Monday, March 31, 2014

Innocent As Charged

Last January Thai authrotities arrest five police officers for the murder of a Saudi businessman seeking to retrieve some of the loot from the infamous Blue Diamond Heist of 1989. The actual thief fled to Lampuang Province where he sold the jewelry for as little as $30. A Bangkok jeweler supposedly purchased many pieces before the police brought the thief, who had been a gardener at a Saudi palace, to justice. Kriangkrai Techamong was sentenced to five years in prison (serving 3).

The police returned jewelry to the Saudi representatives and when they complained about the switch for fake gems the diplomats and a businessman were murdered execution-style in 1990 souring relationships between Thailand and Saudi Arabia until the present.

The most famous piece, a rare blue diamond, has never surfaced after this crime, but the Bangkok jeweler's wife and child were murdered in 1994 after police had tortured him to find the whereabouts of the treasure. Over twenty police were dismissed from service in connection to this double-murder and General Chalor Kerdthes was sentenced to prison after a 13 year-long trial.

His stay at Klong Prem prison was comfortable according to a report by http://www.andrew-drummond.com

Convicted British drugs trafficker David McMillan, who boasted being the only prisoner to have escaped from Klong Prem Prison, where he was eventually sent after Bangkwang, told me in an interview, the first since his escape:

“General Chalor had an even more comfortable time than I did. He was like royalty. He had taken over the prison’s ICU (Intensive Care Unit) - which is course really meant for sick prisoners - as his own suite.

“Whenever I saw him, he was drunk. He had his own supply of Johnny Walker Black Label, the drink of choice to many rich Thais. He must have done at least two bottles a day. He even turned up drunk to court but dressed smartly and arriving in a police limo. I asked Chalor if he could help me with my case,” said McMillan. "And he replied saying ‘Sorry but you’re f**ked’….He was nothing, if not honest!”

Honest?

No one was honest in this affair and the five police officers involved with the case were acquited of any guilt by a Bangkok court for lack of evidence in the possible murder of Saudi businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili in February, 1990. A key witness opted not to show up at the trial for fear of reprisal and the first judge was changed for the acquitting judge several months ago.

The Bangkok Post reported that Matrouk al-Ruwaili, the abducted man's brother-in-law said he was certainly disappointed. "After all these 24 years, Thailand still shows a lack of fair judgement. In fact changing the presiding judge in the middle of the case is a negative thing for either side."

Thailand and Saudi Arabia are not the best of friends, but Thailand is a long way from Saudi Arabia.

And the Thais are well-versed in telling foreigners 'yet mung', which was what this verdict says to the Arabs.

Airy Fic they might understand better.

It's all in the accent. For a good timeline on the Saudi Blue Diamond Heist, please go to this URL http://jotman.blogspot.com/2009/08/timeline-of-blue-diamond-affair.html

Jocko Weyland Opening in Konstanz

This weekend Master skateboarder/artist/curator Jocko Weyland will be exhibiting his newest works in Switzerland. If I were close, I would go.

Here's the info.

Axel Görger & Jocko Weyland @ Holz & Beton

Kunstausstellung Neuwerk , Großer Saal Oberlohnstrasse 3 78467 Konstanz

Vernissage / tunes by Sergeant Pfeffer : Saturday 05.04.2014 / 20.00

Finissage / concert with country band "Death Machine" : Friday 11.04.2014 / 20.00

Open from 18.30

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weird Womb's Tour Manager

Last week Dakota Pollock of Weird Womb asked me to write a band bio.

I became friends with the group's singer and Johnny the guitarist at the 169 Lounge, Chinatown's epic dive bar on East Broadway and had seen the Tucson quartet at Shea Stadium, so I told Dakota, "Sure."

They were my favorite new band and I wrote the following;

After Weird Womb fulfilled their anti-social studies in Tucson, the garage-punk quartet drifted to New York and forged their music in the crucible of infamy. The endless hours of rehearsal have rewarded Weird Womb with a tight onstage persona of a band seeking the enlightenment of oblivion, as the four friends devoutly reincarnate the sonic soul of rebellion within a solid wall of guitars, bass, and drums topped by their frontman Dakota Pollock singing UNDER MY SCUM and PALE PISS.

Their ‘Ruined by the 90′s’ tour will hit the road in the late summer, but until then catch Weird Womb when and where you can in New York.

They don't suck.

Dakota liked it and on Friday I sat at the bar of the 169, drinking 'gansetts' and eating oysters, while extolling the virtues of the MC5. The lead guitarist Johnny Saczko was in agreement and said, "You know you should be our tour manager this summer."

"Where you going?" I didn't have a steady job. In fact I had no job.

"The West Coast." Johnny was a little older than Dakota, whom he had met at a troubled youth office in downtown Tucson along with the other band members Eric Parisi, the drummer, and bass player Brad Pitt.

"Like LA, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco?"

"Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz aren't into punk."

"You're a punk band, I thought you were a BeeGees cover band."

"We don't do covers. We're hitting San Jose and Arcata. Your job would be organizing everything, driving the van, and making sure we get paid."

"Cool." I liked the idea of handling the money. I shouted to Dakota at the other end of the bar. "Yo, I'm your new tour manager."

He walked down to us and Johnny explained the plan.

"Great, can you stay up past midnight?"

"Not in New York, but I'll have a three-hour timezone advantage on the West Coast." That put my pillowtime a little past 2AM. "Anywhere else other than California?"

"Oregon, Washington, Montana, North Dakota."

This was a dream trip.

"Count me in."

We toasted my new job with whiskey shots.

It had a nice ring to it.

Weird Womb's tour manager.

To hear Weird Womb's PALE PISS, go to this URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBNcHgt614A

KICK OUT THE JAMS by Peter Nolan Smith

In the fall of 1969 my all-boys parochial school entered a chocolate-selling competition to compete with the other Catholic educational institutions in Boston. The top prize for most sales of the city-wide contest was a concert by a band from Elektra Records. Rumors abounded that the band on offer was The Doors.

LIGHT MY FIRE had hit # 1 in 1967. Catholic girls loved Jim Morrison. The Lizard King couldn’t satisfy all of them, so our 1000-plus strong enrollment scoured the virgin suburbs of the South Shore with boxes of outdated chocolate bars, dreaming of teenage girls dancing to THE END.

Our school had never hosted a live show in the gym and we beat our nearest rival by over $5000.

On the cold morning December 1st our principal ended the morning messages by saying, “I congratulate you for selling the most chocolate bars. The cardinal also sends his thanks for the papal recruiting fund. I suppose you’re wondering who the band is.”

I was sitting in English class with thirty-five other seniors. Brother Bede leaned against the blackboard. We chanted, “Doors, Doors, Doors.”

The ex-boxer raised a hand to still us. My father had seen him fight as a heavyweight at Boston Arena. No one challenged his the broken-nosed brother’s commands.

“I’m pleased to announce that Elektra band chosen the MC5 to be backed up by a local group, the Odyssey.”

“MC5?” The school’s quarterback pounded on his desk. “Who the fuck are they?”

His question stumped everyone in the room, but me.

“The Motor City 5 are out of Detroit. They opened for Led Zeppelin at the Garden two months ago.” Narragansett Beer had hosted its first Tribal Rock Festival to a sell-out crowd of 17,000. “In 1968 they appeared three nights at the Boston Tea Party with the Velvet Underground.”

“I w-w-wish you w-w-were as good w-w-with English as you are w-w-with rock and roll.” Brother Bede had not won that fight in Boston Arena or a few other combats. His stutter was a result of many beatings.

“Yes, b-b-brother.” I shared his perchance for a stutter.

“Who cares about history?” The quarterback glared in my direction, as if I had been the person in charge of deciding which band played at our school. “Are the MC5 any good? I’ve never heard of them.”

The majority of the class muttered out their disappointment. The Doors meant making out with girls.

“Good? They don’t play RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD.” BJ Thomas’ hit was # 1 on WBZ AM.

“They can’t be the Doors.” The quarterback was from Brockton. It was a tough town.

Only WBCN-FM played the MC5.

“The Doors are what people want you to hear. The MC5 are the best live band in America.” I was into rock and roll. My record collection was second to none. I had seen the Turtles, Animals, Shocking Blue, the Remains, and Rocking Ramrods at the Surf Nantasket, the Modern Lovers at Cambridge Commons, the Ultimate Spinach and Beacon Street Union on Boston Commons. My hair ran over the back of my shirt. My mother called me a hippie.

“Have you ever seen them?” The quarterback had won our school a state championship. He was a god in the eyes of my classmates. His favorite band was the Beatles.

“No, but I have their live LP. KICK OUT THE JAMS. I can bring it to school tomorrow. We can listen to it in the audio lab during study.” I hated the Fab Four.

“At least they have a record.” The quarterback wore his hair long like Paul McCartney. His girlfriend was the head cheerleader at our sister school, Our Blessed Virgin High School.

“And it’s better than THE WHITE ALBUM.” My girlfriend was cheerleader at my town school. Kyla loved the Beatles and I never told her about my deep dislike for the pop sell-outs. At least she wasn’t into Paul.

The quarterback rose from his desk. Brother Bede stepped between us.

“Sit down. There’ll be no fighting in my class or anywhere else.” Brother Bede liked my poetry, but he was asst. coach on the football team and the quarterback was his boy. “You have that?”

“Yes, brother.” We shook hands with crunching duel of grips and then took our seats. We both rubbed our knuckles on the way back to our desks. Brother Bede had us read from A SEPARATE PEACE.

During lunch everyone discussed the MC5.

Three other boys had heard of them; my best friend Chuckie Manzi and my two younger cousins.

“Hippie girls love the MC5. They symbolize revolution. The record opens with the lead singer yelling ‘motherfucker’.” Chuckie had listened to the album in my basement. His mother would kill him, if she heard that word in her house. My mother too, only she worked during the day.

“They have the balls to sing ‘motherfucker.” The quarterback’s opinion elevated the MC5 to that of the Kingsmen, who mythically shouted ‘fuck’ during LOUIE LOUIE.

“They were also the only band to appear in Chicago during the Days of Rage in 1968 and they played for eight hours straight.” I learned about the band from the WBCN DJs, who worshipped their non-commercial fervor.

“So they’re against the war.” The quarterback had a brother stationed in Da Nang.

“Yes.” I was no liar at this point in my life.

“Then that’s good enough for me.” The only out for Brockton boys was the army or prison and the quarterback was lucky enough to have colleges interested in his arm.

None of us were traitors, but at the end of the school year we were meat for the draft and even high school seniors knew that the Pentagon didn’t want to
win this war.

The next day I brought in the MC5 LP. Our study period was right before lunch. The quarterback and I entered the audio lab. The librarian lent us headphones. I cued up the first track and turned the volume to 10. John Sinclair introduced the band.

“Brothers and sisters.” The radical from Detroit demanded from the audience at the Grande Ballroom,

“Are you ready to testify? I give you a testimonial. The MC5.”

The feedback guitars and falsetto lead voice caught the quarterback off guard like a safety blitz, but within seconds his head was rocking on his neck and he smiled his approval.

Hearing ‘motherfucker’ on KICK OUT THE JAMS turned his smile into a grin. He pulled off the headphones and said, “They’re great, but we have a problem. The brothers will never let them say ‘motherfucker’ at the concert.”

“How they going to know about that?” In my minds the brothers listened to folk songs and Georgian chants.

“Some of them are young. They have contacts with the anti-war movement. We have snitches at school. They’re going to find out.” The quarterback believed in a good defense and lifted the stylus off the LP. “You never brought this to school.”

“You want to borrow it?” I rarely lent out records. No one ever gave them back in good condition.

“You would do that?” The quarterback slipped the record into the cover sleeve with care.

“We are not the problem.” I answered quoting John Sinclair. “We are the solution.” It was 1969. This was our world.

The quarterback instructed his team to squelch any mention of the MC5 and the word motherfucker.

His offensive line were the biggest boys in the school. We reached the Christmas vacation without a breach in our silence. The quarterback gave back the record on the last day before break.

“Sorry, but everyone in my town wanted to hear it.”

“I understand.” I resisted checking for scratches and wished him a happy new year. “You too.”

As soon as he was out of sight, I pulled out the LP. It was untouched.

We were the high society.

Tickets went on sale the first day back at school. They cost $2.50 each. I put away $10 for Chuckie, his girlfriend and Kyla. I walked into school in January and headed to the school store. Over a hundred students were lined up for tickets. The Dean of Discipline was asking them about the band.

“Do they have a hit?” The Dean was fast with his hands. “No, brother,” answered a nervous sophomore.

“Then why are you going?” In his US history class he preached that J. Edgar Hoover deserved our respect for fighting godless communism and now suspected something was amiss with the MC5.

“They have a new album coming out BACK IN THE USA.” Charles Laquidara had mentioned its release on his 10pm shift on WBCN-FM.

“So they’re ‘hip’?” The Dean of Discipline kept up with teenage slang to pretend that he wasn’t so different from us. The act didn’t fool any of us.

“Yes, brother.” Conversations with the Dean was best kept to five words or less. He was a dedicated witch-hunter.

“I look forward to seeing them.” The Dean of Discipline walked away from the queue with his hands in his pockets, but this first round of interrogation was not the last. The Dean was very thorough in his investigation into subversion.

“Keep your mouths shut.” I wagged a warning finger at the sophomore. “About what?” “Good answer.”

Our parents thought that we were meant to be seen and not heard, but those days had ended at our school after last year’s strike to abolish the dress code. White shirts and tie were now optional and we regarded anyone wearing them as stooges for the old regime.

The MC5 show sold out the first day to the amazement of the school principal.

The quarterback told him that the student body was charged up about the first concert at the school. His hero status convinced the principal that a rock band was no threat to our souls and said that he was looking forward to seeing the group.

“They’re loud.” “As long as they don’t break the sound barrier, I’ll be fine with loud.”

The quarterback and I felt confident that our deception would skate under the radar, then two nights before the show a disc jockey on WBZ reported on a secret concert by the MC5 at our high school.

The second I heard his report, I knew this was trouble and the next morning the principal ended the morning messages by announcing, “It had come to the school’s attention that the group scheduled to appear this Saturday night has been involved in an obscenity controversy. School policy strictly bans any curse words by teachers, students, and visitors.”

“Obviously the principal has never been to football practice.” The quarterback quipped from his desk. His coach was renown for his vitriolic outbursts of four-lettered words.

“Q-q-quiet.” Brother Bede’s commands were stuttered once and only once.

“Any mention of a bad words mentioned by the band before or during the show will result in my immediate termination of the concert. I have contacted the record company and warned them that any incident will incur the full wrath of the arch-diocese of Boston. That is all for today.”

This heavy-handed suppression of free speech instilled rebellion into our hearts.

“S-s-slow down, class.” Brother Bede sat on the edge of his desk with ON THE ROAD in his hands. We had read CATCHER IN THE RYE, 1984, and BRAVE NEW WORLD under his tutelage. He believed in an open mind. “A-a-at least the concert was not cancelled and from w-w-w-what the principal explained to the other brothers, the b-b-band only said one bad word on its record. He said nothing about their b-b-being revolutionaries.”

Brother Bede’s common sense calmed our young minds and we spread his good news throughout the school. The omission of one word wasn’t the end of the world, even though the truth of the matter was that none of us would be here if our fathers weren’t motherfuckers. Even Jesus had a motherfucker and the word was bantered around the school like a badminton cock at a summer barbecue.

The night of the show Chuckie drove us to school.

I was wearing a fringed suede jacket and bell-bottom jeans. Kyla was a little Tibetan goddess in her lambskin coat and miniskirt.

Snowflakes darted across 128. Chuckie put on WBCN. JJ Jackson was playing PINBALL WIZARD.

At Woodstock Abbie Hoffman denounced the concert was bullshit while John Sinclair was in prison for marijuana. Pete Townsend had driven the Yippie leader off stage with his guitar. Woodstock was about love and peace, not the injustice of the MC5's spokesman languishing in prison for a few joints and tonight was no different.

The four of us drank a six-pack of beer in the parking lot. Kyla and I made out in the back seat. Her lips tasted of bubble gum. My hands wiggled under her sweater to glide on baby-powdered skin. The heat of our young bodies fogged the windows.

Time was lost to passion, but at 8pm Kyla broke our embrace. I wiped away the condensation on the rear window.

The doors to the gym were open.

“Let’s go.”

As we approached the gym, two hippie girls asked if I had an extra tickets. They were college age. Two more co-eds posed the same question at the door. A pair of freshmen offered to be their dates. The girls did not refuse the request. This was a big show.

Inside the deejay was playing popular hits and the gathering crowd danced to Marvin Gaye and Sly.

My classmates were costumed in haute Haight-Ashbury. The pungent aroma of marijuana emanated from the bathroom.

Three long-haired men in colorful robes exited a minute later. None of them attended Xaverian and they smiled at Kyla with reddened eyes. She clutched my hand. Strange men scared the buxom brunette. I held her close. Her beauty was safe with me.

The stage was set up under the basketball net. I recognized the Odyssey from playing at the Surf Nantasket. The quartet looked nervous about performing tonight. They were a cover band. This was a big gig for them.

I didn’t see any sign of the MC5.

“Where are they?” the quarterback demanded at the table serving cokes. His girlfriend introduced herself to Kyla. She was as blonde as Peggy Lipton of THE MOD SQUAD.

“I heard on WBCN that they were playing an afternoon show in Detroit.”

“This afternoon?” Driving in a GTO at top speed from Detroit was a six-hour trip with police lights in the rearview mirror.

“Yes.” The DJ Charles Laquidara had told his listeners that the band had been playing an afternoon show in Detroit.

“How will they get here.” The show was scheduled for 9:30.

“They’re taking a flight to Logan.”

I leaned over to the quarterback. He smelled of Brut. It was Joe Namath’s cologne.

“They’ll be here. Just don’t tell anyone else. We don't want a riot here.”

The Odyssey opened their set with a cover of HEY JOE. I checked at my Timex watch. It was 8:30. The younger students danced to the hits.

None of the hippies in the audience paid attention to the group. Some of them looked older than 20.

The Dean of Discipline was keeping a close eye on them. Brother Bede had cotton stuffed in his ears. Chuckie and I went outside to finish our beers.

The night sky was clear of clouds and the stars showed their power from distant positions in space. A car engine was grinding up the road to the school. A white van slid on black ice into the parking lot. The vehicle accelerated between the rear-ends of our cars and braked before the gym. Five men jumped from the van. It was the MC5. I recognized the lead singer from his Afro. He waved for me to come closer.

“You go to school here?” His name was Wayne Kramer. “Yes, sir.” I had never spoken to a famous person.

“I’m not a sir, brother. This is Xaverian, right?” The guitarist checked out Kyla and eyed me with admiration.

The smell of bubble gum on her lips was a beautiful thing.

“Yes.” I couldn’t bring myself to call him brother. I already had three.

“Damn, we didn’t get lost. Good driving.” He slapped the driver on the shoulder. He was Fred Sonic Smith, the guitarist. “Let’s get set up. Brother, you want to carry an amp into the gym. The faster we set up, the faster we play for you.”

“Yes, sir.” The sir thing was a hard habit to lose in less than a minute. “Cool.” He handed Chuckie and me each a large Marshall amp.

The Odyssey had finished their set. Chuckie and I hauled the amps to the stage like altar boys carrying Sunday communion to the faithful.

The MC5 shook hands walking through the crowd. The hippie girls abandoned the freshmen for the stars of the night. The MC5 were a live band. They performed more than twenty shows a month. The roadies assembled the equipment array within a half hour.

The band climbed onto the stage, only to have the principal and Dean of Discipline to confront them. The topic of discussion was no secret to the student body and the murmur of dissent rippled through the audience.

The Dean of Discipline shone his sated disapproval, but Wayne Kramer raised his hand and strode over to the microphone.

“Brothers and sisters, we’re the MC5. You know who we are. You know what we stand for.” He turned to the two black-robed brothers. “Your principal had requested that we not use a word during the show. If we don’t agree to this condition, we won’t be allowed to play and we flew a thousand miles to be with you tonight.”

Boos rocked the gym.

“It’s just one word. You know the word. We only say it one time. We didn’t come here to walk out the door.” The lead singer waved for the band to take their places. “We are the MC5 and you are you. One two three.”

They rocked the building with the MOTOR CITY IS BURNING. Rob Tyner drove the girls crazy with his strut during DOING ALL RIGHT. Mike Davis led the band with a thumping bass and the drummer drove a basic beat into our bones. The basketball floor bounced with our dancing and Kyla sang along to BABY PLEASE DON’T GO. The quarterback and I hugged each other with joy after HIGH SCHOOL. We were seventeen and free.

The MC5 left us ragged after two hours of solid rock and they ended with a homage to Chuck Berry and the title track of their new LP, BACK IN THE USA.

“Thank you, Xaverian.” Wayne Kramer shouted into the mike. “Peace, brothers and sisters.”

The MC5 jumped off the low stage and we chanted out more. We stomped the floor to the chant of ‘more’. The band emerged from the underneath the bleachers and Wayne Kramer grabbed the mike.

“We have saved the best for last and we have also kept our promise to the good brothers, but you didn’t make any promise,” I pointed the microphone into the audience. “Brothers and sisters, it’s now time to KICK OUT THE JAMS____”

Our voices shouted the word as one. “Motherfucker.” There was no quieting us. The world was on fire and the MC5 drew us into the flames that evening.

It was January 24, 1970

On January 25 today became yesterday and tomorrow was a long way away from yesterday.

MC5 A True Testimonial Sixties Detroit Rock

The history of the one and only MC5.

The greatest rock band of all time.

To see the documentary MC5 A True Testimonial Sixties Detroit Rock, please go to the following URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfHzMj3Ong4

THE FLIGHT OF A FAT MAN on Kindle

Man has aspired to flight from time immemorial. In the winter of 1971 my New Yorker friend Eddie fantasized about soaring in a glider. He had one big problem. Eddie weighed 450 pounds. THE FLIGHT OF A FAT MAN recounts Eddie's achieving his dream thanks to a teenage girl from the South Shore. Sookie had the opposite eating disorder. She ate nothing and she helped Eddie do the same. Anything is possible for a fat man when you aim from the stars. To purchase THE FLIGHT OF A FAT MAN on Kindle for $0.99, which is less than a dollar, please go to the following URL http://www.amazon.com/THE-FLIGHT-OF-FAT-MAN-ebook/dp/B00CAXAY1U

Thursday, March 27, 2014

MY TIME by Golden Dawn

To hear this classic garage acid song from the 60s, please go to the following URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04u1E_koJ4Q

A TRAIN STATION WITHOUT TRAINS by Peter Nolan Smith

A TRAIN STATION WITHOUT TRAINS is a collection of four stories set in New York's Grand Central Terminal. Millions of tourists come to view one of the largest open air interiors in the world and while I've traveled north from the station, I've also spent time eating and drinking at the fabled Oyster Bar and traversed the great floor of Tennessee pink marble countless times. My path is never the same and neither are these tales, because leaving the station is almost as pleasurable as staying there.

I love oysters.

EXCERPT

BAD MAN by Peter Nolan Smith

In February of 2013 the president of a private jet charter service invited me to dinner at the Oyster Bar.

I accepted without hesitation, because I was a native New Englander and nowhere else in the city served a wider variety of oysters.

“You don’t mind if I my girlfriend and her daughter join us?” Enos liked to compartmentalize his world into separate entities.

“Why would it bother me?” I had met his lover once. Cheryll seemed a very nice woman.

“No reason. Just that I don’t want to hear anything about a diamond ring.” The portly fifty-year old executive was a devout bachelor

“Diamonds make women not so much happy as happier.”

Hurricane Sandy had killed business in the Diamond District, so I wasn’t working for my old firm, but any profit went straight into my pocket. With four kids I could use the money from a sale to Enos.

“They’re a girl’s best friend.”

“And a dog is man’s best friend.”

“That’s true.” My puppy Champoo had loved me more than fried liver.

“So no talk about diamonds. Especially in front of Cheryll. She’s dying to make me an honest man.”

“Not a chance of that.” The Oyster Bar is about oyster and lobster.” I won’t say a word about diamonds.”

I hung up and later in the day traveled by subway from Fort Greene to Grand Central Terminal. I spotted Enos at the entrance to the subterranean restaurant. My friend had gained weight and more than a few pounds, but his curly hair had lost none of its spring.

“Good to see you.” The big man was wearing a tailored suit. Business these days was good as long as you dealt with the rich. “I like the tan. How’s the family?”

Everyone’s good.” I had just returned from a month-long visit to my kids in Thailand. “How’s your dad?”

“Holding on?” Enos and his elderly parents had weathered the hurricane on Rockaway. “I thought we were goners, but the surge ended with the high-tide. The house is a wreck.”

“Any disaster from which you can walk away from is a good thing.”

“My pilots always say that about crashes.”

“True is true.”

We walked inside the restaurant. The Oyster Bar’s vaulted tile ceiling was a bastion of timelessness. Waiters in white apron were shucking Malpecs, Blue Points, Belons, and Hog Islands. Diners were happy with their meals. It was a good place to be.

“My father loved oysters. He used to eat fried clams from Wollaston Beach and wash them down with a chocolate milk shake without a belch afterwards.”

“I wish I had that stomach.” Enos tapped his bass drum girth.

“Shouldn’t we wait for your girls?”
Enos and I sat at the counter. The dining rooms were for out-of-towners and couples.

“Cheryll’s daughter is a vegan. She doesn’t eat fish.”

“No oysters either?”

“None.”

The waitress handed us menus, but Enos waved them away. While he came from a good Jewish family, nothing was too tref or unclean for his palate. “Mind if I order for us?”

“Not at all.”

“Clams casino to start and a glass of Riesling for my friend. I’ll have water.” Enos had stopped drinking and drugs three years ago. It was either cold turkey or a cold grave. He looked better above ground.

“Then an assortment of oysters and two lobster stews.” I ordered a glass of Chardonnay. Enos had stopped drinking three years ago. He was fine with tap water.

“I have a question.”

The waitress brought an Austrian Riesling blessed by the sun shining on the Danube’s northern slopes.

“What?” Enos asked, as if I needed a loan.

“This is a dietary question of religion.”

“Meaning a Jewish question.” The waitress placed the clams’ casino between us.

“Yes.” I had been the Sabbath goy for two decades and considered myself a scholar of Judaica. “It’s a simple query. Bacon is tref and clams are tref, right?”

“Right.” Enos lipped the delicacy with pleasure.

“So in physics and mathematics two negatives make a positive, right?”

I popped a clam casino in my mouth. The combined taste of pig and shellfish was a sin of delight.

“Right.” The plate of oysters crowded the counter. They smelled of the ocean.

“So if bacon and shellfish are both tref and you eat them together, does that make them non-tref?”

“According to my calculations, yes, although my father would say no.”
Enos popped two oysters into his mouth. He might have stopped blow, but he was eating a little too fast for a man approaching 280.

“They’re a Fargenign or delight as long as we eat them before my girlfriend’s daughter arrives. She’s a vegan Nazi.” Enos loved interspersing his sentences with Yiddish.

“Vegans hate us.” We were omnivores and devoted the next twenty minutes to devouring the clams’ casino and a dozen Malpecs, and two lobster stews.

To order A TRAIN STATION WITHOUT TRAINS for $0.99 on Kindle, please go to the following URL

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JAG86OW

It's a mitzvah for you and me both.

A Letter from Manhattan President on the Proposed Renovation of the 5th Avenue Library

I signed a petition against the proposed renovation of New York's Main Public Library on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

The bourough president responded with an email.

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the New York Public Library’s planned renovation of the 42nd Street Library and the potential sale of the Mid-Manhattan branch.

I firmly believe that every alternative must be considered prior to any reduction of services or the sale of library assets. It is important that all members of our community who rely on the Libraries be heard during this process and that the issues and concerns of my constituents are addressed.

I recently met with the President and CEO of the New York Public Library, Dr. Anthony Marx, regarding the potential plans for these branches and called upon his office to provide an extensive community dialogue and public discussion to address the future of one of New York’s great institutions. Please find attached a copy of a letter providing a detailed summary of the Library’s plans, as well as my ongoing concerns. I am confident that the NYPL is seriously considering all alternatives to any sale of library assets, but I will continue to advocate with them that the sale of any branch is not a viable option.

I will make every attempt to keep you informed during this process and provide additional information as it becomes available. Again, I thank you for your advocacy on behalf of our public libraries.

Sincerely,

Gale A. Brewer

PS It's important to stop the rape of the library.

While the New York City-born Doctor Anthony Marx is a distinguished political scientist, he is no librarian.

I don't doubt his plan means well, but the removal of the books from the subterranean stacks would signal the end to the city's greatest research library.

MY RESPONSE

Ms. Brewer

I have been using the 5th Avenue Reading Room since the 1970s back when the requests were delivered to the stacks by pneumatic tube. Your book was delivered to the desk within an hour. The removable of the volumes from the stacks has increased that time to days, so it is obvious that the new system is a step backward for those seeking knowledge.

This library was designed as a research library on par with Paris' National Biblioteque and the British Library in London.

The books should be on site to promote knowledge.

Not in New Jersey.

The stacks should be for books.

Not retail stores supposedly generating income for the NYPL.

I thank you for my response and diligence in pursuing a dialogue between the community, scholars, and the library trustees.

Please keep us informed

Sincerely Peter Nolan Smith

To sign a petition against this renovation, please go to the following URL

https://www.change.org/petitions/anthony-w-marx-reconsider-the-350-million-plan-to-remake-nyc-s-landmark-central-library

Without knowledge there is no freedom. - James T Steele

Habs Versus Bruins Toujours

The other evening my younger brother Padraic and his wife went to the Bruins-Canadians match at TD Garden.

Here's his report.

Kathy & I took in last night’s Bruins Danadiennes shootout loss 2-1. One Montreal fan must have been drinking the whole bus ride to Boston. His “Ole, ole, ole, ole” was mocked with “you’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead,” Standing up in a Canadienees' shirt and yelling “Bruins suck” did not endear him to the crowd. He vanished and never reapeeared after the first period

We hate the Habs.

It's a Boston thing.

MH370 Flight Terminus / The Southern Ocean

The Roaring 40s roiled the Southern Ocean's landless expanse between Africa's Cape of Good Hope and the western coast of Australia. While the prevailing westerly winds aided sailing ships on the long voyage to Asia, eddies calve from the predominant current to create the most complicated ocean system on the planet and sadly authorities have reported that the lost Malaysia Air flight ended in tragedy in that gigantic maelstrom.

Wreckage has been spotted by satellite.

All crew and passengers are thought to be lost.

The families were crushed by this news as well as the fact that no one can explain what caused the rapid descent over the Gulf of Siam or why the 777 continued to fly east into the unknown.

According to the UK's TELEGRAPH the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington had drawn up an Airworthiness Directive in November, which was triggered by reports of cracking in the fuselage skin underneath a Boeing aircraft's satellite antennae. The FAA directive told airlines to look out for corrosion under the fuselage skin, which could lead to a situation where the fuselage was compromised leading to possible rapid decompression as well as the plane breaking up.

The cost for this check-up was approximately $3100 US.

None were done by Malaysia Air.

Cabin decompression from structural flaws in the fuselage seem to be the likely cause. although Boeing has rejected this theory without further comment.

Get ready for their accusations of 'pilot error'.

As always for corporate entities it's easiest to blame someone who is dead.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SOME CHOWDAH, BOBBY by Peter Nolan Smith

Last holiday season Richie Boy had hired me to help with sales and schlepping merchandise between dealers and jewelers. Hlove and I worked together to make sales, but business on 47th Street was murder. There was no foot traffic and my old customers hated the street and all the hawkers shilling to buy gold.

"Back in the 90s I used to make 150-200 thou in sales. Now I'll be lucky to break $20,000," I explained to Hlove who had been a jewelry manufacturer until five years ago.

"Back then I worked non-stop from September to December making rings, earrings, everything." Hlove had coined cash for decades, but finally closed shop in 2008. "All my customers deserted me to buy from China."

"Enough with the walk down Memory Lane." Manny looked up from his paperwork. The octogenarian had survived the end of the Depression as a young boy in Brownsville. He hated idle talk. "The past is the past. What have you done for me lately?"

Manny had bills to pay.

"Nothing today." I looked to the window. No one was standing before our display.

“I feel like I’m running a charity ward. You two are about as useful as a broom,” Manny stated in half-jest.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be rid of me soon enough.” I would be laid off after the New Year.

“You haven’t done a day of work since you came here.” The elderly diamond dealer was meaner than a flayed rattlesnake, but we had been friends over thirty years and I responded in kind, “The same could be said about you. All you do is shift papers from one side of your desk to the other and insult customers.”

“Customers? More like wastes of time.” Manny was on a roll. Only this morning he had called my main diamond broker a ‘gonnif’.

I regarded over to Hlove, who shook his head. Calming a barking dog wasn’t the guitarist’s forte.

“These papers run this company.” The Brownsville native slammed his palm on the bills, bank statements, and memos.

“Everything you’re doing could be done in a minute on a computer.”

“I ran this business before there was a computer and I will outlive the computer too.”

“I hope you’re right.” Manny and I went back to 1978. Our best years were ebbing on this side of the 21st Century.

“Right, only one thing is right and that’s one and one makes two.”

Hlove rolled his eyes.

Manny was on fire and his kvetching veered off the tracks.

“You’re useless. You’ve always been useless.”

“Like the time I sold a ruby for a million dollars and you stiffed me for the commish.”

Yiddish vindictives spewed from his mouth.

"I don't need to listen to this."

I went to the closet and got my cashmere coat. It was a cold winter.

“Where do you think you’re going?” “To get my lunch.” I waved to Eliza Randolph. The elegant brunette was Manny’s partner.

Years ago Richie Boy had hoped that the two of us became serious, so I could have been his partner. Eliza's father was glad that nothing came of our flirtation and in many ways so were we.

“Eliza, you want some chowdah.”

“Chowdah from where?” Eliza could fake a wicked Boston accent. She had attended UMASS-Amherst.

“The Oyster Bar where else?”

The Grand Central Terminal institution sold the best clam chowder south of Boston’s Route 128.

"Get me a New England chowder."

"What about you, Hlove?"

"No thanks." The jazzman was on a special diet.

Manny made a face, as his mind calculated the distance between our store and the Oyster Bar.

“I pay you to work, not to gallivant around town.”

“You want to buy me lunch?” I already knew the answer.

“What for?”

“So I stay here to make a sale."

"Stay, go, what's the difference?"

"Then I’m out the door." I decided to act nice and asked, "Manny, you want a chowder?"

“The chowder there tastes like old man’s underwear.” The old man liked putting in the ‘zug’ or dig to ruin anyone else's good time. It was an old school Brooklyn thing.

“More like from a young girl, but you wouldn’t know anything about young girls anymore.” I had learned how to make someone feel bad from him and left the store in a foul mood.

Our daily tete-a-tetes were wearing on us, but as I crossed 5th Avenue I thought about my family's teakwood farm bordering Thailand's Western Forests. I indulged the delusion of being with them soon on the ten-minute walk to Grand Central. I bumped into several groups of slow-moving tourists. Without them the city would be as empty as the New York of the apocalyptical film I AM LEGEND.

I turned off Fifth onto 43rd Street.

The steel syringe spire of Chrysler Building gleamed in the winter sun. I was used to the sounds of the city, but not dogs’ barking.

There was more than one.

The MTA cops' explosive- and drug-sniffing hounds were snapping at passengers entering the Metro-North terminal. They were looking for terrorists and the shepherd at the entrance eyed me with suspicion, but his master clocked me as harmless. I was white, in a suit, and over 50.

“Nice doggie.”

“He ain’t a doggie.”

“Doggies are cows, right?”

Same as all these cops.

All of them wanted to be a hero to stop someone from doing that something stupid.

I smiled and descended into the terminal.

Passengers hurried to catch their trains and I surveyed the crowds for anyone who might damage it or the people within the terminal. My inspection gave GCT an all-clear visa and I entered the Oyster Bar to sit at the counter.

I called Eliza from inside the restaurant.

“Anything other than Chowdah?”

“Chowdah be just fine.”

I ordered one chowder for here and three to go from a redheaded waitress. My counter mates were from the UK. His wife had a big diamond. I told them about working on 47th Street.

“We ain’t buying no diamonds.” The husband was adamant on this.

“He spent a fortune on this rock.” His wife brandished her stone. It glittered in the dim light of the Oyster Bar. She was happy with the now.

“Having a good time?”

“We love New York and love the Oyster Bar. In fact we feel safer here than in London.”

“I got robbed in Soho last time I was in the Smoke.” Somebody had picked my pocket.

“We come from Plymouth.”

“A nice town. I’ve stopped there a couple of times on the way to Cornwall.” I had friends out west.

I finished my chowder and signaled the waitress for a bill.

“If you change your mind about a diamonds, stop by our shop. It’s only five minutes from here.” I slipped the woman a card.

“Maybe.” His wife smiled touching her husband’s thigh.

“Cheers.” I paid for four chowders and hurried through the underground passages of Grand Central Terminal to Madison Avenue.

The dogs had left the exit onto 45th Street.

“Five minutes later I entered our exchange with three chowders.

“Chowdah, Bobby?” Eliza loved saying this. The words brought back her youth as a co-ed in Massachusetts.

“Chowdah and it’s piping hot.”

Eliza was so happy to receive her chowdah that she kissed both my cheeks.

I gave another to Hlove.

"I said I didn't want."

"It's Christmas. Enjoy."

“What about me?” asked Manny.

“Manny, you said no.”

“I didn’t say anything of the kind.”

“That's not the way I heard it.”

“This is wicked chowdah.” Eliza liked to rub it in.

“Just the way you like it.”

Manny muttered under his breath and I said, “Just kidding, Manny.”

He smiled with triumph, as I put the extra chowder on his desk."

"Watch the papers."

"Not a chance." I was his Sabbath goy.

“Incoming,” Hlove said, as the English couple entered the exchange.

“I met them at the Oyster Bar.” That meant they were my customers and the commish would be 25%. "They're my privates."

I motioned Hlove to sit and enjoy his chowder.

We split the sales 50/50 and sharing was always for the best in these hard times, especially if the chowder was from the Oyster Bar.

BAD MAN by Peter Nolan Smith

In February of 2013 the president of a private jet charter service invited me to dinner at the Oyster Bar. I accepted without hesitation, because I was a born and bred New Englander and nowhere else in the city served a wider variety of oysters.

“You don’t mind if I my girlfriend and her daughter join us?” Enos liked to compartmentalize his world into separate entities.

“Why would it bother me?” I had met his lover once. Cheryll seemed a very nice woman.

“No reason. Just that I don’t want to hear anything about a diamond ring.” The portly fifty-year old executive was a devout bachelor

“Diamonds make women happy.”

Sandy had killed business in the Diamond District, so I wasn’t working for my old firm, but any profit went straight into my pocket. With four kids I could use the money from a sale to Enos.

“They’re a girl’s best friend.”

“And a dog is man’s best friend.”

“That’s true.” My puppy Champoo had loved me more than fried liver.

“So no talk about diamonds. Especially in front of Cheryll. She’s dying to make me an honest man.”

“Not a chance of that.” The Oyster Bar is about oyster and lobster.” I won’t say a word about diamonds.”

I hung up and later in the day traveled by subway from Fort Greene to Grand Central Terminal. I spotted Enos at the entrance to the subterranean restaurant. My friend had gained weight and more than a few pounds, but his curly hair had lost none of its spring.

“Good to see you.” The big man was wearing a tailored suit. Business these days was good as long as you dealt with the rich. “I like the tan. How’s the family?”

“Everyone’s good.” I had just returned from a month-long visit to my kids in Thailand. “How’s your dad?”

“Holding on?” Enos and his elderly parents had weathered the hurricane on Rockaway. “I thought we were goners, but the surge ended with the high-tide. The house is a wreck.”

“Any disaster from which you can walk away from is a good thing.”

“My pilots always say that about crashes.”

“True is true.”

We walked inside the restaurant. The Oyster Bar’s vaulted tile ceiling was a bastion of timelessness. Waiters in white apron were shucking Malpecs, Blue Points, Belons, and Hog Islands. Diners were happy with their meals. It was a good place to be.

“My father loved oysters. He used to eat fried clams from Wollaston Beach and wash them down with a chocolate milk shake without a belch afterwards.”

“I wish I had that stomach.” Enos tapped his bass drum girth.

“Shouldn’t we wait for your girls?”
Enos and I sat at the counter. The dining rooms were for out-of-towners and couples.

“Cheryll’s daughter is a vegan. She doesn’t eat fish.”

“No oysters either?”

“None.”

The waitress handed us menus, but Enos waved them away. While he came from a good Jewish family, nothing was too tref or unclean for his palate. “Mind if I order for us?”

“Not at all.” “Clams casino to start and a glass of Riesling for my friend. I’ll have water.” Enos had stopped drinking and drugs three years ago. It was either cold turkey or a cold grave. He looked better above ground. “Then an assortment of oysters and two lobster stews.” I ordered a glass of Chardonnay. Enos had stopped drinking three years ago. He was fine with tap water.

“I have a question.”

The waitress brought an Austrian Riesling blessed by the sun shining on the Danube’s northern slopes.

“What?” Enos asked, as if I needed a loan.

“This is a dietary question of religion.”

“Meaning a Jewish question.” The waitress placed the clams casino between us.

“Yes.” I had been the Sabbath goy for two decades and considered myself a scholar of Judaica. “It’s a simple query. Bacon is tref and clams are tref, right?”

“Right.” Enos lipped the delicacy with pleasure.

“So in physics and mathematics two negatives make a positive, right?” I popped a clam casino in my mouth. The combined taste of pig and shellfish was a sin of delight.

“Right.” The plate of oysters crowded the counter. They smelled of the ocean.

“So if bacon and shellfish are both tref and you eat them together, does that make them non-tref?”

“According to my calculations, yes, although my father would say no.”
Enos popped two oysters into his mouth. He might have stopped blow, but he was eating a little too fast for a man approaching 280.

“They’re a mitzvah as long as we eat them before my girlfriend’s daughter arrives. She’s a vegan Nazi.”

“Vegans hate us.” We were omnivores and devoted the next twenty minutes to devouring the clams casino and a dozen Malpecs, and two lobster stews.

As the waitress replaced our empty plate with lobster stew, Enos’ girlfriend arrived at the counter. She kissed my host with love and her twelve year-old daughter gave him a hug.

“This is Naomi.” Cheryll introduced her precious offspring. “She’s an actress in training.”

“Hello.” Her skinny daughter exuded a toughness hewed from a thousand refusals. She pointed a finger at my plate “You eat dead food?”

“We had a bi-valval feast.”

“You’re a bad man.” Her neo-ingénue eyes were trained to seduce casting directors. Her scrawny beauty would blossom into stardom with the right training and her succubus eyes disregarded my age. I was simply another old geezer to wrap around her accusing finger.

“You couldn’t believe how bad.”
Enos and Cheryll were deep in conversation, happy that I was diverting the little monster.

“How bad?” Naomi wanted to know.

“I was brought up along the coast of Maine. Every summer a whale would get confused in the shoals and end up beached on the sands as the sea retreated on the tide. The fishermen fought off the sharks and cut off the best pieces of whale meat for their families.”

“You ate whale?” Her eyes widened in horror.

"Not then."

"Another time?"

"Yes, there was a fish store in Boston's Haymarket that sold whale meat sandwiches. I went there with a college friend." Fred was a hippie. We all were in 1973. "I have to say it was the best thing I’ve eaten in my life.” Once was enough for a lifetime and I didn’t tell that to the little precious actress.

“You’re worst than bad.”

“What's worse than Evil?”

“Fucking evil.” Naomi whispered those two words with a biting accuracy.

"What was that?" asked Cheryll. Like all mothers she had good ears.

"Nothing," we answered with smiles. My evilness was our secret.

Cheryll resumed his conversation with Enos and I turned to He was good around other people’s children.

“I like how you sold those two words. You want me to give your headshot to a casting director?”

"Don't smoke smoke up my ass." Naomi was older than her years.

"I'm serious."

“You know someone?”

“Not just someone.”

I dropped the name of the biggest casting director in the city.

“You can get my headshot to her?" The skinny waif flip-flopped from disapproval to delight.

“Yes.” Nina was a longtime friend.

"You're not joking?" asked her mother, who had heard the name.

"No, I can send her the information." I had never asked my friend for a favor and this wasn't one. I thought that Naomi had something. "I can't promise anything."

“I know that, but thank you.” Cheryll understood that I was doing a mitzvah.

“Thank me, if something happens.”

Enos winked at me. He thought that I was lying to help him with Cheryll and Naomi caught the wink.

“You really know her?” The daughter was used to men using her mother.

“Yes.” Enos wasn’t a bad man and tonight he would be happy with Naomi asleep in the next room while he was on top of her mother. I leaned over to the young girl and asked, "So am I still 'fucking evil'?"

"As evil as Satan, but even the Devil has his good points."

“Thanks." I really meant and signaled for the waitress. "A half-dozen Wellfleets."

Naomi's eyes condemned my badness.

I smiled at her without saying another world

The Wellfleets reminded me of summers on Cape Cod and I felt like a million dollar, because it wasn’t every day a twelve year-old girl called a man my age ‘evil’ and Naomi knew bad, because like all girls she was made of sugar and spice and certainly not from oysters or whale.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'M GOOD IF YOU'RE GOOD by Peter Nolan Smith

Opening a jewelry store in the Plaza Hotel seemed like a good idea in the Spring of 2009. I was dead broke after my arrest in Thailand for copyright infringement and my wife Mam was pregnant with our son. The Plaza was one of New York's premier destinations. Wealth was in my cards.

Richie Boy launched the store in the Retail Collection in October. I was his store manager. His two partners were supposed to supply customers and merchandise and money. We saw little of three. Mario was stealing goods to pay for his sickly son's treatments and the Iranian had been soaked by a six-figure bar mitzvah. My check was late every week and one rainy Tuesday I went over to Chase to cash my wages. A smiling bank officer was at the door.

"Can I help you?" She was wearing a trim bank suit.

"I just need to cash a check." It was for $800.

"Do you bank here?"

"No." All my bank accounts were wiped out in April. The balances were zero.

"Would you care to open an account?"

"Why not?" Normal people had bank accounts and I wanted to live a normal life.

The bank officer led me to her office. Nancy was about half my age. She treated me with respect. I filled out the forms and she entered my social security number into the computer.

"Oh."

"Something wrong." Her 'oh' had an edge to it.

"You had an account here before."

"I did." I knew what she was talking about.

"A credit card debt of over $60,000."

"Yes." I was ready to run and my hand reached to snatch my check before the doors to her office slid shut and the police arrived to drag me to debtor prison.

"Did you go bankrupt?" A frown drifted across her lips.

"Something like that." I told the bank's debt collection service that I was going to prison in Thailand and asked for an extended line of credit. They said that they weren't bail bondsmen. The phone stopped ringing after that call.

"Well, because they wrote off your debt."

"They did?" $60,000 had gone poof.

"Yes." Nancy was smiling again. "You still want to open that account?"

"Am I good?"

"Yes." She was eager to score a new customer.

"Are you good?"

"Yes." Her bosses had greenlighted my banking with Chase.

"Then I guess I'll open an account." I signed the necessary paperwork and ten minutes later walked out of Chase a new man thanks to the bank's forward-thinking policy.

International Write-Off Day is coming for us all.

It's better than Burning and Looting Day by a long shot.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Detroit Overdue

This afternoon I passed the Roosevelt Hotel on my way to the Oyster Bar. Several protestor were gathered before the entrance and a larger contingent of police were surveilling the situation. The group were passing out leaflets against the bankruptcy of Detroit. The city's creditors are trying to collect 100% on the $18 billion plan with the help of the state-appointed manager, Kevyn Orr.

Back in 2008 Mitt Romney wanted to let Detroit go bust.

The GOP are experts at hard-love unless it comes to the banks, who were bailed out to the tune of $1.2 trillion in 2008.

"Let them fail," I suggested on this website.

No one listened to me and no one listened to the protestors at the Roosevelt Hotel.

The banks want their money, even though they ravaged the pension funds through crooked mortgage-packages and over-bloated bonuses to their CEOs.

An old lady listened to the complaints from the protestors.

"I don't understand."

"Understand that the banks and GOP are trying to destroy the workers of this country. They want everyone to be poor. They want us to live on the prairies in tents." I hate the big banks and fully believe in burning them to the ground, but if that's not possible, then it's time for Detroit and other cities and towns and individuals to declare 'International Write-Off Day'.

If it was good enough for the banks, then it's good enough for us.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vespa Fun

Back in 1978 a biker working as a cook at Serendipity 3 said, "Riding a Vespa is like fucking a tranny. It's a lot of fun until one of your friends sees you."

Obviously he never saw Long Mint.

I met her in BKK. She wanted 10,000 baht for an hour. I had 7000. She left with a Chinaman.

You win some and lose some and others you play another day.

Fuck Ronald MacDonald

Every day 68 million people visit MacDonald's Burgers. The worldwide conglomerate began as a Speedy Service Restaurant at 1398 North E Street at West 14th Street in San Bernardino, California and now operates over 38,000 franchises in a 118 countries.

My first Mickie D's was located in Quincy, Massachusetts.

I loved their milk shakes and fries.

My last meal at the legendary fast food chain was across the street from a Queens library.

I had a fish sandwich.

Five minutes later I felt like I had eaten a radioactive hockey puck.

I won't go back again.

Sorry Ronald McDonald, you suck, and clowns are scary.

TREME

This morning I watched the finale of HBO'S TREME, a four-year series about post-Katrina New Orleans muscial working class created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer. Like in any good story the characters become your friends and enemies, but what stuck with me most about TREME was its devotion to the many genres of music fermenting in the Faubourg Treme neighborhood. The last show was time-framed during the Mardi Gras of 2009.

The city has survived Katrina. The people fight for their rights. The music is their soul.

As the last scenes tie up the loose ends I found myself elated by the mastery of the tale.

We are people.

All of us.

One planet.

One life.

All together.

Through the better or worse and the beauty of TREME's finale was enough to put tears in my eyes like I had said good-bye to a friend, but then I can watch the show again someday.

And that would be a good thing as all good thing get better with age.

The Meaningless Of Knowledge

In HG Wells THE TIME MACHINE the hero travels far into the future. The Time Traveler discovered a simplistic communist society. The Eloi's every want was produced by the subterranean race of Morlocks. Denied the need to work the egalitarian eden bred ennui into the Eloi. There was no thirst for knowledge and the great library was filled with crumbling books.

Libraries have been a refuge throughout my life. I bored Shackelton's polar classic SOUTH from the one-room branch library behind my house on the South Shore. My hometown's main library had two rock records; the Mothers of Invention's FREAK OUT and the Jefferson Airplane's AFTER BATHING AT BAXTERS. During college I studied at the Boston Public Library and I am an academic member of the New York City's Main Library on Fifth Avenue. Its reading room is a treasure, even if requested books are not ordered by the Rose Reading Room's pneumatic tubes anymore, however the entire library is under threat by a new plan to move the three million books offsite.

SUSAN BERNOFSKY from the blog http://translationista.blogspot.com visited the stack from the PEN American Center on a promo tour in favor of the revovation. Library officials touted the move as a protective measure to prevent the books from rotting. The writer saw 'not a trace of rust on the sturdy and elegant Carnegie steel stacks (manufactured from a grade of steel that isn’t made anymore), and the marble floors holding up the stacks—which also structurally support the Rose Reading Room above—appeared to be in excellent shape.'

To read the entire article please go to the following URL

http://translationista.blogspot.com

This proposed move has nothing to do with the preservation of books, but rather the retail commercialism of one of the world's greatest libraries. Stores will replace the stacks and a luxury mega-hotel will tower over Bryant Park. Community Board 5 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission are supporting the renovation, which will cost the taxpayers at least $150 million to benefit the rich. Ex-Mayor Bloomberg's Office of Environmental Coordination declared that the project would have no negative environmental impact on the library.

In contrast those opposed to the plan cite many obstacles not mentioned in the NYPL's proposal, which has been proceeding without any consultation with the city council or subject to public hearings.

To read more on this scandal, please go to this URL

http://www.savenypl.org/the-truth-about-the-central-library-plan/

The 5th Avenue Library belongs to the people of New York and the world.

Email the Mayor.

DeBlasio is supposedly one of us.

This project will gut the Main Library, whose budget has been slashed in order to grant luxury condo builders tax breaks to house absentee millionaires.

Save the library, because what they take away, they don't ever give back without a fight.

To see the library scene from THE TIME MACHINE, please go to this URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irSwMr9Zxs0

Friday, March 21, 2014

To Catch A Bullet

Testing bulletproof vests is a snap in comparison to the magic trick of catching a bullet in your teeth.

The feat was first performed in 1631 and remains a staple of magicians.

The set-up involved a gun expert who loaded a marked buller into a gun and then fired the gun.

The bullet struck a pane of glass and the magician usually fell to the stage accompanied by the gasps of the audience, except the fired bullet consisted of a waxy liquid allowing the magician to branish the caught projectile between his teeth.

Back in the late-50s I read about a German magician performing the bullet catch for a fee of 2,000 DM. Ralf Bialla wore bullet-proof glasses, strong gloves on his hands with which he covered parts of his face, and his front teeth had been replaced by steel dentures. According to Wikipedia a .22 rifle was fired and the bullet had to go through three glass panes before Bialla caught it with his teeth. He was seriously wounded nine times but survived into the 70s as a sensation to his fans.

What a tough act to follow, but testing bulletproof vest might be a good warm-up.

Spring Solstice

Yesterday was the spring equinox, which occurs when the plane of the equator passes the center of the Sun. The day was as long as the night, as the Earth's axis leans toward the sun. It has been a long winter in New York and at one point in the winter International Falls, Minnesota was colder than the surface of Mars.

This morning the thermometer at the Fort Greene Observatory hit 48F at noon.

The sky is clear and sunny.

Winter might be coming to an end along the Eastern Seaboard, but on Monday I flew from Paris to JFK and Northern Quebec remained faithful to ice and snow north of the St. Lawrence. No roads or pipelines marred the eternal permafrost waiting to thaw for the short arctic summer.

And then everything belongs to the mosquitoes.

They are fierce vampires, which is why no one white lives up there.

Our blood is too sweet.

Of course global change denialists see this snow and say, "So there isn't any global warming."

Then again they are as stupid as a cow tied to a post.

Diego Garcia

Diego Garcia was mentioned by several news agencies in the case of the missing Malaysia Air flight.

No one in the USA knows Diego Garcia, unless he's a family member, then again most Americans can't find Washington DC on a map without the help of a GPS.

Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago was a refuge for shipwrecked sailors of the Indian Ocean. No one attempted to inhabit the atoll until the French imported slaves from Madagascar to work the coconut plantations. Diego Garcia's water supply supported approximately about 1000 Chagossians, but they were deported to other islands in the archipelago and the Seychelles after the arrival of the US Navy in 1971.

No civilians are allowed on the island.

Other than those brought there by the CIA rendition program.

Secret, remote, idyllic.

Just the spot for a little torture in the sun.

MH370 Malaysia

Two weeks ago Malaysia Air flight MH370 disappeared from radar between Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The news media first suspected a crash and an intense search was conducted in the Gulf of Siam without finding any debris.

Family and friends of the 293 passengers and crew wanted answers.

Malaysian authorities had none.

Several days passed before information was released that the Boeing 777 had turned off-course to fly west over Penang into the Indian Ocean. The media focused on a possible hijacking by ethnic Uighurs from western China and then shifted to the pilots perhaps belong to an Islamic plot. An ex-pilot offered a reasonable theory that an electrical fire had erupted in the plane and the pilots had attempted a landing on Langewe Island off the Malaysia Peninsula.

Still no answers.

Still no wreckage.

Yesterday a satellite spotted several lengthy objects floating deep into the Southern Ocean to the west of Australia. The debris lays beyond the range of a 777 and the currents of the Roaring 40s flow north rather than south, however military aircraft have been dispatched to the location and ships are being diverted to conduct a search for wreckage.

According to Bloomberg.com 83 planes have vanished since 1948.

Wreckage from Air France Flight 477 was found in the South Atlantic after five days. Another two years were spent retrieving the black box from the depths of the sea. The treacherous waters of the Roaring 40s will not easily yield its secrets, but I have a theory, that excludes the plane's crashing into the ocean.

The only secure airbase in the Indian Ocean is situated on Diego Garcia, which is a joint UK-USA military base. There are no civilians on the atoll and landing simulations for Diego Garcia were found on the computer of MH370's pilot. Reports of a low-flying passenger plane have come from the Maldives and even ABC news has blogged the possibility of the remote island as a final destination for the 777.

Few aircraft have disapperared so thouroughly as this one and only two entities on this planet have that power.

Nature and the USA.

I'm not betting on either until the new search turns up nothing.

I like sure things.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pas De Voitures

Last Friday Devlin and I arrived at Gare Du Nord from Bruxelles. We had read in the newspaper that Paris was suffering from a toxic smog. The pollution levels hit 180 microgrammes of PM10 particulates per cubic metre, which was twice more the safety limit of 80. The Hotel de Ville banned cars from within le Periphirique. The clear sky was not an 'all-clear' sign, because my throat was burning from inhaling the air.

"Shall we take a taxi?" Devlin liked to see the city.

"The Metro goes direct to St. Gemain." We were staying at the Hotel Bel Ami on Rue St. Benoit. It was down the street from the Cafe de Flore.

"Then we'll take the Metro." Devlin was semi-rich. He liked to save money to insure his fortune remained a fortune.

"And it's free." The city had opened the Metro to induce people out of their cars.

"Free?" Devlin believed in capitalism.

"The triumph of communalism." I pushed on the turnstile. There was no resistance.

Twenty minutes later we emerged from the Metro onto the Boulevard St. Germain. The lack of horns or the rumble of cars greeted us on the sidewalk. I glanced at the headline of a right-wing newspaper.

PANIC.

The opposition leader was claiming that the ban lacked "coherence, explanation and on the ground it's really panic".

None of the pedestrians were running around like guillotined chickens.

"Nice." Devlin didn't have a car.

"Real nice." I liked GTOs and 60s motorcycles, but a world without internal combustion vehicles was the future. As we walked to our hotel, I said, "Welcome to the new reality. No cars."

"There'll be cars. Electric cars."

"There are no cars in STAR TREK. Cars are an ancient technology."

"How so?" Devlin was willing to hear my explanation. The hotel was right around the corner.

"A car is a marriage between fire and the wheel with a little metallurgy on the side." The inventions of the first two dated back to prehistory. "There were no cars over a hundred years ago."

"So we're going back to the horse?" scoffed the Irish financier.

"Heavens forbid a return to shit-strewn streets."

"So what will replace the car?"

I pointed to my feet.

"Public transportation and walking."

"People won't like it."

"They'll like dying from aphyxiation even less." The Great London Smog of 1952 killed over 12,000 in a month with thousands more suffering permanent damage to their lungs. "The smog here was as bad as Beijing and it's going to get worse everywhere in the world."

"So what are you saying?"

"Te moritum salutem."

"Latin?"

"A dead language, but that phrase means 'those that are about to die salute you." I lifted my middle finger to a passing car and we entered the hotel.

It was 5-star.

As a communalist I liked sharing someone else's wealth and Devlin was no miser. We had reservations at Joel Aubusson's Atelier. The restaurant served the best mashed potatos on the world and being Irish we appreciated that feat more than no cars.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

41 BLANCO STREET AUSTIN by Peter Nolan Smith


In the late-winter of 1975 I drove a blind piano-tuner from Miami Beach to the East Texas in a Delta 88. Everyone at the Sea Breeze Hotel on Collins Avenue had warned me about Old Bill’s driving. I thought that the old coots had been kidding, but outside of La Grange on Route 71 the blind man ordered me to turn off the highway onto a dirt road. Gene Ammons was playing on the cassette deck.

“This is it.”

“Here?” The cotton fields were bare brown earth.

“My lady friend lives a couple of miles down this road.” Old Bill motioned for me to get out of the car.

“You know where you are?” There wasn’t a single house in sight.

“Road 4123, right?”

“Yeah.” I didn’t ask how he knew, having witnessed the blind man’s extraordinary powers on more than one occasion. I stepped out of the car and Old Bill slid over to the driver’s seat.

“You’re really going to drive?”

“It’s my car. Of course I’m going to drive.”

“You’re not serious?”

“More serious than a heart attack. Good luck, motherfucker.” Old Bill had a way with words.

“You too.” I shivered thinking about the impending car crash.

“Don't worry about me, Hippie Boy. I'll be fine.” The old piano-tuner twisted the wheel, as if he were reading the braille from the pebbles on the road. “Hippie boy, am I pointed straight?”

The white orbs of his eyes blinked with radar precision.

“I left you on the crest of the road. Anything off that is the ditch.” The hard-scrabble two-laner ran straight as a strand of dry spaghetti to the hazy horizon.

“Then I’m good. See you, when I see you.” Old Bill drove off slowly, weaving from side to side.

After a minute the black speck of the wavering Delta 88 was swallowed by its rooster tail of yellow dust.

A half-hour later a trucker stopped and drove me to Austin. We arrived in that college town close to sunset boiling far horizon boiling with splattered palette of color.

“I’m heading for El Paso. Ain’t much between here and there.” The trucker throttled down his big rig.

“I might stay the night here.” I had read about Austin in Rolling Stone magazine.

“If you do, go down to the World Armadillo Headquarters.”

“That's my thinking.” The club had been anointed the musical navel of the Southwest. Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson were regulars at the rock emporium.

“Wish I could check it out with you, but I'm on a schedule.”

"I don't have to be in California for another week."

“Than have that first beer for me.”

"Will do." I jumped down from the cab. The truck hauled out to the west and I hitchhiked into town.

A dented red Ford pickup with Texas plates passed me. Two hippies were in the front. I had long hair. We flashed each other peace signs. They stopped on the shoulder.

“Where you headed?” asked the red-eyed passenger.

“The World Armadillo Headquarters.”

“Us too. We just got done working on the ranch." The driver had a battered straw hat.

"Shovelin’ horse shit all day." The passenger wrinkled his nose.

"And now we want a beer." The driver had a thirst and motioned for me to jump in the back. "Commander Cody’s playing tonight with Asleep At The Wheel.”

“First rounds on me.” I sat in the flatbed. It smelled of cow shit. I smelled the same by the time we reached Barton Springs Road I smelled like cow shit too.

The Armadillo was located next to a roller rink. I brought my bag inside with me. The two hippies knew the man at the door. We entered for free.

I checked my bag with a dazed hippie girl at the coat check and walked inside the enormous club. Billy Bob, the pickup’s driver, informed me, “The Armadillo used to be an armory.”

“The acoustics suck.” His scrawny friend lit up a joint. Marijuana possession was a serious crime in the Lone Star State and Huntsville Prison was infamous for the harshness of incarceration. My hosts could easily be narcs.

“Nothing for me.”

“You sure?” Billie Bob sucked heavily on the thick stick.

“It’s from Oaxaca.” Ray-El wore a battered cowboy hat and shit-covered boots. I stepped away a few feet from them.

“I’m a traveler.” I wasn’t wasting a couple of years in Huntsville Prison for a joint.

“Don’t worry, there ain’t no one gonna bother you in the Armadillo about weed.” Billy Bob passed the reefer to Ray-El, whose inhale expanded his lungs to the bursting point of a thin balloon. Narcs didn’t inhale reefer.

“Cops, lawyers, judges, everyone comes here to hear the music and drink beer. I thought you said that first round was on you.”

“That’s right.”

I surrendered my caution and bellied up to the bar with the joint in my hand. Lone Star was the beer of choice. I ordered six. I toasted the trucker and told stories about Old Bill. We drank with other cowboy hippies, who were well over 6-feet. Most looked like they had played college football for an angry coach.

I don’t recollect the opening bands, since Billy Bob, Ray-El, and I tossed back shots of tequila to get in the mood for Commander Cody, except Billy Bob had the wrong date. They were playing the next night, but Asleep At The Wheel proved to be a killer band.

Most of the audience watched from the floor, but I was dragged onto the dance floor to perform a country version of the Hustle with a redheaded woman in a filmy black dress.

“You’re new around here.”

“Just got into town today from the East Coast."

"Smells more like Texas to me."

"That must be the cow shit."

"Damn straight, my name’s Ginger. Where y’all stayin’?” she asked after a breath-taking swirl.

“Nowhere.” I hadn’t slept with a woman in over two months. An actress was waiting for me in LA. Hollywood was over a thousand miles from Austin.

“I live on Blanco.” Ginger was thin and still a waif at 25.

“I don’t know where that is.” “It’s not a walkin’ distance.”

“I don’t have a car.”

“Me neither.”

“You have your horse here?”

"Horse?"

This is the West and a horse is much easier to ride than a cow."

“Funny, we got taxis here. Probably one waiting outside.” Her fingers graced the inside of my elbow. Seduction was her mission. I was an easy target.

“Then let’s go to your place.” I was 23, 5-11 with long brown hair. Ginger and I were made for each other.

I informed Billy Bob about my plans.

"Quick work. That redhead is a looker."

"You city slickers are fast on your feet." Ray-El winked his approval.

“More she’s fast than me.”

“If you need someplace to stay later, call us.” Billy Bob wrote his telephone number and address on a napkin.

22nd and Chestnut.

“We have a commune. One more or two ain’t gonna kill us.”

“He won’t be needin’ us tonight, but if you do get up our way, just ask for the hippie commune. The peckerwoods will show you the right way, if they don’t shoot you first.”

“Maybe I'll see you tomorrow.” I told them, because tonight I was destined to be deep in the heart of Texas.

Ginger’s house was a bungalow not far from Shoal Creek. The classic western decor testified old cattle money. Ginger’s two family names echoed the importance of their past. Her bed was brass. The sheets were scented with spices. The mattress was soft. I piled my clothes on a chair. My bag was at the foot of the bed.

"Where you headed anyway?"

"West."

"Y’all in a hurry."

"Not tonight."

"Good, because there's nothing west of here, but more Texas."

Ginger lit candles and put Joni Mitchell BLUE on the Marantz stereo. The song was CALIFORNIA from the album BLUE. James Taylor played guitar on the song CALIFORNIA. Our young bodies recreated Eden on her bed and we didn’t fall asleep until dawn.

“Y’all have to leave before noon.” Ginger’s drawl was exhausted by her effort and mine.

"For the West?"

"No, just out of this house."

"Who you expecting?"

"No one in particular."

“Noon it is.” I mentally set an alarm in my head.

The bell failed to go off at noon and Ginger’s violent shaking ended my coma.

“Y’all have to go.” A silk robe was wrapped around last night’s body.

“Now?” I was very comfortable.

“Now.” The demand was urgent.

A pick-up truck door slammed outside. A man’s cowboy boots were lined against the wall.

They looked a size 12.

“My husband is back from the oil field.”

“Husband?”

A man called out her name.

I grabbed my bag and clothing.

Ginger pointed to the bedroom’s open window.

“See you at the Armadillo later.”

There was no time for a kiss.

I fled the bungalow naked without a backward glance.

A taxi took me to the commune. The driver knew the house. He came inside to smoke some weed. Billy Bob and his friend were sympathetic about my plight.

“Even cowgirls get tired of fuckin’ cowboys.”

Billie Bob and Ray-El belonged to a vegetarian commune. They introduced me to the clan. The girls came from the Deep South. They smelled of patchouli and didn't shave their legs.

Ginger kept hers smooth with a Lady Schick razor.

That evening we ate a feast of mushed broccoli and peas. My passport into their midst was a big bottle of red wine. They were a big family; eight co-eds from UT, Billie Bob and Ray-El. We all had one plate. That night we saw Commander Cody at the Armadillo.

Ginger arrived at midnight.

“Sorry about this mornin’.”

“Noon, not morning.”

“You poor thang.” She caressed my cheek. “Y’all lit out like a rattlesnake with its tail on fire.”

“I thought it was the right thing to do. What did you’re husband say.”

“My husband is dumber than a cow tied to a stump. A hard worker and a good church person, but not too exciting. Not like you.”

“Me?”

“Yeah, Jo Jo only performs in bed as the Good Book tells him, but I have to fess up that you Yankees are a whole nut her thang.”

“We are.”

“I don’t know about them. I just know about you.”

I told her about Old Bill driving blind. She laughed at all the right parts.

We repeated the previous night with some deviations from the Bible. Ginger loved her Joni Mitchell. A noon departure was cutting it too close for comfort, so I woke with the dawn.

Before leaving I checked the closet. Jo Jo shirts were an XXL. Dumb or not he was a big man.

“Don’t you worry about Jo Jo. He’s roughnecking all week out on the Basin near San Angelo.”

“How far away is that?”

“Two hundred miles.”

Texans drove fast.

Ginger blew me a kiss from bed.

"See you later, Yankee Boy."

I should have been smart and hit the road, but Ginger played men like she had an ace as a hole card.

That week we explored the bars along East Sixth Street. Cowboys and black musicians drank early in that town. Co-eds From the University of Texas served cold beer. I played pool. Eight-Ball was a good way to kill the day.

A cheap hotel room across the Colorado River was a safer place than Ginger's house and I felt deep in the heart of Texas most of the afternoon.

“Y’all done tuckered me out.”

I could barely move and she kissed me on the lips.

I paid the hotel bill.

$20 wasn’t expensive, but my money was going fast with Ginger.

That night Ray-El and Billy Bob met me to eat cheeseburgers at the Victory Grill.

“We have to keep up our strength.” Ray-El liked his meat rare.

“Beans and veggies are animal food.” Billy Bob like his bloody.

It was tough being a vegetarian in Texas.

“You be careful of that Ginger. She’s no maverick.” Billy Bob soaked his burger in chili sauce.

“Huh?” I remembered James Gardener TV show from the 60s.

“She got an old man.” Ray-El draped jalapenos on his.

“And a big one from what I heard.” Billy Bob shook his head.

“I ain’t goin’ nowhere near her house.” Their accent was wearing off on me.

“Maybe not, but Austin is a small city and a smaller town, if you just hang out on East Sixth Street.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

That evening I went to the Armadillo early. The jukebox covered a lot of ground. Jerry Jeff Walker was setting up for the night. The bartenders knew my name. I tipped better than the goat-ropers. Jimmie Lee served me a Lone Star Beer.

“Jo Jo Gammage been lookin’ for you."

“I don’t know any Jo Jo Gammage.” The last name was familiar and I knew why.

“He's Ginger’s old man and he don’t look none too happy.”

“Thanks for the info.” I tipped him $5 and left the Armadillo by the rear exit.

It took me an hour to walk the back roads to Chestnut. The sun was down by the time I arrived at the commune.

The front door had been kicked in by a big boot.

Billy Bob was sporting a black eye.

My bag was at his feet.

“Let me guess. Jo Jo came looking?”

“You got that right. I didn’t say nuttin’, but we don’t want no more trouble. The sisters in the commune has voted you out.”

“Me too.” Ray-El shouted from the living room. “I understand.” They commune was into peace and love.

Ray-El came to the door. The girls were shadows in the kitchen.

"Let me make a phone call."

"To Ginger?"

"It seems like the right thing to do."

I dialed her number.

There was no answer.

“I vote me out too.” I picked up my bag. "Sorry, ladies."

“I’ll give you a ride to the highway.” Billie Bob handed me my bag.

I didn’t refuse his offer.

Route 71 was more than five miles away from the house.

I kept my eye open for any angry husband.

"One last beer at the 'Dillo."

"Not tonight."

"You want me to say anythin’ to Ginger."

I liked lying in her bed.

I liked the idea of lying with her again.

With any luck Jo Jo would be working in the north of the Texas Panhandle. Amarillo to Austin was a 500 miles ride.

"Tell her I'll be back in the spring, but don't mention that to her old man."

"I ain't saying nutthin to that redneck peckerwood."

The radio played FREE BIRD by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Billy Bob turned up the volume. We smoked a joint.

The pick-up stopped on the highway.

I grabbed my bag from the back.

It smelled of cow paddy.

I guess I did too.

"You be careful on the road." He handed me a joint.

"I will."

"Ain't nothin’ much out there."

"Ginger said the same."

"Have a good time in LA and stay away from married women."

"Thanks to the advice."

Billy Bob waited by the side of the road, until a westbound Camaro shuddered to a stop.

I waved good-bye to Billie Bob and got in the car.

The Mexican driver was a Marine headed west. He shifted into first.

"How far?"

"All the way to Camp Pendleton." Second gear came fast.

And then."

Anywhere, but Viet-Nam. My war days are over." 3rd gear lasted a second and we were cruising in 4th.

"Glad to hear it."

I told him my name.

His was Chaz. He was listening to a beaner station playing Freddie Fender's WASTED DAYS AND NIGHTS.

You meet any women in Austin."

"One. A redhead named Ginger."

"I love Pelliroja. They make my hot boil. Why you leave?"

"She had a husband. A big gringo."

"Hijo de la chingada, I hate husbands."

"Me too." I missed Ginger. "But I'll be back."

"Good man. Next stop is El Paso. I know a great place for heuvos rancheros."

"Anything in between?" I looked at my map.

"Just a lot of West Texas. Mind if I drive fast?"

"Not at all." I relaxed in the seat and looked back toward Austin.

The lights glowed over the trees.

The road head of us was empty.

Stars wrote a broad path in the night sky.

Chaz stepped on the gas.

There was nothing between here and El Paso, but more Texas.

Just like everyone said.

It was a big state.

Monday, March 17, 2014

ERIN GO BRAGH by Peter Nolan Smith

My first trip to Bali was in 1991. Kuta Beach was most tourist’s destination for sea, sun, and fun. Being a pseudo-intellectual I opted for Ubud, an idyllic village of Legong dancers, ornate temples, and quiet evenings.

I rented a small house overlooking the stream at which the villagers bathed in the evening. My house servant made me breakfast in the morning. I wrote on a Brother Electric Typewriter. There was no phone service with the outside world and traveler’s checks were the sole form of international money transfers.

TV was local Indonesian fare, so at night I listened to the BBC World News and read tattered used books. Dragonflies buzzed through the room and the stars tolerated no earthly rival. I loved Ubud and stayed in the town for several months.
Nearing March 17th I mentioned to several westerners or ‘mistahs’ that we should have a St. Patrick’s Day. None of them had Hibernian roots , however my Balinese friends were enthused at the idea to celebrate being Irish by drinking beer.

"And we wear green."

My house servant Tuut shook his head.

“Can not wear green. This unlucky color.”

“Unlucky.” He had used the Bahasa word ‘blog’. I had never heard it before.

"Yes, my uncle he have green car and have many accidents.”

"Green is good luck in Ireland and Ireland is the European Bali."

"Ireland tidak Bali. No green and you not wear green too." Tuut was adamant about this edict, but said, "We drink beer and make music."

"That is good luck?"

"Drink beer always good luck."

Especially if a 'mistah' paid for it.

I didn't argue with tradition and adjusted St. Patrick's Day in accordance with local customs.

On March 17th Tuut, his friend, and I drank beer at the Cafe Bali. They brought drums. I sang Irish songs and at sunset we marched down Monkey Forest Road with me singing BY THE RISING OF THE MOON.

Tuut said it was a sweet song.

“By the rising of the moon.” That was the only line that came to mind.

I made up the rest.

Other Balinese joined us. We trooped back to the Cafe Bali and switched to 'arak', a strong palm wine. It wasn't as strong as Jamison's Whiskey, but it was a good drink for the first St. Patrick's Day in Ubud and I told Tuut, "Maybe one day you will wear green."

"Maybe a long time away from today."

"But not as far as never. Semoga Beruntung."

I thought that meant good luck and replied, "Go n-éirí an bóthar leat!"

Everyone clinked beer glasses.

And I told myself that maybe one day I'll get the Balinese to wear green.

It's a color close to my heart.

Getting Away

Last week my associate Shamus suggested that I accompany him to the Continent.

"Are you doing anything special?"

"Not that I can think of?" I hadn't worked since Christmas, but the previous week a diamond sale had filled my coffers.

"London, the Maarstricht Art Fair, Bruxelles, and Paris." It was a tempting offer.

"Count me in." I was a sucker for Europe. "How many days?"

"At tops five, but you can stay longer, if you want."

"No, five is fine for me." Another diamond sale the following week would help my cause.

"Then I'll book the flights."

And like that my long stay in the New York City penal colony came to an end.

Over a year without going anywhere.

I could hardly wait.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A GIRL AT HER BEST by Peter Nolan Smith


My introduction to playing baseball came on a warm April morning in 1958. It was a Saturday and I was watching my favorite show, THE THREE STOOGES with my older brother. My father entered the living room of our house on Falmouth Foresides and bent over and shut off the Zenith black-and-white.

“It’s too nice a day to waste in front of the boob tube.”

“But___” He had cut off a slapstick routine between Moe, Larry, and Curly.

“No, buts. I have something for you both.” Coming from the age of radio my father hated TV’s grasp on his children. “Out in the backyard.”

My older brother and I looked at each other.

“Yes, sir.”

We hadn’t wrong anything wrong and our school grades were good.

“Stop dawdling.” He motioned for us to follow him.

Saturday morning TV was important to kids, but there was no arguing with my father and we left the house by the rear door.

Only two weeks ago the last snow had melted from the ground. I could feel the old cold beneath my sneakers. Maine had long winters, but green buds were sprouting from the branches of trees separating our yard from the Davis family and at the end of the street the sun sparkled off the million mirrors scattered across Portland harbor.

April would soon be May.

“Here.” My father handed us two brand-new leather baseball gloves. “It’s time for you to learn how to play baseball. Put them on.”

My older brother had seen baseball games on TV and we slipped the gloves onto our left hands. I could barely close the stiff leather glove.

“They’ll get softer the more you play ball.”

My father gave us two Boston Red Sox baseball caps. They were our team. We put them on our heads.

“What do you say?” He hefted a baseball in his right hand.

“Thank you, sir.”

“First things first and that’s learning how to catch. Go stand over there.”

He pointed in two directions and the three of us formed a triangle. My father had served with the Army Air Force in World War II and fought the Great Maine Fire of 1949. He believed that there was nothing more American than baseball.

“Here’s how you throw.”

My father demonstrated the overhand pitch several times and we mimicked the motion.

Both of us had thrown rocks at seagulls at the fishing pier beneath the bluff. The movement felt the same.

“Throwing is easy. Catching the ball is hard.”

He underhanded the ball to my brother. It bounced off his glove. Frunk retrieved the ball and my father said, “Throw it to your brother.”

His toss veered to the left. I ran to the ball and grab it. My father opened his glove and I chucked the ball at him.

It hit the house.

“Nice arm.”

Mine was even worst.

After an hour we had improved to the point where we could throw the ball between us several times in a row.

“Okay, now it’s time for batting.”

My father demonstrated the proper stance for a right-handed batter.

“Legs apart with your body square to the plate and your eyes on the mound.

“Yes, sir.”

“Ted Williams can see the stitching of the ball.”

“He’s the best.” The Red Sox legend’s number was 9.

I was 6.

Maybe one day you'll be as good as him."

"Yes, sir," I answered knowing that my mind was better suited to Hide and Seek. No one could find my secret places.

“Okay, let’s play some ball.”

My father crouched behind the piece of wood serving as the plate and told my brother to throw a strike.

The seven year-old looked over to my mother in the breezeway. She nodded her approval and he chucked the ball with every ounce of his skinny body’s strength. His first pitch thudded into my father’s glove. The bat never left my shoulder. I had been too scared of the ball.

“You’re supposed to swing at the ball.” He stood up and acted out the motion of batting, as if he were holding an imaginary bat. The 30 year-old man shared the same athletic build as the baseball players on TV.

"Yes, sir."

“Next time swing.” He squatted behind me and smacked his fist into the glove.

“Yes, sir.”

I swung at the next pitch with closed eyes.

Something struck the bat and my hands tingled with shock of the accidental meeting of two objects. The ball floated into our neighbors’ backyard.

The eleven year-old girl with short red hair fielded the ball on one bounce and winged it to my father. His clean-shaven face grimaced from the impact in his glove. My father was an electrical engineer and he tried to analyze the source of her strength. The girl was mostly bones.

“That’s some arm.”

“My father wanted a boy, so here I am.” The freckled redhead was dressed in a Tom Boy tee-shirt and jeans. Her sneakers were well-worn Keds. “I’m Charlene.”

“You want to play some ball.”

“I’d love to.” She ran into our year, pulling on a glove.

We killed the rest of the morning throwing the ball with the lanky girl. My father stopped to pick up my errant throws. There had been many.

Her mother came out to introduce herself. The slender blonde worked as a nurse for Maine Medical and her husband captained an oil freighter out of Bath. They were from Bar Harbor.

“That’s some baseball player you have.” My father nodded at Charlene, who was slicing at the air with the bat.

“Her father played semi-pro. I told him to quit and get a real job or else we were through.” Charlene’s mother had a nice smile. Her teeth were perfect. “I only gave him a girl, but baseball is a love they share.”

My mother invited Charlene’s mother inside for tea and a chat. My sisters sat on the porch. My best friend, Chaney, rounded the corner of the house. One look at Charlene and he ran back home for his glove. Some older boys appeared to mock our playing with a girl. One was our school bully, Skeeter Kressee. My father challenged them to a game.

Five on five with my father as the umpire.

Charlene knocked in four runs. It was my first win in a game and while most boys in America worshipped Mickey Mantle, Charlene became my baseball goddess.

Every day after school my older brother, my best friend, Chaney, and Charlene practiced throwing, fielding, and hitting.

By the end of May my older brother and Chaney could toss a baseball over our two-story house’s roof.

I tried without any success other than twice breaking my sisters’ bedroom window.

Charlene devoted some time to teach me the mechanics of throwing. Her father must been a great instructor, because after an hour my toss cleared the peak by ten feet.

That spring three other neighborhood boys joined our team and we played 7-on 7 pick-up games in the dirt lot next to Route 1. Charlene was our ringer. We routed the boys our age. Our winning streak continued against 3rd and 4th graders. My father coached us on the weekend. Some 5th graders came close to beating us in early June, but Charlene smacked a flat pitch so hard that the ball cleared the state highway. We called ourselves the Red Sox and there were no Yankees in our town good enough to challenge our team.

We were six boys and one girl.

One afternoon Chaney, my older brother, and I came home from Pinewood School to find Charlene sobbing on the front steps. Her Wilson glove and bat lay on the ground.

We stood on the lawn and watched her for a minute without saying a word.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Leave her alone.” My older brother elbowed my ribs.

“Did someone bother you?” I looked up the street. Skeeter Kressee was tormenting a neighbor’s cat. I picked up the bat.

“It’s not Skeeter.” Charlene wiped her face with the sleeve of her shirt. “I tried out for Little League and the coaches told me to go home and bake a cake.”

“They would have never told Frank Malzone that,” Chaney barked with boyish anger.

“Frank Malzone is a man.” My brother Frunk idolized the Red Sox 3rd baseman.

“And Charlene is the best player in our town.” My favorite Red Sox was Pete Runnel. I had traded two Frank Malzone baseball card for one of his. “Did they see you hit?”

“No, they said girls should play with dolls not with balls.” Charlene walked away from our house without her baseball and glove. “You can keep those. I won’t be needing them anymore.”

That afternoon after we lost 15-0 to the 3rd graders.

We were nothing without Charlene and that at the dinner table I told my father about her not being allowed to play Little League.

My mother frowned at the information.

“You can’t always get what you want.” My mother had given up a singing career to raise five children, even though this winter the strength of her voice had stopped the Portland Cathedral choir in mid-chorus of AVE MARIA.

“She’s a very good baseball player. Better than I was at that age.” My father appreciated talent. He watched THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW every Sunday night. “They should have let her try out.”

“Boys and men don’t like playing with girls or women.” My mother served my father another portion of roast beef. “Mostly because they’re scared of losing.”

“You may be right.” My father cut into the meat. He loved my mother’s cooking. “But she deserves a try-out and I’m going to get her one.”

“Good luck.” My mother was sincere in her wishes and stood up to clear the plates from the table.

“But don’t expect much.”

“Why not?” I had to ask.

“Because the boundaries between male and female are written in stone. Men wear pants and women wear dresses. That’s just the way it is.”

“So I shouldn’t help Charlene?”

“No, I’m not saying that, but you should be careful about getting her hopes up.”

“I won’t tell her, but I’ll get her to play.” My father winked at my older brother and me like he had a magic lamp in his back pocket. “You two don’t say anything to Charlene or your friends. You can keep a secret, right?”

“Yes, sir.” My brother and I answered in unison. We were good sons and did as we were told 99% of the time.

“Because telling a secret means it won’t happen.”

“Just like telling someone your wish after snapping a wishbone.”

Frunk and I fought for wishes with dried chicken bones. He had won each and every time and I believed that his wish was to always break off the wish part of the wishbone.

We bought our empty plates to the kitchen sink and went upstairs to our room. Our lights went out at 9 and I listened to the Red Sox-Yankees game on the radio powered by an alligator clip attached to the steel of my bed. The rocket-shaped radio was made in Japan.

I fell asleep before the game’s end, but the Bronx Bombers never lost to us.

The next few days were rainy, cold, and windy for the coast of Maine. Our baseball gloves remained on their hooks. We didn’t see Charlene during that time. She went to school and came back home before us.

Twice I went over to her house.

No one answered my knock on the door.

Friday night my father returned from work in Portland.

You didn’t say anything to Charlene about the try-out?”

“No.”

“To your friends?”

“No.”

“Your teachers?”

“No.”

“C’mon, we’re going to talk with Charlene.”

“Is she going to play Little League?”

“No.”

“That’s not fair.”

“A lot of things in life aren’t fair. This is one of them. C’mon on.”

I grabbed Charlene’s baseball glove and bat.

My older brother, father, and I crossed the backyard.

My father rang the doorbell and Charlene’s mother opened the door.

“Can I help you?” She was wearing curlers and cotton shift.

I’d like to speak with Charlene. It’s about baseball. I tried to get her a try-out, but everyone said that she couldn’t”

“She already knows that.” Charlene’s wife lit a cigarette and offered my father one. “She’s giving up on baseball. Talking to her won’t change her mind. This is a man’s world. She knows that now. So there’s nothing to talk about. Thanks for coming over, but that’s the way it is and she’ll have to live with it.”

“But___” I looked up the stairs, hoping to see Charlene.

“No buts.” My father lit the cigarettes with a Zippo lighter. Charlene’s mom leaned closer to him.

They inhaled at the same time.

“Charlene has made her decision and so has the Little League. It isn’t right, but like her mother said, “That’s the way it is.” Thanks for your time.”

“Thanks for your effort.” Charlene’s mother smiled at my father. They nodded, as if they were allies in a greater fight.

“What about her glove and bat?” I was sure that I could convince Charlene to play with us. I just needed the chance.

“Leave them here.” Her mother took them out of my hands. “Her father can decide what to do with them when he gets back home.”

“Have a good weekend.” We returned to our house and shut the door.

My mother and father spoke in the dining room. We sat in the kitchen. They were having an adult conversation. Nothing else was said about Charlene’s playing baseball. My parents became good friends with her mother and father. The two couples went out together. My mother always said that they had a good time.

Charlene grew her hair longer that summer and she started wearing dresses.

I tried to speak with her, but she ignored me.

She was almost 12 and I was definitely 6.

Two years later we moved from Maine to Boston. My older brother and I were on the same team in the town league. I told the other kids about Charlene. One of the boys laughed at my story. He pitched for us and dreamed of playing in Fenway Park.

“Girls can’t throw a ball.”

“Can too.”

“Can not. They aren't made for sports. Only playing with dolls."

I punched him in the nose and he cried to the coach.

I was thrown off the team for two games. The suspension didn’t matter too much to me. I was no good at baseball, but I retained some of Charlene’s skill and opposing players would shout from the bench.

“You throw like a girl.”

I ignored the insults.

My throws from right field reached the plate fast and hard.

Same as Charlene’s throw, because that girl knew how to play baseball and on the field she was a girl at her best.