Friday, August 18, 2017

What A Week...

Last Friday night, I was parked at the cab stand, first up for the next call. A Puerto Rican man got into the seat next to me and said he wanted to go to Lawrence, Massachusetts. (I'm mentioning his nationality for a reason I'll get to soon.) He paid me the fare, and off we went.

 He noticed I'd been reading a book when he got in, so he asked what I was reading. It was Why Irrational Politics Appeals: Understanding the Allure of Trump. He guessed that I wasn't a Donald Trump supporter and said he voted for him. I said I voted for Hillary Clinton... and, again, off we went. The time it takes to get from Nashua to Lawrence is thirty-five to forty minutes. That night, it seemed much longer.

 You can probably guess how his end of it went. Hillary is a liar, cheat, and thief who should be in prison, she's a security threat, she wants to divide people, she even opened up (*gasp*) an email account, blah blah blah. Trump, on the other hand, is a man of the people who wants to unite us and speaks his mind, not giving a fuck who doesn't like it. (I will never understand this absurd belief that all politicians are liars, cheats, and thieves while no businessman ever lies, cheats, or steals, but millions of right-leaning people in this country seem to swear by that. Go figure...) I assured him that I was no fan of Hillary, and hadn't been anything of the sort for the past twenty-five years, but as much as I disliked her, I disliked Trump a whole lot more. She may have a habit of saying one thing and doing another, but Trump had a habit of saying vile things about other people during his campaign and his presidency. That, and I've been registered as a Democrat for six years, plus I've been through with the GOP since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf coast and the Bush administration spent the next three days twiddling their thumbs -- there was never any question in my mind how I would be voting in 2016. He told me he wasn't a diehard Trump supporter, but he was rattling off one Trump talking point after another. Seemed to me this guy had, in fact, bought the whole shop. He was even in favor of building a wall along the Mexican border, something I consider very odd coming from a Puerto Rican man. The Trump diehards hate Puerto Ricans as much as they hate Mexicans precisely because they're Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. Whether they're here legally or illegally means nothing at all -- their take on illegal immigrants is just a cover for their hate. We agreed to disagree on who was the less odious candidate for the Oval Office after about ten minutes.

And then it got weird.

He started talking about the Freemasons and the secret influence they had on our society. I've heard this before but I asked what the knock on the Freemasons was anyway. Did I know that when a Mason reaches the 33rd level or degree or whatever, he learns that Freemasons are Satanists? Could have fooled me -- there's a Masonic building two blocks from where I live, and whatever they may or may not be, I never hear them raising hell. Then he said all of our presidents have been Freemasons, until Trump. I'd have to check on that. There were Freemasons among our Founding Fathers, especially George Washington, but I didn't have a definitive list. I asked him, are you saying that our first forty-four presidents were active or latent satanists? Three or four of them maybe, if you want to look at their legacies, but all forty-four? Yeah, he conceded, maybe that's a bridge too far.

Then he started talking about the Illuminati. Had I heard of them? I said most of what I knew about them was written by two guys in the early 70s, in the form of a big science fiction book I'd read within a single weekend, The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Eight hundred entertaining pages of hilarious bullshit. Well, apparently they're even worse than the Freemasons. I can't imagine what could be more satanic than satanism, but that's what my customer said.

Then he mentioned The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This time, I stopped him before he got started. I guaranteed him that the Protocols was a hoax, because that was one item on whatever list he had that I have checked out for myself. It was a toxic work of fiction written by a Russian in the early 20th century. It borrowed heavily from two 19th century books, one written by a French lawyer, the other by a German anti-Semite, and it was passed off as the hidden true agenda of the Jews. Adolf Hitler believed every word of it. The end result of that was the Holocaust. I didn't tell him all of that because I didn't want to get in a heated argument while I was driving 70 mph just to keep pace with the traffic on I-495, and now he was starting to piss me off. But I did keep him from going any further in promoting that hoax in my cab. I thought, if he starts talking about 9/11 and says there were no planes involved, I'm gonna strangle him.

Finally, we get to Lawrence. He tells me he's going inside for a bit, then wants to go back to Nashua. Lucky me. But I agreed to wait. The trip back was less colorful, but he did talk. All the way back to Nashua. Lord, did he love to talk. It was more tinfoil-hat stuff, in a stream-of-consciousness delivery -- fluoride in the water, chem trails in the sky, and so on. Somehow, all of this started because of a book about Trump that I was reading. At least he never mentioned 9/11. That was Friday night.

On Saturday, a bunch of white nationalists, weekend militia men and KKK troglodytes staged a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. A bunch of counter-protesters showed up. One early version I heard was, someone in the latter group pepper-sprayed someone in the former. Whatever sparked it, a riot broke out, which led to one white nationalist asshole getting in his car and driving straight into a crowd of people, killing one woman and injuring dozens. And President Trump, the man who wanted us all to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" in his acceptance speech, took two days to call these right-wing radicals out in a prepared statement that he clearly didn't want to read. The day after that, he walked that statement back, saying there were good and bad people on both sides, which was obscene enough. Then he had the gall to compare Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. I mean, for real? He made that moral equivalency? Okay, Trump has a college degree and I'm a two-time college dropout, so maybe I'm the dumber one. But from what history I recall, Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders and that is reprehensible, yet they also worked very hard to create a nation which happened to include a Constitution that contained a way to make changes in the national government without resorting to violence and bloodshed; Lee and Stonewall worked very hard to split that nation in two, and that involved trainloads of violence and bloodshed. Not morally equivalent by any stretch.

Oh, and the reason it took two days for Trump to kind of condemn the white nationalists? He wanted to make sure he had the facts straight, and didn't want to rush right in. Yesterday, there was a horrific van attack in Barcelona, Spain. So far, the death toll is up to fourteen. Trump rushed right in and condemned the attackers. I guess they aren't part of his base.

I wonder what that Puerto Rican man I took to Lawrence and back last Friday thinks about Trump now. Hopefully, he thinks less of him. I sure as hell do, and I had a very low opinion of Trump to start with...

 * * *

 On a lighter note, I hang one more year on the line today. I'm now 47.

 Til further on...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Gone But Nowhere Near Forgotten...



Hard to believe David Bowie passed away a year ago.

In my line of work, I meet all kinds of people. Once every two or three months, I'll have someone in their twenties get into the cab, and a Bowie tune will happen to be playing on the radio. They might know the song. In one case, it was "Modern Love." The young man I was driving at the time said he knew that one and maybe three others by Bowie. I said something like "I remember when 'Modern Love' was released, I'm that old." And I rattled off a bunch of other Bowie songs I liked. Can't remember which ones they were, but "Blackstar" definitely wasn't one of them. I like it, but I figured if the guy was going to do some exploring into Bowie's career, rattling off some of his more accessible tunes was a good way to start. "Blackstar" isn't for everyone.

All the same, the album Blackstar has been nominated for five Grammy awards. It's a fine final album. Much too often, an artist runs out of ideas and turns to a more formulaic approach to songwriting. Not David Bowie. He kept right on experimenting til the end...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Two Things With Donald Trump...

One, I wish him luck. For eighteen months, he was a loose cannon; yesterday in his victory speech, he was suddenly all things to everyone, let's reach across the aisle, come together, and teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I gotta hand it to him -- he can make himself believe anything that comes out of his mouth as much as he can make others believe that stuff. I'm impressed. Not even politicians can do that anymore.

 But two, I also wish him sense. And I'm a typical liberal -- deep down, I'm willing to believe anything twice, even when I've seen this movie before and know full damn well what to expect. I wish Trump luck because I'm sick and tired of this Two Americas bullshit. I wish him sense because this Two Americas bullshit is here to stay, he's gonna be our next president because of it, and I don't want him to make this thing any more toxic than it already is.

 Expect the worst, hope for the best. That's all I have to offer...

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Almost Forgot About This One...



A year or so ago, I was watching the documentary Genghis Blues. It's about a blind American musician, Paul Pena, who discovered the distinctive and unusual art of Tuvan throat singing (in which the performer generates a root note while singing one or more notes above it simultaneously) while playing around with a ham radio. Pena taught himself how to sing that way, and eventually wound up in the land of Tuva, a place so distant that it bills itself as the geographical center of Asia, to meet and perform with other throat singers.

Pena had a strong rhythm and blues background, and at one point in the film, he sings in the Tuvan style while playing the blues on guitar. That alone makes Genghis Blues worth watching, but I also found out from this film that Pena wrote and recorded the classic rock tune "Jet Airliner" in 1973, about four years before the Steve Miller Band covered it and walked away with a top ten hit. The SMB version is good, but I think Pena's original is better. A little slower in tempo and a whole lot funkier. It's really hard to listen to this song and not want to dance.

Enjoy...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

She Shoots Colors All Around Like A Sunset Going Down...











I was driving the cab during the wee hours a week or so ago, listening to a Boston-area station known as The River. There is no DJ on The River after midnight, just song after unannounced song with the obligatory five minutes of crass commercials every hour. Occasionally, it surprises me with a song I haven't heard in decades, and it did so that night with "She's A Rainbow." It's funny how I can't remember what I had for supper two nights ago, but I can remember most of the words to a tune I haven't heard in, I dunno, twenty-five years.



That, and I've softened up my take on the Stones considerably. I used to like a handful of their songs, while thinking they were probably the most overrated band in rock 'n roll history. That's totally untrue. I've become something of an amateur musicologist in the last few years, checking out the artists that influenced many of my favorite musicians and their contemporaries. I like a trainload of Stones tunes now that I didn't before -- and the ones I did like then, I like a whole lot more now.



Enjoy...

Monday, September 26, 2016

Have A Song...










"Bullet," from Renaissance's 1969 debut album. Just because.



Enjoy...