Of Datsuns, Central Falls, Ziggy, and the Thin White Duke

Providence Rhode Island, late December, 1975, school’s on break but I’m stuck working  at the Marriott hotel. I’m working the ballrooms, we set up mid-afternoon, keep the bars stocked through a million Christmas parties back in the day when office Christmas parties were parties, tend some bar, bus tables, break down.


A typical Providence winter day.

It’s s blur, we’re putting in 18 hour days, it’s somewhat offset by the fact it’s the Seventies, the drinking age is 18, the Marriott is very generous with food and left over beer.

One night we finish at 3 am and have to be back by 7:30. A co-worker, Manny, offers to let me crash at his place instead of tramping back to an empty campus.

Providence in the winter is a cold, bleak place. The wind is whipping in off Narragansett Bay, wind chill is around zip, week old dirty crusty snow is scattered around the parking lot, the only light comes from the State House a hundred feet away.

Manny’s driving a 1970 Datsun 240z. The heater’s broken, it’s been through one or three too many Rhode Island winters, salt has eaten through some flooring. The defroster datsun-240-z.jpg.800x600_q85_cropwheezes, barely keeping up with our breaths off the windshield. The drive to Manny’s apartment in Central Falls is miserable in the Germans-in-panzers-outside-Moscow-1942 way.

Manny’s apartment is over a bar because in the one square mile that comprises Central Falls everyone lives over a bar. Three am never stopped a bar in Central Falls from being open, we zip in, grab a fittingly freezing cold Narragansett draft, chug, head up.

Nice, comfortable apartment, the couch is as advertised, as it’s 1975, there’s nothing on TV at 3 am, I’m so overtired the beer’s done nothing, I don’t have a book, even at 18 I’ve been in that state enough times to know I’m not sleeping anytime soon. Not so for Manny, he heads for his bedroom and wife, tells me to help myself to his music collection, the speakers are right by the couch, it might help.

1d2379400bbdf2d7cd96e303614d581aHis stereo is one-piece-has-all, AM/FM, turntable, 8-track player. I opt for an 8-track because 8-tracks never end, they’ll play over and over again forever or until the plastic melts.

I’m exhausted, grab the tape on top of the pile pop it in – nothing ever sounded clunkier or more fragile than an 8-track tape pushed into its player. I settle into the couch, pull up a hefty blanket, the tape does the usual 8-track click, whirl, it’s-fifty-fifty-whether-it-plays-or-eats-the-tape sounds.

There’s a silent pause, a drum, more drum, then … wow. As in something fundamental in the world has just shifted, neck hairs rising, difficultly swallowing, there’s a fuck of a lot more to the universe than Providence, college, work, study, books …

… It was Five Years, the first cut of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the 1371731616_ZiggyStardust986Gb060612Spiders From Mars. I didn’t fall asleep for a few hours, heard the album through and through until I finally passed out, woke up to it around 7.

First chance I had I got up to Thayer Street and the Brown University bookstore and bought the album. And the new Young Americans. And I never stopped buying and I never stopped listening to an artist who never sat still.

Thanks to David Bowie, there’s a lot more than one damn song that can make me break down and cry.




Ten Things Donald Trump Would Say If Jesus Came Back to Run Against Him in Iowa …

… And was gaining in the polls.

  • I like people who weren’t captured and crucified by Romans.
  • ‘Blessed are the meek?’ Are you kidding me? Putin will eat him alive.
  • I’m just saying, his friends betrayed and denied him … Ya’ gotta wonder why.
  • Guy rises from the dead and doesn’t get even … What a schmuck.
  • Sure, he’s got a few billion followers, but how many on Twitter?
  • The fish and the loaf thing? Not gonna lie, pretty good trick.
  • Look, it took that Paul guy to make him big, what does that tell you?
  • By the way, little known fact, he wasn’t invited to the wedding, he  crashed it … I mean, hey, it worked out for everyone, still …
  • All I’m saying is he’s a pretty big deal with the Muslims.
  • Anyone see this guy’s birth certificate?

And You May Ask Yourself …

… How did I get here?

I had a sudden realization earlier this week that sort of rocked me. Perhaps it was an epiphany. Either way, it began an hour or so after listening to Tom Brady get all gushy about his personal trainer-slash-guru, then all preachy about his health regimen and reached full-blown ‘holy shit’ proportions a few days later.
534733749CH00381_Super_BowlIt started with the news last weekend that Brady’s guy had been banned for life by the FTC for selling a supplement that cured …. everything and anything that was terminal. Indeed, he and his infomercial partners claimed that out of 200 terminal with a Pandora’s box of ailments clients, only eight died. It was that stuff you see being sold while you’re flipping through Seinfeld and Star Trek Next Generation reruns at 2:30 am. Oh, and Brady’s guy claimed to be a doctor.

Okay, fine, that’s was thirteen, fourteen years ago and I, most certainly, am the first one to say, ‘okay you fucked up, let’s move on.’ However – you just knew there was a however – he got slapped again in 2012 for pushing a drink that helped prevent concussions. Neurosafe. Powder, when mixed with presumably water and ingested regularly it was supposed to minimize the effects of a concussion.

Brady and Wes Welker endorsed it for the year or so the crap was out there image
before the FTC swooped in again and shut that down.

By the way, Wes Welker endorsing a concussion prevention powder is pretty much like using Lou Gehrig to push an ALS cure.

Brady was asked about this on WEEI sports radio Monday morning, his response was predictable, if not a little creepy. His trainer/guru/business partner/kid’s godfather is an amazing trainer, masseuse, nutritional expert, and a whole lot more.

Again, fine, every fabulously wealthy family has the right to have it’s very own Rasputin. What could possibly go wrong with that?

imageBut, Brady went on to explain how Western medicine is lacking. As he grew up one hell of a high school athlete in two sports, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he did so without having to fight off polio, whooping cough, scarlet fever, and small pox.

I can handle that, though, it’s not like you can’t find that stuff on Facebook feeds all day everyday. Brady, though, went a step further and talked about how ‘ridiculous’ it was that athletes had Tommy John surgery and ACL replacements, strongly indicating that those injuries were the athletes fault, they weren’t prepared.

This pissed me off, but it’s not the epiphany. It pissed me off because it’s a ridiculous assumption, he’s playing (great) today because his torn ACL was replaced (via Western medicine), and I had my ACL torn 25 years ago in a combination of artificial turf, really good shoes, and getting hit exactly right by a large human that nothing could have prevented save not driving to New York that morning.

All this stuff came out Monday morning. It was re-aired several times. Some people came down on Brady, more, a lot more, rose to his defense and, because he’s won 4 Superbowl titles and is married to a supermodel, began a long litany of completely and utterly bashing Western medicine. I mean, a guy with those accomplishments must know everything, right?

Thus the epiphany began. I’ve been a Patriots fan since the early 70s. Had no choice, really, there were only a couple of games on a week, my father was a Giants fan, so …

(AP Photo/Paul R. Benoit)

(AP Photo/Paul R. Benoit)

… the Pats it was. They sucked and they were fun. They fumbled and bumbled, were run by an Irish American family that wasn’t about to remind anyone of the Kennedys – or any half-way successful family of any ilk, for that matter. They built a new stadium for about $14.95, the day it opened the toilets backed up and, well, it was ugly. They also lost 31-7.

I was there the afternoon they clinched their first AFC East Division title in 1978. We got tickets that day, the upper stands were far from filled. It was cold, had a white-out snow squall in the second half, the temperature dropped, they had to come from behind against a woeful Buffalo Bills team (is that redundant?) and we stood for most of the game – not from excitement but because the stadium had aluminum bleachers – no seats.

Their coach resigned the next day, they had co-coaches for, surprise, their only playoff game.

They alternated between loveable losers to flat-out incompetents to marginal playoff contenders. We had to cheer for individual ‘stars’ the great-and-would-have-been-greater-if-for-better-teammates Sam the Bam, the tiny Mack Herron, the too-tough-for-his-own-good Steve Grogan, the franchise’s greatest pre-Belicheck player, John Hannah. It probably says it all when your best player is an offensive guard.image

A few good things happened, somehow they got to the Super Bowl to be fodder for the Bears and … well, maybe a few others. Mostly, they provided entertainment and the occasional hope.

That’s my epiphany. Somewhere in the last 15 years I’ve gone from cheering for the loveable underdogs to cheering for a team with a fan base so spoiled by winning, so steeped in the mystique of the Patriot way, that if Tom Brady or Bill Belicheck suddenly announced that they sacrificed a virgin to insure a victory over Peyton Manning, their approval rating would be around 60% (with another 9.8% undecided while debating the definition of ‘virgin’) by their fanbase.

I’ve realized that somewhere along the line I traded in the Tony Eason deer-in-the-headlights Patriots for the 1947-1964 New York Yankees. Bloodless, unemotional, business is everything, unsentimental, unsympathetic, unapologetic winners. As Joe E. Lewis said, “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel.”

I’m suddenly, after 50 something years, on the side of the bullies and today’s NFL doesn’t have lovable losers any more. Instead, they have a ton of mindless, joyless mediocrity, and a whole lot of excuse making. “The balls were .2 psi below regulation;” “the crowd was too noisy,” “the GM texted the coach during a game,” “the lights went out,” “they broke an unwritten rule,” “they announced the change to 80,000 people but we missed it,” “they had bounties on us,” and so, so much more.

main_11The only thing that keeps me from bagging the whole thing is that, like the corporations in Rollerball (the original, please) the NFL and the other owners have had it with the Patriots for not playing the three, five years of good and rebuild, the league, schedules, and draft are built on.

Okay, so they’re a bully – a really big bully – being picked at by a bunch of bullies unused to being bullied.

I’m not sure what direction to go from here. Not sure it matters with the Cubs close to the World Series and the apocalypse that will surely immediately follow should they win.

I’ve made no decisions. But I really hope Brady plays until he’s 50, because, based on his evangelical explanation of his diet, he’s going to be really insufferable when talking about it is all he has to do all week.

Adventures While Running #478

I went off the road and cut through an overgrown lane through the woods …

And a bear cub the size of a young Newfoundland cut across about 15 yards away, bounded into the tree line. I looked to my right, where he came from, in case mom was there.

She wasn’t, she was a few feet to my left standing, arms wide. I’ve seen a lot of bears lately, some really close, this was the first one I’ve ever seen standing. Bears aren’t nearly as cute standing as they are lurching away on all fours.

In the, er, ah, excitement of the moment, I never really saw this:


But I definitely saw this:


Another Saturday Run and Tainted Love

Ten mile run way out in railroad trail boonies, musical decisions and wild thoughts:

  • That’s it, I’ve had it, I’ve been wondering this for 40 some odd years and I’m no closer today than way back when  – what was he was doing with Julio down by the schoolyard and why was everyone so upset? I don’t get an answer to this it’s off the list because absent it I don’t really need all the images my imagination throws at me.
  • Moby’s Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad hit its midway point just as I was running behind a dog kennel – the barking meshed perfectly with the underbeat. It was at the 8 mile marker too, so the song was particularly apt. It stays, for now.
  •   The inanity and/or rudeness of bikers is directly in inverse proportion to the workout clothes they wear – with the exception of the total outliers like Speedo man last week and ‘Kim-Davis-Kathy Bates Misery Body Double-Carrie’s mom-Cockadoodle-Shaker-dress’ rider yesterday (both were fine). The ‘Breaking Away‘ I’m wearing two dozen logos but not getting paid a penny to do so crowd are universally fine to the tire impaired. It’s downhill from there with the guy in corduroy cutoffs taking the cake. By the way – if you’re not on your way to teach Political Science 101, what makes you wear an Oxford shirt on an 80 degree summer afternoon with a high chance of showers in the middle of nowhere? And yes, both of them were obnoxious to everyone else on the trail including squirrels.
  • Tainted Heart – it’s on the list for the race and it’s staying for the weird reason it reminds me of my favorite all time commercial:

The video was by Spike Jonze, it was banned from TV shortly after it aired because it was offensive to either/or trauma patients/nurses/surgeons/anesthesiologist/cardiac patients/the makers of EKG machines/guys named Richard. That was awhile back when people were really sensitive to things and insisted they be removed from the media.

  • At mile six it hit me that I didn’t even know Rick Perry was running this time around.
  • Nick Cave’s Brother My Cup is Empty, stays or goes depending on what stage it hits and whether or not I take it literally or metaphorically.
  • Mike Huckabee really believes that the Dredd Scott decision is still the law of the land and everybody just chooses to look the other way? I spent at least a mile and a half thinking of a test that should be given to everyone who decides there’s a burning need for them to be President.

A Quick Confession …

IMG_0697-0I’m going to watch the Patriots – Steelers tonight. Despite the fact I know, deep down inside that it’s wrong … or at least abetting … or enabling … or  a hundred other things. I mean giving the NFL money, no matter how indirectly, is akin to mailing a check to the Koch brothers.I mean, the NFL is evil, I know that, hell, my dog knows that. An evil not-for-profit that generates hundreds of millions a year on the backs of guys it has no interest in thirty seconds after their careers end. It has denied concussions, intimidated doctors and scientists and its own retired players.

The NFL owns ESPN. It can’t tell the difference between a serial domestic abuser and the Ideal Gas Law. It’s labor practices are, according to a days old federal court decision, abysmal, the guy in charge is something out of a Sinclair Lewis novel.

It talks, endlessly, about the integrity of the game but half its rules are there for gamblers. I’ve seen graphic results of that gambling. Swift, nasty, and graphic. Often.

It is geared toward mediocrity – parity in NFL company speak. The only other sport I can think of so invested in assuring everyone hits .500 and systematically goes after anyone or any team excellingmain_11 through the rigged schedules, drafts, and salary caps are the guys running Rollerball.

No one playing knows how to tackle, they use the helmet as a weapon despite what it’s been proven to do to the tackler. It’s so bad, Pete Carroll of the Seahawks brought rugby players to camp to try and get guys to actually use their arms.

I despise the rah-rah shit, the how football prepares you for life horseshit. The whole let’s endlessly parade the military out at every game, using ‘war’ and ‘battle’ as metaphors.

I despair that the Ravens offensive guard, John Urschel, is going to do something to his world-class mathematician’s head. I despair every time a retired player like Chris Carter opens his mouth on TV.

Any other organization in the country outside of Wall Street would never have survived League of Denial, people would have marched in the street to shut them down.

I know all this, and a lot more. And I’m still going to watch. Many games. I’m going to rationalize it by thinking the guys playing are playing because they love the game and it’s their choice and yada, yada, yada . . . and I was busy playing rugby and soccer through my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s and was more concerned with my teams than any televised sport so it’s okay for me to sit and watch now. But, that’s crap and just makes me feel a tiny bit better.

I’m going to watch, I guess, for the reason most people watch – because I can’t not watch.

End of Summer Thoughts

It’s a 196 in the shade today, so what better time than to catch up with stuff that has festered all summer. To wit:

The 24/7 coverage of DeflateGate has dramatically illustrated a really, really scary point about today’s society that has nothing to do with cheating  and football: the abysmal state of legal knowledge – rudimentary legal knowledge – in this country.

Radio/TV commentators, social media, newsprint, call-ins to sports radio and, to be fair, NPR and anyone that went near this thing (everyone?) consistently getting things wrong in ways my high schooler would be embarrassed to mess up.

From the simple –  no, Brady was not charged or innocent or guilty because he was never near a criminal court;

to so stupid as to be almost inane – the ESPN host who stated ‘only guilty people hire lawyers;’ the many hosts and callers who agreed that ‘you gotta give your phone up when your employer asks for it, it’s the law;’ the WEEI host who proclaimed loudly and often that the federal judge could ‘bring anyone he wants to the courtroom, ’cause that’s what he can do, order anyone he wants to talk, have them dragged in if needed . . . what? No, that’s not right, he doesn’t need a reason, he’s a judge;’

to the downright terrifying in the ‘this-kind-of-stupid-means-the-end-of-the-Republic’ way: “what do we care about due process as long as we get the guilty guy?” “Due process is for cheaters;” “just a technicality the NFL wasn’t fair;” “why should his[Brady’s] employer have to play fair?”

This kind of utter lack of awareness doesn’t really bode well for the rule of law. Or fairness. Or anything, because once you go down that particular road there’s no coming back.

As far as the case went, I manged to get this secret tape of Brady’s lawyer from the first day of hearings:

By the way, contributing mightily to all of the above was the performance of the media legal experts. A bunch of guys who made hedging an art form. “Sure, Dan, the judge ripped the NFL and asked devastating questions . . . looks bad for them . . . but, it may all just be a big fake, a sleight of hand …”

Okay, even after the judge eviscerated the NFL in the hearings, no one wants to go on record about what a slam dunk a case is and then be wrong. But come on – have some balls (every legal expert I heard artfully dodging on this was a guy), this was never close.

This hedging just throws the fog of war over the judicial system and, well, see above.

NewYorkerCt2I am alive today because I paid attention during Constitutional Law. There’s no debating it. My law school had amazing Con Law teachers – from the guy who wrote the textbook to the head of the ACLU – and they really made it mean something. I’m dead – literally and/or metaphorically – without those classes.

Which is why I find it particularly upsetting to see lawyers like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz weigh in on the Kim Davis clusterfuck.

They know – you can’t graduate law school without passing Con Law I & II – that the First Amendment does not apply here. In any way.

Just as they also have to know that as an elected official, Davis’ not allowing the assistant clerks to issues licenses DOES violate the First Amendment.

As someone said during the Indiana religious freedom act debacle a while back:  “this law doesn’t discriminate against anyone … it just protects those of us who do.”

Rubio and Cruz know this, for some reason they’ve decided that being associated with Kathy Bates’ Misery body double and Mike Huckabee is the image they’re trying to project to uncommitted voters.

Oh … and apparently somewhere down the line they’ve also decided that violating a Federal Court order is a perfectly alright as long as you don’t agree with the court. Hope they remember that next time a criminal reform bill passes their way. If they’re not disbarred in the meantime.