Monday, August 30, 2004

John McCain, a man.

McCain started out by invoking the memory of FDR, much to the chagrin of Tom Delay, who had to be sedated and hustled out the back of Madison Square Garden. As a matter of fact, none of the Delays, or the Santorums, or any of the other fire-breathing Republicans will be heard from on the podium this week. A kinder, gentler, face of the GOP is now on display. Where have these guys been? I wondered.

McCain stated early on that he didn't doubt the sincerity of his Democratic freinds, and he called them freinds, causing Karl Rove to briefly flash him the finger. ( This will not be reported on Fox News by the way.) The highlight for me, was when he called out Micheal Moore, whipping the crowd into a "four more years" frenzy. The last time that I can remember this many Republican's were this fired up was when the Star report was released in paperback.

"Love is stronger than hate." That reminds me of what some of those war protesters were saying back in the sixties. I'm glad it hasn't gone out of style. And I'm glad John McCain said it. John McCain is a man, the kind of man this country needs. I don't agree with everything he says, but that's ok, because like he said, we are all Americans.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Go Fish

Let's see, do you have a Willie Horton?
No go fish.
Do you have a Larry Flynt?
Do you have a Jesse Jackson?
Nope go fish.
Do you have a Christopher Reeve?
Yep, here you go.
Do you have an Al Sharpton?
No, sorry.
Do you have an FDR?
Yes, FDR.
OK, here you go.
Do you have a Barrak Obama?
Do you have a Max Clelland?
I'm out!
I can't believe you played the disability card!
Who knew there was such a thing?
I know!
Turns out there is!
(hah hahahaha) Laughter all around.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Early Draft of Bush's Convention Speech

A friend of mine, who works for CREEP, the committee to re-elect the president, (they brought the name back for old time sake)slipped me an early draft of the president's convention speech. There are some interesting revelations.

My fellow Americans, now, more than any time in our history, our country is at a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total annihilation. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
As a matter of fact, we can pray right now,because as you know, God is on my side. I know this because He told me. Mind you, God doesn't have anything against my opponent, John Kerry, He just doesn't like one of his friends, Bill Clinton very much.
But unfortunately this is a democracy,and God doesn't get to pick who's president, like He does in some countries, one of which most assuredly is not France, I can guarantee you. So I want to talk about some of the issues. Let me start with my favorite issue, the reason God put me in office in the first place; the war on the evil-doers. Or as that liberal rag, the New York Times calls it, the war on terror. This is my pledge to the American people: I don't care how much this war cost, I will not raise taxes on the richest one percent of Americans to pay for it, no matter how large the deficit looms. You see what my opponent doesn't understand is we can conduct a global, undefined, war on terror sucking up the nations resources without actually having to pay for it. What I mean is, we won't have to pay for it, but our children and our children's children will pay for it. And they will be happy to pay for it, because we will give them a world without terror. I know the world will be terror free, by the way, because God told me. And anyway, how many six year olds vote?
Today, we no longer live under the threat of imminent attack from Saddam Hussien. As you know, invading Iraq was just one more front in the war on terror. My opponent wants to live in the past. He questions the wisdom of our pre-war intelligence. I say, even without the stockpiles of weapons, or a credible link to 9/ll, invading Iraq was the best thing I could have done to make America safer. Again, I wasn't just listening to the CIA on this, you get my drift. (eyes look up towards heaven)

Now I want to talk a little bit about jobs. The liberal media keep saying we are loosing jobs in this country. I say we have turned the corner. We couldn't possibly loose more than we have already. I have it on very good authority that we won't. (glances up) And besides, most of those people who have lost their jobs, aren't going to vote for me anyway. (winks at the camera)...

And let me just say in closing; if I fail to deliver on my stated promises in my second term, I will not seek a third. And I'm not just making this promise to you, I...well, a higher power, has been promised something, I'll tell you that. Thank you.
God Bless our country.
And God Bless the United States of America!

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Day The Music Died

Dr. Nick made sure Elvis was well taken care of. Near the end Elvis was taking, Seconal, Placiclyl, Valmid, Tuinal, Demerol, and an assortment of other depressants and placebos. Elvis couldn't sleep. With Dr. Nicks help, he would be able to forever. Ginger, his girlfriend at the time, found him in the bathroom, on the floor, shag carpet full of vomit, pajamas pulled down. As his friends tried to revive him, little Lisa Marie wondered in, "What's wrong with my daddy?" His father Vernon cried out, "Oh, God, son, please don't die!"
July 1954 seemed a long way away. That's when he first walked into Sun Studio at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis and told the receptionist, "I don't sound like nobody." John Lennon once said, "In the universe of rock&roll, before Elvis, there was nothing." Indeed he was right. Before Elvis, there was the blues. Before Elvis, there was gospel music. Before Elvis, there was country music. Elvis took from all these and transformed himself into the first, true, rock star.
"Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and he started to act the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open -I don't know, he was either editing some tape, or doing something-and he stuck his head out and said, 'What are you doing?' And we said, 'We don't know.' 'Well, back up, he said, 'try to find a place to start, and do it again.'"
This is how Scooty Moore recounted recording "That's All Right Mamma" an Arthur Crudup song. This session was just the beginning of the revolution about to take place. The birth of rock&roll.
It was Elvis' rise from humble beginnings that endeared him to so many. This notion that anything is possible. That a truck driver making forty dollars a week, can one day become the most famous human being on the planet. Even today, go to the most remote village in China, mention Elvis' name, and inevitably, you will get some kind of smile. While in London, "Elvis" was invariably the first thing out of most people's mouth's when I mentioned I was from Memphis.
So today, it's fitting to remember what happened some 27 years ago. When the world lost a singer, but gained an icon, a symbol for all the possibilities one life can posses. We should remember Elvis,today. The day the music died.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Poet Bank Robber

I found out upon my return from England, that a friend of mine, who I haven't been in touch with in a while, was arrested for robbing a bank. Like everything he's done in life, he choose the more unorthodox route of driving up to the window, and passing the teller a note demanding money. I assure you this guy was unarmed, and probably wanted the money to buy drugs, although, at this point, it's all speculation. So now he's arrested, and as soon as I figure out how, I'm going to go see him.
He came by my work recently, left a note that said, {On my way to Santa Cruz CA, just wanted to see your face, asshole...} I wasn't there, but I wonder what we would have talked about, had I been there. Would that chance meeting have prevented him from landing where he is now? Did he even go to Santa Cruz? He was arrested locally.
I first met the poet bank robber when we were both waiting tables at a forgetable national bar/restaurant chain. We became friends once we realized we both agreed on how crappy our soul-sucking wait jobs were. We also bonded over Jack Kerouc and Allen Ginsberg. Both fascinated by the romanticism of Beat poetry and the possibilities of a life lived without constraints. I was dreaming about it, he was actually living it.
He got married in a coffee shop by an Elvis impersonator. They took off to places like Florida and New York city. I was happy for them. I was jealous of them. I wished I had the courage to take off like that, without anything certain. But it wasn't enough for him.
He eventually took off again, without her this time. This time for California. Stealing his wife's car, he ended up in San Francisco. What was he doing, I wondered? How could he do that to her, they were the perfect couple? What's going on in this guys head?
Eventually he made it back to Memphis, and I even got him a job working with me on the river. We talked about starting a free literary magazine here in Memphis, we were going to call it The Bluff City Bohemian. I asked him if he had anything in mind for the first issue. He gave me a collection of poems, a huge amount. Well, maybe not huge, but I had no idea he was writing poetry like this. And they were good, very good. I spent the next few days reading and re-reading them.
"Be careful with them, cause those are the only copies I have." he told me when he handed them over. One of the few times he showed real interest in something. That he cared how this was going to turn out. The magazine never panned out, and eventually the poet bank robber stopped showing up at work.
I lost touch with him after that. I would here things here and there; working at a convinient store in Florida, living in a commune in North Carolina, fathered a child with some other girl somewhere. But I never heard from him directly until he left that note at work a couple months ago. I was wondering where he would end up. I found out when I got off the plane from Amsterdam. Sad, really...

Monday, August 09, 2004

On The Road Again

Two and a half hour layover in Amsterdam, and not even a duty free liquor buying binge can raise my spirits. I am physically tired. Now, I just want to be somewhere. Not on my way somewhere. Home, will be nice, with it's airconditioning, (of which there is very little in London) and it's, well, nothing else really. I just wasn't ready for this to be over. But, I suspect I will be OK once I'm back in the dirty south.
The weather was rainy and gray in London this morning. A violent thunderstorm blew through London around 3:30 a.m. waking me up, not that I was sleeping all that well. The weather, everyone has informed me, has been exceptional for London during my stay. When I landed on Tuesday, a rain storm came through quickly, but for the most part, it was sunny and very warm.
I kept telling the Londoner's, I was going to tell my American friends that London is a tropical paradise! It is a paradise, of sorts. If you love history, if you love architecture, if you love literature, if you love people! London is rich and abundant in all of these. Everone should visit London. It's no shangri-la, but it IS a special place. The whole world lives in London. And they are all welcomed and allowed to thrive. A place such as this, gives you hope for the future.
Hope indeed.
See you in America!

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Past Is Prologue

The time I've spent here, in beautiful London, has been a life altering experience. For me, it confirmed a lot of suspicions I've had about the basic goodness of people. I've also been surprised. Surprised by the vastness of this city. Surprised by the way it is layed out. London is an organic urban landscape. The streets are not on a grid system, which would be terribly efficient, rather London has grown like an onion with differing layers upon layer, some of them overlapping and folding upon each other. The randomness of it's streets belies the civility of it's populace. The people move about in this urban landscape in the most orderly fashion. If an elderly woman gets on the crowded tube, a seat is immediately offered to her. People wait patiently while the tube car is exited before boarding, no pushing and shoving, that would be very un-British.
"Do you drink MOW-TAN-DO?"
"What about GAY-TOR-AID?"
These were some questions I got, with the overly pronounced syllables at a few pubs. It was all in good fun. "They taste similar, don't they, mountain dew and gatorade?"
Oh yes, we had fun with that one.
The people, this was the best part.
Today, I didn't go anywhere touristy, I went to a cookout. My favorite part of the whole trip, talking to people who live here. My gracious host's friends are all colorful characters, a lawyer, a writer for a London paper, a hand bag designer, a financial consultant, a web-designer, just to name a few. We discussed everything, politics, music, I found out a lot about other cities in Europe. I hate leaveing. I don't want to leave. But one thing I know is, I'll be back. My first trip here, was just laying the groundwork for subsequent trips.
I get a feel for a place rather quickly. I can tell in no time at all if I "get" a place or not.
I "get" London. I feel at home here. I love it!
Next stop,dreaded reality...but there's always next year!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

A Tribute To The King

Well, there are those of us who can use the language, and then there is Shakespeare. I visited the Globe theatre today. One of the few attractions in London that actually cost money. I insisted on going, I don't know why excactly. I felt a need, to somehow acknowlege his contribution. His genius. The rebuilt Globe is as faithful to the original as possible. The only record that exist visually are all renditions of the outside. And records of other theatre's of that era. It felt good to be there. (or anywhere here for that matter)
They still perform Shakespeare's plays there. I would love to go see a performance, but my time is running short. I spend a lot of time, planning my next trip here. I have mastered the intricacies of the tube, and the National Rail. The stations here are as ubiquitous as the malls in America. Only much more utilitarian. Here are the stations I've been in: Victoria, Paddington, Waterloo, and Charring Cross. They are full of places to eat, and clothing shops. They also have plenty of restrooms and ATM's. (yep, your check card works just fine here, a little too good in my case.)
We also visited the Borough Street Market. This place was an open air market that had everything from French wines to fresh fish. There were also lots of places that prepared food for you fresh. I was tempted to try the chicken and mushroom pies, but just wasn't hungry enough. We ended up eating at this nice French restartant, called Cafe Rouge. When I saw it, I asked my gracious host, is that Cajun? Nope. They have French restaurants over here. Haven't seen any cajun, although I'm sure they are around.
Also visited the Tower of London today, and low and behold, the Tower Bridge was raised yet again, this time for a paddle wheel steamer called the Dixie Queen, yes, brought me right back home to Memphis!
I'm tired, so I don't really have time to go into last night, but I will say that there was no young Thai student within 1000 meters of where I was. Sorry to dissapoint. But, there were lot's of English girls about, all of them absolutely loving this American accent. Will write more later. Now, must have one more bourdon and coke.
All the world is indeed a stage! Shakespeare WAS right.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Good Food, Lovely Music, Fit Staff, With Tight Assess...

That was written on a placard in front of a restaurant in Greenwich. I love England! I love the English sense of humor. On the boat trip yesterday, the captain pointed out Somerset House. For a time, this is where they issued marriage licenses, birth certificates, and death certificates. "Match 'em, hatch 'em, and dispatch 'em, they used to do there." See, funny.
This morning we visited the Natural History Museum. This is a very large, beatiful stone structure. The building itself should be in a museum. All of London should be in a museum. Inside, there were fossilized remains of dinosaurs everywhere. We spent three hours walking around and still only saw 25% of it. It's just to massive for one day. It's not all dinosaurs, we walked the human body exhibit, as well as the geology exhibition. Great stuff on valcanoes and plate tectonics.
When we left, we walked around the corner into the pedestrian subway emerging a few blocks away, and checked out Royal Albert Hall. Got some good pictures there, including Prince Albert's memorial, across the street in Hyde Park. Hyde Park! I just got in from Hyde Park. Once again, the whole world was represented. I even took a survey being conducted by this Thai graduate student about tourism and the internet. The fact that she was completely beautiful, had nothing to do with it I assure you. But that may have been why I ask her to have drinks with us later on tonight.)
Which is why I am updating now, rather than at the end of the night. The weather in London is spectacular. And when it's like this everyone, as my gracious host has explained to me, likes to go out and about. (Every pub we've been in has been packed every night.) And tonight it will be crazy. When we get back in is anybody's guess. I don't really know what's going to happen tonight, but I doubt I'll be updating the dirty south for a while! Cheers everybody!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

East Meets West

Today I visited the Royal Naval Observatory. As many of you know, this is the spot on the globe, where the Eastern hemisphere ends and the Western hemisphere begins, in Greenwich, England. The Prime Meridian as it's called. Being a mariner myself, I felt a certain gratitude toward the work that went on there. Producing the most accurate maps of the heavens ever produced, allowed the trans-Atlantic sailors of the time to better navigate there way to the New World.
Getting there was half the fun. We took a boat tour from central London, up river to Greenwich, a trip that took about an hour. Upon boarding, I assured the captain that, in the event of an emergency, I would indeed be able to take the helm and land her safely at one of the many docks on either side of the Thames. This made everyone feel better, except of course, the captain. He instructed me not to approach the wheelhouse in any way, to which I said, "My river drains an entire continent, your river only drains a wee island!" Ok, this didn't happened, but I imagined that it did, while we were underway. The Thames at London is tidal. That is, on our way to Greenwich, was during low tide, so we had ample clearance travelling under the low lying bridges of London. On the way back, the river had risen 20ft! We were just barely "making" the bridges on the way back. I would say, conservatively, the wheelhouse had maybe three or four feet to spare with the bottom of the bridge.
We were treated to an exceptional sight on our way back, The Tower Bridge, commonly mistaken for London bridge, was opened up to allow a sailing ship through. This happens so rarely that my London host had never seen it done before. The tour guide explained that anyone with a boat tall enough can have the drawbridge raised, but you must give 24 hr notice before transitting at no charge to the boat.
When we got back downtown, we rode the 'London Eye'. Which is the huge ferris wheel erected for the millinial celebratrion. The 'eye' has fairly large pods that hold up to 25 people, they are air conditioned and even have a large oval bench with wich to sit down in them. It takes 30 minutes to go all the way around! The thing never stops, you just get on and off as they slowly transit the bottom reaches.
When I update this, it's alway at night and just before I sleep, I never have time to talk about everything. That's how it is here. Every second, something happens.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

A Thief In Victoria Station

The announcement over the PA was very matter of fact--'There has been a report of a handbag thief operating in this building. Please mind your personal belongings very closely. Thank you.'
Great, I thought, here I am my first day on my own in a strange foriegn city, and there are handbag thieves about. My gracious host was spending the day attending to his knee at the doctors office (he's fine) and I was exploring the big city by myself. When I got off the train, from Balham, at Victoria station I heard the thief announcement. Undaunted, I struck up Buckingham Palace Road on my way to see, yep, Buckingham Palace. Seemed like a good starting point for a newbie. It was, got some really good pictures and met a few interesting people. Queen Victorias memorial is an awsome site indeed, with its gilded statue and fountains. People here hang out on monuments. I mean there were people IN the fountain, just hanging out. They sit on the steps that surround these monuments. They skateboard around them. The live on them. Trafalgar square with Nelson's Column in the middle, had the same thing. People every where around it, sweating on it.
In St. James park, I bought an ice cream cone and took some pictures of the water fowl and people laying out in the sun. I was struck by all the accents I overheard, the whole world was represented. I felt good to be there. This, I thought, is how the world should live. Walking in the park together, enjoying ice cream, laying in the sun.
In Embankment Park I happened upon a huge statue of Robert Burns. Yes!! I took some pictures, and then dutifully recited his 'To a Mouse' poem in my most effective Scottish brogue. You can do stuff like this in London and it all seems ok. Life is to be lived here, people expect that. What they don't tolerate are handbag thieves.

Paris Is Burning!

Paris trip-gone! Last night, my London host injured his knee while crossing the street, the narrow street. A freak accident, involving a car. This morning he woke up and told me he didn't think it would be a good idea to travel today. Knee not doing well, mate. So, no Paris. Disapointed, yes. But not distraught. I'm still in London. Now just have to figure out what plan B is.
While my friend rest his knee, I may just jump on the tube and go exploring. I love public transportation. Riding into SW London from Heathrow yesterday, I was struck by how non-confrontational the British are. I was a littly punchy from all the travelling, and staring blankly into space. At one stop, this big mean ferocious looking dude got on the tube and took a seat near me. He looked up, saw me staring at him, and immediately averted his eyes. I wasn't trying to stare the guy down, I was just in a fog, and didn't realize I was staring. In Chicago, that dude would have asked what my fucking problem was, and may even have kicked my ass. It's not like that here.
We went to a great Indian restaurant last night. Hanging out with the young urban profesionals of London, we discussed everything from British monetary policy, to the pre-Thatcher, post Churchill Prime Ministers. I also gave a dissertation on the finer points of bbqing pork shoulder. (A subject everyone seemed fascinated with, after several cocktails and ales.) So, no Paris, but all is not lost.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Cabbies In London

There is an unwritten rule on London streets. GIVE WAY! All the time, these narrow ass streets wouldn't have it any other way. My brain never got used to the wrong-side-of-the-road-driving, but on top of that, the streets, the narrow fucking streets.
I wanted to scream; Hey! Slow the fuck down! to the cab driver. But I didn't, because secretly I wanted to crash. Secretly I wanted to get out and look around. Everything here is so cool and interesting. And the women are incredibly beautiful. I love it here, I'm never coming back.

Live From Amsterdam

Just a two hour layover. Schiphol Airport has a pub called Murphy's! How ironic. So I went in and had a couple of pints for old times sake.
Rose, you were right, everybody smokes here (cigarrettes) just like the '70's.
So far the only thing that jumps out at me about Europe is, all the German kids are skater-punks. Of course I just got here, and won't be here for long. Next stop, LONDON!
I've only got 30 minutes of time on this terminal, so I'm going to do a little surfin' before I go back to Murphy's. (One for the road)

Lefty, send money!

Monday, August 02, 2004

A Fine Day To Be Travelling...

Authorities are closing the Holland tunnel and beefing up security in DC, and I'm checking to see if I packed enough Mach III razors. New Jersey is in lock-down, and I'm wondering, khakis, jeans, or shorts for the 8 and a half hour plane ride to Amsterdam. A fine day to be travelling indeed.

I wonder, as I take stock of reading materials for my backpack, what if something happens while I'm out of the country? What if I can't get back, when I plan? My thoughts range from the serious; (Madrid train bombings earlier this year), to the mundane (thank God I don't have to arrange for the care and feeding of a pet or person while I'm gone) The practical; (how much money to bring, when/where to exchange it) to the absurd (I will feel better if there aren't 14 Syrian musicians on my flight) These are the times we live in. No more fool-hardy jaunts overseas for the free-spirited. No, now you worry about things like contact information, next of kin notification, State Department travel advisories. You worry about looking too American, becoming a target. You wonder, how many metal detectors will I pass through before I get to see the Mona Lisa, and will that be enough.

Sunday, August 01, 2004


Tommorrow marks my first foray into the land of international diplomacy. First London, then Paris, and then London again. While in Paris, my first task will be to find a karaoke bar. And after I get a head of French wine in me, I'm going to hit 'em with some "Born in the USA" by the boss man himself. And if I so much as detect even the slightest bit of smarminess from any of those French sons-a-bitches, I'll break out the big guns. That's right, Charlie Daniels. "This lady may have stumbled, but she aint never fell, and if the Russian's don't believe that, they can all go straight to hell!" Of course I'll have to substitute "Frenchies" for "Russian's". Then they'll know I mean business. Then they'll know who they're dealing with.
I'll let them know that we, in America don't give a fuck what they think. And if they still haven't gotten the message, I'll borrow a little ditty from our English bretheren, a little "We are the Champions" by Queen. You know, declare victory and get the hell out. I need a few more suggestions. I want to show them that I can be soulful and jingoistic at the same time.