Monday, August 31, 2015

BURN CHELSEA BURN

In the early 1970s Chelsea, Massachusetts on the north bank of the Mystic River was a good example of a failed post-industrial city. Thousands of residents had moved out of the working-class community throughout the 50s and 60s. The opening of the Route 1 North Expressway further deepened the decline and on October 14, 1973 the coffin was nailed shut, when the rag shop district burst into flames, which burned eighteen blocks into ashes.

That windy Sunday I left my Brighton apartment to have dinner at my parents' house on the South Shore. My cousin Cindy was visiting from Quincy. My father turned on the radio. WBZ reported that Chelsea was in flames.

"Ssssh," my father quieted the table. He had fought the Great Maine Fire of 1947 and liked a good fire.

The radio reporter announced that the Mystic River Bridge had been shut down and the governor had called out the National Guard.

"This I have to see." My older brother had almost torched our house in Maine playing with matches and at 14 we had set the nearby woods on fire toasting marshmallows. The school psychiatrist said that his pyromania was a release of anxiety or a search for euphoria. My mother thought Frunk's perchance for arson as a threat from Satan, but she was wrong. To us fire was good.

God had spoken to Moses from a burning bush. Vulcan had been spawned from a spark in his mother's womb and fire symbolized purity to the Zorasterians. My godlessness didn't exclude a worship of fire and my older brother told my mother that we wanted to see the fire better.

"From where?" asked my mother, who had worried that his fiery fixation might be derived from satanic possession.

"Just from the top of the hill." Frunk was telling the truth

The Blue Hills rose behind our suburban neighborhood. They were the highest elevation on the South shore.

"From there and nowhere else." My mother commanded and my older brother nodded with averted eyes. Living at home he had learned how to had . "Yes, m'am."

"I'm coming too." Cindy was attending an all-girl college. We protested the war together on Boston Commons.

"I want to go," said my younger sister, who was a year behind me.

"Not a chance. It's a school night." My mother refused Gina's every entreaty. My father knew better than to intercede. My mother wasn't losing any daughters to the devil.

"I'll drive you and Cindy home afterwards," he told me.

"Okay." I had early morning classes at college and Cindy was living on Beacon Hill.

I kissed my mother good-night. She blessed me with her rosary and slipped me a twenty, which was enough for a week's worth of Labatt Beer.

My older brother drove his VW to the CCC tower on Chickatawbut Hill.

Cindy, Frunk, and I climbed to the old CCC tower. Gusts of wind rushed through the trees. The setting sun was giving way to the night and bright stars floated above the Atlantic. Atop the tower two teenagers in leather jackets drank beer and smoked cigarettes, as if they were attempting to join the thick black smoke plume furling over Chelsea.

My brother observed the fire through my father's binoculars.

"Is it bad?"

"Take a look." Frunk handed the glasses to me.

Fiery tongues of yellow and red leapt through the black smoke. Fire engines howled from the expressway. Chelsea needed help or else the city wouldn't exist in the morning. I gave the binoclars to Cindy.

"Ooo, that's big." The eighteen year-old coed was impressed by the conflagration.

"I want to see this closer." Frunk descended the stairs. Chelsea was miles away, but the fire was a powerful magnet to a teenaged arsonist.

"From where?" I followed him.

"From closer." He ran to the VW. I hadn't seen the law student this excited since I had been arrested for an anti-war protest at our college, when he talked the cops out of putting me into the paddy-wagon.

"Closer?"

"Chelsea." He turned to Cindy. "I'll drop you off first."

"No, you won't." The willowy brunette was studying ancient history. "It isn't every day that you get to see a city burn like Rome.

"I'm co-pilot." My map sense was the best on either side of my family. I held open the door for Cindy. She jumped in the back and I sat in the front. My brother screeched from the parking lot and I pulled out a Massachusetts map.

There weren't many ways into Chelsea.

Frunk turned on the radio.

The WBZ announcer said that the wind-blown fire was out of control. The city's hydrants couldn't provide enough water for the hoses. Fire companies from all over the Bay State were descending on the besieged city. The National Guard was stationed on Everett Avenue.

"You know anyone in Chelsea?" asked Cindy, as we sped on the inbound Route 3.

"No one."

"Then let's make up a name, so that if the police asks us about why we're there, then we can say we're the_____what?"

"Evans." I liked the Red Sox right fielder. He had a good bat and a strong arm to the plate.

My brother pulled over twice to make way for convoys of fire trucks guided by a Statie cruiser. Frunk pulled behind one and drafted on the tail of a ladder truck from Marshfield. Over the radio the Chelsea Fire Chief asked for spectator to remain away from the city.

"He's not talking to me." Frunk planned on attending law school, but fire branded his soul with rebellion.

"Get off the Expressway at Haymarket." I figured the Artery was jammed with fire trucks.

Frunk obeyed my directions. I drove taxi to support myself through college. We cut through the Combat Zone and climbed over Beacon Hill.

"I don't see any smoke." My older brother peered into the night sky.

"You will soon." I pointed through the North End towers to a wavering orange glow. "Wait till we get to the Charles."

After passing the Charles Street Jail our eyes were transfixed by the awesome glare pulsating beyond the black shadow on Bunker Hill. People lined the Longfellow Bridge. Cars slowed for the drivers to rubberneck the spectacle. Police cars were setting up roadblocks.

"How are we going to get there?" Frunk was panicking. He wanted to see this fire.

"Turn onto Memorial Drive."

I piloted him under the trolley viaduct across the railroad tracks to New Rutherford Avenue by the site of the old Charlestown Prison, which had been replaced by Bunker Hill Community College. Cindy and Frunk spoke with a rising excitement. We were skirting fire barricades. Nothing was stopping my older brother. I was surprised by the extant of the fire upon reaching the Alford Street Bridge over the Mystic River. Red and gold flashed off the water underneath a plateau of the fire trucks' spinning lights of fire trucks. A single Chelsea cop car manned the other end of the bridge. The officer was leaning against a light-pole. His face was lit by the razing blaze. He looked exhausted.

"Right on Beachem Street."

The back road was located in a huddle of fuel tanks.

"If these caught fire, it'd really be something." Frunk's eyes shined with hope.

"Don't even think about it." Cindy knew my brother well.

"I'm not that kid anymore. I'm almost in law school."

I liked him as the arsonist better.

A line of cops stood in the street at the end of Island End River.

"Park the car here."

Other fire enthusiasts had done the same. The police were not enforcing the no-go zone. Flames rocketed into the night. The fire was fueled by oil-soaked rags and drums of rancid oil. An explosion shuddered the cobblestones like domino tiles. Fire hoses snaked north of Second Street. Another teenager glanced at Cindy. Fire was a good element for her Irish beauty.

"The cops say the fire started over there." The long-haired townie pointed to the left. An entire blocks was bursting with flames. Firefighters were aiming jets of water on a lost building. "I heard on the other side of the fire, lines are running all the way from Bellingham Square. That's almost a half-mile from the frontline."

Another boom rocked the air. Two fireballs whooshed into the sky. My skin felt the heat from three hundred feet away and Frunk wanted to get closer.

Embers soared overhead. Ashes rained on us. I expected to see Godzilla breath lava on Chelsea.

"This is far enough for me." The local teenager stopped before twin columns of fire.

"The twin burning bushes of Chelsea." Frunk was drawn forward in a hypnotic trance to where the walls of flames joined overhead forming a hellish tunnel. Here wasn't a fireman in sight and I grabbed at his arm. He shrugged off my hand. "I came here for this."

"And I'm not seeing my brother barbecued here."

"I'll be fine. Heat rises. C'mon. You'll never see something like this ever again in your life. It's like Chelsea had been bombed by the Luftwaffe."

"Or Hanoi by the Air Force," I sneered, since Frunk had voted for Nixon to end the war.

"That too."

Politics were unimportant. I stared into the fiery maw. The wind shifted and the enflamed corridor opened to the stars.

"Okay."

Cindy, Frunk, and I braved the gauntlet. The intense heat was baking my skin. It was too hot to breathe and I saw a face growing in the fire. I was a lifelong atheist, but the eyes looked like they belonged to the Devil. He was calling my name. I was wanted in Hell. I had no idea. I was no great sinner and shouted, "Run."

I waited for them to go ahead of me. I was the fastest, but didn't want to show how scared I was by this teenage death wish.

At the end of the block firefighters shook their heads. I had wanted to be one when I was a kid.

Not anymore.

"Where did you come from?" a black-faced fireman asked, ready to spray us down.

"From there." Frunk nodded over his shoulder.

"Stupid kids. Get out of here."

His long night was for professionals.

I had no trouble persuading Frunk to leave the devastated city.

"What did you see back there?" Cindy asked as if she might have seen something.

"Nothing and you?" I asked Frunk.

He wasn't saying anything.

Cindy and I walked him back to the VW. Ambulances were idling on the road. No one had been hurt in the fire, but Frunk was in a state of shock. I took the keys and drove us to Charles Street. I parked the car and we went into the Sevens. Frunk liked Brothers better, but this was my choice. I ordered us three beers and we sat at the bar. My brother watched Patriots highlights on the TV. There weren't many. The home team had lost to the Jets 9-7.

The barman sniffed at us.

"You start a fire?"

"No, but we saw the one in Chelsea." Cindy had a nice way of saying 'Chelsea'. She was seeing an Englishman.

"No way."

He expected a report and I told him everything.

"No one died, but the city is toast." I left out of the face in the fire.

No one would believe me and I wasn't trying to be a convert to Satanism.

I was happy with my atheism and sipped at my beer, because while there might not be a God, other creatures haunted the flames at night especially when a city burns to the ground and wherever they lived no beer will be served throughout eternity.

Of this I was sure after surviving the Great Chelsea Fire of 1973.

PHOTOS FROM THE GREAT CHELSEA FIRE OF 1973

fotos by Stanley Foreman

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Fire Of Rampant Consumerism

In October 1973 an industrial neighborhood in Chelsea, Massachusetts was burned to the ground after a row of chemical storage warehouses burst into flames. The fire could be seen from fifteen miles away in the Blue Hills, but that conflagration was nothing in comparison to the last week's toxic waste fire at Ruihai Logistics in Tianjin, China, which is 159 kilometers downwind to the southeast of Beijing. Over a hundred people were killed and nearly a thousand injured by the fiery cocktail of calcium carbide, sodium nitrate, and potassium nitrate.

According to Wikipedia the first detonation in the port area happened near 11pm. Its blast was estimated to have the power of 3 tonnes of TNT. Seismographs registered 2.4 on the Richter Scale, however the second blast was ten times more powerful. The resulting fireballs reached hundreds of meters high and a Japanese satellite filmed the series of deadly explosions.

After the disaster Chinese authorities arrested a dozen executives from Ruihai Logistics China and the West have a common agreement to quash any reports on the country's near-lethal pollution levels. That danger is the price of progress and profit.

Despite both starting the 'Ch', China is no Chelsea.

But a good fire is always a good fire.

Bombs In Holy Places

The Erawan Shrine was built in 1956 to offset the state-owned hotel's foundation being laid on an astrologically disadvantageous date as well as the intersection having been a site for displaying criminals before execution. The Thao Maha Phrom Shrine of Lord Brahma has long been a top tourist site for visitors from Communist China who hired Thai dance troupe to gain an edge on fate, however last week a lone bomber detonated an explosion killing twenty worshippers and wondinging scores of others at the Hindu shrine. Another bomb was set off hours later at a popular ferry stop on the Chao Phyra River. Thankfully no one was hurt at that location.

Western media such as CNh and the Fox News reported as the work of a jihadist terror cell, since the yellow-shirted suspect had non-Thai features, but no one claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Thailand's chief of police has told the media that the bombing was the work of more than one person.

"He didn't do it alone for sure. It's a network," he said, also adding that Thais were involved in the murderous plot. "The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism, because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district."

I doubt that the perpetrators were from Yala in Southern Thailand. The Muslim separatists have never struck at the capitol before, although over 6000 people have been killed since the beginning of the long-smoldering insurgency and the extreme fighters from Pattani have designated their goal no longer as autonomy for the four southern province, but the establishment of a Khalipahte ruled by strict Sharia law.

As the days passed without any leads, the Western media dropped their coverage, leaving the military junta to its own devices. Most Thais think that the bombing was arranged by supporters of the deposed PM Thaksin, who had recently been stripped of his political immunity in absentia. It'a all part of the shadow dance for power and the beloved king celebrates his 70th year on the throne. The army and the police vie for position as the rich seek to suppress the poor with the rural people set against the cities.

If only Bhumipol could rule forever.

And peace spread over the land.

That's all I want for Thailand.

My home on the other side of the world.

Monday, August 24, 2015

FURY FORGOTTEN by Peter Nolan Smith

Throughout the new century in New York successful friends have moved into exclusive enclaves of wealth, while less fortunate emigres to New York City have forced by the disappearance of well-paid jobs and affordable housing to desert this ever-expensive metropolis. Many of those quitting New York have succumbed to the siren’s song of a birth city or town, whose unliveability as a youth has been replaced by the need to spend the golden years in comfort.

Like Old Moses says in THE SEARCHERS, “All I want is a rocking chair.”

While I have no intentions of returning to Boston, I have to admit that getting of job in Manhattan isn't easy after your turn 50.

Several years ago I heard that a good female friend, her husband, and two teenage children were setting out for California.

“So you’re going back home.” Our conversation was over the phone.

“Back to my roots.” She had left the West Coast in 1993.

“What about one last night on the town.” I invited her to the Mudd Club / Club 57 reunion in late October.

“I don’t have time for that.” Garette wasn’t in the mood to see old friends.

“I understand. The West is calling.”

I looked out the window of my top-floor apartment in Fort Greene.

The sun was setting beyond the low skyline. Summer was giving way to autumn. The green trees were turning red and yellow, signaling an early Winter this year.

"Where you going to live?"

“Agora.” Her hometown lay on the dry side of the Santa Monica Mountains. The TV show MASH had been filmed below her mother's house. I knew the vista well from having visited her family during my 1995 stay in Southern California.

“Give my best to your brothers.” We had surfed El Matador and Ventura. They were the tallest white men above Santa Monica. I liked them a lot.

“I don’t talk with them anymore,” Garette said and then added, “My brothers abused me as a kid.”

“Oh.” I didn’t have to ask how. Garette’s mom had eight kids. They were as wild as feral cats. I thought sex, but it was worse.

“They beat me.”

“I never hit a woman like that,” I answered without thinking about the past.

“What about the time you hit your girlfriend in Paris. That 17 year-old model.”

Garette and I had met at the Bains-Douches in the summer of 1984. We were just friends. No one believed that, especially not her husband.

“Candia.”

I nodded with the recollection of entering the Rue Danzig apartment to find the Puerto Rican teenager naked with her Italian boyfriend. One punch dropped him into the kingdom of whimpers. Candia slapped at my fists. My fingers unfolded to open palms. Red murder flooded my blood.

“I didn’t hit her. I threw her on the bed.”

“Are you sure?” Women have better memories than men. “What about whipping them out of the apartment with a ripped telephone wire. Naked into a snowstorm.”

“It was a flurry.” Flakes had fallen as softly as volcanic ash. The snow's still beauty must have been lost on their unclothed flesh and bare feet.

"The weather was unimportant. Did you hit her or not?"

"Maybe." I might have been a little rough, but I didn't punch or slap her and riding in a taxi afterward I remember feeling that they gotten off easy, besides even a double murder was forgivable before the judge in France. They understood passion.

“So don’t tell me that you’ve never hit a woman. Liar. Like all men.”

The phone clicked off and my ear was glad that people weren’t able to slam the receiver of a cell phone somewhere else, but Garette was right. I had been violent toward women and scourging Candia and her young boyfriend into the wintery night wasn't the first time.

In 1960 My older brother and I had chucked rocks at a family of eight sisters for ascendancy of our neighborhood south of Boston. They never beat up another boy.

As a hippie I had picked up my youngest sister from a Wollaston Beach bowling alley twenty minutes late.

“I hate you.” Her tirade scorched my ears on the drive through the Blue Hills.

Inside our split-level ranch house she said something so despicable that I threw a Frye boot at her. It missed her head by inches and dented the steel door to the garage. What she said was forgotten.

So I really didn’t hit her, but two other women were on the list.

Back in 1978 my hillbilly girlfriend Alice had disappeared from CBGBs with the band Shrapnel.

An hour later I found her in the alley behind the punk club. She smiled at me, as if I were stupid to have worried about her. Nothing had happened between her and the band, but that smile earned her a slap. I don’t recall ever apologizing, but Alice and I stayed together, until I left her for Lisa.

The blonde model from Buffalo was as beautiful and cold as a Swedish movie starlet.

We lived in London together the autumn of 1978. The studio was next to Chelsea football pitch. She modeled with David Bailey, while I wandered the wet streets thinking the worst. The next winter she left New York for Europe seeking fame and fortune on the runaways of Paris and Milan. Within a month she had disappeared, but at the summer's end she called me at summer’s end to pick up her things.

“Why did you leave me?” I asked her, as she got in a waiting taxi on First Avenue. Her boyfriend was a Russian gangster. He had an luxury apartment on East 57th Street.

“Sometimes you don’t get all the answers.” Lisa sneered at me, as if she was getting revenge for something else that someone else had done to her.

“No answer.” I snapped and kicked her ass with enough force to propel her inside the taxi.

“Fuck you.” She slammed the door shut and the taxi drove her out of my life forever, then again she was already out of it.

Garette was once more right.

The only difference between me and a woman-killer was the length of my rage. I could have killed Candia, kicking Lisa had come natural and slapping Alice happened faster than a rattlesnake fanging a desert mouse.

All three incidents were decades ago, but later that day I googled Lisa. Her last name was too common to find on the web.

Candia was in a sisterhood down the south of France. They didn’t believe in modern technology.

The only one to whom I could apologize was my hillbilly girlfriend, since I was certain she would attend the fetes for Club 57 and the Mudd Club and I would be doing the same.

That week I rehearsed my apology in my Fort Greene apartment.

Men had been beating women for time immemorial.

Cavemen supposedly clubbed women and dragged them by their hair into slavery.

There was no foreplay involved with the rape of the Sabine Women.

I stood accused of a crime and only forgiveness could help me forget my sins.

The first night of the Club 57 re-union Alice was too busy greeting old friends for a conversation about forgiveness. She was still a star and I was just another old boyfriend. Our friends regaled each other with tales from the 1980s. I gathered everyone for a group photo. Alice was going out to dinner with a famous painter. She was still beautiful. I had been a fool to leave her, then again I had been a fool about a lot of other things.

Morning found me alone in my bed. I was slightly hung over and soaked in my bath for a good hour.

The razor slid over my face. I wanted to look good tonight.

Several film makers had contacted me for interviews.

In August 1980 I had worked every night at the Mudd Club to pay for my sister’s wedding present. Mostly I had hung out at the downstairs bar listening to music.

SEX MACHINE by James Brown had been my favorite and the DJ played it once a night.

The reunion was at a bar next to the Williamsburg Bridge and I arrived early to avoid paying a cover, plus the only time I had purchased a ticket at the Mudd Club was for the Marianne Faithful show. The price was $10. Her voice cracked on BROKEN ENGLISH. The concert was cut short by a hail of beer cans aimed not at the singer, but Steve Mass the owner. Everyone wanted a refund. Steve didn’t give back a dime.

“You don’t come here for the music. You come here to be you,” Steve shouted at us, because at the Mudd Club Joey Arias, Klaus Nomi, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Anita Sarko, Richard Boch, Anya Phillips, James Chance, Michael Holman, and countless others were the stars of nights fueled by sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Not all of us made it.

At the re-union I was more unknown than known, but when I sat down on the garden rooftop, passing party-goers stared at me, as if they had known me. I didn’t think that I had changed that much, but I had stopped looking in the mirror after the age of 50.

“I only look at my shadow,” I later told an interviewer along with the story of ordering Alice to wipe a Jean Michel painting off our refrigerator. I could have sold it ten years ago for a million.

“I was so smart.”

I had thought that I was going to make something of my life. The drugs, the drinks, the late hours, and the sex had destroyed my body and soul. In truth I was lucky to be alive and found myself sitting with Alice.

She was as sweet as the first day I met her through our now dead friends; Andy Reese and William Lively. We entertained a throng of onlookers with our remembrances. Michael Holman joined us to explain the separation of fun at the Mudd Club versus Club 57.

“They were art and fun and we were sex and drugs.”

I didn’t beg to differ and after the camera stopped rolling I asked Alice for a second.

“What is it?” She was nervous, as if I was going to ask her to sleep with me.

“I want to apologize for hitting you behind CBGBs. It was wrong.”

“You really scared me and I probably should have left you right then, except I wasn’t brought up that way.” Her family from West Virginia was like mine from Maine; LEAVE IT TO BEAVER on the outside and a John Waters film on the inside.

“I wish I had never done it.” My excuse was that I had been worried about her, but that had been an excuse.

“Me too. But that was a long time ago.” Alice smiled with forgiveness and excused herself.

“Thanks.”

“Yeah.” She had done me a favor and I did her one by ending our conversation on the matter.

I went to the bar, convinced that I was no Ted Bundy, the mass murderer, but neither was I a saint, since most men are simply something in between good and bad, which wasn’t such a horrible thing to be in this day and at my age.

I drank my drink and looked

Old men never look good angry, but they get better looking with an apology.

As long as they really meant it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bernie Was There 1962

Bernie Sanders was there from the start.

He remains true.

He has my vote once he truly addresses the occupation of Palestine.

ps This photo dates back to a CORE sit-in 1962.

Conversely Hillary Clinton was working with the Barry Goldwater Campaign.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Messiah Speaketh on Wisdom

The Lord of Truth lives.

George Carlin.

Check out this URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rh6qqsmxNs

STING LIKE A BEE by Peter Nolan Smith

This past May a tropical bee flew into our new house in Sri Racha. My wife attacked the flying insect with a broom. My two year-old son Fenway screamed at the buzzing creature. I rolled up yesterday’s Bangkok Post and tracked the invader's flight. My first swat caught the zigzaging bee and it caromed off the wall to finish its life on the tiled floor. Mam swept the bee from the house and I brandished the newspaper in triumph.

"Bad man. Not kill bee. Bee good for flower. Bee good for nature. No bee."

"No flower." My son was smarter than me, because as Buddhists my wife and children venerated all living things, but this was not my first encounter with bees.

In the summer of 1960 my family moved from Maine to a suburban tract south of Boston in the Blue Hills. The neighborhood was located on the site of an abandoned army base. Bulldozers had razed the remaining derelict military installations to create half-acre plots for the new suburbs. Their ruins provided shady shelter for dozens of bee hives and their scouts swarmed over the flower bed of the neighborhood gardens. My mother considered any creature larger than an ant an animal and throughout June and July her screams filled our split-level ranch house. The mothers of our enclave confronted the developer. The farmer by the highway said that the bees helped grow flowers. The mothers had been brought up in the city. They wanted the bees gone and by the end of August the bulldozers had eradicated most of the nests.

The onslaught had forced the bees into a small gully filled with fruit crates. The narrow defile was located behind our house. Bees swarmed around our crab apple tree. My sister cried herself to sleep and my mother screamed at the sight of them.

A week before school my older brother, next neighbor, Chuckie, and I decided to exterminate the remaining threat and left our garage with snow shovels, wearing towels around our heads as protection. My youngest sister accompanied our expedition swathed in her baby blanket.

The four of us stood at the edge of the gully. The sizzle of bees resonated in the air like a flock of mini-motorcycles. My brother was 8. Chuckie and I were 7. My younger sister was barely 4. Frank was elected captain. We were his privates. His strategy was simple.

"Don't bees make honey?" my sister pleaded their case.

"Yes, they do," I liked honey.

"So no bees, no honey?"

"No." I saw her logic.

Not Chuckie.

"I like sugar and bees have nothing to do with sugar."

“Smash everything.” My older brother motioned for my sister to back away from us, as we descended into the pit with the shovels raised above our heads. The first crate splintered under the first assault, but the bees instantly congealed into an angry tornado seeking our flesh.

“Run," My brother shouted in terror.

We dropped the shovels and ran across the lawn toward safety of our house.

I looked over my shoulder.

My sister was frozen to the spot and the bees bit her a dozen times in the space of time that it took for my older brother to rescue her from the swarm. Bumps rose from her skin. She cried in our arms, as we took her back into the house.

My mother was furious with us, but more so with the developer and the next morning a bulldozer buried the gully with earth. We didn’t see a bee after that day, although my older brother and I swore that the ground vibrated with the buzz of the buried bees.

As we reached puberty, the danger of the bees was softened by our parents’ mystical interpretation of the birds and bees. None of their explanations made any sense to us, because none of it was supposed to make any sense. Sex was a forbidden subject in the suburbs of the 1960s. Later that summer I asked my father what 'the birds and bees' really meant. He had attended a good college in Maine.

“‘All nature seems at work … The bees are stirring–birds are on the wing … and I the while, the sole unbusy thing, not honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.' That’s from the poet Samuel Coleridge. Now do you understand?” The tone of my father’s voice excluded any answer other than one.

“Yes, sir.” I had no idea who Samuel Coleridge was, but I would have bet my allowance that he had never been bit by a bee.

Several years later Chuckie and I found a stash of moldy porno magazines in the woods. In the photos of naked men and women the people looked dirty like they had never taken a bath and Chuckie said, "Sex has nothing to do with the birds and bees."

"I know." I was hurt, thinking that my father might have lied to me, then realized that he had said nothing at all.

"Then again I'm not so sure." Chuckie pointed to the man's erect penis and said, “Maybe that’s a man's stinger.”

“And the woman is the egg?” I asked under my voice, for while we were over a mile from my house, but I was certain, that my mother could hear everything I said anywhere.

“I guess so.” Chuckie was stumped by my question and that evening I fell asleep that night to dreams of the birds and bees in strange positions. My Boy Scout Handbook had warned about ‘nocturnal emissions’, so in the morning I knew that the wetness inside my pajamas wasn’t pee and that I had taken step closer to being a man.

Te next summer there were no flowers in my neighborhood and bees disappeared from my existence until the spring of 1971

I attended Boston College as a commuter student. My trip to Chestnut Hill began with a trolley ride from Lower Mills along the Neponset River to Ashmont, where the T ran to Park Street.

One morning the trolley entered the station and an inbound train was waiting at the platform. The driver was walking to the head car and I jumped off the trolley with my token in hand. I dropped my fare in the slot. As I ran to the nearest car something flew into my mouth.

It was a bee and it bit the roof of my roof.

I screamed out in pain and my tongue swished at my tormentor. I danced in a swirl, until the bee released its barb and I spit it out of my mouthHaving long hair most of the other passengers on the platform feared that I was having a bad acid trip and hurried into the train. I pointed to the bee, but black and yellow attacker flew away before anyone saw it. My explanation of the bee bite through a swollen mouth only scared the passengers more.

Lightning supposedly never strikes the same place twice, yet later that evening I was walking through Chinatown, when something flew up the leg of my jeans. It was a bee. The instant it stun my calf, I slapped at my jeans and the bee dropped to the sidewalk.

My attacker looked amazingly like the bee from Ashmont and I wasn’t giving the creature another chance to kill me, so I stomped the bee into a smear on the concrete.

Upon returning home and checked out the old gully. The moon was up and the grass shone silver under the light reflected by the moon. I laid my ear to the ground. It was silent.

At the breakfast table I related this tale to my younger sister and asked, "You remember the time the bees attacked you?"

"No." She was almost 13, which was a difficult age for all teenagers.

"The bees stung you over and over."

"Why?"

"Mom wanted them gone."

And she left it up to you?" laughed my sister. "Junior bee-killers. You know they make honey?"

"Yes, I do."

I surrendered to her recollection of the past, however I was certain that this day’s bee was a descendant of those hives' queen. It had to have family and they had sought their revenge. I expected nothing less from the birds and bees, because in the words of Samuel Coleridge, “The bees are stirring–birds are on the wing.”

I think I understand now.

Maybe one day my son Fenway will understand the mystery of the birds and the bees.

Something about it has to be the truth and Fenway would find the answer.

All men do in the end.

Bernie Versus Hillary

Today I saw my first Bernie volunteers in fort Greene, Brooklyn.

The Bernster has my vote.

Sanders was the only senator to vote against the War in Iraq.

ps George Carlin as VP

Asshole of the Week 8/18/2015 Kim Davis

I understand belief as a Red Sox fan.

I knew in my heart that the Fenway Faithful would be rewarded with a World Series triumph, although maybe not in my lifetime. This year I haven't worn my Red Sox Nation shirt. The Bosox never got it together and we are last in the American League East, yet I understand that one day we will rise again, so I share some insight into the dilemma of civil servants with strong religious beliefs not wanting to violate the tenets of their faith.

Last week in Rowan County, Kentucky, County Clerk, Kim Davis decided to stop legalizing marriage licenses for same-sex unions. Her decision came after months of prayer and fast. Looking at the above photo I would have to say that Kim only fasted from sex, because she certainly hadn't lost any weight during her prayer-driven hunger binge, plus she ended up looking like a Mormon sister wife.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the right to same-sex union.

Kim Davis is in direct violation of carrying out the Laws of the Land and this land does not consist simply of the Bible Belt.

We are a nation reflecting the prism of humanity.

Kim Davis serves another cause.

Shame of her.

And I wish worse, but not today because I'm going to Afropunk in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

We are Family.

To hear WE ARE FMAILY by Sister Sledge, please go to this URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBpYgpF1bqQ

Julian Bond RIP

"Violence is black children going to school for 12 years and receiving 6 years' worth of education." - Julian Bond

A great and tireless fighter for human rights.

Julian Bond was not quitter.

None of us should be either.

RESIST.

Monday, August 17, 2015

ATLANTIC SLAPDOWN by Peter Nolan Smith

Last Saturday afternoon the streets of Brooklyn sweltered in the sultry August heat and my landlord invited me to join a family excursion to the beach. I had only swam in the ocean twice all summer, so my answer was quick and to the point.

"Gimme five minutes."

I ran upstairs and changed into my beach gear, then grabbed a towel. We weren't going far and I hurried down to the street in time to help AP load his kids' bikes into AP's Audi A6 station wagon.

"Nice day for it." The temperature was in the mid-90s.

"Any day is." I sat in the back with the door open. The afternoon air was breathless and I toweled the sweat off my face. His daughter and son bounded down the stairs and joined me in the back. Lizzie and my daughter Angie were born only a few days apart, while James was two years older than Wey Wey. I considered both AP's children family. Mine was on the other side of the world in Thailand.

"Everyone set," their platinum-haired mother, Kay, asked from the front.

"Ready," we chorused and AP drove through downtown Brooklyn to the Dumbo exit of the south-bound BQE. Traffic was nearly non-existent along the shore of New York harbor and we round the Narrows past Coney Island. AP got off the BQE at 11S to cross over Jamaica Bay Inlet on the Gil Hodges Bridge after which AP entered Fort Tilden, to which he had a parking permit from the Rockaway Artists Collective.

After pulling out the bikes, the two kids rode ahead on the crumbling roads of the decommissioned military outpost, while we tramped toward the beach.

Fort Tilden had served the nation since the War of 1812 and existed as Naval Air Station Rockaway throughout the 20th Century. Coastal guns had at one time dotted the dunes to protect New York City from invasion. During the Cold War Nike Hercules and Nike Ajax missiles had been installed in bunkers and launch sites to shoot down Soviet nuclear missile.

AP's eight-year old son was desperate to find a silo in the flowering beach heather.

"Why don't they not have missiles now?"

"The fort was abandoned in the 70s."

"Why?" It was only the second of many whys and AP was a good father. He answered each and every one through the dunes.

We reached the beach, as the crowds were heading for home. The wind off the water was cold. The beach was strewn with plastic bags and beer cans. AP's son asked why.

"Because people are pigs," AP answered and stripped off his shirt. He had summered most of his life on the Hamptons. This was his ocean. His daughter and son waded in ankle-deep surf, as he plunged into the thick ocean rollers. I wasn't quite ready and policed the sandy stretch around us for trash. After five minutes it was almost pristine and I dropped the bag of garbage by Kay reading a book.

"A little better now."

"Wasn't any plastic on the beach when I was growing up."

AK's wife came from San Diego. I knew those beaches from the 70s.

"You think the Atlantic is different from the Pacific?"

Both are cold." She put down her book and surveyed the green waves. "The surf is bigger back home and the slope doesn't drop off so fast like it does here, but it's almost the same. What about Thailand?"

"The water there is calm and warm." I shut my eyes and saw Angie and Wey Wey on Mae Laim Phim. My kids loved Rayong. The sand was soft and the water was warm, plus palm trees lined the beach. Nothing was getting me there today and I opened them to see Lizzie and James before me.

"Are you going in?"

"No, I just sit here. I'll watch your garbage."

Kay resume reading her book.

"Thanks."

I tugged off my shirt and walked to the edge of the surf. AP stroked through the surf and shook the water off his body.

"You kids ready for a swim?" AP was a good swimmer and a better father.

"Yes."

Lizzie disappeared under a wave. Her younger brother was more cautious.

"I'll carry you." AK lifted James in his arms and wandered into the deeper water. I missed my sons. My daughters too.

"Don't mention it." I was also a father.

I ran into the ocean. I duckdove under a large wave and Aussie-crawled about a hundred feet from shore. The current swept east at a fast clip and I swam to keep AP and his daughter before me. James shouted and pointed behind me. A surging wave built a surfable face. I rode it for a good twenty feet before the wave collapsed onto the sandbar, slamming my body to the sand and I popped to the surface gasping for breath.

An unusual pain throbbed in the ribs.

Lord Neptune had tried to kill me, but I wasn't an easy victim and bodysurfed to shallower water. Standing up I inhaled deeply. The ache wasn't going away and I decided it was time to call an end to this swimming expedition.

"You okay?" AP asked emerging from the surf with his daughter and son clinging to his neck.

"I might have bruised a rib, but I'm okay."

His kids ran to their mother.

It was three months since my last visit home.

Sea water was good at hiding my tears and I said, "Nothing a few margaritas wouldn't cure."

"Your wish is my command." AP is a kindred soul. "Let's go get some in Rockaway. Tacos too."

His wife liked the idea.

"That was quite a tumble you took."

"It only hurts when I laugh."

"I bet it does, but it will go away." Kay understood the ache in my heart, but her children were happy and I was happy for them to be happy and ever happier that we had gone to Fort Tilden. I inhaled deeply and grimaced from the pain.

It wasn't bad and I follow my friends to the car.

They were a family and so was mine.

And one day soon I will go see my kids.

On the sands of a beach far away.

And that will happen one day.

Jesse Ventura For Ambassador to Cuba


Former governor of Minnesota and ex-WWF wrestler Jesse Ventura has retreated from public life and lives 'off the grid' on the Baja, devoted to losing weight through surfing. I last saw him on the Larry King Show promoting his new book and he responded to the TV commentator's query about Dick Cheney saying 'waterboarding wasn't torture' was quick.

“You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.”

Jesse Ventura had been subjected to 'waterboarding' as a Navy Seal trainee.

"Damned if it did any good."

Jesse also suggested the legalization of marijuana and normalization of relations with Cuba. The more he speaks, the more he makes sense. And this is coming from a man who wore boa feathers into the wrestling ring.

"Now the USA has opened an embassy in Havanna.

I nominated Jesse Ventura as 1st US ambassador to Cuba since Philip Bonsal.

Ambassador Ventura.

Has a nice ring to it.

To watch the full interview go to these URLs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9yfMdNC6cQ

And

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejahDWoYk2A&feature=related

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Up the Ra - Rubber Bandits

Our revenge will be the laughter of our children - Bobby Sands

To see Up the Ra - Rubber Bandits, please go to this URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBT4ZWy6Lm4

Friday, August 14, 2015

ROADS OF THE FLYOVER Part 3 by Peter Nolan Smith

Threatening clouds roiled over the Iowa cornfields. Monstrous flashes strobed through the thunderheads. The still air was charged with electricity.

"Have you ever seen a tornado?" Brock asked with his video recorder out the window.

"Only in WIZARD OF OZ." Twisters killed people and I stepped on the gas. Brock studied the map. We hadn't seen a single human being for an hour.

We're heading north, right?" The Scotsman couldn't drive, but as a covert agent he knew the points of the compass.

"Yes." I was headed away from the storm front.

"You know where?"

"Roughly."

The unpaved rural road paralleled US 169. No one in New York or London had ever traveled this route through Iowa.

"When you think that family left that house?" asked Brock, as we passed a one-story farmhouse haunting an overgrown yard.

"Back in the 90s." The paint was peeling off its wood like potato chips.

"Stop."

Brock was the boss and I punched the brakes to batslide to a halt on the dirt road.

I got out of the rented Ford and shut of the engine.

The storm lurked farther to the south. The mutter of distant thunder invaded the still spring fields. I didn't feel safe.

Brock set up his camera and explained more about his documentary on a dying Irish sculptor.

"Barry once said to a journalist, “I enjoy the third dimension and I appreciate material in time and space. I find it exciting to the eyes.”

"Then he'll love this." The strengthening wind bent the trees. The four elements were gathering force.

"Barry will love this."

The Irish sculptor was losing control of his body back on Ibiza.

"Let's go." I didn't like the look of the sky.

Thirty miles down the road we stopped at the Blackcat Fireworks store.

The sky was clearing. We had outrun the storm.

Brock tried my cellphone.

There was no service.

"I love a little pyrotechnics." He entered the store and spent $100 on rockets and M80s.

Four days ago Brock had been in Afghanistan and he was homesick for the sounds of war.

Twenty minutes later we braked on a empty road. Iowa had thousands of them. We pulled out the fireworks. I lit the fuses and Brock watched the explosions.

"Not even close to the real thing," he said, as the report of the last M80 faded into the treeline.

"Much louder?"

"Much." He didn't want to talk anymore about it and we got back in the car.

Our next destination was Des Moines, which was Iowa's capitol.

We arrived after 5.

The city was devoid of people.

"Is America dead?" Brock said, as if a plague had killed my countrymen.

"After work people flee the cities for the suburbs."

Des Moines has suburbs?

"

They were the great social experiment of the 60s." I had grown up in a pink split-level ranch house south of Boston. It had a two-car garage. "Cars gave Americans freedom to go where they wanted."

"Away from blacks?"

"Yes." Iowa was 95% white. My hometown had a population of 25,000. Only three families were black. "Segregation is the American Way."

I drove to the Flanagan hare at the city's Art Center. I stayed in the car, as Brock focused his camera on the statue. He interviewed homeless people for their impression of the hare. No one else's was left in the city. I called Thailand.

My son Fenway was better.

His mother was angry at me.

"Why you go trip? Why you not see son?"

I said nothing, because a man is always wrong in the eyes of his woman and I missed Fenway

We spent the night on the outskirts of Des Moines. Brock and I ate ribs at the restaurant was next to the motel. The TV over the bar showed fast cars. This was Nascar Country. At the end of the meal I ordered a doggie bag. Neither of us could finish our ribs.

"Why did Barry sculpt hares?" I discerned no difference between hares and rabbits.

"One day he bought a dead rabbit from a butcher in England and remembered a jumping hare. To him the hare represented freedom. All kinds of freedom."

"Freedom is a rarity in America these days. All kinds of freedom."

"Better than Afghanistan."

"I'm sure."

"What about your hippie friend? Doesn't he live in Iowa?"

"Thanks for reminding me. No one was freer than Rockford back in the day."

I loved being a hippie almost as much as being young.

Before I went to sleep, I called my friend Rockford in Iowa City.

The old hippie was looking forward to seeing us.

"I have a surprise for you."

"What?" I hated surprises.

"You'll see when you get here."

The next morning we left Des Moines. Silos towered over the old highway.

"This is farmland." Iowa was the center of America.

"Corn and wheat."

"Tortillas and bread."

"And prisons. My friend Rockford spent two years at the state penitentiary. It's across the Mississippi from Illinois."

"I doubt he had a room with a view. What he get done for?" Brock was very open-minded for a spy.

"The police raided his farmhouse for pot." Rockford had been growing weed on his Back Forty. Someone had snitched him out on a plea bargain. Snitches were a problem everywhere. "Growing pot is a felony, but the police also found some cocaine and the judge hit Rockford with a three-year bid."

"Better here than Bagram prison in Kabul."

"Bad?." I had seen pictures. The government claimed the abuse was an isolated case, but the US military and CIA had tortured thousands.

"Very bad."

"Rockford doesn't talk about it.

"Most people don't. Are we're meeting him tonight?"

"But of course. Rockford and I go back to an acid trip on Moonlight Beach in 1974. "LSD? Do tell."

I told the story of speaking with seals, as we followed the train tracks out of Des Moines. Brock laughed upon hearing about my attempt to speak French with the seal.

"What's for lunch?"

It was getting near noon.

"There's this old Pietist colony in Amana." Iowa had plenty of religious sects. We had passed through several Memmonite communities and seen Amish in horse-drawn buggies.

"Pietists?"

"An old German sect rejected Lutheranism back in the 1700s." I had no idea about their tents, but hazarded a guess. "The Lutherans were too zealous. They fought wars over their beliefs. The Pietists fled Germany and then America. Iowa is a good state for freedom of religion. They were skilled craftsmen and now make refrigerators."

"I knew Amana sounded familiar." Brock had lived in America for a decade as a playwright. The Arts were a good cover for covert agents. "Their food has to be better than McDonalds."

"We'll soon find out." I turned off the highway.

Only a few tourists were visiting the Heritage site. It was still too early in the season. I ordered chicken pot pie and Brock chose a ham steak. The waitress served us water. There was no beer on the menu.

Brock filmed our meals.

"Barry likes to see everything."

"How much longer you think he has."

He had been a young man as had Brock and I had once been back in the 70s.

"He might last to the end of the summer." Brock intended on visiting the artist in Ibiza after our return to New York and aimed the camera in my direction.

"Hmmm good." I knew how to act for Brock.

Nice and natural.

At the end of our meal Rockford called from his farm to make a rendezvous at a sports bar in Iowa City.

"What do you think he has for us?"

"I can only guess."

Something told me it was something good.

Rockford and his son met us at a bar on the outskirts of town. I hadn't seen John since he was a baby. He was a teenager now.

I gave John a Ferrari jacket from my defunct internet site. He loved it being red. His friends picked him up. They were going to a movie.

"What?" I hoped it wasn't a blood and guts slasher film.

"Star Trek."

"Cool." I had been a Trekkie from the beginning and said "Live long and prosper."

We ordered another round and spoke with the bartender. Jake was back from a 3rd tour in Iraq.

"It sucked and my commanding officer wants to go again."

"Bastard."

"You got that right."

Three right-wingers were drinking Bud-Lite at the bar and I overheard the chubby one said, "This country was founded on conservative values."

I slammed down my PBR.

"This country was founded on Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, so shut the fuck up about your conservative values." I liked Obama as president. These three said nothing and drank their Bud-Lites.

Brock shook his head. He liked stealth better than brawn.

"Was he like this when he was younger?" asked Brock.

"Our friend has always had a good temper, but with good cause." Rockford stared with eight ball eyes at the threesome and suggested we move to the Deadwood, which was Iowa City's best dive bar.

"Sounds good to me>"

Brock and I had more front teeth than any of the regulars at the Deadwood. The Iowa U co-eds danced to punk. They accepted our offers of tequila. After a few minutes Rockford broke out a small bottle packed with powder."

"Here's my surprise. Bolivian Pink 1975.

"No way." The Cali cartel had destroyed cocaine in the 80s with the help of the CIA an the Mexican gangs were even worse.

"I've been keeping it for a special occasion and nothing more special than an old friend visiting me." Rockford offered me the first blast. I did it at the bar.

1975 had been a good year.

"Was he a hippie back then?" Brock's 'he' was me.

I hated being third-person.

"Not even close, but he was good people." Rockford knew my soul.

I got another blast.

2009 was even better, because we were alive and alive was all there was everywhere in the world.

At closing the coeds asked, "Are you going?"

"Going where?" I was hoping a cheap hotel.

"To River City."

"What's in River City?'

"It's the future birthplace of James T. Kirk."

A minute later we were in a taxi heading south. Brock, Rockford, and I were in no condition to drive.

We arrived at the small town to discover that there wasn't a statue, but a plaque.

I cried just the same and had the taxi driver take us back to the hotel. I was ready to call it a night, but Rockford wasn't in the mood for sleep and poured out the rest of the Bolivian Pink. Brock and laid our heads on the pillow.

"This is a night to remember. The night you came to Iowa City and my ice let me out of the town.

I slept until dawn.

I sat up in bed and looked out the window.

Prairie grass ran up to the hotel.

"Hope I didn't keep you up." His voice was a growl native to the Hawkeye State.

"Not at all."

"I guess I'll be going. My wife will be real happy to see me, but I have a good excuse."

I was certain that my name belonged to that excuse.

"It was nice to meet you." Brock stirred from his bed.

"I wish you could stay longer."

"Me too." Brock was no angel, but a museum in Minneapolis was expecting him tomorrow.

Rockford said good-bye and drove back to his farm. We skipped the motel's complimentary breakfast. Our stomach were in no condition for food. We drank black coffee on I-380 northbound.

It wasn't a pretty road, but it was fast.

I pushed the Ford to 90.

We had to make some time.

And time was easy to make on the highway especially with James T. Kirk at my back.

He liked fast too.

Warp speed fast.