Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Same Song, Two Singers

Here are to two recordings of the same song by two singers I played when I was a radio disc jockey in a past life. First, the original sung by the then teenaged composer and balladeer Laura Nyro, who died early 20 years ago.  

LAURA NYRO wedding bell blues - YouTube

I'd play the second version on a different night, playing the songs just after a station break. That was about as close as I could get to either singer in reality, sadness.  I'd clamp on a forced baritone and announce:  "You are listening to fifty thousand watt  K ... F ... B ... K. serving the far west from Sacramento,"  and immediately segue into the record.Then I'd go back to emptying waste baskets, rewriting wire service copy, keeping the transmitter legal, or running to the bathroom down the hall and running back while zipping up before the record ended.

Some of the songs Laura Nyro wrote became hits for other performers; Barbra Streisand, Chicago, The 5th Dimension among them.

She died in 1997 at age 50.  So now she'll always be the beautiful Jewish-Italian girl whose talent blossomed from that of a teenaged piano banger to a millennium aged soul untainted by a show business scandal, a messy public divorce or two, or a stint in a drug and alcohol rehab.   

But she did seem troubled in a quiet way, expressing her malaise in song, like a mourning dove, and was probably impossible to be around without wanting to open your wrists a paring knife or lying down in traffic. So what's not to love?  I adored her. Didn't know her, but adored her. Or my imagined version of her. What else is adoration but an illusion, a self-induced insanity, but a pleasant one.

And here's the other version sung by Marilyn McCoo of the 5th Dimension.  Her voice matched her beauty.  I had a crunch on her too.  I mean, what more or less straight male who still had a pulse could not help but be a little in love with Marilyn McCoo?

"Wedding Bell Blues" by The 5th Dimension - YouTube

Ahhh, radio. With the exception of NPR, radio dangles from the lower rungs of the entertainment monkey bars, down there with pole dancing and party clowns, where success is gauged by the size of the U-Haul van announcers drive from gig to gig in the middle of the night before the sheriff and the collection agents know they're leaving town.

I sometimes felt like the guy in the joke who followed circus elephants in parades with a shovel and a wheel barrow, one whose wife would say, "For God's sake get a decent job!"  His response: "What?  And leave show business?"

Actually, the then Mrs. Mike Browne was my most loyal listener and I did have a lot of fun. It was productive, too. Radio put me through college, a marriage, a divorce, a pilots license and an unsparing assessment of my own limitations, which are legion, as the former Mrs. Mike Browne could attest.  So it was only natural that I go to work for the California state government.

As for the formerly honorable KFBK, which has been on the air continuously since 1922, it's become an all-talk blabfest, like many AM stations when FM radio's signal, better suited to music, began kicking AM radio's butt in the ratings. KFBK now cynically stars a fat draft-dodging OxyContin addicted gasbag named Rush Limbaugh as its main attraction. He and his imitators provide a forum for angry idiots to call in, vent their misinformed spleen, and achieve a few moments of the proverbial 15 minutes of fame.

As Limbaugh's spirit guide, Donald Trump, would Tweet: Sad.

Comments? Corrections? Hate mail? Contact tomatomike@aol.com

When as a kid I joined the Columbia Record Club and had to make the choices of my initial bonanza of vinyl LPs, one that I chose was an anthology that included some great stuff, including a track from NRBQ, and a track from Laura Nyro, neither of whom had I heard of before then. That was my introduction to this extraordinary talent and beautiful lady, may she rest in peace. Her Wikipedia article is quite informative. I also liked the Fifth Dimension and Marilyn McCoo. – Trog

I think I still owe the Columbia Record Club $3.95 from 1956. – MB

While reading this, I kept hearing Tom Petty sing "The Last DJ"  – Tammy  

What a great contribution you've made as a radio DJ, and the freedom to select music on your own terms. Sadly, the oligarchs of our collapsing music industry still don't get (much less care), why more than $6 Billion was lost in this 'feast or famine' field about two years ago. But, Laura Nyro was a special artist. I remember her fondly as a little boy when she offered to take me on a horse and carriage ride around Central Park, to which my parents happily agreed.  Carriage rides around the park helped stoke Nyro's creative energies, according to her, and it was usually around midnight that she preferred to take advantage of those rides.  I was invited during a late afternoon in the early Spring in 1967. The memory of her is priceless to me. She treated me like a child prodigy and exalted king in one fell swoop. I will never forget it!
 – Richard 

Thank you for the compliment and that incomparable reminiscence of yours about Our Star. – MB 

Made my morning. By the way, you have great taste in music and singers.
– Beaty

Aw shucks. Thank you. MB

That song is one of those that when you are reminded of it, it sort of spreads out in your brain and is caught there, playing in your head several times over the next few days. I know the words to that song; learned them long, long ago.  Now they and the melody will linger again for a while. I sure remember Marilyn McCoo. She has a great voice. "One Less Bell To Answer" is another one I remember well.  Thanks for the good piece of writing, Mike.  Just like always. – Zoey

Please delete this address.
Brian Papstein
Mover of Mountains
KINS FM, KEKA FM, KWSW FM (Destination Radio) & KURY AM, KURY FM

Brian, it's nice to see you didn't squander your third generation inheritance, and even expanded it.  But Mover Of Mountains?  Oh my.  I don't think there's a Conspicuous Humility In Broadcasting Award. but I bet you'd qualify if there was. Anyway, I've complied with your directive, sir.  – MB  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trumpolini In Action

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Economic Development Administration.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the International Trade Administration.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Fossil Energy.

* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.

* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after RTing factual, side by side photos of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.

* On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.

* On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.

* On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press.

* On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”

* On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.

* On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.

* On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.

* On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.

* On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.

* On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle 

* On January 24th, 2017, Spicer reiterated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing DT the popular vote.

* On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.

* On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.

* On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.

* On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.

* On January 24th, 2017, Director of the Department of Health and Human Service nominee Tom Price characterized federal guidelines on transgender equality as “absurd.”

* On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.

* On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources.

* And today, the wall and a Muslim ban.


Address any comments, critiques and hate mail to tomatomike@aol.com.

To the left-liberal (Prof. Camille Paglia's term), to cut government spending on almost anything is a sin. The left-liberal never asks the question "How are you going to pay for that?" unless the topic is (1) a tax cut, or (2) the military. Now you can probably add a third: border walls. With everything else-- entitlements, parks, the arts, publicly-funded abortion-- they consider it reprehensible even to ask the question "How are you going to pay for that?" If one does, the response is outrage at one's callousness: "How can you possibly talk about money at a time like this? Those people (animals, plants, the planet, museums) are suffering!" Never mind that annual government spending is well on course to exceed gross domestic product. It is refreshing, even amazing, to see the left-liberal suddenly discover the existence of constitutional concepts like states' rights and limitations on executive power, now that the federal executive is not one of their own. A good place to start ratcheting down hysteria about government "cuts" is to abolish base-line accounting, in which any decrease in the scheduled rate of spending increase is termed a "cut." The real-world standard is Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), in which the term "cut" is reserved for those situations where we actually mean to spend fewer dollars on an item this year than we did last year. It's much more honest, and much less panic – Trog

There’s just too much material in the aether. DT’s ‘dt’s, the angst I’ve attached to all of those edicts, the erosion of anything resembling stability, downgrading of America’s democracy to flawed status, and so on. Do we stay to do battle…to resist…or find a more stable, progressive nation to accept us? How long does it take to learn a Scandinavian language? 
Is it good or bad that I’m so stubborn and wouldn’t ever yield to tyranny? I’m new to that path, but I’ll find out, won’t I? -- Larry

In the "war" between Trump and journalists, journalists are winning, at least among those people who recognize bull crap and a jackass when the hear and see it. – Brat

Apparently President Trump never read Mark Twain's counsel: “Never pick a public fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” MB

The working person in this country has been marginalized and eviscerated for many years and this didn’t occur overnight. It started with the Reagan administration and has systematically continued until now. The majority of the listed government agencies are bureaucratically bloated and useless. And even the ones that appear to be useful no doubt suffer some of the same issues. Do note the one on fossil fuels was also cut. Maybe it’s time to start over with them. At any rate what will get better is jobs and jobs are what it’s all about. Unions, I belonged to one for 35 years and still receive benefits. Unions have lost power because there are few jobs. We get jobs we get power. It might be painful for awhile but think of the people who’ve lost their lifestyles and didn’t deserve it. What future is there for young people with no jobs? I am as apprehensive as anyone about all this but the past administrations have done nothing but sell us out to foreign entities and make wars. It’s time for a change and I ain’t wussin’ out now. Give the guy a break and see what happens. – Wht

There is hope! The damned republicans will only support Trump until they realize his stupid decisions will also affect them and not just their neighbors. – Gerard

And today, the announcement of cutting EPA positions. Did you read about the EPA scientists who have been busy downloading scientific data from the website in order to preserve it?  -- Brat

We're fucked.  -- Lynda

You should read the article in The New Yorker about how the richest of the rich already have places where they've squirreled away arms, ammunition, food, water, etc, in case of an apocalypse. So where does that leave the rest of us? HELP!  -- Beaty

People will go blind trying to keep track of things DT says, does, explains, re-explains, doesn't explain, fails to do, does stupidly, retracts, and brags about.  And that's just this week.  He's got four years.  I am quite sure the media will jump on this bandwagon like never before, and Trump has a lot of learning to do about what to say, when, and how.  Now, judging from past behavior, I doubt another four years of schoolin' will get that done, so I am pretty sure that in order to keep a vein from exploding in my neck, I am going to avoid quite frequently any television that focuses on him, and the rest of the time look at it as comic relief.   Better to do that than to stress about what might happen here and around the world if he doesn't sort through his vocabulary and deliver something useful - and I'm digging through items I might need at the Army surplus store just in case he doesn't.  I'm only comforted - and mind you, "comforted" is used loosely here - that our American soil is never run entirely by any one man.

I didn't vote for Trump OR Hillary, so I am sure I'd be nearly as disillusioned, scared, and frustrated with Hillary stepping into office, and though the criticisms would look completely different, they would be just as profound.

I am still reeling over the fact that DT and HC are the best finalists America could come up with.  God help us.  -- Zoey

So awful; great compilation of horror here.  -- Julisari

I've donned my Activism garb, have been visiting Senator's offices, and following The Indivisible Guide with a group of fellow Progressives. My heart aches. -- Bach Lennon

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Requiese In Pace

My mother would have celebrated her 102nd birthday on New Year's Day. She was 72 when the above picture was taken in 1986. She died 11 years later from the effects of a stroke and went down fighting. She even had an intense dislike for the soft euphemisms of death, such as “passed away,” and would challenge anyone who used it in her presence. “You mean he died?” she'd ask, eyebrows arched.

Yes,” the other party would sigh. “He passed away.”

No. He died” mom would insist. None of this fuzzy-brained business about “passing away” or “going gentle into that good night” for her.  Being an arch realist she preferred a much less smarmy ”kicked the bucket” if a euphemism was unavoidable.

She was feisty that way. She attributed her combativeness to having four brothers. Her brothers claimed her quick temper was due to her being born in 1914 during what was then called The Great War, and they were quite skilled at provoking her into proving their point.

She was born Clara Halverson in Craig, Alaska, on Prince Of Wales Island close to the Canadian border. Her father, Lars – or Louis – was an émigré from Norway who'd apprenticed as a cobbler but who went to sea when in his teens. Her mother, Annie Johnston, was descended from the Tlingit tribe of coastal natives and a sailor from Cornwall. The sailor sailed back to England and left her to be reared by her maternal grandmother. She was 15 when she married my grandfather, then 30, who owned a general store and a floating cannery that served the fishing fleet plying the waters of the Inside Passage and the Gulf of Alaska.

In the 1920s the family moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon, and later to Tacoma, Washington, where Grandfather H. established a gas station on US 99, and later a retail fish market, smokehouse and cannery, and bought property to build rental housing.

Mom graduated high school in 1932, the year a pilot named Nat Browne competed for a $25,000 prize for a non-stop solo flight from Seattle to Tokyo. She glimpsed the 37-year-old Browne amid a cluster of reporters and city officials as he departed Seattle's Olympic Hotel. She thought he looked like a forest ranger, but was rather old. His attempt failed during a refueling accident over Seattle's Ellliot Bay. He recovered from his injuries, moved to Alaska, and mom forgot about him.

Everyone in the family who could work did work. Her two older brothers took jobs in southeastern Alaska. One was killed during cave-in at the Alaska Juneau Mine in 1937. The other worked on fishing boats and earned a captain's rating.  Mom became a teen entrepreneur, setting up a roadside stand on Highway 99 selling produce and honey. A pretty girl, she also modeled clothes for department store ads in the Tacoma paper, later landing a job as a clerk for Weisfield and Goldberg, a local jewelry store which now has 16 locations in 4 western states under the name Weisfield's. 

This was when the adage “The customer is always right” universally applied. Companies would hire shopping agents to test the patience of retail clerks and weed out those whose manner was less than courteous – no matter what.  A job was a very precious thing to have in those Depression era days. Knowing that dozens of unemployed young women were ready to replace her curbed my mom's fighting instinct as a verbal counterpuncher. 

Sometimes the punch was not just verbal.  A jealous woman, upset by her husband's persistence in asking mom to dance during a performance of a touring swing band at Tacoma's American Lake, grabbed mom by the shoulder. "That's alllllll I needed," mom recalled.  She flattened the other woman with a clip to the jaw.  Her two older brothers, both fighters, were at the same dance.  They were proud of her. Just a family of brawlers.

She married the first of three husbands in 1935 and gave birth to my brother, Kenny, the following year. Prior to the wedding ceremony her brothers stood around commenting on her temper, shaking their heads and saying, “Boy, that'll never last.” It didn't. The marriage ended until 1941.

That year mom returned to Alaska to start anew, taking a job in Anchorage as a scheduler, clerk, ticket agent and general factotum to four air services. She met, was charmed by, and married the man who became my biological father. That marriage didn't last either. According to her, he had a habit of taking things that didn't belong to him. He also liked a variety of female companions. That tore it. So there she was, a single woman with an infant at home and another kid living with her ex-husband's family in a distant city. She'd also had it with men.

Then Nat Browne flew back into her life. Somehow he overcame her nettlesome mistrust of all things male, married her and adopted me. The marriage lasted 32 years through thick and thin economic times until he died from natural causes in 1978 at age 83. She scattered his ashes in a clearing of flowering jack oak trees in the Sangre de Cristo mountains above Sante Fė, New Mexico, where they'd been living in mobile home park.

The mobile home park's management did a foolish, foolish thing. It pissed her off by arbitrarily increasing fees with little or no notice. Mom took up a banner and went to the barricades.  She joined forces with the American Mobile Home Association and assailed the state government to improve tenants' rights.

She was tenacious. Once she thought she'd been excluded from a legislative hearing. She angrily banged on doors in the marbled halls of the capital in search of the sniveling cowards she knew were deliberately avoiding her.  An official opened a door and said, “Uhhh, Mrs. Browne? The hearing is in here.”

About that time a man approached her. “I've picked the last three lieutenant governors of this state,” he said. “Would you be interested?” She declined, saying she had a husband at home who was not well. The man, heir to the Phillips 66 petroleum empire, said he understood.

Mom returned to the Pacific Northwest after dad died. She took a job in a Native American bookstore and enrolled in a program that paired seniors with college students at Western Washington State University, living on campus among the college kids. It kept her rejuvenated, active and involved.

She was especially interested in writing, having written a book length manuscript about her life in Alaska. An agent shopped it around in the 90s. A mainstream publisher was interested, but only if mom could make a publicity tour to market the book. By that time she had died.

I was present for her last days in a Seattle hospice. She was unable to speak or move very much. I'd sit by her bed reading a book while she slept. Now and then I'd look up to see her gazing at me, her once clear blue-green eyes clouded by age and morphine. I had the feeling she was critically examining me for signs of improvement.

I miss her.

Requiese in pace, mom. Rest in peace.


Comments, critiques and hate may be sent to tomatomike@aol.com.

Your mother looks like everything you said about her. Beautiful, combative, formidable. What a wonderful piece! I'm sure it would have made her proud, despite the fact that she may have looked at you to see if you'd made improvement. Indeed you have. And keep on doing so. – Linda 

Beautiful piece.   I bet your Mom's book would have been delightful.   She had lots of adventures.  Sounds like she was feisty and full of humor.  Acorn, you did not fall far from the tree.  – Tammy

One more time:  You gotta get yer writing to an agent.  It's wunnerful.  Happy NY.  – Tim

Absolutely wonderful, thank you for writing/sharing – Miriam

What a tremendously loving history and tribute to your Mom. I read it wishing that she could read it also, but then, believing as I do that my father watches over me every day, I decided she knows every word of it. 

My father died in my arms in 1994.  He had a wonderfully colorful life and a character that I wish could have been cloned and put into every man.  I miss him too.  I miss him like crazy.

I don't think, by the way, that your mother was looking at you wishing for improvement.  Seems a woman as savvy as she was knew that people stumble along the way in life and it's not how badly you do it - it is, indeed, how you get up from it.  And Mike, you got up just fine.  She knows. – Zoey

Wow! What a wonderful piece! – Pamela

I remember you telling me about your mother, and I remember when she died.  I think I would have been scared shitless of her, but I would have admired her, too.
-- Shan

Reading the celebration of your mother’s life, I noticed that your grandparents were plying northern waters around the same time as M. Wylie Blanchett who wrote, The Curve of Time, have you read it? I also wondered if your dad ever knew Art Woodley, the father of friends of ours.  Happy New Year.  -- Marilyn

Yes, my dad knew Art Woodley. We flew in his Pacific Northern Airlines Constellations annually between Seattle and Anchorage in the 1950s. It was a six hour flight. I would sometimes be allowed to ride in the co-pilot's position and actually fly the airplane. At age 12. After one such incident, my dad grumbled. “Were you flying this thing? The last 50 miles were rougher than hell.”
Can't do that now. Make a move toward the cockpit and you'll be stomped into Contadina by unnerved passengers and jumpy flight attendants. MB


Quite a character. Like mother like son, I would say. – Gerard.

We were a lot alike, and that did not always make for family harmony. She claimed she got bad temper by osmosis from me.  MB


This was beautiful. Great writing. – Brett

Quite a compliment, Lady Brett. Thank you. MB


I trust she'd have approved of that piece of writing. I would have liked your mom. I, too, hate euphemisms for death (and other things). When someone really pisses me off by trying to make death pretty, I go to the other extreme and use the crude expression "shit the bed." – Linda F.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Spiders Need Love Too!

Lost amid the howls of outrage or joy over the election was a sad little story circulated by the Associated Press: “Tarantulas Looking For Love In California.”

Seems the mating season for the poor maligned tarantulas is now in full bloom. But, as usual, the male does all the blooming and wooing. While female tarantulas typically stay inside eating bonbons and watching “The View,” lovesick male tarantulas hike up to four miles through hostile terrain in search of a willing mate. Once he locates a lady tarantula's burrow, he does a little tap dance on the web strands outside her spider condo. That's a lot easier than dragging a bottle of Pinot Griego and a box of Whitman's Samplers to her in a harness.  Besides, I bet even lady spiders appreciate a good dancer.

So there's our eight-legged Baryshnikov dancing his heart out at the entrance of her underground grotto. If she's in the mood she might emerge to see if he has game. Then again she might not. Love is a crapshoot, even for spiders.

But at least lady tarantulas don't make a meal out of their lovers and have a cigarette after sex like Black Widows do. Okay, I made up the part about the cigarette. Spiders are too sensible to smoke. Besides, girl tarantulas already live longer than boy tarantulas, just like girl humans live longer than boy humans. Yup, it's true. Female tarantulas live up to 25 years while male tarantulas tend to croak after seven or eight years – probably from frustration or getting clobbered with a shovel by someone who never read Charlotte's Web. 

Now I know there are a lot of people who wish California would take its tarantulas and snap off at the San Andreas Fault and float away on the Japanese Current. There is even an organized movement to make California's secession from America a ballot issue. A group calling itself the Yes California Independence Campaign, or CalExit for short, told the Associated Press it plans to circulate petitions to get its secession plan on the 2018 ballot.

Such thinking is downright silly. Look, even if California became an island nation it would still have the sixth largest economy in the world. California has heaps of agriculture, industry, petroleum, and an abundance of low wage labor. Just ask anyone between Oregon and the Mexican border who eats burritos, loves lettuce, drives a car, has a computer, or been awakened by a leaf blower on a Saturday morning.

The upshot is America needs California more than California needs America. What's more, an independent California could wad the panties of conservative economists by slapping yuuge tariffs on its exports, like burritos, computers, petroleum and leaf blowers.

Anyway California is waaay too fragmented by social and political diversity to be a unified force for anything. Special interest pleaders would try to split an independent California into even smaller nation states.  That way isolationist groups with names like First Amendment First! would decriminalize rioting and looting and establish Criminacalia. The sex industry would push for a Calipornia, the vintners lobby will want to Make America Grape Again starting with Napafornia, and of course People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals would want their own empire, Calizooia, where even a heartbroken tarantula could hold public office.  

And why not? A skunk has already been elected president.


Send comments, compliments, critiques and hate mail to tomatomike@aol.com

The anti-California sentiment died with Emmett Watson.  [Seattle is] an all inclusive city now.  So please take us with you. If California breaks off into the ocean I hope it plans on taking Oregon and Washington state with it.  We could build a wall to keep the Trump voters out while making those who voted for Trump pay for it .

P.S. When it is my turn to be reincarnated, I am so coming back as a girl tarantula! – Tammy

The late Emmett Watson was a Seattle newspaper columnist who resented the influx of immigrants from California.  His obituary in the the Seattle Post Intelligencer stated:  "He delighted and debunked with a broad and bodacious pen, but is perhaps remembered by his creation and periodic crusades aimed at emigre Californians, New Yorkers, and the rest of us who he felt were overloading lifeboat Seattle.  His campaign motto was Keep The Bastards Out."  -- MB  

Reminds me of something I just read about killing the spider who'd thought he was your roomie, and that you're never more than 6 feet away from a spider at any moment of your life – Lynda

And it's watching you with all 12 eyes. -- MB

I waited until this morning to read your spider/California piece. I should have read it earlier.  It was great. I will reread it after my coffee, but, as far as I can tell, it'll be just as enjoyable later as it was now. – Beaty

Thank you muchly.  -- MB

I will never forget the time I caught a tarantula when I lived on the hill.  Robert Hall, class of 1959, was a great friend at the time.  He came to visit.  I had the tarantula in a jar.  HE darn near went backwards over the couch and out the window when I presented it to him.  I still laugh at the vision.  Mother was not impressed and sent my newest pal to spider heaven. – Carol

Carol was a neighbor of mine on that same hill.  Her mother didn't like me any more than she liked the doomed tarantula. -- MB

I remember that damned leaf blower.  If my head hadn't been blowing apart, I think I might have gone and wrapped it around his neck. -- Shannon

Poor Shannon. She'd moved to the allergy capital of the known universe before escaping to a less pollen and pesticide polluted area. -- MB

Thanks Mike  I always enjoy your writing and wonderful sense of humor,  My dad would have loved your latest offering too. – Peggy

Peggy's late father was a handsome man with an elegant presence who kept a sharp mental edge in his 90s. A former vaudevillian, he shared the stage with the top acts of his day, including the Marx Brothers. Unfailingly courteous, he personified the word gentleman. I was lucky to have met him. MB.

Marvelous,  as always – Julisari

Merry Christmas Mike.  – FACS

Thanks Mike! – Bob G.

I chuckled out loud at this one.  Your delivery is very funny.  I happen to like most all creatures, including most spiders, and speaking of skunks, I had a (of course descented) pet one named Sweet Pea for a while.  Excellent pet - ate cat food, used a cat box, loved riding on my shoulder and curling up in my lap, and made no noise whatsoever.  Picture that with a long-haired blonde hippie girl and you've got a conversation starter.

As for California being separate...sigh...I am not a bit surprised.  If there is a thought in the world of doing something that hasn't already been done, someone will suggest it and even push it without regard to how incredibly stupid an idea it might be.  However, I would get another chuckle at any names you picked out were it to happen.  Lots of fun could be had by locals and news people especially.Keep 'em coming, Mike.  I always enjoy what you write. -- Zoey

I briefly had a skunk for a pet myself. A baby one. It had been abandoned when I found it crying under a parked car in a hillside neighborhood. I brought it home, and in typical teenage fashion, dumped it on my parents to care for so I could go surfing.  It got sick after a few days. My mom it took it to a vet.The vet said it was too little and too weak to survive, which is probably why its mama abandoned it, and euthanized the little critter.  My mom laid into me when she got home. "Don't you ever bring home a pet we'll lose our hearts to only to have it put to sleep!"  MB

Friday, December 2, 2016

Under Joyce Maynard's Influence

Last Wednesday The Lady Karen and I motored to La Jolla where author Joyce Maynard was giving a reading at a Warwick's book emporium.  She is on tour to promote her novel entitled Under The Influence.  

I bought two copies of the book because (a) I wanted The Lady Karen and I both to have one, and (b) that was the only way Warwick's would guarantee reserved seating. Good thing I did. The storefront bookstore was filled to capacity with maybe 150 souls in folding chairs, although a contingent of teenage boys sulked in the back row and left early on.  Perhaps they'd been lashed into attending by their English teacher, or mistakenly thought the book was about bong hits and might contain some useful tips.

I haven't read the book yet.  According to a review by John Wilkens in the November 27th edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune:  "...the title means different things. The main character in the book. Helen, is a recovering alcoholic whose drinking ended her marriage and cost her custody of her 7-year-old son. She meets a wealthy couple who take her under their wing, exerting influence of a different kind that raises questions about the meaning of friendship."

Now then, I have a powerful aversion to chick lit and I'm against everything authors like Shirley MacLaine are for, but Joyce Maynard's work is neither chick lit nor festooned with New Age bliss ninny crystals in print.  Her prose is economical, clear, and free of diabetes inducing sentiment.

See, I first read her stuff in the early 1970s when she was an 18-year-old Yale dropout whose initial literary effort was an opinion piece in the New York Times, entited Looking Back, -- An 18-year-old Looks Back At Life.  


Her style was far beyond her years.  It resonated with the authority of the inner voice my mind's ear hears when I read something, whether it's an essay by Montaigne or the Yellow Pages. I also heard Joyce Maynard's actual voice when she contributed to CBS Radio's "Spectrum" series when I was working for a CBS affiliate in Northern California.

Her Times essay evolved into a series of them in book form.  She also began a correspondence with J.D. Salinger, which also evolved into a May-December relationship between a teenaged acolyte and a 53-year-old recluse of a master.  I sometimes wonder if her Salinger connection was a boon or an albatross.

I didn't have the nerve to ask her that when she was autographing books following her talk at Warwick's.  I imagine she's tired of being asked Salinger questions. Anyway her work is just dandy on its own. "Salinger?  Salinger?  She don' need no stinkin' Salinger."


Comments, critiques and hate mail may be addressed to tomatomike@aol.com.

Thank you, Tomato Mike.  And thank you, Karen.  I loved my trip to your beautiful city.  -- Joyce

Might have to get a copy of this book.  If she does have a similar style to Salinger, she's got to be good I think.  I haven't sat down to read a novel in quite a while, and the last one I read was a reread of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Seems I don't make time, but perhaps when I am unable to even amble around I'll do that, though I imagine myself writing short stories and poetry a lot more often then, or writing that book about my life I keep saying I will.  I've thought of the way I'd lay it out, and of clever chapter headings, and how many people will rush to deny something they read in it...heh...maybe I ought to write it and just leave it for possible publication after I'm out of the reach of upset individuals, sitting on a cloud with Jesus surveying the fallout.  Truth is sometimes kind of messy.  Hm.  Maybe I ought to just write the good stuff, though there may be some of that which would also bring denials amid the string of events I've hammered out in my life, and which stepped in my wiggly path. 

At any rate, thanks for the piece, good as always, and keep sending.  I look forward to every one. Be well – Zozo

I, too, will purchase the book. Thanks for the review and min-bio. Nice to see you back on the Times – Beaty

America First

"From now on, it's going to be America first. OK? America first. We're going to put ourselves first."   --   Donald J. Trump, 12/1/2016.

Apparently Mr. Trump does not realize that there were two America First political movements, one in 1944, the other an actual political party in 2002. Both failed.

The party's first incarnation was dominated by rural southern conservatives with Bible Belt backgrounds who later formed something called the Christian National Crusade which later morphed into America First. America Firsters believed in public prayer, no forieign commitments, limiting the size of the federal government and making the flag a religious icon. The latter actually happened in 1954 when President Eisenhower approved adding the words "under God' to the Pledge Of Allegiance.

The America First poster boy in the 1930s was Charles A. Lindbergh until he came under a cloud for publicly expressing admiration for Hermann Goering, the head of Hitler's Luftwaffe and second in command.  World War Two brought a temporary halt to that movement, as well as civil rights for over 100,000 American and American residents with Japanese surnames who were  imprisoned, or "relocated"  away from the west coast  for the duration of the war.  Well, the Pearl Harbor attack was very much on America's collective mind at the time.  Anti-Japanese propaganda saturated the newspapers, newsreels and radio.  Television had been invented in 1922, but was still a novelty in 1941 with few sets and fewer stations.  During the war television manufacturers were redirected by the government to develop radar and other electronic goodies.

I know, I know; I digress a lot.  It's a character flaw.  So, back to the relocation of Japanese-Americans:  One of its champions was a former Oakland prosecutor, state attorney general, governor, and eventually the Chief Justice of the United States Surpreme Court.  A fella named Earl Warren.  Surprised?  Well, he was a Republican.  But it was also the Warren court that desegregated schools with its ruling on  Brown vs.The Topeka Board of Education in 1954. That move, and pure cussedness, caused another America First offshoot and Tea Party predecessor, the John Birch Society, to try really really hard to get Chief Justice Warren impeached.  Didn't work.

The second significant advent of an America First spinoff occurred in 2002. There were several insignificant ones prior to that, you can Google them, when conservatives preached re-instituting  school prayer, reducing the size of the federal government, no foreign commitments that did not benefit corporations, making the flag a religious icon, with an added proviso of banning federal funding for Planned Parenthood as a pro-life measure. Yet only three percent of Planned Parenthood's efforts are devoted to performing abortions. Most of its efforts are in providing information about sexually transmitted diseases and how to avoid unplanned – and unwanted – pregnancies, especially among young women whose parents got huffy about sex education in schools, and the wives of migrant farm workers whose spiritual leader is an elderly male celibate in a white skirt.

Anyway, the 2002 version drafted former Nixon operative Pat Buchanan as its presidential candidate. They advocated school prayer, reducing the size of the federal government, getting out of the UN, eliminating NAFTA, making the flag a religious icon, banning federal funding for abortion clinics and having the National Guard patrol the Mexican border.

The most prominent difference between the former and the present America First people is that the former ones don't wear red caps inscribed Make America Great Again. My view is that those caps should be replaced by tinfoil hats favored by people who think space aliens are trying to probe their alleged minds.

Send comments and/or hate mail to tomatomike@aol.com.

Saw your piece on Making America Great Again. For what it's worth,  my late mother-in-law, and her family, were interned during WWII. Her brother was a member of the 442nd.  -- Brat.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team  is an infantry regiment of the United States Army, part of the Army Reserve. The regiment was a fighting unit composed almost entirely of American soldiers of Japanese ancestry who fought in World War II. Most of the families of mainland Japanese Americans were confined tointernment camps in the United States interior. Beginning in 1944, the regiment fought primarily in Europe during World War II,[2] in particular Italysouthern France, and Germany.
The 442nd Regiment was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare.[3] The 4,000 men who initially made up the unit in April 1943 had to be replaced nearly 2.5 times. In total, about 14,000 men served, earning 9,486Purple Hearts. The unit was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations (five earned in one month).[4]:201 Twenty-one of its members were awarded Medals of Honor.[2] Its motto was "Go for Broke"  -- Wikipedia.