Thursday, July 22, 2010

"So Long, 2010! I'm Moving Back to 1961! A Simpler Time."

I haven’t written a blog in a while. But I’ve been having a back and forth with a friend from my past in San Francisco who was one of my favorite people during that time of my life. It’s been a spirited and healthy back and forth and I love these kinds of exchanges because they give me a chance to “finer” tune my argument and remind me that semantics matter.

We’ve been having an email exchange about a segment on the Glenn Beck Hour in which he had a relative of Martin Luther King on his show as a precursor to his upcoming rally at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – the same place that MLK delivered his “I Had a Dream” speech.

Essentially, Glenn Beck, in what I consider to be a blatant case of revisionist history, is trying to paint himself and his brand of conservatism as the torch-bearers of MLK’s dream. That somehow and in some way, in some strange up-side down, “Freaky Friday”, other-worldly alternate reality, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk are actually the direct descendents of MLK’s mission and Barack Obama and other African-American civil rights “activists” are actually the destroyers of MLK’s dream.

Seriously… for real. This is actually happening, and friends and family members of mine that watch the cast of characters at FOX and listen to Rush Limbaugh, etc. actually go: “Yeah. Absolutely! We’re the ones who embody MLK’s dream! Of course. Back in the day, MLK was a huge conservative who would have totally been embraced by the Fox News audience and if O’Reilly was doing his shtick back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, he totally would have been on the King bandwagon, absolutely!”

There’s sooooooo many reasons why this line of reasoning is completely and utterly absurd and almost insulting. But in some strange way it’s actually an interesting sign. In some strange way, the current conservatives of today are actually more liberal than those back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Crazy to think now with the likes of Coulter and Limbaugh and Beck; but it actually proves the theory that socially, the country, as a whole (aside from the extreme right-wing and the Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians) is, socially speaking, moving towards the Left. Socially speaking, we are a Center-Left country.

But politically, we’re a right-wing country. And we’re not a center-right country, we’re a waaaaaay right-wing country… we’re way, way, way away from the Center. So a Moderate/Centrist Independent like me doesn’t really have a home, politically speaking. The Democrats, for the most part, are just as conservative as the Republicans (save Kucinich, Grayson and Sanders). For the most part, the Democratic Party is filled with corporatist sell-outs and “Blue Dogs” that, in most instances, side with the politically far-right wing Republicans.

The problem is that, where there are some Liberals, Moderates/Centrists in the Democratic Party, there are NO Liberals or Moderate/Centrists in the Republican Party. They’re all politically conservative. But they’re not all socially conservative. Some of them, those with more a Libertarian streak, aren’t necessarily against certain social issues that are considered “liberal.” A few Libertarian Republicans are for the legalization of marijuana and prostitution. There’s also been many a gay Republican who has engaged in homosexual acts – and that ain’t exactly in line with “family values.”

Just on a personal level, most of my “Conservative Republican” friends have gay friends and are cool with gays at least having “civil unions”, they smoke (or have smoked) weed, have done hardcore drugs and have crazy “liberal” sex. So, they’re not exactly 1950s or 1960s conservatives. Which is my exact point – the country has become more liberal since back “in the day” and even those of my conservative friends aren’t necessarily so conservative when it comes to things like sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll and gay lifestyles.

But that’s because I don’t really have a lot of Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian friends. I have friends who are “Conservative Republican” Catholics… but, come on, let’s be real – Catholics know how to party like any card-carrying liberal, okay. Let’s be real! But, apparently, MLK, who was a Southern Baptist, has some hardcore Evangelical relatives and they have found an affinity with Mr. Lapsed Catholic Former Alcoholic Turned Mormon Beck.

Those folks are CONSERVATIVE!!! With a capital C! They ain’t kiddin’ around! They’re the real deal. So when they go on Beck’s show, they fall in line with the Fundamentalist Evangelical hardcore CONSERVATIVE (socially and politically) bandwagon and, since they look like MLK and sound like MLK and are related to MLK – then they add validity to Beck’s assertion that he’s the real heir to the MLK Dream.

This is where things get kind of confusing for me because I’m someone who gets edgy whenever anyone goes waaaaaaaaaay to the left or waaaaaaaaaay to the right. But now everything is all over the place because we have African-Americans who, because of a fundamentalist style religion, think that someone like Glenn Beck is more in line with MLK than Barack Obama and members of the NAACP – including cats like Jesse Jackson who actually marched WITH King.

WTF is going on??? Again, what world are we living in now? Thanks to Beck and Limbaugh and the entire FOX News apparatus, we have truly entered “The Matrix.” And here begins: The Story of Shirley Sherrod. Here’s what happened:

A guy named Breitbart, who is a member of a splinter of the Tea Party Movement called the Federation or the Express or the WWF or the Lollipop Guild…??? Anyhoo, he gets accused by the NAACP (which is, I dunno, some black thing… and y’all know how THOSE people are [wink-wink]) of having Tea Bagger members that harbor racist tendencies and should “denounce and reject” these unholy infiltrators.

WHAT?!?! Seriously, what part of holding a sign of Barack Obama as an African witch doctor with a bone through his nose can be misconstrued as racist??? Again, what world am I now living in? Of course the 99.9 percent of white folks holding signs like “No Pubic Option” aren’t racist! Contextually challenged, perhaps -- but racist. Naw, dawg! They totally down with brown, brah! They all ‘bout King’s dream, brah! Especially in Tea Party hotbeds like Arizona – the home of true conservatives like John McCain who is six degrees of Kevin Bacon from Sarah Palin (yes, by way of “Saturday Night Live”, you can totally trace McCain AND Palin to Kevin Bacon – it’s ASTOUNDING!!!) where MLK Jr. Day is not considered a national holiday.

But we get it because MLK was actually a Communist/Socialist to the Conservatives of his day. But don’t tell a Liberal like Glenn Beck that because he gets all “oh no you di’int” when MLK-haters like NAACP emeritus member Julian Bond brought up the inconvenient truth that MLK had once discussed that a “quasi-socialist” style of government would probably work better for America. Because, after all, to a Liberal like Beck, MLK is his home-boy!

HOWEVER, what does all of this have to do with a woman named Shirley Sherrod? Well this Breitbart guy from previous paragraphs, in an attempt to point out the NAACP is just as racist as any Tea Bagger – he shows a video of Ms. Sherrod in which she “confesses” to denying the full force of her powers to help a white family save their farm while serving in the USDA under the Obama Administration.

Well, the good folks at Fox News had a field day with this one! A black woman engaging in racial discrimination against poor white farmers – some Maoist, Socialist, Afro-Centric, Black Power radical burrowing into the very fabric of the Obama Administration like some Al-Qaeda sleeper cell – oh yeah, this was a job for the Foxanators!!! And they were on it!

From the time Breitbart put out the, clearly unedited video, the entire Fox army from the “news” section of the operation to the “opinion” folks like Beck, O’Reilly and Hannity (and even those adorable kids in the morning on “Fox and Friends” with their Ken and Barbie spunkiness!) they were “explaining” to their well informed audience that, once again, the far-leftist, Maoist, Socialist, Afro-Centric, Black Power, Jeremiah Wright apostle and Kenyan born Muslim illegitimate president in the White House (and is it really still the “White” House any more, really???) is chock full o’ racist black folks with Socialist, Maoist, Afro-Centric… etc., etc., etc., tendencies.

And within hours, Shirley Sherrod was on the radar and became the next in line to get the axe from some lower ranking member of the Obama Administration – and thank god they fired her before Glenn Beck went on the air because clearly, as the current voice of the Civil Rights Movement and heir apparent to the legacy of MLK, if he would have gotten a hold of Sherrod… well there would have been hell to pay, fo’ shizzel!

BUT WAIT… HOLD THE PRESSES!!! There’s more to this story??? WHAT??? And really, why bother following up on this story before giving Sherrod the boot??? Fox News already said it: SHE A RACIST!!! SHE HATE WHITE PEOPLE!!! They said it on “Fox and Friends”, they said it on the “news” portion… from like 12:30 to 3:30; Hannity covered it, O’Reilly covered it, Laura Ingraham chimed in… and if any stone was left unturned, Limbaugh covered it! The story was done! Everything that was needed to be reported was reported. They said it on Fox – therefore it is fact!!!

Except for the fact that 1) Sherrod was relating an anecdote from – 1986! And she didn’t join the USDA until 2009! 2) The story was about the turning point in her life when she realized that, although she felt the white farmer was being patronizing to her and she had all the power in the world to deny him help in saving his farm – she had a “come to Jesus” moment and realized that the issue isn’t about black and white, it’s about poor and wealthy – haves and have nots. It’s about helping out folks that need help, regardless of the color of their skin. It’s about rising above racial barriers and helping people that need help. 3) She put the full force of her office behind the cause of these farmers, helped them save their farm, and became lifelong friends with the white farmers in question. 4) CNN interviewed the farmers and they, unequivocally, denounced and rejected Fox News and the narrative they “jammed down America’s throat.”

Now you’d think, after all that reporting was done by CNN, the Obama Administration would have changed their tune IMMEDIATELY!!! But, remember several paragraphs back when I wrote that the Democratic Party is just as Conservative as the Republican Party and everyone went “Er-uh! Wha??? Hrrrr? Noooo!” Well, since that Maoist, Socialist, Communist, Afro-Centric, Black Power… yadda, yadda, yadda president takes his cue from the right-wing media over there at Fox and Friends…

Well, this is when my head explodes! How am I supposed to make a reality out of all of that??? It used to be, back in the day, when racists were racists, liberals were liberals, conservatives were conservatives, black people robbed from white people, and white people strung up black people with a noose – and those were great times! When we were a younger, more naïve – a kinder, gentler America.

But today – forget it! So, I’m going back to live in 1961, when things made sense and the world was a simpler place. Apparently, there’s no email or Facebook in the neighborhood I’m moving to… so, ya know… but hey, I think a postage stamp is like .2 cents, so that’s a plus! (Oh, and everybody is White, so I got that goin’ for me as well!:-)

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Most of us have a seminal cultural artifact or event that represents a touchstone moment. For some it’s a sporting event: Carlton Fisk in ’75 smacking that ball against the Green Monster or Bucky Dent’s grand slam of ’78; Jordan’s infamous “air” slam dunk; Gretsky’s entire career. For others it’s a concert event: Woodstock, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead or the first Lollapalooza. Maybe it’s a piece of live theater: "Hair", "A Chorus Line", "Rent"; or a Gathering: Burning Man; or maybe a profound historical event: the fall of the Berlin Wall or living in Prague during the early ‘90s.

For me it was discovering City Lights Bookstore in North Beach while spending the summer of ‘88 in San Francisco. It’s there that I immersed myself in the writings of the Beatnik poets, aka the Beat Generation: Corso, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Diane di Prima and of course, the man himself, Jack Kerouac.

Now, French-Canadian Kerouac was just as puzzled by the adoration of those long-hairs of Haight Ashby (and Central Park back East) to his work as any other member of the World War II Generation. The cultural shifts that took place around ‘63 through the ’67 Summer of Love and leading all the way up to Watergate transformed the American cultural landscape forever. Gone were the days of World War warrior white men in business suits enjoying an afternoon glass of scotch served by subservient secretaries dressed like Mimi Eisenhower. These were the latter days of Kerouac and the Age of Camelot and in some nostalgic way – whether it’s the vintage clothing worn by tattooed hipsters on Melrose or at Viva Las Vegas, or the Rock-a-Billy/Swingers revival and Rat Pack retreads – in some way we’re clinging to an America that has long since faded away.

This is what brings me back to the summer of ’88 and those days spent at City Lights; this is where I discovered the photographs of Robert Frank’s “The Americans”. I don’t think any piece of art has left more of a lasting impression on my psyche. There’s something about those photos that shoots to the very core of my being and similar to the music of Coltrane, Miles Davis and Terence Blanchard – Robert Frank’s images stir something deeply profound within me. They cut so close to the vein because they represent what I think it means to be an American.

I was born in ’71, but those photos taken from 1955-1956 feel like a past that I swear I lived through. He captured the ordinary and somehow always seemed to elevate it to the profound. His any given day shots didn’t so much tell some story but rather captured the very Soul of America. Landscape shots and desolate highways, Harley bikers and waitresses staring vacantly, the outskirts of towns and the center of political rallies and “Coloreds” or “Negros” just moving along trying to get through the day – Frank observed it all with his old school photo lens and reproduced his images without the help of Photoshop or a Mac.
It’s purity at its finest. These ghostly images from the past present us with Americans that may still be living among us. The couple just married at a Reno courthouse always captured my imagination (as they do Anthony Lane in his New Yorker article Robert Frank’s The Americans review : The New Yorker:

A grinning Pompadour embraces his pretty new bride as he stands behind her wrapping his arms around her midsection. The image has movement and energy and captures a moment in time that begs me to wonder: “What happens next? Where’s this couple going? Who are they and what do they do out there in mid-50s Reno?”

As I revisit the image while reading Lane’s article, I begin to imagine what could have happened to that couple. Frozen in time, she’s a vision – a Western beauty dressed in her best and caught in the arms of her Elvis wannabe (with a touch of Johnny Cash) lover just fully absorbed in the significance of the moment. He couldn’t ask for a more attractive bride; sure, she’s not Marilyn, but she is, from the looks of her, definitely easy on the eyes and has that kind of look you want to wake up next to for the long haul. But as far as looks go, the long haul has a short life span. Pin-up beauties of the past do not always age gracefully; hard living, a few packs a day and afternoon lunches of bourbon and fatty food, those “hotties” from the ‘50s (your aunts, your grandma or your grandparents high school sweethearts) look at them now and sometimes all a guy can think is: “That’s what my girl’s gonna look like when she’s their age!” But you also hope he’ll think: “And God bless her! I love her all the more because she’s real and she’s reliable and she’s so much more than some frozen image from my past that I can’t let go of.”

Frank’s Reno couple actually lived American lives long after he returned to New York to publish their nuptial moment. Did they stay married, have a couple of kids and realize the American dream? Or did he drink too much and maybe smack her around a bit until she couldn’t take it anymore and ran off with some local cowboy? Did her drug problem get so out of control or his womanizing make him impossible to live with, or did they just settle into that groove that couples fall into where they just live together like roommates, growing fat and old and moderately happy and now own a condo in Arizona and their daily grind interrupted with random visitations from the grandkids for Thanksgiving or Christmas?

The American couple frozen in time at the exact moment when nothing else mattered except: “We just got hitched!!!” And it’s a beautiful thing! In all of its black and white splendor, Robert Frank’s "The Americans" is the quintessential Beat Generation poem – the perfect visual bookend to the magical and mystical wanderings of Jack Kerouac’s "On the Road". These two men captured the side of the American story not covered on television or by the Hollywood Studio machine of the era. The real America – the gritty, dirty, urban, rural, dark, drab and tired America with all of its backwater shacks, crosses and grave markings along lonely Western highways, dilapidated row houses and dead on their feet elevator girls just trying to get through another day.

As I flip through the pages of my copy of Frank’s masterpiece, I am transfixed and mesmerized. I swear I know these people. I may have – during my travels across this vast landscape – actually come across the older version of one of the subjects of Frank’s thousands of shots. They could have been at a train station or in a supermarket or at a hotel or sitting in coach. Now they probably use a laptop, send emails, text and maybe even use Facebook. They either voted for John McCain or Barack Obama, listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Keith Olbermann. They may be titans of industry, or dying of cancer. But they’re here and they’re living their lives and they answer the question posed in every frame of Zurich born, American immigrant Robert Frank’s love letter to America: “So… what happens next?”

… And ain’t that America?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In Defense of Our Pragmatist-In-Chief; Or, Conservative vs Liberal -- a Bridge to Nowhere

In the latest issue of Time, back-page essayist Nancy Gibbs inadvertently nails the exact description I use to sum up the presidency of Barack Obama. She writes: “The beauty of the policy is that it’s neither liberal nor conservative, just deeply pragmatic—the most American ideology of all.” Gibbs is referring to the now defunct government policy known as “Cash for Clunkers.” She equates the clunkers program to that which is fundamentally American: “You do whatever works, throw ideas at the problem and see what sticks.”

Gibbs’ assertion struck me as a perfect way to describe the reason why I voted for, and still strongly support, President Obama. During the course of the long, drawn out campaign season, much of the dialogue about then candidate Obama centered on his ethnic heritage. The age old question for African-Americans seemed to be pulsating with white hot heat: is Obama black enough? Or, will white voters identify with him because his mother was an Anglo?

Although the thought of electing the first African-American (or half African-American) appealed to my multi-cultural, liberal arts educated sensibilities, the key selling point for me was a word that über liberal Mario Cuomo used to describe candidate Obama on Larry King Live: “Cosmopolitan.” Absolutely Mario – mi New York Italian-American paison – but to Jay-Z it up a bit: Obama is “Urban”; he’s our first truly “Urban” president.

Being an Urbanite/Cosmopolitan, this definition of our president makes me drool. But this isn’t even the reason I am an Obamaphile. The reason why President Obama has my undying devotion is because of what Nancy Gibbs spoke of when she explained the short lived success of “clunkers”, and I will now borrow from her to summarize my opinion about the president: he’s neither liberal nor conservative, just deeply pragmatic.

Now I know my friends on the Right (be they Republican, Independent or Libertarian) will probably let out a huge guffaw if they read my summation of our Commander-In-Chief. In the mind of a conservative Republican, Obama – (forget using the word president because most have a hard time acknowledging that he is, indeed, the president, or at least will not give him the respect owed the office – and I guess that’s fair because those of us who were not too thrilled with the presidency of George W. Bush didn’t exactly treat him with the utmost kindness, and the sword does cuts both ways) — is not only a liberal, he’s a flat out socialist! Hell, he’s another Hitler, Mao and Mussolini all rolled into one Black Consciousness, Malcolm X package.

Sean Hannity is convinced he’s Rev. Jeremiah Wright AND terrorist Bill Ayers (but stops just short of the terrorist precipice because, unlike Glenn Beck, Hannity’s smart enough to know that it’s not really a good idea to call the sitting president a terrorist – at least in the eyes of corporate sponsors). Speaking of Glenn Beck, he flat out referred to President Obama as a racist (and there go the sponsors en masse) but then in the next breath was all: well maybe not exactly a racist per se (nice try Glenn, once you let the racist cat out of the bag, good luck cramming that clawing little fucker back in there!). All the punditocracy of the Fox News Nation – including The Birthers, The Tea Baggers, Michael Steele, The Republican Parties of Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Utah… yeah, all them folks – have pretty much painted him as the most tax and spendy, socialisty, big governmenty, communisty, pinko-pinky in the whole political crayon box!

Here’s the Box. Here’s President Barack Obama in the Box. Here’s every proposal the Obama Administration will propose in the Box. Here’s the Box on fire. Here’s America as we know it going up in one socialism fueled fireball!!! (Cue: Carmina Burana) BE AFRAID!!! BE VERY, VERY AFRAID!!! HITLER!!! STALIN!!! SOCIALISM!!! DEATH PANELS!!! ACORN!!! FANNIE & FREDDIE!!! KILLING GRA’MA!!! KILL THE NIGG—

Oooops, got a little carried away there. But I mean, seriously? Is that not just stewing right under the surface at all times? Sure, not with every right-winger, fine. I’m sure the majority of right leaning Republicans and Libertarians are not a bunch of racist idiots. Hell, the guy who showed up at one of them health care rallies brandishing a semi-automatic was, indeed, a Negro (possibly a self-loathing Negro, but a Negro none-the-less). It’s too overly simplistic to assume that the vitriol directed at President Obama (and the policies of his administration) is because he has black skin. The opposition fired the same ferocious shots at presidents Carter and Clinton, and they were as white as they come (definitely two gentlemen I would not characterize as “Cosmopolitan” or “Urban”).

Sure, a lot of people thought Bill Clinton was our first black president. That’s why a slew of comedians in the ‘90s used this as an opportunity to tell a series of black jokes that went something like this: “he came from a broken family, he was raised by his mother without a father figure, he dug fat white chicks with big asses”… and I’ll stop here as it only gets more offensive and, at this point, becomes utterly irrelevant. Barack Obama shares one familial similarity with Bill Clinton: an absent father.

But what he also shares with President Clinton is an ingenious political mind and a governing principle that leans towards: The Center. For all the talk of how socialist and liberal Bill Clinton (and then First Lady, now Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton) was as a politician from those on the right, President Clinton is most responsible for dragging the party of Carter and Kennedy further away from the far left and closer to the middle, and also closer to big business.

During the ‘90s, those on the left (or Progressives) started seeking out new leaders like Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich, to name a few, not only because of their left leaning tendencies, but also because they were the loudest opposition to the encroaching dominance of Globalization, which basically seemed to be the spreading of Americanization not by exporting our art, literature and culture around the world – but by consolidating power into the hands of a small cabal of multinational corporation CEOS, shareholders and board of directors. Thanks to the centrist Clinton administration, big business found a way to take possession of the two dominant American political parties. From the vantage point of many Americans on both the left and the right, the Republican and Democratic parties are two-sides of the same multinational corporation controlled coin.

Now we come to the health care debate. Much to the utter dismay of those on the left, members of the ever chattering liberal media class seem to think that President Obama is set to drop kick the public option. At first they had their collective panties in a bunch over the fact that the single payer option was MIA. Then red flags started going up all over the place when President Obama invited major players of the insurance industry to the table, while at the same time speaking somewhat out of both sides of his mouth by chastising and condoning insurance industry standards and practice (spoken like a true centrist liberal, I guess?). But then he turned back around and said today that he was in favor of a public option???

What keeps me all up on my toes is that, much like the great Muhammad Ali, I never know when Obama is going to throw that right hook. On the three big 24/7 cable news networks, they throw around a lot of buzz words and catch phrases like “throw under the bus” or “Lion of the Senate” (seems like when one person says it they all pile on and then everybody says it to the point where it becomes like the political geek equivalent of “wuz up?” or “did you get the memo?”). One of the phrases I’ve picked up is: political Jujitsu. Apparently, in the opinion of left leaning, ultra fun, wing-nut, film-maker Michael Moore and media firebrand commentator and poli-sci expert Chris Matthews of left leaning MSNBC, President Obama has a black belt in Jujitsu, same as President Clinton who mastered the political equivalent of this old school martial art.

Meanwhile, over at FOX (and at town hall meetings and on the steps of the Texas State Capitol) Obama ain’t nuthin’ more than a fascist, big guv’nment, socialist who wants to take away your guns, steal your hard earned dollars and give it to black welfare mommas and illegals from Mexico. Somehow, Cash for Clunkers was a communist plot to destroy America, Obama talking to school children is a form of indoctrination into socialistic… err… tendencies? And Obama’s agenda for health care is just a way to kill old people and cripple the U.S. economy so that Obama can fulfill his mission as the Harbinger of All Things Evil and Bad in the Universe (and somewhere in the midst of all that: Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan is a hotbed of Communism, says thee Holy Prophet of Doom: Glenn Beck, the Revelator!).

There really is no middle ground: President Obama is either a Jujitsu Sen Sei Master or – that racist guy Barack Hussein Osama – is the Destroyer of All that is Good and Holy in the Universe. Wow, and you thought Oprah was all powerful!

But to me, and in my humble estimation, President Obama is just a really pragmatic, practical dude from Chi-Town who tries desperately to see both sides of every issue. He makes honest attempts at bringing everyone to the table to try and find some common ground. I feel, and I could be wrong about this, that he deeply cares about helping to make people’s lives a little bit easier and really doesn’t want to over tax or grow government or take from the rich and give to the poor because of some fanatical liberal ideology or because of retributions owed to poor black people. But that is exactly the line of horseshit guys like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck sell to their audience of angry, red meat hungry listeners on a daily basis.

And can you blame them, really? That shit sells. That narrative is so easy and so simple and it’s already in place. Barack Obama was put into that old standard conservative Republican box tailor made for every Democrat. Why else would they trot out an old workhorse like socialism over and over again? I mean, look, for one thing it’s so 1980s. Every time I hear some knucklehead on the Right get on the TV Box and talk about Obama is a socialist I hurl something breakable at the wall! I mean, how can you not??? IT’S FUCKING 2009, mutherfuckers!!! And after 9/11 and two wars in the Middle East with Islamofascists, blah-blah-blah, you’re fucking worried about socialism and communism (and fucking gay marriage)??? Really??? Yeah, we see how far all that went. Cuba: be afraid, be very afraid!!! Russia, yeah they’re not capitalists, no!!! China – fucking China does capitalism better than we do!!! Their economy is kicking our ass!!! We owe them Yuan, bitches!!! Not to mention that most developed European nations, like France, Great Britain, Sweden and Germany are quasi-socialist and they haven’t blown themselves up yet and their citizens seem to be getting along in life just fine (most Americans would actually know this if they took the time to get a freakin’ passport and go travel outside the country every once and a gawd-damn while!)

Those of you, my friends on the Right, will you do me a solid, a personal favor for me, your friend… can you tell your friends in high places that go off about the threat of socialism on the TV Box… yeah, can you please tell them to eat a huge giant bowl of SHUT THE FUCK UP??? I know it may sound angry coming from me, but you, with your huntin’ rifle in hand, your NASCAR hat and your “I’m An Old School Conservative” t-shirt with the photo of Ronald Reagan aping the famous Che Guevara image – you’ll be all good. You can say it with a big shit eatin’ grin on your face and then slug down a beer and kiss your wife, or kiss your beer and slug your wife – however you roll, I won’t judge… I’m Liberal ;-).

Now that I got that out of the way… and I mean, seriously, welcome to the 21st Century already! Okay, I’m done. Now here’s the deal with what Prez Obama is throwin’ down. Shit went waaaaaay south during the Bush Years. Don’t deny it, you know it’s true. If Democrats can fess up about the mess that was Carter, you can fess up to the horror that was W. Bush II. But we’re moving on. What’s done is done and now we have to play clean up. However, there were some other things that were neglected during the other Republican administrations (see Reagan, Ronald). Now, Poppa Ronnie was great for making America feel good about itself again after the disasters of Vietnam, Watergate (and see Carter, Jimmy). He helped to defeat the evils of Communism… rrrrr! He made a lot of Wall Street folks rich and a lot of White America really rich. (Black America… eh, not so much.) Deficits, yeah, they rose. Why? Tax cuts! See, Republicans, you like tax cuts. Hell, everybody likes tax cuts! Tax cuts good – the American way! More money in your pockets, smaller government (but don’t include that military over there hanging out with those Pentagon types, though). Free Market! Ayn Rand! Unregulated corporate enterprise!!! TRICKLE DOWN!!!

Republicans and Libertarians, have I helped you reach orgasm yet? Now, folks can debate until the cows come home (where did they go? I dunno, the cows just left!) about whether the market should be regulated or if the Republican conservatives have a better way of doing business than the liberal Democrats. I personally really don’t care all that much. I think there’s a little bit of good in both and a lot of bad in both. Liberalism, conservatism, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian – all have their pluses and minuses and all can equally screw up and can sometimes get it right.

But right now it’s time to retrofit! There are so many domestic issues that have been overlooked and basically expired over the years, and most of the neglect happened because of the philosophy of Reagan and both Bush administrations. Democrats for sure have to take half of the blame; both parties are to blame, actually. Yet, now is the time to start updating America to the 21st Century. If Clinton tried to build a bridge, well, sorry to say it all you Obama haters but Barack’s the one to take us by the hand and lead us across said bridge and, unfortunately, it’s a toll bridge.

Shits gotta get retrofitted and shit costs money. Bridges, tunnels, roads, LEVEES (remember levees?) need retrofitting. Transportation and communication systems need a complete overhaul. For those of us that work in the airline biz, we can tell you first hand: Air Traffic Control (ATC) needs a MAJOR face lift. All of these infrastructures need to be dragged – kicking and screaming for sure – into the 21st Century. It has got to be done and it’s got to be done like yesterday. Unfortunately for President Obama, he’s the guy that has to convince an already cash strapped American populace that this shit needs to get taken care of or it’s only going to get worse if we don’t.

Health care is a major part of that equation, along with social security, energy/oil, etc. and to a larger extent our military. There’s also the matter of Afghanistan and waging war against jihadists who would like nothing more than to see America crumble from within. All of this is on President Obama’s plate, and EVERYBODY – and it really is everybody – thinks he’s either doing too much, not enough, doing it all wrong, or what he has done is too much too quickly. Every single pundit, politician, talk show host and the guy sitting next to you at the bar yammering away has an opinion and thinks they can do it better and that they are in a position to judge how President Obama is doing.

In actuality, there’s really very few of us who can talk with authority about the job president Obama is doing. There’s a small percentage of the population that has really invested time and education and their blood, sweat and tears into the political process (and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are actually not among this group of people – in fact, Limbaugh was an oldies DJ that didn’t even finish community college). Most of us tune into our favorite politically biased news show and feed off of what the expert class is telling us to think.

Right now, President Obama is not looking so hot. Every day I’m told how he’s not standing up enough for what he believes in or what he believes in is bad and evil and will destroy America. The Left wants the public option and an end to both conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Right basically just wants him to go away.

That’s why I feel I need to stick up for him because I truly believe that we’ve finally got someone in the White House who actually GETS IT! He understands the struggles of those living in the inner-city, but he also understands the complaints of those that live in small towns and suburbs. He knows how the media works and is tapped into the pulse of the culture at large. He reaches across the aisle to include the other side that is, quite frankly, hostile towards him. He’s been called a racist, a communist, a socialist, Hitler, a terrorist and Satan. He’s been disrespected and treated like he’s not worthy to sit in the chair at the Oval Office. Yet, he’s also looked at each and every problem that America is facing and jumped into action trying to find bi-partisan solutions that are the most practical and pragmatic.

And that goes back to my original point: I believe he’s that rare political animal that has moved beyond the Left and Right arguments of the 1960s generation; those of the so-called Culture War that Bill O’Reilly has made a killing exploiting. He’s the Pragmatist-In-Chief and he’s practical to a fault. He’s seeking solutions that are logical and, well, modern. He is not Roosevelt (Teddy or FDR), Carter, Truman, Lincoln, JFK or any other assassinated president he’s been compared to (and I hope it stays that way!) He is his own man. He’s a one of a kind; the Jackie Robinson of politics. He’s not perfect, he’s flawed like every politician, he has flip-flopped on issues, he’s had verbal faux pas, and he has made mistakes and miscalculations and major fuck ups. He’s a president – he’s an American president –and therefore he is imperfect. But he has greatness in him and he’s striving to do right by us if everybody would just SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR TWO SECONDS AND LET THE MAN GET SHIT DONE!!!

All I’m saying is: give him four years. If he’s the worst president we’ve ever seen (and judging from some of our last few, that’s going to be a hard title to claim) then we vote him out and start over again. Sure, watch what he’s doing and go ahead, express your opinion about the moves he makes – but for the love of God and all that is holy, keep it in perspective! That leap from you don’t like his position on health care to HE’S HITLER is crazy, psycho babble!!! I mean, can’t we all just try at least to rein this shit in? Why is it that when some blowhard comes on the TV Box and starts spouting off about socialism, nobody points out that their entire argument is utterly ridiculous and outdated. Sometimes Matthews will go there, but not enough to really shame these idiots… I mean really shame the shit out of these morons so they’ll just shut the fuck up already!

This is why our Pragmatist-In-Chief really is somewhat superior to them, at least in terms of intellect, and they know it and they hate him for that reason. You can tell by the way they try and tear him down with the most preposterous and insane of arguments, and they just keep getting more outlandish and more extreme. If “extremity in the defense of liberty is no vice” then what is idiocy in the defense of a lack of a solid argument – liberty itself? When right-wingers spout off about socialism and paint Obama as Hitler, do they think that what they are doing is defending liberty? Well, if that’s the case – then so help me God… give me death – ‘cause I can’t stomach their concept of liberty. Give me practical pragmatism any day of the week and spare me the conservative vs. liberal argument – because THAT truly IS a bridge to nowhere.

Friday, August 14, 2009

ON PROTESTING AND THE NEW RADICALS: (Or, It's Everbody's Constitution)

During the Democratic Convention of 1968 – when the Radical Left took over Grant Park Chicago (ironically, the exact same location President Obama delivered his acceptance speech on election night, 2008) and clashed with Mayor Richard “Major Dick” Daley’s stormtrooper -esque police force while chanting the now infamous protestor rallying call: “The Whole World is Watching! The Whole World is Watching!” – the peacenik, cool & groovy, free love hippie-dippie (the following year to be known forevermore as “The Woodstock Generation”) became the living epitome of unruly mob rule and, to the conservative power structure (Nixon’s “Silent Majority”): a major pain in the ass.

It was that moment – as well as the images captured in Michael Wadleigh’s classic ‘60s time capsule film Woodstock (along with other seminal counter-culture events such as: the 1967 Summer of Love, Timothy Leary’s anti-battle cry to “turn on, tune in, drop out”, the rise of cult figures like Charles Manson and communes that also doubled as breeding grounds for cult followers – to name a few) that caused a San Andreas Fault sized schism between the blue blood, majority white working class to über rich mainstream American “squares” from coast to coast, north to south, and all around the “Heartland” and the children of the World War II Generation – the so-called baby boomers – with their long hair, dope smoking, multiple partner orgies and bellbottoms. This schism has only grown wider and become even more entrenched as the Culture Wars (promulgated by television commentators Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck of FOX News, Lou Dobbs of CNN and Rush Limbaugh of A.M. Radio (aka Clear Channel) on the Right, to Janeane Garofalo, Randi Rhodes of Air America Radio Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and atheist comedians and social commentators like HBO’s Bill Maher – to name a few – on the Left) rage on over the commercial airwaves.

The costumes may have changed (all those baby boomers are close to retirement age and the progressive left now wear business suits – are mostly responsible for the Dot-Com Revolution –and look as square and act as materialistic as the Suits they once railed against). But the cultural divide remains the same, and their children – the Generation X, Y/Millennials and now the Obama Babies — are basically a by-product of their never ending slugfest emerging from the battle grounds of Grant Park Chicago of ’68 (and the Watts Riots of ’65, to name a few).

So flash forward to 2009: The Health Care Debate (or as some have coined it: “Obama Care”, aka “Socialized Medicine”). Like a parallel universe where everything is inside out, upside down, topsy-turvy, holy-moly, and Mother-of-God what the fuck is happening???: The white bread, working class, mainstream has now become the loud mouthed protestors and the radical left somehow are the defenders of the new status quo. How the fuck did this happen??? Like some sort of Freaky Friday inspired episode of The West Wing, conservatives have hijacked the playbook of activist liberals and have begun to mobilize, rant, rave and picket. Sure, we’ve seen these kinds of shenanigans before at abortion protests and White Supremacist rallies. But the real precursor to the newfound radical, right-wing conservatives/libertarians has got to be the “spontaneous” Tea Party (or “Tea Bagger”) demonstrations that sprang up around the country (advertised by their friends over at FOX News – but of course, not sponsored ;-). You can’t stop the party! Keep the muthuhfuckin’ party goin’!!! Let the chants begin: “What Do We Want?: No Taxes! And When Do We Want It?: NOW! What Do We Want?: No Universal Health Care! And When Do We Want It?: NEVER!!!” The Whole World Is Watching!!! And thinking: “Huh? What the fuck???

Basically, the entirety of the Left-Wing activist collective has got be completely beside themselves… “You’ve stolen our act, dudes!” When fat, middle-aged, prickly white guys in trucker hats – sporting red-neck attire and sounding like Larry the Cable guy impersonating Al Pacino on a rant – start acting like Abbie-friggin’-Hoffman, you know the shit has hit the proverbial fan! They’re “mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore!” Every night, Glenn Beck loses his shit and recreates the seminal scene from the 1976 classic film Network. He’s become the cheerleader for the new radical right like some ‘60s lefty, yippie protestor – only he’s sporting a buzz cut and donning a business suit. Abbie Hoffman would probably find the FOX New prime-time line-up hysterically funny – like some kind of madcap theater of the absurd with conservative-leaning corporate sponsorship!

And this is EXACTLY the reason why: 1) I’ve never gone to a protest rally in my life 2) Refuse to call myself a “Liberal” 3) Hate chants, slogans, picket signs and political gatherings in general involving posters, catch phrases and marching. Mostly because: it doesn’t matter what side you’re on, mob mentality kills dialogue and stifles original thinking, but above all it doesn’t allow for constructive debate and a chance to find common ground. It’s the exact opposite of a democratic society, in my mind.

I know what you’re thinking: “But dude! It’s our right as Americans to protest against our government… freedom of speech is protected by the Constitution… the Civil Rights marches… protestors ended the Vietnam War, man!” No, actually, I don’t think they did. Nixon ended the Vietnam War because he found the endgame unattainable and realized, after Cambodia, there was no clear-cut exit strategy that would result in a complete American victory. Yes, the protestors helped to change the mood of the country, but Walter Cronkite’s nightly news broadcast alone probably had more to do with swaying the hearts and minds of the Silent Majority. The impact of the Most Trusted Man in America’s time in country, coupled with the debacle of Watergate years later, helped to tilt the country increasingly leftward and, after ousting Gerald Ford, ushered in the presidency of Jimmy Carter; not to mention the complete takeover of the Media and Entertainment Industry by the leftwing segment of the Baby Boomer Generation – mostly through the power of comedy (starting with Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and culminating with NBC’s Saturday Night which turned into Saturday Night Live which is now basically known as SNL… ‘cause like everything else, the title with the least amount of characters wins the day). However, those leftwing radicals did, in my mind, more harm than good and the reverberations of their actions are still being debated in our national dialogue (see Ayers, Bill: Weather Underground).

This is my take on political activism and protesting in general: it’s a royal pain in the balls! Subsequently, the reason why the majority of my Bay Ridge Brooklyn based, Italian-American, mostly working class family are staunchly conservative Republicans and not pro-union Democrats (like most immigrant working class northeasterners) is because – aside from the cultural landmines of abortion and gay marriage (they are Catholic after all) – the former hippie protestors turned limousine liberals of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, along with the African-American rioters who, during the blackouts, trashed Bushwick and the Bronx back in ’78 (the year of our Lord, and the New York Yankees!) pretty much bankrupted the city. These traditional values, old school Americans – sons and daughters of Italian immigrants who came to the New World to work hard and speak English – didn’t much care for the sight of Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York going up in flames while African-Americans stormed the streets – fists in the air and wielding baseball bats – and Puerto Rican and Dominican transplants swarmed into the neighborhood and supposedly lowered the property value.

This, of course, is how they see things (not the way I see it). Here’s the narrative: Teddy Kennedy, supported by his bootlegger father, and his Democrat cohorts that controlled Washington – along with a bunch of former hippies turned Upper East Side socialites – raised the taxes of hard working Americans and started doling out the Welfare Checks to lazy, chip on their shoulders minorities with an axe to grind and a hatred of white folks. They destroyed the social fabric of a once prosperous America, devalued the dollar, created a liberal cesspool of immorality and poor work ethic, turned young people gay, gave “niggas” the right to vote, opened the floodgates to let in all the “spics” and “‘ricans”, and used the Media to bolster their Communist/Socialist agenda by offering free publicity to every bra/flag burning, long-haired, Black Consciousness, pill popping, weed smoking, Hippie/Yippie, Pinko homo! That was the 1970s.

Then along came Reagan! The Cowboy Savior riding in on a wave of holy white light, taking his place as king of the Shining City on a Hill. He reestablished our place as the shining example to the world, tilted the balance of power back to the Right, converted Democrats to Republicans, bolstered the Religious Right and Evangelical Christians, established a trickle down society, made taxes a dirty word (if it hadn’t already been), made government the enemy and not the helping hand (and also made “government” a dirty word), fostered the concept presented by the 1987 Oliver Stone classic Wall Street: “greed is good” and made it feel good to be filthy stinking rich again. America no longer had to be ashamed of its leadership (see: Carter, Jimmy – Iranian Hostage Crisis). The whole world was watching, and wanted our blue jeans! The Cold War Warrior-In-Chief turned up the temp on the battle against the Evil Empire – the Rusky Soviet Union and all them hippie protestors had to fall in line or move to Russia, gawd-damn it!


When Red Dawn hit the movie houses in ’84, I was in middle school and fully enraptured by its message. I, like my other Midwestern, conservative leaning cohorts of my white bread prep school, were like mini-Reaganites. It’s probably difficult for those who know me now to think of me as a Reagan-baby who wore Izod’s and khaki pants and wanted to “kill a Commie for Mommy.” But I grew up in a Reagan household and went to a conservative Christian school and all I knew was Soviets were bad and Reagan good. Ironically, that’s EXACTLY the same narrative that’s played out every night on the FOX News network. Forget the Islamofascists, turban-headed terrorist of the Middle East. The real enemy is and always has been Socialist, Stalinist, Maoists… and hippies! OF COURSE, that’s when WE were strong and powerful. The world loved us! Conservatives were in control. Blacks, women and fags were still kind of in their place (or at least not in any significant places of power). The corruption of the ‘60s and ‘70s had been the cause of all of our problems, and Ronald Reagan was there to show us that, really, Daddy is still in charge and all is Right in the world again.

If you’re confused, oh ye Lefties scratching your collective heads, why angry middle aged white women are grabbing microphones at townhall meetings and literally crying: “I want my country back!” This is what the fuck they’re talking about! They never left 1984. They’re going home every night to watch Red Dawn. They never stopped fearing the Russians. Yeah, they’re distracted by the brown skinned, jihadist, towelheads, and will chant, whenever it’s convenient: “We Shall Never Forget” (the way Auschwitz survivors talk about the holocaust – September 11th is our holocaust. And for one horrific moment on 9/11, WE came together as a people and mourned together… as Glenn Beck cried on television when he implemented his 9/12 Project – an actual attempt by the Howard Beale of FOX to find some kind of reconciliation with “the Other” – meaning: Lefties.)

But the current health care debate is, like everything else, the continuation of the Reagan Revolution – the Right's default position. Only, this Revolution is being televised and the Reaganites are now the new Woodstock Generation. They’re getting their marching orders from their new warlord: Limbaugh, and their getting riled up each night by Murdoch’s stable of talking heads. They know the narrative. It’s simple: Democrats bad. Republicans good. Liberals: Socialists. Conservatives: True Americans. It’s so simple, so basic, so fundamental… so clear!


Hey, all you protestors on the left – you’re now reapin’ what you’ve been sowin’. You taught these muthafuckuhs how to do this shit! They’ve been watching you marching around all these years with your signs, and your banners and your slogans and your fists in the air, and your Code Pink pins, and your gay pride parades and your… concerts!!! Those fucking Tea Baggers just teabagged ya! How do ya like them organic apples? And now, you got one of your leaders, Keith Olbermann, doing “special commentaries” about all the brainwashed masses of angry townhall protestors and scolding their corporate taskmasters. Isn’t there something sickeningly hypocritical about a commentator on the Left chastising protestors on the Right for seeming unruly and shouting their dumbfounded gov’nment representatives down; you mean they’re not willing to have a civilized “discussion” about health care??? (Remember ’68: The Whole World is Watching!!!) All these gov’nment representatives are trotted out like show ponies and just stand there, all deer in the headlights, while an angry mob of retirement aged radicals get all Abbie Hoffman on their ass!

Again, this is why I DON’T MARCH AT PROTEST RALLIES! Because it’s the same shit, different ideology; nobodies listening, nobodies discussing, no genuine new ideas are emerging, no problems are being solved, no one is really being heard, no one is seeking common ground. We’ve become a country of: I’m right your left your wrong (and vice versa), fuck you! And I’m gonna scream louder than you about it… oh and everybody is a Nazi, by the way. All our leaders are like Hitler. Bush was like Hitler, Obama is like Hitler, Reagan was like Hitler… fucking: NO! HITLER WAS LIKE HITLER! People who never lived in Nazi Germany or Soviet Union Russia or Maoist China do not have the right to say: “My country is becoming like…” NO, IT’S NOT!!! And you have no fucking clue what it’s like because you’re from the suburbs of Indiana! Just because you watched Red Dawn doesn’t mean you have an evolved concept of living in a Soviet/Socialist society.

To echo the words or Mister Senor Love Daddy: “Yo! Hold up! Time out! TIME OUT! Y'all take a chill! Ya need to cool that shit out! And that's the double truth, Ruth!” (Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee. 1989) Nobody is gonna lead your grandma to a death camp. Nobody is gonna euthanize you when you hit 59. This ain’t Logan’s Run, bitch! America is not turning into the Soviet Union! Obama is not the anti-Christ and he’s not the Black Devil from Africa coming to rape you white women with his big, Kenyan cock and he’s not using health care as some sort of “retributions” Trojan horse! Yo, Glenn Howard Beale Beck – you really need to CHILL THE FUCK OUT!!!

All you loud mouth protestors, left and right, please, for the love of God, country and Ronald Reagan or FDR… take it down a notch! Sit the fuck down when the pony shows up at your little townhall and shut the fuck up; listen to what the pony has to say –think about it, mull it over, break off into discussion groups, stay calm, weigh the pros and cons, analyze, read, research, contemplate, meditate… and for fucksake – think about it on your own! Turn the gawd-damn TV off… shut off the A.M. radio, find a corner of the room, sit on your hands and get a fucking grip!


And please, people, stop talking like you’re a Constitutional scholar when… you’re not. Please, spare us your speeches on the Constitution as if you think the Constitution is like the Bible. Your interpretation of the political equivalent of holy scripture is not necessarily the end all be all. Last time I checked, none of you muthufuckus are named Thomas Jefferson (unless, ya know, your name is, indeed, Tom Jefferson) you weren’t there in Philadelphia back in the day and you weren’t part of the Continental Congress. No one I know, especially among my Facebook “friends”, is an expert on the Constitution (except for, ironically, my “friend” President Barack Obama, who actually taught Constitutional law – and as a side note: dont’cha think it’s more than a little arrogant to think you know more about the Constitution and can speak with more authority about it then an actual Constitutional scholar – who happens to actually be our Commander-In-Chief… whether you’re cool with that fact or not? Taking a few poli-sci courses in college does not a Constitutional scholar make.)

The Right doesn’t have de facto ownership of the true meaning of the Constitution – nor does the Left. It’s a living, breathing document, and it was also written by white men who owned slaves and summarized African men and women as 3/5ths of a person. They also stole the land we now live in from indigenous tribes and marched them onto reservations… if you really want to talk about death camps… So, when you read the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal… and the Pursuit of Happiness” and the Preamble to the Constitution, perhaps it may be wise to consider what President Obama is talking about when he discusses “perfecting out union.”

We’re constantly trying to perfect our union, and we’re constantly trying to find ways to not only improve upon the mistakes of our past, but also to use the Constitution as a guideline for our ever changing (and growing) society and population; this constantly adapting and evolving experiment in democracy. The Constitution is not a straight-jacket, it’s a blue print. So when you say “get back to the Constitution” as some sort of excuse for why you hate everything Obama is doing… yeah, you may want to actually, I don’t know maybe… ummm… shut the fuck up! (Mostly because, you’re probably a white boy from the South or the Rocky Mountain West and you probably think that you got slightly robbed after the Civil War. Sorry, the North won… black people have the right to vote… Goldwater, err, I mean McCain, lost the election… Obama is president… get over it!)

Anyway… I hope you see my point.

I don’t march… I blog.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I may just be reeling from the residue of nastiness that is the New York/Long Island/Jewish-Italian/West Palm Beach/Boca experience... but maybe what this country really needs is some hardcore, humble pie, Third World country, Great Depression Era suffering.

This past Thanksgiving season, on "Black Friday" (forever more, aptly titled) in the wee hours of the morning, the doors opened at a Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream Long Island. A stampede ensued crushing a Wal-Mart worker to death. TO DEATH! The man died because a bunch of suburbanite American consumers needed a flat screen TV. Many of the consumers simply walked over the man lying on the ground, or when they found out that he had just been trampled they basically shrugged and kept shopping... they... kept... SHOPPING!

On March 16th of this year, auditioners for America's Top Model stampeded down a Manhattan street for a chance of fulfilling their American dream of staring vacuously and vacant at a camera, wearing over priced designer clothing created for women with the physical attributes of Auschwitz survivors.

Starting with Bill Clinton's cozying up to Wall Street from 1996 until leaving office in 2000 coupled with NAFTA and the rise and fall of the dot-com revolution, were we really surprised by the likes of Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Arthur Andersen, Tyco (and the list goes on and on)? But were we even more surprised when after the Towers fell, our then President George W. Bush's answer to how to react to the terrorist threat was to... go out and shop! And now we have Bernie Madoff and dozens and dozens of Ponzi schemes worldwide.

If our government and top earning executives think the sky is the limit and the answer to every question is: spend more—then, why should it be surprising that the entire system seems to have imploded right under our supposed “over-taxed”, over-indulged, over-stimulated, maxed out credit card asses???

But back to the stampeding Wal-Mart consumers and wannabe models – and adding to that the middle class savages that I had on my flight tonight from West Palm Beach to John F. Kennedy International... for all the great things that we as Americans are – we're also a spoiled, obnoxious, childish, obstinate, self-serving bunch that somehow assumes we’re entitled simply because we’re American (or more specifically: Jews from West Palm, WASPs from Connecticut, Italians from Long Island, or undereducated Blacks or Latinos from any urban environment or U.S. common wealth).

When it comes to our collective douchebagishness – we’re all in this together! Considering that a large portion of the U.S. populace does not possess a passport, many of our fellow country-folk have never ventured outside of our borders. I mean, not even to Canada or Mexico: The OTHER America (we call ourselves Americans. But to the rest of the world, we’re part of a continent known as North America which consists of Canada and Mexico – hence they’re Americans toooooo! So, the United States of America is part of a larger tapestry – a tapestry that consists of our socialist friends to the north and south that just don’t seem to “get it” the way we do).

Judging from what I’ve learned and observed working as a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline for the past five years, most American consumers have no real concept of what it actually means to suffer. If your television goes out during the course of the flight and you think you’re entitled to some kind of financial retribution or have the right to throw a temper tantrum and demand something be done about this immediately – as if to infer it’s some sort of a moral affront to you that you can’t watch TV during your two hour flight – you need to spend a week in a South African, Indian or South American slum. And if there’s a smell in the cabin that doesn’t sit well with your delicate sensibilities and the thought of having to endure slight discomfort causes you to say something like: “You mean we just have to sit here and suffer…?” Yeah, you probably really need to suffer. Like, you need a month on Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) kind of suffering. You need to go through what some of your relatives may have gone through during World War II in Nazi Germany if you think what you’re experiencing now in coach class is suffering.

Basically, YOU, the forty-something, Jewish American Princess from Long Island with the fake tits, spoiled daughter and loads of botox – you need to suffer more. YOU, the fat, too much cologne wearing, smug, Conservative, Limbaugh listening, gold chain nestled on the tuft of grey chest-hair and sunburned skin who turns up your nose at me because I don’t have a lime for your gin and tonic – you need to suffer. YOU the obnoxious, Yankee baseball cap wearing, thick Staten Island accent guinea that makes me embarrassed to be of Italian decent -- YOU, who thinks you’re Tony Soprano and is angry beyond comprehension because your flight is delayed due to weather and you want to fight about it… you really need to suffer – Gitmo style.

And to you motherfuckers of flight 832 from West Palm Beach to JFK that was diverted to Atlantic City – for how you behaved and the way you left the aircraft by sufficiently trashing it beyond comprehension like the savages you are – I truly hope you suffered. But I don’t think you suffered enough, mostly because you actually thought you were suffering. And you, the woman in row three who actually thought that your TV going out was a reason to throw a temper tantrum; you are a Wal-Mart stampeder – infinitely and cosmically linked in some Universal Way to a giant black hole in the galaxy that sucks all common sense, decency and civility out of our society. Essentially, you suck… and you should suffer.

To all of you, my “friends", my fellow Americans: I wish this current recession upon you. I wish a great, great, GREATER Depression – the likes of which the world has never seen – on you because when you truly learn what it ACTUALLY means to suffer, it – as the Immortal Bard wrote in Henry V: “might gentle (your) condition.”

Monday, March 9, 2009


You might hate me for saying this: but I’m actually a little pleasantly pleased about the current bad economic tidal wave that has crashed upon America’s shores. Not so thrilled about it affecting other places around the globe that have been ravaged and underdeveloped since time and memoriam. But this Dow sliding, 401K diminishing, stock market crashing, “Clusterfuck to the Poor House” (thanks Jon Stewart and crew!) kind of seems like the exact medicine to heal the amoral, mentally poisoned, demented psyche that is post-W Bush America.

Let’s face it: we’re a fucking materialistic people. I don’t care if you’re a self-appointed “Conservative” or a “Liberal” or even if when I say “we’re a materialistic people” you go: “No! Not me! I fucking recycle! I care about the environment, and animals, and donate to NPR and join causes on Facebook!”

Yeah, yeah, yeah … you, me, the douche bag guy in the designer suit – sporting way too much cologne and is a little too proud of his accomplishments – sitting next to you on the subway or the Bebe/Juicy Couture/Uggs/big-ass Gucci sunglasses wearing chick – on her cell phone – doing her makeup while stuck in traffic on the 405 that you’re stuck behind… we’re all massive consumers and have been living way beyond our means for way too long.

Let’s face it: we love shit! Love to buy shit! Love to shop! Love the mall! Love online purchases! Love big screen LCDs! Drive gas guzzlers and crank air-condition! We love Vegas, baby!

Admit it: you’re a little guilty. You may not be one of the one percent that controls the nation’s wealth, sure. I mean, I don’t know any Billionaires – maybe you do? I have friends who have friends that are Billionaires or have been to parties where Millionaires cavort and schmooze. Those people are the real recession proof Americans…

And so am I! Because the current crippling state of affairs devastating America’s workforce and causing financial pundits on CNBC to go apeshit on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange – doesn’t really make much of a difference in my life. Sure, I saw my 401K drop a few thousand dollars and sure I work in a volatile industry where my employment is always at risk of disappearing at a moment’s notice.

However, I’ve always been broke! I’m a trained actor, screen and stage writer who desires a career in arts and entertainment. Essentially: I’ve never made any money… EVER! The last five years I’ve been employed at Jet Blue Airways as an In-Flight Crewmember based at JFK in New York is the longest I’ve been employed at one company my entire life.

Not exactly proud to admit this, but up until the age of 34, I never made more than $15,000 a year (if that). A large percentage of that time was spent borrowing money by way of student loans that I’m now paying back inch by inch, “precept upon precept, line upon line.” Yeah, you know the story: those crushing student loan payments which seem to never go away for an education that now seems completely futile and a degree that seems to diminish in value with the passage of time. But what I don’t have to worry about is a home mortgage, which apparently is the culprit that got us into this whole mess in the first place!

“Some people are meant to be renters.” Back in the ‘90s, there was this great show on CBS (which is a rarity): Northern Exposure. On that show there was a hunky character named Chris (played by John Corbett who dated Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw on HBO's Sex and the City and is now the dutiful husband to Toni Collette’s multiple personality wife on Diablo Cody/Showtime’s United States of Tara). One of my favorite episodes was when Chris was contemplating buying a piece of property from the wealthiest dude in Sicily, Alaska. In the end, Chris decides to continue renting his trailer and the rich real estate tycoon couldn’t believe that Chris would rather live in his double wide than actually own a house.

Yet what Chris understood that many people (that had they had the good sense to come to the conclusion during the gold rush of low mortgages, we all would probably be in a lot better financial shape right about now) haven’t seemed to grasp is that not everyone needs to own a home; some of us are better off as renters.

This is where I come in! And although I hardly live within my means, my overhead is relatively low, all things considered. Then there’s the matter of me being a self-centered manchild who doesn’t have any mini versions of myself running around crapping in their pants (at least none that I’m aware of). Essentially, I’m a single white male living in a two bedroom apartment in Queens paying rent, car insurance, cell phone bill, student loans… and credit cards.

But that all changed today! Today I am a free man. Free Credit Report Dot-Com here I come. Come on you old FICO score – rise, rise, rise!!! I’m about to head out of the 650 range up into the mid-700s. As of this week, I’m about to pay off ALL of my revolving, unsecure credit card debt in one fell swoop!

After five years of doing a job that isn’t anywhere close to what I actually want to be doing with my life professionally, and is completely uncreative and essentially a soul-sucking, mind-numbing (pretty sure with each red-eye I fly, a little piece of my soul dies and a fraction of my IQ is lost forever), spirit-crushing occupation – my goal of paying off the credit card debt I accrued while being unemployed for a while after 9/11 (not to mention the debt accrued traveling to Australia, New Zealand, Dublin, Paris, Prague, Krakow and Budapest) within five years is about to be accomplished!

While everyone else is losing their homes, searching the help wanted ads, avoiding looking at their 401K and canceling vacations or the purchasing of big ticket items – I’m about to be interest debt free (save those fucking never-ending student loans) and I’ve got my eye on an LG LCD TV and some new IKEA furniture for the two bedroom in Queens – plus, Germany in March, either New Orleans Jazz Fest OR Paris in April and Krakow again in May!

Recession, kiss my spicy Italian sausage! While everybody else is broke, I’m livin’ the dream! I travel nonstop – including roundtrip options on Lufthansa from New York to Paris for under $200.00 – stay at resort spas in Vegas for free, can go to any island nation I want any time for pretty much nothing, live a bi-coastal life with a car (fully paid for) parked in Los Angeles while I live a few train stops away from Manhattan.

You see, during the ‘80s and ‘90s, while everybody else was getting rich and riding high on the “trickle down” capitalist philosophy, I was broker and as busted as a Tampa stripper after a bad exchange with her coke dealer. Now that everybody else is crying over their dwindling bonuses and freaking out over stimulus packages and banking bailouts – I’m a few online transactions away from escaping debtors prison – while at the same time, I get the five year bump at Jet Blue – which means I make more money without having to work as many hours (or red-eyes!!!).

I’ve never had any money, so I don’t really know what it means to lose it! That’s the true definition of recession proof.

And this morning, after coming in off of a Long Beach red-eye (hurling through the air having the fucking clock jump ahead on me one hour like some kind of crazy Star Trek time warp) – the resplendent sun rising over the dilapidated row houses of Kew Gardens, trash gently nestled against walls and gates and gutters – I strolled past the cemetery while listening to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and the Polyphonic Spree’s “Section 9” (Light & Day/Reach for the Sun), then right before turning into the WaMu on Queens Blvd with check in hand to put me over the top, an old Sinatra tune blasted into my Bang & Olufsen’s… and as I approached the ATM and popped in my card, Frank crooned my theme song:
“…Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times,
I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way…

…And I swear to Christ, if there wasn’t tears of joy welling in my bleary, bloodshot eyes as I popped that check into that ATM and then grabbed that receipt to look at the number that would clear me of all past debts – then I stepped out into the light of a gorgeous new day, pumped my fists in the air, sang along with Frank to the last remaining lines of “My Way” and kissed the last five years of credit card debt goodbye!
How da ya like them apples, Suze Orman???

Recession be damned, I’m going to Germany mother-fuckers… Euros and all!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Great American Inauguration Road Trip - "ObamaStock '09"

(A Feature Article)

January 19th, 2009 - MLK Day and the Anniversary of My Birth

Woke up – freezing – unusually early, yet took forever to get out of Cousin Nicky’s place in Jersey. Mom calls. Conversation goes as follows:

Mom: Where are you?

Steve: Hi, Madre.

Mom: Are you on the road?

Steve: We’re just leaving now.

Mom: You mean to tell me you haven’t left yet?


Steve: How’s it going, Mom?

Mom: Stephen (*now I know she’s serious*). Do you know how much of a madhouse it is?


Steve: What’s up, Mom?

Mom: I’ve been watching the news (*guarantee she’s been watching Fox*) and they say they’re closing down roads and subways. You can’t get into D.C.


Steve: It’s okay… we got it covered.

Mom: I don’t believe you—

Steve: Did you really call me to do this?

Mom: You can’t get into D.C. from Virginia—

Steve: We’re not staying in Virginia.

Mom: You’re not staying in Virginia? Then where are you…? Aw’right. Okay. You’re not telling me where you’re staying. What you’re doing – (*I feel at this point it’s important to mention that my mother is not Jewish.*)

Steve: We’re staying with a friend of mine from college. She lives in Silver Springs.

Mom: Do you know how faaaaaaar (*her Brooklyn kicks in – more than usual*) Silver Springs is from D.C.?


Steve: Well thanks for calling. We’re heading out in a minute. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Mom: Okay (*the sound of surrender*). I give up. Have a good time – if you ever get there.

Steve: Will do, momma. Love you.

It’s at this point that I feel I need to mention I turned 38 on this day and my cousin is just shy of 50. Our trusty travel companion Gretchen is 24 but possesses the maturity level of a 34 year old (I, on the other hand, possess the maturity level of a 24 year old… on a good day).

We drive through the snow and arrive in Silver Springs around 2 p.m. and settle in at my amazing friend Michelle’s place (*the first thing I notice is that her roommate has the entire box set of every “West Wing” episode known to man, and I start salivating – and this is the exact moment when I realize I probably have a problem that requires some type of counseling).

Michelle could not be a finer hostess and her place is the perfect size to house all three of us. Plus, she’s a close driving distance to the train station (what???? They have TRAINS that go into D.C.???!!!). So far so good. The snow even stops falling and the sun appears… and little birds start chirping: “hope… hope… change… change.” Its magical!

We drive to the train station and find a parking lot with blinking meters. Thank you Martin Luther King, Jr.!!! I love your dream: free parking for every American regardless of the color of their skin! This is where we come face to face with the first “Inauguration Obstacle”: the line at the metro station (dum-dum-dum!!!)

If you’ve never been to D.C., they have – in my opinion as a frequent subway rider – the weirdest ticket dispensing machines in ANY country. They’re similar to the B.A.R.T in San Francisco, which is another pain in the ass system to decipher. But it’s the San Francisco/East Bay area and you expect that kind of insanity out there on the Left Coast. It’s just a tad bit more disturbing in the Nation’s Capitol. HOWEVER, this is also the place where members of Congress and Senate live, work and “play” and the I.R.S is located here. So, in a way, it sort of makes perfect sense for D.C. to have such a pain in the ass metro ticket dispensing machines.

Fortunately, there was a metro worker on hand to assist the masses of out-of-towners in town for the Big Day. It was at this time that I got a taste of what America is probably going to look like if the demographers are correct: that America will be a minority majority country by 2020. At the Silver Springs Maryland metro station, 2020 had already arrived.

During the primaries this summer, I headed up to Lenox Ave in Harlem; the smell of incense burning and Obama paraphernalia all around – those MLK/Obama t-shirts on sale at every corner. Recognizing I was one of a handful of white guys in about a ten block radius (and that’s being conservative), I was well aware of the importance of Obama’s presidency to the predominantly African-American community of Harlem and knew I was witnessing firsthand the historic seismic cultural and political shift happening in our country.

This is important to realize because many of my friends, including my own brother, have had a child within the last five years. So it feels to me like there’s a baby-boom going on – at least in my world. These “youngins” (as I like to call them) are now coming of age during the Age of Obama. A child born on January 20th, 2009 will not know an America in which a son of a black African father cannot grow up to be president of these United States. His or her first president is Barack Hussein Obama. Very few of us ever thought that would be possible in our lifetime.

And yet, here I am being assisted by a no-nonsense female African-American metro worker in a sea of mostly black faces buying a metro ticket (actually two tickets because after seeing that line, it became abundantly clear to buy the ticket for Inauguration Day a day in advance) with Barack Obama’s face printed on it! The mere act of buying a metro ticket on Martin Luther King Day was somehow elevated to the level of poetic justice. It reminded me again how proud I am to be an American when I purchased that metro ticket from that pain in the ass ticket dispenser in Silver Springs, MD, allowing me entry into our Nation’s Capitol.

Subsequently, as the two days unfolded, the ride out of D.C. back to Silver Springs seemed a lot quicker and with ticket already in hand the pathway to the platform almost hassle free. This could not be said for much else. Seriously, between one and four million people from as far away as Africa and Australia descending on an already heavily populated metropolis. Shit’s bound to be crowded.

(Post note: Worth noting - not a single reported incident of violence or arrest attributed to the event. So if we’re celebrating the election of the first mixed race president and the crowds are filled with a majority of black and brown faces streaming onto the Washington Mall… riddle me this, Rush Limbaugh… ahhh, never mind! Moving on.)

When we arrive on the Mall, the sun has already vanished and the night brings a crispness and cascade of lights that make D.C. a truly breathtaking sight to behold. The D.C. Mall is enchanting during the day for those of us history and political junkies. But at night, the lights illuminating the Washington Monument, Capitol building, reflecting pools and Lincoln Memorial add a touch of the mystical to the whole experience.

It’s a given that it’s going to be cold on Inauguration Day and the night before is not much warmer. It’s just that you don’t tend to care as much when you realize you’re about to be a part of History. Because of that, you can’t help feeling like you’re connected to something larger, something communal, something that unites you with every other person you pass along the path to the Lincoln Memorial -- because everyone else out there on this night is there for the same exact reason… just to be there.

There are tons of other tourist destinations that are much warmer or possibly colder (see: Sundance Film Festival Park City, UT – which probably had less the amount of big name stars in attendance on this weekend than in years gone by). But the weight of gravitas associated with the Lincoln Memorial was at maximum capacity on Inauguration Eve and for that reason… the line was out of friggin’ control!!! You don’t expect to see a line snaking all along the outer rim leading up to Lincoln’s statue. But you really don’t expect to have to wait upwards of an hour to get inside that sacred piece of architecture… in the friggin’ cold. I mean, being a part of History and soaking up the “good vibes, man” is one thing. Waiting on a long-ass line to get inside to read the Gettysburg Address one more time for posterities’ sake… yeah, not so much. Sorry Abe, one inauguration speech this weekend will have to do… preferably the most current incarnation. But thanks again for all the good work and the whole Emancipation Proclamation, etc al! Good call… good call!

Cousin Nicky is busy texting away with his good friend, a New York playwright and teacher, Tom Kelly’s younger brother Kevin who is married to a politically connected woman with ties to Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton. Basically, whatever connects Kevin and his wife have is equivalent to the kids in college who knew where to score the really good weed while you’re stuck with that brown, Midwestern skunk that lacks that nice mellow buzz (*or at least I’ve heard from people that do that sort of thing* ;-).

Since Lincoln’s tomb was a bust, Kevin tipped us off to a sage burning to exhume “all the bad vibes.” Oh, if only the burning of sage could erase the worst aspects of the past eight years. I mean, where were the true Liberal Birkenstock wearing, sage burning, good vibes spreading Granolas when we needed them most??? If only…!!!

(Post note: We never found the sage burning and pretty much ended up heading to DuPont Circle and walking for miles and miles trying to find Kevin’s posse and a functional bathroom. By the time frost bite officially set in, we were ready to head back to Silver Springs.)


Around 5 a.m. I awoke to the sound of something that seemed to be not human in nature. If you’ve ever crashed at a friend’s place on an air mattress, floor or couch or stayed at a hostel or slept in a tent or the back of a van with travel companions, you know that at least one member out of the group will inevitably suffer from a sort of sleep apnea that requires immediate medical attention. I won’t say who – in order to save this person from embarrassment – but I will say that I am related to this person and I pray it’s not an affliction we pass on from generation to generation.

Had I had the good sense to capitalize on this early rising, woken the troops and gotten the hell out of Silver Springs, we may have had a fighting chance at securing a spot on the Mall.

HOWEVER, here’s how it all went down:

At approximately three a.m. the masses already began to camp out at the entrances to the Mall. By five a.m. the crowds had already reached critical mass. The gates to the Mall opened around seven a.m. and within an hour the Mall was almost at full capacity. By 10 a.m. the Mall was full, at least from the perspective of whatever officials were in charge of barricading the city. Since other folks had the same idea we had – to crash at a friend or relative (or casual acquaintance renting their place for hundreds, and is some cases thousands, of dollars) out in the ‘burbs – the lines for the Metro started filling up by around 5 a.m. Due to the mass influx of bodies and trains heading into D.C. the system could not handle that level of stress and started breaking down. Trains were delayed, people left stranded at Metro stops… it was, to use a technical term: a “clusterfuck” of epic proportions.

Meanwhile, we lay sleeping. Because why bother dealing with all that nonsense? Surely when we show up at around 10 or 11 a.m., the crowds will have settled down and we’ll just waltz right onto the Mall without any major complications. At least that’s the way we discussed it the night before when trying to decide when to leave. It was yet another thing entirely when we awoke that morning, turned on the news only to realize that we may just be completely screwed!
Undeterred, we took our damn sweet time fueling up with breakfast (which turns out to be the smartest decision we made that morning: eat BEFORE heading to D.C.), deciding if we could get away with parking all day at the blinking meter (we decided we’d take the risk) and finally boarding the train (with ease because of those pre-bought tickets with our soon to be president’s smiling face printed on them). Me and Gretchen were a little crabby, while Cousin Nick was his usual jovial self (looks like HE had a good night’s rest!).

I became that guy who finds the first person who looks like a “local” who’s “in the know” and starts barraging them with annoying questions – not taking into account they’re stuck on the same damn train we’re on. Next to the “locals” was an extremely friendly middle aged woman who talked to everybody. She was from Nebraska. Figures. After a while we realized that pretty much everybody else had a ticket to the actual event. Of course they got on the train at nine a.m. because they weren’t fighting for a place on the Mall.

Word kept circulating around the train that they had already closed the Mall and were locking down city streets and closing down Metro stations. Still, the closer we got to the city, the more people got on board – screaming and hollering and waving American flags and Obama t-shirts. Nobody seemed to mind that our train had been delayed because apparently someone had fallen onto the tracks and closed down a crucial station.

It took us at least an hour to get go D.C., but we finally arrived at Judicial instead of heading into the insanity over at Metro Center – which turned out to be a major miscalculation on our part. Judicial is on the other side of the Mall that, it turns out, we needed to be on.

It was at this point that we realized nobody really knew anything and asking nearby cops (that were blocking a city street that lead directly onto the Mall) the best place to actually see the day’s events on a Jumbotron was hit or miss depending on the officer. I, of course, got the one who didn’t know nuthin’ about nuthin’. Gretchen – who was probably in a crabbier mood than I was on this most joyous of occasions (Cousin Nick still jovial and full of mirth) and posses a knack for finding the pertinent information – of course found the cop who knew where to go and how to get there.

The only problem was, it required walking through a tunnel that took about a half an hour (or at least that’s how long it seemed to take) to emerge on the other side and STILL be nowhere near the coveted piece of real-estate everyone and their mother (and grandmother and aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews…) hoped to enter.

Not even halfway through the tunnel we noticed a large percentage of people heading the opposite direction. We stopped a random passerby to ask her where she was heading: “Home. Watch it on CNN on my couch in my living room. You can’t get onto the Mall. They’ve closed all the entrances.”

Still, we pressed on undaunted! All these other motherfuckers were heading towards the other end of the tunnel, maybe they knew something she didn’t know. Finally, we emerged triumphant – and had no idea where the hell we were, but we knew the Mall was somewhere in the general vicinity.

It was now about 10:35 a.m. and the “show” was set to start at 11:00 a.m. with the swearing in to commence as close to noon as possible. With little precious time to waste, we hauled ass in the direction we thought would lead us somewhere close enough to the Mall that maybe, just maybe, we’d be in earshot of speakers and maybe, just maybe, a Jumbotron!

I had my mind sent on being near the Smithsonian metro station because the MSNBC tent was supposed to be close by and I – a nostalgic creature – was hoping to spend Inauguration Day with the same folks I watched Barack deliver his Invesco Field convention speech when I flew out to Denver hoping to somehow score a ticket. With time running out, we followed the crowd that scurried like fleeing rats in every direction until I heard a noise coming from the direction of… the Smithsonian castle!

I made a mad dash through the pathway around the building, following the sound of an announcers voice (trusty travel companion and mirthful cousin close behind) and out onto the open area that surrounds the entrance to the Mall from the Smithsonian metro station (only yards away from the MSNBC tent and Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann in all their Liberal Media Biased glory).

And there we stood – minutes away from the official commencement of the inauguration of President Barack Obama – with a metallic fence and some sort of military tent between us and the mobs of early morning risers packed in like roaches on a piece of property that stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to our Nation’s Capitol. (Watching it later on CNN, and seeing photos online, it was hard not to gasp at the first initial aerial shot of the huddled masses of humanity cluttered together on that historic Mall.)

We could sort of make out the images on the Jumbotron way off on the opposite side of the Mall, which was blocked by trees and even more obstructed by the people that had climbed onto its branches. But the speaker was right there and the crowd around us was as happy to have found this spot as we were, so it really was a most joyous occasion – with the sun shining and the birds chirping… “hope… hope…” etc.

The events played out and, depending on your political point of view, it was either hysterically funny or utterly disrespectful when the entire crowd of millions collectively booed the sight of former president Bush and vice president Cheney (not to mention some negative feedback I later got from posting a short video of myself playfully chanting the “na-na-na-na” song in honor of our 43 president on my Facebook page) whenever they appeared on camera.

When it was all said and done, my crew of two finally made our way onto the Mall as the crowds immediately started pouring out during the poet laureates big moment (apparently, not a lot of poetry fans in the surrounding area). Once the Civil Rights era preacher finished his set with the lines, “If you’re white, do what’s right” (which later caused a furor on some AM and FM talk radio programs) the inauguration ceremony had concluded and it was on to the parade along Pennsylvania Avenue...
And as the former president's official helicopter transported him back to the heart of Texas, everyone appeared to be from the Bronx as they saluted him with a great Bronx Cheer and one finger salute (*much to the utter disgust of my W. loving mother*).

Since the crowds had mostly cleared out, we had a clear shot at the MSNBC tent and – being the camera whores that we are – rushed over to stand among the mob gathered underneath the swooping camera in hopes that friends watching at home might recognize us! (Gretchen, incidentally, caught sight of her secret crush Keith Olbermann and started swooning like a school girl ;-).

We headed back through that long-ass tunnel and over to my friend from college Meredith’s place in the Chinatown district to unthaw our fingers and toes and refuel on hot chocolate. Meredith works for Texas representative Lamar Smith (R), so she actually had tickets to the event.

HOWEVER, neither she nor her brother and sister-in-law actually made it into their section because the line was so long and the coordinators so unorganized that they eventually just decided to give up and head back to her apartment to watch it streamed live online (Meredith is one of those people I know that doesn’t own a television – not sure how she is able to live… but she seems to manage).

And so it was that the masses of Mall dwellers, along with me and my posse, managed to enjoy the day’s events alongside a nearby speaker and Jumbotron while people that actually had tickets to the event headed home to watch it from their living room. Ah, Democracy in action!

Of course, Cousin Nicky’s friend Kevin – the guy married to a woman who knows Hillary – sat in the good seats (with the people with the good weed); all the while Cousin Nick texting with him back and forth while I received my favorite text of the day. It was from my friend Aaron from high school. He was in a bar watching the event with 100 other people and wanted to let me know he was with me in solidarity…
Aaron lives in Paris.