On Poe; Hurricane Sandy; and the US Election

When I left you last, dear readers, I included a link in my blog to a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. As I mentioned, Poe is one of my favorite writers of the short story, perhaps one of the true and great masters. The link that I attached was to one of my favorites, Manuscript Found in a Bottle. The story was first published on October 19, 1833, by the The Baltimore Saturday Visiter (Visitor), when Poe was 34 years of age and in his writing prime. If you should think otherwise – that this story was written by a drunkard, or a writer of status of any less than genius, consider only the opening two lines:

“Of my country and of my family I have little to say. Ill usage and length of years have driven me from the one, and estranged me from the other.”

–Edgar Allan Poe

The writing style is not contemporary.  But the story resonates with voice that is seldom heard these days. Poe’s led a short and tragic life.  A marriage to a 13 year old cousin, who died suddenly of tuberculosis in January of 1842, sent the writer on a drinking binge that would continue until his eventual, untimely and tragic death in 1849.

Remarkably, Poe’s poem ‘The Raven’, first published in 1845, would earn him only nine dollars, but would emblazon his name into the hearts and minds of horror genre fans for the next century and a half.

So read some Poe this season.

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It appears, that the recent weather events in the Northeastern U.S., in the wake of Hurricane Sandy has left all of our friends and family safe and well, and for that we are thankful. The damage, however, looks frightful.

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When I blog again, o’ readers, it will be to beckon all to the polls as the grim night of the United States Presidential election bears down upon all good souls and we cast our votes for whomever we deem most worthy – the one who will lead us to the light in the face of darkness – the one who will remain vigilant as we sleep – perhaps the one who will rebuff the neocons who would lead us into another devastating war in the mid-east.

To that end, I shall leave all with one of my favorite quotes – and no, it is not from Poe. I cannot take credit for it either;  in fact I can’t seem to find its author, but make of it what you will as we near the final days before the U.S. Presidential Election:

“Confidence is the feeling that you have before you completely understand the situation.”

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Hurricane Sandy

In 1998 we moved from northwest New Jersey to our current home in South Florida. At that time, many of our friends warned us of the danger that we faced from hurricanes. Thankfully though, apart from a brush with Hurricane Floyd in 1999, we had little experience with these storms until the notorious hurricane season of 2005. That year brought forth, among other storms, deadly Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (and also brought a good deal of damage to Florida). It also spawned Hurricane Wilma that wrecked havoc on the Caribbean and Florida, killing 19 people (6 of them in Florida), and caused billions in property damage. The 2005 hurricane season left me with a respect for these storms that I hadn’t had before living through them.

Last Tuesday, as Hurricane Sandy barreled across eastern Cuba and headed up the east coast of the United States I thought of those less fortunate – those living in the flimsy shacks in the Caribbean islands – people without the funds to flee or to safely stay. My heart reaches out to them.

Now, as Hurricane Sandy leaves our latitudes and pushes north toward our friends and family in the Northeastern U.S. we wish all in its path well.

For those of you who might find yourselves housebound for the duration of the storm, I would like to share with you one of my favorite short stories. It is a story about storm, a ‘simoom’ , and it is by one of my favorite writers – Edgar Allan Poe. Its title: Manuscript Found in a Bottle.  It is  great reading by fire light. The story goes well with a splash of old brandy in a great snifter…so pull the family tight, stoke the fire  logs and pray that the internet doesn’t fail.  Then let the winds howl. Stay safe in your abode and read this classic aloud before bed.

To all of our family and friends in the path of this storm, please prepare well and stay safe.

Mahalo,

Tropicalblender

Brief encounter with Donald Trump on the Garden State Parkway…

I have never rubbed shoulders with celebs, or the rich and famous, and often when I see their pictures in the tabloids, I have to say that I would not know them if they walked into my house.

Two exceptions stand out: David Spade and Donald Trump.

David Spade is unique.  I spotted him immediately getting off of the elevator at the Super Bowl in Miami in 2010. Right away, you say “hey, that’s David Spade”.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, that’s who he is.

The other guy I could pick out of any lineup is Donald Trump.

My wife and I came face to face with Trump back in the early 90’s. In case anyone forgets, Donald Trump, was in deep financial trouble. His casinos were in bankruptcy, and he was in the middle of a messy divorce from his wife Ivana. He was living with Marla Maples, and the courts had limited him to a 300K per month budget.

Around that time, my wife and I visited his Atlantic City casino for the weekend. I don’t recall a lot about the weekend, but I do recall the Sunday morning that we left town.

We’d gone down to retrieve our car from the valet lot, and had handed over our claim ticket to the attendant. We waited for a minute or so, then a phone rang on the valet podium and we were suddenly forgotten and one of the valet attendants said to the other:

“Marla just called…he’s on his way down.”

My wife and I looked at each other. No way, we said. It can’t be “That Marla.”

An instant later, and I do mean an instant, a black Lexus with black windows slid to the curb, and in an almost perfectly choreographed move, an attendant opened the driver’s door, and a second later, Donald Trump, as if on queue, emerged from the hotel, still buttoning his jacket and dove into the driver’s seat and in a peel of rubber raced toward the parking garage exit.

Our car came up next.

“Let’s follow him,” said my wife.

“Follow him?” I said.

“Yes, let’s follow him,” she said, “it’s Donald Trump, I want to at least wave to the guy.”

So we did. Follow him that is. Actually, we were chasing him.

We almost lost him on the crowded streets of AC, but somehow we managed to catch up with him and we hung with him until he hit the Garden State Parkway. Once on the GSP, Donald dropped the hammer and I remember watching the black Lexus pull steadily away from us on the flat plains of South Jersey, dropping easily over a small rise in the Parkway, and when we reached the crest of the rise, we thought he’d be long gone…Donald Trump…but there he was…still within reach, travelling fast but still within our grasp.

“The guy’s gotta be going a hundred,” I remember saying to my wife.

“No, not a hundred,” she said.

Then I told her I was doing damn near ninety five and he was pulling away.

Then we lost him. He was gone…gone like a drunk’s last twenty in one of his casinos, and we forgot all about Donald Trump until we got stuck in traffic as we approached the Raritan Toll Plaza. My wife spotted him first, creeping along in traffic like the rest of us, just to toss his quarter in the basket…one of the great equalizers, toll plazas. We hurried to get alongside, and finally we caught up with him.

Side by side at the toll booths, our car was adjacent to Trump’s. We held our quarter for a half second waiting…then it happened…the blackened window in the Lexus dropped and my wife cranked down the window of our car, and for a moment we were face to face. It was definitely him, the hair – the pursed lips, Donald Trump himself, and our eyes met. My wife lifted an empty plastic quarter bucket that we’d brought home as a souvenir from Trump’s Casino and pointed at it. Trump (of course) didn’t crack a smile…how could he. I saw his hand dart out of the open window and a quarter hit the basket, and we did the same.

We pulled away from the toll plaza. When I glanced to my right, the black window of the Lexus was raised, the man inside obscured. Then we were neck and neck…our Toyota and Trump’s Lexus, and we both hit the gas and we pulled away from the Raritan Toll Plaza under full power. A few seconds after, we split company, my wife and I heading for western New Jersey, and the black Lexus disappearing into the early evening twilight bearing down hard at full speed upon Manhattan.

So that is my one and only encounter with Donald Trump.

Since then, I have followed his career only marginally. Although I confess to watching the Apprentice television series for awhile, I rarely have given him serious thought. But his recent relentless insistence that Barak Obama is not a citizen of the United States is beyond bizarre. Think what you might of Obama, the theory that he isn’t a U.S. citizen has been debunked so many times that only the truly half-baked are clinging to the idea that the President was born in Kenya. But that doesn’t keep Trump from ‘trumpeting’ myth after lie from his very high bully pulpit.

Me, I will always remember him as the guy we chased up the Garden State Parkway,  ultimately to witness  the great Trump sitting in traffic to pay a twenty five cent toll, just like all the rest of us.

Farewell to George McGovern

“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”

–George McGovern

Occasionally, out of the blue, something happens that causes the ground beneath your feet to shift just a little – not much, not like an earthquake or anything, but you feel it nonetheless. When that happens, it shocks you and in a moment of extreme and very profound clarity, you realize that time is speeding past you like a stoned 16 year old in his old man’s Corvette.

I had such a moment of extreme and very profound clarity couple of years ago, when I suddenly realized that I was older than the current President of the United States. I know, age is just a number, but even the young presidents that I remember, like JFK, were much older than I was, and it seemed like it stayed that way for a long time…then things suddenly shifted. Maybe it was because I was born during the Eisenhower administration, and Ike was an old guy back when I was very young. The ones that came after him, like JFK and LBJ and Nixon and Ford and Carter and Reagan were all – well – old. All of a sudden, when I realized that the Leader of the Free World was younger than I am I felt as if that aforementioned Corvette was speeding head-on toward me as I tottered across Santa Monica Boulevard on my cane.

I had another moment of extreme and profound clarity earlier this week, when I heard the news that George McGovern had passed away in South Dakota at age 90. McGovern was the very first public official that I ever voted for, having just turned 18 only a few  months before the 1972 election. Thanks to the 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in July of 1971, I was of legal voting age.

For those of you who do not remember, or for those of you who do not care to remember the election of 1972 – it was a Democratic massacre as Richard “I-am-not-a-Crook” Nixon ran away with 60.7% of the popular vote, receiving almost 18 million more votes than McGovern. Could that many people have been wrong? The answer is of course: “well yeah”. How history would have turned out had McGovern been elected we will never know, but we do know that things went to hell pretty fast after Nixon was re-elected.

Thinking back on my own vote for McGovern, I can’t think of being especially moved by any particular speech, or public appearance he made, or any book, or magazine article he wrote. In fact, I don’t think I knew that much about him, although I read newspapers regularly and watched the evening news daily. My respect for George McGovern would come later as I read interviews and heard about his work in fighting hunger around the world and of his founding an organization to help alcoholics.

Back in 1972, I knew only that he was against the war in Vietnam, and he was running against Nixon, a man for whom I  had nothing but disdain and contempt. That was enough for me – me and only 37.5% of my fellow American voters. In the end the Electoral College favored Nixon 520 to 17 and with McGovern winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

In today’s information age, I don’t believe a President will ever again be elected in such a landslide. Those days are over. 1972 was well before talk radio, 24 hour  news and the internet – all giant equalizers able to mobilize and marginalize voters in great enough numbers to ensure that we are all at each others’ throats in nearly equal numbers – great enough numbers to ensure that the election will come down to an all night slug-fest in which a half dozen votes cast in a remote precinct in Cairo, Illinois, or Evansville, Indiana will change the course of history.

Or so it seems.

The quote by George McGovern at the beginning of the blog is so simple, it’s elegant. It belongs on the wall of every elected official in Washington.

Big rumble in Boca and a blimp goes down

Yesterday, we drove over to Lynn University in Boca Raton, the site of tonight’s third, and thankfully final, presidential debate. By 2pm on Sunday, the University was abuzz with activity, and obviously under full security lockdown. Although we wanted to grab a couple of pictures from the main entrance on Military Trail, it was obvious that security was turning us gawkers away. We turned around and headed for the side entrance on Potomac where we found several people milling around the big debate sign, taking pictures. We grabbed a couple of shots too…a few with our faces in them (you guys who know us saw us on Facebook, but I will just post the generic sign here). We needed pictures you know, just because this is an historical event that is happening in our backyard.

So, being an Obama supporter, I came away a bit depressed. Here’s why:

If signage is any indicator of who is going to get the BIG JOB, then Obama had better start working on his notes for his first post-presidential speaker’s tour, because Romney/Ryan have him out-done, hands down. Everywhere you look you see Romney signs – some big and some small…everywhere. Signs Signs Signs. Obama, well not so much.

There are a few Obama signs of course, here and there, but if I might offer a suggestion, get some bigger lettering on those signs Obama (or if you aren’t ordering them yourself, tell your sign-ordering-guy that you have to compete with the Romney/Ryan signs).

The second item of note was a giant Caterpillar tractor, which was loaded on a flatbed semi truck. The Caterpillar tractor was beautifully painted, with Romney/Ryan on the giant blade. Now I did not see who sponsored this big rig. But the message was clear – a Romney/Ryan administration would help spur the construction industry. Ok, if you don’t smell something wrong here, then you haven’t been following the career of Mr. Romney too closely.

Then his blimp crashed. Yes, the Romney blimp. The Romney blimp was designed to bear the biggest Romney/Ryan sign of all – to fly it high over the vulnerable and coveted voters of South Florida. But there was too much wind for it I guess –wind that was blowing hard from the ocean side of the state, pushing the giant expensive Romney/Ryan blimp too far to the west. We saw it coming in over our house in Deerfield at about 900 feet, and I mentioned to my wife that it seemed to be drifting west – toward the Everglades.

Later we heard they made an emergency landing. Thankfully, nobody was injured. But I wonder if it could be an omen – maybe a sign of things to come. Maybe the man with maximum signage will go down in a (soft) emergency landing on Election Day.

Missed the second Presidential Debate

…I was going to add …”and glad I did” to that headline above. But I don’t think that would be accurate. Frankly, I would have watched the debates if I hadn’t been out of town.

My wife’s nephew Landis (we call him ‘Landie’) came in from Tarrytown to spend a couple of days with us, and we all travelled down to Key West for an overnight stay. As things fell out, we spent the 9 o-clock (debate) hour ensconced in one of my favorite south-of-the-25th-parallel-watering-holes, “Captain Tony’s”, or as they bill themselves, the original Sloppy Joes.

Don’t get me wrong – we hit the renown Sloppy Joes as well, it being a fact that Papa himself carried his barstool at twelve midnight, the day that Sloppy’s moved, a block up to the new Duval St. digs. But being a bit of an historian, we always like Captain Tony’s and we always go there as soon as we hit town.

So we didn’t catch the debates, being otherwise indisposed. There was a baseball game on the big screen and some good conversation at the bar and a very good guitar player although I can’t remember his name but I am sure he remembers all of us and we laughed and we sang a song from the sixties and a very bald man in a Rolls Royce pulled up and he had a driver (like f***ing weird in Key West because nobody has a driver in Key West) and there was a man from up NORTH  who said he had connections to the New York Yankees and a girl from Hoboken who said she remembered all of us although she was not sure in the end and man named Carl came in who said that Jamison was not truly Irish whiskey and any man who said differently was not a true AMERKICAN  but he knew personally George Steinbrenner and just like that the night seemed to run all together…until it didn’t…

There was some sort of altercation.

Anyway.

But that is what happens in Key West, the most unique town (arguably) in the U.S. The Presidential debates were over, and the next morning (after a nasty fall down a flight of stairs in the pre-dawn hours), I awoke and found myself alone on the deck of a beautiful bed and breakfast on Angela Street, with a cup of strong coffee, trying to plough through “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pyncheon on my Kindle, nursing a feverish headache and trying to concentrate on his opening chapters that seemed to be falling as short from my consciousness as a German V2 missile from downtown London.

Back to the United States elections. It is almost over. I have voted. Have you? This year it is important. But don’t let anyone deceive you. Don’t let these guys tell you it’s all about “Ohio”, or it’s all about “Florida”. It’s not about the “Swing States” and it’s not about the “Red States” or the “Blue States”. It’s about you, American Voter. Whether you live in Minnesota, or Idaho, or South Carolina or Rhode Island, or Nebraska.

This year we have two guys. One is “No-Drama-Obama” and the other is Gordon Gekko (okay, if that name doesn’t ring a bell, go download a copy of the original movie “Wall Street”).

Mahalo,

-Ed

First debate blues and Tulip surfaces in Vegas

I have to say that I was sort of bummed out after the first Romney / Obama debate – so much so that I really didn’t want to blog about it. A day or so after the debate, I left a message on Tulip’s phone expecting a call back right away. She didn’t answer me for several days.

Last night she called from Mandalay Bay in Vegas.

“I needed a trip across the desert to cleanse my soul,” she said that to me when I reminded her that she’d sworn off gambling three years before after a devastating seventeen thousand dollar loss weekend.

“I can handle it now,” she told me. “I’m going to play a little poker, stuff a couple hundred into the machines, and then come on back up to the room with a bottle of Fairbanks and watch “Field of Dreams” on cable until daybreak. In the morning I’ll be better.”

“Didn’t the fact that Obama missed so many good talking points in that debate against Romney make you mad? I mean he had so many great opportunities to take the guy to the mat and he blew it!”

“Sure. He could have said a lot. But if he’d acted like Romney, with that wild-eyed CEO lie-to-your-face-while-your-job-ships-out-to-Beijing look on his face they would have ripped the Big O to pieces.”

“I dunno,” I said. “Obama came off looking weak. That’s what all the polls say.”

“But you forget, Romney lied about almost everything,” said Tulip. “You know that don’t you.”

“Yes, he did lie, especially about his tax on wealthy Americans.”

“Well, there you go,” she said. “Everyone will see through that one.”

“I am not sure,” I said. “A lot of people I know are convinced that they ARE the wealthy Americans.”

“Even if they don’t have jobs?” she said.

“Yeah, Tulip…they still think they are pretty well off.”

Two thousand miles away I heard her say something under her breath and light a smoke.

“I’ll be glad when this election is over,” she said. “It’s getting ugly out there.”