Goodbye, Maggie Roche

There used to be this bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, back in the late 1970’s called the Inn Square Men’s Bar. A funky little nothing of a place but it had a nice vibe about it, and they had live music there sometimes. I lived in nearby Somerville, and when I saw that The Roaches were going to appear on that little stage in Inman Square, in that funky bar, I couldn’t believe it. Sisters Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy Roche were amazing, a very unique musical trio—to me they were stars!

I couldn’t afford to see many name groups back then, but I was able to get in to see The Roches (there might not even have been a cover). I had a seat right in front of the stage and they were very engaging, singing with their trademark harmonies, and humor. The eldest sister, Maggie, gave their sound a unique quality because she didn’t try to sing high like a pop star girl singer—she added the low notes. Listen to “Hammond Song,” for example, written by Maggie, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a very interesting composition, by the way, like snippets of a conversation between the sisters and a female friend or family member who is about to go off with her boyfriend; an intervention:

If you go down to Hammond you’ll never come back
In my opinion you’re on the wrong track
We’ll always love you but that’s not the point

Time moves on and I moved away, but I’ve always liked The Roches and even bought my mom one of their albums. Every Christmas I play their We Three Kings CD, a compilation of Christmas songs (including a couple of originals) that is the best Christmas album ever made, and it’s not even close.

So I was saddened to learn that Maggie Roche has passed away recently, at the age of 65. I feel as though something has been taken away from this world that should have been left where it was. That a place that I love is stating to fall away, little by little at first, but becoming less recognizable with each loss. It’s only January, and already Maggie is gone. I have a bad feeling about how the rest this year is going to go, but I take comfort in her words from “Hammond Song”:

They say we meet again on down the line
Where is on down the line, how far away?
Tell me I’m okay

Well, how do you not at least smile at that? Thanks Maggie. You were a treasure.

Disaster Averted

Now that those in power are losing their power, and with it their ability to tell us what we are to think, we can see just how bad it had gotten with them, and it keeps getting worse. We were much farther off track than I knew. The bizarre rants and protests of the left following the election, and their hypocritical attempts to thwart the election results, were one thing. But now they want to  boycott LL Bean because a member of the founding family donated to the Trump campaign, and they want to obstruct the inauguration, and just generally they want somehow to make Donald Trump not the President. They can’t stand it and it’s hilarious. On top of all this is the prevasive post-election lunacy of the mainstream press, not to mention the last-minute antics of Obama himself (see Israel, Giving Shaft To).

So as we witness the final performance of a man who is without a doubt the Most Divisive President in Recent American History, as we painfully watch him ungraciously linger in the limelight, the audience shifting uncomfortably in their seats, the hook approaching from stage left, it’s unsettling that we nearly elected his understudy. Wow. Disaster averted. Thank you, Donald.

My Friend Terry

Terry and I became friends in high school. Two goofballs…I don’t know, Tucks, how am I doing so far? Start with high school? Do you agree with “goofballs”? Like when you and I were walking home from Max’s place that winter night, marveling at the freshly fallen snow in front of Harvey High? Not a footprint in it until you and I waded in and spelled a certain four-letter obscenity in letters about 25 feet high with our tracks. Next day, so we heard, one of the teachers looked upon our literary craftsmanship in horror, and sent several of her students outside to run across it.

Indianapolis? What? How’d you end up in that place? Never mind—long story I’m sure. Listen, I’ve got to tell your friends there this tale. Remember when we used to walk the railroad tracks in Painesville, you balancing on one rail and me on the other? We’d try to make each other fall—not by pushing, no, but by psyching each other out. So I’m walking along on my rail, carefully watching my steps, and I noticed that you were not next to me on the other side anymore. I was concentrating on where I was going, but finally I looked up and there on the rail right in front of me was a small fire that you has set with some trash and small twigs. I still laugh at that sight—an actual fire! You made an actual fire in front of me on my rail! Ok man, you win that one!

So, who do the people in Indiana think you were, I wonder? Do they know why I call you “Tucks”? (A misread by your mom on some letter or postcard I addressed to you. “What is Tucks?” asks kindly Mrs. Coyne.) Do they know about that time we bought our first hash but didn’t know how to smoke it? So we were in your parent’s basement trying to pulverize it in a table vise, based on our genius idea to grind it up and mix it with tobacco and smoke it like that. I got sick to my stomach but you were just fine, drinking prune juice in the living room and asking me if I wanted some. I did not. Do they know about Step’s elderberry wine and your sage counsel that I’d know when I was drunk by feeling my chin? Or that apartment we rented on Mentor Avenue with Kathy, or Kathi, or whatever who I think you had a thing for. Or how about the time I got you that job in that LA garment factory, where we first learned that a lot of Mexicans apparently think it’s cool to name their children “Jesus”? Yes, two hippies from Ohio totally surprised by that.

I almost forgot about this one…during school assemblies when everyone was supposed to go to the gym, we used to hide in the theater auditorium until the hallways cleared. Then we would have the entire room to ourselves, just the two of us. So I’d sit in the audience and you’d do some kind of improv, and I’d politely applaud. Then we’d switch places, me on the stage, you in the seats. Let that sink in for a second, Tucks—who, beside the two of us, would do that? Anyone? (I rest my case about the two goofballs.)

Anyway, there it is. I don’t know if I’ve shared anything useful here. Most people know you better than I do, I’m sure. To me you’re still this freak—oh, I just remembered that time you and Twanger came to visit me and Peggy in Athens. She stayed home, we went out, there may have been drinking involved, the gravel you guys poured into the gas tank of that Triumph…never mind, I’m rambling. You got me in trouble with Peggy though.

I last saw you in 1980, before my move to the West Coast. People may wonder why we didn’t stay in touch, but I think you get the deal. I mean, for what reason? In any event, I am a little shaken by your passing. You were a thoughtful person, creative, very funny, and a good friend. And FYI, if you meet someone named “Jesus” up there, it might be, you know, The Real Jesus (unless he’s pushing a rack of suits, smiley face).

Peter Terrance Nicholas Coyne, December 6, 1949 – August 15, 2016. RIP

 

The Curse of Frankenstein

To all of you intellectual media pundits and political wonks who are trying to understand what happened on November 8, I will explain it to you. First of all, clear your mind of the false idea that Trump is a racist who was elected by other racists.

The Donald’s win begins with you refusing to accept any anti-establishment alternatives to Hillary Clinton, refusing to let anyone from outside into your media-political clique. Donald, and to an extent Bernie, were seen as not worthy, and so you set about to prove just who is really in charge around here (you).

After Bernie was embarrassingly co-opted, you were free to train your sights on The Donald. Tirelessly you worked to cast him as unfit for the job of President, even to the extent of eventually abandoning normal journalistic standards of civility and propriety. “Oh what a buffoon he is!” you mocked. With a big chunk of the electorate already in your pocket, you set out to control the minds of the rest of us. You were not completely successful.

Do you remember all the phony outrage over The Donald’s comments on the Access Hollywood tape? Here’s a guy who has owned beauty pageants—events that are built on the objectification of women. Think what you will, but there are women who want to play that game, audiences who want to watch it, and The Donald, happy to provide the stage. No harm, no foul, just part of the eternally interesting carnival that is the man-woman thing. I don’t judge. Seen in that light, nothing was revealed in the Access Hollywood tape that we did not already understand to be the case with candidate Trump (he likes pretty women). But no matter, right? The point of getting the tape out there, after all, was not to inform but to move the poll numbers which is, incidentally, the difference between journalism, and propaganda.

And yes, you loved it when the numbers for The Donald started to slide—success! But wait…propaganda can only go so far and poll numbers can be, as you have painfully learned by now, misleading. So you worked yourselves into quite a frenzy, abetted even by spineless anti-Trump Republicans, not noticing that, beyond your urban bubbles, we were drawing conclusions not about Trump, but about you.

Your problem was somewhat technical: you had reached the Upper Brainwash Threshold (UBT) much earlier in the election cycle. Beyond UBT, additional specious smears piped through media conduits will overload your devotees with talking points, and have no lasting effect on those you are trying to convert. So in the end, a tape unearthed from 2005 was just another addition to the steaming pile you were shoveling day in and day out—the disabled reporter thing, the Indiana judge thing, the Mexican rapist thing, the Gold Star parent thing, the bankruptcies—but through the miracle of the Internet it was easy enough to see that those narratives either had been debunked, were overblown, or just did not matter.

And finally, here’s where it gets really bizarre, and tragic. The “Donald Trump” that your children are protesting now does not really exist! It’s a literary invention, a Frankenstein monster that you in the media-political complex have sewn together with body parts dug from back room graves. As your mob marches angrily toward the windmill chasing the fictional monster you have created, the rest of us see in the actual Donald Trump a considerate, plain-spoken man who will be a good President if we give just him a chance.

It turns out a lot of us think, yeah, we should put “America first,” we are an exceptional people with a history we can be proud of, and it’s time to stop dividing ourselves into racial subcultures and getting hung up on childish social diversions; if we don’t all pull together and take care of our country we will lose it.

I guess you didn’t notice us, but we voted. And that’s what happened.

Bernie Supporters, Show Some Pride

Yes, I know he told you to vote for grandma, Bernie supporters, but show some pride. She hosed him, and he sold you out. He was leading a revolution that would have made Abbie Hoffman proud, then he said buh bye, suckers.

See, he had his moment in the sun, the rallies, the adoring fans, then… then the embarrassing capitulation to the woman he had said was owned by Wall Street, and the odious sight of the two of them together, waving, smiling, as you sobbed in disbelief. Bernie? Huh? What about us? I’ll tell you what about you: your revolutionary is revealed to be nothing more than a garden variety politician, and now he’s, oh, probably gazing across Lake Champlain in the $575,000 vacation home he just bought, working on his book (which I understand is tentatively titled “Please Don’t Steal This Book”).

It’s just a matter of time till a WikiLeaks memo is uncovered from the stack:

To: John Podesta
From: Bernie
Re: Still waiting for your check (already bought house)

So when he tells you to vote for grandma, just say no and pick someone else.

I Voted!

I voted by mail this week. So I’m done writing here about this election. Well, maybe one more comment afterward, but then that’s it!

Happy to report that salacious stories and revelations of political shenanigans, that I couldn’t stop myself from reading day in and day out, had no effect one way or the other. Turns out, there are some actual issues to be considered. I don’t want us to keep fooling around in the Middle East, I don’t want to be enemies with Russia, I don’t want trade deals that decimate our ability to make things here, I don’t want to keep hearing that everything is about race, I don’t want the protections we all get from our Constitution to be disregarded by SCOTUS, I don’t want to ignore our immigration laws, and if we could stifle the  “climate change” thing for a while that would  be great.

I don’t think grandma is with me on those things, so my choice was easy as I colored in the little oval next to “The Donald, Yeah Baby!” I think he’ll do fine as President, even surprise some people on that, and as a bonus, it also works for me that I voted to spare us the national embarrassment of having Bill back in the White House.

But whether The Donald wins or loses we are all in his debt for the way he has given us at least a hint of how worthless, in general, are the elites who govern us and the hacks who write about them. He does this by saying things that sound nut-job conspiratorial at first, but then, it turns out, are true. I almost expect Obama to say some day, “You know, I actually was born in Kenya.”

So I did my civic duty. Feel free, Fourth Estate, to keep writing those salacious stories and revelations of political shenanigans. Whatever. I’ll be checking my fantasy football team. Do I start Allen Robinson this week? He is supposedly my best WR, and yet I don’t trust him.

Just Being Political

In response  to “What the WikiLeaks Emails Say About Clinton,” by Russell Berman in The Atlantic, 10.12.16


Right, the emails only support suspicions we already have of her, so in that sense, what’s the big deal, you could say. Still, the emails do hammer home Bernie’s old point about grandma being owned by Wall Street, and they shed light on behind-the-scenes scheming to undermine him. That might make it harder for his supporters to vote for her. I mean, can you really vote for the exact same person who just hosed you? How does that work, self respect-wise?

But to a larger point, you suggest, Russell, that the emails just reflect politics as usual. And you’re probably right, but why should we be ok with that? Why should we give a pass to a political campaign that has been given special treatment by the press, and advanced itself through evasion, deception, and fake posturing? I don’t accept that politics has to work that way, and I give credit to The Donald for the chance to try something else. Yeah, I know he’s quirky, but who else was going to challenge the established order? Jeb? Marco?

If you doubt that The Donald is any different from your garden-variety politician, Exhibit A is the fact that he is obviously not a politician, and Exhibit B is the fact that there are many career politicians in his own party who are against him even though, in terms of policy, they should obviously be with him. This is remarkable, but it makes sense if you understand that he is doing things his way, not theirs, and that makes them nervous. All they know how to do is put their fingers to the wind, and go that way. They don’t have any vision, or leadership skills to speak of. Neither does Hillary.