A Nation of Speedfreaks Redux

Do you shudder at the sight of low-life trailer-trash crankheads driving around in their beat-up Camaros? Do you nod solemnly when one of the big tv news actors presents a piece on how methamphetamine is now the Number One Drug Scourge of the United States? Are you shocked at video footage of police and firefighting personnel in radiation suits removing chemistry lab equipment from innocuous rural dwellings? It’s everywhere, isn’t it?

Wine Tasting

It was around 1978 when I had my first and only Northern California “wine-tasting” experience. We were driving north to Willits, to visit Jim Gibbons, the poet, athlete, sportswriter and all-around not-very-nice person who was busy becoming famous for being able to run long distances without dropping dead, and for writing stories offensive enough to get him fired from certain positions in the local education establishment.

My One Baseball Story

My family was from New York and surrounding areas. I was born in Westchester County where my parents’ families lived and where they met and married. My aunts and uncles lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn. My father’s brother Bill was a customs agent and his wife operated a women’s clothing shop downstairs from their apartment […]

What’s Your Name?

One curious effect of the 60s phenomenon was some people’s ideas of who they were — or not — and consequently what their names were. Most obvious were the new identities with new made-up names. These came from reading, from cults, from drug trips. There were the hippie names, one of my favorites was a […]

God’s Work Ethic

One of my childhood friends was from a blue-col­lar Catholic family. Trade unionists. The father was a house painter. The sons, a plumber, a glazier, another painter…. One exception was the music teacher, and of course there was the requisite son who dutifully entered the priesthood. A missionary, no less, out to turn to the […]

Schadenfreude for the Masses: ‘I Am SO Sorry’

I’m sorry, so sorry…. Please accept my apology… — Brenda Lee, 1960 It’s apology season. Maybe it’s like the Catholic church, you go and con­fess, you are absolved and free to sin again. It’s as if no one really cares what these people do, as long as they suffer publicly for it. The Morality Police […]

God’s Work Ethic

Protestant guilt-work ethic? A cruel deception prom­ulgated by the rich, the bosses, the early versions of the corporate exec who sits on his ass collecting bonuses while cutting the pay of the poor schmucks who do the actual work. Bringing God into it is only more despicable. One of my childhood friends was from a […]

Road Notes—Railroad, That Is

Leaving Union Station in LA, southbound, the first thing one sees is the jailhouse. We are immedately reminded that things could be worse. The building also houses the arraignment courts. Just to emphasize the point, the tracks run a semicircle around the complex and we get a good look at the rusty barbed-wire fence on […]