Friday, December 18, 2015

An Old New Year

We're into that twilight week of the year known as the taint of the calendar. 'Taint Christmas and it
'taint New Years. Since it's the season to be jolly and the news is so grim, I'd like to tell you about one memorable New Years' Eve. I must preface the story by admitting that Isaac Tigrett and I have been friends since high school. My band used to drive up to Jackson to play at his fraternity parties. I say this both because the event occurred at Hard Rock CafĂ©, and it's not my intention to drop names until later in the column. The Hard Rock was Isaac's creation and I was invited to celebrate the New York restaurant's first anniversary and New Years festivities. I was invited to the opening, but I had an anxiety disorder and had trouble enough going to Kroger much less flying to a packed-out gala event with a bunch of strangers. But this time, I was given an offer I couldn't refuse- Isaac was sitting next to me on the airplane. We reached New York and headed for the car rentals where Tigrett tossed two premium credit cards on the counter, turned to me and said, "Do you have any cash? I don't have any money."  I was housed in the same building where Isaac had an apartment overlooking the Hard Rock's Cadillac entrance, so he could watch the lines outside and harass the doorman.

New York at Christmas is beautiful, with lighted ornaments dangling over 57th Street like giant snowflakes. When I first walked into the Hard Rock, I was so overwhelmed, I had to open my eyes wider to take it all in. Several of the old Soul Revue posters from the sixties that I'd loaned Isaac were duplicated and hanging prominently on the wall, and climbing up to second floor, there was a giant picture of Little Richard with the tiny inscription, "To Randy, with love." When I asked Isaac how he got away with making duplicates of what might be considered copywrited material he said, "I just keep doing it until someone tells me to quit." Ernest Wither's iconic photo of B.B. King and Elvis was prominently placed in a double-arched, gilded, antique frame with a plaque above that read, "The Two Kings." I began to feel at home. Even the Bar-B-Q was cooked low and slow. I linked up with a group of my Jackson buddies who had made the trip and joined their party for the celebration. There must have been about seven of us, all single men, and we were Isaac's guests for New Years' Eve. The problem was, we were guests at what turned out to be a private party.

We were seated at a large table on the main floor, while the entire upstairs, and the rest of the restaurant for that matter, had been rented to the actor George Segal and his guests for the night. I loved George Segal in "Virginia Woolf," but he had this other shtick where he'd go on the Johnny Carson show and play the banjo. That would be bad enough, but he played songs like "Alexander's Ragtime Band," and other favorite minstrel songs of the South including, "Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown," a real rib tickler. Unfortunately, Segal was the entertainment for the evening. He had hired a trio consisting of piano, bass, and drums. I was just hoping they were being well paid. I showed up in a suit and tie, but the Jackson boys were all in tuxedo. Isaac kept bringing different women over for introductions because every time he did, we all stood in unison like gentlemen. The New York ladies were goggle-eyed. Some laughed, some were bemused, and some stared at us like we were vestiges of some lost civilization. When George Segal began regaling the assembly with "If You Knew Susie," his guests listened in rapt attention while we decided it was time to start drinking heavily. I should add here that I don't drink. Lord knows I've tried to be a proper drunk, but it just doesn't work for me. However this time, the Champaign was flowing and I didn't want to be anti-social, which is another way of saying that I got lampshade-on-the-head, knocked-out loaded.

When Segal rejoined his party, the trio began playing some cool jazz and I was suddenly hoisted from my seat from behind and propelled toward the stage. The musicians eyeballed each other warily, but the boss wanted his buddy to sing. I ran through the rolodex of songs in my head and came up with Ray Charles' "I Gotta Woman," and the crowd woke up. The bass player said, "Hey man. That was great. let's do another one." He was sort of a goofy looking guy with a big smile, a childlike face, and a baseball cap that he wore backwards. I chose B.B. King's "Rock Me, Baby," because it only has three chords and I didn't want to confuse the musicians. We got such big applause that George Segal bounded down the stairs and told the band to take a break. My new musical pal turned to shake my hand and said, "I enjoyed that. My name's Jaco Pastorius." I was sitting next to the bassist for the jazz-fusion group Weather Report and one of the greatest innovators in the history of the bass guitar. He turned to the drummer, "This is Jim Keltner," who had only worked with everyone from John Lennon to Elvis. The frail-looking gentleman at the piano with the receding hair and braided ponytail was Bob Dorough. Only recently, a friend had given me a tape of his early be-bop music and I gushed, "Mr. Dorough, we sure know you in Memphis." He slipped his arm around my waist and asked, "Would you like to get to know me better?" I politely declined and somehow managed to crawl back to my room at sunrise, still amazed that George Segal had hired some of the finest musicians in the world to accompany him on "Ain't She Sweet." The following New Year's Eve, George Segal didn't play at the Hard Rock. I did. But that's another story.









Monday, November 23, 2015

The Purge

If nothing else, Facebook was certainly interesting last week. After the horrible carnage in Paris, people changed their profile pictures to the French flag or superimposed the vertical red, white and blue stripes over their faces. We were united in solidarity with the French in their grief and anger. Then, in the aftermath of the attack, it was discovered that one of the soulless killers had a Syrian passport and had registered as a refugee in Greece.When the topic of refugees from the Syrian civil war being resettled in this country, all hell broke loose. Thus began "the great unfriending." Generally speaking, a new strain of xenophobia exploded onto social media. The most common sentiment was that this was all a plot for ISIS to infiltrate this country and kill Christians and, of course, it's Obama's fault. The ignorance and racism on Facebook was appalling. An exact quote from my comment section said, "All you liberal lesbians and out in left field democrats can take a flying fuck. Our gutless president needs to pull his head out of the sand and to be like France." He got unfriended. In fact, a social media critic claimed, "It was the largest unfriending week in Facebook history."

Of course, the crassest and most repugnant remarks came from the clavern of GOP presidential candidates. Dr. Ben Carson compared the refugees to "mad dogs." Marco Rubio said, "We can't background check them. You can't pick up the phone and call Syria." And Donald Trump out-uglied everybody. A month ago I wrote that it was never proper to use Hitler reference when discussing American politics, but Trump has gone flat-out Nazi. Saying, "we're going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago," Trump favors a database to track Muslims, surveillance of mosques, warrantless wiretaps, and ID cards proving religious affiliation. A Black Lives Matter activist was beaten and kicked at a recent Trump rally. Asked if Muslims should wear some sort of identifying badge, he shrugged it off but didn't rule it out. Obama countered with, "perhaps ignorant racists should wear special ID badges too." Trump's new applause line, "I would bomb the shit out of them," is a sentiment held by many, but not exactly what you want to hear from the potential leader of the free world. He's still trying to find a "humane way" to round up 11 million Mexicans. I don't know, but it sure sounds like Germany in the 1930s.

While every GOP candidate is rattling a sabre for more wars with other people's children, Congress passed a bill that forces every refugee from Syria to be personally screened by the head of the FBI. Half the governors in the country, all but one a Republican, have put out the sign that says, "Syrians not welcome here." Contrast that with the sentiments expressed by French president Francois Hollande. After the bloodiest terrorist attack on French soil, Hollande said it was France's "humanitarian duty" to help refugees landing on European shores. Hollande proclaimed that France would accept 30,000 Syrian refugees and spend 53.3 million dollars to develop housing for them. Since the US pledged to stand with France, aren't we fortunate to have a Secretary of State that speaks the language fluently? And do you remember when John Kerry was mocked by the Republicans for being "too French?," Or the "Freedom Fries," and the "Cheese eating surrender monkeys?" Germany has offered to settle 800,000 refugees. The US is accepting 10,000 with hysterical resistance. Isn't it ironic that in seventy years, Germany has transformed from Nazism into a beacon of hope for the world?

The truth is that the US has resettled more immigrants than any other country. Since 9/11, the US has admitted 859,629 refugees. Of that number, three were convicted of planning attacks on targets outside the United States, none of them successful. This country has one of the most thorough vetting processes for immigrants in the world, but how do you stop someone who is both suicidal and homicidal? These savages aren't the huddled masses yearning to be free. They are well financed zealots who can afford an airline ticket and a visa. They aren't the desperate refugees who walked from a war zone in Syria all the way to Europe with their babies and grandmothers looking for sanctuary from the hell they escaped. Before Facebook, most people kept their idiotic opinions to themselves until they were drunk. Not any more. Right-wing media spews misinformation as a business plan. You might hear some Fox News quotes from an angry uncle this very week. Before sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, we should be mindful of what the holiday is for. Once, we were accepted as refugees into this country by the indigenous population. No wait, that didn't go so well. Just shut up about the Muslims and eat your turkey sandwich.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hill On Wheels

Congratulations Tea Party. You set out to destroy the presidency of Barack Obama and ended up destroying the Republican Party. It's not that they don't deserve it. Pick your idiom: "Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas;" "reap what you sow;" "chickens coming home to roost." They're all appropriate descriptions of what happens when a radical fringe takes over the organization that first gave them succor. In this case, the "Freedom Caucus," the far right wing of the GOP, made public fools of themselves twice in one week. Firstly, by not being able to choose a leader of their own party and secondly, their grotesque performance at the so-called House Select Committee on Benghazi. The current chaos in the Republican party could be the parting practical joke by former speaker John Boehner, who couldn't abide the Tea Party in the first place. He appointed the seven obscure, back-bench, malevolent mad-dogs  to the committee and sent them off to do battle with Hillary Clinton. Big mistake.

Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy had been whipping the steeds for months in anticipation of their much-publicized and nationally televised showdown with Hillary Clinton, but only the horses' asses showed up. I'm sorry. I know better than to criticize someones looks. That's Trump's bailiwick. But doesn't Trey Gowdy look like someone squeezed his head in a vise? The GOP's feral beasts tore into Sec. Clinton for eleven hours, unprecedented in American history. MSNBC's Mike Barnicle said if the Benghazi Committee had "been in charge of the Watergate hearing, Richard Nixon would have finished his term." Speaking of Nixon, Trey Gowdy has captured the crown as the sweatiest politician to appear on television since, well, Nixon. I was hoping an aide would hand him a towel. The attacks on Mrs. Clinton were so viscous, this was the first Congressional hearing with a cut-man. The seven Republicans took turns releasing their unbridled rage at the president or anyone in his administration. Their tormented hysteria, compared to Hillary's unflappable demeanor, made the Secretary look absolutely presidential. This Republican display of "Clinton psychosis" may well have elected her  president. Nice one, John Boehner.

Although the perpetually damp Gowdy insisted the hearing was not about Hillary but gathering the facts about Benghazi, nothing new emerged from the previous eight congressional investigations. All along, Sec. Clinton has admitted that there was a well documented security breach and has accepted responsibility for the tragedy. One must only Google "Khobar Towers" to find the moral equivalency. Still, one by one, the frothing mini-mob had to get their licks in and hope for that cable news moment when they force Hillary to confess to the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens. After all, she had previously murdered Vince Foster. The "Freedom Caucus" acted like a bunch of frustrated prosecutors grilling a witness. All that was missing from the eleven hour harangue was the cigar smoke and a naked light-bulb hanging from the ceiling. I think they forgot that Mrs. Clinton is a lawyer too. Like Whitewater led to Lewinsky, Benghazi led to emails. You and I both know that nobody emails anymore. The Secretary could be reached by secure cable or phone at any time. This seventeen month, 4.2 million dollar inquisition was a forum to hurt Hillary Clinton politically and nothing else. Even Trey Gowdy said the hearing produced no new information while former Nixon aide John Dean said, "It's really embarrassing what the Republicans have done here."

In the end, the Benghazi hearings turned out to be an eleven hour commercial for the Clinton campaign. No one likes to see a bunch of angry men screaming at a woman. In the final grueling hour, Hillary began to cough. I thought we were seeing a recreation of the filibuster scene from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." At long last, Rep. Elijah Cummings demanded the hearings come to a close saying, "This is not what America's about. We're better than that." No, we're not. The butt-scratchers still think Hillary is part of some shadow conspiracy to overturn the Constitution, confiscate their guns, and make everyone wear black pajamas. I may have to re-calibrate my opinion of Hillary. After her debate performance, and now her escaping from that right-wing coven of ghouls unscathed, I think we should start getting used to the phrase "Madame President." Alabama Congresswoman Martha Robey, after being told that  Sec. Clinton returned to her Washington home following the Benghazi attacks asked, "Were you alone (at home)?" "I was alone," Clinton said. "The whole night" asked the inquisitor. "Well, yes, the whole night," Clinton laughed along with all the spectators, proving Hillary would have to get caught with a teenage intern to stop her now.





Monday, September 28, 2015

One Man

It is amazing to see how one single man is able to create such joy. He attracted thousands upon
thousands of people of all races and religious backgrounds to galvanize around a common ideal. His followers clapped and cheered with the ecstasy that comes with the release of long held pent-up emotion and everyone seemed so happy. A record number of people watched him this week on national TV.  Even longtime doubters who had previously lost faith are returning to the fold in record numbers. No, I'm not talking about Pope Francis. I'm talking about Justin Fuente.

Did you see that game? I haven't seen a shootout like that since Waco. Of course, I'm talking about the Memphis Tigers' 53-46 win over Cincinnati last week. It was all you could ask for in a football game- forty-five thousand screaming fans, lots of scoring and suspense, thrilling long runs and acrobatic catches, and a key interception to end the game. What a way to make their national television debut. The Liberty Bowl wasn't packed out but I'll bet it will be soon. The Fuente coached Tigers were 7-17 after the first two seasons. Now they've won eleven in a row and are averaging almost fifty points a game. I'll leave the stats to Geoff Caulkins, but most impressive for me is that the Tigers are 4-0, the only team in the nation with such a record. The last time the Tigers went 4-0 was in 1961, and risking the revelation of my decrepitude, I was there.

My father took me to the games of the then Memphis State University in Crump stadium when I was still a child. That's where I first learned to hate the Confederate flag. Ole Miss would come to town with lots of swagger and would take over the Peabody Hotel. They were drunk and obnoxious and treated Memphis like a home game. In the stadium, they would wave a sea of Stars and Bars and sing "Dixie" after every touchdown with Colonel Rebel smiling from the sidelines. The roar of that "Hotty Toddy" cheer still rings in my ears. It was among the first uses of public profanity heard in the south and parents covered their children's ears before the revolting Rebel fans yelled, "by damn." The Memphis side of the stands responded with thundering chants of "Go to hell Ole Miss, go to hell." Dad didn't object so I guessed it was alright in this context. What amazed me most was my father's reaction to a Memphis State touchdown. Not ordinarily a demonstrative man, he would leap to his feet, look at me and holler, "Whoo Hoo Hoo," several times in a row. I always found it interesting that he had such enthusiasm when it wasn't even his school. He just adopted the Tigers and passed the custody on to me.

Billy "Spook" Murphy was coach in 1961 and the quarterback was the "Golden Boy," James Earl Wright. I always smiled when I thought of what his monogrammed shirts spelled. Wright was injured and the torch was passed to Central High graduate Russell Vollmer. Both men have been inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. With Vollmer as quarterback, the Tigers went 26-3-1 in three seasons. Any old-timer can see the comparisons to Paxton Lynch. There's a problem, unfortunately, with Coach Fuente. How you gonna keep him down on the farm after he's seen the national spotlight? There's no question that he's already in demand at major colleges with huge football budgets, but since this is Fuente's team, wouldn't it be nice if he stayed in Memphis and built a powerhouse? Of course anything can happen, and like most fans, I'm not looking past the University of South Florida. But with an electrified fan base in Memphis, Ole Miss better watch their ass next time they come to town. Oh yeah, the Pope was a winner too.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Bully Pulpit

It has become a given among professional journalists that Nazi or Hitler references have no place in the discourse of American politics. That being said, doesn't Donald Trump remind you of Mussolini- the same arrogant swagger, the fiery rhetoric, the frenetic arm movements, the pout? Pardon me, Benito Mussolini was the fascist dictator of Italy who was allied with Germany and Japan against the United States during WWII.  I wasn't there. I just like to read about this stuff. Or maybe I saw it on the History Channel. Anyway, lately Trump has been making Mussolini look absolutely timid. What with the defiant stance, the funny hats, and the adorable wife. Well, at least Benito thought his wife was adorable. And he likes pushing people around, see?

Trump has dominated the news coverage for weeks. In fact, you can't turn on the TV without seeing the Donald. He's the main attraction on all the cable news networks as well as the entertainment news channels because, let's admit it, he's one helluva entertainer. But if I hear one more pundit say, "He's sucking all the oxygen out of the room," I'm going to suffocate. After several outrageous news conferences and incoherent speeches, Trump is running away with the GOP leading contender status like a contestant on "The Apprentice." The Tea Party contingency loves him and the evangelical congregation believe he's a godsend. Literally. There's no use telling Trump devotees that his xenophobic, misogynistic, paternalistic, and extremist ravings might be dangerous because they don't understand what those words mean anyway. That's why they call it "the base." For the rational among us, Trump's ole-time racist rhetoric won't be so fascinatingly galling for much longer. The novelty will wear off,  his shelf-life will expire, and it will be time to change the channel. The problem is, to what channel?

No sooner had Trump made nice with the Fox Republican Propaganda Network over his ugly remarks about favorite daughter Megyn Kelly, than he unilaterally restarted the war. Trump went into Twitter overdrive saying, "I liked the Kelly File much better without Megyn Kelly," and retweeting some clever backwoods poet's comment that, "The bimbo's back in town," with Trump adding, "I hope not for long." Trump says, "I cherish women," in his domineering way. Maybe Ivanka can tell Dad that calling them "bimbos" is no way to win the women's vote. Personally, I'd love to see a war between Trump and Fox News. Trump and Roger Ailes could have a loser leaves town match, or better still, a hair match, only Ailes has none to lose. Perhaps he could get Hannity as a proxy. The next week, Trump tossed respected journalist Jorge Ramos out of a press conference for being too insistent, saying, "Go back to Univision." That sucking sound you hear is the last potential Latino  Trump vote heading south. During his next media scrum, Trump claimed that, "CNN is terrible," and "Fox News doesn't cover me fairly." Since NBC dismissed him from his reality show, Donald is about to run out of media outlets to cover his every burp on live TV.

The Dick Armey organized, Koch brothers funded Tea Party was once a fringe group of the Republican Party. Now, they run the show. The GOP created this beast on inauguration day when they plotted to destroy the Obama presidency- country be damned. So now they must feed the beast. Trump claims that his favorite book is the Bible, yet he can't remember a favorite passage. Here's one from Hosea 8:7, "They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind." Trump's stump speeches contain phrases like, "the Mexican people love me," "I have a great relationship with the blacks," and "we love the Ukrainians." I don't know if I'm listening to Donald Trump or Don Rickles. Political insiders scoff at the possibility of Trump winning the nomination, but this is the party that elected the twin disasters of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. If Trump is somehow elected president, he'll have to build a wall at the southern border to keep people in. "People are shocked at how smart I am," says Trump as he carries on a Twitter war that makes him look more like a Real Housewife than a presidential candidate. He's sewn up the Duck Dynasty vote without putting forward a single intelligible program. When challenged on his plan to expel 11 million undocumented workers, Trump proclaimed, "We're going to deport them in a very humane fashion." I'm sorry, but isn't that what Hitler said?







Monday, August 3, 2015

Pre-Debate Rap-Up

By the time this clairvoyant column hits the streets, the first Fox News/Facebook debate between the eighty-seven declared GOP candidates will have already taken place. But just like Nostradamus, I already know what's going to happen. The Fox clan will determine the top ten contenders for a podium by their popularity rankings in the latest national polls, which coincidentally, is the same way they do it on American Idol. My question is why is Facebook co-sponsoring a debate with Fox News? For that matter, why does Facebook discipline the common, daily offenders of decency but gives an account to ISIS? Fox News boss Roger Ailes has chosen crack journalists Bret Baier, Megan Kelly, and Chris Wallace to be the ringmasters of this circus and since the bottom three contestants are statistically even, Ailes will probably pick who he considers to give the best television. This is definitive proof that the de-facto leader of the Republican Party is Fox News. For those unfortunate seven lower tier candidates who couldn't sit at the grown-up's table, Fox will provide a forum at an earlier hour. But we all know that they're saving prime time for the eagerly anticipated premier of the Donald Trump Show.

So my crystal ball has told me what the Top 10 will say, starting with,
Donald Trump: The darling of the Tea Party and low-knowledge voter will make an attempt at dignity until someone points out what an asshole he is, then Trump will go off and call everyone a loser and a horrible person and make very damaging remarks about some opponent's personal life. He'll insist that he's a nice person and that people like him, sort of like Al Franken minus the humor. Then he'll rail about "illegals," and try to justify his comments about rapists by citing the abhorrent singular murder in San Francisco. He'll build an impregnable fence, but it will be the classiest fence ever built. It's time to put a winner in the White House. The four personal bankruptcies and three wives were just a speed bump.

Scott Walker: The wildly unpopular governor of Wisconsin will mention that he's already won two elections, although one was a recall prompted by the signatures of thousands of angry citizens who mobbed the Capitol Building in Madison. The recall was narrowly defeated thanks to a fortune in Koch brothers' money. He will say his comparison of protesters with ISIS was poorly worded, but if elected President, the college drop-out will immediately target this country's greatest threat- the Teacher's Union.

Jeb Bush: "The other white meat" will insist that he's his own man and will profess his love for his father and his brother without mentioning either of them by name. He'll deflect accusations of being "soft" on immigration and say that Trump's comments about Mexicans were hurtful and vulgar- only he'll say it in the nicest possible way. Bush will mention his Mexican wife and love of the Hispanic people, appealing to them by hablando un poco espanol. He will say that his remarks about his endorsement of the Iraq War and his comments about "phasing out" Medicare were taken out of context.

Dr. Ben Carson: The brilliant neurosurgeon will tell his truly remarkable story and mention his recognized excellence in his field. Then he'll compare Obamacare to slavery and the Democrats to the Nazis. He'll discuss his opposition to gay marriage and attempt to explain away the fact that he has never run nor been elected to anything. He has said, "We live in a Gestapo age (but) people don't realize it." With his fondness for Nazi references, you might let him work on your brain, but not on your country.

Marco Rubio: He will pander for the Latino vote, even though Hispanics probably know the difference between a Mexican, a Puerto Rican, and a Cuban from Miami. He'll condemn the new Cuba agreement saying Obama made a deal with a communist dictator. He will mention his parents' ordeal and when asked if he, as a freshman senator, is prepared to be president, he will compare himself to John F. Kennedy. When asked about climate change, he will say he's not a scientist and then plead for a glass of water.

Mike Huckabee: The Huck will double down on his remarks comparing the recent Iran accords to "marching the Israelis to the oven door." He will say that the president is feckless and naive and then repeat his quote, "It doesn't embarrass me one bit to let you know that I believe Adam and Eve were real people." Wait until someone tells him they were black.

Rand Paul: The Ayn Rand acolyte will first have to explain why he tried to pass a law allowing him to run for president and senator at the same time. He will discuss his opposition to Medicare and Social Security and parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He'll say he wants to fix Social Security but wants you to forget about his statement that "reform is going to happen and I hope it's privatization," or, "The fundamental reason why Medicare is failing is why the Soviet Union failed."

Ted Cruz: The loathsome incarnation of Joseph McCarthy will repeat his statements that, "Obama is the world's largest financier of Islamic terrorism," and, "This is an administration that seems bound and determined to violate every single one of our Bill of Rights," thus disqualifying him from further serious consideration for high office.

The other podiums will be like a game of musical chairs between Chris "Bridgegate" Christie, Rick "Oops" Perry, and John Kasich, who stands a real chance of being shunned in the state of which he is governor. A Kasich staffer summed it up when he compared preparing for these debates to getting ready for a NASCAR race when one of the drivers is drunk. After all, who would you rather watch; Donald Trump or Carly Fiorina? My prediction is that the ratings for the debate will be "yoooge" and Fox will sign all the candidates to a glorified version of the Hollywood Squares. There will definitely be a sequel and it will be bigger, classier, and more spectacular than "Sharknado-3. Did I mention Benghazi?
 



 

Monday, July 6, 2015

USA! USA!

Wow! Did you see that? No, not NBC telling Donald Trump that he was fired, or even Miley Cyrus posing nude again, I'm talkin' about the US Woman's National Soccer team putting a wrecking ball through Japan and winning the first World Cup in sixteen years. I'll own up to my soccer ignorance. I tried to learn the game when the Memphis Rogues were filling the Liberty Bowl back in the late seventies, but that was more of a good excuse to sit with your rowdy friends and get blasted. I even tried to play the game back in grade school, but I kept getting kicked in the shins and I refuse to participate in any sport that causes personal pain. I like to watch it though, and what I saw last Sunday was spectacular. In the words of finals attendee Joe Bidin, "This is a big fuckin' deal." After that match I was thinking that maybe women ought to govern for a while. But then they'd scream, "I want my country back."

We set aside all pending responsibilities to be certain we would be in front on the TV to watch this game, but almost before we could change the channel, the United States had scored. Then scored and scored and scored. Our gesticulating and screaming frightened the dogs almost as much as the fireworks from the previous night.  When Carli Lloyd kicked that fifty-four yard goal we lost our minds. Has anyone ever seen a kick like that before? Maybe the NFL could polish their tainted image by hiring the first female field-goal kicker. Going in to the match, we didn't even know the players names, but we do now. Carli Lloyd, who had struggled in earlier matches, scored the fastest goal ever and had the first hat trick in World Cup history. Aptly named goalkeeper Hope Solo won the Golden Glove award for allowing only three goals in seven games. The US Woman's Soccer Team is the first to win three World Cups and get payback for Japan's World Cup victory win in 2011. What an inspiration this must be for young girls everywhere and for woman's sports in general. People used to criticize soccer for a lack of action- not any more.

Truth be told, I felt a lot more patriotic on the fifth of July than the fourth. I watched all the usual festivities and squirmed through Lee Greenwood singing "I'm Proud To Be An American" for the thousandth time, but I don't participate any more because downtown Memphis on the fourth of July is no country for old men. But we still ate hot dogs with relish, both literally and figuratively, and as it turns out, it wasn't necessary to go downtown at all. The continual massive explosions around our neighborhood made us feel like we were right in the middle of the fireworks display. The family pets turned into mad-dogs alternatively howling at the ceiling or trembling in fear. There was a meme going around on social media that said that on the fourth of July, the citizens of Memphis can play their favorite guessing game- is it fireworks or gunshots? I feel that Independence Day, like Halloween, is just another opportunity for grown people to get drunk and run wild. Is this the way we demonstrate patriotism? What those women did on that soccer field, playing for their country, was patriotic. The soldiers who serve us and the families that support them are patriotic. Blowing up shit is not patriotic.

In full disclosure, I'm not much of a patriot. Samuel Johnson in 1775 and Bob Dylan in 1983 said "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," and I tend to believe them. Most of the patriotism I had was kicked out of me during the Vietnam War era when we had a paranoid-schizophrenic president who refused to listen to legitimate protests or admit that he was wrong. I didn't feel very proud to be an American back then. When Nixon's conservative "Silent Majority" hijacked both what it meant to be patriotic, and the American flag as symbols of the divisive "my country, right or wrong" sentiment, the flag turned into a pro-war symbol or a bumper sticker indicating loyalty to the administration. It was then when I realized that you can separate love of country with whomever happens to be in power at the time. Politicians use patriotism for their own cynical purposes, so it's illogical to pledge allegiance to a transient regime with an ideological agenda. I can simultaneously love my country while opposing the politics of those who would use patriotism like a cudgel. But after that incredible victory in the World Cup, I have found something to be patriotic about- devoid of war, politics, or division- just joy. That group of women did their country proud, which is something we can all relish.







Monday, June 8, 2015

"Ask Not"

After much prayer and reflection, and with the counsel of my friends, family, and rabbi, I hereby announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Why not? Everybody else and George Bush's brother is running, so I figure I have at least as good a chance as half the field of already declared candidates- and I'm not under federal indictment. You can't say as much for Governors Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker. Both federal and state prosecutors continue to investigate Christie for his role in the "Bridgegate" scandal while rumors of an email trail that implicate the governor have surfaced. Rick Perry is potentially facing one hundred and nine years, for two counts of felony abuse of power, after attempting to coerce a district attorney to resign. So far, Perry's efforts to have the charges dismissed have been denied twice by Republican judges. Wisconsin prosecutors accuse Governor Walker of being part of a "wide-ranging scheme" of illegal fundraising. The same accusations have recently arisen over Governor Bush's coy, "I'm not yet a candidate" scam. After Bush declares, he can no longer personally ask for money- yet he's acting like a candidate who's using the asinine Citizens United decision to try and purchase the presidency. There's an obvious joke about the White House vs. the Big House in here somewhere.

I've avoided politics ever since high school student government associations, but last night, I had a dream in which the Archangel Gabriel whispered in my ear that it was my destiny to be president. Of course, Ted Cruz's traveling preacher dad said that God told him the same thing about his boy, so someone is confused here. In fact, several people are confused about the Almighty's participation in American politics. Cruz said, "God isn't done with America yet. That is why...I am running for president." But Rick Perry said, "I truly believe with all my heart that God has put me in this place at this time to do his will." Actually, Perry said that in 2012, so you'd think he'd get the hint. Dr. Ben Carson said that "I feel (the) fingers" of God prodding his candidacy. But Scott Walker said, "We (I) want to make sure that, not only are we (I) hearing from the people, but we (I) want to discern that this is God's calling." Marco Rubio attends a fundamentalist mega-church that demands employees sign a declaration stating that they've never been in a gay relationship- then, he goes to Catholic mass on Sundays. And this is to say nothing of religious zealots Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Either a whole bunch of people are lying, insane, or else God is goofing on the Republican candidates. Say what you will about Hillary- she never declared the Deity's blessing to be upon her. I, however, have been blessed by the order of Christian Brothers, Reverend Tom Patton, Rabbi James Wax, a Hindu "saint" in India, and a Muslim cleric in Israel. Now, who's best qualified?

Since a handful of billionaires now own American politics, all you need to stay in the race is one. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is leaning toward Marco Rubio. Rick Santorum is backed for the second time by mutual-fund zillionaire Foster Friess. The Koch oil barons tipped their greasy hand to Scott Walker. And Woody Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson company is backing Bush. This is more exciting than the Belmont Stakes. They often call politics a "horse race," but in this case, each candidate has their own jockey. Mere millionaires are whining for access, while former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman is planning to spend between ten and twenty-five million "Washingtons" on Marco Rubio alone. I'm certain that Hillary's war chest will overflow as well, but who have the Democrats got- communists like George Soros, or hedge-fund magnate Tom Steyer, whose tree-hugging causes fund radical-leftist politicians. If I can just convince one patriotic  billionaire that I hate Obamacare but love Israel, I could take this all the way to the GOP convention.
I could also raise a lot of untraceable money along the way, which begs the question: Why are so many guaranteed losers running for President? Why are George Pataki, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, and Donald Trump even running?

Trump is obviously a vanity candidate who does it for his ego and to promote "The Apprentice," the most wonderful show that's ever been on television. A few claim that they are in the race to promote certain views, like Rick Santorum's theory that America is under attack by Satan. The rest are auditioning for lucrative commentator chairs on Fox News- or perhaps their own radio show, or book deal. Some are jockeying for a future cabinet position in a fantasy Republican administration. But mostly, it's this endless funnel of dark money that bankrolls ideological figureheads for more sinister concerns. Since no one is accountable, who's counting? Now that the mob has been chased out of Las Vegas, politics is the new skim. If a dollar is missing here or there, who's to know? Which is why I am unveiling my own Ultra-Conservative, Pro-Gun, God-Fearing Super-PAC- the UCPGGF- and I am asking you for pledges of just a few dollars a day to support my campaign to stop immigration, restore God to the classroom, end taxes, and return this great nation to its rightful owners- the Inuit.




Monday, May 18, 2015

Overton Square Lives

This week's forty-fifth anniversary celebration of Overton Square brings back a flood of memories which, in itself, is an accomplishment. TGIFriday's was a year old when I showed up, so if my math is correct, I was twenty-three when I began singing in the Square. I'd just moved back to town after a six year absence when I got the call. A new club had opened across the street from Friday's where Bosco's now stands, called The Looking Glass. In contrast to the frenzy at Friday's, this was more of a businessman's club with the long wooden bar leading into a plush lounge area. They wanted live music but not a whole lot of noise, so I got the solo job, playing nightly Wednesday through Saturday. The sitting room was constructed to look like a library with overstuffed couches and bookshelves filled with someone's castoff antiquities. There was a platform in the corner with a high bar stool on top. Every time I took the stage, it was like climbing an obstacle course to reach my perch, but from there I could watch the whole crazy scene of Memphians celebrating the passage of an ordinance allowing liquor by the drink. The Southern Baptists had kept Memphis a cocktail free town for fifty years, and now the city was ready to party.

As for personal exposure, a student from Ole Miss named Holmes Pettey came in one night, and the next thing I knew, I was opening for the Allman Brothers in Oxford. When Lafayette's Music Room opened in August of 1972,  I became the Square's unofficial go-to guy for a warm-up act. Friday's manager and former Box Tops drummer, Thomas Boggs, moved me across the street where, instead of playing four sets a night, I became the opening act for some of the major artists of the day. Lafayette's wasn't just a rock club. They booked jazz musicians like Herbie Hancock, Buddy Rich and Chick Corea, or you could drop by the next week and catch Waylon Jennings or Earl Scruggs. Billy Joel was touring behind his first album, "Piano Man," when he played Lafayette's. I strummed pleasantly for the packed house, but Billy Joel blew them away. Between shows, I went to the dressing room and after introducing myself, I told Billy that I really believed he was going to make it. He smiled and told me he appreciated it. Hey, you've heard of the "butterfly effect." Who's to say my few words of encouragement didn't make all the difference? When I was finishing up my set before Barry Manilow made his Memphis debut, I told the audience that they would love this guy with the piano that lights up like a Christmas tree, which sent Manilow's manager into a rage, chasing after Thomas Boggs, screaming that I had ruined Barry's schtick. Then there was the night Kiss performed.

By this time, the jam-packed Square had created a burgeoning local music scene that went for three blocks in either direction. At one point, there were at least a dozen clubs within walking distance featuring home-town pickers. Thirteen, if you count Yosemite Sam's. No one had even heard of Kiss when the hype preceded the band to the Square. Lafayette's was filled with curiosity seekers when Kiss shook the stage. I stood in the back with the boys and when Kiss cranked up, and it was like being cuffed across the ear. The band wasn't halfway through their grotesque routine when the audience started jamming the exits. Kiss cleared out Lafayette's in thirty minutes- wanna know why? There were ten local bands on the street with better musicians than Kiss, and they didn't need stage make-up to get the message across. Kiss made no waves here and were considered to be a short-lived novelty act, reeking of desperation. Of course, they're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while I'm here forty years later still reminiscing about the gig. Kansas was another band too loud for the room. They hadn't even gotten to "Dust In The Wind" before the decibel level sent customers running into the night with bleeding ears. On the other hand, Minnie Ripperton was heavenly and Leon Russell was cool. Henry Gross became a Memphis favorite after his Lafayette's appearance and returns to the same room this weekend for a long anticipated encore.

When Boggs asked me to put a band together for a slow Tuesday night, I called some guys and we started a weekly jam that drew in some of the city's best players. One night, I looked around and four of the six musicians onstage were in the teen sensations, Randy and the Radiants- only now we were old enough to drink. The band reformed on the condition that we drop the "Randy" from the name. The Radiants became one of Lafayette's rotating house bands, playing for a month at a time, and the place was jammed every night. Some of the waiters would periodically line the foot of the stage with vodka tonics, which the legendary Andrew Love referred to as "show-biz medicine." The room was jumping when Rufus Thomas walked in. None of us had met Rufus yet, but we were booked to back him up at a charity show later that month. I was delighted to invite Rufus up to the stage while the audience roared its approval. Mr. Thomas called the key and the tempo and the band broke into a ten minute uproarious blues jam with Rufus pulling out every risque verse he knew. The audience went nuts and screamed so loudly it was hard to hear Rufus when he walked back to me and said tersely into my ear, "Never invite me up again without asking my permission first." It was as heartbreaking to see Lafayette's Music Room close as it is heartwarming to see it reopen- so get out there and start making some new memories. This week's gathering of original Overton Square performers is our chance to pass the torch. And guess who's opening?




Monday, May 4, 2015

GOP Guide

The GOP could open a haberdashery with all the  hats thrown into the ring for the 2016 presidential nomination. It looks pretty much the same as the last go-round, minus Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, but plus Rand Paul and Jeb Bush. The list is still in flux, but these are the folks who are most likely to entertain us all summer with their traveling vaudeville debate theater. The reviews for the last troup were boffo. They brought down the house in every city. So what if that house was in foreclosure? Since there are so many candidates with such wonderful things to say, I thought a guide to the Republican presidential candidates might be useful for the still confused. That is, if Obama doesn't rip up the Constitution, declare martial law, and run for a third term. So without further delay, the prospective contenders for the office of president are:

Ted Cruz- Texas Senator and morality crusader
Philosophy- Whatever Joe McCarthy said.
Famous Quote- "I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand." Spoken before an empty chamber recitation of Green Eggs and Ham.

Rand Paul- Senator from Kentucky
Philosophy- Neo-Libertarian. "I read all of Ayn Rand's novels when I was seventeen."
Famous Quote- "A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin."

Ben Carson- Neurosurgeon and Narcissist.
Philosophy- I'm the Bizarro Obama.
Famous Quote- "Obamacare is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."

Jeb Bush-  Former Florida Governor
Philosophy- Please don't blame me for my idiot brother torching the globe.
Famous Quote- "Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families."

Rick Perry- Texas Governor
Philosophy- I got glasses this time to make me look smarter.
Famous Quote- "Oops."

Chris Christie- New Jersey Governor and bridge builder
Philosophy- Sit down and shut up.
Famous Quote- "Sit down and shut up."

Scott Walker- Wisconsin Governor and union buster
Philosophy- Whatever the Koch brothers tell me.
Famous Quote- "Let 'em protest all they want. Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting."

Marco Rubio- Florida Senator and pitchman for Aquafina.
Philosophy- I'm really running for vice-president.
Famous Quote- "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it."

Carly Fiorina- Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
Philosophy- Just because I drove HP into the ground doesn't mean I can't be president.
Famous Quote- "If Hillary had to face me on the debate stage, at the very least she would have a hitch in her swing." I don't know what it means either.

Mike Huckabee- Former Arkansas Governor and future pitchman for reverse-loan mortgages.
Philosophy- Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?
Famous Quote- "Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription."

I suppose you could call the rest fringe candidates since their views are so radical. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said that the GOP "must stop being the stupid party." Anti-sex advocate Rick Santorum said, "Contraception is not OK. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." These are all worthy topics for future hilarious debates, but for the most eloquent statement of qualifications, you have to give it up to grifter and perennial candidate Donald Trump who said, "The only difference between me and the other candidates is that I'm more honest and my women are more beautiful." In this tabloid culture, what more could you want in a president?

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's Fundamental

Indulge me for a moment and consider this scenario. There's a community of Ultra-Orthodox Jews headquartered in Crown Heights, Brooklyn called the Chabad Lubavitch. It's a Hassidic sect that believes in strict adherence to the Torah, (the first five books of Moses), and the Talmud, (5000 years of rabbinical commentary on the Torah). Their outreach efforts to reach disaffiliated and non-practicing Jews have made it one of the largest and fastest growing religious organizations in the world, reaching seventy countries and forty-nine of the fifty United States. There's even a chapter in Memphis. Now imagine if the Hasidim and their return-to-roots philosophy picked up enough momentum to translate into political power and their leaders were elected into positions of authority. Then suppose they used that authority to declare the Torah as the "official book" of as many states as they could round up. Nothing wrong with that, right? Christians also believe in the Old Testament, so they would have no objection to following its tenets. But if we're going to do it, let's do it right and strictly observe the written law.

Jewish dietary rules come with a few restrictions. First, Kosher food must be prepared in accordance with Jewish law. Animals and birds have to be killed in a specific manner, so no more hunting unless accompanied by a Jewish butcher. All blood must be drained from meat and poultry, so if you like your steak medium rare, you'll have to cross state lines. Also, no grape products prepared by non-Jews may be eaten, so say goodbye to all non-kosher wine, Welch's grape juice, and Boone's Farm Grape Jelly. The Torah says it's forbidden to "boil a kid in its mother's milk," (Ex 23:19). Generations of rabbis have interpreted this passage as meaning that meat and dairy products should not be mixed, which means no more cheeseburgers or burritos. Then there are the animals the Torah mentions specifically as forbidden for supper. No pig means no more Bar-B-Que, so there goes our festival. Other no-no's include all shellfish, including lobster, oysters, shrimp, clams, and crabs- not to mention crawdads. But Leviticus 11:13 says its OK to "eat any animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud," so that's a good thing. And the Jewish sabbath is from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, so that's it for high school and college football. I'm sure you see where I'm going with this. Just as preposterous as it would be to impose Jewish laws, why do the right-wing Christians continue to attempt to codify their beliefs into state and federal law?

Tennessee made the wrong kind of national news when the State House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill making the Bible the state's "official book." The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Sexton, is a former pastor from Bean Station, again proving the antipathy these country-ass rubes have for the big city. Fortunately, the State Senate saw the blatant unconstitutionality of the proposal and killed the bill. Rep. Steve Cohen said on MSNBC that "It's been a hundred years since the Scopes monkey trial and we have not progressed that far from Dayton, Tennessee." Perhaps Preacher Sexton envisions himself as William Jennings Bryan incarnate, but similar bills have been introduced in Arkansas, and Indiana, which has problems of its own. Their governor signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. Even the title implies that if religious freedom needs to be restored, it must have vanished somewhere. The original RFRA was a 1993 Democratic initiative to "ensure that interests in religious freedom are protected," in all faiths. Now, however, the act is interpreted as payback for same-sex marriage and open season on gays whose existence offends the Christian beliefs of any auto mechanic or pizza joint owner. Didn't we settle all that, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone," business in the sixties?

The tomato is Tennessee's state fruit. The state mineral is agate, and the racoon has been designated as the official wild animal. But now that the Bible has been disqualified as the official state book, I have a few suggestions that may suit our faith-based legislators' mentalities. The obvious choice is "A Confederacy of Dunces," but there are so many other possibilities: "Of Mice and Men," Dostoevsky's "The Idiot," "The Sound and the Fury," "One Flew Over the Cuckoos' Nest," and of course "Fifty Shades of Grey Goose Vodka," which the House Republicans must have imbibed before passing this idiotic bill. I just don't understand why the evangelical Christians are so persecuted in this country. A minister in Tempe, Arizona recently preached, "I hope that God strikes Obama with brain cancer so he can die like Ted Kennedy," thus proving that the problem isn't Christianity or any other religion- it's fundamentalism. We could argue about this but what's the point? Former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann recently predicted the return of Jesus due to Obama. "We have very little time left before the second return of Christ," she proclaimed. If Jesus comes to Tennessee, I bet He'll be upset to see the Holy Scriptures placed in the same category as "The Valley of the Dolls."

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spring Fevers

You can tell it's springtime in Memphis when all the cars turn green- and everything else for that matter. It's not the welcome green of seasonal renewal, but those damn fuzzy worm-like things that cling to everything they touch. If you cross a parking lot, you have to make a break for shelter before they cover you like something from a horror movie. When you return, your car is blanketed in a layer of dust. There's no point washing it because it will just be filthy the next day. And it seems like it happens so all of a sudden. One day you're outside taking your first deep breath of fresh spring air, and the next day you can't breathe at all. It reached inside my house indirectly through my wife. She had lunch with a friend and it was such a nice day, they sat on the patio of a local eatery. Four hours later, she sounded like a lifetime whiskey drinking, chain-smoker. I thought I was sleeping with Clint Eastwood. Then the symptoms hit hard- sore throat, burning congestion, sneezing, and a head that weighs fifty pounds. We had suffered horribly through flu season, even though we both had the shots. (Thanks Obama). But since my wife and I pass illnesses back and forth like hippies pass a blunt, I woke up only to find I couldn't swallow. She said it was allergies, but how do you catch an allergy?

When Melody asked on social media if anyone else was sick, her phone nearly blew up. It seems like everyone else is sick. Pardon me, I had to step away to get a hit of Afrin. I don't care, I snort Afrin like Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet." And I insist on the menthol kind, not that lame beginners' stuff for people with their sinuses still intact. But back to the Memphis city-wide plague- our metropolitan nightmare is pollen. There, I said the p-word. Especially tree pollen from oak, birch, and willow trees. You know that song "Willow Weep For Me?" The lyrics say, "Bend your branches down along the ground and cover me." That pretty much sums up what's going on around here. Memphis is a city of trees, particularly oaks, which are the main culprit. Those furry green strings on your patio furniture are called oak catkins, in case you were curious. The foliage may be lovely in May, but according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation's annual list of the ten worst U.S. cities for allergy sufferers, Memphis ranks number eight. We're number eight! We rank just lower than Knoxville and Louisville, but higher than Baton Rouge. You'd think all that Spanish Moss would have kicked them up a notch, but I've heard Cajuns are made of alligator hide. Memphis is the perfect incubator for pollen- lots of trees, warm temperature, gusting winds. We should all start wearing those surgical masks like the Japanese and Michael Jackson.

Since we've just been sitting around wheezing, I've had the chance to watch a lot of television- a whole lot- and I noticed that just at this time, the airwaves are filled with so many commercials for Claritin or Zyrtec, or any of the hundred more remedies on your pharmacist's shelf, there's hardly any room left for programming. The drug companies tell you in their ads that their concoctions will relieve the symptoms, so you know they're bound to be right. Pardon me, I need a tissue. We've been going with Claritin, but the directions say to just take one pill a day. I eat a fistful of pills every day anyway. What's some microscopic tablet going to do for me? The only thing to do is tough it out for the next two months, stay indoors and watch TV, applying periodic doses of Visine. Watch that Scientology expose on HBO. That will take your mind off of your nasal cavities. Melody also has me hooked on a show called, "Chrisley Knows Best," about a Georgia family where everyone is a laugh riot. I find that watching too many news programs provokes wracking fits of violent coughing, so I've taken to a steady diet of Netflix revenge fantasy movies where the protagonist hunts down and kills the people who wronged him in some grotesque way. The earthquake was interesting. Not the one along the New Madrid Fault, but the Memphis quake when Kentucky lost to Wisconsin. I haven't seen so much schadenfreude since the Watergate hearings

The bad news is that it's going to get worse. According to the experts over at Pollen.com, the forecast for Memphis indicates pollen levels in "the extremely high range." This means if your one of the fifty million people suffering from seasonal allergies, it will be "difficult outdoors." So bust out the Benadryl and suffer along with the rest of us. There's lots of rain in the forecast. Some people believe that when rain pours down on the tree pollen, it somehow lessens the effects. It doesn't. It's allergy season and rain can't stop it, so get used to breathing through your mouth. Buy tissues in gross since you'll need them and try not to shout at the TV every time Ted Cruz appears on the news. Come back outside at the end of April and enjoy the trees in bloom, shed of their fuzzy creatures. It's been said that from tiny acorns mighty oaks grow. I think we've got about all the oak trees we can take. Maybe Ronald Reagan was right when he said that trees cause pollution. Those killer oak catkins are messing up the paint job on my car. You'll have to excuse me now. It's time for another Afrin hit.


Monday, March 23, 2015

What Durst Thou?

HBO struck gold with the six-part documentary, "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst." Especially during the jaw-dropping finale when the alleged triple-murderer was heard off-camera, muttering to himself into a hot microphone what sounded like a confession. Durst's arrest the day after the show's finale created such white-hot news coverage that I don't think I'd be revealing any secrets to offer a short synopsis. Durst is the estranged heir to one of the richest real-estate firms in New York, which manages 1 World Trade Center, among other high-rent properties. His personal wealth is estimated at $100 million. In 1982, Durst's first wife disappeared and her body was never found. Though suspected of murder, Durst remained untouched until the investigation was re-opened in 2000. The day before Durst's closest confidant was to be interviewed about the case by prosecutors in Los Angeles, she was found murdered execution-style in her home. Fleeing to Galveston, TX, Durst rented a $300 a month room disguised as a mute woman. In 2001, Durst was arrested for killing his seventy-one year old neighbor and dismembering the corpse, which he placed in several garbage bags and scattered in Galveston Bay. Celebrity attorney Dick DeGuerin, who not-so-successfully represented David Koresh during the Waco standoff, admitted that Durst cut up the body, but said that it was postmortem after a struggle over a gun. The jury decided that Durst acted in self-defense when the gun went off, so the slicing and dicing was moot, and he got off. They never found the head.

Durst agreed to take part in hours of interviews with filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, ostensibly to deflect blame and set the record straight. Jarecki had directed a 2010 fictionalized account of the events called "All Good Things." In the series final episode, after being confronted with damning evidence, Durst retired to the men's room, forgetting he was still wearing a live microphone and said, "There it is. I'm caught. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course." Durst didn't seem to be regretting the murders so much as agreeing to do the documentary. The day after the final episode aired, Durst was arrested in a New Orleans hotel with 40k in cash, a loaded 38. caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, his passport and original birth certificate, an over-the-head latex mask, and five ounces of pot. He will most assuredly be arraigned in Los Angeles for murder, so if you enjoyed the documentary, just wait until the trial. Some of the greatest entertainment L.A. produces comes from their live broadcasts of criminal trials. Just look at what they've given us over the years- OJ, the Menendez brothers, the cops who beat Rodney King, Phil Spector, and Dr. Conrad Murray. But the Robert Durst show will be the trial of this early century. This will be too salacious not to televise.

HBO's ratings were far too good not to continue this series. We know that we live in a violent country and that there are killers who walk among us- some of them mass murderers. The Durst case took over three decades to unravel, which proves that justice is sometimes late in arriving, but you never know when it will come knocking at your door. The authorities already know the identities of some of those who have committed terrible atrocities, and yet walked free. And their names are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Rice, and Tenet. They met in secrecy, concocting a story to sell to the American people about why the Iraq War was absolutely necessary on the false pretense of weapons of mass destruction- a term of their own invention. They invaded and occupied a nation that had not harmed us, then sent over the U.S. Viceroy, "Jerry" Brenner, who disbanded the Iraqi army and barred former members of Saddam's political party from government, thus throwing hundreds of thousands of men out of work. These two dumbass decisions led directly to insurgency, chaos, sectarian civil war, and the birth of ISIS. The cost of the Iraq War is immeasurable in both dollars and human life. Nothing Obama has been accused of by his enemies could ever amount to a crime of this magnitude.

So where are all the warmongers now? They're all wealthy and serve on corporate boards and think tanks. Some are professors at prestigious universities. "Jerry" Brenner lives in Vermont, painting rural landscapes while dabbling in French cuisine. Cheney made a fortune in "blind trust" stocks from no-bid contracts to Halliburton and its subsidiaries. The rest advise the current Republican Party. No one but Cheney's flunkie, Scooter Libby, ever faced criminal charges concerning the war, but rumblings about legal recourse have been growing louder across the globe. In 2012, the Malaysian War Crimes Tribunal convicted Bush, Cheney, and six others in absentia for war crimes. Torture victims told of mistreatment by U.S. soldiers and contractors who used some of the same practices that Japanese were executed for after WWII. Transcripts of the trial were sent to the International Criminal Court, which may never act, but the Durst case proved there's no statute of limitations on atrocities. Then, when justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream, I know of a cozy, tropical prison down in Cuba that's just perfect for detaining war criminals. Imagine the ratings if they televised that trial.





Monday, March 9, 2015

The Annointed

Sometimes I think I get a general sense of what's about to happen. I'm no Edgar Cayce or anything, but I can often imagine the effect that results from the cause. If you disregard my absolute certainty that Al Gore would be president in 2006, my predictions have more often been right than wrong. Even back then, when Hillary Clinton was all but being coronated as the next Democratic presidential candidate, I wrote that two years was an eternity for another candidate to emerge to challenge the presumptive nominee, and one certainly did. The historical inevitability of Barack Obama couldn't be stopped, even by the ugly campaign the Clintons ran against him. Hillary's failed campaign left a lingering resentment among certain Democrats over her scatter-shot tactics and baseless accusations. Her term as Obama's Secretary of State revived her reputation for competence, regardless of the fake "scandals" the GOP tried to lay at her feet. Hillary is probably the most qualified, best informed candidate to seek the presidency in decades, and polls have shown the country's willingness to elect a female president. So let me go out on a limb and make a prediction, then two years from now, you can check back and see if I was correct. Hillary Clinton will not only fail to win the presidency, she won't even get the Democratic nomination.

When I was an adult student completing my journalism degree at the U of M, I was given a classroom assignment to cover a campus visit by Mrs. Clinton, then the First Lady of Arkansas, who was campaigning for her husband's election. She delivered a speech that I described at the time as "flat," "uninspiring," and without the rhetorical gifts that came so easily to the Governor. I also said that although I agreed with most of her stands on the issues, she was badly lacking in communicative skills. And she still is. A lightning rod for controversy, Hillary can instantly become so exasperated that she unleashes a public barrage of ill-inspired, instant quotations that only provide ammunition for her enemies. It's been pretty much settled that the entire Benghazi witch-hunt was merely a concoction of right-wing operatives out to do her damage, but frustrated by idiotic questions over whether to call the tragedy a "terrorist attack," or a "spontaneous protest," Hillary spouted, "At this point, what difference does it make?" Although stripped of its context, right-wing pundits have found her remarks to be pure gold, and the almost defunct House Select Committee on Benghazi has become suddenly re-animated, subpoenaing thousands of her newly-controversial emails.

Hillary has a history of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Remember when she said she wasn't going to be a typical First Lady, sitting home and baking cookies or "standing by her man," as the popular song went. The accompanying outrage forced her to go out and profess her love of country music and apologize to Tammy Wynette and America's housewives. When the Jennifer Flowers scandal came along, she did stand by her man after all. While in the White House, she was accused of everything from murder to drug smuggling, as well as being "secretive." Then she did herself no favors by having her previously requested Rose Law Firm billing statements, said to be long lost, turn up one day in a White House office drawer. Hillary parlayed Bill's inexcusable sexual betrayal into a senate seat from New York, where she learned the art of "triangulation"- taking the absolute middle ground between two opposing points of view. In this capacity, Clinton voted her approval for the Iraqi War; co-sponsored an anti-flag burning amendment, even though she's a lawyer and knew that the Supreme Court had already ruled the act was a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment; and voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, opening the door for U.S. attacks on Iran. During Hillary's senate career, every controversial vote seemed to be made with a political calculation.

This latest kerfuffle about Hillary using her own private email account to conduct government business is just another stink-bomb attack by her adversaries that won't amount to much, yet she insists on making it worse for herself. Already believed in certain quarters to be someone who cuts corners or makes her own rules, Hillary set up her own private server, registered to a fictitious name and routed back to her New York home. She didn't break any laws, just bent the rules a little. The former Secretary has announced that she is eager to turn over her emails for scrutiny, but only those pertaining to the business of the State Department. This allows her to exercise more control over physical access and furthers the perception that she has something to hide. At some point, Hillary will also have to justify accepting donations by foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State. It's enough to give you a case of pre-Clinton Fatigue. Two years is a lifetime for a presumptive nominee to coast, and there are bound to be more gaffes and temper explosions. When Hillary alienates enough members of her own party, the Democrats may be forced to turn to someone else. The GOP will likely nominate a Tea Party extremist as their candidate. Why shouldn't the Dems offer a true liberal and a fighter for the underdog instead of another blue-dog? Elizabeth Warren insists she's not running for president. So did Barack Obama before he was finally convinced that his hour of destiny had arrived.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Loving to Hate

Just when I was convinced that Rudy Giuliani was the most despicable primate drawing breath, along comes Gov. Scott Walker to play "What, me worry?" over Rudy's abominable remarks. Just in case you missed it, the former "America's mayor," was speaking at a GOP fundraiser for the Wisconsin governor's fledgling presidential campaign and made some stunningly ugly accusations about the president. Just so there's no question about context, here's the full quote- "I do not believe- and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of country." Considering the room was filled with right-wing business executives and conservative media whores, the statement about who Obama loves has a ring of truth to it. But never in history has a president been questioned about his love of country. When Rudy's ignorant opinion was roundly criticized as stone-cold racism, he was forced to backtrack in a damage control appearance on Fox & Friends. But he only trumpeted his lack of self-awareness saying, "Some people thought (the comment) was racist. I thought that was a joke since he was brought up, by the way, by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people." Well Rudy, that's mighty white of you to say.

This sinks Rudy to the bottom of the extremist scum-bucket with Glenn Beck, who famously said on Republican National Television, "This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." When did the GOP adopt the Ku Klux Klan's playbook? And to think this fool ran for president until he was sliced and diced by Joe Biden who said Rudy only needed three things to make a sentence- "a noun, a verb, and 9/11."  Rudy recently made race-baiting comments concerning Ferguson, Missouri and accused Obama of smearing the NYPD after the choke-hold murder of Eric Garner. And yet, the GOP still respects his judgement. Remember Bernie Kerick? He was the commissioner of the NYPD during the 9/11 attacks and was subsequently recommended by Giuliani to President Dubya as the head of the Department of Homeland Security. His nomination was withdrawn when it was discovered that he employed an illegal-immigrant nanny, took "escorts" for love trysts in an apartment overlooking Ground Zero, ostensibly reserved for first responders, and lied under oath about how a civil servant making 30K a year could afford 255,000 dollars in home renovations. This was Rudy's right-hand man who, after a three year stint in prison, is searching for a job as a counter-terrorism expert. Even conservative firebrand Darrell Issa said that Rudy never got the dust from 9/11 out of his lungs. More than one doctor publicly speculated that Rudy was showing early symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome.

Which brings us to Governor Scott Walker, the unlettered executive. Walker is so spineless, he may as well be a Democrat. When asked on CSNBC if he agreed with the former mayor's malicious remarks, Walker said, "I'm not going to comment on what the president thinks or not...I tell you I love America...I think we should talk about the ways in which we love this country." Answering a question from the Washington Post about the president's faith, Walker said, "I don't know," if Obama  is a Christian. "I've actually never talked about it or I haven't read about that," adding, "At the end of the day, God is in control." A spokeswoman for the Governor immediately followed up with a press release emphasizing, "Of course the Governor thinks the President is a Christian." Wasn't there something in the Constitution about religious tests for public office? It doesn't really matter. A recent Pew Poll found that thirty-four percent of Republicans believe the president is a Muslim. Scott Walker's recent trip to London was a bust when he said he would "punt" on a question regarding evolution, sending the British press into spasms of laughter. Sooner or later, Walker will have to take a stand on something other than union busting or doing the bidding of his telephone pal, David Koch.

Now that Fox News has declared that "the Holy War is here," and ISIS is burning captives alive, who cares about useless prattle over the president's patriotism or whether he sufficiently loves America to suit the Tea Party. Rudy Giuliani has been accused by Republican operators of being a draft dodger with six separate deferments from the Vietnam War, yet he is a major critic of Obama's foreign policy and a cheerleader for wars that involve other people's children. Rudy recently publicly gushed with praise over Vladimir Putin's decisive leadership. Governor Walker, after surviving a recall election, leaves the state of Wisconsin with a $283 million budget shortfall, due to the $541 million he doled out in tax cuts. He is a failed and delusional governor who thinks heavy Republican donors can elect him president. Why do we continue to give these irrelevant hatemongers a platform from which to spew their divisive garbage? In truth, its not the President, but the Republican Party that doesn't love America. If they did, they wouldn't have been sitting on their asses obstructing progress for six years while praying for America to fail.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Grammys or Grannys?

How fortunate am I that the Grammy Awards should occur on the same night that I write these articles? My original opening sentence was going to be, "For the love of everything that's holy, vaccinate your damn kids," but the musical-industrial-complex's annual circle-jerk is just too outrageous to go uncommented upon. Before we enter snarkville, let me tell you what was good about the show. Catering to the aging demographic, the former headbangers AC/DC played their hit song, "Highway to Hell." Only, it was a hit in 1979, before two-thirds of the audience was born, and it was revealed that the ancient mariners needed a teleprompter, upon which appeared the lyrics to their own song, just in case those tri-focals failed. Lady GaGa and Tony Bennett continued their May/December smoochy, lounge act singing Irving Berlin's, "Cheek to Cheek," but here's a secret. The eighty-eight year-old Bennett can't sing anymore and she's been carrying him for awhile. At least she didn't wear meat this year. Beyonce was divine. Pharrell was terrific. Usher was great. And I was happy to see Beck win Album of the Year, although Twitter erupted with queries of, "Who is this guy Beck?" Which is a shame since I still consider him one of the newer artists.

Annie Lennox was all class singing the old Screaming Jay Hawkins' song, "I Put A Spell On You," in direct contrast to Madonna, who refuses to age gracefully or perform an age-appropriate song. I get it- she's a gym rat who's in good shape for her age, and she has great legs. Still, they're attached to a fifty-six year-old ass, and her sex-kitten routine, surrounded by back-up dancers wearing demon's horns, has lasted well past its shelf life. The sixty-year old Annie Lennox, in black slacks, sequined top and minimal make-up, looked beautiful by comparison, and didn't need auto-tune either. On the other extreme, watching Ariana Grande perform is sort of like watching kiddie porn. I love Pharrell Williams, who won Best Pop Solo Performance for "Happy," only he was dressed in a bell-hop outfit reminiscent of The Grand Budapest Hotel. That funny doorman's outfit will probably be this year's Smokey the Bear hat. Emotional tenor Sam Smith, who won Best New Artist, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year for his smash hit, "Stay With Me," neglected to thank Tom Petty, for whom he recently gave a songwriter's credit and paid an undisclosed, out-of-court settlement for cribbing the chorus to Petty's "I Won't Back Down."

The most egregious pairing of the night, and possibly of all time, was the trio of Kanye West, Rihanna, and Sir Paul McCartney, singing a nondescript song called "FourFiveSeconds,"- just released as Rihanna's new single. Sir Paul has all the money and fame in the world. For the life of me, I can't understand why he would enter into this unholy alliance. Didn't he learn anything from that heinous duet he did with Michael Jackson? Or is he that desperate to remain relevant? Basically, McCartney was reduced to playing back-up guitar and singing inaudible low harmony while Rihanna warbled and Kanye chirped through auto-tune to cover up the fact that he can't sing. Paul was among the nine songwriters on this mess, but he was content standing there like a twit and never even sang a verse. I had to shout out loud, "Do you remember who his partners used to be?" That faint music you hear is John Lennon, somewhere from the great beyond, singing another chorus of his "How Do You Sleep at Night." And speaking of songwriters, the winner of the Best R&B Song, Beyonce's "Drunk in Love," credited eight writers. Since when did songs begin getting written by committee? It only took one person to write "A Case of You."

It was keenly disappointing to see that the "In Memoriam" segment, while mentioning music lawyers and agents, omitted the names of artists and legends beloved to Memphians whom we lost this year- Jimi Jamison, John Fry, Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, Jack Holder, John Hampton, and "Cowboy" Jack Clement, the legendary producer who began his career with Sam Phillips at Sun Records. I understand the names were printed in a longer read-out on the Grammy site, but each of these artists deserved an on-air remembrance. The program's closing segment, a tribute to the movie, "Selma," featuring Beyonce, John Legend and Common, was transcendent. I've heard John Legend sing many times, but I believe this was his finest performance. There's a lot of great music out there, it's just not what the near-extinct, corporate labels want you to hear. Personally, I enjoy watching the old, thieving, grimy, music "industry" implode. It deserves to. All told, the 2015 Grammys were merely tepid, but it might have been worse. They could have let Dave Grohl play.





Monday, January 26, 2015

Deflated Balls, Inflated Egos

The president just signed historic accords with India on climate legislation and nuclear trade before making a pit stop to pay respects to the leaders of America's gas station, Saudi Arabia. Mitt Romney is considering a third run for president so the American people can finally get it right. ISIS is on the move in Syria and the government of Yemen just collapsed. Bibi Netanyahu, also known as George W. Bush in wingtips, is campaigning for re-election as Israeli Prime Minister, only in front of the U.S. Congress, without prior knowledge or approval by the White House as the guest of John Boehner. In Iowa, Sarah Palin made an  incomprehensible speech at Rep. Steve King's "Freedom Summit," then told the Washington Post that she was "seriously interested," in running for president. And a crippling blizzard is headed for the east coast that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio warned may be "one of the largest snowstorms in the history of this city." Memphis freaks out over three inches of snow- try an expected three feet, which would set records from Philadelphia to Boston and affect nearly thirty million people. Take that Al Gore. But screw all that- the NFL discovered that during their conference championship game, the New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs.

I could write four paragraphs of ball jokes, but that's far too easy. And since this has been the lead news story on every network for a week, I've heard every double entendre, smarmy testicle reference in the history of broadcast news from Rachel Maddow to Jimmy Fallon. I now know more about Bill Bellichick than I ever intended. I guess I'm as big a football fan as the next jerk, only I'm not so emotionally invested in the outcome. I enjoy watching pro football because it's a brutish and violent game played by mutants. If you asked me my favorite team, I guess it would be the Packers because the citizen/stockholders of Green Bay actually own the team. If you ask me my least favorite team, it would be those with the loudmouth owners who give high-fives in their luxury boxes while actually believing that what they say has any bearing on the game. Also, those owners that mix their personal, partisan politics with sport. The NFL is just a billionaire's playground where team owners play their own, exclusive version of fantasy football. It's become an industry that has grown like kudzu around what was once a game. Since pro football is the American substitute for gladiatorial war, it has become the perfect vessel for carpet-bombing advertisement, and no one does it better than the Superbowl. Can I use that word without sending somebody a check?

Billions of dollars will be spent in and around the Superbowl on product placement, branding, Hollywood-produced ads, entertainment galas including the world's biggest halftime show, and particularly sports betting. Only the outcome is pertinent. The game is secondary to the commerce. With record amounts of cash spent on commercials, the Superbowl serves as the quasi-Black Friday for awards season. The game will be played in Glendale, Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Of course, the University of Phoenix is a for-profit, online, kollege of knowledge with no actual campus and thus has no football team to play in their stadium. Like good corporate citizens, they merely bought the naming rights and changed it from what was Cardinals Stadium. So, the Superbowl played in the University of Phoenix stadium is like a scam within a scam. Everybody gets paid. Except for the entertainers. The Wall Street Journal reported that the NFL approached Rihanna, Coldplay, and Katy Perry to play the 2016 Superhalftime show but asked the musicians to "contribute a portion of their post-Superbowl tour income to the league," or alternately, "make some other financial contribution," in exchange for the halftime gig. Katy Perry is this year's special attraction. I sure hope she's not paying those greedy bastards to play.

In summary, the Patriots are cheaters owned by Robert Kraft of Kraft Foods, whose net worth is around four billion dollars and who has a son who worked for Bain Capital in the eighties. They have a coach with a shady reputation and a quarterback who's married to a Brazilian supermodel, makes forty million a year in salary and endorsements, is said to have a near-genius IQ, and "did not alter the ball in any way," even though he admitted he preferred them slightly deflated in a previous interview. When asked if he was a cheater, Brady said, "I don't believe so." They play the Seattle Seahawks, owned by low-key Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, who also owns the NBA Trailblazers. According to SeatGeek, the average ticket price is going for 3,262 dollars. Wouldn't it be ironic if the monster snowstorm headed for Boston caused widespread power outages on Super Sunday? I hope by then they will have finally stopped talking about "DeflateGate." The only thing I have to add to that conversation is that Tom Brady's balls aren't as big as he thought. The Santa Ana winds are doing biblical-like, wildfire damage in California and there's a measles outbreak in Disneyland. I'll take the Seahawks and the points.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

That Darn Bug

Lord have mercy. I've taken a couple of ass-kickings in my life, but nothing like this. Whatever this bug is that's going around, I got it in spades. My wife, Melody, caught it first and although I tried to be a dutiful husband, I kept what I thought to be a safe distance. No such luck. It's a good thing I like my wife because we've been holed up over here since before Christmas. In fact, my holiday gift from Melody was the flu. I self-medicated for a New Year's Eve gig with Eddie Harrison and the Shortkuts, and then forgot the words to "Brown-Eyed Girl," which I've probably performed more times than Van Morrison. I sang some nonsense syllables until the audience began looking at me with shock and disdain. At midnight, I hid behind some equipment cases to avoid any drunken sloppy kisses, and that was just from the men. But I shook a lot of hands. The next day, I expected to be hoarse and sore from all the popping and locking I was doing on stage, but "wham." You've heard the old story about the man who was so sick, one minute he was afraid he was going to die, and the next minute he was afraid he wasn't? So, I'm assuming that if you're reading this, I must still be among the living. Of course, that's just an assumption.

I didn't mind the hallucinations. I dodged the flying monkeys, but then a leopard came into the room, leaped up on the bed and started going for my ears. It took a second to realize that it was just Nancy, the giant speckled pup. She mauled me anyway. Then I began to cough. I coughed so hard that I injured the pulmonary artery leading from my pelvis to my leg. I thought maybe I could get in on that class-action lawsuit they keep advertising about problems with pelvic mesh, but it was just my drawers. Then I was convinced that I had coughed myself into a hiatal hernia and had to check online to see where my hiatus was. I was reminded of the funeral procession that was going down Lombardy Street in San Francisco. The hearse hit a bump, the doors flew open, and the casket began toppling end over end until it crashed through a drug store window and rolled right up to the pharmacy counter. The lid sprang open, the corpse sat up and asked the druggist, "Got anything to stop this coffin?" So, in honor of Elvis' 80th birthday, Melody went out and bought some cough syrup for me. Back in the day, Elvis used to drink a little syrup. I remember sitting on the porch at Graceland, swilling cough medicine with Elvis while advising him on which direction his career should take. Wait a minute, that might have been a dream. Speaking of Elvis, what possible reason could Graceland's new owners have for selling his planes? The Memphis Belle is gone, the Zippin Pippen is in Green Bay, and the Mid-South Coliseum has a date with the wrecking ball. Please leave Elvis' air force alone. Do they need the room for another gift shop selling Elvis shot glasses? This is why we can't have nice things.

On Elvis' birthday, we tried to watch a televised medley of his movies, but they were all the crappy ones from the sixties, after the Colonel had turned over the soundtracks to his hack songwriter pals in return for kickbacks on the publishing. On the Today Show, however, they dragged Priscilla out of whatever crypt she sleeps in during the day and put her right in the foyer of Graceland as if she were the doyenne of the mansion. Maybe I'm mistaken, but didn't she move out in 1972? No wonder Elvis moved to Butte, Montana to work in a salvage-yard. But enough about Elvis- let's discuss the teaming of Kanye West and Paul McCartney for a new recording. Social media taught me that a lot of Kanye's fans didn't know who Sir Paul is, which made me want to slap their parents. One clueless soul tweeted, "Don't know who this Paul McCartney is, but thanks to Kanye, his career 'bout to blow up." Strangely enough, I agree with that assessment. Paul has all the money in the world. What could possibly possess him to record a song with Kanye? Didn't he learn his lesson from that heinous duet he did with Michael Jackson? Paul has fallen a couple of notches to my least favorite Beatle.

What was that? I thought I saw light creeping through the blinds, so it's either dusk or dawn. I've lost track. The other night, the only thing that felt good on my throat was Pepsi, so I drank three cans. The sickness still enveloped me, but I was so gacked up on caffeine, I was able to stay wide awake to enjoy every moment. Melody said to gargle, but I thought she called me a gargoyle. I've also been having wild dreams and earworms, which are songs that creep into your head and won't leave. I woke up in the middle of the night and had to go, but I was too weak to stand. So, I'm sitting there with my head in my hands when suddenly the theme from Rocky starts to play. I hate that song. All day, I'm hearing, "Feeling strong now," but the song only made me sicker. Today, Dolly Parton was singing, "9 to 5," in my brain, which wasn't quite as bad. I thought I might be getting a touch of that Eisenhower's disease. That's when you feel an unquenchable desire to go out and build interstates. The flu has been rough, but we'll continue to binge-watch episodes of Family Feud with Steve Harvey until we're better. Through all of this, I haven't lost my faith. I saw the Cowboys lose to Green Bay on a controversial last minute call, sending Johnny Jones back to his billion dollar football palace, and that horrid person, Chris Christie and his lucky orange sweater back to either Hell or New Jersey. So there is a God.