Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Wrong Bernie

In 2004, a Fall River MA group called Green Futures had an art show in order to raise awareness of the plight of an unfortunate sewage outflow known as, by the local deluded romantics who have nothing else to live for, The Quequechan River. Yes, quequechan is a native word meaning 'leaping waters' which has been twisted around to mean 'falling river' so that 'Fall River' would make sense as a name. The Green Futures art show is where the painting here came from. I wish I could credit the artist, but the article is a reprint from one of the freepers out of We'll Try City, so I can't even vouch for its authenticity. It's a nice painting. Or photoshop job. Or whatever.
I congratulate Green Futures and urge anyone with local interest to look at Green Futures' ideas for canoeing, fishing, and other recreational activities around the real, open Quequechan. Since they've been around since 1993, the river should, by now, be a very clean riverfront and developed recreational part of SouthCoast. Except that everyone in Fall River is too busy hanging their tools on sky hooks, writing IOUs on coughs, and blaming everybody else.
I had a few seconds between real projects today and turned on the radio to get news. I accidentally hit the preset for the local radio station and heard the theoretically "impartial newsguy" doing his right-wing conservotard broadcast. He was urging the other listener and I to stay tuned to hear a great commentary from "Bernie Sullivan."

Back in the last century, when I worked at a Fall River radio station very similar to that one, I worked with a Bernie Sullivan. Bernie was that affably cantankerous kind of newsman that usually has the last canny insightful line in film noir. A quick-with-a-good-natured-quip-knows-everybody-and-doesn't-have-to-do-this-for-a-living guy whose bosses underestimated him because of his high school education and hard-knock diction. I liked Bernie, so I listened through the news with the kid who kept saying 'fotty' when he meant 'forty.'
Then came the promised commentary. Which was delivered by a creepy old political hack who couldn't make it as a priest so he worked at a couple newspapers NOT THE BERNIE I knew. Besides, this desk jockey started his soppy twaddle by calling Troy (Fall River's maiden name) a village; Troy was a town. But he continued his phantasm, droning on about how (I'm not quoting here) God told him to urge all God's chillun to work to uncover the God-given beauty of the rivergift God gave us and hadn't we neglected those poor diminished torrents and aren't we very hopeful people and any politician running for anything in Fall River should make a loud and affirmative noise or Bernie or the nasally kid with the speech impediment or the talk-show-and-news guy will darn well come and flash press credentials or something and that pol will rue the day he ever trifled with the Fifth Estate in the soon-to-be-great-again city of Fall River, boy howdy!

So, even the weird challenge of diverting a bridge and interstate highway system, relocating businesses, establishing a city as a destination, developing an economy, plus daylighting a river, in Fall River is just about God and politics.
Like everything else.

An Inconvenient Booze

Some say it's from "Greenland Whale Fisheries" by the Pogues, and I'm okay with that, although the older version is more traditionally ship-wise. Yes, the captain comes off a little worse in their version but... Shane MacGowan. The stanza I refer goes something like this:

Oh Greenland is a barren place
A land that's never green
Where there's ice and snow, and the whalefishes blow
And the daylight's seldom seen
Brave boys
And the daylight's seldom seen.
But there's news that Greenland is getting greener everyday. And not just because it's Springtime on Uunartoq Qeqertoq.
So Greenland's getting greener and Iceland has a cute vodka spokesperson.
You deal with antropogenic global climate change your own way.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Friday, May 25, 2007

Betrayed by his fancy into metaphor...

I was avoiding talking about the fiscal crises here on The Beach. But I was thinking...
Imagine a marina. With several docks.
One of the docks, which ties off some very barnacle-encrusted and rarely-refitted vessels, is doing very well. Another of the docks is very shiny, with both liveaboard working craft and charter booze-cruise catamarans, and is doing very badly. Another dock, although beloved by its residents, is generally avoided by others, except for the utilities people who keep trying to tie off there.
I'm tied off to the second one.
In order to remain in the marina, pay for marina employees, ensure maintenance, and other facilities, we all pay a fee. We also need to pay the medical expenses for a dockworker who was hurt on the job. We used to have a share box of books and magazines. And now we have to carry our trash to a "pay-as-you-throw" dumpster, not the free one. Oddly, the big boats that take passengers get a break on their fees while the regular boats get no such breaks. And there's even a marina not far from here that charges them four times what we do. No wonder they like it here.
Some of us liveaboards think it would be fair to charge two different rates, like the other docks do. And most of the crews of other ships come to the booze cruise boats on my dock. The charter boats continue to send their money back to The Beach, probably somewhere where there aren't even any boats.
So someone suggested -- I think it was the marina manager -- that the booze-cruise boats raise their prices a couple cents, and give those pennies to maintain the dock. But some of the liveaboards still don't think that's fair. They claim people will be paying fees twice if they go on a booze cruise. If you can't spend two dollars per hundred dollars, and you can't part with two dollars, don't buy a meal for a hundred dollars. Or something like that.
Truth is, none of the commercial vessels are going to leave this dock if those fees go up. They've got it pretty good here regardless, and have invested in this particular location. But the fear that they'll leave if their fees go up keeps a number of people afraid. It's almost like blackmail. Sometimes folk wonder if those commercial vessels shouldn't just raise the Jolly Roger and be done with it.
But then I realize that if the marina management took a step like raising commerical fees, there would be one problem. One of ego. They don't want to get a bad mark the next time there's an evaluation. Yes, they might look bad if they were the one who raised those fees.
By some lights.
Commemorate Memorial Day appropriately.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"The 'We'll Try' City" is Really Trying

They want to "daylight" the Quequechan River in Fall River Massachusetts. The Providence River was daylighted several years ago, and Providence is thriving. So Fall River wants to do the same thing. The truth is, an Army Corps grant would surely benefit some areas along the underground river, but some enthusiastic folk have bigger ideas. Because they want to have Waterfire just like Providence. And gondola rides just like Providence. And economic revitalization and shopping and tourists. Just like... yeah.

Every few years, the residents of the former Troy Massachusetts let a few eccentrics come up with a zany idea that "Might...just...WORK!" and then the rest of the citizens can enjoy Fall River's favorite spectator sport, "Watch 'Em FAIL!"

Try something bizarrely irrelevant and nonessential with a manic passion born of maladroit eagerness and inappropriate vehemence, and perhaps somebody else will fall into your pipedream [sic] and you can hope it won't cost you any of your own money. This time, the Federal Government is the perfect patsy, because they have money for just such endeavors. Really, it's right there. Ready for us. Honest.
Once, somebody thought it would be a good idea to have a Tall Ship™ in Fall River. Some people still think so. So what if Fall River has never been a port of consequence (except for steamships). Fall River had no connection to a mutiny in the South Pacific or even the movie about a mutiny. And the bulk of Fall River's maritime interest and knowledge was a "museum" whose major claim to fame was housing a model of the Titanic. There was no established maritime educational or operational group capable of maintaining a ship. (Nor was there one after the ship arrived.) Of course other towns have Tall Ships™, but they also have other adjoining attractive features. A dead waterfront filled with abandoned cars and construction debris is not a tourist draw just because you've got a "pirate boat." Even if you had Johnny Depp giving free tours every half-hour.
Fall River is an exasperating hot-air quarry that can't even keep
a damned good bookstore open in the building run by the local college. Sure, you can uncover the Quequechan. But you'll still have a town full of unsophisticated illiterates who refuse to drive properly.
That's The Beach.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts June 1

("Special" thanks to NOAA. Here's hoping this is the last we'll hear from them.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007


Despite the fact that Tall Ships Festival at Beaufort last summer was a $2 million mess due to typical Beachdweller incompetence, further ruined by poor planning and lousy oversight, plus the 4,400 dorks who demanded refunds because they were lined up in what they described as "sweltering heat" to see "the pirate boats" and "captain jack sparrow," here's a partial listing of some of what you can expect from this Summer's Seaside TallShip™ Waterfront Fest-a-Fests:

(tanbark sails not necessary)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Donna Lange got back to Bristol RI yesterday, after 300 days and 31,400 nm. Welcome home.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

That Book I Read (Not a Review)

Here I can write anything I fancy.
After all, I am writing for my own regalement and (according to SiteMeter reports) for the edification of people who keep Googling©™ "pope eat fish friday" and "alyson hannigan." You know who you are.

So, here are my thoughts of I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, by Crystal Zevon.
Imagine a welcomingly long, slightly over-detailed documentary film with a great director, editor and soundtrack, with cameo celebrity appearances, plus surprising candor from people you didn't know could be honest about anything. (About a month ago, I finished watching Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home Bob Dylan, so I still have that wind in the rigging.) And that is what I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, is.
The pace is set early by insightful and funny Carl Hiaasen, whose insightful and funny books I had to read while working aboardship, because a Floridian "shipmate" kept insisting I do so. Only time I ever listened to the stowaway, and he was right. If Carl Hiaasen is the literary Warren Zevon of Florida, then Warren Zevon is the musical Carl Hiaasen of the rest of us.
No. Er... That's not right...
At curtain's rise: the death scene, among strangers setting the stage for the flashback to come. We learn about these people through their words, and we learn to listen to them as individuals, viewers of Warren Zevon's life, not as perfect chroniclers, but as the guy sitting next to you at the bar who says, "So did you hear about the time..." or the gal who starts off gregariously but abruptly stops in the middle of the sentence about that trip...
What are you looking for in a "rock star" story? How deep do you want to look? Reading I'll Sleep When I'm Dead is like looking at a relentlessly detailed superrealist painting: all literal sharp flat focus, where the artist doesn’t afford you the luxury of letting the subjects of the painting vanish into the distance or fade into vague shadiness. Crystal Zevon never lets her narrators let up; the focus and clarity is mercilessly honest.
Every item is laid out on the table, and if you want to dissect. Alcoholism, OCD, sex addiction, family struggles, the "C-word," -- but it never reads like a public service announcement or warning label. Many witnesses might relate one episode, no matter how contradictory the witnesses' testimonies are. But it's not Faulkner: these are real people who sometimes don't conform to character. Because they're real, and Crystal Zevon is brilliant in her stage direction to each in this drama. And that gives you a lot to dissect. If you're going to dissect. I didn’t.
Once I got a letter from the girlfriend of a friend who had died under sad circumstances. She wrote to me that my late friend “mentioned a lot [that] you were funny.” Imagine ending up with
720 pages of that letter from 87 interviews. To cull through them was a task for Crystal Zevon. She went through notes like that and gave them context, weight, and breadth. As one who has experienced some exceptionally demanding, intelligent, and lovable drunks, alcoholics, and soaks, I was feeling that particularly creepy Al-Anon meeting camaraderie with a lot of these folk.
And, yes, utter familiar starstruckedness. I've been a Zevon fan since high school, but to see glimpses behind the liner notes is always the fun of even the most tawdry tell-all. Which I'll Sleep When I'm Dead... is not. "He was reading Martin Amis! Time's Arrow!" "Crystal worked for the Cowsills! A Cowsill taught me how to play bones!" "Was I at that Boston show when Zevon sang 'Gloria?' I think so..." The Viper Room. Hunter Thompson. Bob Marley and Jerry Garcia. Harry Dean Stanton. Martin Scorsese. Depp. "The Hockey Song." Letterman. Martin Mull...
Maybe it takes a fan, but as one, I found solace in that oddly comforting Zevon humor, wit, and percipience. I laughed out loud at wordplay, at gallows humor, at the downright ludicrous situations some folk find -- or seek. Even at the inevitable end. Because humans laugh. We define ourselves (and our beliefs, and our pig-headed seriousness, and our selfishness, and our pride) by our laughter and excuses. It's the human condition. Anyone with trouble with that has never seen himself naked.

I’m just a regular hand, but I was a pretty good English major, and I was enthralled by Crystal Zevon's engaging rendering of what -- in the hands of a less proficient biographer -- could have been just a "boozing jerk story."
If the subject were not Warren Zevon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Book I'm Reading, an experiment

I haven't written a full-fledged book review for publication in 22 years. 22 years ago I wrote for Who!sNew Magazine. (I think that's how they logoed it.) Rather than the scholastic weekly publication it obviously sounds like, W!N was the next step in free-on-the-cigarette-machine-in-the-rock-club weeklies: a glossy magazine replacing that old folded tabloid with sex club and escort ads in the back. Which is what it had been a month before I got a free ticket to see Return to Oz, and they printed my review:

"Fairuza Balk is Dorothy Gale."

That was the review. Not the title. The review. That's what they printed. I wrote 350 words about Baum, Oz, shared thematic points of Oz in movies, pop culture, and literature. And the kid who micromanaged each page of "his" magazine printed those 5 words. And since those words are an actor's name (2 words) and a character's name (2 more words), my only visible creative addition to the article was the simple present tense one-word third person singular form of the verb "to be."
My next assignment was reporting on the first Boston appearance of a young performer who kept staring at my date during the backstage press wine. That performer has gone on to sell 23 million copies of the album she was promoting at the time. The issue of W!N that held my piece was "lost at the printer." I left W!N before I could see the publication of my review of Jerry Hall's Tall Tales: Mick Jagger's Long Time Love: From Texas to the Top ! My relationship with the "managing editor" had declined. He insisted I also sell advertising space and set up free "mag placement." I suggested copies on coffee machines in offices. Imagine if I'd dropped the soda machine bomb I was secreting. Posturing or not, the public was denied the singular thrill of my take on Chilton's Import Car Repair Manual 1985, the right to review I had won in the office short straw contest. The little office in whatsisname's dad's garage closed when the magazine belly-upped. I blame the lack of phone sex ads.
But now anyone can star in their own on-line magazine, or "blog." This is encouraging and egalitarian, but there are still personality-disordered weenies who insist upon wasting trees with their ill-conceived and poorly-executed "magazines." I'm still amazed that the idiot who publishes one of those rags locally just throws away other (albeit just as crappy) publications in the dumpster behind his own building, so more people can be said to read his. That's just bad sport. It's like the only radio station in town calling itself "number one" in town. I have the number one blog titled H.M.S. Impossible.

(insert review here)
(okay, maybe next time)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Annual "It's Not Playing Dress-Up" post

I went with Mother to her favorite restaurant for Mothers’ Day. The restaurant itself is an ancient throwback to a time when French cuisine was escargot and Chateaubriand and a lot of other things people couldn't pronounce but thought were classy. That's the word they used: "Classy." Not "Yumm-o," or just "Mmmm." Back when Julia Child was Rachel Ray.

As I do on special occasions in facilities that don’t have drive-thru windows, I wore a tie and jacket. I was amazed at the number of loud-mouthed middle-aged goofuses wearing sport shirts and jeans. And that was just the moms. The bowtie, a sedate yellow-and-cornflower number that lightened up the blue blazer playfully, received a number of outright stares.
I still believe in “special occasions” and that adding ritual, costume, and gifts adds meaning and shows respect better better than a card. A jacket and tie is a “nice dinner with Mother” costume. Shown here is a typical, but not recent, example. And yes, the martini is an important feature of the ensemble.
Here on the Beach, (where the clean RedSox, Nascar: What a WINNING Combo! T-shirt is considered proper casual Friday wear) I admit a tie can be perceived as a costume, and many may find it confining, suggesting work. On board a ship, I wore slop trow and went barefoot at work; on land, I wore a toolbelt. And I enjoyed what I was doing, so I have no bad feelings about going barefoot or wearing ill-fitting clothes, or carrying tools around my waist. Or anyone else doing so. I also have no qualms about wearing a tie on a day off, in the proper setting.
I would never give anyone the hairy eyeball for wearing a uniform or other, appropriate, workplace clothing to dinner. These days I do however insist upon “shirts on, hats off” at the table. It’s hard to eat with a tricorn dipping into the salad, anyway. Although if you’re good at it, you can snag a few cherry tomatoes for later in the watch.
I hope all you mothers were treated appropriately, respectfully, and with the love you all deserve.

Friday, May 11, 2007


  • CLICK HERE FOR YOUR DONNA LANGE UPDATE. She's left Bermuda and is between here and there.
  • And click here to see the Coast Guard step away from the administration's fuel-over-folks policies.
  • Teevee just can't get out of its own way. CBS, the "network" (remember them) that should be on its pension, if not life-support, has decided to offend some of us by walking the Pirates of the Cuckabu plank, Arrr. Just in time for the threequel's release. Survivor atrocian Mark Burnett used Picton Castle in his new “reality show” Pirate Master. Those who choose to watch will get to see a bunch of self-important jerks dressed up like college football mascots compete in some sort of fake reality "Tall Ships for the Nascar Crowd" gimmickry. Funny, you can do that for a slight entrance fee at any seaside festival this Summer. More details on those later.
  • The thing is, what's up with Castle's involvement? Do you say, "Well they've had a tough year, and this should get Picton Castle out of the tragic death-at-sea pages?" Or is teevee capitalizing on that tragedy? Or do you say Picton is a training vessel and shouldn't be used for all the phony hoopla of Ren-Faire product tie-ins and fakeass ye mateys crap. It seems a bad idea, this teevee.
  • A really bad idea.
  • And, what, on a working ship, does that guy with the eyepatch, the hook, and the pegleg DO, exactly?
  • I know. He takes care of the parrot.
  • Your Theatre (New Bedford) is holding auditions for The Water Widow, Ray Veary’s play about a woman who loses her fisherman husband to the sea. The spooky, ethereal, almost-Noh play was originally (according to the press release) "commissioned by Culture*Park, and culled from C*P interview tapes with the New Bedford fishing community who participated in C*P’s Fathoms oral histories project. It premiered as a Culture*Park production, in the New Bedford Nat'l Park, in summer, 2004, directed by C*P Artistic Director Patricia A. Thomas and again at the 1st New Bedford Working Waterfront." I did the show way back then and urge anyone to enjoy it by participating, viewing. Auditions will be held Wednesday, May 23, at The Playhouse, 136 Rivet St. New Bedford at 7:30 PM It'll be staged July 26-29.

    The man who sailed around his soul

    From East to West, from Pole to Pole

    With ego as his drunken captain

    Greed, the mutineer, had trapped all reason in the hold

-XTC, from Skylarking

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Commonition to Navigation

Tomorrow, AHA! Night once again grasps New Beffit's sad-sack neck and wrings out another second Thursday of delight and ... drug paraphernalia.

You remember, shipmates, that once every month somebody I know comes up with a new one-day slogan to presume upon NB shopkeepers who then try in some half-hearted way to impose on the sometimes-lively crowds who congregate around local businesses open especially for them on that second Thursday. (The rest of the month, most businesses close at around 3 or 4 in the afternoon to prepare downtown for its usual Historic Whaling GhostTown Re-Enactment Event for which someone must write a grant from the Mass Cultural Council or Tourism Office. It's that good.)
But, to slavishly quote the local Weekly Compass, in New Bedford Hope Spring's Eternal, and there's much to celebrate this May 10. In fact, Art!History!Architecture! (I never know which gets the exclamation point, so, dammit, have three) wears the tartan, "Changing Facade." I suspect they meant "Changing Façade," but cedillas are hard to come by in the Whaling City (or create if you don't have an alt key. Or don't know what a cedilla is.)
Of course, they may have remembered the theme of April 1998's AHA! night, "Stop your Uppity Showing Off, Smarty McHTMLPants!"
So, tomorrow, New Beffit is celebrating the changing facade of downtown. Good for them. But I'm not sure Old New Beffit is ready for one of the events advertised on their site (including an actual lecture yclept The Changing Face of Downtown, partly presented by Judy Downey, who rocks) and other events, like the postponed Earth Day Eve March. Right, that's like one of those Find The Mistakes cartoons. But I mean this one:
"up / stair / fine / art (528 Pleasant Street 2nd Floor) presents Skull Bongs – New Work by Kevin Morosini; Check out calico for NEW indie designer and vintage clothes for spring! All 6-9pm"
Skull Bongs. Yeah, there's your changing façade. Although, I think Kevin is a printmaker, at least according to his website.
I'm okay with that, I was okay with "Cocaine Plants Trees" (June,1987) and "Isn't Scotch Dandy" (March, 1953). But nothing will change my opinion of the most successful AHA! night ever, January 1934's "Free Dawson's Beer and Grandiloquence Night," celebrating the ultimate repeal of Prohibition.So. to precipitate you in the 420 vybe yo, here's Tommy Chong's deleted site, thanks to The MemoryHole.

Friday, May 4, 2007


  • As if Dunkin' Donuts wasn't/weren't/isn't annoying enough, they've picked up Rachael Ray to help "brand awareness." I guess she'll be doing deelish donut sammy demonstrations at THE Providence Civic Center DUNK and I'm sure she'll also be standing around smiling dumbly at the Dunkin' Donuts Newport Folk Festival. I hate The Beach.
  • At the other end of the talent spectrum: If you see the SouthCoast's versatile percussionist Jimi Beauregard, wish him a Heckuva Happy. He's older than I. Again
  • Sonar sucks, if you're a killer whale. Especially if you're a killer whale.
  • Got a new bloom coming:
  • Derby Day tomorrow. Got the Bulleit ready to go. Here's the line, as of 4/27. At least you'll get all the names right.
  • And it's Free Comic Book Day. And it's Cinco de Mayo. 2 out of 3 for the drinkers among us.
  • And here's a picture of a damp Alyson Hannigan. Don't say I never give you anything. Damn kids.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Of course, I had to say something...

According to the local Affable Unaffectable, Steve Urbon, the Massachusetts legislature is considering a petition from Pittsfield MA 5th Grade students who want Herman Melville's Moby Dick named State Book . Today's paper has a somewhat more terse David Kibbe follow-up.
Urbon finds it worth mentioning that the 5th graders in Pittsfield have never read Moby-Dick. I find it amusing that both S-T authors mention other "Official State" things ("state glee club song"?), but don't mention the Official Vessel of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, New Bedford-berthed Ernestina.
Hell, everybody finds it amusing that nobody has read Moby-Dick. In fact, depending on the need to suck up or be part of the crowd, many people are proud of never having read Moby-Dick, often loudly insisting that they never. Strangely, though, everyone knows it's about some kind of albino cetacean, the first line is something like "Call me Ishmael," and has some pirate captain guy with a peg leg.
Even the 5th Grade teacher insists she has only "read parts of it." I was at a function Sunday night where Representative Barney Frank joked that he had never read it.
Well, I've seen him read it. Certainly not the whole thing, but every year at the New Bedford Whaling Museum Moby-Dick Marathon ("25 Hours of Dick"), Barney reads a few paragraphs. Come on! Why pretend you're illiterate and uneducated? So the tough kids won't beat you up? Get your head out of your gym locker. You got out of high school 40 years ago. I know that the Moby-Dick joke is universal, it just seems uglier here in the town that Melville so singularly praised.

Every boat I've ever been on has had a box or a bookshelf, a bag or a chest with books: some ratty dog-eared paperbacks of dubious literary merit and copies of Mutiny on the Bounty and Moby-Dick. There's Stephen King and Louis L'Amour... I even caught up with nearly a decade of SpiderMan on one delivery. Damn, no wonder knot-tying and scrimshaw aren't popular with sailors anymore. Literacy really screwed the marlingspike arts.
And I did read Moby-Dick. Of course, I read parts of it in high school, along with the Aeneid and Catch-22. I often pulled it out to read on deck. Or trying to get to sleep in the morning when I was working nights. Or, at work when I was working nights. I read it a total of, I think, eight times. And I read portions of it at the aforementioned
"25 Hours of Dick." I directed a minister, an eight year-old, a puppeteer, and a drummer in a staged reading of one of the chapters.
It is, though, by all accounts, a great book. Because everybody says so. Although it's not as long as everybody thinks. My version is 521 pages. Not a huge "leviathan" by anyone's measure. The first two installments of the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian (Master and Commander and Post Captain) are 907. Yes, some parts are better than others. Yes, it's academic and encyclopedic. But aren't you brave enough? Curious enough? Intellectually adventurous? The preachy sermonizing and archaic speechifying is character-driven, and makes the characters vivid, real, and complex; the boring-ass boring parts are there to make you appreciate the exciting and edifying parts.
Kind of like life.