Wednesday, January 30, 2008
"He was elected by all them Mexican illegals in Chicago. He did the oath onnna KOran, because the political correct crowd let him."
I'd been listening to a group of waiting-room elderly hiss their inaccuracies for eight minutes. A dermatologist's office in Dartmouth isn't an ideal spot to seek out the Illuminated, but I expect a certain ... decorum in a doctor's waiting room. (Plus: did I need this now? Who would ever have thought that spending one's life shirtless on boats in the sun might lead to a possibly moderately non-malignant spot that required removal?)
It was a dumdum free-for-all, between allusions to Chappaquiddick and and the vocal exalting of war criminals. One fellow turned around and, red-faced, instructed the woman to "declare you're Independent, then they'll listen to you. You'll get what you want if you do that. They figure you're brought and sold if you say you're Democrat. Brought and sold." [sic]
I wasn't exactly certain what he meant. I mean, I understand the common belief in the "lazy conspiracy of the majority party" -- relying upon their loyal base, depending on a certain number of votes from each precinct which they take for granted. But I couldn't understand how declaring yourself not a member of any party would ensure that Washington (or Boston, or wherever) would help your particular political agenda and make your Early Bird Special less expensive.
I'm going through my midWinter political ennui. The empty cheer of knowing that next year's SOTU will be delivered by someone who possibly doesn't say "nu-kyoo-ler" isn't enough. The frustration of watching the national corporate media pick and groom candidates while leaving issues behind has hit me especially hard this go-round. We never even get a mention of a single-payer not-for-profit health care system, just the bitching going back and forth between candidates about the bitching going back and forth between candidates.
I never hear my vociferous companions in an office, a market line, these talcum-scented pensioners mentioning what they read on DailyKos or TomPaine.com and I never even hear them quoting the polite Republicans at NPR. All I hear is some weird empty biased flaky sloganeering, or as James at Aces calls it, "conservarrhea." But, I always give my elders the benefit of the doubt (because I was raised by people who were older than I, and thus owe their generation something) and besides, maybe they just hadn't heard...
I cleared my throat.
"Barack OBama isn't a Muslim. His father was raised a Muslim, but wasn't religious, and his mother wasn't religious. Obama's Protestant."
The Old One waved her hand dismissively and went on: "And I don't like that Patrick. The Governor. I don't trust him neither. I like that Hucklebee, but that Genuanny-Jewellerronnie-whatever, he's a no good Eyetalian from Noo Yawk. But I like that Thompson."
"Missus FernanDEEZ?" the receptionist shouted from behind the sign-in window.
I was glad, actually, that I wouldn't have to hear her cackling anymore. Because I was tired of her veiled racism and the surely-upcoming cheap line about the Clintons.
And I remembered her (or someone just like her) from the market line...
"Let me get my change purse out oh I know it's here somewhere now what was that again thirty seven cents thirty you kids don't know what it was like four five six seven there you go oh sorry I dropped one here's a nickel now that's four cents you owe me I know how you kids don't know how to give change without that cash register tellin you and we never spent so much when we were your age you charge so much for everything not like when we were your age isn't that right they don't know how good they got it if you worked harder at the one job you wouldn't need the two..."
Hear the sigh of the cashier.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Last century, my shipwright pal Woody, his indecently-beautied girlfriend Sophronia, and I spent a lot of time wandering about the coastline looking for cool boats to purchase, rehab, and/or inhabit. You may remember them. Hmm?
Friday, January 25, 2008
- All the pols have decided Bribery Is Best, gone to the Big Imaginary Bank and secured just enough Future Debt to hand out to me and thou and help perk up our "sluggish" economy.
- Yesterday, while I was spending the afternoon humoring the Massachusetts VehicleRegistry-Insurance-DinkyServiceStation Complex, driving to-and-fro to register a vehicle I should have registered two years ago, I got to thinking about my friends Margo and Jimi. I'd been thinking about their new baby, family, house, ever since The Bribe was announced: We're getting $300, $500, $1600 (or whatever) from their daughter. And her classmates. So thanks, Jade.
- Whenever you see a baby, thank that kid. He'll be paying for our economic stimulus.
- Just so you know: I'm buying a steel mill with mine.
- D'you know what would be really funny? If the New England Patriots never lost another game and they became so boring (because there's no drama or conflict or interest in a perfect record) that the same people who are orchestrating the PrezRace2008!!!1!™ coverage decide to never televise another Pats game because all the other teams would be so demoralized (and officially known as LOSERS) and they would all disband, give their money to charity and there would be Monday Night Eighties Boston Rock Nights and more hockey.
- Because New England says.
- Shipmate Shipwright Leon Poindexter is headliner in the 18th season of New Bedford Whaling Museum's sailboat-obsessed lecture series, aptly named "Sailors' Series." They started the first leg last Tuesday with Luigi Reggio, another one of those "faster is better" guys who wrecks a good day sailing by having to round the mark before everybody else.
- Since we here in the SouthCoast have been given the go-ahead, from the Department of Environmental Destruction, for coal gasification (which is just another excuse to tear the tops off mountains), I thought I'd direct shipmates and readers to the folks at Environmental.Laws.Com .
- Speaking of wrecking sailing: If I had a 97-foot multihull and the opportunity to sail around the world, you would never see me for ten or fifteen years. The watery world is too beautiful and rich to rush through . Which is why I really can't share in the enthusiasm and praise for Francis Joyon's 57 day, 13 hours 34 minutes and six seconds circumnavigation.
- Two Dartmouth Indians have taken out papers to run for Select Board. One is already town agent (running for re-election) and had to be told by the town clerk that he couldn't run for two jobs. The other writes smug and cryptic Letters to The Editor.
- Out next week: Childhood hero Joe Jackson's new album, Rain.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
This past weekend, a truly beautiful old manse on Washington Square in New Bedford burned and is, as I write this, being torn down. The house was slated to be restored by WHALE (the Waterfront Historic Area LaguE). But now it's being torn down.
Maybe someone associated with WHALE did not want to see
monies spent on fixing this old house in New Bedford.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Just in case you happen to be one of those striking teevee writers, I thought I'd toss this out to help you when the producers stop equating the size of their genitalia with the size of their bank statement.
"Equating" or "confusing." You're the damned writer, you figure it out.
Remember those moody spooky teevee cop-shows-that-weren't-cop-shows-but-there-were-cops-in-them that usually had a ghost story and a weird know-it-all and a quirky town full of off-center characters. You know, like American Gothic or Twin Peaks or that other one.
The pilot always began with someone -- a construction worker or likable rube or homeless physicist -- finding a body or body part or ancient cursed amulet in an unlikely spot, usually a spot owned by or frequented by or mysteriously avoided by another character of questionable background or proclivities, and the episode would unfold like an onion, just as layered and usually just as stinky.
Welcome to New Bedford.
For all the gentrification and creative economy going on, it's still the #1 money-making fishing port and that means shipmates tossin' back a few. I am one of the few people of my age and vertical ambulatory ability to visit the Cultivator. Like The National and the late lamented Whalers' Edge and the No Name, they were shot'n'a'beer spots that let you run a tab because they knew your boat, its owner, and the rest of the crew. Cultivator Shoals was one of those seaport bars that had spent a great deal of time -- and very little money -- to develop a steadily terminal clientele.
But all good things get sold.
The guys who now own it want to call it The Pequod and make it into a swell microbrewery. Which actually makes it a fine addition to a neighborhood that already boasts a wine and tapas bar and a flashy "bistro" with singing waiters.
And now they have a fun story to tell on opening day. The story about when the guys digging out the cellar found bones.
Last Thursday morning, as they were clearing out the floor of the basement to make room for the brewery equipment, they found bones, called the cops, and there you have your first page of the script. No charge.
Of course, they could be dog bones for all anybody knows.
But I do remember there was this one guy who was always sitting at the end of the bar who didn't move much.
Friday, January 18, 2008
- Here and there, you read things like how offended some people get about some advertising. Having worked in advertising, I can tell you that most of my peers weren't smart enough to create the subtle compositions most people point out as "subliminal advertising." (You know, like "the outline of the naked lady in the ice cubes ad" we always hear about). This, on the other hand, is about just as clever and sneaky as my peers ever got:
- Okay, I admit I haven't been listening very hard, but I haven't heard much on teevee or radio about Rep. Wexler's impeachment hearings on Dick Cheney. Wexler went to Congress the other day with 189,000 signatures requesting hearings, but I didn't see any coverage of that. Kucinich's request for same has been on Conyer's judiciary committee desk since whenever that wasn't covered. Executive privilege is still the law while habeas corpus is gone, justice is obstructed, evidence is lost, torture is the American way, and lies are threatening Iran. But no coverage.
- I got myself one of the cheap iPod boomboxes for my birthday. (Big selling points: small, loud, and recharges iPod.) So I moved the hi-fi components out of the dining room and figured the little AM-FM radio, CD/iPod player did that area nicely. An added bonus: I couldn't pick up any AM radio.
- Unfortunately, when I removed the iPod, the immigrant bashers and gubmint apologists came out over the thing just as loud as ever.
- I could have just replaced the MP3 player and gone back to my enjoyment of Stiff Little Sharon Jones and the Velvet Abyssinians, but the Portuguese announcer was so eager to invite me "to listen to a daily radio that consisses"of something on the other station in the same cowfield shack. I just had to see if the high concept parody would continue.
- But the locally-owned (a very good thing) station is, after twenty years, apparently still going through its "We're just starting out and we're not experts and stop always harping about quality and standards" phase. The conservative morning guy (and he's gotta be a clever put-on) was wasting air going on about an affair ten years ago that had no effect on our Constitution but gave everyone the opportunity to say "oral sex." In that nervous, giggly, sixth-grade-gym-class-towel-thwacking tone that has become so essential to serious national news programming.
- So: OFF.
- I heard from a guy who heard from a guy that Aces Full of Links is unavailable due to "server issues." Knowing the acumen of the guy in charge over there, this message will probably be moot in a few seconds, and I'll have wasted this space. Good luck, James.
- But since I could, I listened to the liberal afternoon gal (new mom, congratulations). And they're still talking about it. The oral sex, not the Cheney Impeachment.
- It might seem that, after gushing about Dedee Shattuck's swell picture book, I was uncharacteristically generous to the Swamp Yankees and Swamp Guineas around me. Yep, I was, but sometimes you gotta give the hayseeds their due. Or they cut you in line for lottery tickets and SlimJims.
- "Pelletard." There, I said it. The guy refuses to participate in debates. AND PEOPLE LIKE THAT. I can't wait for the mouthbreather to take Fawrivvah Pride to Beacon Hill and show them what the SouthCoast is really made of.
- I grew up next door to the Chaces who own Chace Leather. It saddens me greatly that their business is suffering. I never would have known about lacrosse or friendly neighbors or the history of the area if it weren't for them, and they're the people I grew up believing were the truly representative real people of this region. So when the second-generationers shoot the hairy eyeball to the old names and old money around here in their old homes, I think of Grandpa Chace and how he welcomed the kid with the Irish name to share his family's past, of which he was immensely proud. Fair winds.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
This part of The Beach, although festooned with McMansions and Summer estates, will always be considered "The Country." However, it takes exactly eight minutes for me to drive to the site of a mill that once employed hundreds of people. I can bike to the biggest shopping mall in the region. We even have a Starbucks, the herald of fruity urban modernity all my neighbors loathe.I live on the border of agricultural land, conserved for the purpose of agriculture. Although -- like most of the farms around here -- it was once a dairy farm, it is now primarily a vineyard.But my understanding of the local farming culture goes back to when I was a kid in school. Because I was the smart kid that got bumped up a grade, I was in what some of my agricultural friends called "the Smart Class."
And they were what my Smart Class friends called "Farmers."
I didn't understand the pejorative sound my suburban pals made when they said "fah-mah."
What I had failed to ascertain was the difference between what I saw on the early-morning International Harvester propaganda films and the hauteur of the hay-growing Swamp Yankees who never had no use for book learnin'.
I am over-simplifying what is an extraordinarily complex sociological phenomenon, but no one is going to study it because it's just so damned boring that I'm wondering why I'm even. I mean, I could write a book about it. Yeah, a fancy picture book with a colon in the title. But I'd have to self-publish, because publishers would probably suss out that it's just a lame-ass attempt to garner favor with locals who think
Dedee Shattuck published a book. "Farmers: Portraits in a Changing Landscape." Fancy that.
Ms. Shattuck describes the farmers as "inspirational," in the same tone one uses to claim that Special Olympians are "inspirational." We know our farmer neighbors around here. They mow our hayfields and plow our driveways and provide great products through the CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) and at the myriad local Farmers Markets. Sure, Farmers Markets have a "CDs-on-tables-by-the-mixer-board-on-open-mike-night" quality, but some of these guys are local folk stars.In Farmers... -- without benefit of cohesive narrative -- we're perfunctorily introduced to people who make with the farming. The reader gets a sense that each farm is a one-man operation since we're not given a sense of employees, the workforce involved, except a few mentions of "the kids."
Any homegrown discussion of local folks will seem incestuous and tedious, but Ms. Shattuck's book is still a lovely photograph of my neighbors' vocations and avocations. The thin but impressively-designed (Hannah Haines at Reynolds-DeWalt) tome consists of photographs (by Abigail Pope, Bridgette Auger, and Lyn "ClamJams" Keith) and the author's rhapsodic captions to those photographs.
Although I know a half-dozen of the books' subjects, I'm fascinated by the details Shattuck finds appropriate to share. At least half, it would seem, are distinguished as family farms run by a descendant of the original owner. But many farmers around here are former professionals who picked up the hoe after retirement or as a pastime. At least three admit that their farm is not their primary source of income. Some are happy about the next generation, some are cranky about it. Some mention the importance of local farms in the light of national security worries and gas dependence issues. Nobody uses the term "hobby farm."
Usually when the privileged eulogize a "lifestyle" like farming, the poor subjects are depicted as wed to the land their ancestors farmed, unlettered and weary boobs in need of the aid of smarter, wealthier, better-connected busybodies. SEMAP, the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership, is an institutional manifestation of what the farmers around here do anyway "to achieve economic success" -- they band together, help each other out, and work toward the common goal of getting their quality product to market. There are a number of farmers in this book who say just that. Farmers... is a love letter to SEMAP's members and operatives. Who, although well-represented, are not always clearly identified as members of the organization's Operating Board or Coordinating Council.
Now if some of them could only be convinced to not work so hard for the multinational retail corporations around town.
If politics "makes strange bedfellows," then economics is their insidiously misguided pimp. An unemployed farmhand in Dartmouth I know is working against the town's split tax rate, which they insist places an "unfair" tax burden on businesses -- with a high chance of succeeding due to the tight network here. This puts the farmers in the same camp as the CEOs of WalMart and Stop&Shop, the very corporations who refuse to buy local produce and have effectively made these farmers' lives more difficult.
Could they put their energy to work redefining some laws so that certain multi-use crops could be planted legally and profitably on the very farms? Crops like hemp which benefit the soil and, unlike hay, can be used in textiles, clothing, specialty industrial oils, paper products, building products, insulation, and fuel. Oh, that's right, WalMart doesn't like them either.
And we can't offend our corporate friends.
But nobody ever said farming was easy.
Monday, January 14, 2008
By HAMZA HENDAWI – 18 hours agoExcept for the sheep, it's a lot like running a gallery here in the SouthCoast
— By all rights, the Hewar art gallery should be a casualty of war. Months go by without a single painting or sculpture being sold. The gallery's cafe — once a noisy meeting ground for Baghdad's intelligentsia — now sees just a few hardy regulars.
The owner's balance sheet shows losses of up to $400 a month — a sum considered a good monthly wage.
On the plus side: three sheep that were a gift from a friend in his native Anbar province to the west. They grazed on weeds and hedges outside the gallery in north Baghdad's Waziriyah neighborhood.
But something keeps Qassim Sabti from locking the doors for good.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I come from a work tradition of teamwork, whether it was a marketing project that required cooperation between many disparate individuals; whether a theater or television production that employed creative workers and technical workers; and most importantly, a ship's crew that required technical know-how and creative solutions to complicated issues. Life is like that, and Shipmates know that, and this journal tries to fumble and marlinspike its way through, bad analogies and all.Nowhere on land is there a true sense of crew or an appreciation thereof. If you thought the crowds at Christmas were bad, that's how I usually perceive The Beach and everyday interaction thereupon. What's so important about this ratrace that you would sacrifice anything to win it? Can't you see we all come to the end eventually? That there's no need to beat me to the next stop sign? Every time I see some overpaid ballplayer , or string-armed celebrity, or equivocating politician, or bad driver justifying their bad behavior as though they really believe it won't affect anyone else, I lose a little more bearing.
But I can recall former Shipmates and remember the time they helped haul that line, or furled that topgallant, or caught (or tossed) that line, or stood there on the quarterdeck and raised my spirits while I was at the helm.
Or hopped up on my lap and purred.
I've lost too many of those Shipmates.
Thanks for your patience.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
When I first tied off the docklines here, I had to work out some space and territory issues with the other male occupant. Mouse† (a composite of a Maine Coon cat and David Niven) begrudgingly shoved over, still dominating the couch and eventually developing some tenuous enough trust in the vile usurper (me) who stole some of his mistress' attention. But, I shared my kippers and advice about diabetes. So, he let me watch Farscape because of Dominar Rygel, with whom he identified. Mouse† is no longer a physical presence at The Manor, but there isn't a day when one of the current occupants doesn't feel a little memory of his life.
Worst damn birthday ever.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
It's January 3, the anniversary of the 1841 heave-off of the Acushnet, the Fairhaven ship that went a-whaling from New Bedford to the Pacific with Herman Melville on board. Here in the ol' Whaling City, that means it's time for the New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon, the all-volunteer mumblefest through the pages of the book everybody says they've read. But here, people actually do. Well, some people do. Special people. Cousin Lorraine has an article that mentions past Marathons, but reminiscing is sometimes not a good thing. Particularly if there is photographic evidence that the one year when you got to read the final climactic chapter you looked like this: