“Terms of His Surrender”

July 30, 2017
WWCK Air Staff -- 1981

WWCK Air Staff (1981) — Michael Moore on Far Right (Only Time Ever)

I sold popcorn with him at the University of Michigan (Flint) student theater when his annual income was less than I paid in taxes. Years later, legal papers estimated his net worth at over fifty million dollars, the bulk of it accidentally earned when Walt Disney chickened out at the last minute and allowed him and partners to acquire, release and distribute a new film Disney had bankrolled. That was “Fahrenheit 9/11” — the highest grossing documentary of all time. Michael Moore had just turned 50.

Mike and I first met in the early ‘70’s when religious leaders in Davison, Michigan were attempting to throw me (“Satan’s Pied Piper”) and my rock concerts out of town. They also wanted to shut down Michael’s “Davison Hotline” – an organization dedicated to helping troubled area teens. It didn’t help that Mr. Moore had just been voted onto the Davison Board of Education at the age of 18, becoming at the time the youngest person ever elected to public office in the history of the United States.

Michael Moore became our “Director of Sunday Programming” on WWCK-FM in Flint for many years, hosting “Radio Free Flint” Sunday mornings with twelve incoming lines ringing off the wall. This is when WWCK became the highest-rated Rock & Roll station in the country. Mike played no small part. I paid him with free airtime to promote his fund raising activities, including sold-out concerts with the late Harry Chapin, who donated all proceeds to “The Flint Voice” – Mike’s alternative newspaper.

In 1987, Michael started working on a movie about Flint, personally handling every aspect of preparation, production and promotion. My major contribution was obtaining some TV credentials from Toledo so he could film the closing of a major Flint assembly line and sending him my personal copy of “Jingle Bells” by The Singing Dogs. This can be heard in the final minutes of “Roger and Me” as a Flint family is tossed out of their home Christmas Eve, brilliantly juxtaposed against a festively attired General Motors Choir singing traditional carols at a lavish corporate banquet in Detroit. Mike thought he might get ”Roger and Me” on “Frontline” if he was lucky. The rest is history.

After “Bowling for Columbine”, which won a 2002 Academy Award as Best Documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, “Sicko”, “Slacker Uprising” and “Capitalism: A Love Story” in 2009, the election of Barack Obama brought about a seeming resurgence, however temporary, of mainstream progressive thought and Michael was no longer the almost singular “voice of the America left” he had inadvertently become.

When I contacted Michael after surprisingly seeing him on MSNBC with Chris Hayes shortly after Donald Trump announced his run for the presidency, Mike said that was his “first time in a live TV studio in years.” Now he’s super charged up, mightily motivated and on the move.

Last Friday, Michael Moore’s first Broadway show, “The Terms of My Surrender” opened for a 12-week run at the 1,018 seat Belasco Theater. Seats are quickly selling out. Additionally underway is a follow-up to “Fahrenheit 9/11” in cooperation with Bob and Harry Weinstein, founders of Miramax. They’ve purchased worldwide rights to “Fahrenheit 11/9”, which will deal with the aftermath of Trump’s election commencing the day after voting ended and the insanity began. Mike also returns to television this fall for the first time since 2000 with “Michael Moore: Live From The Apocalypse” on TNT.

 When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Thanks, Mr. President, for giving my old pal work.

That’s one done, ten million to go.

 

 

“Tell Tom Tonight”

October 15, 2017

McClintock-Tom-757x1024

Your presence is needed to guide our nation.

Join us tonight for a Town Hall Meeting in O’Neals with our 4th Congressional District Representative, Tom McClintock. He wants your thoughts.

6 PM is the starting time in the Minarets High School Gymnasium at 45077 North Fork Road in O’Neals, but I’d get there plenty early. A bunch of folks are coming. It’s only 20 minutes from Oakhurst. Head south on 41, then turn left on Road 200. Go two-tenths of mile and there you are. Mapquest says if you reach Road 8063 you’ve gone 1.9 miles too far. Look for all the cars.

Regardless of where you consider yourself politically, Tom McClintock exclusively represents you and your neighbors on the Federal level. That’s how a Democratic Republic works. He is your most important local voice in Washington. His official words and actions should reflect your will – choosing people over party when necessary and treasuring collective security far past personal gain.

Only a fool would deny our current President is —— unique. Tom McClintock is no fool.

Should you concur with my general summary that Donald J. Trump presents a clear and present danger and is brutally unfit for the presidency, it is critical you make your resistance, persistence and insistence evident tonight.

Here’s the hard part.

Let’s keep it cool.

The last thing we need are loud mouth, loutish, wanna-be “activists” who like to scream, whistle, stomp and shout as a means of political expression. Passion not tempered by propriety is the mark of a – — moron.

Opposing viewpoints are certain to emerge tonight. We should listen with respect in order to expect the same.

Mr. McClintock is fully aware these are not normal times. Although the Fourth District has elected many more Conservatives than not since Half Dome was whole, four viable opposing Democratic candidates have already emerged and are actively engaged in hoping to bless Tom with early retirement.

By alphabetical order they are —

Regina Bateson — Regina was a class valedictorian at Granite Bay High School, later earning a BA from Stanford University and an MA and PhD from Yale. She also studied abroad in Latin America, where she learned to speak Spanish fluently. As a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department, she studied terrorist travel and border security.

Roza Calderon – Ms. Calderon is a geoscientist, activist and single mother who believes “we need leaders who represent real people’s needs over party interests.” She advocates combating climate change, providing Medicare for All and building an inclusive economy.

Jessica Morse – Having spent over a decade as a national security strategist, Jessica is a fifth generation northern Californian. As Advisor to the Commander of the U.S. Military Headquarters for Asia and the Pacific, Jessica strengthened the U.S.-India defense relationship using renewable energy. She has a Masters Degree from Princeton University.

And Rochelle Wilcox — Rochelle earned a full scholarship to law school at the University of Utah, where she graduated first in her class.  She is currently a partner in one of the top-rated First Amendment practices in the country, working for businesses in a variety of industries and involved in dozens of cases fighting to make sure journalists have the protection they need.

One of the above will eventually emerge as a consensus Democratic candidate fully supported by the other three. But Republican Tom gets our ears tonight. Let’s have our voices resonate with reason, not roar like rhinos.

As my old Irish-American Grandfather used to say – “You get more with sugar than you do with spit!”

Something like that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A Very Cool Group”

October 6, 2017

snowline_dedication_2008

The darkened bar was surrounded by intense players, collegiality and attention to the game harshly intruded upon by a stranger of unknown origin and unappreciated purpose.

He wanted to meet “Steve the Clamper” and quickly learned such a request was inappropriately phrased and indelicately presented.

When I decided I wanted to write a column on “E. Clampus Vitus”, folks around town who knew said Steve Schermerhorn was the guy with whom to speak. They also disclosed where and when to find him. They were right.

After observing that he knew I was in “The Sierra Star” and mentioning that he appreciated what Dr. Bill Atwood wrote each week, Steve added that he especially liked those opinions expressed by the late J.R. Froelich and other conservative writers. I felt right at home.

Although he’s a “Greybeard” and “Ex-Noble Grand Humbug”, Steve is actually a bit younger than I. Showing respect for an elder and quickly bonding through our mutual appreciation of Led Zeppelin, I asked that he send me a few notes about his group. I have decided to simply pass along much of what Mr. Schermerhorn provided since it is assuredly authentic, quite inclusive and self-explanatory.

Here’s Steve:

“The Grub Gulch Chapter of E CLAMPUS VITUS is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada at the end of the Gold Chain Highway. Our chapter encompasses all of Madera County. Called the Order of the Rose, the original Grub Gulch Rose was growing wild near the gold rush town of Grub Gulch. The town was named this because any miner who would stop and work was almost guaranteed to gather enough gold from the river to stake him on his way to the gold fields further north. Today our Chapter continues to uphold the traditions set forth by our forefathers.
Since the major ore producing mines have all but played out, the Clampers of today are dedicated to the preservation and recognition of these historic sites. This is accomplished through the erection of monuments.

There are 56 monuments in Madera County.

  • Grub Gulch Chapter #41-49 was Chartered in 1979.
  • ECV motto, “Credo Quia Absurdum”, “Because it’s absurd I Believe.”
  • There are currently over 600 members in this Chapter.
  • All members are Officers, and all Officers are of Equal Indignity.
  • Our President is called “Humbug”, The Treasurer is the Gold Dust Receiver, the Cook is “The Gutrobber”. Other board members may be referred to as: “Greybeard”, “Clamp Patriarch”, “Clamp Matrix”, “Playtrix or Vitrix”, “Damn Fool”, “Doorkeeper” and “Hangman.”
  • ECV was born in the mining camps of California.
  • Based on absurdity, and shunned by the pompous “Stuffed Shirts” of the Odd Fellows, Moose or Elk, Clampers would adorn their red union suits (long underwear) with the cutout bottoms of a bean can. They would parade about and make fun of the upper crust. This was referred to as wearing the tin. Today Clampers wear red shirts depicting the union suits once worn in the camps as well as adorning our vests with badges, buttons and ribbon to represent the tin.
  • ECV is still the number one fraternal order that continues to steadily grow year after year. Currently there are over 43 Chapters of ECV throughout 9 States. Exact numbers of Redshirts is said to be around 50,000.”

Thanks, Steve!

And guess who created and operates the worldwide website www.eclampusvitus.com?? Steve Schermerhorn! Right here in Oakhurst!

You’ll find tons of California Gold Rush links, dozens of localized monument site pictures and much more intriguing Clamper Information.

“Ipsum Fasciculum Frigus” – A Very Cool Group!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Counting Your Vote So It Counts”

September 30, 2017

rebecca_martinez

The next meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club will be held this coming Saturday, October 7th, at The Best Western Plus Yosemite on Highway 41. An “All You Can Eat” hot breakfast buffet for $8.00 will be available at 8:30 AM with the meeting and program starting at 9:30.

Rebecca Martinez, Madera County Clerk/Recorder/Registrar and former President of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, will speak on “Counting Your Vote So It Counts.” This will include a discussion of recent changes in election law, voter system modernization and a recap and review of the November 2016 election.

Ms. Martinez has just completed a series of community workshops aimed at familiarizing Madera County voters with a proposed new county wide balloting system.

Rebecca “Becky” Martinez is a lifelong Madera County resident, a devoted mother, and a proud grandmother.

After graduating from Madera High School, Becky started her career of public service with Madera County in 1973 in an entry-level position where her work ethic, attention to detail and dedication to duty earned her several promotions.

In 1990 Rebecca was elected the Madera County Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters, the first of seven times Ms. Martinez has been elected to this position. Until September of 1998 Ms. Martinez held the position of ex-officio Clerk of the Madera Superior Court. Ms. Martinez holds the distinction of being the longest serving elected official in Madera County, an honor she is mindful of every day as she continues to serve the residents of her community.

From July of 2008 through July of 2010, Rebecca served as the President of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, the statewide association of County Clerks, Clerks of the Board of Supervisors and Registrars of Voters. In July of 2010 Secretary of State Debra Bowen presented Ms. Martinez with the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award in recognition of her “intelligent, open-minded and enthusiastic dedication to making our democracy work better.”

In November of 2014, Ms. Martinez was appointed by the President of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials to the transition team for newly elected Secretary of State Alex Padilla. As a part of the team, Ms. Martinez was asked to provide essential input as Secretary Padilla transitioned from the position of a State Legislator to the role of California’s Chief Election Official.

Becky has two children and three “perfect” grandchildren that she enjoys spending her free time with. In addition, Becky enjoys traveling with friends and family and serving as a member of the Madera Noon Chapter of Rotary International where she has chaired the Rotary Health Day event and was selected as Rotarian of the Month.

Chief Assistant Clerk/Recorder/Registrar Justin White will assist in the presentation.

The Oakhurst Democratic Club is pleased to welcome Ms. Martinez to Eastern Madera County. All are invited on Saturday regardless of party affiliation with questions encouraged from those in attendance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ridicule? Us?”

September 24, 2017

Cavanaugh Coat of Arms,jpeg

 “Letters. We Get Letters. We get stacks and stacks of letters.” – Perry Como (1957)

While I and fellow columnists Brian Wilkinson and Bill Atwood don’t quite receive “stacks and stacks of letters” every week, a few do come our way, especially poor Editor Brian who, as “the one in charge”, fields all sorts of random observations, then prints as many as space allows. We look forward to hearing from our readership. That’s a fact.

One particular note came in today I thought I would share. I receive this observation rather often, consider it genuinely valid, and feel it now deserves pubic response.

Our Sierra Star reader writes:

“I usually agree with most of what you say, was a Bernie Sanders supporter also, and find your column entertaining and/or informative. However, perhaps those who don’t agree with you might be able to “listen” to you better if you toned down the put-downs, name-calling and sarcasm. Of course (these) can be part of what makes your column entertaining. Somewhere there’s a balance in there. I think we have a responsibility to speak and write with thoughtfulness, intelligence, and wit that’s not accompanied with denigration.”

This reader is 100% right on the desirability of seeking fair balance, but also correct that “put-downs”, name-calling and sarcasm functionally work in attracting interest and attention. Consider the phenomenal acceptance of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin and that Donald What’s-His-Name. You can’t argue with success, but you don’t have to like it.

This criticism is timely. Since mid-June I’ve been trying to include more “General Interest” material than keep everything primarily “Political” — that being the original reason for this column. My first serious attempt was “Senior Sex in Oakhurst”. It worked like a charm getting reaction, but there are only so many seniors in Oakhurst having sex. More importantly, It now seems clear Trump supporters back the man, not any particular mission, and are consequently impervious to attempts at reasonable dialogue. To believe otherwise seems ill advised. In fact — dangerous.

After the President used his Oval Office once again as a killing ground, stabbing both Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in the back without warning in his capitulation to Democratic demands from Nancy Pelosi a few weeks ago, subsequent polling showed that his core base of support was just fine with that. Life is less complicated when you let others do your thinking. It’s an ancient drive enshrined in certain DNA coding. Even so, evolutionary forward motion in advancing civilization has depended much more on questions than answers through time. In fact, the very best outcome good answers can hope to generate is simply the eventual creation of better future questions.

With the “Russian hoax” looming ever more scandalous and probably term ending for Trump, it is difficult for any serious opinion column to avoid embracing and endorsing traditional values and national standards – and to do so in a clear and effective manner.

There is this Irish word – “Magadh” – pronounced “Mah’Gah.”

Magadh is the Celtic word for ridicule. The Irish have classically regarded ridicule as an art form onto itself. True “Magadh” requires negative evaluation in a comedic form with colorful scorn and clever denunciation darkly presented in a mocking tone. Even the English word “mocking” reflects “mah’gah” ancestry. The joy of laughter not only vindicates, but verifies common, instinctive truths.

So, this Caom’hanach’ (Cavanaugh) ends his dissertation on content with a salute to and acceptance of genetic predisposition, ascribing much of what he writes as being faithfully reflective of and honoring to all who’ve come before.

Nothing more.

 

 

“Fears of a Clown”

September 17, 2017

IT

That Trumpy. What a scamp.

There he was honoring the Lord’s Day early Sunday morning by sending his minions a Trumpy the Clown cartoon. It was this gag video of him taking a really hard golf swing. Pow. The ball rockets through the air and hits Hillary Clinton right in the back as she boards an airplane. Clunk. She falls down hard. Kerplunk. The End. It worked. It made me gag.

No one can ever tell what’s real and what’s not when Trumpy says it.

But maybe he’s not lying. It’s quite possible he believes it too. Even the extra crazy stuff, like three or four million secret illegal aliens voting for Hillary Clinton, or Obama “wiretapping” Trump’s Oval Office, or building a giant, spectacular, breathtakingly beautiful wall for thousands of miles at a cost of billions which Mexico will pay for. Or maybe you. He’s certain it won’t be him. You can borrow the money, then declare bankruptcy. Trumpy’s done it five times. The rascal.

Oxford Dictionary.

schiz·o·phre·ni·a

[ˌskitsəˈfrēnēə, ˌskitsəˈfrenēə]

NOUN

A long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.

There’s something in the air. “It” is breaking box office records around the world as the highest grossing September film ever released. “It” cost $35 million to produce. After two weeks, the film has scored a global gross of $371 million — more than ten times the original investment. Young kids take on an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of mayhem and murder dates back for centuries. It’s not a Broadway musical. No La La Landing for this one.

“It” is based on a 1986 novel by perhaps the greatest supernatural genre writer of all time, Steven King. He clearly perceives and effectively portrays the fundamental essence, energy and emotion of evil. King gets extra points from me for being a major fan of AC/DC — and for this comment last week on our 45th President — “Trump’s control of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is worse than any horror story I ever wrote.”

King also tweeted on August 11th at 7:25 AM — “Donald Trump is unfit for office. Needs to be removed.”

 With Congress having returned to Washington, here we are back at the intersection of Sham and Shame, pretense of function still supplanting proper penitence for having done this to ourselves.

There’s help on the horizon.

Recent polling indicates strong concern among Millennials for conservative political positions in general and an even greater personal dislike for Donald J. Trump in particular. Just watch the talk shows. Stephen Colbert. Jimmy Kimmel. Jimmy Fallon. Seth Meyers. Conan O’Brien. Trevor Noah. It might be called comedy, but they’re not kidding. John Stewart still shows up every so often following retirement from “The Daily Show” and even the outrageously bearded, fashionably unkempt David Letterman surfaces from time to time hither and yon. Would someone kindly find that man a sandwich?

For the first time in the coming 2018 midterm elections, Millennials (roughly 18 to 34 years of age) will outnumber Baby Boomers (51 to 69 years and aging) – American’s dominant generation for decades. Importantly, indications are the younger demographic will be voting in a much higher percentage than their predecessors. They’re paying more attention, genuinely care and are eager to act.

Evil clowns beware.

Especially clowns like you, Trumpy.

Here come those kids.

 

 

 

 

 

“Away Out Here”

September 10, 2017

Paint_your_wagon_1951

 “Away out here they got a name

For rain and wind and fire

The rain is Tess, the fire Joe,

And they call the wind Maria”

From “Paint Your Wagon” – Lerner & Loewe (1951)

“Paint Your Wagon” was a fabulously successful Broadway musical about a miner and his daughter in Gold Rush-era California. It could have been Fish Camp or North Fork. More likely Mariposa.

Last week away out here we also called the wind Harvey, Irma and Jose, all catastrophic hurricanes charging out of the Caribbean like a Kardashian on Rodeo Drive. “Yes, please. I’d like a Lamborghini to match my cat.”

 At the same time, an 8.1 earthquake struck Mexico, Texas remained severely flooded and dozens of wildfires burned throughout the West, including four or five pouring smoke into Oakhurst. It was like sleeping with a campfire in your tent.

Perhaps the one positive benefit of all these slights from Mother Nature is that it’s temporarily driven Trump and his troubles out the headlines. He’ll be back again soon, at least until those aliens hiding under the Talking Bear make a run for it. But away out here we have been missing interesting developments.

Surly Sarah Sanders has replaced Sean Spicer as White House spokesperson, adding a meaner, grimmer (if not slimmer) attack dog motif to daily press updates.

Junior now shocks a Senate Committee with yet another major revision to what happened at his meeting in Trump Tower in June of last year. Donny finally admitted that all along he was looking for dirt on Hillary from the Russians – the same folks he asked about securing a private line of confidential communication with pals at the Kremlin. You know – to keep important understandings safe from the FBI, CIA and other American intelligence agencies. A young 39 year-old barely out of the cradle can’t be too careful.

The wildest surprise to me and I’m sure to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan was the President’s awesome display of artful dealing in the Oval Office last Wednesday.

There was our Republican President. There were Republicans Mitch and Paul. There were the Democrats — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Leader Nancy Pelosi. They were all together at a customary “after summer recess” session to set the course for the next few months. It’s a tradition.

The Democrats went first. They read off their list of wants and needs. In a race to surrender, the President quickly agreed to virtually everything important, including the top priority item for Democrats of establishing a limited three-month extension of the debt ceiling. Trump even interrupted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the middle of his presentation rejecting the Democratic positions to throw in the towel. Cool it, Steve. Go home to your $400 million dollar nest egg and that hot third wife. Meeting over. Who wants a Coke? What? Huh? D’oh!

A lot of old liberal hippies possibly thought they were having some sort of acid flashback. Many old conservative Goldwater backers might have wished they had dropped a tab or two back before drug testing.

I only hope that a few of my many old friends and acquaintances who keep bellowing his name in unison like a bullfrog in heat will finally allow that Donald Trump is, was, and forever will be utterly unworthy of trust. This also goes for those who might delude themselves into fantasizing that Trump has suddenly and transformatively undergone a miraculous epiphany. Or is playing “Multi-dimensional Chess.” This man is all foam – no beer.

Let’s drink to that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Summer Vacation – Part Two”

September 4, 2017

Catheter_ablation

In a previous episode of “For Your Consideration” — Sierra Star columnist Peter Cavanaugh recounted his abundant lack of enthusiasm when suddenly confronted with an unscheduled four day hospital stay while vacationing with Eileen in their hometown of Syracuse, N.Y. This was precipitated by a combination of COPD driven pneumonia and a newly experienced “Atrial Flutter.” It felt like a naughty butterfly was stuck in his heart.

Treatment provided, the Cavanaughs then flew home to Oakhurst. Unfriendly skies charged more for their one-way return than the entire prepaid round-trip fare. It was compassionate conservatism – also known as gratuitous greed. The airline’s CEO made only $18.7 million dollars last year in salary and bonuses, best in the industry. Ka-ching.

“Chandrasekar Palaniswamy” – Definition:

(a) Guaranteed tiebreaker in National Spelling Bee Championship.

(b) Difficult reciting backgrounds while eating peanut butter crackers.

(c) The name of a brilliant young Fresno Electrophysiologist who performed a successful three-hour catheter ablation procedure on Cavanaugh two weeks ago when the butterfly flutter returned, suddenly accompanied by atrial fibrillation. These are separate, although related situations. The flutter rate was around a speedy 150 beats per minute, while fibrillation was estimated at 450 beats. This is at the high end of frequency. I’m amazed I didn’t fly off into space.

I had a hard time breathing. The reemergence of “Smokehurst” didn’t help. Deadwood kept disappearing.  Dr. Palaniswamy was confident we had great chances for extended success. He was correct, as was primary cardiologist, Dr. Michael Gen. He’s kept me around longer than I deserve. Dr. Palaniswamy was Dr. Gen’s idea.

Things kicked off with a Transesophageal Echocardiogram taking pictures inside the heart, immediately followed by the introduction of thin, flexible wires called “electrode catheters” moved ever so gently in an extensive electrophysiology study (EPS). An electrical map of the heart was created — determining the type and location of arrhythmia experienced. Finally, defined “problem cells” were destroyed with ultra sound.

From start to finish, I was never scared a bit and hardly felt a thing.

A delightful anesthetic cocktail provided at various intervals consisted of four separate drugs expertly applied. I’ve been telling everyone in amazement it was like one single, unbroken, uninterrupted thought no longer than seconds in duration. “I wonder how long it will take – wait! I’m awake!”

I spent two days of my “Ablation Vacation” in a lovely private room at Fresno Heart and Surgery Hospital. The staff was excellent and couldn’t have been more accommodating. A visiting friend even said he wouldn’t mind living there.

Next Monday is 9/11/17. For the 15th year, Sierra Tel Patriots’ Day will be held starting at 9 AM, this time again scheduled at Yosemite High School’s Badger Stadium. The Commander of the California Air National Guard, Brigadier General Clay L. Garrison, will be keynote speaker. General Garrison is responsible for mission readiness across a wide spectrum of programs and more than 4,500 military and civilian personnel in California.

Eileen and I attend “Patriot’s Day” every year. It is a joy to be with others in our little mountain community in faithful remembrance of those we’ve left behind; recognizing unity, celebrating freedom, and renewing commitment to shared goals, critical values and points of national pride.

“Remember the hours after September 11th, 2001 when we came together as one to answer the attack against our homeland. It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.”

— Senator John Kerry.

 

 

“Bye-Bye, Bannon”

August 20, 2017

sean-hannity-91

 

“The Trump presidency that we fought for and won, is over.” –

Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen “The Grim Reaper” Bannon — upon being relieved last week of further executive responsibilities (fired).

What this means is anyone’s guess, probably including Bannon and definitely D.J. Trump, left spinning his usual truth — fast and furious fiction – a President abandoned by many and despised by most.

But so much for all that.

Let’s dwell on something more enjoyable — like an asparagus pizza, a bowl of hot squirrel stew or an air hammer root canal.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, “The Music Man” featured 76 trombones, and in a few weeks I turn 76 years of age. So does my birth brother, Bernie Sanders. We both came to earth (I like the sound of that) on September 8, 1941. He appeared in Brooklyn, New York. I landed upstate in Syracuse. That same day German forces began a blockade of Leningrad and exterminated the entire Jewish community of Meretsch, Lithuania. It was in the first hours of our life. This much older time offers sparse comfort.

A great national malaise continues unabated. A number of my dearest pals for decades have become bitter old white guys. Others join me in concerned astonishment that these mutual acquaintances have become oblivious to what seems obvious. It is discontentment born of disconnection. They are mentally living off the grid – 21st Century Ted Kaczynskis – hermetically secure in a mind cabin of self-restricted consciousness — sealed away from all but the balm of ever more righteous right wing radicalism.

Crazy is contagious. But God-fearing Republicans may yet save us all. They do know how.

Hannity insanity is almost finished running its brilliantly manipulative multi-million dollar course.

Fifteen years ago I spent one evening sharing a few serious adult beverages with Sean and his former partner, the late Alan Colmes. It was a Client Party at The Henry Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan.  I was with Comcast at the time. We had nationally televised a live broadcast of the old “Hannity and Colmes” program from the Grand Ballroom. Guests included Ollie North and G. Gordon Liddy. It was quite a night.

Sean had just released his first book. “Let Freedom Ring – Winning the War of Liberty Over Liberalism.” He was being treated like a Rock Star, patiently signing dozens upon dozens of copies for aging, devoted followers – some actually weeping in his presence. He finally ran out of books. Alan and I stood aside and marveled.  He and Sean had started with successful radio careers in an industry where everyone used to know everyone else. We shared many memories.

Far from being uncomfortable with Sean’s sudden surge in popularity, Alan appeared genuinely proud of his long time friend and enjoyed basking in the light of advantageous association. Colmes exclaimed, ”He knows how to promote – he really understands marketing. Look at the ratings!” I found Sean to be extraordinarily charming and naturally charismatic. He provides pure performance and delivers what works.

That “Independence Day” song from 1994 by Martina McBride he often uses as a program theme? About “letting the white dove sing” and “letting freedom ring?” It has nothing to do with American patriotism. It’s about an abused housewife who sets her drunken husband on fire. A happy ending? Their eight year-old daughter is sent to a “county home.” It’s a country tune. Sean never plays that part of the record.

Your uncle with the crumpled red Trump hat that smells like Bud Light should keep that in mind.

 

 

 

 

“Forty Years Gone”

August 13, 2017

Elvispresleydebutalbum

It was the autumn of 1956.

Barbara was a 14 year-old honor student, Girl Scout Award Winner and founding member of our St. Joseph’s Catholic Youth Organization in Syracuse when she carved 5 letters onto her lower left arm — “E-L-V-I-S.”

None of us boys were a bit surprised. Elvis was that cool.

The nuns were shocked and alarmed. It was further confirmation of what Father Shannon has assured them. Elvis Presley was “an occasion of sin.” Father would know. He heard Confessions. “Bless me, Father, for I have rocked.”

 It was forty years ago this week (August 16. 1977) that Elvis died at the age of 42. Last year his estate earned an estimated $27 million dollars. It’s as though he never “left the building” at all.

When I first heard “Heartbreak Hotel” on the radio in February of ‘56, I thought it was by Mahalia Jackson. Ms. Jackson was a black American gospel singer with a powerful contralto voice, not a skinny “hillbilly kid” of 21 — a dirt-poor truck driver originally from the backwater town of Tupelo, Mississippi – population 21,000.

Elvis and his family moved to Memphis when he turned 13. Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records at 706 Union Avenue, always told friends if he could “find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, (he) could make a billion dollars.” Sam sounded cynical at best, racist at worst. He was neither.

When Elvis Presley wandered into Sam’s little Sun Studio to record a song for his mother’s birthday, Phillips found his “white man.” Then a few more impoverished, unknown, wild, white Southern boys crossed the Sun doorway including Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. Imagine!

When Eileen and I finally visited Sun Studio, I was amazed to see how tiny it was — not much bigger than a large family garage. We also spent time at Graceland, now located in a fairly sketchy part of Memphis. The tour ended at Elvis’ grave, where he quietly rests along with his parents and twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, who was stillborn.

We had finally seen Elvis in person on New Year’s Eve of 1975 along with 62,000 others at Pontiac, Michigan’s Silverdome Stadium, now 176 acres of rubble and ruin just north of Detroit on I-75.

It turned out to be the highest attendance number of his career, ushering in America’s Bicentennial Year with a 25 song set list, opening with the twelve bar classic, “C.C. Ryder.” His voice was magnificent, but there was a lot more Elvis by then. He split his white jump suit pants right down the middle at the end of, “All Shook Up.” But he wasn’t, casually strolling off stage and emerging a few minutes later freshly attired in gold. During the interim his band played on, horns wailing away like Judgment Day. It was seamless — unlike those pants.

I happened to be at the radio station when our red UPI Bulletin Light started flashing in the newsroom. It was an early Tuesday evening. Elvis DEAD? I quickly found a copy of “That’s All Right” in our WTAC library; the first song Elvis ever had played on the radio.

One of my favorite Elvis songs is the fairly obscure Country ballad, “Old Shep”, recorded by the legendary Red Foley in 1935, the year Elvis was born. It offers a heart-rending close:

“If dog’s have a heaven, there’s one thing for sure

Old Shep has a wonderful home.”

 I like to think he does.

With Elvis — forty years gone.

 

 

 

 

“Summertime Blues”

August 6, 2017

Vonnegut Smile

    Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007)

“Sometimes I wonder what I’m a-gonna do —
But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” –

First recorded by the late Eddie Cochran in 1958, the song gained further fame performed by such notables as The Beach Boys (1962), Blue Cheer (1968) and The Who (1970).

Summertime Blues” is seminal early Rock & Roll — inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 – ranked 73rd in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of all time – and officially listed in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame among critical contributions that indelibly shaped contemporary American music.

Today is August 10th – the 222nd day of 2017.

This time every year I encounter my own “Summertime Blues” as days get shorter, nights get cooler and the shimmer of summer gives way to the colors of fall and beyond. Another legendary Rock & Roller, Bob Seger, properly nailed it when he poignantly observed, “Strange how the night moves with autumn closing in” – wistfully sharing nostalgic adult memories of faded adolescent love.

Our grandkiddies in Tennessee have already returned to school. In Madera County, we’ll see those yellow buses back on the road next week with Yosemite High students in class again on the 17th. Let’s once more particularly be on watch for excited little ones playfully energized in roadside wait.

The wheel of the seasons turns with increasing speed as our lives race on, hurling toward the finish line with relentless subconscious impatience, the promise of a new beginning impressed or implied by every major world religion since time, itself, began.

What appears like an eternal summer through the eyes of childhood now seems to flash in a day, then dashes away.

In my own reflections generated by the bittersweet departure of summer, I find myself facing the choice of being frightened – or enlightened.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. remains a personal hero of mine.

Mr. Vonnegut was captured by German troops near the end of World War Two and held as a prisoner-of-war in a deep cellar located below “Schlachthof Fünf” in Dresden. This ironically saved and changed his life forever when British and American forces firebombed the city on February 13, 1945, reducing the “Florence of the Elbe” to rubble and ruin and killing an estimated 135,000 Germans in the process.

Returning to civilian life after formal German surrender only ten weeks later, Vonnegut went on to eventually write the semi-autobiographical “Slaughterhouse-Five” – “The Children’s Crusade – a Duty Dance with Death.” Published in 1969 (the year of Woodstock) and described at the time as a “satirical novel”, the book quickly established Vonnegut as one of the most brilliant, if not controversial, writers of his generation.

One of his most profound works was “Breakfast of Champions”, published in 1975. In Vonnegut’s own words, it tells the story of “two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.”

From such a somber introduction, a number of final conclusions are brilliantly inspirational. Particularly coming to mind is this brief passage discussing mankind as a self-evident example of biological machinery, but adding an illuminating introspective into human consciousness, also referenced in certain theological circles as the “soul.”

“His situation, insofar as he was a machine, was complex, tragic and laughable. But the sacred part of him, his awareness, remained an unwavering band of light. At the core of each person who reads this book is a band of unwavering light.”

And at the core of those who read this column, too.

A band of unwavering sacred light – as autumn closes in.

And the night moves.