic family was walking out behind us and one of them called out to me.

I turned to see a man holding my checkbook, which had fallen out of my pocket while I was sitting on a bench near my parents’ grave.

I thanked him profusely, astounded that I could have been so careless.

Maybe it was the extreme heat, but I was fortunate that this family came along when they did or I would have had a nervous breakdown when I got back to Brooklyn and discovered my checkbook was gone.

I slipped the checkbook in my pocket and thanked God for sending these people my way. I didn’t even think about talking to an engineer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This of All Days

I always get cranky when I'm rushed.

I was running late for work today and when I got off the train at City Hall, it seemed like every idiot and his brother had come down to lower Manhattan just to get in my way.

The closer I got to my building, the worse it got and when I finally reached my street, a gaggle of twits had stopped dead in their tracks to stare at the TV screen in the front window.

"Excuse me," I snapped at one man, making it sounded like "kiss my ass."

As I passed the TV viewers I muttered "it must be great to be able to watch TV instead of going to work" and I angrily spun my way through the revolving door.

And then I remembered what day it was.

This is September 11, the seventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the day that supposedly changed the world forever.

That was the day I stood across the street and watched the planes hitting the towers; the day when the simple commute home turned into a day-long nightmare.

I work just one block away from Ground Zero today and September 11 is my late father's birthday--he turned 80 back in 2001. Yet somehow the importance of the day had slipped from my mind.

I remember walking over the Manhattan Bridge after the towers had collapsed and the debris had finally cleared and thinking that I was going to change my attitude. I was so lucky to have been spared, so I was going to focus on what was important and not worry about the petty crap.

And here I was just 7 years later, around the corner from the trade center site, bursting a blood vessel over some slow-moving pedestrians.

I know I've made some progress over the years--at least I hope I have. But changing your outlook requires constant vigilance; it isn't some miraculous conversion, not in my case, anyway.

It seems like in those weeks after 9/11 people in this city were being nicer to each other. We had all suffered through these terrible attacks, there was no reason to attack ourselves.

I was at a conference on Wednesday and the organizers had a screen set up in the front of the room announcing the name of the event and the date.

I got a chill when I saw September 10, knowing what the next day would be. I thought about how meaningless that date was 7 years ago and how it all changed just a few hours later. We didn't know it but we were about to cross over into another world.

The warm feelings didn't last long after the attacks, though, and sometimes I wonder if the goodwill was as good as I remember it.

I had planned on going to mass at Trinity Church today, but people attending the memorial services had clogged the streets. As I went down Broadway I saw a heavyset blond woman shouting at a man leaning against the temporary fence.

"Just stay away from me," she said.

"You stay the fuck away from me, bitch," the man shouted back.

I guess life is getting back to normal in the city. At the next block I gave up trying to fight the crowd and instead turned around and went back to the office. I'll go on Friday.

After lunch a group of 911 conspiracy theorists gathered across the street from St. Paul's Church and began chanting "911 was an inside job! 911 was an inside job!"

I was surpised at how large the crowd was, how many people don't accept the official story. I don't believe the inside job business, but after so many lies about so many things I guess I can't blame people for doubting the government's version of 911.

As I rode on the train tonight a blind Hispanic man go on at 53rd Street and walked the length of the car, asking for change and singing in Spanish. He was small and elderly and he shook a large paper soda cup for change.

He didn't get off the car after the first run, though, like most of the pan handlers do. This man began going back and forth in our car, like a slow moving duck in a shooting gallery. Either he was disoriented or he had decided he was going to guilt his way into getting more change. (I gave on the first pass, by the way.)

As he went by for the second time, a large, young and apparently healthy Hispanic man began mocking the old guy's labored walk to entertain his girlfriend. When the old man asked if anyone had any change, the young schmuck said "yeah," and pointed to his girlfriend.

She slapped him on the arm and pretended to be embarrassed, but clearly she was enjoying the show. Mocking a blind man? This is your idea of funny?

I wanted to shout at these people, don't you know what today is? Don't you know this the one day of the year that New Yorkers should be nice to each other?

I think we should make 9/11 a national holiday, where instead of sleeping late or going bike riding, we mourn the victims and pray for our future.

It shouldn't just fade away day, like Pearl Harbor, where people barely think about it. But I guess that kind of thing is inevitable. We think we can hold on to a date because it meant so much to us, but time comes along and slowly chips away at it.

I went to lunch with some co-workers a week or so ago and we got to talking about 9/11. I told them my story from that day and when I got done they were both staring at me.

"That's quite a story, Rob," one of them finally said to me.

Yes, it is and I'm lucky to be here to tell it. But I want to remember it, to understand it, and not just repeat it.

I got home from a late dinner tonight and saw the lights from the Trade Center site shooting up into the clouds. Even with the clouds and the darkness, you can still see those beautiful beams.

Let's keep that light burning so we can see no matter how dark it gets.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Verdi, Vidi, Vici

It’s getting darker in Verdi Square.

I’m trying to ignore the fact that the days are getting shorter and shorter, but as we get deeper into September even I am forced to admit that summer is almost over.

Just a short time ago, I was sitting in this little park on the Upper West Side, people watching and enjoying the beautiful summer weather that I had convinced myself would never end.

I had some time to kill before seeing my shrink and I thought I’d pull up a bench and let the world roll by. Verdi Square is a good place to do it, with people of all races and descriptions, reading, napping, relaxing or yakking on their cell phones.

There was so much activity on this block, so many different stories going on that Verdi could compose an opera about this place alone.

I overhead a man playing tour guide as he told his companion that “this place used to be very dangerous,” which is something you could say about entire sections of this city. In fact, you have said that about the whole town at one time.

I got hung up watching a little Asian girl feeding the pigeons. She was so excited that every time she went to her mother to get some more granola bar crumbs, she’d flap her arms like she was going to take off herself.

She'd throw the crumbs on the ground and then bend down and very obligingly point them out—just in case the pigeons were having trouble seeing them.

A short time later, she discovered her power over nature by rushing toward the pigeons and making them scatter. It was such a pleasant image that I thought if we had more experiences like these in the world, we wouldn’t need shrinks.

I saw Garrison Keillor walk Verdi Square one night—I’m almost certain it was him. I’m not much on celebrity sightings, but when I spotted this very familiar looking man walk by carrying a garment bag, I had to investigate.

I got a few yards ahead of him, pretended to wait at a bus stop and slowly turned around. It was him all right.

I believe in respecting people’s privacy, so I didn’t approach him. What do you say, besides the “I’m-such-a-big-fan” line? And Keillor’s made a career out of his shyness, so it didn’t make much sense to go bum-rushing the guy.

I listened to his radio show a short time later, which was being broadcast on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

“Get out and enjoy it,” he told his listeners, “because the days are going to get shorter after this.”

How right he was.

I didn’t travel at all this summer, didn’t do much in the way of summer stuff, except for getting outside as often as possible.

I did take a boat ride around the Waterfalls exhibit on the Labor Day weekend, the first time I had been on the water all season.

(Note: I wrote "Memorial Day" in an earlier version of this post, so that tells you where my head is at.)

I was on a date with a woman I had met online—yes, I know, I promised I wouldn’t do this anymore--and I wanted to try something other than going out for a drink.

It was a beautiful late summer night and I thought we had a decent time—not undying love at first sight, not instant soul mates, but a nice time together.

I sent Luisa (fake name alert!) an email the next day telling her how much I enjoyed our date and suggesting we do it again. Then I went down to Prospect Park to enjoy Labor Day.

It seemed like every three feet there was a couple, with one resting his or her head in the other's lap, gazing into each others eyes and smiling so sweetly. There were people with kids, playing games and enjoying each other’s company.

It’s enough to make you puke. Well, not really, but it can make you feel a little lonesome if you're going solo.

Now Hear This

When I got home, I saw Luisa had responded to my email:

I had a very nice time too,” she wrote. “You are a very sweet man and I really like you but I just don't feel we are a romantic match. I'm really sorry, I wish could I understand what makes people like each other, in the same way, at the time... but I don't.”

Abandon ship. Walk the plank. Get the hell out of here. I'm think of setting all my rejection letters to music and creating a brokenhearted opera. I'm sure Verdi would be proud.

My shrink suggested I keep Luisa around as a friend, but I rather angrily resisted that notion. Friends, I got, I explained as I roughly tying my shoe. I need a lap to rest my head on when I go to Prospect Park.

I got an email tonight that was entitled “Please bang me, this is no joke,” but I don't think Luisa has changed her mind about me. And while I’m quite flattered by the invitation, this isn't what I'm looking for right now.

Of course, when winter sets in, I might change my mind.

On my lunch hour last week I strolled around City Hall Park and watched couples swirling around the fountain. Shit, I thought, nobody could be that madly in love. But it was some kind of performance art going on.

The cranky geezer in me wants to ask are my taxes paying for this crap, but I’m sure we’ve wasted much more money on much less deserving projects. And the dancers were pretty good.

A man on stilts was walking around the dancers, taking pennies from a bucket and giving them to the lunchtime bystanders. When he reached down to me, he whispered in this child-like voice, “make a wish, make a wish.”

I hurled the coin in the fountain and vaguely hoped for something like a happy life, which probably won’t true now that I’ve told you—or does that rule just apply for birthday wishes?

I sat down on a bench with the intention of enjoying the warm weather, but a young man who could barely speak English sat down next to me and wanted to save my soul.

This seems to happen to me a lot and I'm wondering is it my body language or some look on my face that makes total strangers think they can approach me on my lunch break and preach salvation.

He asked me if I had time to talk and I politely lied—sinner!—said no, and promptly got the hell out of there. I should have gotten the guy on to stilts to come over and kick his ass.

On the way back to the office I heard someone speaking French and looking I spotted a woman going through the trash bins looking for discarded soda cans. She had a set of headphones on and she was speaking…French.

It was a bit of a jolt hearing a homeless French person in New York, though I guess your luck can out anywhere in the world. I made some lame joke to myself about a baguette lady, which I now regret.

I do hope that she was actually speaking to someone on the other end of that phone and it wasn’t something out of her imagination.

I survived Saturday’s hurricane and enjoyed a friend’s fabulous birthday party in Manhattan, but most of the guests--like the birthday girl--were lesbians, so there wasn’t really anyone for me.

Maybe I should have gotten that French bag lady’s phone number.

I was walking around Shore Road on Sunday and I noticed there were fewer people out, now that Labor Day has come and gone.

I went by the Mister Softee truck blaring that obnoxious theme song and I scowled in disgust because that tune goes right through me.

But then I remembered that as the cold weather sets in, the ice cream trucks will fly south for the winter and I’ll actually miss that Mister Softee jingle. Hard to believe.

I stopped at a light near Fort Hamilton High School and looked around, at the Narrows, at the beautiful blue sky.

I thanked God for this day--not because it would be cold soon and this would all be gone or that Monday just around the corner.

I was just thankful for what I had at that moment and it was very comforting. I felt like I was walking on stilts.

This is no joke.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Eating the Moose

When I was a kid, if we really didn’t like something, we would say it “eats the moose.”

If we were really mad—and our parents weren’t around—we would say that the offending object, person, or condition, “sucked moose cock.”

That was a real biggie, a sign that you truly disliked whatever you were talking about. I'm not sure why the poor moose's genitalia was singled out from all of the animals in creation.

Why not the armadillo or the rhinoceros or the anteater or any number of nature's lulus? I can't say, but whatever the reason, the moose's equipment got tagged as the lowest of the low.

As I keep learning more about Sarah Palin, John “Did-I-Mention-That-I’m-A-Former-POW?” McCain, those expressions have come screaming back to my mind from across the decades.

Let me get this straight: if the Republicans get their way, this woman—an anti-abortion, Jesus freaking-Creationist cretin—is going to be a heart beat away from the White House? Is that what they're telling us?

Here’s a woman who literally eats the moose in the form of moose burgers. In light of the litany of revelations about Palin, I’m betting that some GOP leaders are employing my old childhood expression in all its ugly variations. And probably coming up with a few new ones.

Just a short time ago, all the loony little neocons were having a collective orgasm over Pistol Packin' Palin. She was a hunter and a maverick; she works next door to Russian and--check this out: she's a woman--the perfect running mate to attract all those disgruntled Hillary voters.

Sure, Palin will bring those Hillary women into the GOP tent--just as long as they all drop acid or get kicked in the head by a moose en masse, or en moose.

It turns out Pailin is a woman who says “God” more often the Pope during midnight mass, but can’t teach her daughter “family values.”

This a favorite expression amongst Republicans, by the way, who direct it at Democrats and anybody else who gets in the way, but never at that person in the mirror.

The result of Palin's parenting is that kid is knocked up at 17 and will have to get married. She's like Juneau. Juneau what I mean? (I kill me.)

"Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned," the stunned mom and pop lied, "We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents."

Oh, I'm sure you're just tickled pink...or is that moose blood on your cheeks?

Palin is on record as saying she would not approve of abortion even if her own daughter had been impregnated by a rapist.

The age of consent is 16 in Alaska, so depending upon when her daughter got pregnant, the child may really be the victim of a rape, albeit the statutory kind.

I had the distinct displeasure of hearing part of Palin’s inaugural speech when she became governor on Saturday where she dropped God's name so many times I thought they were on the same bowling team.

But she also got in the standard Republican rhetoric about not expecting the government to do everything for you.

Really? Try telling that to Halliburton. They’re getting all kind of government handouts.

It doesn’t matter that the overcharge the government or electrocute our soldiers in poorly constructed showers—Support our troops! Support our troops!—they get still those checks from Uncle Sam as regular as you please.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than being lectured to by some right-wing “Christian” crackpot who gnaws on Bullwinkle’s entrails like it's mom's apple pie.

Hey, all you Creationists, if you want to inflict your views on public school kids, then how about we sane folks get to teach the theory of evolution at church during Sunday services?

Maybe you idiots will finally learn what Darwin really said, as opposed to the crap you all fabricate in your tiny brains.

I happen to be a Christian who believes in evolution. There is no contradiction here. My religion is a code of conduct, not a club to smack down anything that I don't like or understand.

I'm just dreaming of the day when a reporter asks a candidate about his or her religion and he or she responds with a resounding "none of your goddamn business!"

And while we're at it, what are we supposed to do with all these babies if you anti-abortionists get your way?

Republicans foam at the mouth at the very mention of social programs and screech about "welfare queens in Cadillacs," like that brain-dead idiot Ronald Reagan. So who will feed, educate, and house all these fetuses once they are born? Or did you even think that far ahead?

It seems to me that if you're all so "pro-life," you should have been out there protesting George Bush's phony war from the get-go. Only you kind of...weren't.

The latest news on Palin is that she directed fundraising for the indicted Ted Stevens’ 527, that she just hired a lawyer to handle her little “Troopergate” problem, and that she hasn't “really focused much on the war in Iraq.”

Now The Huffington Post is reporting that Palin's pastor "questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven" and said anyone who criticized Bush during the Katrina fiasco would be going to hell.

All aboard the Nutbag Express! Next stop, Juneau, Alaska!

Boy, John “I-Spent-Five-years-in-the-Hanoi-Hilton-But-I-Don’t-Like-To-Talk-About-It” McCain really knows how to pick 'em.

Maybe McCain should offer the VP slot to Bullwinkle. Provided Palin hasn’t wolfed the poor guy down yet.