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.”

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.

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.”

I have not been abducted

After my somewhat veiled reference to a mysterious Mr. English, of whom I insinuated had first hand knowledge of alien life, I dropped off of my blog for a couple of weeks. Probably it was not a good idea for me to drop from blog-sight so suddenly, after leaving my many (92 to date) readers in suspense.

Perhaps fearing that I had been abducted by aliens and whisked away to that mysterious base that is purported to exist on the far side of the moon, Rita and J.L. called me the other night from the small northern Minnesota town that they have recently moved to, near the Canadian border.

“We’re getting ready for a Romney victory in November,” said Rita. She is six and a half months pregnant, and J.L., unemployed for the past year and a half is preparing to launch a website targeted at the parents of overachieving children.

“As soon as the results are in, we’re packing the Scion and heading for Yellowknife,” she said that to me with more than a little anxiety into her voice.

“My God,” I said to her. “Yellowknife!! Don’t you guys watch Ice Pilots on TWC? Yellowknife is the end of the planet. Go up there and  J.L. is pretty much cooked as far as job possibilities are concerned. No jobs for web designers in the NWT – maybe he can land a job as a rampie for Buffalo Airways, but that’s about all.”

“At least we’ll have decent healthcare,” she retorted.

“Didn’t you see the Boca video?” I asked. “You must have – it’s the one in which  Romney comes off looking like a real ass when he says he doesn’t care about all the people that aren’t paying federal income tax. He is trying to backpedal now because of the elderly people included in that cherry picked percentage – and all of the people who are working but because their allowed deductions and their lower incomes do not have to pay federal income tax. He just banged on the old Tea Party gong to make it look like all of these people were government freeloaders.”

“You think that’s going to be enough to make voters turn away from him?” Rita sounded scared.

“I think so,” I told her. “People don’t like to be called freeloaders. Especially when guys like Romney have played a big role in offshoring jobs and displacing workers.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Not everyone is an entrepreneur like J.L.”

“They’re not,” I said. “Let’s all just close our eyes and hope for the best.”

P.S. Back to Mr. English soon…

My thoughts about the Republican Convention and Mr. Eastwood’s Participation

Last night Tulip called me from Tuluca Lake. It was a quarter till four in the morning  Florida  time and I knew that she was probably halfway through her second bottle of Fairbanks port. I wasn’t about to answer the phone (you have to know Tulip). Besides, I was sleeping. The next day I listened to her message:

“I thought you were writing a blog E.P.? Holy mother, I’m looking at this lame excuse you have for a website and I don’t see sh*t about nothin’ that went on at that Republican Convention last week. Don’t you know that Clint Eastwood was talking last night? Couldn’t you come up with something to say about that?”

Even though I haven’t seen her in almost six and a half years, I could picture Tulip – a porcelain coffee mug of Fairbanks in one hand, an American Spirit dangling from the left corner of her mouth and her white Chuck Taylor All Stars planted firmly on the coffee table that faced the tiniest television set that anyone in Southern California confesses to owning. If you didn’t know Tulip, you would never know that she’ been married twice to the biggest name in professional wrestling to ever come out of St. Joseph, Missouri.

The next day I called her. I called late in the day of course, and caught up with her at Paty’s Diner – no question about it,  the best place in Taluca Lake for lunch. Tulip was a little hung over and a little feisty, but what’s that among friends. The first thing that she asked me was what I thought of Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention the night before. I told her that I hadn’t really watched much of it and she asked me why.

“I was watching the Green Bay, Kansas City pre-season game,” I told her. After she berated me a bit, I came to realize that I had missed something important – on purpose, so I turned to the internet, and I watched Clint’s speech several times as penance for my football sins.

“You need to say something about that Clint Eastwood speech last night EP or forget about blogging.”

“You’re right,” I told her, so this is it:

Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite movie actors. I will watch his movies as long as I am alive to watch them. The “Bridges of Madison County” was filmed in my hometown in Iowa, and I have a special affection for his westerns. Yeah, I know that the line “make my day” came from his Dirty Harry days, but to me he will always be the Man With No Name. Ok…enough ass kissin’.

Mr. Eastwood is a life long Republican and makes no secret of that. He ran as a Republican for mayor of Carmel, California and has always backed Republican candidates, so I felt no particular surprise when Clint addressed the RNC. ( I thought that the backdrop used from the “Outlaw Josey Wales” was inappropriate considering the recent violence in Colorado, but what the heck.) I went online and listened to Clint’s speech twice.  I thought for an 82 year old actor he gave a great performance. And it was a performance – but I thought that Clint could have done a much classier act. The empty chair was a lame prop, and to put the POTUSA in it and lecture him was, well, frankly beneath the likes of Clint Eastwood.  You know, we have a lot of respect for the office of the President – Clint knows that – and then he messed up a couple of facts too, and when it comes to Afghanistan, we all know who decided to mix it up over there and it wasn’t Obama.

So I am over it with politics for now. Next week I am planning a piece on conspiracy theories surrounding the Apollo moon landings. Won’t that be a hoot. Bizarre just like the Republican National Convention.

By the way, Green Bay won 24 to 3 over KC.

A Shout Out to My Readers – You Know Who You Are…

This blog post is addressed to all of my faithful readers. You guys know who you are…, oh well what the heck : Rita and J.L; Tulip and Jason; Bev and Lisa – yes, all of you (at least half a dozen of you), who read my blog faithfully, this is a call to action.

When I started blogging back in March of 2012, I established a few ground rules for myself. Not many rules mind you, but just these four rules called, I never want to …

  1. I never want to be called a Progressive. I might be one, but I will never call myself that. Call me a liberal any day. I like that much better because I sure as heck am not a conservative – do conservatives come up with watered down names for themselves?
  2. I never want to curse in a blog post  (so far so good, but that could change).  I’m no holy-roller, but profanity detracts from  content.
  3. I never want to write without readers.  If I don’t have people reading my blog then why write it? Thank God I have you six people, or I would have to take the site down.
  4. I never want to write a blog linked to another person’s work. I don’t mean that I will not ever, ever, link. But I think a blog is supposed to be about my take on life, and my ideas – not someone else’s.

So, I am about to break rule number 4. Listen everyone; we are in the midst of a very important election here in the United States. It is important that we all become as informed as possible on the events that are bearing down upon us. A short while back, I came across this news item that I would like to share:

What has Obama Done…

Please read and if you want, pass it on to others.

“Muslim prayers at the Democrat convention – What’r them Dems a Smokin’ now??”

If I get one more email from my right wing friends, all of whom are whipped into a panic because the Democratic Convention is going to be turned into some kind of Muslim jihad, I am going to cancel my hotmail account and back over my laptop with my big old pickup truck.  No need to make this a really long blog post. I will get it out in the open right now…it is not true…big lie.

The closing prayer at the Democratic Convention, which kicks off next Monday, September 3rd will be given by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Cardinal Dolan, although no real fan of the Democratic platform,  is a big enough man to deliver a prayer at both the Republican and Democratic conventions this year. The Cardinal made it clear up front that he would be performing his duties only as they relate to those of a pastor, and in no way was he endorsing any party, platform or candidate.

So why has everyone gotten their undies wrapped around their ankles about Muslim prayer? It seems it comes from the fact that there will actually be Muslim prayers said next week in Charlotte. That much is true, and on Friday, August 31 (that’s tomorrow), Muslims will gather in Charlotte’s Marshall Park, to do of all things…pray. For the record, this Jumah Congregational Prayer is not endorsed by the Democratic Party. It is, obviously, timed to coincide with convention activities, but it is only one of nearly one thousand events taking place in and around the Charlotte metro area during convention week.

For today, this is enough said. I have to get busy working on my non-fiction e-book that I want to complete by mid-September. No hint as to the title yet, but if you are in deep debt, especially to credit card companies, you may want to save back about $1.99 – the paltry amount I am planning to charge for it.

Now back to deleting rabid emails from my Tea Party friends

Hank Williams Jr., Paul Ryan, and what the heck is happening at the Iowa State Fair

“We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him!” HWJ, on stage at the Iowa State Fair; August 17, 2012

As a native Iowan (although I call Florida home today),  I took particular note of the words of Hank Williams Jr., who used his performance at the Iowa State Fair this year to take aim (figuratively of course) at President Obama. It is no secret, of course, that Mr. Williams is no fan of the prez. Remember how his lucrative contract with Monday Night Football was cancelled in the wake of a Fox News Interview in which Williams compared the President to Hitler. I mean really, anything that could possibly be said after those remarks has got to be downright complementary in comparison.

Of course the Monday Night Football gig was a position that Williams could well afford to lose. Maybe he really believes his own crapola, or maybe he only half believes it and is using it to whip up the Republican faithful in preparation for the November election. I don’t know – I hate to sit anyone next to Ted Nuggent on the crazy train, but he has certainly bought the ticket (sorry Ozzy).

As the son of famed country music legend Hank Williams Sr., Junior has amassed great wealth in his own right with hit after hit, and is indeed a man who needs little introduction. I confess to owning a couple of HWJ CDs, but I won’t be playing them. Was it because of his remarks at the Iowa State Fair? Yes it was. Will I be taking them out and backing over them in a mall parking lot with my pickup truck (yes, I am a liberal that owns a pickup truck), the answer is NO. Maybe after the election, should Obama be reelected, I shall be happy to put William’s classic “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down” on as I drive my RV south toward the Conch Republic this winter (yes, I am a liberal with an RV).

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In other Iowa State Fair news, Vice Presidential hopeful Paul Ryan was hustled offstage after ‘rowdy’ protesters tried to rush the stage. In the August 13th incident, which Ryan blew off, telling ABC News that being from Wisconsin had prepared him for hecklers, was nonetheless almost as disturbing to me as HWJ’s onstage fightin’ words.

Being from Iowa, the Iowa State Fair was, in my youth,  a one of a kind event. When I think Iowa State Fair, I think of 4-H livestock exhibitions, tractor pulls, Bill Riley’s talent scouts, farm implement displays, seed corn salesmen, corn dogs on a stick, ice cold lemonade, the only horse race (no gambling allowed back then) this side of Omaha’s Ak Sar Ben track, midway carnival rides (the only ones many of us ever knew, and heat, heat heat. The event was held at the end of August and it was always hot. That is what I remember of the Iowa State Fair. Political candidates always campaigned there, but I don’t recall any getting heckled, or anyone  stirring up a crowd with inflammatory words. Politicians came to shake hands and entertainers came to entertain. It was simple back then.

And oh, I will not be voting for Paul Ryan or Mr. Romney. But I detest Mr. Ryan’s treatment.