My brother recently sent me a riotous pictographic transliteration of a Joe Cocker performance from Woodstock, which, despite seeming like it was only yesterday to those who were there and are still here, really did take place almost forty years ago. Watching the clip, I realized Joe was the original air guitarist, inventor of the invisible instrument and the leading techniques for playing it. At the time, we didn’t know there was (or ever would be) a name for what he was doing.
I don’t remember if I saw Joe’s performance, though I remain certain I was there, despite having reached the age where one’s own history begins fermenting into a strange brew of half-remembered facts, stuff other people did and wishful thinking, later to be quibbled about by old farts on park benches, one alta cocker to another. Which makes it a perfect time for folks who can’t leave well enough alone to print tickets to a reunion concert.
People sometimes change the way their names are pronounced, usually for personal reasons that may not be apparent. Like when Tony Dorsett announced that henceforth he would be called Dor-sett. Occasionally, the reason is obvious, like when Joe Theisman went from “Theez-man” to something that rhymed with Heisman (it didn’t work. He didn’t win)
I’m Jewish, and it always bugs me when other Jews do this, because they invariably pick a pronunciation that sounds “less Jewish,” which I’ve always taken as a sign of going uptown, selling out and trying to “pass” (when you’re white, a name adjustment may be all it takes). Like my friend Larry Levin, who became Lawrence Le-Vin. Accenting the last syllable made his name sound vaguely French, more sophisticated, upscale, and . . . less Jewish. In fairness, I suppose it was less of a sell-out than picking a new name entirely, like Lawrence Ou-est-la-bibliotheque.
At the gym, working off too much Thanksgiving turkey, I stepped onto a treadmill under a television someone had tuned to Fox News. Instead of frantically grabbing the remote, I found myself watching Geraldo and a gaggle of pundits going all gobble-gobble gah-gah over Barack Obama’s impending cabinet appointments.
Now, I’d sworn off television news over five years ago, shortly after President Codpiece got hisself all butched up in a flight suit and pranced around on the deck of a carrier docked near San Diego for his “Mission Accomplished” photo op. I wasn’t putting up with any more psy-ops from the Friedman-Strauss Gang’s amen chorus of press-release readers posing as reporters. And I sure as hell wasn’t sitting still for full-blown homages to Leni Riefenstahl. As the man said, “what a waste it is to lose one’s mind.” There was no way these soul-suckers were getting any more chances to help me lose mine.
We’ve been through this so many times, watching rational, lucid Democrats “win” debates against slogan-spouting, wedge-driving Republicans desperate to hold Nixon’s unnatural coalition together for one more election. Four more years to pick over the carcass of the Republic, steal what’s left of the commons and move the proceeds offshore, perhaps to a nice ranch in Paraguay that sits astride a huge aquifer near a secret military base.
In these post-modern times, soothsaying just ain’t what it used to be. Throughout the civilized world, people have abandoned their ancestors’ primitive ways. They no longer trek for weeks to beseech cave-dwelling shamans for guidance. They no longer look to the skies for signs and wonders. They no longer ask the Magic Eight-Ball for answers during televised political debates. Okay, maybe some still do that.
But it’s undeniable that belief in the predictive power of omens and portents is on the wane in the civilized world. Except in the U.S. of A, that is (are we still civilized?). Hereabouts, the “reality-based” community has been whipped, bullied and cowed into submission by nihilists who believe in nothing, save their own godlike power to manufacture any reality useful to them, one that keeps the people too poor, stupid and afraid to question the New World Order’s secret first principle, reprinted here for the first time:
The Rules Are For (You) Suckers
Tonight, after nine hours in airports and heavy crosswinds, I found myself wondering what to expect at the rental car counter while waiting for my bags at MIA (which stands for Miami International, not missing in action, although Miami-bound luggage often is). I was on a much tighter budget than Benjy Bluestone when he met Mr. Kim, proprietor of SOBE Supercar Rentals in my novel, Landmark Status:
“Wearing a white form-fitting shirt with pale blue and orange Gulf-Porsche crest, Mr. Kim stood behind the counter under a white plastic sign with neat red lettering that said SoBe Supercar Rents Number One Top Big Shot Luxury Lifestyle To Go. He asked if Benjy was sure he wanted a Mustang, because there were far better cars on the lot.”
It’s rare that I rent a car in Miami, and tonight I had no reason to expect a heavenly experience. We’d lost ninety minutes to a loose panel in the 767 they’d rolled out of an LAX hangar for this “premium” flight. My expertise with duct tape was politely refused while we milled around like Kremlinologists outside the Politburo, analyzing the body language of anyone emerging from the jetway.
The family had just gotten home from the son’s little league game. During dinner, the mom wondered aloud why all the left-handed kids in the league were pitchers, even the ones who weren’t so good at it. Since the dad had once been a not so good left-handed pitcher himself, he felt a special affinity for the subject. “First of all,” he said, slicing his steak, “Most kids are right-handed, so left-handedness is inherently confusing.”
“For you or someone else?” asked the mom.
“In fencing, they say it’s a killer advantage.”
“So baseball is like fencing?”
“Not really,” admitted the dad, putting down the knife.
I was in the car, listening to talk radio at the top of the hour, when I got the news. The Supreme Court had ruled that
Football fans everywhere knew the Orange Bowl. Some even knew it was built in 1937, that the Dolphins called it home during their perfect 1972 season, and that the Miami Hurricanes, its only continuous tenants, just moved to the Dolphins’ newer stadium uptown, twelve years after its eponymous bowl game moved there. Watching televised games, you might have wondered what kind of two-bit burg would put up the chintzy “The City of
Mom was still at work, so dad was the chef tonight. Their ten year old was fresh from a day with big ups and downs, his life lately getting more complicated, almost by the hour. Suddenly, he had to contend with adult-sized scheduling problems, fighting for some time to just be, when he wasn’t busy scaling mountains of homework, rushing to and from timed-to-the minute play dates, practicing the right slouch and picking out the right hat to look good to a certain girl, all the while dealing with a difficult teacher as he navigated the icebergs of life in fourth grade. Oh, and two or three times a week, there was the drama of trying to throw (or hit) a strike with men on base in an insanely competitive little league.