Thursday, June 30, 2005

Beyond the Palace

In the better late than never category, I am hereby announcing the arrival of a new website devoted to the history of the storied Palace Amusements complex at the south end of the boardwalk in Asbury Park, N.J. (The site actually launched a little over a month ago, but I am just now getting around to promoting it. My humblest apologies to Bob Crane and his crew at Save Tillie, the initiators of the project).

It was indeed my pleasure to be of some small assistance in bringing this site to its fruition, and I thank Bob and friends for the opportunity to contribute, and for all the work they have done to keep the history of Asbury alive.


In related news, Daniel Wolff (author of an excellent biography of soul legend Sam Cooke) chronicles the history of the city in his new release, 4th of July, Asbury Park--A History of the Promised Land, now available at the Backstreets online store or at an independent retailer near you.

Loose Ends

There are certain songs that just take us back to a particular time and place in our lives, songs we can't listen to without feeling we are there again. I try to avoid hearing "Loose Ends" for this reason. Can't even listen to the clip on the Springsteen website. The longing and heartbreak come over me like a tidal wave and I can't bear it.

It was 1984, I was in L.A. following the Born In the U.S.A. tour with a college friend when I met him. He was a tall California blond, younger than me by a couple years, soft-spoken and naive and easily pursuaded. We talked him and his friend into lot of things--an ill-fated trip to Disneyland, a movie in Westwood. But the main thing we talked him into was driving across the desert to Arizona to see Bruce one last time.

He was young, and he was cute, and I had been cooped up in a women's college for four years. I was 22, and full of adventure and curiousity and lust, and Bruce's nightly lovefest had awakened something new and strange within me.

I made many mistakes on that misadventure, and one of them was falling for him. I had a tape someone had given me -- a collection of unreleased songs including a startling track I had never heard before called "Loose Ends." It was full of romance and longing and wistfulness, and I couldn't stop listening to it. It fascinated and saddened me, made me long for things I couldn't explain and behave in ways I had never dreamed I could. I made a play for him, and was shocked when I found that I had gotten him. I couldn't believe I had that kind of power, had possessed it all along--that song did something to me, gave me strength and belief in myself I didn't know I had.

But the song's emotional truth is not joyful abandon and newfound love, it is loss and longing and heartbreak, and that's what I ended up with when I returned home. For a few short weeks, I had run frantically through slumbering city streets, slept on sidewalks, kissed boys in darkened cars...I had risked everything. This music and this song had opened up this wildness in me...And then I had to let it all go.

So I can't hear this song, can't bear to even think of it. 'Cause I think of him, and those wild, carefree times when anything seemed possible, and it's all too much...

I saw him years later at a Springsteen show in New Jersey. It was short and awkward and strange, and I left wishing I hadn't talked to him, had walked on by and kept walking. You can't go can't and yet something inside you makes you try.

We are left with memories and that is all. And I am left with this song that breaks my heart again and again...


Loose Ends
Words and Music by Bruce Springsteen

We met out on open streets when we had no place to go
I remember how my heart beat when you said I love you so
Then little by little we choked out all the life that our love could hold
Oh no

It's like we had a noose and baby without check
We pulled until it grew tighter around our necks
Each one waiting for the other, darlin', to say when
Well baby you can meet me tonight on the loose end

We didn't count tomorrows, we took what we could and baby we ran
There was no time for sorrow, every place we went I held your hand
And when the night closed in I was sure your kisses told me all I had to know
But oh no


Our love has fallen around us like we said it never could
We saw it happen to all the others but to us it never would
Well how could something so bad, darling, come from something that was so good
I don't know


Copyright © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bruce Needs a Shave

I had nothing to do with this...Check out this blog if you don't believe me!

Return of the 'Pod People

Ok, after all the furor my previous post about iPods raised, I have some clarifications to make:

1) Radio still rules. Without it there would be no call-in shows. Radio is interactive. Podcasting is not--I don't care how cool it is (and it is cool)--it is by its very nature isolating, not unifying. (That is, until people start getting together and throwing podcast parties...Can't you just see it? "Hey, let's get a keg and download that last Randi Rhodes show!")

2) I don't care how much my friends think they know about music, history, and life, DJs like Kid Leo, Wolfman Jack, B.B. King (that's right he was a DJ) and Little Steven know infinitely more. And were/are just cooler than you and me. There is no substitute for a great DJ. (And while that includes club DJs, theirs is a different species altogether.) Same thing goes for talk show hosts. There is a reason why some of these people never got on the air. Just cos they can podcast doesn't necessarily make them good.

3) The promo art on albums/CDs/posters/whatever RULES, and is an integral part of this music. If you don't believe me, witness the uproar over Nike's co-opting of Minor Threat's artwork, and some music fans' reactions. Until they come up with a way to beam the artwork into my brain whilst I'm listening to the new Madonna track, it just won't be the same.

4) All this iPod crap is just too damn time-consuming. Uploading, downloading, synching, finding quote one of my favorite characters in Barry Levinson's classic film, Diner: "Who gives a shit? I just wanna hear the music." Make it easier or you won't get my money.

There endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Ballad of Emmett Till

Today, thanks to the wonderful folks at the Center for American Progress here in Washington, I viewed the moving documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till (produced and directed by Keith Beauchamp) for the second time.

In 2004, I first saw this stunning work on PBS as part of a special series on civil rights in America. The director, a young African American from Louisiana, became obsessed with the infamous 1955 case after viewing the dead boy's photo in Jet magazine as a child. He dug deeper, using his prodigious skills both as a filmmaker and as an investigative journalist, and found significant new evidence, as well as several key witnesses who had never been questioned. Getting their amazing stories on film and getting the film shown has opened the floodgates; the Justice Department reopened both the Till case, and the case of the 1964 "Freedom Summer" triple murder in Philadelphia, Miss., recently garnering a long overdue conviction in the latter. What once seemed impossible now seems unstoppable--in the words of Dr. King, justice flowing like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Slowly but surely, justice is indeed being done, and a new generation is learning about a dark past which some of us remember all too clearly, a past which is not really that long gone. And it is easy to spout platitudes and feel as though we have moved on from those bad times, that we are somehow "better than that" now. The sad truth is that we are not. Separate but equal is alive and well in the United States if you look closely enough. So are hate and fear and torture and death.

Is it 2005 or 1955? How far have we really come in this country? In Laramie, Wyo., in Jasper, Tex., in Detroit, Mich.--even in New York City--how far have we really come?

The Death of Emmett Till
Words and Music by Bob Dylan

Twas down in Mississippi no so long ago,
When a young boy from Chicago town stepped through a Southern door.
This boy's dreadful tragedy I can still remember well,
The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till.

Some men they dragged him to a barn and there they beat him up.
They said they had a reason, but I can't remember what.
They tortured him and did some evil things too evil to repeat.
There was screaming sounds inside the barn, there was laughing sounds out on the street.

Then they rolled his body down a gulf amidst a bloody red rain
And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screaming pain.
The reason that they killed him there, and I'm sure it ain't no lie,
Was just for the fun of killin' him and to watch him slowly die.

And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial,
Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till.
But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime,
And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind.

I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see
The smiling brothers walkin' down the courthouse stairs.
For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free,
While Emmett's body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea.

If you can't speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that's so unjust,
Your eyes are filled with dead men's dirt, your mind is filled with dust.
Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your blood it must refuse to flow,
For you let this human race fall down so God-awful low!

This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man
That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan.
But if all of us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give,
We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live.

Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

Monday, June 27, 2005

In the Grip

How do they find out that my life is total chaos? Who sends them swooping in from the blue to pick me up and shake me and make me feel strange and unsettled and nervous and happy all at once?

I am busy picking up the pieces and moving on in a new place and the last thing I need is to be getting that look from across the room. You know the one, where they look at you then see you looking then look away and look back when they think you won't see them but you do. And this goes on for a while until one of you goes up to the other and stares at the floor, looks at anything but that person who sees right through you who is standing right in front of you consuming you with his eyes.

You feel this tension, it is real and it is palpable and it is scary. You have connected and it is thrilling and terrifying because you no longer have any secrets. You are open and vulnerable and your insides are visible like one of those anatomy class models from grade school. You are angry and sad and hot and cold and shy and overbearing -- and you are frightened of how intense it all has become so fast from nowhere.

I don't need this now, I don't want it and didn't ask for it and it came and landed on my shoulder not like a butterfly but like a vulture with desperate, clingy claws that will not let go.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Chicks Wanna Rock

Chicks dig boys who rock.

This is one of the oldest truisms in rock’n’roll music, and yet it is still so hard for guys to understand. I mean, there they are up on stage wailing their guts out in those tight jeans, the sweat running down their chests making their t-shirts cling suggestively, eyes closed, cradling those guitars like they were women…

I mean, c’mon. To separate sex from rock’n’roll…hell, what do you think the word means? So why is it that I can’t love the music and the musicians without accusations of hormonal lunacy? I am a 40-something year-old woman—dammit, I am a hormonally-charged lunatic! And what, might I ask, is wrong with that? Have you ever seen a teenage boy’s bedroom (or the files/photos he has secretly saved on his PC)? Really, now, the hypocrisy.

This is not to say I don’t appreciate the musicianship, the craft, the lyrics, the style. I love Paul Westerberg for his mind as much as his body—after all, it’s the mind that came up with those amazing words and melodies that haunt my soul. So don’t ever deign to question my seriousness about this music and what it means to me. But, that being said…

I once wrote about boys with guitars, and I stand by my story. Removing sex from music is like removing the engine from a car—all machinery and no power…So gimme a break, will ya, fellas? ‘Cos it’s only boys and rock’n’roll…and I like it.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Hypocrisy 101

I wanna know:

-why is it ok for men to chase women, but not for women to chase men?

-why is it ok for older men to be with younger women, but not ok for older women to be with younger men?

-why it is that when men have strong opinions it's considered intellectual, but when women have them it's considered bitchy?

-who made the rule that if women don't have children they are "unfulfilled"?

-who made the rule that women aren't supposed to understand cars, sports, math or politics

-who made the rule that women who are over 40 are disposable?

If I chase guys, look at younger men, have strong opinions, am childless, drive a stick shift and know how to check the oil, understand soccer, football, baseball, hockey and basketball, enjoy algebra and can talk politics with the best of them and AM STILL HERE...

What am I? Cause I sure as hell can't be a woman...

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Bill of Rights

Because we all need to read it once in a while. And because our "elected" officials at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue seem to have forgotten what it says:

Amendment. 1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment. 11. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment. 111. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment. 1V. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affi rmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment. V. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same off ence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment.V1. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment. V11. In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment. V111. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment. 1X. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment. X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

It's our country people. Remember that on July 4th when you wave (burn) that flag...

'Pod People

I am one of those people who don’t own an iPod, part of a shrinking majority, I’m afraid. Why don’t I have one? Well, part of it is my innate tendency to go against the grain, to do the opposite of what everyone else does “just because.” The more people say how great something is, the more I want to run for the hills. Just part of my makeup, I guess.

Part of it is laziness, too—do I really want to spend hours uploading every one of the literally hundreds of CDs that I own and then loading them onto that pesky little device? And do I want to eat up my computer’s memory (and yes, I know all about external hard drives and such) with all these damn music files?

But there are two really good fundamental reasons why I don’t have one yet. One: do I really need to carry my entire CD collection around with me wherever I go? Do I need music 24/7? And two: when, where and how will I hear new music if I am constantly plugged into a little gadget that feeds me stuff I already know about?

Let’s take the first question first. Why on earth do I—does anyone—need his or her entire music collection on their person at all times? Are you planning on being trapped on a desert island in the near future? There is such thing as too much of a good thing, after all. And furthermore, speaking for myself, I find that it detracts from my daily experience to be shut off from the aural world when I’m out and about. I rather enjoy looking at people, soaking up the sounds of the city, hearing parts of conversations (well sometimes), birds singing, babies crying, etc. I don’t like to be cut off from the world by my CD collection. Yes, there are times when you need to be cut off, but all the time? It’s part of a writer’s job to observe the world, and it’s hard to do that with the Sex Pistols throbbing in your brain. Besides which, I think it’s kind of dangerous to not be able to hear what’s going on around you when you’re out walking, especially if you’re a woman. But maybe that’s just my urban paranoia.

Second (and more important in my humble opinion), how am I going to hear new music (not to mention talk radio!) if I am constantly plugged into my own CD collection? After all, iPods can only carry music we already own; as of yet they have no radio function. So, gone are the moments of amazing discovery—the times when you get that jolt of electricity from hearing something really cool, and knowing that others are getting that same jolt at exactly the same time. Music is a much more diversified, private, specialized thing now, and that’s too bad. I wanna hear that great AC/DC song for the first time on my car radio at full blast with the wind blowing in my hair and the sun shining on my face while I’m driving by myself on the first day of summer, knowing that somewhere out there, there are other kids who are annoying their parents by turning the volume up to eleven, and maybe somewhere there is a sad kid who doesn’t feel so alone now...I don’t want a sonic blast from Down Under when I’m sitting in my boring little apartment downloading at 2 a.m. in a dark, lonely room. Music is to be shared, and file sharing does that. But it’s just not the same. Besides, I don’t have time to sift through all that music—er, files—and figure out what I need to hear. That’s what good DJs do—they share the music they love with us, and more importantly, they give it context and meaning. They are our best friends; they educate us about life.

I know I am not alone when I say I miss radio the way it used to be. The growth of satellite networks Sirius and XM tells me I am not alone. Yes, there are stations on these networks that cater to very specialized audiences—you know, the people who need to hear Dark Side of the Moon for the umpteenth time—but I believe that there are just as many (if not more) people who want to be challenged by music. Because human beings, though they crave the security of the known, also crave the mystery of the unknown. And that’s what is truly great about radio at its best.

So until those pesky people at Apple include a subscription to Sirius in their little ‘Pods (something about that name always reminds me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers), I’m out. Cos I need that jolt to stay alive…

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Downing Street Revisited

Missed the C-SPAN coverage? Get your DVD copy of the Downing Street forum at's yours for a $20 donation.

I watched the entire three hour, ten minute forum and found it absolutely riveting. We have them running scared now, folks--they are arguing the meaning of the word "fixed," and charging the journalist who released the original document with forgery. No one--repeat--NO ONE--has come forward from the British side to challenge these Downing Street papers, and the Bushies know it.

Keep the heat on: visit and stay informed!

Things I Like Vol. 25

Ten People/Places/Things That Rock My World

1) The Stephanie Miller Show - coming to you on the Jones and Sirius Satellite Radio Networks
2) "Float Away With the Friday Night Gods" - Marah (live 2005 version)
3) Corona and lime - one is not enough
4) Margaritas, frozen or on the rocks - Patron or Cuervo only, baby!
5) CBGB, New York NY - save this historic landmark now!
6) The congressional "Out of Iraq" Caucus - it's about time!
7) My Depression - A Picture Book - Elizabeth Swados
8) Glaceau vitamin water - any flavor
9) Municipal Stadium, Hagerstown MD - the way baseball should be
10) The Washington Nationals, burning up the NL East!

Hero of the Week (tie): Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), organizer of the Downing Street Memo forum, Cindy Sheehan, Founder of Gold Star Mothers Against the War, Attorney Joseph Bonifaz of AND Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson -- the truth will not be silenced!

Villain of the Week: Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) - the spineless wonder of Capitol Hill

Blogcritics in the House

Just a brief note to announce that, the site where I edit the politics section, has been selected to be among the inaugural AlwaysOn and Technorati "Open Media 100" - the "power list" of bloggers, social networkers, tool smiths, and investors leading the "Open Media Revolution." This is apparently a pretty big deal as these things go.

See link below for story. (Not that I had anything to do with it...) makes the AlwaysOn and Technorati "Open Media 100"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Philadelphia Story

Today in Philadelphia, Miss., a great wrong was rectified--somewhat. Though Klansmen Edgar Ray Killen was only convicted on a manslaughter charge and not the more appropriate charge of first degree murder (which in this case was applicable under Mississippi law), the families of slain civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner and James Chaney may now gain some measure of satisfaction that both the state of Mississippi and the country at large have finally acknowledged their complicity in the racial terrorism of the past.

The sins of the past can never be erased, however; we can't bring those young men back, nor can we compensate their families for all the pain and suffering which their deaths caused. We can, however, seek to bring about the more just society toward which they were working. While we worry about foreign terrorist threats that seem to exist only in the imaginations of opportunistic fear-mongers, there is real terror happening in this country: the terror of hunger and homelessness and disease that exists both in our inner cities and rural hamlets, on the streets and behind closed doors. Poverty is real, unemployment and hopelessness and despair are real. There is physical and emotional violence being done to the weakest and most needy of our society every single day. The true terrorist threat is not from a bomb or a virus; it is the harm we as a country do to ourselves when we look the other way.

So let the souls of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney rest in peace tonight, but let us not give up their fight for the beloved community of which Dr. King dreamed. We owe them that as surely as we owed them today's verdict.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity..
-----Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fuck and Run

And now ladies and gentlemen, just 'cause that's how I feel right now, some Liz Phair for you:

Fuck and Run

I woke up alarmed
I didn't know where I was at first
Just that I woke up in your arms
And almost immediately I felt sorry
'Cause I didn't think this would happen again
No matter what I could do or say
Just that I didn't think this would happen again
With or without my best intentions, and
What ever happened to a boyfriend
The kind of guy who tries to win you over, and
What ever happened to a boyfriend
The kind of guy who makes love cause he's in it, and

I want a boyfriend
I want a boyfriend
I want all that stupid old shit
Like letters and sodas
Letters and sodas

You got up out of bed
You said you had a lot of work to do
But I heard the rest in your head
And almost immediately I felt sorry
'Cause I didn't think this would happen again
No matter what I could do or say
Just that I didn't think this would happen again
With or without my best intentions, and

I want a boyfriend
I want a boyfriend
I want all that stupid old shit
Like letters and sodas
Letters and sodas

I can feel it in my bones
I'm gonna spend another year alone
It's fuck and run
Fuck and run
Even when I was seventeen
Fuck and run
Fuck and run
Even when I was twelve

You almost felt bad
You said that I should call you up but
I knew much better than that
And almost immediately I felt sorry
'Cause I didn't think this would happen again
No matter what I could do or say
Just that I didn't think this would happen again
With or without my best intentions

And I can feel it in my bones
I'm gonna spend my whole life alone
It's fuck and run
Fuck and run
Even when I was seventeen
Fuck and run
Fuck and run
Even when I was twelve

Copyright Liz Phair, 1993

Aw fuck it, sometimes I just wish I was a guy.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Downing St. Rally

This man is my hero. After a long day of emotional testimony in a cramped basement room, he came to rally the troops. Rock on, Brother John!

Sisters are doin' it for themselves...Rep. Maxine Waters and friends in full effect!

Photos courtesy

Don't forget to watch the replay of yesterday's forum on C-SPAN 2 at 8 p.m.


Let America Be America Again

Today, in honor of the upcoming Juneteenth holiday, and in tribute to the heroic John Conyers, I am turning things over to poetry. Mr. Hughes, are you out there?

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Tipping Point - 6/16/05

"This date [June 16, 2005] is a turning point in history."
---Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder, Code Pink

Today we reached the tipping point.

Today, when we rallied for peace and justice and accountability in the shadow of the White House, when the fearless Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) knocked on its door to deliver his petition--a petition demanding an explanation of the facts surrounding the Downing Street Memo (and one that has been signed by over 560,000 people), when he held a forum on that same memo in a shabby little room because the majority party childishly denied him use of House property (property that we the taxpayers pay for and which belongs to us), when representatives of a growing movement stood across from the White House in the brilliant sunshine of Lafayette Park and demanded accountability from the Bush administration--today we have tipped the balance.

There on the lawn, as a stiff breeze rustled through the trees and buffeted the flags atop the White House, we celebrated the beginning of the end of the Bush era. It was hard not to get goosebumps; sometimes you just know when something big is afoot, when the tide has turned. Today, you could feel it in your bones.

There is blood in the water now. When high ranking State Department officials resign their positions in protest, when both Democrats and Republicans sign a resolution demanding a time frame for troop withdrawal from Iraq, when 42 angry congresspeople led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) form a "Get Out of Iraq" Caucus, when the parents of servicepeople killed in Iraq form an antiwar organization, when the president receives a letter signed by 89 members of congress asking whether the allegations of the infamous British memo are true--when Tom Hayden shows up--well, it is safe to say something deep and profound and powerful has changed.

An overjoyed Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, told us this afternoon that justice for the dead and maimed (and for us all) was finally coming. As she stood there relating to us how this was the happiest day of her life since her son Casey had been killed in Iraq over a year ago, a knot of press buzzed around the White House gate, jockeying for position so they could witness Rep. Conyers and his delegation as they strode proudly toward them to deliver his historic petition to the Executive Mansion. It was a goosebump moment, and it was unforgettable.

You don't always get to be there when history happens, and even when you do, you don't always recognize it when you see it. But today, as representatives of a diverse coalition of both activists and ordinary people gathered to hold the Bush White House accountable for its criminal lies and subterfuge, and for trampling our very Constitution, the feeling was unmistakable. It was the Beginning of the End of the Bush Era, and we were there. We the people had spoken truth to power, and we weren't just witnessing history, we were making it.



Please visit Rep. Waters' website for further information on the "Out of Iraq" Caucus as it becomes available. And be sure and thank the 42 members (and counting) of the caucus for standing up to the Bush administration's Big Lie. They did something unprecedented today, and they deserve our support.

Also deserving of our moral and financial support are the following organizations which represent just a fraction of the hundreds that comprise the After Downing Street coalition. They are on the front lines doing the people's work every day, and for that we thank them:

Code Pink
Gold Star Families for Peace
Military Families Against the War
Progressive Democrats of America
Veterans for Peace

The Conyers forum was carried on C-SPAN 3 today after an outraged public demanded media coverage. It will be rebroadcast on C-SPAN 2 tomorrow (Friday June 17) at 8 p.m., and can also be viewed at a variety of Internet sources including C-SPAN online.

I Want Them Back

Sometimes you just get angry. There are things that happen in your life that you can't control, both bad and good, that's a given. But some days I just feel like I have been robbed, like things have been taken from me and I am impotent with rage and I want them back.

I want that year back, the one I spent being sick with cancer and having surgery twice and I was in a scary car accident. The one in which I had endless tests and frightening after effects and multiple other health ailments and moved to a new state and couldn't find a job and was treated cruelly by my boyfriend's parents and ended up with a job that I hated.

I want the time back from all those other crappy jobs I took after that because I was sad and scared and I hated myself.

I want that time back, the semester in college when I suffered incapacitating depression and could barely get out of bed for six months. I want all those months of all those other depressions back, too.

I want that year back, the one in high school when I was angry and miserable and facing the ugly, bitter dissolution of my parents' marriage virtually alone.

I want those two years back, the time in middle school when my father had life-threatening surgery and was in a rehab hospital because that surgery went awry, and my mother traveled to out of town to visit him every other weekend, and I had to babysit my younger sister and brother.

I want that time back that I spent hating myself and settling for less and ending up with nothing.

I want those children I never had even if I probably shouldn't have had them for several very good reasons.

I want all of it back. We all want stuff back. But just because you are suddenly middle aged and you think you have somehow deserved better than life has given you--that you are now owed a second chance because you can't go back and fix things--that doesn't mean you will get one. The bad decisions you make and then have to live with, the random shit that just happens--that stuff is immutable. All you can do is keep looking relentlessly forward, push the past out of your mind and move on and do the best you can. It may not always be good enough, but you have to try.

It could be worse; hell, it could always be worse. I should be happy I'm still here, I guess, happy with what I have and what I have been given and what I have learned from it all, and with the friends and family that I am fortunate to have around me.

But some days I can't help it; I see the time I have wasted, the opportunities I have squandered, the mistakes I have made--and I look and I see all the things that have been taken from me without asking, and I want them all back.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Path to War, Iraq Style

Anyone who has had difficulty following the ongoing story of the release of a series of astounding official documents from the British government regarding the buildup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq should check out this amazing timeline brought to us by the always excellent staff of The Raw Story. (For those of you not familiar with this website/gift from God, it is what Matt Drudge would be doing if he were a) a liberal and b) a real journalist. But back to the topic at hand.)

This is staggering stuff. That this kind of brazen manipulation and subterfuge is going on does not surprise me in the slightest--after all, I am a child of the Watergate era. What does surprise me is the utter complicity of the so-called mainstream media, and the failure of even one Republican in either the House or Senate to admit that the Emperor Has No Clothes. Hell, during Watergate, many of the guys running the show (Sen. Howard Baker, for example) were members of the same party as the president whose administration they were investigating. How ridiculous does this have to get before someone does something about all this up there on that Hill? How many more Iraqis and Americans have to die needlessly? When will someone, anyone finally be held accountable for this mess?

I shudder to think.


In the meantime, get informed and get involved:
After Downing Street
Code Pink - Women for Peace
International Answer
United for Peace & Justice


Today I'm going to talk about sex, otherwise known as the National Obsession. I mean, after all, we are all waiting with bated breath whilst the verdict in the Michael Jackson trial is being decided. To say that America has sex on the brain is not hyperbole, it is fact.

An interesting thing happens to us female types when we reach a Certain Age; we hit our so-called sexual peak. After years of being mystified by men's sexual monomania, this mania suddenly overtakes us, too. Out of nowhere, we become like fourteen-year-old boys; thinking about it all the time, obsessing, looking lustfully at the opposite sex like we never have before.

Pathetic thing is, of course, that men our age are generally not interested; they are busy dealing with their own mid-life crises, as well as career and personal issues. They generally are looking to the sweet young things for satisfaction of a physical nature, in desperate attempts to recapture lost youth. Turnabout being fair play, however, we Women of a Certain Age also look to the twenty-somethings for satisfaction, and often find them quite amenable to suddenly finding a Mrs. Robinson in their lives.

Where does all this lead? Certainly not to emotional satisfaction; that is an entirely different matter for both genders. Generally speaking, we both need to make an intellectual connection for the emotions to be involved. Which brings me to my situation. Being the open and chatty sort, I pretty much tell people as much about me as they can stand to hear without any consideration of the effect it may have, or of the potential consequences. That tends to be pretty scary to some people, even overwhelming. But that's how I am--all or nothing. Can't help it. Combine this with the circumstances described above and you have a pretty big mess on your hands. To say that I am frustrated, starved, obsessed, maniacal is just plain understating the case.

So when they look, I look back. When they come up to chat, I listen. When they offer to buy me drinks and hear my story, I am drawn in. But though I am "attractive" and "enticing," I am also intense, smothering, overwhelming. I am Too Much To Handle. Great to look at, fun to be with, but Impossible. Don't come too close or you will be sucked into the vortex. (Must be a sign hanging over my head.)

So...I have lots of "friends," and nothing else. Passion is too scary for most people; it involves both emotional and physical connection, and ultimately, commitment. I have felt that passion of late, however, and I burn with it yet. It is hot, it is intense, and it is unsatisfied.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

On the Road Again

Sometimes being on the road, playing the role of troubadour or itinerant journalist or wandering traveler isn’t running away; sometimes it’s who you are.

Ask Bob Dylan. He’s been on the road virtually non-stop for years, yet no one dares to ask him who or what he’s running from, or even if he’s running at all. (Well, almost no one.) Everything he does is unquestioned, unquestionable. That’s just Bob, that’s who he is. Yes, he is playing some odd venues with some unusual cohorts. But when you think about it, what else should he be doing with himself? And why should we even care?

There is a great piece by Bill Wyman in today’s New York Times in which he attempts to place Dylan in the tradition of his heroes Big Joe Williams, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Lightnin' Hopkins: people who refused to give their audiences what they wanted to hear, who challenged, upset the balance, who laid it on the line every night because it was both their job and their calling; it was who they were. Similarly, Wyman tells us that Dylan sees live performance as his mode of expression, his art. He prods and cajoles fellow artists who don’t see things the same way, famously telling Patti Smith to get her butt back on the road after 16 years. “He told me I should share what I do with the people,” as Smith is quoted in the piece. Dylan biographer Jonathan Cott puts it best later in the article: "I've thought about it, and I know it's a cliché, but I think he finds himself on the road - 'finds' in both senses of the word. I think for him the goal is the road."

What, indeed, is wrong with that? Perhaps there are some people whose minds just work differently, people who are never truly at peace, who constantly need to move on, see new things, confront new challenges. For them, it is the standing still that does not compute; it is the failure to question, to dig deeper, to move that seems like running away. To them, the people who settle down are, in a sense, hibernating, wrapping themselves in cocoons so as to not face things.

So there are, in essence, two types of people: those who restlessly travel life’s highways, and those who find peace in its quiet corners. And fundamentally, neither of these is the “right” way to be. What’s important, ultimately, is the connections one makes throughout life: friends, family, lovers…

Only connect, said Forster, only connect…

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind,
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

----Bob Dylan, “Mr. Tambourine Man” Copyright © 1964; renewed 1992 Special Rider Music

Saturday, June 11, 2005


But I've left behind the man I used to be
Everything he believed and all that belonged to me…

Now I don't know who to trust and I don't know what I can believe
They say they want to help me but with the stuff they keep on sayin'
I think those guys just wanna keep on playin'
Roulette with my life….

From "Roulette" Copyright © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)

What do you do when everything and everybody lets you down? Where do you go? In whom do you put your trust? These are hard questions to answer, especially when everyone has his or her own separate agendas. How do you see that? How do you see who is trustworthy, and who is just out to take what can be taken? It’s hard being that solitary figure in the darkness on the edge of town, stripped of everything that was once important, but knowing that there are certain things that you will never ever give up on no matter what, that no one and nothing can take away from you no matter how hard they try. Where do you turn?

The answer is you turn to yourself, you rely on no one but yourself because you are the only one who looks out for you and no one else. You can never really know another person, never know what is going on inside someone else’s head. You can know someone for years and this person can commit the worst sort of heinous acts against you seemingly from nowhere. It’s hard not to trust people, especially when your nature is to trust. It’s hard not to be open and honest and forthright; you want to trust other people because that’s how human relationships are formed. But in the end, you can’t. And that’s too bad. Because it's a hard, cruel world out there, and even harder to live in it alone.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Things I Like Vol. 24

Ten People/Places/Things That Rock My World:

1) Drew Barrymore
2) The Right Stuff - film dir. by Philip Kaufman - ladies and gentlemen, America's Mercury Astronauts!
3) Georgia Hard - Robbie Fulks
4) Three of Cups restaurant, New York NY
5) Bill Maher Live in DC, 6/8/05 - disorder in the house
6) Shattered Glass - film dir. by Billy Ray
7) The Starland Ballroom, Sayreville NJ
8) "Brooklyn" - Ryan Adams (live cover version)
9) "It Makes No Difference" - the Band
10) Seville Diner, East Brunswick NJ

Hero of the Week: (tie) Howard Dean, for speaking the truth about the Republican Party and its true agenda and refusing to back down and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), for keeping the Downing Street Memo on the front burner

Villains of the Week: The members of the House Ethics Committee, for once again failing to deal with the festering issues surrounding Tom DeLay's numerous ethics violations, as well as those of several other key members

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

You Suck

You suck me dry. I have had my insides pulled out and trampled upon, I have been picked apart by long black beaks. I have been gazed upon with lust and jealousy and wanting and disdain, and I have had everything that I am exposed from the inside out.

I have learned to love, felt devotion and passion and wanton abandon, and have had it pulled out of me slowly and painfully and a piece at a time like the spines of a cactus, until there is nothing left but the tiny little holes that ooze pain and want and need. The things that brought me joy and freedom and peace now fill me with dread and gloom and emptiness.

I have brought you gifts, offered the best parts of myself freely and without question. I give and I am open and warm and welcoming, I am embracing and exposed, without secrets. And for that I am played like a mariachi’s guitar, dragged along in a dirty suitcase along endless, nameless roads, from fine restaurants to filthy whorehouses, my strings pulled and twisted until they can offer up no music, they snap like brittle tree branches and are torn from their instrument and cast into a corner to be overlooked, stepped upon, until they shrivel and fray and are gone.

I am standing alone in the middle of a long dusty highway with nothing visible in either direction, the hot wind blowing up my nose so I can’t breathe. There is no sweat, there are no tears. I am empty and vacant and pointless, and I have been sucked dry.