"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Elegance Of Stupidity - Electoral Politics In America

The American political arena has never been known for its quick thinkers, eloquence, sparkling wit, or crackling intelligence.  In fact politicians who might have been worthy of rhetorical flourish, some irony or pith have kept their language simple - farm speak, down home homily, uncomplicated here-and-now talk. 

Americans are suspicious of men who put on airs.  Anyone who marches to the iambic pentameter rhythms of Shakespeare is queer, not to be trusted.  Their Bible is not the airy fairy Elizabethan poetry of the King James Version, but the straightforward, common man's English New Revised Standard Version.  Their rhetoric is vernacular, their language is as unadorned, unembellished as a fencepost. Americans have no Winston Churchills in the wings, nor would let them on stage if they had them. 


Bill Clinton made sense, reflected and considered before he spoke, chose his words carefully, but crafted his speeches without metaphor or simile.  He was an exegete who could disaggregate, reassemble, and organize his thoughts, but he was no Mark Antony whose speech before the Roman Senate dripped with irony, marvelous in its insinuations, canny in its use of political asides.  Antony was brilliant, a calculating, scheming, but principled politician who knew that language and its magnificent subtleties could win any crowd.

Bill Clinton took his measure, spoke slowly and thoughtfully, shared his intelligence in teaspoonfuls, never went more than a half-cup, and kept his audiences attentive and nodding in approval. 

John Kennedy was as close as any American politician has come to geniality and access.  So quick on his feet, so agile and deft that one could imagine him with the likes of Cole Porter. Both were masters of internal rhythm, catchy rhyme, and cultural whimsy. 


Lyndon Johnson who followed Kennedy after his assassination almost spitefully spoke in Texan with drawling home-on-the-range references to sagebrush, saddles, and campfires. 'Like a steer loose in a barnyard', LBJ he said, or 'A rattler with no rattle'.  He was proud of his Texas bullying, bull-riding, and corralling.  The patrician East Coast hated him after their man, the elegant and sophisticated Kennedy had been gunned down; but the rest of the country knew that Johnson was one of theirs. 

Prime Minister's Question Time is a display of British wit, sharp intellect, and hilariously ironic humor that American politicians can only wonder at.  Margaret Thatcher was the best at political repartee and rapier wit.  Dripping with contempt at Labor PMs who dared defy her, she shamed them, neutered them, and ridiculed them, all with diction, flourish, and agility. 

The current President of Italy, Giorgia Meloni and the rising star of the French Right, Marion Marechal are both smart, determined, and sharply eloquent women.  No interviewer or political opponent has been a match for their quick intelligence, wit, and reserves of history, culture, and political reference.  Theirs is a machine-gun delivery, never an 'um' or an 'ah', rapid fire, on target, precise, unhesitating, sophisticated in their use of language, and brilliant for their mastery of subject, time, and audience. 

For anyone familiar with these two European figures can only wince at American politicians who have trouble making sense let alone weaving a complex theme.  Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States often makes no sense at all, but hilariously and ironically thinks she does

The significance of the passage of time, right? The significance of the passage of time.  So when you think about it, there is great significance to the passage of time...  We must work together. Work together. To see where we are.  Where we are headed, where we are going, and our vision for where we should be. But also see it as a moment to, yes. Together address the challenges and to work on the opportunities that are presented by this moment  

President Biden is even worse.  At least there is some kernel of meaning in what she says once one untangles it all; but Biden often drifts into some unimaginable places.  At a brewery in Wisconsin he said, "The beer brewed here, it is used to make the brew beered here." While most of the sentence was unintelligible, he seemed to add, "Ooh, Earth Rider, thanks for the Great Lakes. I wonder why…"

During a CNN town hall, Biden said: "And the question is whether or not we should be in a position where you are — why can't the experts say we know that this virus is, in fact — is going to be — or, excuse me — we know why all the drugs approved are not temporarily approved, but permanently."

The President speaks only from prepared texts, rarely takes questions, and his speeches, prepared by doctrinally pure aides and written by the most lowest common denominator writers are the worst sort of pandering, insulting nonsense.  George Floyd this, George Floyd that, racism here, there, and everywhere, cotton pickin' neo-slavery, he hammered on to graduating seniors at Morehouse College, a traditionally black institution. 

The graduates were having none of it, these middle class, upwardly mobile, well-educated students who had long ago gotten past the street cred, 'hood caricature laid on them by the President.  They wanted to be spoken to as mature adults, responsible citizens, intelligent voters and instead Biden gave them black blarney, complete, irrelevant nonsense, 

Imagine Margaret Thatcher in her heyday, the era of revolutionary social, political change in Britain, talking down to voters, caramelizing, sweetening her message, pandering for votes; or Meloni or Marechal? Or can one imagine Donald Trump pulling his punches, cheating his supporters, talking down to them?

God only knows what Americans would make if a Meloni or Marechal were on the ballot here, other than being befuddled, lost, and confused by the unadulterated stream of logic and, God forbid, the unvarnished facts.  We must resist the corrosive, corrupting, divisive, and hateful influence of Islam in Europe, Marechal insists.  Not 'radical Islam', covering her tracks, but Islam, the religion, pure and simple.  No accommodation, no retreat from brutal honesty. 

American politicians like Joe Biden stumble over Dick and Jane, McGuffey reader basic English but hem and haw when it comes to geopolitical reality. We love Islam, Biden says repeatedly, one of the world's great religions, a religion of peace, when everyone can see that it is nothing of the kind, that Hamas, ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, al-Shabab, and Hezbollah are not simply terrorist organizations but religion-based, religion-fueled ones. 

Instead of Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Meloni, and Marechal's undiluted, unhedged principles, American politicians are afraid - in this penitential, censorious age - of offending regardless of the truth.  

The most unsettling thing of all is that Americans endorse this dumbing down, this cowpoke talk, and the downhome political imposters who can't get past it.  Biden and Harris, the so-called 'leaders of the free world' talk gibberish, pander, and make no sense at all; and yet they are forgiven.  

The electorate, alas, is complicit in their ignorance.  Oddly and depressingly, many Americans actually swallow their cant about Trump the Satan, the neo-Hitler, the Great Destroyer of Democracy.  Not a cogent argument, not one cohesive, intelligent speech has come from American politicians about geopolitics, the economics of energy, social dynamics, and the socio-cultural context in which decisions are made. 

We deserve the leaders we elect is the only meme applicable here; but the deliberate rejection of intellectual astuteness, perception, and insight is bloody depressing 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Epiphany Of Travel - When A Walmart Greeter Visits The Tower Of London

Jackson Billips was first in line for hiring at the new Walmart recently opened at the crossroads of three West Virginia hollers.  It was long anticipated by the residents of Bowlder, Upton, and Little Marvel who had relied on the company store since as far back as anyone could remember.  

Nothing much had changed in the hollers since the Wellington mine opened, and most families still lived in tarpaper shacks, bought sacks of cornmeal and flour, a rasher of bacon when there were a few pennies left in the cookie jar, and wore hand-me-downs from three generations. 

Walmart was not going to rescue them from the life of the hollers by any means, but the fatback and corn flour would be cheaper than at '456' as the mining store was locally known, and when Bangladeshi-made frocks were on sale, they were affordable on the layaway plan.  

No, the benefit of the new Walmart store would be employment - a chance to get out of the pit, clean up, and make some decent money.  The mining company had fought Walmart for years, since it could not afford to lose the hundred or so employees that the store had promised to hire, but in the end gave up their resistance and drew from Rider, another community not far from the mine. 

Jackson knew that being first in line did not guarantee him a job, but felt that by the time the last person in the queue, now winding two times around the block, got to the front, all positions would be filled.  

He dressed up as best he could - clean shirt and overalls, shined boots, and his grandfather's New York suspenders.  He practiced his diction and his demeanor.  He had listened to the banker, the pharmacist, and the doctor and tried to lose the worst of his Appalachian drawl.  He shaved, washed his hair, and made his way to the offices of the new store at four in the morning. 

The recruiter must have seen something honest and sincere about him, but because he had no sales experience and was a bit older than the rest of the applicants, he was hired as a greeter.  All that he needed to know was product placement, courtesy, and customer service.  

He did well and thanked God for giving him a reprieve - an above ground job in a well-lit, air conditioned, magnificently displayed place of employment.  The pay was low, lower in fact than wages in the mine, but the working conditions alone compensated for the difference.  He was happy, proud, and satisfied, 

After five years Walmart decided to run a lottery, the first prize of which was an all-expense paid trip to London.  The cost to Walmart was not what it seemed - the winner would go as part of a quid-pro-quo deal with the last of the independent airlines serving the area, the London hotel was little more than a youth hostel, and the expenses were barely enough to cover three nights of fish-and-chips - but to the lottery players it seemed like a bonanza.  Thanks to God, Jackson won and packed his wife and himself off to England. 

Now, for all the holler's penury and harsh living, it was not completely isolated from the mainstream.  Thanks to a television tower on the top of Harper's Ridge and pro-bono wiring by the Chamber of Commerce, there was reception from Wheeling and families who were able to afford the second-hand black and white televisions sold at Brady's Discount Home, opened their homes on Friday nights to friends and extended family.  There Jackson had had a glimpse of where he was going.  The only channel with decent reception was PBS, and he and his co-workers watched reruns of Upstairs, Downstairs, and Downton Abbey. 


The carriages, the splendor, the elegance and sophistication were all things he could never have imagined, never even thought possible. High school history had only brief mention of the redcoats, Lexington and Concord, the Boston Tea Party and King George; but nothing like this.  Nothing of the palatial luxury of the British well-to-do. 

No grubby hotel, no stale fish and chips, no indifferent crowds at Trafalgar Square, no airless Underground cars could possibly have dispelled the very idea of England.  England! What a marvelous place; and his ancestors came from there, ironically from the collieries of Wales in 1850, but still to be able to trace one's lineage back to kings, queens, and courtiers was indeed special. He appreciated London.  

The Tower of London where Clarence and the princes had been put to death and had seen executions, torture, and chains was not far from Buckingham Palace and the sense and the reality of his ancestral past became clear.  He didn't have to know Shakespeare, Dickens or the legacy of the Tudors to understand. 

Jackson was Mark Twain's innocent abroad without Clemens' satirical irony.  Everything after the dark limitations of Little Marvel was bright and clear.  The palace, the tower, London Bridge, East London, and the Thames were only intimations of what had come before; but they were enough.  The world in one short visit to London was decipherable.  No places could have been as different as Little Marvel and London, but no places more similar.  

Bob Fleck had been found murdered behind the woodshed of the old Parker place, victim of some incestuous rivalry. Billy and Hank Carter were killed at Khe Sanh like their father had been at Iwo Jima and their grandfather at Ypres; and like the Yorks and Lancasters who died in the thousands during the War of the Roses and the Hundred Years War. The mine owners lived in million dollar homes on top of the Blue Ridge while overseers managed the mines, the pits, and the labor. 

Tourism is big business, and Paris, Rome, and London welcome millions of visitors each year.  The Eiffel Tower, the Tower of Pisa are, despite their familiarity, perennial favorites.  Why, exactly?  The Eiffel Tower, other than an iconic image of Paris, is no more than a Victorian, early-Industrial Age construction, surprising and remarkable at the time, but only an architectural curiosity now.

The  leaning Tower of Pisa even less remarkable as a structure and insignificant as a historical moment with no particular iconic value is on most Italian tours. 

Why, then, do we configure our vacations around monuments, places of interest and historical significance about which we know and care little?   Why do we not spend our valuable leave time on more intimate and modest expeditions.  Was a trip up the Eiffel Tower worth more than a week on the Chesapeake or in the Shenandoah?  What is the relative value of a random trip to Vienna?  How relevant is it to our lives?

Travel, particularly solitary travel, for some has always been a spiritual journey.  Paul Theroux in his The Tao of Travel has reprinted the thoughts of many explorers who have found enlightenment or at least something profound in their voyages.


You go away for a long time and return a different person –you never come all the way back.

Travel is at its best a solitary enterprise: to see, to examine, to assess, you have to be all alone and unencumbered…..It is hard to see clearly or to think straight in the company of other people.  What is required is the lucidity of loneliness to capture that vision which, however banal, seems in your private mood to be special and worthy of interest.
Travel which is nearly always seen as an attempt to escape from the ego, is in my opinion, just the opposite.  Nothing induces concentration or inspires memory like an alien landscape or foreign culture.  It is simply not possible (as romantics think) to lose yourself in an exotic place.  Much more likely is an experience of intense nostalgia, a harking back to an earlier stage of your life….What makes the whole experience vivid and sometimes thrilling is the juxtaposition of the present and the past.

Jackson  Billips was one of these unique travelers.  Perhaps because of the stark difference between Little Marvel holler and London; or more likely because he like Shelley, Matthiessen, and Conrad were born that way, native visionaries.  It only took a reluctant Matthiessen a few weeks in the Himalayas to 'see' them; a minute for Shelley to 'see' Mt. Blanc as the fog dissipated.

Shelley wrote:

Power dwells apart in its tranquility
Remote, serene, and inaccessible:
And this, the naked countenance of earth,
On which I gaze, even these primeval mountains
Teach the adverting mind...

 Image result for images poet shelley

 Vladimir Nabokov agreed:

To a greater or lesser extent there goes on in every person a struggle between two forces: the longing for privacy and the urge to go places: introversion, that is, interest directed within oneself toward one’s own inner live of vigorous thought and fancy; and extroversion, interest directed outward, toward the external world of people and tangible values 

Authors Stavans and Ellison talk about how travel has become commonplace and mundane, far from the voyages of discovery of travelers past:

For the most fortunate among us, our travels are now routine, devoted mainly to entertainment and personal enrichment. We have turned travel into something ordinary, deprived it of allegorical grandeur. We have made it a business: the business of being on the move. Whatever impels us to travel, it is no longer the oracle, the pilgrimage or the gods. It is the compulsion to be elsewhere, anywhere but here.

So Jackson Billips was a true visionary, a mensch, an innately privileged man without ever knowing it, one of a kind, fortunate to be a Walmart greeter and win the travel lottery, but a genius, and the best innocent abroad.  


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Surprising Sexual Turnabout Of A Small Town - Where Women Were The Serial Adulterers

Amy Lord grew up in New Brighton, a small New England town known for its industrial past - the hardware and armaments industries served the Union Army well in the Civil War, and the Remington repeating rifles saved many a doughboy in WWI - and thought she would never leave.  There were the Sandersons, close friends of her parents, godfather to her brother and champion golfers; the Reitbarts, celebratory Catholics who served at St. Joseph's; and above all the Parkers.  

Barrington Parker (Barry) was the most attractive man she had ever seen, more handsome than Gary Cooper, Alain Delon, and Clark Gable all put together. A man with charm, wit, manners, and generosity that her mother flirted with, that Mrs. Carlson had had an affair with, and that all the women in the West End bridge club talked about. 


The gossip about Parker and his assignations made the rounds so many times that they became epic, far beyond any man such was his allure and desirability.  He had what these proper, well-tailored, settled women wanted in those days - a man who paid attention, who showed genuine interest, who cared. 

Take Penny Lord, for example, wife of Ardmore Lord, Vice-President of the Burritt National Bank and Trust, a dull man, dutiful in his attentions but desultory in his affections.  She, mother of two children, logged in to housework, tea parties, and golf, wanted only some reference - some clue to the fact that she was a woman, not just some disposable unit; not love necessarily, nor sex, just more than a common denominator. 


There was Herman, the plumber who said he would 'fix her pipes', the breadman who offered her an extra loaf of rye, the pharmacist who suggested drugs, and a lawyer who said he would defend her in a divorce; but all these men were just incidental distractions. 

She finally took her intentions and ambitions elsewhere - to the big city where men were many and available and sexual indifference the rule.  That is to say, while not interested in becoming a Belle du Jour, patrician legatee to a family fortune with untamed desire and free afternoons, she was not adverse to some sexual liberty; and so it was that on Tuesdays and Thursdays she took the New York, New Haven & Hartford to the city and sat with a glass of sherry at the Oak Bar of the Plaza until she was noticed. 

It was only a matter of time until word got back to New Brighton about her New York dalliances, but by that time she didn't care.  Her husband Ardmore had hardly noticed that she was gone two times a week, and rumor had it that had his own little cinq-a-sept with a boy from Branford.  

A marriage of convenience, but all in all an unusual one for the likes of conservative New Brighton - a part-time escort and a gay man sharing the same bed seven nights a week both hoping for some kind of reprieve from the shameful duplicity of it all.

Norma Levin never thought she would have sex out of the faith.  Born and raised a conservative Jew, celebrant of weekly shiva, temple attendant, and volunteer for the Hartford chapter of the United Jewish Appeal, affairs were for Shiksas, not for a nice Jewish girl like her; and besides, her husband's furrier business would suffer if anyone found out.  If all the hook-nose, money-counting, hunchbacked Merchant of Venice caricatures weren't bad enough, imagine the Jezebel,  Delilah Jewish temptress remarks which would follow her. 


Yet, she was not an unattractive woman, and was noticed in company.  There were not a few men who wanted to bed a Jew, and since marriage, divorce, or even a long term paramour relationship were never possibilities, assignations could be ended as easily as cutting a bolt of gabardine. 

So she surprised herself with her sequence of lovers - none particularly unique or sexually inventive, but adoring in their own way; and by and by became part of the trade. She had little in common with Penny Lord, the Catherine Deneuve Belle du Jour. They lived in different worlds but shared this surprising life of anonymous sexual favors. 


If a Jew and a patrician New Englander could end up in the same West Side day rooms, what did that say about sex...or class for that matter? 'Women are like that', offered one of New Brighton's alderman when the other life of both women came to light. 'Othello', he said, reminding us of the general who killed Desdemona to save men from yet more female perfidy.

All women of New Brighton were definitely not like that - or at least not to that extreme. Infidelity among the wives of the community was de rigeur, almost a rite of passage.  In an ironic turnabout of classic male adultery, the Stepford Wives of the town left their homes every afternoon between three and five and came home to cook dinner.  It was the men who were faithful in New Brighton. 

'What's going on here?' asked the men at their weekly Rotary Club meeting. 'Are we sheep?' but as each member shared his experiences - obliquely it must be noted given male ego - the group knew that something was indeed up. Sexual dalliance was their territory, their prerogative, not their wives'.

The New Brighton Rotary Club became a venue for male bonding.  Men who had been cheated on, cuckolded, formed a natural, indissoluble bond; but for all the unity and resolution, the train had left the station and they could only look on from the platform. 


Amy Lord, the young woman so attracted to Barry Parker, the Casanova of New Brighton, who despite her romantic interests was one of the few women of the town who kept her own counsel, an outlier, a 'One of a kind', said the Rotary men reflecting on how their town, once a redoubt of male privilege and place, had become a place of sexual indiscretion and female errancy. 

Yet herd mentality and the dynamics of small towns being what they are, Amy had been spotted on the 10:13 headed for New York, an innocent trip to Bonwit's or Saks perhaps, but that, the women of the town concluded, was as unlikely as a trip to the moon. 

The Lunacy Of Barky Lodge - How Worries About Climate Armageddon Addled His Brain

Barkhamsted (Barky)  Lodge had always been serious and concerned person, and had so since his days at Yale when he and the Reverend Hart Clarkson  went down to Selma, marched with MLK across the Pettis Bridge, sat in at lunch counters, and demonstrated against the war in Vietnam.  His fight for social justice, equality, and world harmony was indefatigable, persistent, and heartfelt. 

He had the terrible sense of goodness coming to an end.  He saw the awful things that were happening in the world and felt an impending doom.  Armageddon now made sense - the end of times was on its way.  War, inequality, racism, and climate change were clear signs of the end of days.  So much to do, so little time. 


Where he got such sentiments was a mystery to all who knew him as a child in Cos Cob.  His family was one of inherited wealth, status, and privilege.  His family tree included the principals of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a lieutenant of John Davenport, founder of the revisionist Puritan sect of the New Haven Plantations, a direct descendant of Roger Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a cousin of John Adams, second President of the United States.  His great great uncles had become wealthy Newport shipbuilders and investors in the Three Corner Trade, and their offspring Wall Street financiers and builders of the great American financial empire.

Barky was well on his way to taking over the family fortune and managing its vast holdings until he got to Yale and 'fell under the spell' of Hart Clarkson, a rather pedestrian man of limited vision but whose message of deliverance somehow resonated with the young Lodge boy.  His parents were appalled at his deviance and were all the more perplexed because nothing in his background or upbringing could possibly account for such a reversal of intent. 

'Because it is the right thing to do', he said to his father over dinner at Mory's and told the old patrician that his days of privilege and influence were numbered. 'The future is here'. 

Stanford Lodge reported back to the family that something had to be done about the boy, so far off the rails had he fallen and so deep in the weeds had he gotten tangled.  Yet the young Lodge, always a stubborn boy, could not be budged. 

Not only was Barky Lodge committed to the cause of social justice, he was exhilarated by it.  The Freedom Rides, demonstrations for peace and the protests against racial equality were more than actions against political misjudgment and moral error. He and his colleagues were apostles, as passionate about their calling as Jesus' disciples.  Not only were they a latter day force for good, they were an army against evil.  They were a delighted, happy bunch on their way to be with their Negro brothers and sisters. 


'Perhaps it was David', suggested Barky's father, the renegade brother who had visions and spent years in St. Elizbeth's until he was released, cured of his delusions and obscure phobias, but who in the meantime had learned a thing or two about charisma and 'self-awareness'.  He came out of the funny farm convinced of the power of prophecy and his duty to spread the word. 

What 'the word' was was unclear, for Uncle David had not been cured at all but released because of new state regulations that recharacterized the demented as victims; and so his rantings and ravings if anything increased in fiery pursuit.  'The world is a shithole', he yelled from the French windows of the family's Long Island estate. 'It has become a swamp of idolatry'.

God only knows how DNA strands get twisted and tangled, and whatever drove Uncle David around the bend might have been passed on to Barky; but that was no solace whatsoever as old Mr. Lodge watched his son bang on like a black preacher, as wild and crazy as a Biblical prophet. 

It was true.  Barky's racial exhilaration became the first sign of a disordered sense of priorities, followed by a feeling of righteous anointment, concluded by lunacy.  He remained at Yale only because of the Yale chaplain, but his interest in his studies was desultory at best.  The University had just opened its doors to all comers, retreating from a centuries-old principle of the best and the brightest and so had attracted social marginalia who, far from the probity and good manners of the well-to-do stood out but had to be tolerated. 

Although Yale was well aware of Barky's legacy and the generous alumni contributions of his family and therefore surprised at his wild transformation, let him stay on.  He was still one of theirs, not to be dismissed lightly or out of hand. 

After Yale, Barky became a man for whom no cause of social injustice could be ignored.  He became a champion of the black man, women, and gay men; and an outspoken anti-capitalist.  It was capitalism, he said, that was the root cause of inequality, oppression, discrimination, and social abuse.  Unless the system was changed such depravity would continue.


When climate change became the big issue of the day, Barky knew he had finally found his calling.  Everything - all social evils and moral ineptitude - fell under the dark cloud of an incinerating environment.  All the had to hear were the words, 'Global Warming Is Real' and he was a true believer; and here the twisted genes of Uncle David did in fact kick in.  He knew - he felt in his bones - that the predictions of a climate Armageddon were undeniably, absolutely true.  One did not have any further than the violent storms, droughts, heat waves, tornadoes, and hurricanes which were increasing in frequency and intensity every year.  


The old feeling of apostlehood germinated in the freedom busses to Selma now flowered.  Climate change was his Calvary, his resurrection, his transubstantiation, and his second coming. He came as close to prayer as he ever had - not in any traditional sense but in the immanent power of nature.  The Egyptian gods were angry. 

The prophecy of a climate Armageddon touched many people, and Barky who once thought he was alone in his particular vision of the future, found himself surrounded by like-minded, impassioned apostles of truth.  They had no need for parsing the rate of Arctic melting, changes in the Gulf and Humboldt currents, or geological records.  Some things are just received wisdom, infallible truths with no need of proof, ironically no different from Christians' abject belief in miracles or the presence of Satan.  One simply knew the truth. 

And so it was that Barkhamsted Lodge went on a St. Vitus' dance of prophecy.  He went from auditorium to pulpit to whistle stop with increasing passion, The Demon Of Fleet Street reincarnated said the New York Times 'a man of savage conviction, and razor-sharp bloodlust'. It wasn't long, however, before this passion turned hysterical.  He began howling and moaning at the very mention of climate change, but the religious-minded could see the agony and ecstasy of St. Theresa, St. Timothy, and the other tortured, tormented saints of Christianity.  His speeches ended in what had to be called a spiritual orgasm. 


Within a year he was interned at St. Elizbeth's where he joined his Uncle David, two peas in a pod, on the same ward, talking the same nonsense but each believing in their prophecy. 

Monday, May 27, 2024

How A Beautiful Tart From Chillicothe Serviced Congress - Thirty-Five States And Counting

Politicians with few exceptions have had lovers - even jowly, meanspirited, charmless Richard Nixon was reported to have a hot ticket in Pennsylvania somewhere.  Jimmy Carter claimed that he had always been faithful to his longtime partner, Roslyn, but admitted that he had lust in his heart.  Given time and opportunity, he certainly would have had his dalliances like every other man in public office but he was given credit by an unzipped and unfaithful electorate for at least trying to be chaste. 

Even James Polk, Millard Fillmore, and Warren Harding, American presidents long forgotten and perhaps never ever remembered by most, had their reported indiscretions.  It goes with the territory, and as Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State, once famously said, 'Power is the greatest aphrodisiac', a turn on for both men and women.  While John F Kennedy - a young man of beauty, charisma, and charm - needed no boost to his appeal or desire, other presidents - like Polk and Fillmore, for example - benefitted from being in the Oval Office. 


There were tomcats like LBJ who had the Secret Service pimp for him; Bill Clinton whose Arkansas trailer trash lovers were legendary; the patrician Franklin Delano Roosevelt who had a long love affair with his secretary; and the equally aristocratic and well-bred George Herbert Walker Bush, loved by and devoted to his wife of many decades, who had his affairs. The long and short of it is this - men are all the same and powerful men even more so. 

Congress, that den of ambitious men, type A personalities, backcountry rubes for the most part, coming to Washington for the perks and emoluments, are no different than chief executives.  They hunt and prowl just like every other man, lie and make up cockamamie excuses to cover their infidelities, apologize in tears when caught in flagrante delicto, get reelected, and move on up the sexual ladder. 

Lucy Brandon was a farm girl from Ohio who in pigtails, cute ribbons, and pinafores, serviced every schoolboy from Chillicothe.  She was born a tart, otherwise there was no explaining her precocious sexuality and her indifference to virginity, propriety, or righteousness.  Hicks and hayseeds were her stock in trade but when she moved to the city, she left overalls and shitkickers far behind and upped her ante. 

This was not difficult because Lucy was every man's wet dream - a blonde, blue-eyed Marilyn Monroe lookalike with enough class to make her clients assume she was high society, and screwing her was not the sin it could be.  She was one of those women who so immediately and precisely understood all men and each man specifically that she could do no wrong, her coffers filled, her reputation spread, and her future unlimited. 

When one of her clients was the Congressman from her district, home for electioneering during the Christmas recess, she knew she had it made.  He paid for her first class ticket to Washington, arranged for her stay at the Mayflower, and met her in the bridal suite twice a week. 

Lucy loved DC, the monuments, the leafy neighborhoods, the scent of power and importance, and the opportunity; and it didn't take her long to fit in.  She shopped at Saks and Tiffany's like every other wealthy matron from Chevy Chase, never even suggesting her profession; and yet, as she took off the elegant clothes and jewelry she had bought uptown and embraced her lover, she was Belle du Jour, and as beautiful.


Now, given the character of Congress and its representatives, she did not need to go so upscale and tailored as she did. Most of the men there were satisfied with far less; but she liked the finery and the appearance of elegance.  She was a consummate professional who understood her clients, the milieu from which they came, and how to please within an hour or less. She was hooker, time manager, psychiatrist, and Park Avenue hostess all rolled into one; which was why her Ohio Congressman's days were numbered.

He knew this of course, tried his best to keep her, but knew that it was only matter of time before she moved on; and move she did for Washington being the informationally porous place it is, her reputation preceded her, and her business increased by leaps and bounds.

She, a good businesswoman, was an open source hooker.  As long as her clients were able to pay what had now become top dollar, she took them in.  Race, ethnicity, or gender were of no concern.  She serviced all comers. 

Black men of course, suckers for blonde, blue-eyed white women, lined up at her door and paid premium prices for her services.  She had a demand-based price structure, so these men paid top dollar; and because they could never get enough, trade with them alone made her a wealthy woman,  

Pharoah Williams, for example, had hustled women his whole life, but they always had been black women, street women, crackhead women; and now for a few thousand dollars he could have what he had always dreamed of - blonde, soft-haired, white-skinned pussy. 

In a place like Washington with its groupies, wannabes, and claques, one would think that men would have no need for the services of women like Lucy Brandon; but such is the nature of prostitution.  It offers no guilt, no consequence, on-demand sex for few dollars; and when it came to seasoned, high-quality professionals like Lucy whose value-added for striking the right psycho-social chord was immeasurable, her market was guaranteed. 

What man wanted to fuss around with some ditzy intern who hoped that sucking him off a la Monica Lewinsky would guarantee them access?  Access to what? for Christ's sake.  The fucking White House? And those women were always clingy and hopeful, and after one or two turns with them in cheap Adams Morgan walkups, their politico lovers left them on the curb.  No, the delights of Lucy Brandon were far, far more desirable. 

She never went back to Chillicothe, too many rancid memories there, too many men from the old days.  Not that she regretted her past. Far from it.  You had to start somewhere, and Chillicothe was as good a place as any. It was just all so yesterday, so irrelevant to what she had become, that she had no desire to return. Her parents who still loved her had moved to California, partly thanks to Lucy, and part because they had become known only as Lucy Brandon's parents, not the church-going, respectable citizens of the town they were. 

Lucy on occasion met her Congressman and invited him up free of charge for all he had done for her.  A nice man and a fair one.  The chatted about Chillicothe and Ohio and became almost friends, but Lucy wanted it to remain 'almost' and kept her distance.  As an independent contractor she couldn't be seen playing favorites. 

So by the time she retired from the business she reckoned to have serviced representatives from a good thirty-five states - the rest were women or gay and didn't count, so if plaques were given for this kind of service to country, hers would be the first on the wall. 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

'I Was At Woodstock' - Joe Biden's Fabulist Electoral Imaginings

Every politician on earth makes shit up. They can't seem to help it.  It goes with the territory, a caveat emptor, a sucker born every minute, you can fool most of the people most of the time, extended to electoral office.  Stretching the truth is very American, and we take it for granted that snake oil cures constipation, that Billy Graham believed the nonsense he preached, that Elizbeth Warren was a member of the Pequot tribe, that Mark Sanford was actually on the Appalachian Trail and not with his Argentine firecracker in Buenos Aires and that Bill Clinton 'did not have sex with that woman'.

We all lie on our tax forms, 'work late at the office', and come up with the most cockamamie excuses for everything from not taking out the garbage to delinquency.  We are inveterate liars, conventionally and predictably fast and loose with the truth.  It is in our collective genes, it is our permanent zeitgeist, our national ethos. 

We are gullible, credulous, and impossibly idolatrous.  Despite lying through our teeth every day of the week, we believe what we hear.  Madison Avenue can shuck and jive and sell every little thing on the shelf with the most obvious, ridiculous claims, and we buy it; buy it until the closet is filled with depilatories, teeth whiteners, potency pills, and hair restoring gels.  

We believe the fabulist nonsense of Congressional shills who claim America is going down the drain, the Pentagon generals who hope the Chinese will do something stupid so that they can take the lid off their nuclear silos, and the weird, fabulist bullshit that gender is interchangeable.  

The trick is looking good.  Barefaced lies are not incidental but practiced.  The pitchman, the politician, the conman, the fraudster, and the trickster have to look, sound, and feel like they are telling the truth. We don't want to believe some storyteller who makes things up as he goes.  We want either the semblance of truth or the semblance of a soothsayer. 

So when Joe Biden claims he was at Woodstock, no one believes him because he is not a believable liar.  He lives in a world of mystery Santas and Halloween goblins.  He is no longer one of us and hasn't been for a few years now. 

He could have been there is his go-to meme. Since he always espoused the ideas of the Sixties generation even though he was honing his free lunch, money for nothing, chicks for free political career in Delaware he was of the Woodstock generation. One of us, one of us, a man who grew up fibbing until lying became his.  He once admitted that he made up sins in the confessional just so he could impress the priest but 'forgot' to confess the real ones which were piling up. 

All well and good, Joe Biden the politician never met a baby he didn't kiss or a whopper he didn't tell. Par for the course; but when his mind started to go and he couldn't remember what he had for lunch let alone what was what, the natural political instinct to confabulate got boosted into the stratosphere.  More and more he believed that he was on the Pettis Bridge with MLK, at Columbia with Mark Rudd, a leader of the Free Speech movement at Berkeley, and shoulder to shoulder with Mandela in Johannesburg. 

However when he said that he had been at Woodstock, loved the one he was with, and even riffed with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, everyone knew that he had gone around the bend.  This old man who was an old man in the Sixties could never, ever have been at Woodstock, and with that most believers left the room. No one wanted a fictitious president.  The New York Times at first held back on fact-checking in a give the President some leeway; but soon had to check the record, and found that he had never been closer to Woodstock than the Bronx. 

'It was metaphor', said the President's press secretary when challenged. 'A figure of speech, a reflection on the seminal moment of the Sixties, the beginning of our progressive movement of day, the first expressions of racial solidarity, the fight against injustice, the generational....'; but here she was shouted down.  The press had had enough of her presidential toadying, and demanded to know whether the President had finally lost it. 

THE PRESIDENT AT WOODSTOCK! went viral and thanks to AI had him up on stage with Jimi, off tune and starry-eyed, long-haired and stoned.  Before the fact checking had doused the story, the President and his Woodstock story were pilloried on late-night television, savaged in the conservative media, and ridiculed from Bayonne to Oakland, 

'What got into you, Joe?', his wife asked him at bedtime. 'You know you weren't there'; but the President was adamant and insisted that he had driven up there with five friends in a VW bus, stayed in the rain and the mud until it was over, and 'had a great time'. 

Now, if someone with even a hint of cool had claimed he had been at Woodstock - George W in his drinking days for example - the story might not have caused such a kerfuffle; but when the likes of Joe Biden, the least likely politician to ever have strayed from the straight and narrow, an inveterate loose-lipped storyteller, and man who would do anything to get elected said he had been there, every American howled. 


Poor Joe, what a way to end a career, said his supporters; but the end had been in the cards for some time.  The man was no longer making sense. The minute he went ad lib he wandered into the weeds with stories about the nuns at St. Aloysius and the kitchen garden behind his house.  He no longer could remember what leaders he actually met with and which ones he thought he had met.  Before long he would forget who he was, not a problem said Republicans who always knew there had always been an empty suit in the Oval Office. 

'It could have happened' was the viral meme that made the rounds and captured the essence of Biden's loosening grasp on reality; and when faced with the fact of Donald Trump, bald-faced, outrageous and unrepentant braggadocio and teller of tall tales, it was no contest.  Trump never claimed he was telling the truth.  'I am an American', he shouted -  tummler, snake oil salesman, a huckster, a vaudevillian, a big top performer - and voters preferred a man like that on Pennsylvania Avenue, not the old guy who had no clue that reality was well beyond him 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Courting The Black Vote - Joe Biden Goes Deep Ghetto And It Turns Out Very, Very Bad

Bill Clinton fancied himself as the first black president, so attuned was he to the manners, mores, frustrations, and ambitions of the black community.  He liked jawing with them on the porch of the saloon and in tarpaper shacks in Edmonds, about fifty miles from Little Rock - a hot, miserable place, but where his people - the real people of Arkansas were from. 


Bill talked totin' and haulin' like no white man black folk had ever seen.  He could shuck and jive like the best of them, left his white hob-knobbing self behind, and just sat and drank with his friends. 

Obama of course was the first real black president, but in many ways he was far less so than Bill.  He clipped his speech, thought before he spoke, couched everything in Chicagoese and talked like a professor.  The black folk were happy that one of theirs - or at least a half one of theirs - was in the White House, but they always thought first of Bill. 

Joe Biden had black envy - he loved black cool and black men's sheer irresponsibility, sleeping with ten women at a time, never worrying about anything back home nor the slew of babies left behind. They sat on front stoops, got drunk on malt liquor and smoked weed, had a cackling good time, whistling at the fine black cooch that walked by.  

Ah, that was the life, Joe thought, not his buttoned-up, careful Catholic white thing.  If only I were black, he mused....but his reverie was broken by Jill, his wife of decades, a skinny, bony thing, unlike those fine black high-shelved, big-booty women in Anacostia he wanted. 


For years, but especially since he was elected President, Joe Biden wished he could channel Bill Clinton, get down with the black community and be one of them. In fact he had always wanted to be blacker than Clinton, a tall order, for the former President had done everything except blacken his skin and curl his hair to become the first black president.   He loved fried chicken, collard greens, and the blues.  He loved hanging out with black men on the stoop, sharing stories about poontang and moonshine

Joe wanted to walk, talk, and act as black as the men whom he secretly admired.  He was no Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas fan.  They had been laundered, bleached, and whitened beyond recognition.  If you shut your eyes when they spoke, you would swear that they were white.  No, he wanted the true black experience, but didn’t know how to get it.  

He wanted to be ghetto, down with the street, a pimp-walking, pimped out, gold-grilled stone cool black dude, but that hope seemed vain and impossible.  He was doomed to be the white man that everyone hated, locked into a plaster-of-Paris cast, stiff, without joy or rhythm and fated to forever to have dry, soulless sex. 

Oh, to be black, he dreamed.   He wanted to sit, drink malt liquor, and smoke Kools with his bro's in West Baltimore, talk black talk, street talk, real talk; but he never could manage, and his barmy, goofy hitched smile never worked there.  He would always be whitey in a serge suit, coming downtown for votes.

Black West Baltimore Is Still Waiting for Equity

'Time to get up', Jill said. 'Not a day to be a slugabed'.  Jill was always there, his personal alarm clock, caretaker, and personal assistant.  Frankly he was tired of her, but he knew enough economics to understand the concept of sunken costs,  Didn’t have to be Milton Friedman to understand that; and he was getting too old to fool around although that was the perk of presidents.  The irony of it all was that now that he was in the Oval Office and could have any woman he wanted, he was too fucking old to do anything about it. 

'It's election time, Joe', Jill said with that irritating way she had when she knew she was right.  Of course he knew it was election time, bitch; and he hated the routine - propped up before a microphone, squinting at the teleprompter, smiling when told, banging his fist when it said 'Bang Fist', and just going through the motions.  If truth be known, he had had enough of it all, and dreamt of the day when he could sit in a chaise lounge in his Wilmington garden, 

He brightened when the thought of menu du jour Today was his long-awaited trip to Anacostia, Washington's deep ghetto.  The polls showed that he was falling behind with the traditionally Democratic black electorate, and he was advised to do something about it.  

He thought the quick commencement appearance at Morehouse would do the trick, show the flag and his solidarity with the black cause, but it all backfired, and he was pilloried in the press for pandering, talking victimhood, white racism, discrimination blah-blah all of which the students wanted none of. In fact they were pissed off that they were once again being talked down to, taken advantage of, and used by this old white guy. 

So with his White House retinue and invited members of the press, he crossed the river into Anacostia, deep into the heart of the DC inner city to the ghetto of all ghettoes, the only completely black place in the capital.

As his limousine wound its way through Anacostia, past shambled row houses, trash, and burned out, abandoned vehicles, he said to his wife, “I didn’t know it would be like this”.  Nothing in his sheltered, insular, white life had prepared him for such a sight.  Ordinarily, he would have stepped out in a crowd to get votes, but this was different.  Even with the extra security added to be on the safe side, he didn't want to leave the car - a 'Never Get Out Of The Boat' moment.


When he arrived at the Mt. Zion AME Church of Anacostia and was safely installed behind the pulpit, he felt righteous. 'Bill Clinton has got nothing on me', he thought as he looked out over the packed congregation, but these were not his black people.  The men all looked like undertakers and the women silly in their Carmen Miranda hats.  His people were outside on the stoops smoking Kools.  'That's where I'll go', he said to his chief aide who blanched at the suggestion.  It was bad enough keeping the old man on program in the White House, but here anything could happen. 

'Get the fuck outta here', shouted Pharoah Williams, finishing the last of his Colt 45 and tossing the can into the street sending it clattering under the President's limo. 

This was not what the President had expected, not by a long shot.  Why, he had not even gotten two steps up the stoop, so he gave Pharoah and his buddies the Biden smile, waved, and went back in the car with Jill who had stayed inside and said, 'You're the one looking for votes, not me.  I'm not going out there'. 

So the presidential motorcade turned around and headed back up Alabama Avenue.  Not one black face lined the route, not one cheering supporter, nada, just more black men on stoops, trash in the gutter, and shouts from upstairs windows. 

'I'm a goner', the President said to his wife who after what she saw and heard could offer little solace. 'They'll vote for you, Joe', she said. 'Don't worry. The ghetto has always gone Democrat' and so with that they crossed the river back to white Washington, 

The President gave a sigh of relief, but not without a note of sadness.  His hope of becoming a real black man had been dashed in one, short moment.  'So be it', the President said to himself. 'Fuck 'em',

Friday, May 24, 2024

The Salem Witch Trials Redux - Burning At The Stake Was Too Good For The Banger Sisters

The Salem Witch Trials lasted only for a year between 1692-93 but have remained bright in the nation's consciousness ever since.  Especially in this Age of Women, MeToo, and rage at the persistence of patriarchy and misogyny, women are still outraged that those events could have occurred. On the other hand, thousands of men married to hectoring, nasty wives have no problem with them at all. 

Of course divorce being the no-fault, easy, brushing-a-fly-off-the-meat affair that it has become, such extreme measures are rarely resorted to; and most women, however troublesome and irritating they might be, are not the screeching harridans burned at the stake in Massachusetts. 

Except for the Banger sisters, two women who had lived together in a Long Island mansion overlooking the Sound - two predatory, misandrous, hateful women who despite their beauty and potently alluring sexuality, had been solely and uniquely responsible for the destruction of men from Baton Rouge to Sandy Hook. 

The Banger sisters were born into wealth and privilege in Boston - their lineage could be traced to the earliest English settlements in New England, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the missions of John Davenport - and they were the prizes of Beacon Hill.  Both Hepzibah and Esther were sought after by the sons of the finest families, young men of wealth, promise, looks, and opportunity. 

Sought after in principle and at first; but both sisters, despite their outward appeal, were nasty, brutish, ugly souls.  They were hard-bitten, their personalities crimped and crabbed, and their obvious hatred of men barely hidden. 

There was no nurturing at fault for these awful personalities. Their father was a model parent, caring, solicitous, and nurturing.  He wanted nothing but the best for his daughters and saw to it that their upbringing, education, and introduction to society were ideal. Their mother, Ophelia was no different, caring in a very feminine, motherly way, full of love and affection, and proud of the two little girls she had carried.  

Despite this obvious love and kindness, the two girls were nasty, obstreperous, and mean from the day they took their first steps.  The reciprocated no love and answered every kind gesture with a harsh, deliberately hateful one.  Every nanny, maid, and housekeeper left the Banger household within months of their employment, in tears.  They had never in their entire lives, each said, been subjected to such scorn, bitterness, and horrible insults. 

The sisters should have been the envy of all the girls at school, such was the family pedigree and reputation in a very class-conscious Boston, and such was their stunning beauty - sky-blue eyes, flaxen hair, flawless skin, and a perfect smile.  Yet they were dismissive of every comer, sent away in tears like the household staff.  Both sisters seemed to have a preternatural sense of the weakness of others, and honed in on it with stiletto accuracy. 

There was no reason for such misanthropy - nothing in house, hearth, or home to suggest a reason for such emotional terror. 

'Salem', the rumor went.  'It has to be Salem'. 

Although the Bangers did indeed have their roots in that North Shore town of horrific history; and indeed were descended both from the prosecutors and the supposed witches, such ideas of a bloodline legacy were pure fancy. 

Of course Nathaniel Hawthorne thought differently and in The House of the Seven Gables he is quite explicit about the murderous legacy of the Pynchon family and how its descendants were heir to it.  In a story both fabulist and realistic, he concludes what everyone knows but is unwilling to believe - the sins of the fathers is a matter of blood. 


So it is possible that the Banger sisters inherited the very worst of Rachel Adams, their distant but direct cousin who was accused, tried, and burned at the stake for witchcraft.  The historical records kept by her Puritan prosecutors describe a hateful woman suspected of the murder of her husband, children and father; a spiteful, unrepentant, devilish woman who spat curses as the flames consumed her. 

Despite revisionist, feminist historians who continue to insist that the actions - real and alleged - of Rachel Adams were a result of misogyny and a harsh patriarchy, most other observers, like Hawthorne, agree that she was simply a bad seed.  Perhaps not possessed by the Devil as her prosecutors insisted, but given a rare genetic disposition for hateful meanness. 

Each of the Banger sisters chose law as their profession, and no line of work could have been more appropriate.  Hepzibah in New York and Esther in Washington were angels of death, brutal and avenging in their cross-examinations, castrating and murderous, unstoppable and fearsome.  

The law of course lionizes women like the Banger sisters.  There is no compassion, mercy, or special consideration in the application of the law.  The courtroom is only about winning and losing, and the Banger sisters never lost. 

Far from Boston and Salem, the same rumors persisted.  There was indeed something special about the sisters, some fearsome quality rarely ever seen.  Some were impressed.  Nietzsche for all his ramblings in Zarathustra was right - there are indeed Supermen, √úbermensch, soulless, frightening individuals for whom the expression of pure will is the only validation of the individual. 

Others more Biblically trained, assumed that predictions of Satan's reign were not overstated. These post-Augustinian clerics were convinced that evil did exist in the world and that Beelzebub was alive and well. Most others wanted only to steer clear of this harridan, this reminder of what human nature was really like. 

Needless to say the Banger sisters never married and never once even considered the possibility.  What would they do with emotional weaklings who had come calling their whole lives?  These ignoramuses, these challenged and retarded idiots who had the temerity to approach them. 

So infamous were they that historians, psychiatrists, and forensic philosophers all wanted access to them.  Were they anomalies in the human condition or inevitable expressions of it?  Was it Nature or Nurture which made them this way? How could femininity have gone so much awry? Was the Catholic Church on to something with its exorcisms?

The Banger Sisters' mansion was a military redoubt - a fortress more impenetrable than any medieval castle. Everything about it said 'Keep Out!, and rumors swirled in Piping Rock and the privileged communities nearby that the sisters were not even in there.  It was all a charade like everything else in their lives, a mysterious fantasy, a fiction. 

In fact whether the Banger Sisters were ever residents of the mansion or not, they completely disappeared without a trace - not one scintilla of evidence that they were still alive and well. 

'They lived, and that was quite enough', said one Banger victim. 'They should have been burned at the stake while we had the chance.'