A Reluctant Astronaut

A Reluctant Astronaut

Howard Dean…Howard Dean. Oh, I know! Didn’t he play Andy Griffith’s kid in that Mayberry show way back when? You know, the one with the small-town sheriff, his bug-eyed deputy, and that harrowing barber who never moved his left arm? The show had a whistled theme song, and as you listened every week you’d watch scenes depicting small town life, the sheriff and his kid walking by some pine trees with fishing poles, then the kid skipping a rock across a country pond in a badly edited instance of “This Spoiled Hollywood Brat Can’t Even Skip his own Rock Across a Pond.”

No, wait. I’m thinking of Ron Howard, who went from Andy Griffith to Happy Days to Explosive Onset Pattern Baldness and thence to great success as a Hollywood Director. (Once you have the bald pate and shame-covering cause célèbre baseball cap, you’re just a hop and a skip away from those movie-set headphones and the director’s chair). Howard Dean was the 2004 presidential candidate whose disastrous, un-presidential troop-rallying yell at a political gathering utterly derailed his Presidential chances. What on Earth was he thinking, yelling like that on t.v.?! LOL. And I repeat: LOL! Dean’s poor showing in the Iowa caucuses that election season had inspired him to a post-Iowa attempt at inspiration-speak, and he let fly with a brief “forward march” monologue that concluded with a ragged little victory yell. It was the sort of pitiable yell someone’s dad might bark out in an attempt to appear simpatico with the young concertgoers surrounding he and his soon-to-be ostracized son in the DeadMau5 pit. Well. You know how voters can be. Or how they used to be, rather.

Your Footnote, Sir

By the next day, our blue-chip media, ever in pursuit of Cereal-Selling, were all over Dean with that drily-delivered smarm they hustle out on these occasions. Of course our highly conditioned B.F. Skinner electorate obediently walked its blank figure eight, right on command—followed the media’s signal as certain goldfish will follow a moving flame held near their entrapping little bowl. Within several days, Dean’s televised battle cry had been successfully blown up as a Disastrous Media Gaffe, and the “rinse and repeat” news cycle kept the phony controversy alive until Dean had been thoroughly drubbed out of the race.

article-2375414-1af6719e000005dc-221_638x426

this shit’ll get you fired around here

We like our Presidential candidates to be…Presidential? Anything less and there’s gonna be a dogpile. And that is why the little-known name “Howard Dean” today comes with a footnote. Yeah, he…ran for President, I guess? Oh wait! But how’s about that funny yell, man? Oh gawd. The Dean Scream? LOL!!!

Fortunately, it takes quite a bit more to discomfit We the Weebles these days. We are a rough-and-tumble electorate now. A candidate happily hollering on t.v.? It’ll take more than that to give us pause. A helluva lot more. At this historical juncture it is unclear what exactly will give us pause. Back in January, then-candidate Trump said this: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” And he said it in Iowa. We didn’t even tap the brakes.

Yeah, this most recent campaign season has been one for the ages, our current President Elect having comported himself like an elephant plowing at top speed through a carefully arranged display of Swarovski crystal. So we showed him the door. The door to the oval office. Take THAT Howard Dean. When in mid-January we look at any real-time orbital video of Earth, Real Estate Investor Donald Trump will be the most powerful human being on that large blue ball in the middle of the frame. Embrace the fact.

Chastened

At this writing, our newly anointed President-elect of the United States has emerged from the traditional pre-inauguration field trip to the White House, where he was shown around the nutty-looking mansion and (presumably) given the briefest glimpse of the bored and captive alien they keep in some sort of pen down near the Situation Room. Whatever Trump saw and heard during his private time with Obama, he seems to have been made thoughtful by the experience. And who wouldn’t be? Video of the President-Elect sitting uncomfortably in an armchair next to President Obama had the surreal gravitas of prisoner footage smuggled out of an undisclosed location.


If a candidate for the Second Cashier position at your local Home Depot had been overheard braying that adolescent shite, the jackass would have been quietly passed over for the kid with the retainer.


As a graying, relaxed-looking Obama said his stuff about his and Trump’s reportedly productive and “wide-ranging” private conversation, the unbroken squall of 60 press cameras in burst mode almost drowned out what the two guys were saying. And Trump wasn’t saying much. The seated mogul’s “I really gotta go to the bathroom” body language said a lot, though. The Donald’s manner was that of a chastened scaredy-cat; his long arms hung forward, his dimpled hands variously clasped and drooping, his squinting, sleepless-looking eyes casting about the room beseechingly with a mild vibe of “oh, shit”. Trump and his staff had reportedly been wowed by the scope of the administrative nightmare that is simply Running the White House, not to mention Obama’s Cliff Notes summary of Free World-Leading. There was a lot for Trump to take in. You could see it in his face.

Flaunting tradition, he’d flown to the transition meeting in his private jet, the better to flip the media the bird. The press traditionally accompanies the President-Elect on this jaunt to the transition thingy, chumming it up in-flight, laughing good-naturedly and providing lots of gladdened “behind the scenes” clips of our Fourth Estate appearing human and relaxed with a future President who, once he assumes office, will become their steak tartare, and the brightly shining object of their ratings-fueled henpecking. Well, Trump had been henpecked puh-lenty already, and took the millionaire opportunity to avail himself of his own private jet, thanks. He left the honestly bewildered media folk on the figurative tarmac, choking on expensive jet exhaust, blinking confusedly and fingering their lil’ press pass lanyards.

Sticks and Stones and Puppy Dog Tails

As for what got us to this pass – a lot was said this election cycle that I’m sure the candidates wish they could take back, if only to replace those earlier barbs with the crueler, more bitterly savage screaming they regret having holstered. Trump’s difficulty with extemporaneous speaking, though, meant that his wildly unmeasured broadsides often sounded like escaped brain flatus. From his early adoption and rabid championing of the birther bullsh*t to his flatly stated opinion that “…President Obama has been the most ignorant president in our history”, The Donald’s unmediated, majestically bar-lowering jibberjabber may finally have gone to ground. His stunned expression on transition day suggested as much.

As a nation, we wanted “change”. Why we don’t just dig it out of the sofa like all the other starved losers is anybody’s guess. And as usual, our inability to articulate beyond the Pavlovian election-year sloganeering came to no good. When the “change” mantra gets going we are known to lustily toss the baby, the bathwater, the tub, and the deed to the house right out the freaking window. Blue districts go all red, people seem to change stripes overnight, and our cheap, lazy desire to feign engagement undoes the brutally hard work of those few in D.C. who actually toil.

160127164121-donald-trump-aug-rally-exlarge-169

Jesus, a camel, and a needle’s eye. This picture says a lot,brah.

Yeah, we received the election results with all the freewheeling drama you expect from a well-off First World citizenry. A woman on the Staten Island Ferry hollered shrilly at the news camera and shook her hair. “Hillary deserves to go to jail! I want to see Hillary in Jail!” Somewhere between her work for the Children’s Defense Fund and her having beaten Vince Foster to death with a shovel, Hillary lost this voter. At the other end of the spectrum, a scattered crowd of Hillary supporters, garishly lit by the news camera lamps, were seen tearily shuffling out of Hil’s election night Glass Ceiling HQ like the outcast damned. Which about fits.

Trump’s hot mic “locker room talk” about assaulting women those years ago may have been only that; talk. But if a candidate for the Second Cashier position at your local Home Depot had been overheard braying that adolescent shite, the jackass would have been quietly passed over for the kid with the retainer. And Hillary’s stirring final remarks to all the “little girls”, exhorting them basically to not feel bound to the current “Grabbing Crotches is Power” ennui—it brought home the fact that we want and need leaders who seem like us, but a little bigger.

November Surprise

Trump now just seems surprised. At everything. The nation’s urban outpouring of protest scorn seems to jar him, and the spike in cracker incidents in the wake of his election drew from a visibly shaken Trump the Rodney King-like “Stop it. Just stop it.” Why is he surprised? Because Trump is not a racist, misogynist bigot, is not a deeply tactical Machiavellian despot, rubbing his power-paws and chomping at the bit to assume the throne and eat his enemies.

reluctant

pre-presidential id

He is neither Hitler nor Mussolini. All this cracker activity genuinely surprises him because he is just your ostentatiously wealthy, boorish neighbor who speaks instead of thinks: ”I’m scared of Syrians! Where is Syria? I love to grab women! Oooh, I’m so mad I’m gonna punch ISIS! That Obama is crummy at being President, really crummy! Hillary, you are going to jail, baby!!” Anyone listening even cursorily to the Donald’s 4th grade-caliber pronouncements will know straightaway that he is just a 70 year-old crank in a vacuum with shitty handlers. Oh, and hair like an irradiated rooster. That’s all. He’s not a “nationalist”, “isolationist”, or even a “conservative”. He doesn’t know what those things mean. He’s just a blustering loudmouthed everyman who hated being told he couldn’t do this one thing, and now he’s trapped.

In the fab 60s Don Knotts vehicle The Reluctant Astronaut, an everyman ride-operator from a theme park gets launched in an actual space capsule. After a whole reel of Knott’s particular brand of glandular panic, he manages to commandeer the space capsule safely back to Earth by reverting to his theme park persona, and so losing himself in the astronaut fantasy he becomes a Momentary Astronaut. May the same thing happen to our Donald, who seems awestruck that the thing is really happening. Whether or not he ever wanted the job, we need him to succeed. “We do want to win this. We do want to win it,” he notably murmured with downcast eyes as he and Melania cast their show-votes on election night. He looked pretty darned glum, and later as frankly stunned as the rest of us. So we may have some common ground after all. Let us pray.

Peter’s Little Sister and the Transformation of The Nutcracker

Peter’s Little Sister and the Transformation of The Nutcracker

Near the end of 1890, and fresh off the box office success of his ballet The Sleeping Beauty, Pyotr Tchaikovsky (we’ll call him Peter) was saddled with a commission that would nearly kill him. The Director of the Russian Imperial Theatres asked that Tchaikovsky re-team with his Sleeping Beauty partner; choreographer, Principal Ballet Master, arguable Father of Russian Classical dance, and maddening fussbudget Marius Petipa. The commission was issued under the tacit imprimatur of the Tsar. They got to work.

As had been the case with The Sleeping Beauty project, Tchaikovsky left the selection of source material to Petipa and was both surprised and pleased and when the choreographer told him the “festive” new ballet would be based the on the E.T.A. Hoffman story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Hoffman, the Stephen King of his day, had written a typically macabre story dealing with the strange fate of a nice guy named Hans Peter, the nephew of the Mr. Drosselmeyer whose appearance opens the ballet.

tchaikovsky-in-a-rare-moment-of-repose

Peter T in a rare moment of repose

Through a series of bizarre reversals, an evil spell traps Hans Peter in a huge-headed, grimacing nutcracker. (It’s worth noting that the staring, blockheaded Nutcracker that has come to be cozily associated with knit socks, roasting chestnuts and garland began initially as a hideous figure of dread and mystery in the original Hoffman story. Go figure).

Tchaikovsky was a huge fan of Hoffman’s writing and his interest was piqued at the idea of adapting such oddness to a ballet – until he read Petipa’s treatment, at which point the composer’s shoulders slumped. Much of the strangeness and charm had been drained from Hoffman’s fever dream by popular French author Alexandre Dumas’ mellower translation. Dumas was by then widely read, his Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo page-turners having established him as a hot pop-literary property. It only made sense to marry Dumas’ beach reading sensibilities (so to speak) to Hoffman’s bizarre but thrilling imagination. It was from Dumas’ softened version of the story that Petipa had created his narrative.

peters-sister2

Peter’s adored and doomed little sis, Aleksandra

Dumas’ version reduced the Mouse King’s heads from seven to a more publicly palatable one, for instance. Added to that disappointment was the tightly-wound choreographer’s exacting list of dance intervals to which Peter’s’s score would need to cleave like a glove. The composer saw little room for musical invention and began to wrestle with the material, attempting to shoehorn in any creativity the choreographer’s strictures would allow. Tchaikovsky complained so loudly about the Nutcracker assignment at one point, the Imperial Theater’s director helplessly apologized to him for having commissioned the thing.

Progress on The Nutcracker absolutely crawled, complicated by the composer’s ever-present lifelong neuroses, and then compounded by Peter’s sudden breaking off of a 15 year letter-writing relationship with a woman with whom he had never even stood in the same room. Tchaikovsky’s long-planned trip to the U.S. to conduct at the Grand Opening of Carnegie Hall (yes, THAT Carnegie Hall) – fell right in the middle of the Nutcracker writing, and threatened to further bog the project down. He boarded a train for the coast, and passage to America. A dark catalyst was about to re-energize his writing efforts, and finally color The Nutcracker with all the hues of the ascendant human spirit.

In April of 1891, while traveling through Paris on the way to his American gig, Tchaikovsky received the news that his beloved little sister, Aleksandra, had died. He slid immediately into a deep depression, from whose depths he asked for a deadline extension on the Nutcracker project, which was granted. He returned from the States and continued his now-depressed attempts at fulfilling the Nutcracker commission, but if it had seemed hopeless before, now it was becoming truly impossible to proceed, absolutely haunted as he was by the terrible death of his Aleksandra.

But then something turned.

As he dwelt obsessively on Aleksandra and their youthful Christmases together, Tchaikovsky began to identify the Nutcracker’s Clara with his departed sister. His paralyzing grief began to find coherence in the Nutcracker project, and he turned to the assignment with a new, almost crazed enthusiasm—spinning from the pain of a bereaved brother a lush orchestral score with all the melodic longing, melancholy and bittersweetness he was otherwise unable to express. Tchaikovsky poured all his sadness, all his shining anger, all his aching sense of life’s interrupted glory into the music, into the melodies. He filled Pepita’s exactingly timed dances with such melodies as would ring down through the ages. Tchaikovsky completed The Nutcracker in a fever of productivity. Two years later the star-crossed composer was gone.

 

iconic-backstage-artistry-frieze-nc-2015

The Miracle of the Water

The Miracle of the Water

These questions haunt our age: Why do men with bushy Friedrich Nietzsche moustaches torment us by eating eat ice cream cones? By what strange devolution of studio engineering did the cracking snare sound of 1967’s Penny Lane sink to the mid-seventies signature snare sound – a hand puppet hitting a shoe box? Oh, and how do I stop drinking?

Drinking…drinking. Ah yes! Now I remember. It is, simply put, marvelous. Why on Earth would you want to stop?! It’s practically free, perfectly legal, and an always available, authentically ecstatic experience that puts you immediately in mind of a truth-seeing little magus in a velveteen cape. He is sunk comfortably back into the plush velour of your frontal lobe, lazily scissoring his crossed legs, and by your second drink he is laughingly, and with tiny magus-like ge­­­stures, parting every curtain you’ve ever hoped to see through. It’s all right there, right in front of you; a glorious dopamine countryside whose untended gardens beckon like a mother.

Ice Cream and Nietzsche

no ice cream cone für Fred

And what a feeling it is. What a feeling! You drop the little charge of amber fluid down the inner velvet of the neck and it strikes the tummy like a gushing Peter Max explosion of warmth that is lovelier by half than any other sensation you shall ever thenceforth know. Within a handful of seconds you are seeing, unmistakably, the Next New World. John Cheever, my personal deity and a famous fallen lush (for a time) both decried and helplessly praised “… the euphoria of alcohol when I seem to walk among the stars.” I do believe that about sums it up.

Glass half empty: the predilection for alcohol is classified as a disease. Because what but an abnormal and skewed constitution can possibly explain the desire to feel really freaking fantastic all the time? “I would love to feel really freaking fantastic all the time!” “Yes, well, that is the nature of your disease.”

Really? At this writing (and according to a talking head who briefly held the floor on my car radio this afternoon, if you know what I mean), recent discoveries based on some over-excited twiddling of the human genome seem to indicate that alcoholism is about 50% genetic and about 50% willful. Yeah. Uh, thanks, science. You laboriously teased apart the double helix and that’s the best you could come up with? Hope your beakers and stuff didn’t cost too much.

I’m no scientist (to say the very very least) and a yen for hooch may well be partly genetic, but this “disease” classification of boozing seems to me a little overweening, having sprung, at least in its initial rollout, from our collective altruistic impulse to let the alkies off the hook. “We gotta let these boozers off the hook! How do we release them from this prison of shame? Can we just say they caught a disease or something? A drinking disease! Yeah, that’s it! How else to humanely explain this embarrassing desire of theirs to feel freaking fantastic ALL THE TIME?” No, dear ones. Wanting to feel really really good all the time is not a sign of illness. Quite the opposite.

eddie-and-jeffy-in-throes-of-happy

I dabbled in fire water once upon a time; never quite got the hang of it, though. I started late, for one thing. While my more sensible acne-bedeviled compatriots were skulking around the high school parking lot on game night, gulping from bottle-shaped paper bags, laughing like morons and finally attacking each other in zipper-festooned bellbottoms (this may date me), I was going to Young Life meetings and Bible studies and listening to earnest Believers with diaphanous teen-beards strum guitars and sing about the beautiful baby Jesus. I treasure that time and would not trade it for anything. Those days formed the best parts of me – but it cost me dear. I lost my place on the Practiced Drinking continuum. I never quite caught up. In those days I wore a delicate little gold cross around my pencil neck and walked around in tiny 70s short-shorts I would today severely punish my daughter for even glancing at on the sales rack at Marshall’s. In my Christian finery and Caucasian ‘fro and three-striped knee socks, I was scarier and more off-putting to little children and the general population than the most ravaged vodka fiend. Which is all to say, at a time I should have been practicing my drinking with the fellas, I was diverted by other pursuits.

My high school peer group were not ‘partiers’. While our desperately healthy counterparts were doing the inebriated hokey pokey in the back seats of innumerable cars, we were spending long evenings in the balmy lamplit Baskin Robbins parking lot, doing Monty Python skits and flirting with the girls, all of us wearing those gender-neutral rugby shirts everyone wore then. My later boozy training was imperfect and uneven. I would drink a Bud Light and curl up and fall asleep on the couch. This drinking just makes me tired! It did not occur to me to have another fortifying drink when the effect of the first began to flag. This was in my 20s, and it went on like that for a while.

all ye who enter

all who tipple are not wounded

Once I’d moved into a group house with my longtime friends, you can just imagine how it went. My roommate, an equally inept tippler, would mix a pitcher of Martinis comprised mostly of saline slime dumped from an olive jar. I swore off Martinis for years. When I did finally discover the delights and horrors of hard liquor I was in a band and doing shots and all the rest. How many evenings did I hustle outside to the back yard of our band house to forcefully bark out a variegated mist of pilfered fraternity wine under watchful stars? Many evenings.

Well. What happens is, you grow older. It becomes more and more difficult to lift bags of potting soil without hollering like an animal. At work you exit your sporty little car with difficulty in the covered parking garage, and the inadvertent echoing groan escapes you like a cry for help, unnerving the 20-something gal three spaces away who briefly looks at you the way Anne Bancroft looked at the Elephant Man. Worst of all, the effects of the two day Scotch Squall become sufficiently horrific and unavoidable to give you real pause. I was finally spending a lot of time feeling crummy and not readily bouncing back. I once calculated that if I lived to be 80, I would have spent nearly 5 years of my life feeling out of sorts due to post-drinkum.

It was neither guilt nor shame nor a sense that I was wronging myself or my loved ones (though I was) that gave me the bright idea of stopping: it was the Humble Hangover that unhitched my wagon. I grew to dread them, really; to loathe them. When I stopped drinking, and I did it in a day (to my own surprise and following 25 amateurish years of boozing), it helped that the returns were immediate. I began to converse delightedly at gatherings again, unafraid of slurred inarticulation, I saw the afternoons and evenings through 5 rinsed and buoyant senses. I would awaken on glorious new mornings without the feeling that a hot pig was trying to burrow out through my forehead.

I never dreamed it would be that easy to just…stop. But I didn’t count on how positively reinforcing the clear days and nights would be. It’s like the cloud that lifts when, as a kid, you have your last spasm of stomach flu over the toilet, your mom with her cool hand on your back. Then suddenly the nausea lifts, and the feeling of normalcy and gratitude is like the most stridently beautiful sunrise you have ever known. Everything looks gorgeous. Remember getting over the flu?

Friend and neighbor, you have taken care of yourself and your loved ones, haven’t climbed behind the wheel of a car while tipsy, haven’t gone off the deep end. You’ve been responsible with your sipping (mostly), but you’re concerned. Are you a drunk? Are you sick, or worse? I dunno.

But I do know you are not a laggard for wanting to feel really freaking fantastic all the time. Everybody wants that. The desire to feel good is not a disease marker. Thanks to the thermodynamics of feeling good, though, your not unreasonable pleasure-seeking comes with a price tag; gagging flashes of nausea and the dislocating sense you have been scrambled in a transporter accident out near Starbase 11. Society calls this a bad hangover, and it did me in. If you’ve had one too many of those, you can call it whatever you want. You can even call it quits. If that’s the way you want to go, let’s get started. The nausea minutes continue to pile up, and the gilded wonder of a clear-headed morning awaits. Your call.

stop pulling that goddamned dog

stop pulling that goddamned dog

man’s best friend
is an expensive afghan hound
afghan may mean drone strikes somewhere
here in the u.s.
afghan means a sleek-looking hound
at the end of a grasped leash.
aw look at the doggie
look at all the doggies
aw man’s best friend
you can’t have a dog
you’ll never take the dog out for a walk
aw yes I will, I promise
and even if you do
it’s an idiot’s game
man’s best friend spends every minute
straining against the leash
does anyone notice that?
man’s best friend wants to run
sniff pee-pee at every bush
make a little pee-pee himself
and take off running again
“whoa, that’s a tall order
i want a best friend, sure
a loyal yes-companion from the ranks
of the docile lower animals
but this is man’s dominion
we made it to the top
climbed here with our thumbs
where the hell are your thumbs, little doggie
thought so
you’ll be at the end of my taut leash.”
he doesn’t know he’s an afghan
and the pricey Shih Tzu’s id is indistinguishable
from that of the three-legged living rag
that nervous guy sold your neighbor
the Shih Tzu looks at the three-legged rag and thinks
that’s me
not bad
not bad at all
i like
the dumbass Shih Tzu doesn’t know from dominion
it has been bred to walk from room to room
“interesting breed. what are they for?”
to walk from room to room
none of these best friends know what they are
they just want to screw each other
and eat and make pee-pee
like us
is that such a big deal
you get to do that every day
or nearly every day
can your best friend
maybe take a crack at it, asshole
loosen that leash.
I said loosen it, jackass
i will knock you down
aw look at him strain
aw his little face
he doesn’t know he’s a prisoner
you dog wants to run
aw man’s best friend
he wants only to run!
but after maybe 30 self-congratulating minutes
you’ll be fatigued from hurling the slimed ball
in its plastic “Lower-Animals-R-Us®” claw
let’s get back to the condo
and leave our companion alone
back to the kingdom of pain, I mean man
back to a blanket in a basket
and a synthetic Purina snack of glued brown powder
shaped like a cartoon bone.

Your American Summer and the Power of Feeling OK

Your American Summer and the Power of Feeling OK

Dear visitors from across the Pond; here comes summer, and your opportunity to visit world famous California, USA during its high season! Yes, everything you’ve heard is true! California IS summer. Surfing, sun, and fun, fun, fun! And Daddy is NOT going to take the T-Bird away (I’ll explain later)! And if you’re going to travel all the way to California, you sure as hell (pardon my American) are coming to Santa Barbara, right? California’s Crown Jewel! HELL yeah! Oh, what’s that you say, Mr. Näaktgebøren? This year your family has chosen to summer in beautiful Flat Lick, Kentucky? Good call, sir! Nothing says “Summer Vacation” like a bracing and terrified sprint through waist deep, moonlit swamps. How are the kids with that decision? Let’s ask them. Famke? Joop? You kids down with dad’s decision to explore the “Real America”, the America of scary banjo-playing men in rocking chairs on dilapidated backwoods porches? Because outside California that’s pretty much what you’re looking at. Or how’s about an “American History Vacation” that has you visiting that dumb cracked bell in Philadelphia? OR, would you rather spend your “American Summer” around bikinis, surfer dudes, beer pong and movie stars? How does a possible James Brolin sighting sound? High FIVE!

A Very Dispiriting Outcome

But before you settle in, Foreign Friends, there are things about California and the U.S. you need to know, the better to understand and absorb the American experience before you head back to Glockenspiel or wherever. You see, Mr. Näaktgebøren, it’s like the song says (produces a guitar from out of nowhere and begins strumming); this land is your land, this land is my land, from California, to Gilligan’s Eye-land. Yeah, our land is vast, diverse, and carpeted with wonder, so to speak. But your “American Vacation” will be almost certainly be comprised of your family spending several weeks hunkered down in our isolating little beachfront burg with only brief forays out to Las Vegas (a neon-encrusted den of iniquity), the Grand Canyon (a huge hole that really wows at first then quickly becomes tiresome), and Disneyland (whose cardboard Matterhorn and its Yeti with lights for eyes is deeply embarrassing to us (despite the Disney Corp’s herculean efforts in the areas of topographical and zoological authenticity). There is more to this great nation; much much more. The U.S. is a big-hearted land, Mr. Näaktgebøren. It is filled with poetry; the poetry of The Individual. There are also vast mountain ranges (described as “purple” in some of the nuttier paeans), amber waves of grain, and heartland children waving little American flags in slow-motion. By the light of our uniquely American spirit we have moved beyond the barbarism and darkness of the Olde World and have, by the joining of many hands, attained the summit of some fancy mountain. Mount Vesuvius? I forget exactly which mountain, but you get the idea.

Sir Francis Bacon once wrote, “A quantity of mercy cannot be strained. It is best to puree it.” And here in the U.S. we have pureed Mercy like nobody’s business. In your well-meaning country, Mr. Näaktgebøren, much is made of, and many hard-earned resources squandered on, the misbegotten attempt to stamp out homelessness, poverty and hunger. Your culture’s pricey socialist egalitarianism is for the birds, Mr. Näaktgebøren!  ( I mean no offense, it’s just a saying we have. We Americans love birds, and we eat many different kinds of beautiful birds). Your style of government wants to help everyone, make everyone equal, but that is not natural. Do the animals help each other? No, they eat each other. Or they maim each other in the attempt. Eat and maim. The Circle of Life. We understand the human impulse to spread the resources around in such a way that no person goes unfed and unsheltered, but where does it end? It ends with everybody owning the same kind of car. A very dispiriting outcome.

The Mercy Way

We of the Greatest Nation on Earth® have found another way. The Mercy Way. That’s what we call it. What. Don’t look at me that way. Yes, the U.S. has its poor, tired and hungry. Ol’ Lady Loudmouth in New York Harbor keeps waving them in with her stupid torch. We also have our homegrown balding, legless, cross-eyed and booze-addled. That can’t really be helped, but we do not want them to feel bad. We do not want anyone to feel bad. That is key here. This is the United States. We’re positive thinkers. And in all of the U.S. there is no State more singularly devoted to People Not Feeling Bad than California.

Let’s take a little walk around, soak up the sights and sounds, and learn the proper nomenclature, or Mercy Names, for the various situations we pass. The Golden State Kindness Glossary is issued by the California Hall of Fairness and updated every 5 years by a governor-appointed panel of empaths and poets. The keynote? Be careful what you say. The disadvantaged, dispossessed, and other species of the simply uncool are doing what they can. They may be living on the curb with outstretched hands, but priority # 1 is not allowing them to feel bad about that. This is How We Do, as unofficial SB Mayor Katy Perry puts it. Or as we say in California, “If you can’t feed ‘em, joy ‘em”.

Where is JG?

Stearns Wharf is surely one of the loveliest sights in all of SB, isn’t it? State Street hits the coast and keeps on going for a quarter mile, tethering the town to the sea, as it were. Really lovely. Picturesque. Say, look at that smallish community of beautifully tanned ragamuffins sprawled down there on the sand and on the nearby beach lawns, some of them displaying handmade wares and fulsome beards. A less enlightened township would call this group The Homeless, but here in Santa Barbara they are known as “The Houseless”. See? Now doesn’t that take some of the sting out? Look at our city’s beautiful and iconic Dolphin Fountain, so named because it is a statue of Dolphins in a Fountain. Well, it used to be a fountain. Now the bronze dolphins are leaping triumphantly from a bed of wilting fuchsias. Walking slowly around it in a kind of stupor is a possibly distressed unfortunate without any teeth! That is an “Exposed Gums Champ”. You heard right! Now let me direct your attention across the street there. That downtrodden gentleman’s limp is quite pronounced. Looks to me like he is a “Uniquely Gaited Fancy Dancer”. You’re getting the hang of this, Mr. Näaktgebøren! You see? It’s more important that everyone get their tin trophy than that they are thrown a rope. There is John Galt.

Let’s continue on up our lovely State Street a little further and soak up the atmosphere, shall we? Oh my goodness! Look at that guy! Yes, Americans have a global reputation for being a bit portly and out of shape, but have a look at that bag of ham! Woops! I mean, have a glad gander at that “Self-Accepting Jolly Ball”.  Uh oh! That “Tequila Genie” stumbling around has partaken of too much alcohol! I wonder why? Hey, don’t look at him like that, you European softie, you can’t save everybody. Haven’t you ever seen a lost, unbathed man careering about a public space before? What kind of antiseptic society you guys running over there? I’ll tell you what kind. A Socialist society. Root word: “Social”! That right there should scare you people. Uh oh…any minute now he’ll become a “Singing Goo Geyser”. Whoa, watch out! He’s singing all over the place!

Well, I think I’ll leave you and the kids and your lovely wife Hubertha to see the remaining Santa Barbara sights on your own, Mr. Näaktgebøren. I hope I’ve conveyed something of what it means to live here in Santa Barbara, and more important, what it is to live in the USA! Now go have your fun, enjoy our famous weather and $15 Martinis, and don’t be distracted by the Houseless. They’ll work it out. Tell your friends back home what you have learned. People should take care of THEMSELVES! All they need is a little encouragement. What? Oh, that? That’s our courthouse. Our COURTHOUSE. You know, there are trials there? Bad guys are sent to jail by judges? Yeah. Pretty, isn’t it? You should see it at night! All lit up? It’s really something. Beautiful! It looks like Disneyland’s Small World ride when all the decorative floodlights are on, bathing it in glory, like an E-ticket ride to Justice. Yeah, they really throw the book at ‘em in there. But wait’ll you see it at night!

A Lib Confesses

A Lib Confesses

I’m an NPR guy, okay? Yeah, I got beat up by the bike rack in 7th grade, earned my stripes like the rest of my lot – by being ill-advisedly sympathetic at the wrong time (see Homebuilders Association of Northern California versus the Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp). The bully, who I’ll here call JK, had kicked poor little big-butt Tony Matthews so hard in the ass during a soccer game in PE, the force had actually lifted Tony off the ground. I’d reacted spontaneously and unwisely, earning my adolescent “Bleeding-Heart-Soy-Based-Bonehead’ creds by briskly hollering at JK and eliciting from him a promise he would meet me after school. “Naw, we don’t hafta meet,” I’d actually said in those first panicked seconds of sobriety, attempting to de-escalate. Think that worked?

Stingray in the Stingray Day

When after last period I went to retrieve my Stingray with its sparkly banana seat and faux-wood-knobbed 3-speed stick shift (litigiously positioned to bludgeon my groin in the event of even the most minor biking mishap), JK was there grasping the handlebars of my beloved. This weasel-faced bully was about half my size and so homely I found myself actually pitying him (see?!) in the seconds before his surprisingly practiced fist introduced itself to my left cheekbone. Could I have taken him? Yeah. I could have taken him for a short run by fleeing like a panicked rag doll. But I knew he and his two minions would quickly catch and thrash me with renewed vigor. That’s right, he was backed up by henchmen, or henchmiddleschoolkids, more precisely, though to me at that moment they looked like grown bruisers with police records. While the two assistants stood in the background smirking with their arms crossed, JK struck me in the head once, twice, Three Times a Lady. There was no ceremony, no verbiage, just a dreamlike minute whose sweep-second hand took its sweet time rounding the face of my cheap ‘takes a licking’ Timex. POW! two three. POW! two three four five six seven……hoo boy glad that’s over the future pessimist exulted…..POW!!!

The blows fell with a stunning blunt force that to my utter surprise did not mimic the slappy-sounding, easy-to-shake-off punches one saw on TV all the time. I vividly remember thinking, as the punctuated jabs landed with the sickening sound of skin smashing into skin; “Shit! This is nothing like I imagined!” From that moment on I understood that were I recipient of a Kojak or Mannix-quality beating in real life I would likely not survive it, let alone straighten my collar and make out with a beautiful woman afterwards. Huh UH. The next day I walked into Ms. Stone’s math class with a face so swollen my cheek stood out in my peripheral vision, a nagging omnipresent reminder of my humiliation the previous day. “Hey, what happened to your face, Wing?” JK chided when I walked in, and from the back of the classroom Tony Matthews giggled with the rest. An early dose of The Bitter Medicine. I looked shamefacedly at Ms. Stone and the concern in her beautiful eyes made me love her anew. But that’s another column.

Mug of a Carpenter

Later that same emotionally misbegotten lifetime, I of course became a member of NPR; the broadcast maypole around which we mercy-dispensing Libs delightedly prance in our forest-green tights. I love NPR. My ex-girlfriend (read: wife) and I pledge to them semi-regularly, and in pitiable dollar amounts insufficient to earn us the coveted NPR Grail, or mug, as it’s known to the unwashed. I depend on NPR’s deep reporting, interestingly unpredictable interviews, and frontline real-time dispatches to help augment my world view, which is informed by the twin lights of mercy and fairness.

Having said that, I can tell you that when I turned on my car radio the other day and the NPR team were murmuring soporifically about salad or human rights or some such, I reflexively punched the AM button for escape. Sometimes the radiant self-congratulation of the NPR gang makes me want to go out and shoot an endangered Snail Darter in the legs. There, I said it.

The Left! Look at us! (those of you who are sick of looking at us, look away) No wonder JK beat me senseless by my newish Schwinn! Was it this quality of mercy that so strained the Romans that they simply HAD to beat up our Guy? Oh, and speaking of Christ, how did the ‘Left’, whose goofy public policy positions actually reflect New Testament teaching, lose Christ to a Conservative movement that has not only armed the Lord with a machine gun, but seems to crap on His less-advantaged sheep with impunity? I’ll tell you how. It’s a little something called Freedom; a much-maligned and tactically abused concept. Freedom is a cult here, I would suggest. It is safe to say the U.S. is beholden to a cult. Do we need deprogramming?

How May I Help You?

My friend David, with whom I discuss much, once asked me out of the blue, “Do you think the Socialist experiment in Europe has been a success?” It’s one of those Great Questions whose discursive answer-seeking can sum up so much. As I said to David that day, “…it depends”. What does our race want? What are people for (all thanks to Vonnegut) and how shall we address this exalted animal? How shall we comport ourselves in this dumb, brutish life, whose pageantry includes both creme brulee and slow beheadings? Shall we build elaborate systems to ensure that no individual goes unfed, unsheltered? Arguably, yes. In the U.S. , where Modern American Liberalism is practiced (vs Classic Liberalism), a microcosmic outcome of this seemingly sensible and Christ-like philosophical practice is the awarding of a little tin trophy to every kid on the losing soccer team. Yes, some of us see a merit-based reward system as barbaric, or at least unnecessarily hurtful to the little boob who can’t kick a ball when it’s right in front him, and should be taught that ineptitude can also be rewarded, and handsomely. Or should the goal of our species be individual excellence? To be superb, a roman candle fulfilling in absolute terms as much of ones human potential as possible in the time allotted, whatever that may be? Arguably, also yes. What else are we gonna do with our idiot’s eyeblink of a life down here on this meaning-starved wet rock in the middle of literal nowhere? I mean, we got the overcomplicated neural firings, the opposable thumbs, the inexplicable qualia. It’s not like we’re simply very expensive dogs. Having been handed all this largesse by the Big Bang/Giant Bearded Man in a Terrycloth Robe (to summarize the two most popular hypotheses), are we really just supposed to stand down and shade each other from the sun? That’s it? Are we self-actualized, pinnacle-seeking animals, or cosmic social workers adrift in a poetic vacuum, placed here against indescribably remote odds to be at rest, absorb the moments, and see that no one starves? Your answer will depend largely on whether you live in a cardboard box or in a three bedroom house with a mortgage.

Coming Clean

Okay, I’m gonna come clean, as they say (or used to say – and seeing it in type I understand why they stopped saying it): I get Conservatism. At least, I grasp their once doctrinaire embrace of Freedom as an undervalued social compact whose role in history has been that of a golden thread weaving in and out of a shit-smeared burlap onesie. I do understand the inherent common sense and actual human glory that inheres in the Every man for Himself model. In the heat of an argument I once yelled at my conservative nemesis that the U.S. has a “cult of Freedom”, by which I meant we hold people hostage to the idea of Freedom, and in policy debates consider top-down systemic attempts to alleviate suffering a blow against absolute freedom. What good is this double-edged Freedom if it doesn’t help anyone who is suffering?

Eugene Delacroix-La Liberte guidant le Peuple

Lady Liberty’s wardrobe malfunction scarcely registers as she leads the revolutionary French in Delacroix’s famous painting

True Freedom can be shown to leave people worse off, from a public policy standpoint, when Freedom is invoked to push back against government policies that seek redress for the helpless. Seeing Obamacare’s mandate as a blow against Freedom seems absurdist on its face. Christ in his mercy would surely have forced such an issue in the interest of decreasing suffering. The Lord didn’t give a shit about anything but saving people. But, this Freedom thing; it is the natural state of affairs in the universe, like gravity, the weak nuclear force, and so on. Does it exist apart from or somehow loftily above our questions about suffering? Is it a Golden Thread?

It’s a fact, oft-noted, that the Conservative aspirational model that posits a human life as a pinnacle-seeking enterprise is simple Darwinism (tactical Bible-thumping aside). And that is not to denigrate the term. Still another name for it is Freedom (yawn). Does an animal in the wild give up his taxi to the wheezing guy next to him when it’s pissing down rain? Nope. Is that a bad thing? Only if you’re the wheezing guy with walking pneumonia. Contrary to the religious posturing that is anymore an essential amino acid in the GOP’s political DNA, the party that champions individual accountability and liberty (within the party’s own curious limits, it must be said – wombs and pills still fall under the Heisenbergian “both wave and particle” purview of Freedom’s High Priests) is the party that favors the Shaggy Ol’ Laws of Nature as a design for living. And they don’t even like animals as much as we snuggly Libs do! Can you imagine a platoon of Republican PETA militants angrily breaking into a cosmetics lab and liberating the helpless test beasties? If you ever see that happen you can bet the rescued Maybelline rabbits will make their next appearance on a rotisserie being brushed with clarified butter.

Libs are philosophically the opposite and apposite. They want to lend a hand to the poor, the disenfranchised, the dispossessed; a decidedly anti-nature way to go about things. Animals in the wild are as free as freedom gets, and they screw and eat each other with thrilling/disgusting abandon (respectively). So it’s a little odd how feverishly Liberals venerate the natural world given their total abandonment of that model when attempting to retool civil society as a Play-Doh equality factory.

The Paragon of Animals

Big Bill Shakespeare described a human being as “The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals.” We are probably that. Oughtn’t we, then, encourage one another to stand and fight with all our exalting means, and not succumb? I’ve taken my shots at Conservatism, have gotten hot under the collar just looking at the way their chins interact with THEIR collars. And they are a fat, slow-moving target at a glance. But I think I do understand that the heart of TRUE and unpolluted conservatism is not contempt for the poor and the downtrodden, but contempt for a culture that doesn’t see them as the Paragon of Animals but as lost ninny children who will never find their way. A Conservative can be the most ardent humanist you’ll ever meet in this regard. And I get it. Homelessness and hopelessness and poverty and the desecration of the human spirit – these are real, misery-sowing, ongoing diseases that need a dose of burning disinfectant. But awakening the latent immune system inside a human individual, arousing the army of antibodies placed in us to overwrite our weaker nature and to buttress our better one – surely this is part of the cure, if only a small part. Yeah, we’re only animals. We’re not beings of light, but we have a strange capacity for renewal that isn’t explicable in the Darwinian model. We have the ability to incandesce.

Freedom Isn’t Boring and May be a Two-Faced Biatch

It does come down to Freedom, I’m afraid; an uber-American noun so laden with baggage it looks like an Eastern Airlines scab on Skycap strike day. Freedom? Haven’t we long since become bored silly by that numbing word, inured to its deeper, almost religious meaning by the stupidity of today’s polarizing shitheel discourse? Today’s Conservatives champion “Freedom” but many of them throw the word around so recklessly it amounts to disrespect for what is a sacred state of being. Take for instance the “Freedom Fries” the House of Representatives cafeteria began serving in place of French Fries when the Gauls had the balls to equivocate at the U.S. decision to lay down a generation-screwing dose of shock and awe on the already massively f****d people of Iraq. I mean, Freedom Fries?!

I don’t know that King John at Runnymede had that kind of semantic b.s. in mind when he momentously (if a little reluctantly) signed that piece of parchment in 1215. Freedom is not an invention, and neither a discovery. It’s like oxygen. But here in the States, where it is as ubiquitous as actual oxygen, “Freedom” has the same spoken narcoleptic firepower as the words “beige” or “Jimmy Fallon”. Freedom is the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights and Dr. King’s defiant march from Selma to Montgomery, and is absolutely central to every incandescent quality that makes us unique among the animals, that makes us human. Freedom isn’t an optimizer in a speech. It’s an element of the biosphere the “lower” animals don’t even notice. We’re higher animals, though. We owe it to ourselves to notice.

The Crackers and the Lorax

So, Conservatives? I understand that not many of you are raging bags of homophobic racism, but a few of you are. Dump your crackers in the public square, they’re screwing your mission. And your patriarchal ovum-diddling. WTF? Freedom, right? There is no Half-Freedom. For our part, maybe some day soon we Libs will stop glad-handing the Lorax, Dr. Seuss’ mustachioed, forest-defending cuddler that pit family members against each other for a time in the Pacific NW where the demonized logging business put food on many many families tables. Kids were suddenly questioning their parents’ working in the devil’s business, sawing down trees and upsetting the Lorax. I have yet to meet a Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp or laudably ancient tree that merits starving out a hardworking family of human beings. We’re the paragons, not that dumb little cross-eyed shrimp. Time and the universe stretch out forever. The shrimp will be back, as will the tree. Let’s get real.

Final nagging note to Conservatism from a smug Liberal weenie. You’re right – the Freedom of the human being may qualify for Grail status, and all barriers to its hegemony should be thrown aside. But Freedom isn’t curbed by government policy that reaches out to the dispossessed and downtrodden, those imprisoned by circumstances. On the contrary. Policies that alleviate suffering give thinking Hobbesian animals the possible respite they require to avail themselves of the graspable rungs of precious Freedom’s ladder. To put this in awkwardly scriptural terms, the means to grasp Freedom is to Freedom itself as John the Baptist was to the Savior. Just sayin’.

 

Trump and Circumstance: Making the Case

Trump and Circumstance: Making the Case

From sea to shining sea, the republic is taking a cold shower. And whether one partakes of said shower to snap out of a drunken fog or to come down from erectile servitude, it’s a bracing habit to adopt, a reboot. Jefferson famously said we would need a good revolution every so often to keep the national motor humming and lubricated, though he wasn’t so far-seeing that he used the word “motor”. But he may have been talking about Trump. The New York Times’ likably clear-headed conservative columnist David Brooks went so far as to characterize the current madness as the possible beginnings of an emergent new political movement, though in my view that flatters the restless sea of knuckleheads who have taken up Trump’s “cause”, or “causes”, or “Tourette’s Outbursts”. Full disclosure: I may be one of those knuckleheads.

Open Carry on 5th Ave

What the hell is going on? We know damn well what’s going on. A billionaire Alpha-Loudmouth has entered the field and we’re enthralled. Why? Our Tom Thumb pundits, seated around their nonsensical, outsized pundit tables, marvel aloud at the wildness of this electoral season, shake their shellacked heads in half-grinning wonder and offer non-stop analysis, or at least enough verbal flatus to keep the methane-fueled news cycle from collapsing like a foul soufflé. Trump is a gift to the media, who normally have to overgrill the staid facts of the Body Politic to get this kind of juice. Suddenly Hilary’s EmailGate (or whatever the hell they’ve been calling it) seems quaint and cozy. Is the press really going to bird-dog Hillary about her e-mail server when the likely next leader of the Free World is saying stuff like, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”? Trump is a gift, and I don’t mean that sardonically. Yes, he bloviates like an inebriated 5th grader, hollers unanchored nonsense for the record, and wears the squinting, pursed facial expression of a guy preparing to be slapped. But in the current field of jackanapes and anointed bots, he is a change agent like no other. Trump is our Jeffersonian totem.

Room

Your high school social studies class with its bland descriptions of the three branches of lockjaw, I mean government, might have predicted this, though it seems to have caught the Fools on the Hill completely off-guard, variously stammering and posturing. Pipsqueak Harry Reid has been seen haughtily crossing his little arms while the Republicans run to and fro, rubbing their spotty hands together and worrying that Trump may make them look bad. Seriously. Conventional wisdom says Trump is the hideous Republican creature the GOP deserves, the freak-synthesis of all their wrongheaded Tea Party-cajoling and class warmongering. Trump is no more a Republican than Senator Mitch McConnell is an underwear model. Trump is an apolitical freak, a Talker on the stump without handlers, a script, or a lick of sense. It’s enough to pleasantly jolt the chloroformed American electorate into a sitting position. And why shouldn’t we be excited? You don’t have to like Trump to adore what he is doing – taking a hatchet to “American Politics” and the palsied wraiths in D.C. This Trump veneration is not a protest movement. It’s a mad rush for anything that looks like a cracked window in a room filled, for a hundred years, with suffocating smoke. This unlettered billionaire dimwit in purple silk tie and almost endearing lower middle-class flyaway comb over is a trickle of air in the sealed and smothering Room of political discourse in this country, and we’re clawing over each other to draw a breath. I mean, did you hear the crowd at the Fox-hosted debate on March 3? It sounded like a gallery of Mixed Martial Arts enthusiasts with beer bongs. The Donald seems to have awakened the collective electoral Mr. Hyde whose latency has actually long been threatening to kill our political spirit from within. Now that Trump has reanimated the once-supine corpse of American electoral politics we may see a little action.

Reflux Pageant

The Iowa caucuses were the canary in the coal mine. In that first so-so contest of the 2016 Presidential Decision, with the nation watching to see if a blabbermouth know-nothing billionaire could really win any of these state contests, the sanctimonious, worry-faced Ted Cruz “beat” the amusing curiosity that was Donald Trump. Cruz then swaggered up to the microphone and, dripping with the stilted theatrics of a just-elected 7th grade class treasurer, regaled us with the sort of gasping E Pluribus Sputum that characterizes the very worst of this country’s dumbass political tryouts. Sure that he was at the very beginning of a steamroll, Cruz wheezed and barked his way through a wave of clenching self-congratulation in Iowa while his wife, who is reportedly thrice as smart and gifted as her hubby, looked up at him with that American Political Wife expression of adulation. This is a mold we have long been aching to break. Every election cycle is a reflux pageant of cloying dullards saying nothing nothing nothing (nothing3) in a rain of colored balloons. This cycle promised to be no different. Then came the aptly named Trump.

Rogues and Pogues

Let’s glance quickly and dismissively at the other candidates and the howling vacuum into which the Donald has inserted himself. Hilary stands to become our first woman President, she of the over-rehearsed sing-song and scary doll cheeks and vaguely North Korean pant suits. Really? Her? No she didn’t kill Vince Foster (though Trump might if he saw him on 5th Avenue) but do you, reader, not have a brilliant and informed and articulate powerhouse of a woman in your sphere who couldn’t better Hil by a country mile? Ted Cruz, what to say? If you wanted Grandpa from the Munsters to be president you should have voted him in back in the 60s when his show was a hit. Marco Rubio – the Cuban Robert Redford. Some of his advisers are quietly suggesting he drop out before the Florida primary so as to avoid the embarrassment of being drubbed in his home state by a shouting new yorker with a rooster on his head. Rubio did handily win Puerto Rico, though. Stop the presses. John Kasich is said by all who know him to be a stand-up guy and a gifted politician. There is, however, a mild charisma deficit, such that he vanishes if you look straight at him. This could prove tactically beneficial in an international stare down – but at the end of the day a President who vanishes when you look at him is probably bad for the brand.

Taxes Toast

And then there’s Bernie…the unrepentant pinko from Vermont with the puzzling Brooklyn accent. He wants to give us everything for free by raising a few taxes on a small subset of industrialists and bluebloods. Hey, it works in Europe (more or less). Oh wait, that’s why we broke up with Europe a scant 240 years ago. We had to shoot our way out of that relationship. Yeah, that nasty split was all about dough. An old story. Come to think of it, the American Experiment began as a tax protest; colonists in politically incorrect loincloths and face paint throwing tea into a harbor, to be exact. As national pastimes go, tax hatred in the U.S. is second only to the consumption of canned peaches in heavy syrup. So…feel the burn. HELL yeah, we want free college and health care here in the states, but raising taxes on anybody here to pay for that stuff? Um, that’s Stalinism, bro. Besides, the tiny trillionaire cabal Bernie is determined to soak for the free stuff the rest of us will get? They’re the management company that maintains the White House. We love you, Bernie! C’mon, we’ll call you a cab.

Trump is not Republican excess personified. The truth is simpler and more interesting than that. He’s a cursing, self-contradicting, boorish, racist, Pope-poking genie who, whatever happens this election cycle, is never going back into the bottle. Now the GOP Backroom Brain Trust are openly cooking up a Kooky Convention plan to steal any possible victory away from Trump at the 11th hour; red meat and a vindication for the millions who are aligned with Trump simply because they can’t stand the deal-making machine that is now so publicly determined to stop him. Yes, the genius Republicans are hurriedly shoveling vitamins down the neck of their own insurrection.

Grab some popcorn and sit back. They may well have to take up torches and chase our new Candidate Karloff into the nearest burning windmill to wrap this strange little episode, but at least we and our fellow villagers will be able to look at each other with wild grins and say, “Wow! Wasn’t that something?! Let’s do it again!”

Go Donald.