Life of A Traveling “Suit.”

In Brussels April 18-23,1991. Idle observations at the end of the trip:

  • April 22 was Lenin’s 121st B-day. His mausoleum was closed for repairs, which makes some wonder If this a signal;
  • Last month Dmitri T. Yazov, Soviet Defense Minister, visited troops in the GDR without informing the German government – a serious breach of protocol. 500 Soviet troops have deserted in Gy in past year or so.
  • 33 percent of English 7 years olds failed the National English Skills Test last year.
  • Annual snail race held in Osenbach, France. Winner covered the one-meter course in 15 minutes flat. Blazing!
  • Deposed Hungarian leader Karoly Grosz disclosed April 22, that Hungarians deployed Soviet Nukes “well into the Gorbachev era.” Warheads for Scuds, Frogs, and nuclear mines not removed from Hungarian territory until 1988. Official Soviet statements insisted over decades that there were Soviet missiles only in GDR and CSSR.
  • Communist Andre Hediger (Swiss Party of Labour) elected mayor of Geneva last year, his party won with  a  first-ever red-green alliance won majority of city government. Hear greens called reds and commies back home from conservative, anti-envirosnmentalist forces. Funny how things and labels  get  assigned and conflated.
  • Polls show 64% of Irish citizens want the divorce ban removed.
  • Weekend frosts caused worst grape disaster in France since 1945.  Bordeaux to have  50 % output. Pomerol and St. Emilion also hard hit and champaigne production to be down 33%. In Dordogne & Jura 100 percent of the vines have been damaged, Nantes (Muscadet) 95%, Cots de Saumier down est. 80-85%.  Prices going UP.

The Trip Home:

Flew Brussels to Chicago, but weather at destination was bad and we were low on fuel and were diverted to Billy Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, kept on plane 90 minutes while refueled, then we taxied out but Ohare closed again, so we shut down on the apron and waited. No smokes, not food, no booze, no sort drinks, no explanations, no choice, prisoners. Passengers near me asked our stew what was going on. She said, “I’m just a stewardess.” We arrived at Ohare after a 5-hour delay. The purser announces to the captive passengers, “This has not entirely been the fault of our company. I arrived home after midnight. My bags didn’t make it. I carried them through customs and passport control and apparently they are still in Chicago. The wonders of modern travel.

 

Another trip, this time to London from Brussels, Feb 4 – Feb 7 1992:

Flew to London this morning. Lunch of Fish and chips and a pint of bitters at the Gatwick Hilton. Trip notes:

  • Heard on the loudspeaker: Will the person who lost the blue teddy bear on the Transit contact Gate 37?
  • Also heard at Gatwick: Unattended luggage will be taken and immediately destroyed.
  • Sublime or bizarre, can’t decide: En Route, London to Minnie-polis, cruising at 35K over the vast white wastes of Greenland,  sipping Champaigne, Bach in my headset, uniformed servants hovering, soft blankie over my legs.
  • Glass of beer at Minneapolis airport is $4.65 a pop. Ridiculous. Welcome back to America.

And not to neglect domestic travel, To NYC, Sept 10-11, 1992: Trip notes:

  • Trip from airport is awful. Wx at LAG (LaGuardia) has traffic backed up. We had to orbit two hours before diverting to Allentown PA. Missed  our first approach there and had to go-around, no explanation offered by the flight crew. We landed on our second attempt and I noticed we have and crash and fire vehicles escort in to the parking area. We were told we will be bussed to NY LAG  , a 90-minute  jaunt when the  traffic is normal. Is it ever? Then takes 60 minutes by cab from airport to the  hotel in Manhattan. I left my house at 0630 for the 0715 flight and finally got to the hotel at 1800.
  • There was an open-bed deuce truck on Fifth Ave. young people sing rock over loudspeaker and keep chanting “Free concert.” Bike messengers veer in and out of traffic making we wonder about life expectancy and insurance coverage. Sign on side of a truck proclaims, “RISE ROBOTS, RISE.” I love New York 9 (sic)
  • Incas in Indiana Jones fedoras are playing electric flutes outside Barnes & Noble book store on Fifth Ave. An Italian kid in rumpled suit begs a cigarette from me. He has table of books on sidewalk. Hot sale, hot sale! Right. All I can think about it is the Incas, the final humiliation of the Great Empire of the Clouds, reduced to taking donations from passersby in front of the Pan Am Building.
  • At the Algonquin Hotel there is a gaggle of gussied-up Southin’ ladies “up to see the shows, Hon!”
  • The Hotel’s cat, Matilda is still on duty.
  • An Algonquin waiter laments, “This is hard on the legs. Five years until I have twenty, then I’ll so something else. I see all the whiteheads coming in and out. They all go crazy.” He waggles his finger at his temple.
  • No matter where you go in NYC you see only the superficial. Reality only pops through on occasion.
  • Sign for dog walkers at night: NO SCOOP? NO POOP. AND NO YIPPING TERRIERS.
  • There is exactly one-inch clearance between my door and my bed.
  • Koala Queen and I visit the Mayflower Hotel on CPW, Columbus Zoo honcho Jack Hannah is there with his female keeper entourage and they are just starting dinner at a huge round table in the dining room. They all have been served iced shrimp. One of the handlers escorts us up the elevator to a suite on the 14th As soon as the elevator door opens we are pummeled by the stench of wildness. Hannah will be on Good Morning America tomorrow morning. As soon as we step off the lift, we hear whistling. “Birds?” I ask. Says the keeper, “No, a pair of 18-month old mountains lions, brother and sister. Whistling pumas? Whowouldathunkit? The keeper adds, “This is how they communicate when they can’t see each other. There also is a 2-yr-old snow leopard, which garumphs for attention. Also on the floor: a Canadian Lynx,a bobcat, an orange and black cervil, which the keeper lets loose and which immediately runs wild. There is also a hairy rabbit and a lizard. Cats are raised in keeper’s homes, “But,” says the keeper,” you have to remember they are wild, not pets.” I wonder, why then raise them in homes? The cervil grabs a sheepskin pad from a purse, takes it to corner, knocks over a lamp, refuses to surrender its prize. Dawns on me something I once heard out west: “Only reason the cat don’t kill you is because you’re too big.
  • Sojourn to Orvis Shop on 45th. A Chilean man and son (10-12 ish) area trying to get advice on steel head fishing in South America. The man’s wife is a chemical blond, decked out in furs and sparkle-arkles She sits on a leather hamper bouncing her leg, bored.
  • Outside Orvis a wino sleeps on a subway grate (where heat rises). People step over and around him and nobody looks at him. Maybe they don’t see him?
  • Walk to book store, Brentanos. Only three copies of The Domino Conspiracy. I ask clerk, “Is it selling well?” Typical NY response. “We just got it? (Translation, “Fuck off!”)
  • At a project on East River Drive there is high school age football practice underway, mix-and-match uniforms, full equipment, Helmets all different colors. They are all working in an area 2 x 25 yards. Stones and trash on the ground. Tought to work on a passing game in such confines.
  • Airport travelers look at each other, but don’t talk.
  • “Beer is $5 a cup at La Guardia. There is tennis on three different TVs in the bar. Not one person is watching.

 

The Riddle of the Five-Legged Dog

Most of what’s in this  installment is taken from the blog of a friend of a friend. It begins with her asking how the reader feels about living in a post-truth era. She asks, “Are you convinced there are no such things as fact

This is a relevant discussion nowadays.

She tells us, “My father was no philosopher, but an engineer. A just-the-facts-kind of guy? Well he also had a fanciful side that came out in a long-running serial bedtime story about a family of squirrels, and he inclined enough toward dreams that he encouraged me for years to enter the Kentucky Club Tobacco contest to name a thoroughbred racehorse, and win the horse. That is, he was enough of a story-teller and dreamer that, when I was a child, we shared common loves and interests.”

She continues: “On the other hand he was a lifelong Republican and a proud army reserve officer, with very traditional conservative values, and our relationship grew strained during my adolescence. He was gung-ho for the war in Vietnam and adamantly opposed to th4e E.RA. So if he were still alive, where would he stand today?”

Her father delighted in doggerel and shaggy dog stories and riddles and one of his favorite riddles, sparking many riotous debates with his small daughters, was this puzzler.

Q. If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does the dog have?

“When we were little, my sisters and I readily feel for the trick question, eagerly shouting “Five!” Then came the implacable, rock-ribbed parental lesson.

A. The dog has four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

Long after my sister and I had ceased to be gullible enough to off the wrong answer, my father continued to trot out his old, tired riddle.

But here’s the thing. The answer never changes. The answer would not have changed even if my sisters and I had insisted for all those years that the tail was a leg and that the hypothetical dog in question, therefore, had five legs. We could have chanted in a deafening chorus ‘Five legs, five legs.’ It wouldn’t have made a difference.

Repetition would not have made the wrong answer right then, and it doesn’t make it right today. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg. Repeating a lie as the truth does not make it true, no matter how many times you tell the lie, no matter how long and loudly you shout and chant and intoxicate yourself.”

I agree with my friend’s friends’ thoughts, but I also know that whoever issues the first lie and gets it into the mass media is likely to have that lie accepted as truth, (or fact) and not much can be done to undo the damage.  Most of my life news was considered to be facts: Who, what, when, where, why, and how. Now we have false news sites parading fantasies as facts. No big deal? Think again.  Not many days ago some jamokey-dope from North Carolina with a rifle went into a Washington DC pizza joint and touched off a round. He was there to investigate, he told cops. False news reports claimed Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of the pizza place. Sad comment on our times, but we’ve had this stuff around for years – think National Enquirer, think Jerry Springer, etc. Those things were meant to be  laughers and now similar things seem to be at the center of an information shift  — meaning  whatever gets dumped into the fecal mixing bowl of the Internet must be true.  It ain’t so.

Thanks to Laurie Darlin’ for sending this stuff along to me.

Over.

Random Thoughts and Memories From A Random Mind

Happy Thanksgiving. Still sorting files and journals here. On July 4, 1985 we were in South Bend for a soccer tournament (U-14). I picked up some tabloids at a stop-and-rob while replenishing team snacks: here’re the headlines offered: INSTANT COFFEE CURES HERPES/MENGELE STILL LIVES – AS A WOMAN/ GAY BIG FOOT GOES FOR LITTLE BOYS. Very weird and  such garbage now is  on the internetm where there a plethora of  websites that specialize in such garbage, socially and politically and want to be thought of as “legitimate  newsmedia” (e.g. journalism). Newp.

Randomly composing and thinking this morning, here are some random facts I picked up on that  long ago South Bend trip:

  • Henry Ford was the first American to receive Adolf Hitler’s Supreme Order of the German Eagle;
  • Abner Doubleday was a gunner at Fort Sumter. As this one report had it, the rebs fired on the fort for several hours, but the Yanks took time to have breakfast before responding. Doubleday is said to have fired the first Union shot of the war. I bet he’d be shocked to  learn that the  war and some of its issues are still not settled. But the game he invented, baseball, is doing quite nicely, thank you;
  • The Liberty Bell cost $300 in 1752. (No wonder it cracked?) If you’re wondering, that’s $9399.26 in 2014 dollars;
  • James Madison, as an undergraduate at Princeton, was admired for his facility with pornographic prose;
  • The only Mainland American casualties of WW2 were a woman and her five children, who while on an outing near Klamath Falls, Oregon, happened upon  a dormant Japanese balloon bomb, which exploded. This was sometime in 1945;
  •  Back in 1872 a mosquito-borne virus killed 4 million U.S. horses (25% of the national horse supply). The virus was never named or identified. I am always amazed at  the number of people who tell me they  would like to go back in the past to live. Life for the average human at almost any time in history, anywhere in the world, was far more dangerous than it is now. I can’t imagine lack of santitation, danger of infectious diseases, lack of food, or spoilage of food, lack of health care or understanding of disease, poor shelter,  and clothing,  any of it, or all of it The past was nasty, not golden;
  • John Paul Jones eventually got promoted to the rank of admiral. In the Russian Navy.
  • The Revolutionary army to which the Brits surrendered at Yorktown was made up of 10,000 Americans and 30,000 Frenchmen;
  • May 10, 1775, the Brirs surrendered Fort Ticonderoga as Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allan argued over who was in command;
  • In 1942, uncited, unnamed authorities discovered that Adolf Hitler owned nearly 9,000 acres in eastern Colorado;
  • Among the force of Mexicans that overran the Alamo in 1836, there were quite a few 13 and 14-year-old military academy students. The CFA used similar students in its armed force and many were killed in the Civil War. Children have not always been the treasured package they are now — in some places. For most of history children were no more than labor to help get things done;
  • Among the $90 Billion in WW II surplus goods sold to the public after the war was 10 million pounds of contraceptive jelly. (There is at least a short story in this one.);
  • The army General Sherman’s armym marched 300 miles from Atlanta to the sea was 62,000-strong. He lost only 724 soldiers during the campaign, which suggests he had truly found the soft underbelly, if not of the Confederacy, then certainly of Georgia.;
  • The Pony Express was a financial disaster. It operated only from April 1860 to October 1861. It’s short life aside, its reputation has hung in there, once again, a real-life example of how perception and myth-building often override historical fact and reality, yet people take such myths as fact;
  • Between 1860 and 1889 (29 years) the population of Great Plains Bison fell from 50 million to 551. They were killed by commercial hide hunters, nor some sort of exotic bison disease;
  • Prior to 1935, the U.S. Supreme Court allegedly had no permanent home and reportedly “often met in taverns.” I wonder it f it might be a good idea to revert to  simlar conditions for  our own current Honorable Justices? Might be damn good for them to get out and mix with real peopled living real lives, rather than verbal jousting with  never-ending line of intellectuals and theorists; and,
  • The first shot of the Spanish American War was fired at Guam.

 

At some point n July 5,1985,  I said out loud, “Shit.” My son Trevor (ten days from turning five) looked up at me studiously and, seeing nothing extraordinary or inciteful, leaned toward me and shouted, “What was that shit for?)

On our way to South Bend it seemed every house along the Indiana border was selling fireworks which are illegal here. My friend and colleague Phil Sheldon (son Shane plays on same soccer team with my son Troy) took his kids and some others on a tour of a wholesale fireworks factory.  Soon after arriving, the proprietress (his word) asked him if he was driving a silver vehicle, to which he replied Eh-firm and she said, “Would you please move it so the fire trucks can get it?”  Phil guffawed, laughed, ukked while she turned nth-degree pale and finally it dawned on him maybe he’d better go outside and check so he led his flock back outdoors and there saw that the surrounding farm fields were ablaze with 5-7 ft. high flames and there was a jam-up of emergency vehicles trying to get into where he was parked.  Call this a junction of random, serendipity, and  sneaky old fate. Nobody injured, all out safely. No matter what age we live in, or where, luck plays one hell of a part in what happens to us and most people do not give this luck factor its due, especially those who climb to great levels of success in life.

July 7, I was hauling the boys various places and Trev was along for the ride. At one point he spotted a man with hooks for hands, driving a van, and he was fascinated. Trevor in those days had an imaginary friend (to us) he called Boonga, and seeing the driver he informed me that Boonga’s father had also lost both of his arms and hands, but they had grown back. Boonga, you should know, lived in a storm pipe  in the dry reservoir behind our home. Trev informed me that that the pipe Boonga lives in “is so long that it reaches prehistoric times.”  Dad’s don’t answer such questions, or ask for additional information. The image stands wonderfully alone. Far as I know, Boonga still lives back there and he may be what Shaksper barks at from time to time.

My word for the day is “hypegiaphobia.” (Fear of responsibility).

I close with this thought. I have no idea if any of the cited historical facts are accurate or not. I pulled them from the South Bend Tribune while we were at the soccer tournament. I have not really looked at them in three decades. Did not check accuracy before including in this blog and herein is the difference between a blog and real media. A legit media outfit has editors and fact checkers and lawyers to pour over information to be as sure as they can be that it is as accurate as possible, and that where it is opinion or estimate rather than verifiable fact, that this is noted. In today’s internet and cable and 24 hour news cycles and environments, we no longer know what a legitimate news operation is, and we tend to choose media that tell us what we want to hear, or which tear down those things we don’t agree with. We have come to an age where many people, perhaps most thing that feeling something makes it a fact or a truth. It may to the individual, but not beyond and as all this goes on we keep sinking into tribes, all trying to capture or burn away the souls of those who disagree. Hell’s bells,  this is like living in the Middle Ages.

Have a great Thanksgiving with those you love.

Over.

What I Believe: The Day After the Presidential Election

Congratulations to our new President. May he govern wisely and compassionately.

And Happy 70th Birthday to my brother Jim. Two septuagenarians of three siblings. so far. Good for all of us.

That said, it seems to me that we are seeing the zenith of  what I’ll call “the Disneyfication of America.” Let me explain. Back in my corporate days I had some contact with the Disney organization –  to be more precise, its lawyers – and Disney, let me tell you,  that wonderful self-appointed  pater familias stand-in for America  had two primary core values : money and fantasy. Old Walt assembled what perhaps was the hardest-nosed team of money-driven lawyers ever assembled by a corporation and they made their money by entertaining us with fantasies of a wide and astonishing range. The reality of that company was built soundly on the product of  unreality.

Now we have a president, once a business man turned-reality TV star. Everyone knows that reality TV is scripted, staged, acted, and directed to make it look real, and we suspend disbelief in order to watch it, knowing but often not enunciating that another word of the reality show genre is “rigged.” It is a form of fiction, not reality.

Donald Trump won the presidency while telling us over and over that the U.S. political system is rigged. If so, how does that square with his election”  Syllogistically   anyone elected  by a rigged system is by definition a rigged product, which means our new president is a product of said rigging. It will be interesting to see how he scripts his response to this, if he does.

I hope he backs off on divisive rhetoric and finds and listen to people who know a helluva lot more than he does about a whole mélange of subjects far beyond his ken. like the military and war-making.

Meanwhile, I  feel compelled to take stock of what I believe.  Here they are:

1) I believe: A lot of the American people want to be entertained,  not led. Given social media and reality TV, some people no longer know the difference between actual leadeship and entertainment. 

2)  I believe: Shakespeare wrote his own stuff.

3) I believe: Oswald acted alone.

4) I believe: Hitler committed suicide in the Fuhrer bunker in Berlin in late April 1944.

5) I believe: Roosevelt did not know about Pearl Harbor before it occurred.

6) I believe: 9/11 was not a put-up job.

7) I believe: The holocaust happened and at the level historians have shown.

8) I believe: The Apollo moon landing was real, not staged and televised from a  remote film studio.

9) I believe: Arab Spring  was misnamed:  It should have been called Arab Fall.

10) I believe: Social Security is neither.

11) I believe: Political Correctness was for a long time becoming our national religion. What about now? Is P.C. kaput and are we now free to  “Say-anything -we-want-to-say-to-whom-w-want, about-whom-w-want, when-we-want-with-no-consequences-because-we- all-need- to-speak-our-minds without limitation in tone or vocabulary or emotion? We shall see.

12) I believe that the vast majority of print journalists are not crooked or any other derogatory terms candidate Trump used to characterize them. I  also believe that a lot of electronic reporters are  greedy and are allowed to use their fourth estate offices to flog their own books and self-interests. The way Mr. Trump played electronic media showed true genius in such matters. He was not able to play the print media, an observation most people seem to have missed.

13) I believe: Donald Trump will never release his taxes now withheld because of “routine audits.” I hope the proves me wrong.

14) I believe:  Melania Trump when she told voters she will make bullying her White House Spouse “Project.” Dare we hope she begins with her  hubby?

15) I believe: We constantly hear the pronunciations,  EYE-rack (Iraq) and EYE-ran (Iran). If these are correct,  then  shouldn’t it also be EYEn-diana (Indiana) and EYE-llinois (Illinois)? What about ID-aho? How the hell do we formulate policy when  some of our leaders don’t even know how to pronounce what it is we are making policy for?

16) I believe that when the majority of Americans declare “We  support our troops,”  it is  no more than cheap lip s7rvice which seems to mean behind the words, “Better  you and/ or your kis rather than me and/or my kid.”

17) I believe: Our vets have always been treated as unwanted dirt when their wars were over. No President has ever made this a priority to change. No vet in this country, the richest in the world, should be homeless or without medical care.

18) I believe in a strong military and national defense and spending what’s needed to make it that way.

19) I believe that cops need our support. I also believe we have a percentage of cops who should not be and  never should have been in the jobs they are in. This is true of every profession, so why not law enforcement as well? 

20) I believe: All of us are prejudiced. Most of us recognize our obvious predjudices, but there are a whole bunch of prejudices which guide our actions which are not visible until we look at what we do rather than what we say.

21) I believe: Conservatives AND liberals own guns and hunt and engage in shooting sports.

22) I believe the NRA is a manufacturer’s association bent on making money for members, and manipulates the rank and file in order to maximize income for companies.

23) I believe:  When you raise a weapon, or faux weapon, at a cop and you end up dead, it’s almost always your own fault.

24) I believe: When a cop asks you to do something, do it. Then you can discus, debate, and argue.

25) I believe: Rural America and Urban America are different countries and creatures. The  attitude of urban Americans  aboutgrural Americans is one of “outside the city limits is China.” Rural Americans feel the same way about city people.

26) A I believe: An  aircraft model that crashes one percent of the time is considered a public hazard and is ordered out of service. But a computer that crashes one percent of the time is considered acceptable in  performance. What about computers that perform critical tasks in aircraft systems and fail one percent of the time?

27) I believe: No bad deed goes unpublished. Lots of them go unpunished.

28) I believe: Presidential “briefings” seldom are.

29) I believe: No CHILD LEFT BEHIND actually seems to mean no child’s butt will be left when government tries to control education.

30) I believe: No principle is higher in the U.S. and its citizens than accumulating money: My money, and my stuff.  If something makes this easier, it is good. If it makes it more difficult, it’s bad.

31) I believe: No news is good news, ergo the disappearance of daily newspapers in this country.

32) I believe: TV is now news or journalism. It is the organized pursuit of mass partisan disinformation. And it is, by any standard of evaluation, nothing more than entertainment.

33) I recently heard North Korea described as a “hereditary communist dictatorship.” I suspect some Americans thought Hillary’s run for the White House was of a similar ilk, and voted against her.

34) I believe:  staging election precincts in churches is an abomination of separation of the principle of church and state.

35) I believe: Hillary Clinton’s failure to step into the public and gracefully acknowledge defeat this morning was a serious lapse in judgment and runs the risk of playing to negative stereotypes.

36) I believe: this world is smaller and more interconnected than at any time in history. To ignore this is to invite disaster.

37) I believe: Robots and productivity improvements  via improved  automation has helped eliminate somewhere close to  half of our manufacturing jobs. These jobs can’t be repatriated because they no longer exist.

Let me close with something potentially disturbing. I have heard three or four times in the past six months from former Marines a statement that I would paraphrase as: “I was a Marine and as Marines we had no choice but to vote Republican.” I’m not sure  at all certain this means or signifies, but it makes my belly roll.

 I seem to remember (I no longer trust my memory for great accuracy ) that back when my old man was in the USAF there was a decision made at the highest level of the Air Force (or Pentagon) to require airmen to contribute a percentage of their salaries, predetermined by their rank, in order to  fund the new Air Force Academy stadium in Colorado Springs.  My memory is that the old man joined in a suit to fight this and won.  Ort mayve there was no suit. This is where memory fails.  And I can’t find anything on the Internet about such litigation.  The Air Force could not use this sort of intimidation to raise funds. The choice to give or not was up to each airman, not his command. Oddly enough, I saw similar tactics used in corporate America to support annual corporate United Way drives. Seems to me if your money can’t be reached for by anyone other than you, neither can your vote. I would hate to think that our military forces are issuing directives to rank and file on how to vote, and trying to enforce such an order.

I may look further into this. Over

Dark Memories from Detroit: The Black Legion

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A history that will hold you from first word until the last and make you shake your head.

It’s difficult to sum up this book with enough superlatives. Who but a top journalist could put together such a finely woven fabric of life and weave uncountable personalities, events and moments together – and in doing so — bash one out of the park like Hank Greenberg? Tom Stanton’s new book will be published later this spring. The title is,  Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, And the Secret Society That Shocked Depression-Era Detroit

I could not put it down, read it over two days. And therein met Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Joe Louis, Detroit Lions, politicians beyond count, and a story that extends like a web  over the Midwest and into dark basements of an anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, anti-black secret organization. Players the author ties into this true tale include a huge cast: Henry Ford and his security chief Harry Bennett, J. Edgar Hoover, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ronald Reagan, Ernie Harwell, Babe Ruth, Dizzy and Paul Dean, and eventually a legendary Michigan State Police officer, Detective Captain Ira Marmon, the first Troop retiree and a man who set a standard for all those to follow in the pursuit of truth and justice. (My friend Greg Hubers will love the information on Captain Marmon.)

Amazing and frightening to think that lots of those nefarious  forces operating in this period of 1933-1938 are STILL  among us, many of them still just as hidden as the Black Legion was back then. Many of them surfaced in the Presidential elections that resulted in President Obama in the White House and many of them are undercurrents in the present presidential campaign. Evil never gets eradicated; it only gets pushed underground or aside for a while.

If you love Detroit, Michigan, Michigan history, our sports team and largely unknown tales of history, you will be carried away by this story. Written as cleanly as a new shave with a straight razor, and thick with information and side notes that will captivate you and remind us all of the old saw of everyone being separated by only a few degrees. Finally, given how this turns out, one must wonder how many of these creeps were our own kin, and how they hid their involvement in such reprehensible actions from us and all around them. Sad and scary. Kind of like Nazis who went to ground and were never prosecuted, much less identified.

This is well worth your buckos and your time.  Could make a great film or  TV series. $26 hardbound from Lyons Press (An Imprint of Rowman & Litchfield). Buy it, read it, talk about it, encourage others to read it. I did and I am and will continue doing so.

Over.

Delp Scores Again

Mike Delp's newest offering. Buy it, enjoy it!
Mike Delp’s newest offering. Buy it, enjoy it!

Late yesterday recieved my copy of Michael Delp’s New poetry collection: Lying in the River’s Dark Bed: The Confluence of the Deadman and the Mad Angler. (Wayne State University Press.)

Delp knows of what he writeth about. His blood is river water.

Here’s an example:

DEADMAN AS WRITER
Deadman treats words like road kill,
runs them down, stops,
rolls backward and forward,
over and over.
After he flattens thousands of words,
he thinks he's invented a new language.
He writes a book,
says,
"Here, read this,
it will kill you.

Deadman, The Mad Angler, Brown Dog,  Jason Snowblood, Limpy Allerdyce… these are the denizens of my world.

Delp is one of our very best writers.  Ever. You’ll love his work and though it won’t make you better at catching trout, it will surely give you gnu things to think about while you are gnot catching, or  whilst changing flies, or whilst moving along the banks to find gnu water.  $15.99 in paper. Buy it, treasure it.

Friday Thinking in Softening Air

This is how one mind works, how life is lived in the low, slow Friday lane,  Dies veneris, vendredi, biernes, venerde, Unmarked in the unsighted world. It is said that once it  was said there was a woman so bloody good looking that she was difficult to look at.  Then kilt in an avalanche. One is tempted to affect cause with effect. The behavior of actors on a Shoot in Tahiti was declared detestable. Just yesterday, The Pope tried to trump Trump over walls: The result a push on this world’s scorecard as in Vegastawk. The Woolfs, Leonard and Virginia, are alleged to have never consummated their marriage, a result of some sort of undefined vaginal block said to be similar to that of their countrywoman Queen Elizabeth I. There are no known public or medical records or forensics to declare in any direction. There was a girl 17, jumped from 14 stories, landedon soft and porous cement with predictable result.  Her bloodstains remained for years for thosewho knew where to look for them, like afficianados of stigmata on the bodies of Womandragoras or octogenarian seamstresses from Jackson Heights. Wrote the late Robt Phelps: A lifetime of indignation goeth before a hemorrhage. Who would argue? Tourists jitney and flitney around Tahiti in surplus Jeeps from the Vietnam War, the bloods stains long sunk into the quick-pores of pitted metal. Some, I hear,  long to oogle beautiful French legs.My late editor, Joe Fox of the Five-Fox-Day used to sing “Loot, loot, loot.” Now I ask you, Can legs be loot? Oh, that girl who tried to fly? She had flax-yellow hair and a Bible in her hand. Some  no doubt would claim this to be a political statement, but it’s not. It’s objective, yet so very subjective. What if it had been a Quran in her hand, or a guidebook on sexual positions for drive-in movie dates in the backseat of ’59 Buick Electras?  Is objectivity bruised by facts chosen? Perhaps. All these blood symbols, must be politrix in the air. As Cypriot Greeks tell it, There ain’t no sparks in last year’s ashes. Be advised: If a stone falls on an egg, alas for the egg. If an egg falls on a stone, alas for the egg. Therefore, be the stone and not the egg (Or be certain you have a good lawyer.) I am dreaming of a grand cru Bordeaux with steaming Polenta ucelli —maize pudding with little birds the way my Mississippi mama made it when we lived in  the hills outside Firenze.  Better have tofu for dinner . To blunt the cannibalism in my genes. Over.

Friday Night Fights and Other Musings

Last night was Friday: Jambe Longue had shuffled off to bed and left me brain-surfing between the A.W. Rowse bio of Wm Shakespeare and a TV channel called SPIKE (which I had sorta, maybe-kina- heard of, but never watched). But last night they advertised three straight hours of boxing and I just had to take a look see. Having Rowse in hand was my way of reminding myself that my interest in the fighting was merely intellectual and academic, a writer’s raw curiosity.

Uh, not quite. Flashback: my old man and I used to watch the Friday night fights in the way-back- when and he was a genuine and committed follower of boxing, not the puffy kind that we see now, but of a different time when the Rocky Marcianos and Sugar Ray Robinsons regularly visited Madison Square Garden. Sometimes I got to go along. I seem to remember blood splashing from a fighter on the ropes to us three or four rows back, and smelling sweat and cigarettes and booze and analgesics and god knows what else, all blended into a bloody bouquet that a young kid would either inhale or spit up. I inhaled it, thinking at the time that the slop was a holy fluid in a  kind of extreme unction for childhood. For the rest of my life  I’ve been torn between the intricacies of the “sweet science,” and it’s undeniable brutality and long-term body count.  On a rational thought basis, the sport– if that’s what it is — ought to be abolished, but its not.  Neither is smoking so I suppose there should be no surprise. Rather boxing is greatly diminished since the days of yore and thus, last night, I jumped in to watch. Even Shakespeare seemed to have a comment on the doings: Friar Lawrence says to Romeo, “These violent delights have violent ends.” Ya think?

The old man used to preach, “Nobody comes out of a fight unhurt.” It took me only  20-30 years of personal experience to be able to verify his wisdom. I was still having fights in my 40s, at the same time I was wearing a three-piece suit by day and mixing with the civilized parts of society.

I took a swing at a foe in Jackson Heights one day, missed his duck and bob, and stuck my left arm through a door window, therein cutting deep and leaving hanging flesh in three different places from wrist to just behind the elbow. The good news, I pushed the punch all the way through the target. Sort of. The real target had moved (smart kid) and I obliterated a door window pane with a great straight shot. 15-20 stitches seemed a small price to pay. Mom took me across the street for our family doctor to sew me up. I shudder to think how today’s helicopter parents would have reacted to the events. Damn glad I grew up when I did.

So, this strand of boxing DNA mixed up in me and us is truly that: mixed up.   Pretty sure my brothers are infected. But my old man was a big follower of what he (and consequently we) used to call “the fights,” and his close pal Robert J. Bob Thornton was a long-time boxing writer and editor. I assume that the writer and my dad met during their service in World War II, but if I ever knew the genesis, its long forgotten. WhaT I know is that the friendship went on for a long time after that, my dad passing away in 1976 and his friend sometime after that. I remember hearing the man talked about, more than actually seeing him and around our house he was known  primarily as “Thornton.” I assumed the old man was called Heywood in the other household, but this is pure speculation. The old man clearly admired his friend’s journalistic pursuits. Sad he never lived to see his eldest lunk-head publish his first novel, but that’s the way life rolls.

Seems funny now, but I remember bloodier fights on hockey rinks than in boxing rings,

This report is from one Richard Bak,. Posted in DETROIT RED WINGS:

“Whenever I went on the ice against the Rangers,” Howe recalled, “the coach sent  (Lou) Fontinato out. The idea was to work on me and distract me. Once, it cost me because I forgot a valuable bit of advice Ted Lindsay gave me. He said don’t ever drop your stick until the other man does. So we get into one game and Louie says, ‘You want to drop your stick?’ and I said, ‘Hell, yes!’ and I threw it to the ice, and the guy hit me right over the head…about six stitches worth. He nailed me, and I stood there laughing over my stupidity, and Lindsay just shook his head.”

On another occasion Fontinato whacked Howe in the mouth with the butt end of his stick, splitting his lip and loosening his tooth. Fontinato mocked him in the penalty box. “What’s the matter with your lip, Gordie?” he said. Howe vowed it wouldn’t happen again.

“Damned if I didn’t find myself in the same position in our next game,” Howe said. “When he went to hit me, I raised my stick and cross-checked him and damned near cut his ear off. Tit for tat. When he came back to the bench from the dressing room, he was wearing a bandage turban, real funny looking. The crowd threw beer and everything on me. So that was the situation between us when we went into New York to play the Rangers again.”

That evening at Madison Square Garden, Fontinato took a break from reading his press clippings to charge into a fracas involving Red Kelly and Eddie Shack behind New York’s net. Howe, who had intervened on Kelly’s behalf, noticed the blur rushing towards him, recognized it as Fontinato, and ducked a punch aimed at his head. Then, as Howe later described it, “that honker of his was right there, and I drilled it. That first punch was what did it. It broke his nose a little bit.”

Observers recalled Howe grabbing Fontinato’s jersey with his left hand, then using his right hand to deliver a stream of vicious uppercuts–”whop, whop, whop, just like someone chopping wood,” said one player quoted in Life magazine, which devoted three pages to Fontinato’s dismantling. Millions of readers were treated to photos of the humbled Fontinato swathed in bandages. In as violent a half-minute as ever seen inside a prize ring, Howe had broken Fontinato’s nose, dislocated his jaw, and destroyed his ego and reputation.

Note that both combatgants got "major penalites," and returned to the fray.
Note that both combatgants got “major penalites,” and returned to the fray.

Howe’s demolition of the NHL’s top enforcer was all in a night’s work for someone who clearly was in a league all by himself. “There are only four teams in the league,” a rival player said at the time. “Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, and Howe.”

All right,  there always seemed to be more blood in hockey fights than boxing and you are wondering (as I am) where I am making for in this piece.

Thornton was known as the man who shook the hand of John L. (“Himself- I can Lick any Sonfabitch in the House –Sullivan). The story went that Bob’s father took him to a Temperence meeting, Thornton’s paterfamilias and the champ both being reformed tippers. Thornton was at the time a precocious 18 months old and not yet of a weight to qualify for the fights.  Not a lot was made of this claim and it was never disputed. My old man once opined that perhaps John L’s magic had dripped into the kid, at least for a while. Later in his life, Thornton fought 11 bootleg (illegal) fights and won ten straight before getting chopped up so bad in the unlucky 11th that he abandoned boxing gloves for the boxing typewriter.

Have you ever read any of the writing in the old boxing magazines. Fascinating stuff. Think of people strutting around in tuxedos before fights, as if it was a night at the opera. The writing sore of fit the other pretentious posturing.

his is from Richard Labont’s column “Magazines” in the Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 20, 1979: “Blame it on the burden of history. The upstart martial arts magazines, reviewed last week, have no century-long American traditions to maintain; the garish wrestling magazines, reviewed next week, have no pretensions to civility – or to coin the sort of word the late Nat Fleischer would have not blushed about – to gentlemanliness.

And so, among the pages of grainy photos of one boxer pounding another, and the endless lists of disputed divisional rankings and the sound alike stories on bouts between contenders of all weights and skills, there is room for prose like this, in an article headed, Why Ali Must Retire –Now!

The most gruesome elements in magazines about boxing are not the celebrations of the fist-pounding skull, or the anointment of the unbowed over the bloody, what’s hard to take are their thick-eared formality and sticky sentimentality.

Take the contents-page comment in every issue of Boxing Illustrated, for example: ‘Designed to entertain and inform, Boxing Illustrated will please the whole family and serve as an inspiration to aspiring pugilists. We bring you particular insight into the lives of exponents of fistianart, and are devoted to the “Noble Art” in all its forms, professional or amateur. This magazine also emphasizes the sportsmanship, the rigid training discipline and the feats of boxers famed and burgeoning.’

It would be easy to believe that the jowly cigar-chomping gentlemen popping up as the masterminds behind boxing magazines – like Robert Thornton of International Boxing and World Boxing, and Nat Loubet of The Ring – actually to roll their phrases with such pompous grandiloquence. Blame it on the burden of history.

Even Loubet, publisher and editor of The Ring, founded in 1922, and considered the bible of the boxing world – isn’t immune to boxing’s pox of purple prose.

In an editorial on the decline of power of the New York State Boxing Commission, he writes, ‘This dissertation on commission is not with regard to New York alone, because the operation of one state might not seem important. In this case a single state is important because it was the leader for so many years, and, by virtue of the backbone manifested, it gave other lesser state commission the boost they needed to fight those who would usurp their rightful powers, Organizations with no official standing, — with the help of television – have surely been slowly taking over control of boxing, and not for the good.”

That’s the sort of writing which fills the boxing magazines: inbred analysis, and inchoate profiles, and argumentative assertions, all of it steeped in the belief that boxing is the noblest of  all sports, and demands a stumble-bum gentility.

There’s nothing fierce about boxing magazines: It’s too old fashioned a sport.

 I found an Internet piece alleging to report from the September 1977 issue of World Boxing.  Managing Editor Robert J. Thornton wrote, “Sundry promoters and major television interests have limited armchair viewers to a diet of champions, top contenders, and Olympic medal winners vs. stiffs – all the while ignoring bouts that would have recruited thousands (if not millions) of new fans (We can think of Zamora vs Zarate and Palomino vs. Muniz as two sizzlers that were snubbed by the big TV (stations).”

The brain-strands here: Friday night fights, boxing, the not-so-sweet-science, Madison Square Garden, my old man and his pal Thornton, Thornton’s boxing writing career and hockey fights, focusing on Madison Square Garden.  And somehow in my feeble mindloop, Shakespeare feels fully at home with all of the foregoing. Remember, the bard attended the bearbaiting and bullbaiting pits in London, which was a descendant of the Flavian Ampitheater shows, and some kind of predecessor to profession boxing and other spectator sports.

Ah, enough blathe:  We sign books this afternoon in Three Rivers, which will give me a chance to chat with one of my fave writer pals, Bonnie Jo Campbell. Had a notion for a book during last night’s fights: Tweets From Monsters, eg, a chapter on Tweets from Hitler. Whaddya think?

Over.

Please Bow Your Heads and say a Quiet Prayer; Ed Jarvie is No Longer Among Us

The dragon is dead. 

But our thoughts are not so much with the legendary fire-breather who has flown off to new fields and battles, but with Yvonne, the dragon’s helpmate, right-hand-woman, and mother of their eight children, grande dame of a huge extended, loving family.

I first met the dragon in 1958. He was my football, basketball and baseball coach, and my world history teacher. There was this gorgeous little woman who danced in his massive shadow. This was Yvonne, who left the limelight to her firebreather and spent a great deal of her life providing love and steel guidance to their eight children while the dragon attended to hundreds, and thousands of children entrusted to him as teacher, coach, principal, superintendent and in larger educational roles.

A stroke took the reach of the dragon’s fire down a bit some years ago, but he never quit battling to get back and he never lost his spirit in the fight, living the very thing he had taught so many of us. With the dragon in a wheelchair, Yvonne remained steadfast, positive, encouraging, loving, and caring a living example of the untranslatable sisu.

The dragon was Ed Jarvie.

He died yesterday in Traverse City.

He was 87.

I have had the privilege in my life to serve three men, three amazing leaders, I would willingly have followed anywhere. And did. Ed Jarvie was the first.

He was physically small, had a kind of chip on shoulder and fire in his eyes and voice, which could empty a room, or silence a classroom, a gymn, an auditorium, a stadium. He could have silenced a crowd in Grand Canyon if needed.

Coach not only demanded all-out, balls-to-the-wall effort, but a focus for that effort on excellence.

He was not a man so focused on outcomes as much as on preparation, believing that if he could help make his teams the best conditioned, best trained, most disciplined, and played every minute of every game at maximum effort, the outcomes would take care of themselves.

Coach was right. We lost only six games in three seasons and once ripped off a skein of 22 straight. Never did I hear him down on us after a close loss, and they were all close losses. In our hearts we never actually lost, only ran out of time. Sisu, eh?

We played in a giant log cabin, which is gone now.

We shot and charted free throws every day. We ran every day. We had double practices on most Wednesdays, the standard practice after school, a quick bite to eat at the café in town and back to the old log cabin for the Wednesday picnic where we focused on technique and on being together.

Every drill and exercise had a game-related correlation and purpose.

Folks think Tom Izzo invented jungle basketball. He didn’t. Tommy grew up playing U.P. basketball where jungle rebounding and hard, unrelenting physical play were the norm, games the equivalent of wars between city states.

Ed Jarvie instilled in me several enduring life lessons.

 You play as you practice, so practice honestly, and hard.

Detail is the face and force of preparation.

The game is won in the mind and heart, but carried by the legs and lungs.

Officials are to be respected at all times.

All teammates are equal.

Our foes are honorable and should be treated thusly

If you give your all, accept the result.

These were wonderful lessons to learn when we were so young.

But Jarvie was every bit as much demanding in the classroom as in the gym or on the playing field. I took world history from him 57 years ago and I swear I still think about Hammurabi’s Code and fist hatchet, every bloody day of my life.

Only this morning did it finally dawn on my why these two very disparate facts.

Hammurabi made 282 laws. Jarvie had nearly as many and, like Hammurabi, he believed in innocent until proven guilty. Do you understand? he would ask a player and student. If not, he would go over it again, and as many times as needed until whatever it was finally got driven into a skull. From then on, you were responsible for maintaining and using that knowledge. I tried to work with my players in the same detailed, unrelenting way. Jarvie taught us that the games would be highly physical, but winning would come out of mental preparation. We changed offensive and defensive schemes after every basket, after our baskets and after our opponent’s. We were by design damn near impossible to prepare for. The outcome of the game, he taught, always came down to change and how quickly a team could adapt, and to momentum, How fast you could grab it and how long you could hold on to it.

The “fist hatchet” (also called a hand ax) was the most advanced weapon of the Stone Age. It was made of flint and had a sharp edge, but that edge had to be created and maintained and the tool took smarts and muscle to employ. We were Jarvie’s fist hatchet. Flint is one of Nature’s hardest and most enduring substances. That fits.

And now Ed is gone, our magnificent dragon, and we mourning his passing and celebrate his life and love, his attention, and his respect, and send our sympathies to Yvonne and the Jarvie clan.

While he may be gone, the dragon will live in my heart. Ed helped make me who I am. His memory will keep me on course. We began as teacher to student and ended as friends.

Thanks my Friend and Coach: I hope your new team’s got a whistle for you.

Bites and barks are different animals. And a dragon’s fire-spitting may warm your behind, but it will never burn you. Most people never get to have a real dragon in their lives. Lucky me. Damn, inexplicably, blind-ass lucky.

So few words as a remembrance of Ed Jarvie,  a remarkable man who masqueraded as a dragon: It doesn’t seem nearly enough.