248. Unrequited Political Ear Sex

I know. I know. It’s not what you’re thinking. Elections are next week and the awful, biased, insulting political ads are going full bore on television and radio. It’s all slick talk like a slimy pick up artist at a slimy bar hitting on easy but slimy marks somewhere between happy hour and closing time. All the voters get prettier at closing time, dontcha know?  Heavy humid words are being delivered with great passion to waxed and unwaxed ears alike throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Even tired nail technicians watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians” are being selectively hit on….

Click. Channel 08.

Slimy Slim, in a low sultry voice: “Hi there, Gorgeous. You don’t know me or who paid for this commercial, but Tom Wolf wants to take your guns away and raise your  taxes, Honey Bun.”

Bimbo: “Who’s Tom Wolf?”

Slimy Slim: “He’s the Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, you sexy thing. You’re like a voluptuous hoot owl when you say Who.”

Bimbo: “I don’t know what that V word means, but do we got a Governor?”

Slimy Slim: “Oh yeah. He’s my best friend and boss, Tom Corbett. You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania with Tom Corbett. You bet, Corbett.  Like a Corvette. He’s our man. If Tom Corbett can’t do it, no one can do it, you better believe it. He’s like a Chevy truck in a Viagra commercial… unstoppable old horsepower with a hemi.”

Bimbo: “That’s so cute how you turned around like a cheerleader. Ya know, I was a cheerleader back in the day in middle school. I never made it through high school, though. That New Math did me in.”

Slimy Slim: “That’s what I’m talking about, Pretty Eyes. Tom Wolf wants to bring in educational strategies that were used in Godless communist countries like New Math for a New World Order. In his geography book Iran and North Korea are tinted blue, like a subliminal message that they are trust worthy, ya know, like true blue? It’s nothing less than a left wing liberal conspiracy for one world Democrat demagogue domination.”

Bimbo: “Uh huh… I could eat some wings about now. Maybe I’ll get some subliminal cheese sauce with my regular ranch dip. Is it kinda tangy like a lime?”

Slimy Slim:  ” No, Bims. But Tom Corbett has a plan. He’s gonna remove all bad countries from his geography book and shrink the world back to pre World War II borders, return us to the gold standard, leave the U.N., and repeal all unnecessary taxes while eliminating the government deficit of 19  trillion dollars.”

Bimbo: “Oh, wow!! That’s like a lot of money. I wish I had some money. Wanna buy me a drink, Handsome?”

Slimy Slim: “Sure. Bartender!  Two margaritas, separate bills. Thanks.”

Bimbo: “Uh, that’s no way to treat a lady, Slim! You were supposta pay for mine too. Don’t you know nuthin’?”

Slimy Slim: “But Bims, it’s a cruel world and everyone must pull her own weight. Now I’m not saying I need to know how much you weigh, but Tom Corbett will cut corporate taxes and regulations that keep us all overly safe. He thinks all Pennsylvanians need to buck up and eat venison, support Penn State, marry only humans, put prayer back in school, and arm our underfunded school students with NRA approved high capacity handguns.”

Bimbo: ” I had a couple of kids once. The county took’m from me for barhopping too much while they were supposta be sleeping. I’ll never understand that. Ya think Tom can get me my kids back? The one was a girl named Kitty. The other one was a boy named Tiger. Oh we had us some good times, we did.”

Slimy Slim: “Well, Sure, Bims. With your dedicated vote, just mark the straight Republican line, I can guarantee Tom will apply the full force of the state government to your case like a hurricane whoopin’ Jim Cantore’s butt. He won’t rest until your kittens are returned to the mother cat and their litter box. No more welfare or useless things like social services and needless over-education of the electorate will stand in his way. ”

Bimbo: “Oh that’s so sweet, Slim. Um, how do you vote?”

Slimy Slim:”What do you mean? You, you just go to the designated polling place and sign the book and then mark a ballot.”

Bimbo: “Well, sure. You make it sound all easy and everythin’, but I aint never done it. Plus I lost my license for my fifth DUI, for which I still owe a pile of fines and lawyers fees. So I’ll need a ride. Do I got to bring my own pencil?”

Slimy Slim: “You mean you’re not registered?”

Bimbo: “That’s right. I’m whatcha call a political virgin, Slim. Zat make your motor rev up,huh?”

Slimy Slim: “No, this can’t be. I-I-I can’t believe I spent the last five minutes with a nonvoter cretin who can’t even bother to register. It’s too late to register because we wanted to weed out your kind from voting at the last minute. Oh the Horror!”

Bimbo: “Oh, so you’re not really interested in me as a person, huh? You just want a uptown voter chick for a girlfriend. I see. Any old slutty cretin voter will do for you. Zat it? I thought we had something goin’ on here, Mr. Cheapskate political windbag. Ya’ll ought to be votin’ for wind power farms cuz you got one right here when you open your pie hole.”

Slimy Slim: “Oh sure, talk your trailer park trash talk, Bims. You know what you are?  A loser. We don’t need stupid dyed blonde bimbos like you in Harrisburg.”

Bimbo:”Cuz ya’ll got that market covered, right?” Click.

Channel 27.

Bozo Bob: “Hi Beautiful. Heaven must be missin’ an angel… Tom Wolf wants you to have free cable t.v. and green energy made from kale grown in Pennsylvania’s abandoned coal mines,  but Tom Corbett won’t poop or get off the pot.”

Bimbo: “No, not another slime ball!!”

Bozo Bob: “Wait, don’t make me pay for another man’s sins. I’ll buy you a drink. This could be love. I’m for gay marriage, medical marijuana, and the Equal Rights Amend… ”

Click.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

247. Inversions

Invert–verb (used with object)

1. to turn upside down.
2. to reverse in position, order, direction, or relationship.
3. to turn or change to the opposite or contrary, as in nature, bearing, or effect:

to invert a process.
4. to turn inward or back upon itself.
5. to turn inside out.
 

It’s 76 degrees Fahrenheit on the second floor of my office building here on October 27.  Cold Canadian air is due in a few days. Like a bookie I owe betting losses to, he’s coming in around the freezing point on Friday night to hurt me and force me to comply with his cruel will.  Frost will settle in by Friday night, and I’m not talking about poets. I can feel it like dogs can sense earthquakes before humans do. It’s coming with an urgency that will shiver our Mid Atlantic butts into winter jackets and coats and corduroy pants, uttering “Ahhhs” as we find our way into warm dry interiors. You know, at first flip flops were summer sandals before they became political reversals.  When folks change positions, we say they flip-flopped. This sudden temperature inversion will be a meteorological flip flop of seasons in a week. You don’t argue with cold fronts or tornadoes or floods or tsunamis. You just surf them out as best you can and hopefully you survive. You just have to turn on the furnace and bunker down, my downy blog peeps. We’ll get through this winter with good books and music, warm conversations over hot cider and coffee, and hearty meals with happy dogs curled underneath the dinner table. That sounds delightful and yet doubtful at the same time.

And this weekend we play with time again, turning our clocks back an hour. Why? Because Congress thinks it’s a great idea for the economy. Think about that for a minute:  the most untrustworthy weasels in the country set the clocks twice a year and tell us it’s a good, no, a great idea. Originally this time change was designed to help farmers maximize available daylight. Uh, how many farmers do you know? The ones I see working during harvest time drive combines and trucks with headlights. Hmmm. Trust Congress?

 Trust me. Don’t they tell the truth when they’re not lying? So do mimes.

 

It’s funny how screwed up people get as the seasons change. This morning I went to a supervision meeting at 9 a.m. No one was home. It started without me at 9:30 a.m.  But I’d given up on the meeting when one of the guys left a voicemail for me telling me he was going to be 20 minutes late to my house, where the meeting was not. I then got settled at my office when the meeting host called me to see if I was on my way to his house. I told him I was there already at 9; no one answered the doorbell so I left. He said he got to his own house at 9:06. (What do you do? Laugh, cry, scream. )  I chuckled and sauntered off to the coffee shop for a longer and deeper conversation with Joel, the resident decaffeinated attorney. He asked me to consider how many other appointments and dates I’d missed in my life,  which was not reassuring nor was it meant to be. (Attorneys live in the land of potential liability and what ifs.) I told him I did not care, that it all comes out in the wash eventually. But he insisted that I could have been famous if I had met my destiny earlier and not missed the weekly opportunity meetings along the way. I sensed he was massaging me to ask for a contribution to one of the many charities he serves.  Like an inverted Bill Clinton, he said, “I feel your pain.”  I said, “Billy Joel, that’s my knee.” Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, my 7p.m. appointment had already come to my office at 7a.m. God only knows what other appointments were missed or dyslexically rearranged by 10 a.m. on this, the last warm day of fall. I tell you, it’s coming like a new born glacier calf flailing down a fractured fjord.

I can feel it coming unglued. Last night my Washington Redskins beat the overrated Dallas Cowboys in the JerryDome on Monday Night Football, in overtime no less. It was awesome to see a beat up third string team defeat a highly touted first string team on their own field. Oh the inversions are everywhere I looked. You can’t pick out winners and losers, blog casters; you just have to play the game or let the weather do what it must.  Let me insert a slide to demonstrate how irrational inversions seem to be.

 You see, it makes little sense for warm air, which is lighter and should rise, to trap cool air beneath it and keep Mr. Sunshine hidden. However, if you fumble the ball or throw interceptions, Mr. Romo, an inversion occurs and the Red team marches the other way against the Blue team. Even in the colossal spectacle of the JerryDome, the modern day gladiatorial Cowboys were defeated by the rag tag, politically incorrect Redskins and their third string quarterback. Ooooh, that stings.
And now the crescendo inversion. I found a Peruvian 50 centimos coin in my pocket change last week as I fed the evil coin eating parking meter. It’s the same size as a U.S. quarter and that’s what I  thought it was until I noticed the different details. Huh. It appears to be silver like U.S. coins used to be. I’m keeping it for good luck. Perhaps I’ll drill it and make a necklace out of it. Chic inversion that.
So, don’t forget to turn your clocks back an hour this Sunday at 2:00 a.m. Put an extra blanket on your bed. Never trust lawyers,  politicians or Jerry Jones. And may you find your own lucky charm this winter. Till next spring, invert something.

 

246. MORE AMORE

It had to happen. All good things must come to an end, and here we are again, home in Turtle Town, south central PA. It’s not a bad gig, mind you. I  have a good life, a great family, work I enjoy, The Coffee Nation Summit, a solid church family, friends, purpose and meaning. So what’s the rub? Well, my mind keeps savoring those Tucson memories while our Mid-Atlantic sucky weather presents its cold, wet, ugly smeary face against my window panes like a slobbering Rottweiler puppy. I suppose it’s the same sort of vibration that nudged the settled folks of the American Colonies to ramble over the Appalachian Mountains way back when. Curiosity, maybe?  A growth spurt? Not boredom, really, as much as a palpable desire for change moves in me. “You know this is good. I wonder if there is something even better; not perfect, mind you, just more.”

One of my granddaughter Leah’s first words that she learned to demonstrate with sign language was “more”.  She put her little hands together and eventually said the word “more” for food she liked at first. Now it’s for books to be read again or songs to be sung again or floppy falls on an air mattress after singing “No more monkeys jumpin’ on the bed”.  She calls for more when she’s delighted, and I suppose that is what her grandfather (me) is doing. I’d like more warmth, more sun, more empty space, more wild edge, which is what I experienced in Arizona, and more Little Leah.  This East Coast life is good, but I think I’ve found better… for me, bloglets. I am speaking strictly for me. Unlike a toddler, I can count the high cost of pursuing more then, by employing less now. Streamline, offload, get lean for the journey. Sell and divest. (Forget Bill Clinton, “INHAAAAALE”. Deep breath here as I consider this late middle age bungee jump.) The thrill of diving freely is ironically tethered to the securely anchored diving board from which I bounce. That’s nonnegotiable responsibility. It’s faith. You can’t launch effectively from an unstable place. So I guess the implication is that because we have firm enough ground beneath us here, we can roll out west and thrive once again.

“Amore” means love in Italian. It was the title of one of Dean Martin’s three most popular songs. “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.” Well, I’m signing up for more amore.  That’s it. You know, if you’ve been to a decent concert, at the end of a good show the crowd often chants, “More, more, more” until the sheepish performers return and play their encore. So “more” seems to produce good results, depending on circumstances and context. Is it selfish? I guess so, but we don’t typically think of explorers or adventurers as merely selfish folks.  Or the guy who takes a pay cut to get to a team that contends for a world championship…he’s risking a bunch for a higher valued thing… the mountaintop experience. “Sir Edmund Hillary, you sir, are an egotistical cad!!” No, he climbed Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen, my blog sherpas, in 1953. That’s impressive. He followed his heart’s desire after counting the costs and then paying them in full. The man was a beekeeper in New Zealand, for goodness sake. That’s  a pretty humble occupation and an unlikely though stable place from which to launch.

Every so often my wife and I have the deep meaning conversation about why we’re married and what’s in our future. It’s easier to explain past known reasons for getting married and staying married than it is to project the same into the unknown future. Fortunately, so far we have had a similar enough view and set of expectations of our future that it’s still one shared future script written like our kids’ names in chalk on the driveway. What do we want? More amore. Not the pizza pie and moony variety of love, but a mature, settled, wise love that can weather decline, or cancer, or dementia and ultimately death. In a sense we  have crossed the Appalachians and have rolled across the plains in our marriage. There have been many rivers and rough spots. Places to celebrate and to forget. But we’re determined to keep rolling.

Get this: in Arizona you get a driver’s license once, and it’s good for 50 years. Not sure why, but my daughter does not have to get hers renewed until 2060. Which freaks the TSA folks out at the airports not located in Arizona. “This can’t be right.” Just one more reason to live there– you’ll always be 26 on your license if you go now. If I get one soon, I won’t need another till I’m 108 years old. Now that’s what I call a good deal. I’ll be a centenarian though I don’t think I’ll check off the “organ donor” box. Who would want a hundred year old kidney? What’s that like?  A Honda with 300,000 miles on it? Then again, if it’s been cleaning happy blood for a century, it might be good enough for light local traffic. Beats dialysis anyway.

Ah, the closing thought? Let me defer to John Lennon’s “Mind Games” minus all the karmic wheel stuff…

“Yes is the answer and you know that for sure
Yes is surrender you got to let it go

Love is the answer and you know that for sure
Love is a flower you got to let it grow”.

More Amore, my dear fellow life travelers, as the waves of time roll over us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

245. Jackie Wilson said…

I remember Van Morrison’s song “Jackie Wilson said…” from way back in my life. I think  I  was 17 and bought his very blue tinted “Saint Dominic’s Preview” album. Loved it then and now. The sub title, “I’m in heaven when you smile”, is so simple and sweet. There’s just not that much more to it, folks.  The rest of the song is rhythm and rhyme and energy that makes your whole body move. I love the line, “And when you walk across the room, you make my heart go boom, boom, boom.”  Ahh yeah, it’s basic and vital, written by a young man for young folks. Ebullient. There’s a word for you, blogniks, to boil over with enthusiasm, to bubble. Van had that magic then and the humility to give credit where it was due.

Van scholars claim the song was a tribute to Jackie Wilson’s “Reet Petite”. “Gotta love you baby, knock me off my feet.” Do you know it?  Go ahead and Google it… “sheee’s aaaaaalright.” Another simple song with interesting vocal tricks and horns thrown in. A great beat with lots of emotional tingle and pop. Simple, uncontroversial stuff. No sex or drugs or politics, just cleverly articulated infatuated young male passion. That’s what Jackie Wilson said. What’s that got to do with anything?

Well, I’m back in Tucson again, visiting a very verbal granddaughter of 20 months. I had to get the calculator out to figure that I am 703 months old now. It’s been a blurry few days with her at the center of the blender. She whirls around in the living room singing  broken bits of “London Bridge is falling down” and “Ring around the Rosey”. So simple and reet petite. And when little Leah walks across the room, she makes my heart go boom, boom, boom. Let it all hang out.  There is no wonder why I’m in heaven when she smiles. Why is it that the wondrous joys of childhood are drained off as we become homogenized adults? And where do those heavy cream days go, my blogworshippers?  Do we make ice cream out of them that is served to God? Do we ever get to eat of that ambrosia again?

As  my wife and I think more concretely about relocating to Arizona, I keep looking at the landscape and lifestyle with flaming match heads of lust in my heart. I want it… the dependable sun, the flat valley, the dinosaur spine ridges on the east and west. This landscape whispers to me like no other. I love the beach, but I also know that I tire of the relentless surf and the ever changing windy weather. I love the mountains and valleys, but they are high maintenance that I am not interested in pursuing.  Here it’s still as a basking lizard and just as wild.  The other day as I biked alongside the Rillito River wash I watched a pair of coyotes wandering about. I called to them and they regarded me very lightly and went back to their foraging. It was 11:00 a.m. No worries. Later a wild dog sprinted out from under a low hanging mesquite tree as the coyotes approached it. No collar or leash on these canines just a few hundred yards from busy neighborhoods. I find that live edge of undomesticated animals living just outside the concrete walls to be thrilling. This environment has not been and will not be tamed. It can’t be. Like cultivating the moon, son. It ain’t happening.

Over the western ridge of Tucson is the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. What a jewel! The drive alone is worthy of filming as you meander across a 3,000 foot mountain gap called Gates Pass. We spent yesterday there under the brilliant October sun, which registered in the high 90’s. Still, it was glorious. Like the state flag that features red and yellow wedges of sunlight powering off a half sun, man, it just permeates you if you let it in. Walking around the various exhibits, I felt as if gravity were stronger somehow. Perhaps it’s the sun over-magnetizing you as you walk from javalinas to coyotes, from rattlesnakes to butterflies and hummingbirds. Maybe it’s that heavy cream re-surfacing from earliest childhood, wordlessly asserting itself, telling your old body to slow down and soak in this expiring moment.

The basic purity, the simplicity is hypnotic. This desert, early rock and roll, my toddler granddaughter. All good and unpolluted. I have seen the end of some lives already in my 58 years. I can see the end of mine, sort of. I know how much of it will turn out. And this awareness makes the moment sweeter, more poignant. Just for the heck of it I stopped and picked a prickle pear from a cactus this morning. Its invisible thorns were like thistles, but I could not see them with my sunglasses on in the bright sunlight. I could feel them in my fingers and thumb as I rubbed the fine hair defenses off the fruit. I tasted it for the simple reason that I wanted to know its flavor. Unspectacular but interesting. Maybe you can make wine out of such things. It was a childish thing to do and I reveled in it. Talking to a coyote is just as fanciful as tweeting with a hummingbird or grunting at a javalina. But it’s a natural reaction to raw beauty staring you eyeball to eyeball unblinking. Don’t miss this moment. Dance it out. Revel in the wonder of it all.

Jackie Wilson collapsed on stage while singing “Lonely Teardrops” in 1975. Trust me on this one. Don’t Wikipedia me behind my back, blogglers. He sang, “My heart is crying…” as his literal heart went into arrest mode. What a way to go. He lingered in a coma for nine more years, dying at age 49.  His time in the sun was long over. Mr. Excitement was dead. Sort of. Technically his wonderful voice lives on in his many recordings and we’ll all have to make do with that… what Jackie Wilson said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

244. Breathe

 

In– two, three, four.

When others get tight and breathe like rabbits–fast and short, I have an automatic response that I learned about twenty years ago. I breathe deeply, slowly, and methodically for my benefit and sympathetically for the other person. Maybe I always did it and just came to awareness then. Can’t be absolutely sure. I just know that deep breaths help me reset the tension needle lower on my side of any interpersonal equation. It’s a natural reaction to breathe deeply after one gets out of a messy situation by dodging real or imagined bullets.  “Whew!  The guy with the gun is  your husband? He missed me.” A deep breath reassures one’s body that you are alive and not leaking blood or air or other substances. It’s a systems check.

“The Enterprise is travel worthy. Warp nine, Scotty.”

“Aye, aye. Cap’n. Uh, Cap’n. I think Sulu is gay.”

“Scotty, everyone knows that. Get over it.”

“But I’m a Scotsman, Cap’n. I’ll need a wee bit of Scotch to wet me whistle.”

“Just breathe, Scotty.  And remember, Spock is asexual. And I have an abnormal attraction to Klingons, not the psychobilly  group from the 80’s either.”

Others might not like seeing you breathe this way, especially if they just shot some lead or fazers at you. It may appear to be dismissive or judgmental of the other, as if you are blowing them off, as if they are too high maintenance. Like they are Romulans even. And maybe that’s the fully oxygenated truth. However, what deep breathing actually does on the physiological level is to calm your fight or flight reaction, slow down breathing and pulse, open blood vessels, increase oxygen to your muscles and organs, and reduce sweating and adrenaline production. It’s one conscious act that impacts many unconscious or autonomic reactions.

When I was a teacher, the speech unit was always a challenge for my students. It was not unusual for kids to try to avoid their speech date by being absent. On more than one occasion I had a kid faint in mid speech because he or she  “forgot” to breathe. Actually their fear overrode their ability to think and remain upright. Adrenaline overrode balance, and vertigo kicked in to reset the system.

Episodes of vasovagal response are typically recurrent, and usually occur when the predisposed person is exposed to a specific trigger. Prior to losing consciousness, the individual frequently experiences early signs or symptoms such as lightheadedness, nausea, the feeling of being extremely hot or cold (accompanied by sweating), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), an uncomfortable feeling in the heart, fuzzy thoughts, confusion, a slight inability to speak/form words (sometimes combined with mild stuttering), weakness and visual disturbances such as lights seeming too bright, fuzzy or tunnel vision, black cloud-like spots in vision, and a feeling of nervousness can occur as well. The symptoms last for a few seconds before the loss of consciousness (if it is lost), which typically happens when the person is sitting up or standing. When sufferers pass out, they fall down (unless this is impeded) and, when in this position, effective blood flow to the brain is immediately restored, allowing the person to regain consciousness; if the person does not fall into a fully flat, supine position, and the head remains elevated above the trunk, a seizure may result from the blood’s inability to return quickly to the brain. Fainting occurs with the loss of oxygen to the brain.[4] (Wikipedia)

I wish I’d known all that back then. It could have been an object lesson on the value of oxygen for your brain and balance.

So, breathing deeply is a good insurance policy. It’s a strange thing that in our busy, stressful lives we sometimes “forget” to breathe or we get out of sync with our body’s natural needs. We are complicated creatures indeed. Folks who have panic attacks believe incorrectly that they cannot draw a full, deep breath. They convince themselves that they are having some sort of cardiac episode and head to the local Emergency Room for reassurance. It’s not unusual for the panicked heart to settle down in the hospital parking lot. “Oh thank God, we’re here.” And the symptoms recede.

During a panic attack you tend to over-breathe (hyperventilate). If you over-breathe you blow out too much carbon dioxide which changes the acidity in the blood. This can then cause more symptoms such as confusion and cramps, and make palpitations, dizziness, and pins and needles worse. This can make the attack seem even more frightening, and make you over-breathe even more, and so on. It can sometimes result in a faint. A panic attack usually lasts 5-10 minutes, but sometimes they come in waves for up to two hours. (Patient website.)

Occasionally when I am hunting I’ll hold my breath in order to heighten my hearing. Sitting completely still in a tree stand, I ‘ll hold my breath and strain my eyes and ears for any clue of an approaching deer. That’s a special occasion in a still December morning. Finally the exhale comes in steam. It takes a few more breaths to get the rhythm back to autopilot. It’s truly amazing when you consider how much work your brain does. Like right now it’s tracking an itch in the little toe of your right foot while simultaneously processing the music on your laptop as you read this post. Some actions can be postponed or ignored, but not breathing. It’s non negotiable.

So here are the take away bullet points. 1. Breathe or die. 2. Others may think you are a rude alien when you deep breathe in front of their frothing anxiety. 3. If you forget to breathe, you’ll likely faint and wind up on someone’s Facebook page with a snarky comment under your prostrate body, which could keep you from getting your first job after college. 4. Breathing is better than panic…but so is root canal surgery. 5. Deep breathing is free and easy to do. It’s the first and last thing you do in life.

243.billie holiday’s chillynching voice

 

Admit it: if you heard her on The Voice, you’d wonder how Billie Holiday got past security. Weak, thin, even post-nasal drippish. And yet haunting, tender, and forlorn. Ghostly. How to describe this oddly desirable quality?  It’s as if she started with a rich, deep red oil painted voice and then added paint thinner until a bloody vocal jellyfish floated to the surface of the Dead Sea . Plush red velvety tones are certainly nice and comforting, but Billie Holiday’s smokily transparent vocals always seemed to open up a tortured soul on the other side of a pane of glass, trying not so much to escape as to be witnessed. “Listen. Validate my anguish, my longing, my devastation. Don’t leave me.”  Her songs were like prepared slides you’d examine in biology class… “Homo sapiens in extremis”. If Neil Young were a Black woman torch singer without bushy sideburns, yeah, he’d be Billie Holiday. Just imagine Neil singing “All of Me, Southern Man, Why not take all of me? better keep your head”.

 

Hmmmm. Come to think of  it, why not a race relations remix from two tortured souls?

“Southern Man”

Southern man
better keep your head
Don’t forget
what your good book said
Southern change
gonna come at last
Now your crosses
are burning fast
Southern man
“Strange Fruit”

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees
I saw cotton
and I saw black
Tall white mansions
and little shacks.
Southern man
when will you
pay them back?
I heard screamin’
and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin’ flesh
Southern man
better keep your head
Don’t forget
what your good book said
Southern change
gonna come at last
Now your crosses
are burning fast
Southern man
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
Lily Belle,
your hair is golden brown
I’ve seen your black man
comin’ round
Swear by God
I’m gonna cut him down!
I heard screamin’
and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?
Well, that’s not a magic trick or someone playing possum. “Look at this stuff!” they cry out like belt sanders on stained wood. Don’t smooth it over with faint allusions and a lovely melody. No, make it brutally unforgettable because that’s what it was.  Cleanse the grotesque scar on the shoulder blade of American justice, where the whiplash ripped through sweaty flesh. Staunch the bloody welts around the ribcage of Christian decency. Our high school history books have had their eyes gouged out on this subject of summary justice. A million tongues didn’t need to be cut out to silence the public outcry that did not come. The crimes by themselves were horrendous enough, but the lack of any legal accountability still simmers in our collective consciousness. At least the Nazis had the Nuremburg trials. Have you ever heard of a lynching trial in U.S. history? There have been a few that were even more insulting to honesty than the lynchings. Look up Sheriff Shipp in Chattanooga, for example, in the lynching of Ed Johnson. Google “Travesty”. Google “I know why we must kill the mockingbird”. Google “Pathetic”.

“Following the murder, President Roosevelt made it his goal to have the members of the mob put in jail by getting the secret service men in on the investigation.[3] Sheriff Joseph Shipp, who had arrested Johnson, was found guilty of contempt of court in United States v. Shipp, the only criminal trial ever held by the United States Supreme Court.

Johnson while in jail, made a Christian profession and was baptized. He publicly forgave those who were about to kill him. On Johnson’s tombstone are his final words “God Bless you all. I AM A Innocent Man.” at the top. On the bottom is written “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord”‘.  (Wikipedia)

Another innocent man was put to death by a mob and forgave his murderers before they crucified him. That would be Jesus in A.D. 33. But there is more.

“Johnson was murdered on the evening of March 19. A group of men entered the virtually unguarded jail between 8:30 and 9:00 pm and broke through a door using an ax and a sledgehammer, which took over an hour. They then took Johnson to the nearby Walnut Street Bridge, and hanged him with a rope hung over a beam. Around a dozen men, believed to be Sheriff Joseph Shipp and some of his deputies, were actively involved in the lynching, while more spectators gathered around the jail and followed to the bridge.[12][13] The measure was to act as a deterrent to the city’s blacks that resided on the opposite side of the bridge who walked the Walnut Street Bridge daily to go to and from their jobs in the downtown Chattanooga area.” (Wikipedia)

This incident and 61 other lynchings of Blacks occurred in 1906 in the U.S.A. A  banner year for lynching in our country.  Strange Fruit was written in 1937. Southern Man was recorded in 1970. I’m sure there are more recent updates of racial tensions since then. Livin’ Just Enough for the City by Stevie Wonder comes to mind. Certainly there are many more over the past 40 years or so. It’s not like the problem has evaporated.

In any event, what needs to be lynched? Racism, injustice, hatred, bigotry, racial supremacy nonsense, religious intolerance, sexism, and much more. The grandfather of all these vermin offspring is the King Rat,  Ignorance. His first lieutenant is Pride. Together they have honed a double-edged machete throughout history which has cut tribe from tribe and nation from nation as easily as cutting a head from a neck.