Monday, July 31, 2006

Paranoia Epidemic

Paranoia?? Checking the license plates of those who come in your subdivision. Is all of suburbia that paranoid? Hell, a murderer can live there but a sex offender? HORRORS!!!

We are so paranoid anymore.

St Louis Post Dispatch

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Harry Potter Gets Naked

It seems the fantasies of millions of pubescent girls, a fair number of boys and more than a few perverted adults will come true in London in the spring. Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the Harry Potter films will play the Alan Strang character in a stage version of Peter Saffer’s “Equus”. For those of you familiar with modern theater, “Equus” is a play that features animal mutilation, horse inspired arousal and full-frontal nudity. The theatre blogs and sites are all abuzz.

"Equus" is a disturbing drama (its premise is how a well-ordered society deals with a sex driven violent act) and the main talk is if he can make it work since the role will certainly make huge acting demands on Radcliffe. He has never acted on stage, let alone with his willy on display.

Those who know me know I am definitely no prude. I have seen many plays with nudity (including “Equus”) and just basically think society makes too much fuss over sex and the human body. But come on, admit it. The producers, directors, writers, etc. include the nude scenes to rake it in at the box office. It is not art so much as it is cynical marketing. The sexiest or most harrowing scenes are the ones that are suggested (look no farther than the famous shower murder scene in “Psycho”, more thrilling and scary than any bloody gross out scene in modern horror films)rather than in your face.

I am jealous I did not think casting Harry Potter in a nude part. I bet the phones are ringing off the wall at the ticket office (supposedly the play opens next spring) and dollar (or more to the point, pound sterling)signs are in everyone’s eyes. Along with Radcliffe’s dick. What a stroke of genius. There are probably 10,000 better qualified actors to do the part, but with the prospect of seeing Harry with out his robes has set the theatre world on its ear and millions will be made.

I just am laughing my tail off. And no, it will not be on stage.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Stamp out Store Bought Mayonnaise!

I love Mayo on ANYTHING! Here is a recipe I made up using a blender. Usually I hand beat the oil and lemon juice in to the whipped egg/vinegar/mustard/salt/pepper mixture. But my poor arm can't take it anymore.


1 large egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup peanut oil or good vegetable oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

NOTE: all measures are approximate except the oil and lemon juice which must be pretty exact. I never measure, but to get the right consistency, you need the right amount of liquid. You could use dry mustard as well and some people like a dash of paprika. Throw in a hit of garlic if you like as well. GO MAYO WILD!!

Combine the oils and mix well. Then divide in 1/2.

In a blender combine egg, vinegar, salt, mustard, and white pepper. Cover and blend about 5 seconds on medium high. With blender running on slowest speed gradually add 1/2 cup oil. Add oil in a thin but steady stream. You may need to stop the blender and scrape the sides down. Slowly add lemon juice. Finally, slowly add remaining oil with the blender running slowly. When oil is completely added, the Mayo should be the right constancy. You'll hear the mixture "burp".

Better than store bought anyday. The trick is to keep the blender on slow and continuously add the oil. When the oil is all added stop immediately. Blending too long or on too high speed makes the mixture too thin. I know, I ruined two batches making it too fast.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Wayne Meets the Landmark Commission Nazis

Wayne has met the Nazis. Not Himmler or Hitler, or Goebbels or Speer, but a modern-day equivalent, and just as mindboggling.

Wayne is trying to rehab the house across the street. The poor place has had a checkered history, spending the majority of the time recently in a state of disrepair. A long time haven for druggies and vagrants, the place was weed infested and trashy. I used to call 911 frequently as I'd see people sneak in the house to sell or do drugs. Of course the KCMO police were attending the grand opening of a new Lamar's Donuts and could not be bothered.

Finally one day, a sign appeared that it was going to be auctioned off. Someone cleaned it a bit, and it sold. Soon after a young fellow named Jim moved in. He was there about 3 hours before he was broken into. His short tenure endured 3 more break-ins before he fled to the burbs. His fiance would not even set foot in the place.

So Wayne bought it. Hoping that our transitional neighborhood would be a good investment. He put a lot into the place and it looks grand.

Then the Nazis goose-stepped their way into his life.

The Nazis came in the form of the City Landmarks Commission. These air-headed Nazis would rather see the place remain a mess than allow it to be rehabed. All in the name of authenticity. Well, we have authentic drug dealers, authentic vagrants, authentic drunks (two of which took up residence on my porch this PM)in the neighborhood so I guess it is fair for the houses to be authentic too. But really, this is not a fabulous neighborhood. The house is nothing special,and this neighborhood is nothing special either, nothing like my neighborhood in South St Louis with the unique and unspoiled architecture. Who gives a fat rat's ass if the place has wood windows or wood siding, or a "period door"? It is better than being a drug house. I see the need for some rules, or we would have a geodesic dome or a glass cube built in its place.

But someone has given these bureaucrats (in the worse sense of the term) some power. And as the real Nazis, are just a bunch of hooligans and nobodies running wild.

Wayne has learned his lesson, he'll never rehab a house in the city again.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Madness of "King George"

"We will submit legislation to the United States which will authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with a view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional.” Thus spoke Senator Arlen Specter initiating his challenge of the Arrogant and Unelected Bush Administrations use of executive powers on policy matters.

Whatis the election stealing King George doing now? Well, besides destroying America’s reputation, destroying Iraq, ignoring the out of control Israeli raids in to Lebanon, damaging families, turning the judiciary upside down, running up a deficit and lying out his ass, he is using his signing statements to gut the content of congressional legislation relating to the executive branch of the government. In his Royal Mind, he thinks he can use the statements as directives to the executive branch departments and agencies on how to implement the law. Senator Specter feels that is unconstitutional, and rightfully so. It is nothing but a bald face scheme to add to his powers as President (King) and diminish the power of the Congress when they dare to do something he does not like.

The most blatant example is the amendment to a bill that specifically forbids torture of detainees. In his signing statement to the bill, the president says the military may use torture anyway effectively rendering the bill totally unenforceable.

Nixon was no where near this out of control. I think the ass needs to be impeached. Would someone offer to blow him so we can do that???

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mind over Matter: M&Ms into Art

How we as humans can adapt to stressful situations has always amazed me. I am an extremist; I either blow up or slink quietly into the woodwork, preferring to suffer alone. I find as I get older, I do more of the latter than the former. But when faced with the unthinkable or the prospect of loss of freedom, the mind can do wonderful things. There is evidence that in the concentration camps in WW II, prisoners created art, performed music and plays, married, and kept their cultures alive. Some actually emerge as better persons from their ordeals.

This musing was prompted by this article BEHIND BARS, HE TURNS M&Ms INTO ART FORM (if the link to the New York Times does not work, a snippet is here) about a prison artist in one of the toughest prisons in the US, Pelican Bay Secure Housing Unit in Crescent City, CA. Despite its bucolic name, Pelican Bay is no resort. The secure unit inmates, mostly in for murder, gang activity or crimes committed while in prison, are out of their cells only 1 hour a day. Rarely are they even outside, their recreation yard has a Plexiglas covering over it. Privileges are few and the atmosphere is always chaotic and dangerous.

But with little to do and facing life in the unit, Donny Johnson takes candy (M&Ms preferred), melts them in water and uses a brush made from his own hair to paint intense, colorful miniature paintings that have been recently displayed in the tony artist colony of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The lack of sensory stimulation (SHU is uniformly white and gray and inmates are not allowed to have contact visits nor to touch other inmates) is tantamount to torture. Yet Johnson has found an outlet, his mind finding ingenious ways to keep his humanity alive.

Some of the inmates I write to discovered instead of sinking into long term despair and depression their used their time and innate and unknown ingenuity to survive, keep their sanity and even better themselves.

Jon has used his time to write volumes in his blog, read over 200 books in a year and learn Chinese. Another inmate pal admits to not being a good student in school and never finishing high school but can do a sudoku puzzle, even the most difficult in minutes. I have never finished one of them, even the simple ones. Michael has gotten his GED and is working on two degrees in English Literature and Computer Science. He’ll be 68 when he is released, he is 31 now.

I am not sure how I would react if that happened to me. I tend to think I would be a blubbering fool who would do what I could to end my misery. But, the mind is powerful; the will to survive and flourish is strong. I hope not to find out.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Jon's Jail Journal

Faithful readers and casual visitors: It has been a busy weekend and Monday will be no better. Look for an update and more rants from Pato on Tuesday. Meanwhile, I want to introduce you to my friend Jon's blog Jon's Jail Journal. A fascinating glimpse of life in Prison. Jon is very intelligent, honest and sometimes brutal in his description of life inside the Arizona State Prison in Tucson.

See you Tuesday ~ Pato

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Rains Came

It is finally raining and Dante and his inferno have left for a few days. The heat here was beginning to get out of hand. It was over 100 for the last week with humidity to match. With Mr L's front AC unit out, I had to rescue his wine collection, over 300 bottles successfully evacuated to a cooler part of the condo.

The rain started at about 7;30 with a wonderful clap of thunder. As I looked out, a hard but not driving shower filled the sky and drenched the lawn. I was afraid we would break the heat wave with a horrible storm such as the one that pummeled St Louis. Puggles had a quick potty break (she hates rain) and I closed the slightly opened window to the Queen Mary.

No watering the yard today, no running up to 4th floor to see if I can get the recalcitrant AC to work. Maybe an easy day for a change?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It Can Happen Here

Found this on (see link on this page). From the Washington Post 7/20/06. If anyone is upset or offended, they should be. Remember, this can happen here.... When this act of relgious violence occured, human rights groups implored the Bush administration including Condolezza Rice to make a statement denouncing this. NOT A FUCKING WORD FROM THEM.

Remember Mahmoud Asgari and Ayez Marhoni murdered for being gay July 19, 2005.

Not since they confronted snapshots of a slightly built young man named Matthew Shepard and the fence where he was left for dead in 1998 by two drug-addled no-hopers in Laramie, Wyo., have gay people been so agitated by a set of photographic images. Protesters brought black-and-white reproductions of the pictures -- which show the public execution last year of two teenage boys in Iran -- to a rally in Dupont Circle yesterday afternoon. The images were also used in other protests, at least 26 in countries around the world, according to bloggers involved in organizing them, and the images are displayed in the windows of Lambda Rising bookstore, near Dupont Circle.

The pictures show a dismally sad drama: Two young men, identified by the Associated Press as aged 16 and 18, are seen shackled in a prison van, sobbing; one of them is then seen being led to a scaffold; other shots show the boys together with dark-hooded men placing nooses around the boys' necks; and two final images show their bodies hanging from ropes, in a large public square, as a crowd watches from a distance.

The hanging images, taken in the large northeastern city of Mashhad, raced across the Internet after the July 19, 2005, execution was reported by the Iranian Student News Association. There was a brief burst of very angry reaction among gay rights leaders, politicians in Europe and some human rights groups in the United States and abroad. Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her human rights work, protested the execution of minors. The two boys quickly became gay martyrs, killed, said activists, only because they desired each other and acted on that desire.

But as human rights groups looked into the initial Iranian accounts, the waters muddied. The boys, identified as Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari, were said to have been convicted not for homosexual conduct but for raping a 13-year-old boy. Gay journalists, writing on blogs, cited sources in Iran who said that claim was a smoke screen used by the Iranian government to deflect outrage over the execution. One account, again based on unnamed sources in Iran, suggested that a group of boys had been involved in consensual sexual activity and that the youngest of them (or members of his family) may have claimed he was coerced to avoid trouble for himself. In a country where an accusation of homosexuality is certain to bring harassment, often brings brings prison and torture, and occasionally brings death (by stoning, hanging, bisection with a sword or being dropped from a height, say gay rights groups), that scenario is plausible.

Scott Long of Human Rights Watch says that even a year later international groups know "very little" about what happened. The images are horrifying enough, he says, even if the boys were guilty of rape. And his group has documented plenty of "horror stories," including executions, that have been visited on people caught in same-sex activity in Iran. But can his group say anything about the rape charges?

"Nobody should trust the Iranian government on its face, but we can't document that," he says by phone from his office in New York.

Perhaps the saddest thing about these pictures is that no major news organization outside Iran has tracked down what really happened. The final indignity of these boys' short lives was that they didn't matter enough to spark a serious investigation. And yet, even with the particular facts of the alleged crimes in dispute, the images have haunted gay people in the West and become part of a larger debate about the political alignment of gay rights groups. Should Western activists engage with gay rights issues across cultural and religious borders? And do they risk being dragged into a crude anti-Islamic fervor popular among some fundamentalist Christians (who are no friends to gay people) and right-wing political groups?

Rob Anderson, 23, organized the Dupont Circle protest of about 40 people. He is a researcher and reporter for the New Republic, and he describes himself as part of a "network of lefty friends" who have no interest in the idea of war with Iran. But when the images of the hangings went up last year on the Internet, he printed them out and put them up near his desk. He says that all the friends he's shown the pictures to have had "a shift in consciousness," a realization that they live sheltered lives, that evil exists in the world and that despite the vast cultural difference between Iran and the United States, there have to be moral absolutes. And killing children for homosexuality is one thing that is absolutely wrong.

Over the past year, the ambiguity about why the boys were hanged has mostly faded from discussions on gay Web sites. Gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, who organized a protest in Provincetown, Mass., yesterday, referred to the boys recently as "two gay teenage lovers." A Romeo and Juliet glow has come upon them, two young people killed because of the cruelty and ignorance of an unjust world. As the two boys have taken on iconic status, the cultural difference between them and the rest of the gay world has evaporated. When Anderson looks at the pictures, he feels a powerful connection with the young men.

"For gay people, I think all of us have a fear of being killed, and of being killed for who we are," he says. What he sees is two young men being "executed for something you see in yourself."

The force of the images, for many gay people, has cut through any doubt about their particular meaning. Even if these boys were guilty of rape, there is no doubt that others have been killed simply for being gay. So the pictures are not so much forensic documents as they are dramatizations of something that almost certainly exists. And their power is undeniable.

Images of people who are about to die tell us little about what we really want to know: What is death? How do you pass into it? Is it fearful? And so, unable to learn about death, we query the photograph itself, down to its most mundane details. Looking at these boys, you wonder who brought them the clean white shirts in which they were killed. It seems the sort of thing a mother might attend to. And what of the man, said to be a journalist, who is interviewing them in the police wagon as they cry? Does he sleep at night? And the sandal that has fallen from one boy's foot as he swings on the rope -- did anyone collect it afterward?

Although they have circulated widely on the Internet and were printed in some European newspapers, as well as the New York Times, the images have not been seen in most newspapers here. There is nothing in the pictures taken before the execution that contains blood, or explicit violence, or nudity, the usual taboos of imagery in the United States. And yet something about them is so deeply disturbing that they have had little mainstream circulation.

It is, perhaps, the very blunt and painful confrontation with homophobia that they force upon any viewer who chooses to believe that these are, indeed, images of youth executed merely for being gay. Rarely is the hatred of homosexuals, which flourishes within many of the world's fundamentalist religions, seen so starkly. If the Old Testament, a font of three of the world's major faiths, is the inerrant Word of God, then why should these images trouble you? For God, in Leviticus, says that the killing of homosexuals is justice and pleasing to him.

But if the images trouble the conscience nonetheless, then the viewer finds himself in exactly the position of every gay person who has wrestled with traditional morality and its often harsh absolutes. You find within yourself a moral consciousness that is wider than the wellspring of ancient religion. It is a dizzying sensation of liberation, and its power pulses through every line written by Walt Whitman. But it is, for many, a terrifying thought, and so images are suppressed. And the wasted lives of two young men are ignored by all except those who, through the strange ether of the Internet, feel a powerful kinship with them.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

St Louis School Board Follies

The audience chanted "Hey, ho, Veronica's got to go" and "Reinstate, reinstate, reinstate." How intelligent.

Boos and jeers drowned out the pledge of allegiance. "We have traded in a Humvee of a superintendent, and we traded it in for a Pinto," said the Rev. Phillip DuVall.

"You got rid of a person who had a plan, Dr. Williams, and who implemented the plan and replaced him with a person who proved she could not run the Fox District," said Mary Johnson, a St. Louis resident and local businesswoman. "How can she manage the largest African-American school district" in the St. Louis area? Johnson asked.

So, what if Mary Johnson was white and she was referring to the hiring of a black administrator for a mostly white district and said “How can she manage the largest Caucasian school district in the St Louis area”.

Good golly Gertie, the lawsuits and shit would fly. I am sorry but racism is racism.

Hiring a black Superintendent for a white district is good for diversity. A white Superintendent for a black district is racism??? HUH?

And still Johnny can’t read…


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Being Blunt

As the world burns, people suffer, jobs disappear, kids fail in school, poor get poorer, uninsured reach record highs, and Katrina not far behind us, the Republicans worry about who I fuck, or if two lesbians want to legalize a relationship so they can care for each other when the going gets tough.

Vote the bastards OUT!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Transatlantic Call

I had finally gotten to sleep and was snoozing away in the comfortable bed of the nice but non-descript Docklands area hotel room in London. July 17, 1996. My first trip to the UK. 3 weeks in London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lake Country, York, Chester, Wales, Ireland.

The phone rang at about 6AM. I thought it was a wrong number or a wake-up call or something. Maybe another member of my group (I had come with a group I did some travel with in the 90s, we'd been to Israel and were going to Turkey in 1997) was calling.

I absentmindedly picked up the phone and put it back down, as I did with all the automated wake-ups I had. It rang again.

"Mr. Clark?"
"You have a transatlantic call"
"Oh, thank you." (' what?' is what I was really thinking.)

It was my sister.

"Mom was worried you were in the plane crash."
"What plane crash?"
"The one in the ocean of of New York."
"I think it is pretty obvious I was not."

I turned on the TV to CNN International and watched the coverage of TWA 800 which happened 10 years ago today.

"Donna, I took United from Washington DC to London. This was TWA New York to Paris."
"I know, but you know mom."

So after assuring my mom I was safe in London and that I was more likely to die driving to Wichita than flying to London, (she thus forbid me to ever drive to Wichita again) we hung up.

TWA Flight 800 took off late in the evening from JFK Airport. Minutes later, the 747 exploded over the Atlantic Ocean and claimed the lives of all 230 people on board. Many believed that it was a missile fired from land that took the jetliner down or even a missile from a Navy ship 200 miles away that downed the plane. An edgy White House initially suspected terrorism and readied plans for military action in the Middle East. Conspiracy theories abound to this day.

But the official account from the National Transportation Safety Board concluded was the likely cause of the explosion was a spark from wiring that ignited fuel vapors in an empty center fuel tank of the Boeing 747 N93119 CN 20083/ LN 153. I tend to believe that.

We had a wonderful trip through the UK but the crash shadowed us and caused long delays on our return as security was still high.

There are memorial services all over the country and at the Memorial Site on Long Island this week for the 230 victims of one of this country's worst air disasters.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Dante, go home...

...and take your inferno with you!! It is supposed to reach over 100F (38C) here today. One of the unit's AC is on the fritz already. HM Puggles, Queen of All Pugs, etc, etc. is staying indoors today. I am heading off to church but if the AC is not on, then I am OUT!

I am supposed to see Shakespeare in the Park tonight with Barb and Ross. Maybe the sets will melt and it will be cancelled. Maybe Kansas City will melt and we'll all be cancelled.

Keep your pets (and your Grandma) inside today and make sure they have LOTS of water!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Rembrandt's 400th

Four hundred years ago today in the Dutch city of Leiden, Rembrandt van Rijn, one of the most enduring and fascinating western artists, was born.

The prolific Rembrandt produced nearly 3,000 paintings etchings,and scketches. Of these, nearly a hundred were self portraits, giving us an accurate picture of how he looked, how fashions changed and how his many troubles and tangled affairs wearied him. Biblical themes often inspired his works and many editions of the Bible use his paintings as illustrations. It is hard to escape his influence.

Most of us remember Rembrandt from our first introductions to art in grade school. He was often used as an example of the use of chiaroscuro, using contrasts of light and shadow to create depth and a range of emotions in his figures. Rich in detail, bold in strokes, dark yet expressive, his paintings still inspire and impress today.

Like Mozart, he was renowned in his day and was very successful financially. However, he lived beyond his means and died after becoming bankrupt and outliving his wife and son. Only a daughter born to his mistress survived him.

Festivals and exhibitions and even a new opera on his life are part of the celebrations in his native Holland. In his birthplace of Leiden, people in period dress led a torch-lit procession to the statue of Rembrandt, hung a garland around the statue's neck and toasted his memory. Let me join in the toast Rembrandt Van Rijn. Happy Birthday!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Quatorze Julliet

Joyeux Quatorze Julliet!

Aujourd'hui est La Fête Nationale ou Quatorze Juillet en La Republique Francaise.(Better known as Bastille Day in English.)

En l'honneur du jour, voici est L'Hymmne National Francais:

La Marseillaise:

Allons! Enfants de la Patrie!
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé!
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras

Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes.
Aux armes, citoyens!
Aux armes, citoyens
Formez vos bataillons!
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur...
Abreuve nos sillons!

Avez un joyeux jour, mes amis Francais!

(...and forgive my rusty French)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Roux Roux!!

I offered to host a small birthday gathering for my church and Pub buddy Bruce at the pool at the Towers. I thought wine, cheese, etc....

Well.... my friend Michael told everyone "Don makes the best gumbo. I have had gumbo in New Orleans and Ricky (his late partner) lived in Bossier City, LA and he even said Don's gumbo was superb". "Hey Don, make some gumbo..."

So I did.

Scene: Michael came by with the wine and beer just as I was finishing the gumbo. I am in the kitchen....

"Come on baby...uh-uh.... coooooooome on... that's it yeah Yeah YEAH... come on baby.... (strange bumping banging sounds in the background), you can do it....a little more....more... coooooome on... that's it... whoa... yeah.... Oh yeah YEAH....YEAH (going on for about 5 minutes now) yeah.... oh yes yes YES YES!!!! OH OH OH!!! YESSSSSSSSSSS. YEAH!!! NOW!!! DAMN!!!"

Michael: Can I ask what you are doing in there????? (looking cautiously around the corner)
Pato(Dripping with sweat and a smile to light up the world): My roux turned out PERFECT!

Such is the life of a gumbo maker.

The world of Roux

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Trip to Home Depot

Whoa!!! I know what you are thinking. Everyone's 2nd favorite Donald Duck (mom always liked him best) has run out of things to blog about. Never fear, fair readers, this evolves into a mildly amusing story and a rant about a big corporation. ~ Pato

I avoid Home Depot as much as possible. Big, ugly, and orange, the stores leave me cold with their ignorant staff (I know as much about hardware as most of them do)and poor customer service. In our store, there are 15 check-outs but usually only 1-2 are manned. Of course I am buying a light bulb and 2 screws and the person in front of me is buying enough material to build a house. They do have everything in stock, which to me is their only saving grace.

I also dislike how the big box stores rely on the largesse of taxpayers to build their monsters everywhere and drive away other businesses. Kansas City has given away enough tax dollars to rebuild the whole city just to get Wally World and Home Depot and others to build or stay. Can anyone say "blackmail"?

When I was still an HR type, I interviewed for an HR job at a Home Depot in St Louis. Every store has an HR manager and I thought I'd be a shoe-in handling one location after juggling up to 20 in my career. The annoying application began with a lengthy on-line application and then a telephone screening done by a contract firm. Then if you passed that, you got to interview with the regional manager. I got lucky.

Arriving and going in the back of the store, I was ushered in by a casually dressed young fellow who chatted to me about how things were, what I was here for etc. Imagine my surprise when he joined in the interview as the main fellow's assistant. I always wondered if I said something silly.

The head guy was a cocky, surly fellow (we would have clashed, I am sure) but the interview progressed as well as expected. I was then taken to an unoccupied room and given a set of essay questions to complete and told I had 30 minutes to complete them. 30 minutes went by, 40, 45, 50... so I got up and looked out in the hall. No one was there and went to the door where the interview took place. The two fellows were still there and were engrossed in a telephone conversation about an issue at a store. I listened for a bit. The person on the phone must have asked how the interviews were going. "Heh..." the main guy sighed, "not a damn one has come in that has impressed me yet." Cut your losses man. I retrieved my notebook and ducked under the window of the door and left. Sorry, boys, it was I who was not impressed from the start. First and only time I ever walked out before an interview was completed.

So with that baggage in tow, I went to Home Depot as we wanted some new large palms for the pool. Home Depot does have a fair selection of reasonable priced plants, although many are in poor shape. I bought an orchid there once (in my pre-hate days) that infested the rest of my orchids with aphids. So I took the Queen Mary and proceeded to the store. I found two nice palms that appeared to be $26.95 each so I went off to find a cart (all were in the parking lot) and took them to the check out. Not a long wait, luckily.

The man behind me was admiring the palms, which at about 5 1/2 ft tall and in a cart were hard to miss. "You keep them outside in the winter?", he asked. "No, they stay indoors, I have an indoor pool". "Oh...." thinking I was Ritchie Rich. I enjoyed the ruse and found it odd how people's attitude change when they think you have money!

With palms all paid for, I wheeled the cart out, looking much like Artie Johnson peeking thru the shrubs on the old Laugh-In Show. I ran into a few people along the way but caused no real injuries.

The Queen Mary being a Lincoln from the 80s is a cavernous auto thus I was not really worried about getting two 5 1/2 ft palms in her. The people in the parking lot were not so sure. I attracted quite a crowd as I placed the first palm in the front right footwell and gently bent the fronds to fit in. The second one was relegated to the back seat. She slid in the left back foot well and went across the seat, angled slightly to the front. Viola! Two palms in a Lincoln. I got applause. Getting home was without incident, although I felt I was in a jungle. Arriving at the Towers, I thought how the audience at Home Depot would have loved to watch as the palms magically sprung from the car to their full glory, much like a troupe of circus clowns piling out of a Volkswagen. The splendid palms were significantly taller than the Queen Mary.

The palms look lovely in the pool room, the Queen Mary needs a trip to the car wash to vacuum out a bit of dirt and my trip to Home Depot was a success.

With all that baggage and drama, no wonder I am not a frequent shopper!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Conservative Anger

Bill McClellan is just about my favorite columist with the exception of the brilliant Molly Ivins. Bill's column in today's St Louis Post Dispatch is a must read:

Bill McClellan: What have conservatives got to be angry about?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Emperor of the North

While spending the evening with my friend Michael, we came across an old movie 'Emperor of the North" (also released as "Emperor of the North Pole")from 1973. Starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Keith Carradine, the movie is an action tale set among the rail riding hobo communities of the Depression Pacific Northwest. The title refers to a hobo joke that the world's best hobo was "Emperor of the North Pole," a way of poking fun at their own desperate situation since an Emperor of the North Pole would rule over nothing.

Ernest Borgnine plays the sadistic conductor Shack who brags that no hobo ever rides his train. As the movie opens, he has just thrown a hobo off his train to his death. Lee Marvin plays A#1 the wise and wiley hobo who manages to hop Shack's train along with the pain in the butt and cocky young hobo Cigaret played by Carradine. At the next stop, A#1 evades Shack and escapes but Cigaret is caught. Shack threatens to kill Cigaret but he manages to escape and finds that A#1 has announced that he will be the first hobo to ride Shack's train all the way to Portland. Cigaret of course tags along behind.

Thus the fun begins as Cigaret and A#1 manage to out maneuver Shack. Shack manages to eject them once but they hop a different train and beat him to Salem where they sneak on for the final encounter. The film ends with a climactic battle between Shack and A#1. When A#1 has the defeated Shack at his mercy, instead of killing him, he just throws him off the train. Cigaret brags how great "they" are, how "they beat' shack and how "they" are the greatest of all hobos. A#1, finally having his fill of Cigaret, throws the testosterone laden boy off the train into a lake, lecturing him all while he rides the train on to Portland and to glory.

Good fun, compelling story, minor blood and guts compared to the movies of today, the good guys win and show that they can win without totally massacring their enemy. Certainly worth watching if you come across it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


The Muslims are whining again. I thought my former neighbor's dog in St Louis could whine, but she has nothing on the Muslim community. Incredibly, on the one year anniversary of the London bombings where bombs exploded on three underground trains and a bus in London, killing 52 and injuring hundreds, British Muslims say they have been treated with anger and suspicion, and that the whole community is being blamed for the actions of four individuals. The investigation concluded that the blasts were the work of four suicide bombers, members of Britain's Muslim community, not immigrants but born and raised there.

And that is sad in a way, of course the whole community is not to blame. But the Muslim community continues to offer its "we condemn this act, but...." routine. Excuses, excuses. The War in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestinians, the Muslim youth are alienated.... on and on. None of that excuses the killing of innocent lives. If the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is to be settled, then the Muslim world must curtail its desire to kill the rest of the world and stop the support of terror. If the Muslim world is poor, then the rulers of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia can forgo buying fleets of aircraft, building the world's largest shopping mall and largest buildings and prop up their economy. If the youth are alienated, it is due to Muslim immigrants intransigence to assimilate in the culture.

A dear friend of mine accepts all the excuses of the Muslim world without question. I told him, "dear... you are gay and a Christian clergy. They would lop your head off first." It did not seem to phase him.

The sides must meet in the middle. The West needs to look at some of the root causes of the hatred and the Muslims must be rational and put their hate aside and look at their own record. Stop blaming, stop excusing, be sincere. Maybe a step to peace will occur. Imagine that.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Time to Rumble

Following a Neanderthal ruling by the New York Supreme Court, angry gays and lesbians demonstrated across New York State Thursday. The ruling by the Court of Appeals criticized same-sex couples and said they had no constitutional right to marriage.

In its weak and buck passing ruling, the court said "at least two grounds rationally support the limitation on marriage that the Legislature has enacted. First, the Legislature could rationally decide that, for the welfare of children, it is more important to promote stability, and to avoid instability, in opposite-sex than in same-sex relationships." This has been proven wrong time and again, but the right wing fuckers chose to ignore anything that gets in the way of their prejudice. A favorite trick of the right to "protect children" from everything including having a loving family and proper healthcare.

The ruling went on to say "Heterosexual intercourse has a natural tendency to lead to the birth of children; homosexual intercourse does not." Duh! The ruling also noted that the Legislature could "rationally believe that it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and a father." (See above)

The justices said in the ruling that the plaintiffs "have not persuaded us that this long accepted restriction is a wholly irrational one, based solely on ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals." Then what is it? Tradition! I guess, if we have always been prejudicial, then we always will be.

I was thrilled that people demonstrated in Sheridan Square in New York City, Albany, Rochester and other cities. According to polls, the majority of New Yorkers want to legalize same sex marriage.

Get with it courts, get on the streets everyone. It is time to rumble. It is the only way to get the entrenched powers to listen.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

This Day in History

This day in history;

In Nazi-occupied Holland, 13-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family are forced to take refuge in a secret sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse.

In Hartford, Connecticut, a fire breaks out under the big top of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, killing 167 people and injuring 682.

In 1957, 15-year-old Paul McCartney attends a church picnic where he meets 16-year-old John Lennon.

And the most momentous occasion to occur on July 6:

Robert and Ida McDonald announce the birth of their first child, a son David in Decatur, Il. David survived Decatur public schools, graduated from Mc Arthur HS in 1975 and eventually graduated from Illinois State University in 1979. A long career in the film industry took him from the prairies of central Illinois to the metropolis of Chicago where he met and married Lynda Christiansen of Elmhurst. After managing the world through the company World Management, David settled in to a comfortable position with a large delivery firm, noted for their lovely brown color.

David and Lynda are parents of three children: Melanie, and twins Joshua and Jordan.

Best of all, David is my friend and the brother I never had. He must be special to put up with me, as we have known each other since *gasp* 1963. Our meeting may not have been as momentous and the meeting of Lennon and Mc Cartney, but it has been just as satisfying.

Happy Birthday my dearest friend! And to many more!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Herty Lewites

The unexpected death of Herty Lewites, who died from a heart attack Sunday in Managua, has thrown the Nicaraguan presidential elections, scheduled or November into even greater turmoil. Herty, as he was always known, was the candidate for the Movimiento de Renovación Sandinista (MRS).

Herty unfortunately had a slim chance of being elected; even though he was the most liked and trusted of the candidates. His split with the Sandanistas left him in the muddy middle waters with a new, untried party and a split base of support. Herty was involved with the overthrow of Somoza and spent the 1960s and 70s involved with arms smuggling along with positions in the Sandinista government. He was jailed in the US for arms smuggling at one time. His success as Minister of Tourism in the 1980s and as mayor of Managua 2000-2005 earned him a reputation for efficiency and honesty. Managua under his leadership became cleaner, safer and more modern, and is now one of the safest cities in Latin America.

Herty was viewed as a moderate leftist. He proposed to improve education and to spend more on health and housing. His goal was for Nicaragua to overcome its position as one of the poorest countries in Latin America through investment in alternative energy and tourism, not by rejecting CAFTA and embracing the Chavez/Castro model as Daniel Ortega has proposed.

Herty was expelled from the Sandinista Party in February of 2005 over a dispute with Ortega, regarding the party’s selection of a presidential candidate. The FSLN, once all powerful and unchallenged, lost its credibility due to corruption scandals and the "Pacta" between Ortega and imprisoned crook Arnoldo Aleman designed to divide the major branches of the government between the two parties. The pact, Ortega's dictatorial rule of the party alienated Sandinistas. Heroine of the Revolution and former Minister of Health Dora Maria Tellez formed the Movimiento de Renovación Sandinista (MRS) in 1994. They were marginalized until Herty rejuvenated the party.

Both the right and the left are split in Nicaragua. The PLC of Aleman is split between hardliners and more moderates as well. The PLC candidate Jose Rizzo is seen as a stooge of Aleman. As current defeated and powerless president Bolanos can attest, Aleman continues to call the shots. The more moderate candidate of the right Eduardo Montealegre is a US-educated diplomat running as the Alianza Liberal Nicaraguense (ALN) candidate on an anti-corruption platform. He is also considered a better candidate and is more trusted and liked than Ortega and Rizzo.

Sadly, the fight will be between Ortega and Rizzo. The question remains where will Herty's votes go, figured at about 15%. Will they stick to the left and go to Ortega or switch to the right wing but popular Montealegre?

Herty Lewites has forever changed Nicaraguan politics by energizing the MLS and demonstrating that left can free itself from the domination by Daniel Ortega and his corrupt and bankrupt past.

As an interesting aside, Herty was Jewish, certainly an anomaly in Roman Catholic dominated Central America. He was the descendent of a Jewish family that settled in Nicaragua and became prosperous shop owners. The Mercado Israel Lewites still operates in Managua as does Hertylandia, his amusement park.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4th Redux

This was my July 4 post last year. See how little had changed. My 2006 comments are in bold:

I am not in a patriotic mood this year. I am not pleased and proud of this country anymore, and see it getting worse. Therefore, the desire to sing the Star Spangled Banner (jibberish set to an impossible tune) was nil, as was the urge to see sparkly, noisy fireworks. I just hope the USA gets a grip on reality and sees the danger of Bush and his villains, coup leaders all. Or this will be the last 4th of July.(Well, maybe next one will be the last, Bush hangs on and I am sure is plotting to get his base of support out to keep his buddies in power. Democrats remain spineless and are becoming irrelvant. The war drags on and everyone hates Bush, we just don't seem to have the guts to get rid of him.)

Just look around you and you can easily see the complacency that has blanketed the USA likea pea soup fog. I pat myself on the back for using that metaphor as it is so accurate. As in a pea soup fog, we can't see much past our noses. Our mantra... it is all about ME!, stupid. If we are not personally affected, or our beloved home in the suburbs, our investments or our new Lexus are not in danger then who cares. In Cupcake Land the big worry is if mom can get Jimmy to soccer on time. Honey,wake up!! If you don't start caring what is happening around you, soccer will the least thing about which you worry. (Well, not much changed here, unfortunately.)

Our rights are eroding around us. Our Government has assumed an unprescedented arrogance, listening no more to those whose views differ, and indeed silencing all opposition. The moves to change the programming on NPR such as naming a former Republican Party chair to be the Chair of NPR, cancelling funding, railing about lesbian rabbits or whatever, is chilling beyond belief. The USA I used to know would never stand for this, yet this was page 15 news. NPR is too liberal, but hypocritically we ignore FOX and the pablum on the radio... that is ok, they are daring to speak the truth. I do not believe a thing I read anymore. (NPR survived again, but for how long?? FOX continues to spout every sound bite the Repubs' spin doctors think up. People believe them and quote their lies and innuendo. Pathetic.)

As I try to write this the emotions are pouring..the injustice, hypocracy, arrogance and greed are overwhelming. That is what they want.. to overwhelm us. They silently sneak in like the guerilla and plant the devastating grenade right in our beds. It is too late, we are powerless.

Complain?? TO WHO??? The spineless Democrats just wring their hands. Defeated, they are superfluous, irrelevant. Disagree with the majority... too bad, we don't have a "Government by the People, of the People for the People, we have a government of fuck the people, what does The Fuhrer want us to believe today?? Pant pant pant...throw me a bone...Arf ARF! Wagging their tails at the master... doing tricks and parroting his words to keep him happy. (Nothing new here either, see my bitching about spineless Dems above.)

As for passing the day, I did get invited to the Rockhill Tennis Club for July 4th BBQ by Scott Lindsay and of course Marcia and Will. It was totally underwhelming. The food was ok, and of course Lindsay complained the whole time. I got some shopping in at Wally World (shhhhhh officially I hate them) but hey, needed some stuff. Talked to Greg, I think he wanted me to go to the lesbians swimming, but I had the club invite first. Eve was swimming in my pool and laundry WOO HOO! (I am in rut, expect for the Wally World visit and the fact that Scott was in a good mood and we had more along than just Marcia and Will, the above was the duplicate of my day today.... I need to get out more! Almost went to the swim party but I was tired after the long AM and rich food.)

HAPPY 4TH! At least have yourself a treat. You could be somewhere worse.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Surprise Phone Call

I got a telephone call from my 22 year old son Daniel. He is a good kid, smart in a common sense way and has been enjoying himself by working in a music store and playing with his locally successful band.

So as I am walking in the grocery store Sunday eve, my cell rings and it is Daniel.

"Where are you dad?"
"Going in to the grocery store, why?"
"I have something to tell you"
"Stephanie and I are engaged."

Fainting sounds....

Gotta hand it to him, he picked out a ring, arranged a dinner at a wonderful restaurant in St Louis, took her to the theatre to see his obsession "Phantom of the Opera" (he must have seen it 5-6 times that I know of) and proposed to her in the lobby of the Fox theatre after the show.

The girl was silly and said yes.

They are both smart young people. She works for Nordstrom's as an apprentice buyer after getting a degree in Fashion Marketing, Daniel runs the band instrument department of a branch of the Brook May's Music Co in Columbia, MO. He can transfer to a branch in St Louis if there is a position. They want to get married in St Louis and live there, which is fine with me.

I guess I am going to a wedding this time next year.

Or maybe not, I offered Puggles as a flower girl and he said no. If she is not invited then I won't be there! There, we have the first crisis!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Allez France, Allez!

Barb, Ross, Yohan and I ventured to Cupcake land on Saturday to watch the World Cup soccer match Brazil vs France. The setting was a nice English style pub complete with a good selection of scotch (I had two Laphroaigs, the smoky yet sweet Islay scotch)and good fish and chips. The English crowd had left after their defeat by Portugal so it was the Latinos rooting for Brazil, the last hope of the non-European teams. I being the lover of underdogs, and knowing French decided to be different and to root for France.

I am not much of a follower of any sport. I find the players most annoying and the sports Americans like basically boring, with the exception of a good baseball game. Soccer, as is well known, has not gripped the USA like it has the rest of the world.

I have found soccer is fun to watch and has its own charms. I was amused that they run the clock forward. They play for 90 minutes so the clock starts at 00.00 and runs up to 45.00 for the first half and then a second 45.00 for the second half. Unless.... There is a "secret" (Ross explained only the referees know the exact time) time kept when action stops or there are penalty stops. This time is added at the end, as a suspenseful encore. In this case it was 3 minutes.

The referees do not drop flags or hankies for penalties like in football, but wave little yellow and red cards they pull out of wallets. A yellow card is bad, a red card is the kiss of death. Too many yellows get you in hot water too. I think.

The game was good. The experienced and calculating French ousted the Brazilian favorites 1-0 in one-sided victory. They now go on to the semifinals against Portugal. France's 3-0 victory in the 1998 title match was the last time Brazil lost in the World Cup, so the Brazilians have found a real nemesis in La Belle France.

Much of the credit goes to Zinedine Zidane the French captain. It was Zidane who lifted France past Brazil the last time they met, scoring two goals for France's last World Cup. Since then, Brazil had won 11 straight World Cup games and another championship. Zidane, and Thierry Henry who scored the only goal took care of the Brazilian dream of another World Cup title.

Most everyone at the pub rooted for Brazil but I left happy and a little more educated in soccer. Now, I have a team to root for. As the pundits now favor Germany, I will continue to shout "ALLEZ FRANCE, ALLEZ!!"

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Night they Closed Ol' Dixie Down

What's with it that so many legendary establishments are closing this weekend? Well, two to be exact, so that does not establish a serious trend, but it is interesting and a little disturbing to those of us who detest change.

On the heels of the Brookside Dime Store (June 29th) comes the definitive word that one of the oldest and most established gay bars in town, the legendary and literally world famous Dixie Belle will close on July 2. A virtual icon in the community, especially among the leather and Levi community, the bar is open this weekend but according to their news release they will "drink the place dry" on Sunday.

I personally know several people who met their partners at the DB as it was usually called. Many a newly out gay boy got their eyes (and dare I say other things...) opened by the activity in the somewhat (ok really) sleazy down stairs. Leather men strutted, businessmen closed deals, relationships for a night or a lifetime formed, closeted, lonely men could be their true selves for a night, drag queens, men stripped to a leather jock carrying a whip, it was all there on display. The Sunday beer bust was a great way to spend some time with cheap beer, good conversation and a chance to meet up with a wide spectrum of the community.

I had not been there in a while, and there in may lie a reason for its closing. Demographics change; we are getting older and the thought of hanging around the DB till all hours of the night has lost its attraction, newer more intimate bars attract the younger "upscale" crowd and with a proliferation of more successful bars the DB is no longer the only place in town.

The DB was a pioneer in the upper midtown section of KC, once just old commercial buildings and the Hereford House Restaurant. Now, the Crossroads district makes the property and location quite valuable. There are no announced plans for the building. It moved across the street from its old location a few years ago. The old location is now a fancy restaurant.

I wonder if those enjoying their filet en croute there realize someone may have had their first gay sex experience at the very location of their elegant table? Maybe it was one of the diners, who knows?!

The gay community will survive, other bars will get a bit more business as loyalties move. But for some, the world will never be the same.