Tale of Two Bridges

April 27, 2016

BridgSCar

That new bridge in the East is sleek and lowly-slung;

she shimmers ghostly against blue sky,

while Ole West, high-tense, from rock to rock is hung;

they had to sling them cables high.

Out where flat marshes meet Atlantic’s swellin’ swale

they’ve stretched a spindly span, ascending high with whitish wispy grace.

But over on California crags where Pacific currents hail

they had strung an iron span of steel-tensed strength in perilous golden space.

Here’s one bridge, laid-back and sleek, steeped in simple Southern style;

t’was formed up in 21st-century streamlined gray concrete;

the other was stretched in cabled steel–in blood-red iron by bloodied rank and file,

strung out in 1930’s grit as some gargantuan steel-nerv’d feat.

GoldGate

When America swoons in futures past and some souls live to tell the tale,

we’ll speak stories of bridges, of metallic spans that tested men’s mortal fate.

Perhaps they’ll mention Charleston’s pride–that span in whitish shade of pale,

but the king of steel-strung cabled bridgedom is that big red one at Golden Gate.

Glass half-Full

The dandy bee lion

April 25, 2016

Little bee, busy bee, buzzing on this flower bright,

I think you always do what’s right.

You  hum around on your little yellow throne

until it’s time to fly on home.

BeeDandl

 I think it’s cool you dance around and do your thing;

your busy dancing makes the flower sing,

and when you’re done the blossom has been fertilized.

In a day or two we’ll get a dandelion surprise.

Dndlion

Your little buzzing celebration makes this field a brighter place,

because the dandy lion sheds its yellow for a fuzzy face;

wispy dandy seeds will scatter in the whirring wind,

and next year sport their dandy blooms again.

Selah.

Glass Chimera

The Inspiration of Harriet Tubman in 1937

April 21, 2016

In the novel, Smoke, which I published last year, a young American businessman, Philip Morrow, accompanies a refugee family through France in the year 1937. Across the border in Germany, the Nuremberg laws had established a set of dangerous restrictions promulgated by the Nazis to drive the Jews out of Germany, and to abscond their wealth.

In the story, the Eschen family has fled Munich in a hurry. Their hasty departure is provoked when their son/brother has been arrested and imprisoned at Dachau.

In this excerpt from chapter 14 of Smoke, we find the Eschens relieved to have crossed the French border into the province of Alsace. Gathered with some newfound French friends, they are sharing a meal and giving an account of their escape. Philip is inquiring about the conditions through which they fled from Munich to the border and then crossed into France. As Philip speaks, Hannah, the older sister makes mention of American woman whose daring enterprise is a benchmark of American history.

       “Harriet Tubman,” Hannah broke in.

       “Harriet who? What are you talking about?”

       “Tubman. Harriet Tubman,” the young woman repeated. “. . . an American Negro woman who escaped slavery about a hundred years ago. She went to the north, to the free states of America, where the practice of slavery had been outlawed. She started an organization for her people to escape the cotton plantations in the south, and go up to the free states in the north, where they could begin a new life.”

       “The Underground Railroad,” said Philip. “How did you know about that?” he asked, looking with surprised interest across and down the table at Hannah.

       “I’ve been reading the Encyclopedia Britannica,” she replied. “It just occurred to me that, in our predicament here, our family is like those slaves who had escaped before the American civil war. “The Negroes were, like us now, a stateless people. They had been sold into slavery in Africa, and shipped across the Atlantic in terrible ships, where they were forced to pick cotton for plantation owners for many generations, until Harriet Tubman escaped and set up secret itineraries for their escape.”

       “But you are not like Negro slaves. You are prosperous Jews,” objected Donald, gently.

       “Not any more, we’re not, Monsieur Satie,” Hannah answered. “This is the enormity of it—of the changes that the Third Reich has imposed. All that my father and mother have worked for—and our grandparents before them—has been robbed, a little bit at a time, from us!—including  my brother. And now the Nazis have built a slave camp, where they intend to concentrate us Jews—Heinrich is not the only one—and  force us into doing work to build up the wehrmacht, so Hitler can exact vengeance against us, and not only against us ‘prosperous’ Jews, but against you, too, you French people, and the British, who imposed the treaty of Versailles on Germany after the war.”

Such was a conversation might have taken place in Europe in 1937.

Looking forward forty-years, here’s a song I recorded in 1978 about yet newer manifestations of the Underground Railroad scenario:

Underground Railroad Rides Again

Smoke

The Wisdom of Eldridge Cleaver

April 20, 2016

I am reading the book that Eldridge Cleaver published in 1978, Soul on Fire.

As I am currently writing a novel about the year 1969, my research has followed many paths of discovery about that period of time in which I was a teenager; One of the most influential dissent groups of that period was the Black Panthers. I’m not talking about the Carolina Panthers who lost this year’s super bowl to the team from Denver.

I’m talking about the militant Black Panthers, revolutionary terrorists of the 1960’s, who were infamously lead by a trio of intrepid militants: Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton.

During the course of Eldridge Cleaver’s amazing sojourn through civil rights activism and the minefields of 1960’s black extremism, he had renounced, along with Stokely Carmichael and other leaders, the non-violence that  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had espoused.

Eldridge fled the United States as a fugitive in 1968. In the seven years that followed, he visited the primary communist countries: Cuba, USSR, Peoples’ Republic of China, North Vietnam, North Korea. The young revolutionary, having been driven out of America, sought revolutionary guidance from communist leaders.

Because I’ve got to go to work in a few minutes, I’ll just cut to the chase here. On page 109 of his book, Soul on Fire, Eldridge writes:

“While in overseas exile, I discovered the frequency with which I was lecturing the hard-rock mentality of Communist leaders, reminding them that the world revolution was deeply rooted in the American people. I had heard so much rhetoric in every Communist country about their glorious leaders and their incredible revolutionary spirit that–even to this very angry and disgruntled American–it was absurd and unreal.”

And on page 97:

“I had lived defiantly so long and in such seething hatred of all governments, people in power, people in charge, that when I came under the shelter of Communist powers, I sadly discovered that their corruption was as violent and inhuman as the people the ‘victoriously’ displaced. ‘Up against the wall’ was a trendy slogan of the underground movements around the world–but I later learned that without inner control, a moral perspective, and a spiritual balance that flowed out of Christian love, justice and caring, the Communist promises were to become the largest fraud of all.

“Pig power in America was infuriating–but pig power in the Communist framework was awesome and unaccountable. No protection by outbursts in the press and electronic media–the Reds owned it. No shelter under the benevolent protection of a historic constitution–the Marxists held the book and they tore out the pages that sheltered you. No counterweight from religious and church organizations–they were invisible and silent.

“My adult education began in prison and was ruefully completed in the prison that is called Marxist liberation, ‘power to the people’: that was meant for the party in control, writing the script, and enforcing the rules. I did mean it deeply when I said seven years later that I would rather be in prison in America than free somewhere else.”

And prison in American he did do, when Eldridge Cleaver returned from exile. He did his time, was released in 1976, and lived free, free indeed, until his death in 1998.

King of Soul

Ole Uncle Sammy

April 18, 2016

My uncle Sammy worked hard; he worked every day.

He made good money, and he put some away.

He made a good living; but then he got older

Ole Sam carried the weight of this world on his shoulders.

WorldWait

I was told that in his gathering of wealth,

he had worked the land, done well, and maintained his health.

He managed to save a little more than he needed

so he squirreled it in the bank where his fortune was seeded.

WellsFarg

He figured, you know, everybody’s got to eat

so he opened a burger joint, it was quite a feat,

because his humble, capital enterprise

eventually become a growing franchise.

BurgerOld

And in America, you know, everyone wanted wheels,

so Sammy expanded into more wheels and big deals;

he got things going, built up a good team;

he was riding in style, living the dream.

CarOldIntr

But then ole uncle Sammy, one day, up and died,

so we laid him aside; he went out with the tide,

No longer an icon on tracebook, nor twittee,

maybe we’ll see him in eternity city.

CityBay

Glass half-Full

In the Air I have seen

April 18, 2016

In the air my eyes have seen

more wonders than I could ever dream.

Some loom large with majesty so grand . . .

MtRngUt

. . . while others dangle on delicate strands.

SpidWeb

In the air my eyes have beheld

certain patterns into which my mind can delve

like dappled skies in cloud-swept windrows . . .

CloudDapl. .

.  .  . and divided glass on skyscraped windows.

GlassBldg

In the air I have noticed with my very own eyes

incredible creatures that somehow can rise,

like this simple bird whose lifestyle, so exquisite . . .

BirdEats

. . . surpasses the swami’s contrived solicit.

Levitator

In the air I have observed with my God-given eyes

such incredible scenes which life doth devise

like the sinister mystery of this Paris gargoyle . . .

ParisGargoyl

 . . . and majestic Alps formed without human toil.

AlpsValy

In the air my eyes have seen

more wonders than I could ever dream,

from large to small, from ridiculous to sublime,

between stupid and smart, to stupendously divine.

Glass half-Full

Fifth Dimension

April 11, 2016

If you are looking for a better way of life–a city, perhaps, or a country, in which plenty of good stuff replaces the deficiencies and poverties of this present arrangement. . . if you are thinking, perhaps wishing, for a nation or kingdom in which justice prevails instead of corruption and all is well instead of screwed-up, the only way you can find such a ridiculous thing as that is to first believe that it does exist somewhere.

Or believe that it can exist.

Now if you can believe that, if you already do believe it, then your mind, your soul, is operating in a realm that is beyond the world that we know and live in and walk around in every day.

Take a look at the device on which you are presently reading this message. Over on the right side of your electronic view is a vertical line; it is the edge of the screen. At the top of that line is a pixel, or point, positioned in the upper right corner of your screen. From that point, look downward along that straight line until your attention is placed directly on the point at the very bottom corner of the screen.

Now your mind has conceived a straight, vertical line. It represents one dimension of your view, that dimension being what we shall define as “height.”

From that point at which your mind arrived at the right-lower corner of your screen, train your eye along the bottom edge, so you are viewing a straight, horizontal line extended between that corner and the one on the bottom-left. Now that you have conceived that horizontal line, you have arrived at the idea of a third dimension, which we shall define as “width.”

Now imagine.

Imagine–as you ponder that pixel-point in the left-lower corner of your screen–imagine another line, beginning at that point and extending through airspace directly to your left eye. Now you have conceived the idea of a third dimension, which we shall define as “depth.”

Next, consider that from your original starting-point–which began from the top-right and then went from there to the lower-right and then over to the lower left and then directly from the screen to your eye–consider that it took a little while for your eye to perform all that viewing. Now your mind has arrived at an idea of a fourth dimension, which we shall define as “time.”

Now consider this:

There is a whole universe out there, far beyond the confines of that line on the right side of your device, far beyond the bottom edge of your screen, and extending far, far beyond the distance from your screen to your eye. Furthermore, this universe has existed for a much longer time than you can conceive or imagine. Within this universe you can find some quite amazing developments. Take, for instance, this:

Rose

Now if you can plant a seed from which such a wonder as this can be brought into existence–far surpassing, in its complexity and beauty, the simplicity of these straight lines you just pondered,  and far surpassing our simple concepts of height, width, depth and time by which we thought rationally about these phenomena, and if you can understand that this rose will grow and bloom, and if you can appreciate that people who pass by may marvel at its beauty, and they will wonder how such a beautiful thing could arise from the mere dirt of this earth.

If you suppose that just maybe this did not just happen through the natural processes of this physical world, but rather that  there is– preceding it all and activating all–there  is a sentient creator who conceived it all and then caused it all to happen and then allowed you to enter into it and be astounded at the beauty and wonder of it all, and if you can believe that you yourself can enter into this creative vortex by the power of God and participate in that creation. . .

. . . then you have entered into the realm of the fifth dimension, which we shall define as “faith.”

Welcome to the kingdom of God.

Glass half-Full

Woke up with the Angels

April 9, 2016

Our first twelve hours in Los Angeles has already included a trip down memory lane.

It’s not that I ever spent much time here; I only breezed through  back in the early ’70s. But rather, this immediate reminiscence is triggered by a deeply insistent behind-the-scenes presence of this fabled city in my g-generation’s memory.

Not personal memory. Collective memory. LA was all over our baby boomer adolescence and young adult misadventures: Hollywood is here, with all its celluloid-manufactured dreams, along with the Dodgers, the surfers, the cop shows on network TV, even the Beverly Hillbillies.

I suppose I’m a 2016 hillbilly, blowing in last nigh from my back-east Blue Ridge mountain home. But I’m here to tell ya this megalopolis has made such an immense impact on my 64-year consciousness, I hardly know how to mention all the influences.

Our son and his bride-to-be fetched us at LAX last night, about eight o’clock. After the tension of negotiating our airport pickup–“negotiating” with all the other hundred passing vehicles and passengers at the curb of the A terminal, and “negotiating” with an irate neon-vested traffic controller about our hazardous rendezvous tactics in the midst of their managed confusion–after that little eye-of-the-needle thing, next thing I know we’re out on the freeway at night in a river of whizzing lights and gleaming glass, metal and speed.

On one heightened stretch of this highly energized raceway I caught a glimpse in the distance of this glistening mega-city into which we were fast propelling. Then out of nowhere a phrase from some old song was jangly in my head:

“but I couldn’t let go of L A, city of the fallen angels”

Not literally true of course. There are plenty of good people here, millions of them. But that phrase is a cleverly cynical play on the name itself: Los Angeles, Spanish for “The angels.”

I knew the phrase was from an old Joni Mitchell song; I could hear the line sung in my head, but didn’t remember which song.

This morning when we woke up, this was the AirBnB view from our window:

LosAngl1

After a couple of cups of coffee, and a time-warp discovery in our apartment of an ancient artifact:

Phonogrf

This must be what an MP33rpm looks like.

With that old turntable spinning snippets of misspent youth around in my brain, I decided to take a chance on writing this blog, as a vehicle for summoning up whatever memories are zinging around in my mind just now, while sipping coffee in eL A in the morning. Look at this old phonograph; grok its significance in the history of communication technology; cherish its unique position in the collective consciousness stream of my g-generation. You can perhaps imagine within its groovy vinyl-etched peaks and canyons, the adventurous wanderings of our g-generation as we sought far and wide for something we know not what nor where we might find it. Through those pathways of memory you may recall earlier mention, back in the first paragraph, of: reminiscence . . . triggered by a deeply insistent behind-the-scenes presence of this fabled city in my g-generation’s memory.

Joni Mitchell, back in the day, wrote a beautiful, piano-based song, Court and Spark.

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHEDdecvLpU&nohtml5=False   

Her crooning imagery, describing in this song some encountered street-singing man, captures well the wandering spirit of those times–the obsession with freedom in all things–love, travels, thoughts, romantic interludes that did or did not happen.

And it was in that song, Court and Spark, that the jangly phrase “. . . couldn’t let go of L A, city of the fallen angels” is found, in the very last line.

The flights of flirtatious fancy therein are a prospect that a man or woman could spend a lifetime pursuing.

But I do believe that, while the prospect of such a life of romantic rendezvous seems quite attractive and very compelling, the actual living of it, long term, is probably very problematical, perhaps traumatic, maybe even tragic. Tragic romanticism–I knew it well. For a while. And I associate it with the stuff of our dreams, my g-generation’s dreams that floated from Hollywood and eL A and the city by the bay and all that groovy stuff.

I imagine the lovely genius woman who composed that musical phrase about the city of the fallen angels; she  must have lived a life in adventurous pursuit of such exciting moments and passionate encounters, one after another for a whole lifetime.

Me, I did not. I settled down, got a hold of the Christian faith, became a one-woman man. After 36 years of shared adventure, including the present one of visiting Micah and Kyong-Jin in this great city of Los Angeles, Pat and I sit here contentedly this morning with our coffee and our leftovers from last night’s Korean feast for breakfast. And nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina California in the morning.

What a great ride!

Glass half-Full

Dark Rivers of Dark Money

April 5, 2016

Seismic moneyanamis hit the fan in a big way in Panama two days ago. Multiple georlnalists are reporting that massive dark rivers of dark money have been detected bubbling to the surface in that central American domain. Surreptitious sources indicate that the ultimate origin of these fluidizing liquidities may be the Dark Side of the Moon, an area of high-flying international magnaminity heretofore undetectable to the common man. To this present time in our planetary history, only one witness of this phenom has ever been reported– a shadowy figure known to some money-watchers as Pink Floyd.

If these reports are confirmed, it could be that  how the money world really works will at last be known, according to Tom OnPointe.

Geornalists pouring over the erstwile infamous Panama Papers in a sort of secret cave in London have detected vast streams of dark money sloshing beneath the streets of London, in the sewers of Paris, and beneath the mysteriously enigmatic monoliths of Moscow. Entry points for these large liquidities have been traced to specific hotspots in the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Switzerland and now, for the first time we can remember, Panama.

But hey, the Dark Rivers of Panama have been showing signs of volatility for a long time– since even before Teddy Roosevelt led an exhibition to that star-cross’d country to recover a failed French experiment in canal-building. Boldly sporting a Panama hat, ole rough-ridin’ Teddy went down there in 1904 and established yankee hegemony over the sluggish Panama Canal project; he assured the world that within a few years  the Atlantic and Pacific liquidities would be flowing freely.

Thank our lucky stars, in the 1914 wake of the completed Panama Canal development, vast volumes of worldly goods began floating uninterruptedly from the east ocean to the west ocean and vice-versa for lo these many years. And you know how human beings are in a situation like that. Wherever you’ve got vast volumes of worldly goods barging past each other going both ways, you’re bound to have vast volumes of financial liquidities flowing as well.

Thanks to the ICIJ, we now know that vast portfolios of them insinuated assets are subterranean, which is to say under-the-radar liquidities swishing ever’wheres from Delaware to Doha to Dubrovnik– 11 million documents worth, they’re reporting, revealing trillions of terabytes of wealth hidden between the slipstreaming electrons of international excessive exuberance, implicating perhaps 689 corporations who are no doubt knowingly transferring magnanimous wealth from them that don’t have it to them that do, which is to say like maybe from Lucknow to London or Newark to New York.

Which is to say, like it’s always been. Rich get richer; poor get poorer. But now on an international scale.

We have obtained photographic evidence of an allegedly rich nation sucking the monetary life out of a poor country. Apparently this is nothing new on the face of the earth.

Devouring

So the best the thing a man or woman can do is get him/herself a little back 40 or .40 of terra firma for his family so’s he can do a little something with it in case something unforeseen happens or the big bad wolf decides to float in and do business on a liquiditous stream of financial privilege.

News at 11.

Glass Chimera

Old Sun

April 4, 2016

OldSun

Old sun came up again today.

just thinkin:

worked hard all your life

little deductions week after week

all those years

do-dropping deductions into invisible

somewhere account

social security in the sky

stealthy NewDeal squirrels

stored and hoard

funds

that Lyndon extended.

lived through the sixties twice

I heard the drummer say, laughing

and don’t trust anyone under thirty

then one day you have bright morning

in America

no go to work

what it all about Alfie

the croupier wheels

roulette deals.

65!

ain’t no jive

now what

say what?

401k and IRA

but me wear no fancy pants jeans no mo

an ne’er been to belfast

never lived life in the fast lane

til now

now that I’m too slow

to know

how it all happened.

We’ll just hop on our horses

waiting for Roy

Rogers and Dale Evans

to ride into heaven

they still ride horses

don’t they?

It’s bright up there.

Glass half-Full


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