Monday, August 30, 2004

The Freedom to Sleep Late

I have to say I'm not all that impressed with the new Earle record, The Revolution Starts Now. The title song is probably the highlight. I spent the weekend embracing my inner toddler by refusing to do my laundry, rereading Jonathan Swift and being thankful for what gun control remains as the idiotic drunken frat boys screamed out incoherent nonsense night after night. I kept thinking about that Bruce Cockburn song, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher". Hell I'd be happy with a BB gun in respect to these fools. Thank goodness for earplugs and the freedom to sleep late.

Re: Swift, I was amused to read in the intro of the collection I picked up from the library that Aldous Huxley was convinced that Gulliver's Travels was entirely about Swift's obsession with his bowels. One of the more things comical aspects about being in writing workshops is sitting back listening to other people's take on what they think you were really trying to say in any given piece of fiction or poetry. I love it whenever anyone finds anything of meaning that is helpful to them.

My best from high school is in NYC with his partner protesting the RNC. We've decided if Bush is re-elected I am going to dust off my Norma Kamali, he his Williwear and we are going to sacrifice ourselves on the White House lawn. It was great to talk with him after almost 4 years. We are both basically the same. He and his partner, Jerry, just returned from Russia and then Rob (former HS bf) is off to France to scout for property in a worst case scenario for November. He promises he'll take me along. I thought what the hell -- by next spring I'll be all paid up and debt free.

Oh well, time for therapy. Always fun.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

A Modest Proposal

So I'm thinking of starting a campaign to have the Warren Zevon song below officially adopted as the new national anthem if Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld & Ashcroft are anointed for "4 MORE YEARS!!" It seems to more honestly reflect the modern American value system of greed, corruption, cruelty and oppresion (aka: corporate domination). As fate would have it when I sent out a zippy little appeal proposing this to few friends, Yahoo sent it back to me for using unacceptable language. Thanks John A. "It's a sign. It's a sign." Don't get me started on that one.

I've been hoping for awhile that some fellow Zevonian might pick up on the fact that the intentionally obscure choice of favorite bands on my blogger profile was an homage to Warren and two of his hairy beast numbers -- "Werewolves of London" and "Gorilla, You're a Desperado". Maybe someone did and just kept it to themselves. The truth is I don't think I've acquired that many readers. Poor, poor pitiful me.

Now that reminds me of a funny story. Last summer I lived for 2 months in a house in the 'burbs where there was an exceptional sound system. One morning I was listening to Warren and cleaning the kitchen. I had the music on VERY loud. I was singing, no, shouting along and in the middle of "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" just after I'd screamed out the lines, "I met a girl at the Rainbow Bar. She asked me if I'd beat her. She took me back to the Hyatt house. I don't wanna talk about it," the old coot evangelical fundamentalist Christian dude who lived down the street knocked on the door. He said he heard the music and was sure I was in there praying and "reverenting" just like he did at his church. I smiled and told him "Yes, as a matter of fact, I was." He left happy and I went back to dancing.

It never fails to amuse me that he showed up at just the moment when I was yelling out those words. Bless the old guy and the poor woman I was living with at the time. She turned out to be in pretty bad shape but I still pray for her in my own way. Is what I do prayer or meditation? I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Anyway, if you'd like to join my little campaign let me know. You can go into my profile and email me. Naturally we'd have to alter the lyrics a bit (go from 1st person singular to plural and such) but I suspect Warren will be laughing his ass off from the great beyond and wouldn't mind a bit. Rules schmules.

Oh man, I heard an hysterical observation about Kerry the other day. Someone said when they met him he had on so much hairspray he posed a threat to the environment - not that you shouldn't support him or anything. When he was here with Ted Kennedy before the caucuses I was one of the few people fighting to get OUT of the room. Poor Ted looks more like a caricature of himself than ever. I think those guys in Devo could have been spokesmodels for Johnson's Baby Shampoo compared to poor Ted and John, apparently. I'd rather not go see Kerry unless it's with my fellow and gallow Billionaires for Bush and let's face it wouldn't we much rather go take a peak at Laura? It's sort of like David Sedaris. Been there. Okay, whatever. The only one I'm really interested in meeting, seeing or conversing with is his boyfriend, Hugh. If he even exists, that is. are the lyrics to:

MR. BAD EXAMPLE (join my campaign!)

(Warren Zevon & Jorge Calderon)

I started as an alter boy, working at the church
Learning all my holy moves, doing some research
Which led me to a cash box, labeled "Children's Fund"
I'd leave the change, and tuck the bills inside my cummerbund

I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store
Laying tackless stripping, and housewives by the score
I loaded up their furniture, and took it to Spokane
And auctioned off every last naugahyde divan

I'm very well aquainted with the seven deadly sins
I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
I'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for sloth
I'm greedy, and I'm angry, and I don't care who I cross

I'm Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
I like to have a good time, and I don't care who gets hurt
I'm Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
I'll live to be a hundred, and go down in infamy

Of course I went to law school and took a law degree
And counseled all my clients to plead insanity
Then worked in hair replacement, swindling the bald
Where very few are chosen, and fewer still are called

Then on to Monte Carlo to play chemin de fer
I threw away the fortune I made transplanting hair
I put my last few francs down on a prostitute
Who took me up to her room to perform the flag salute

Whereupon I stole her passport and her wig
And headed for the airport and the midnight flight, you dig?
And fourteen hours later I was down in Adelaide
Looking through the want ads sipping Fosters in the shade

I opened up an agency somewhere down the line
To hire aboriginals to work the opal mines
But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut
And whisked away their workman's comp and pauperized the lot

I'm Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
I like to have a good time, and I don't care who gets hurt
I'm Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
I'll live to be a hundred and go down in infamy

I bought a first class ticket on Malaysian Air
And landed in Sri Lanka none the worse for wear
I'm thinking of retiring from all my dirty deals
I'll see you in the next life, wake me up for meals

Monday, August 23, 2004

Name This Theme

Well, I finally managed to finagle a little extra time online at public library so the hope is my posts will not be so fraught with typos and misspellings. Most folks who are not writers fail to realize that a majority of us are truly rotten spellers, often awful at grammar and copy editing one's own work is impossible, not to mention very ill-advised. Couple this with warnings popping up every 2 minutes that you are almost out of online time and you make a boatload of embarrassing mistakes. I don't have the internet at home.

I envy the computer generation who grew up learning how to "keyboard" before they were potty trained. I was a much better typist 20 years ago but these days I'm back to typing about 15 to 20 words a minute despite many a frustrating session with Mavis Beacon. God, do I need a writing group. That's an endeavors I've just given up on. How many times can you ask people if they are interested and have them not respond or say "no." It's hard not to take this stuff personally.

Anywho.... I was amused by the recent report in The Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases that women who use hormonal contraceptives are much more likely to contract STD's and the experts are apparently baffled as to the reason for this. I have a hunch about the reason. Women who use birth control that allows them forgo barrier methods while engaging in sex are much more likely to take risks in this department and there are still a bunch of men who will whine, complain and try to get away with not using condoms because it "just don't feel natural, baby" I've never had an ounce of tolerance for these cry babies. As usual I am no doubt revealing more about myself than anyone really cares to know but with the sole exception of a 2 month period when I tried the so-called mini pill, I've always preferred condoms for birth control. All my relationships have been monogamous expect one that I know of and statistically condoms and spermicide are the most reliable method of preventing pregnancy. Not only do they pose no health risks for women, they actually decrease them. Talk about a win-win situation.

Lots of good news from friends in other places. Laura managed to finally put her MFA to good use by landing a job as a dog-walker (seriously in this economy this is great news.) Karly and Steven are expecting a baby but they aren't planning to name it after me if it's a girl. I'm naturally disappointed about this but getting on with my life as best I can. Kelly just got back from Barcelona where she enjoyed the tuna and tomato sandwiches (all she ate because they were all could afford.) She was greatly disappointed in the architecture in Barcelona, likening it to modern day Southern California which is attempting to look just like Barcelona. While Kelly and I were on the phone another former Iowa Citian we refer to as "the nucc" called and volunteered to take she and her husband out to dinner. Howard is hard at work on a new recording project. I notice one of his old compatriots, Sonia the leading lady of Disappear Fear is on the Fall lineup for CSPS. Sonia and I used to work together in a health food store in Timonium, Md., of all places.

One of my downstairs neighbors had a swell party on Saturday night. He is the co-owner of one of my favorite restaurants in town that recently got a mention in Oprah magazine. He and his wife are great. There was so much food and genuine hospitality. At the end of the night they were thanking all the guests for taking home leftovers. They throw parties the way I used to when I was more "flush" -- everyone is welcome. Just throw the doors open and let what happens happen.

Well, I guess that's it for today. Oh, I keep having the same conversation with everyone else I know who is unemployed which is how we are comforting ourselves with food and can barely get into our favorite jeans. I know there are much worse things we could be doing.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Woofy Bubbles, Karma & The FBI

Wow, this essay just killed me. It's very reminiscent of a short story I wrote almost 15 years about a summer I spent in Santa Fe. In it I got involved with a new age character named Snooky Jones (claimed real named Woofy Bubbles - TRUE) who had a shop in Madrid where he sold all his own clothing designs which were all inspired by or meant to resemble teeth. By the end of the story I have gotten involved with Snooky, allowed him to extract two of my teeth for his "fall line" and end up hanging with a psychic who is preparing me for a spiritual crossroads she has forecast for me based on a mystical monolopy board of sorts we prepared together in one of our sessions. She has also advised me not ot make any major changes in the next thirty days. Dare I say in the story I complain about the fact that NM is overrun that year with Malcom Forbes biker types -- CEOS w/ bad boy archetypes to put on display. I'll have to finally figure out how to scan and download stuff so I can post the silly thing to this blog. I've always liked that story. It's fairly sarcastic and full of self-parody. As for the pair below, it sure sounds like a narcotic or hallucinogen to me.

OH, this is from the LA Weekly, yet another paper that triggers an immediate privacy icon alert when I access it from the Iowa City Public Library. Don't be naive about this stuff, people. I know a guy who almost got sent to prison by the FBI because he bought some battery clips from Radio Shack for his science class in the mid-90's. It turns out that around that same time an animal liberation organization had set off some explosives in a downtown department store. My friend had given RS his phone number when purchasing the battery clips for his class so they were able to track him down. He was trying to help out the sales guy who got bonus points by getting customers to give out their phone numbers. One thing led to another and due to the fact he had very good contacts ( he learned the FBI had no leads, were under major pressure to arrest someone and having no other suspects were about to pin it all on him). He had access to very good attorneys (he had a choice between Scott Turow and a major FBI whistle blower from the state he was living in at the time) and because of this he managed to clear his name. The beautiful punch line to the story is that at the end of that school year, he received an award for best public teacher in his district --presented by The Tandy Corporation (aka Radio Shack)!! Anyway, your home computers are probably fine but be careful about the ones you use at work and in government funded facilities. Justice should be fair but it ain't. Laugh at 'em, anyway. That really makes them angry.

Karma Chameleons

A gleaming silver Porsche Cayenne sends up a smokescreen as it skids out from a dirt driveway in a hidden Los Angeles canyon and nearly sideswipes my beater ’93 Jeep Cherokee. A visibly enraged, bottle-blond, trophy-pussy, soccer mom smiles apologetically in a sort of pinched, angry-Buddha grin before kicking the pedal to the metal and careening down the twisting road.
Nowadays, these remote canyons are all about high-end, late-model SUVs and astronomically priced real estate. The occasional ghost of a VW Microbus might be spotted in flashback right around sunset, if you squint. But the Microbus is as high on the canyons’ endangered-species list as the hairy arm-pitted, guru-groupie chicks who take names like Shiva, dance Dunham and talk endlessly about their trips to the subcontinent.
I’m straight out of Silver Lake and far out of my element acting as a sort of Truman Capote “walker” — the type of fag who rich heterosexual friends trust to hang out with their foxy wives, because we won’t try to “hit it.” They cover all expenses, naturally. So here I am with my friend’s wife on a mission to see a bona fide healer. Having spent most of my time on the planet in Lower Manhattan, I am naturally aghast at the prospect of involving myself in just this kind of West Coast New Age nonsense.
As we pull up the narrow driveway, we nearly spill into a 10-by-10-foot hole next to a pile of dirt. The terrain is treacherous up here, and you really gotta keep your eyes open. We park just as Ubab, a slender aboriginal-featured, man/woman wearing a sort of East Indian outfit over a “Travis” T-shirt emerges from a shack to greet us.
I soon find myself in an ancient-looking, tent-like structure where I’m instructed to disrobe from the waist up, get horizontal on a padded, turquoise massage table (unnervingly covered with a faded Little Mermaid sheet) and put on headphones blowing Punjabi remix jams. For some reason, I mindlessly comply with these instructions. Then Ubab (not his real name) lunges deep into my tissue employing a very painful Rolfing-style massage technique.
When he mercifully finishes, I stumble back to the car and chain-smoke Camel non-filters in an attempt to normalize. I pretend not to hear my friend’s wife howling in pain nearby. She finally emerges an hour later looking like a crime-scene photo. We speed down the canyon in an irrepressible laugh riot mixed with fits of weeping and choking. Something happened back there, but I’m not sure exactly what.
Ubab’s super-secret California squat is a haven for a small fold devoted to a Westernized version of the ancient practice of entheogenic healing. Entheogenics are said to let one enter a “God-like space” without the ego, as opposed to hallucinogenics that simply distort what’s already in the mind. According to the practice, it is possible to time travel backward and forward seven lifetimes in this “God space” and thereby expose the core-clearing karma while discarding emotional armor and freeing trauma that is trapped in the flesh and bone. Once that trauma has been released into the vapor state, Ubab tells us, it can then be processed on a feeling level. Who knew?
A few days later, Ubab calls and tells us to return on Saturday at 8 a.m. In the driveway, I wedge my Jeep between a Hummer and a BMW and proceed back to the tent. Seven attractive people have gathered by the time Ubab floats in with a tray of teacups. I throw back the bland liquid without a second thought.
As the tea settles in my stomach, I put on the Sharper Image blindfold and headphones and lie in the dark. Just as the Enigma CD starts really annoying me, the portal between consciousness and unconsciousness is blasted open with the force of a small hurricane. I instantly lose sense of up, down, if I have a body . . . or, if, in fact, a body is even a thing I ever had.
My next memory comes hours later when I discover myself as a fetus in the birth canal, petrified in a claustrophobic panic, trapped in a black cave between contractions before being belched out in a convulsive fit. Then I’m sliding on my belly across a jungle floor as something I can’t quite figure out ’til it hits me all at once: I’m a snake! After a spell as a cartoonish, Mayan sex slave (by far the best part of the day), I regress further to some pre-human or animal condition before completely transcending form altogether. Archetypal imagery is still coming at light speed when the music stops. I remove the blindfold and everyone is smiling except my friend’s wife, whose hair looks like she stuck her finger in a light socket.
The drive back down the canyon is a slow roll, and we’re halfway to Hollywood before I’m completely back in my body. My friend’s wife and I try to piece the day together, pausing intermittently while she pukes out the window. I’m not sure exactly what has changed, but I sense in a general way that nothing is really going to be the same again. The therapy was traumatic, to say the least.
Before I had left, Ubab instructed me not to make any major decisions for the next 30 days. I imagine that means things like getting married, filing for bankruptcy or euthanizing my aging Dalmatian. I assume, also, it means waiting to decide if I will return to that treacherous canyon and this strange healing.
—Sam Slovick

Thursday, August 19, 2004

It's No Too Late to Sell That Unsafe Gas Hog

"And still the safest way and most fuel efficient way for a family to drive around -- the very safe but exceptionally unsexy minivan. Hey, if you have to drive through the tundra or collect specimens of quickly diminishing plant, insect and animal species, I have no problem w/ SUVs. It was originally designed, marketed and sold as an OFF ROAD vehicle, for goodness sake. I sheepishly asked a new friend recently after sharing my not so subtle opinion on these ridiculous things if she drove one. She said, "No I DO NOT drive a SUV but I did accidentally rear end one the other day. That cracked me up." -Meg

Safety Gap Grows Wider Between S.U.V.'s and Cars

Published: August 17, 2004

DETROIT, Aug. 16 - The gap in safety between sport utility vehicles and passenger cars last year was the widest yet recorded, according to new federal traffic data.

People driving or riding in a sport utility vehicle in 2003 were nearly 11 percent more likely to die in an accident than people in cars, the figures show. The government began keeping detailed statistics on the safety of vehicle categories in 1994.

S.U.V.'s continue to gain in popularity, despite safety concerns and the vehicles' lagging fuel economy at a time when gasoline prices are high. For the first seven months of 2004, S.U.V.'s accounted for 27.2 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales, up from 26 percent in the period a year earlier, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank. However, sales growth for the largest sport utility vehicles has stalled lately, while small and medium-size S.U.V.'s, engineered more like cars than pickup trucks, continue to make rapid gains.

New figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shed light on how wide the differences in safety can be from one vehicle to another in the S.U.V. category, which now encompasses scores of models. For example, a few newer S.U.V. models appear to have a sharply lower risk of rolling over in an accident than other models.

Over all, crash fatalities declined across the board in 2003 to the lowest levels in six years, the government figures show, with 42,643 people killed in traffic accidents in the United States. Much of the decline appeared to come from fewer people driving drunk and more people buckling up. But the United States has not made as much progress as some other developed nations, because rates of seat belt use remain lower here and because of the growing numbers of S.U.V.'s and pickup trucks, which tend to pose greater hazards than cars both to their occupants and to others on the road.

Interview w/ Steve Earle from The Onion AVClub

"OMG! He's not in love right now. I've always considered it one of the great injustices of my life that I did not get to be one of his 74 wives. Maybe I still have a shot."

By Noel Murray

Singer-songwriter Steve Earle has been embattled since his career began. He fled Texas in the early '70s when the local country fans weren't interested in his teenage hippie idealism, and he came up through the Nashville ranks a few years later, as the industry was gravitating away from longhaired rebels and toward pop crossovers. After making significant mainstream inroads in the '80s with his albums Guitar Town, Exit 0, and Copperhead Road (all of which appealed to the then-burgeoning "cowpunk" movement more than to traditional country radio), Earle hit a rough patch at the start of the '90s, as his airplay diminished and his dependence on heroin increased. A few scuffles with the law culminated in a year of jail time.

Since getting out of prison and cleaning up in 1994, Earle has begun to realize his early promise, in part by cultivating the same audience that enjoys Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, and Bruce Springsteen: roots-rock fans who like character-driven story-songs from committed artists. And Earle has salvaged some of his youthful rebellion, too, by becoming deeply involved with organizations that advocate abolishing the death penalty. His activism made him a controversial figure in 2002, when his song "John Walker's Blues" (a sympathic song from the point of view of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh) led to Earle's vilification on radio talk shows across the nation. With a new set of even angrier songs (titled The Revolution Starts Now) in stores Aug. 24, Earle spoke with The Onion A.V. Club about his history of taking stands.

The Onion: You've made several different kinds of records in your career, but now you've followed one collection of directly political songs with another collection of directly political songs. Why?

Steve Earle: I'm not in love at the moment, and the world is blowing up around me. And these records are only a year and a half apart. The difference between the two is that Jerusalem was really about my discovery of how ignorant we are of Islam, and how dangerous I think that is right now, while this new record is about the war. I'd love to do a whole record of chick songs, but the world's going to have to settle down a little first.

O: Both albums have a lot of straight polemics, but both also contain a lot of character studies.

SE: That's usually the most effective way to do it. I mean, it's obvious I have an agenda, but take "John Walker's Blues" [from Jerusalem]. I'm opposed to harming anyone for any reason, and I don't sympathize with John Walker Lindh in that respect. My real problem is with scapegoating. The way to deal with how I felt was to try to get inside that character and speculate on what would bring somebody to where he ended up.

O: Were you surprised by the outcry over that song?

SE: Nah. It came from exactly the people I expected it to come from, which was all the people I was actively trying to piss off. I considered that to be a home run. The only review I've ever framed in my life was the one-star review from the New York Post for that record.

O: In the documentary Just An American Boy, one cable-news pundit called it the worst song ever written.

SE: You know, in this particular age of songwriting, that's nothing to worry about. [Laughs.]

O: When people like yourself or Michael Moore raise questions about the war on terror, a common criticism is that you're putting American troops in harm's way. What do you say to that?

SE: That's retarded. What puts our troops in harm's way is sending them to countries to fight wars over money. I support our troops 100 percent. I advocate bringing them home. Today.

O: What about the criticism that you're more sympathetic to killers than to victims?

SE: Well, I'm not. Just look at my record as an activist. My main area is the death penalty, but I've done most of my work with Murder Victims' Families For Reconciliation and Journey Of Hope... From Violence To Healing. The idea that murder victims' families are best served by continuing the cycle of violence is something that I consider to be not only a lie, but criminally negligent. You lie to victims' families when you tell them they're going to receive closure if they participate in the process and witness the execution of a human being. I've witnessed the execution of a human being. This is not an abstract for me. I promise you, it isn't going to heal anybody. I'll never recover from it. It's incredibly irresponsible to allow victims' family members to witness executions.

O: Why do you think people feel a need for that kind of closure?

SE: We're Americans. It's part of our culture. I don't consider us to be evil, I just don't think we know any better. We're a really young culture. We're hillbillies, and the rest of the world sees us that way. I travel all over the world, and probably the only worse rednecks than us are the Australians. And they're an even younger country. [Laughs.]

O: How much impact did your time in jail have on your worldview?

SE: Well, it has an impact on you. I was doing the death-penalty thing before I went to jail, but I do it much better now, and I'm much more involved, because I'm clean. I don't have to go out and find $500 worth of dope every day before I can do something constructive. And, having been in jail, I can talk about that from a little different perspective. I know the whole idea of a country-club prison is a myth. Any place that you walk into that you can't open the door yourself and walk out of is a bad fucking place to be. I know for a fact that criminals are not being coddled anywhere in this motherfucking country. And I know that probably, we'd be better off if we tried to rehabilitate people.

O: Besides performing in prison as a condition of your probation, have you been back for any other reasons?

SE: I do go to jails and prisons from time to time to do stuff around 12-step programs, to take in a meeting. That's all I can really say about that.

O: Did you come from a left-leaning family?

"I've witnessed the execution of a human being. ... I promise you, it isn't going to heal anybody. I'll never recover from it."
SE: My parents were kind of yellow-dog Democrats, at a time when everybody was in Texas. My dad lives here in Tennessee now, and is becoming downright radical in his old age. So's my uncle, which is funny, because he still lives in Jacksonville, Texas, and he embarrasses the fuck out of some of his friends. He's just completely and totally opposed to the war. He's an interesting guy. He ran a basket factory, and he was a farmer, and then he ended up, because his wife was a teacher, driving a school bus in his spare time. Then he ended up substitute teaching for a lot of years because there was a shortage of teachers, and he was teaching special-ed kids and kids with disciplinary problems. They thought they were just warehousing them with him, but he actually taught them. He's a trip. He's one of my heroes.

And my parents were an influence on me. The first activism against the death penalty I ever saw was my dad writing a letter to the governor of Texas, because he felt like one particular inmate was being discriminated against, because the family of the victim had been allowed to hire a special prosecutor. He'd basically never thought about the death penalty until he got a glimpse of how unevenly it's applied. So I've learned from them, and I think I've probably been an influence on them.

You know, I'm not comfortable with people whose politics are static in a democracy. I opposed gun control at one time, and I don't now. I was an NRA member just like Michael Moore, and for the same reason: I was a Boy Scout. I had a lot of guns, and I thought it was a fundamental constitutional right. But the place has become so fucking dangerous that it's not real smart to support that anymore. [Laughs.] I came in contact with guns almost every day as a heroin addict, but what finally changed my mind was when my 14-year-old son hid a gun of mine in his room and wouldn't admit that he had it. There hasn't been a gun in my house since. So people who are completely closed-minded and not willing to have a dialogue and even consider letting go of some of their ideas about how society works make me fucking nervous.

O: When pundits break down the U.S. into "red states" and "blue states," they say that the states with the most country music fans are the most conservative, politically. Do you think that's true?

SE: Yeah, but I haven't been played on a country radio station in, God, 15 years. "Guitar Town" still gets played as an oldie, or it did until Clear Channel bought all the country radio stations. I'd like to think that my audience is working-class people, and there are maybe some people like that who relate to me, but the truth of the matter is that I sell more records in New York City and Chicago than I do anyplace else. My audience is, you know, pinkos in big cities. It has been for a while.

O: Your musical genre seems to have a built-in audience, but not a huge one.

SE: No. I sell 100,000 records. I mean, I've sold more than that, but I know 100,000 people are going to buy every record I put out. And I can tell you the other artists that they buy, too. They're a pretty smart audience, and they're not an elitist audience. They're not people with a ton of money. They're people that read a lot, and they're potentially a political force. My audience doesn't agree with me on everything, but I love my audience, because they're totally okay with us having a dialogue.

O: Did the sales on Jerusalem spike at all, given the controversy?

SE: I don't think so. Actually, I think Transcendental Blues sold a little more than Jerusalem did. But that was more of a marketing thing. Transcendental was my first record for Artemis, so [Artemis CEO] Danny Goldberg did a lot of marketing things that probably sold some extra records. And we decided that we didn't make any new permanent audience with Transcendental, so we didn't do those things when Jerusalem came out, and Jerusalem fell right back into that 100,000-record pocket. You know, I made a bluegrass record [The Mountain] that Warner Bros. didn't want to put out, and when I left Warner over that, they thought I was going to sell less records than I normally sell, but it sold 100,000 records, just like the record before it did.

Look, I'd love to sell more records. But you can make an embarrassing amount of money—for a borderline Marxist—selling 100,000 records a year, if you're willing to go out and work. I make what I consider to be an obscene amount of money. I do have to work for it, but I'm totally okay with that. I think everyone's going to have to do it. I think the music business is changing. Artists that don't want to tour and just want to collect royalty checks and stay home are not going to be able to do that anymore. And the more I think about it, the more I think that's the way it should be. I feel like I owe my audience something. They feed my kids. And I really like my job, a lot. Thank God, because the reality of the business is that people have to tour now. I always have, so it's not like something I have to get comfortable with. But that's the way the business is going. There's no way that file-sharing and downloading aren't going to affect the bottom line. But I really believe that if I make records that are indispensable to my audience, they'll go out and spend money to buy them, even if they've already downloaded them. If they can afford it. If they can't, I'd rather they be able to download it than not get it at all.

O: Did getting away from major labels allow you to find the sound you'd been looking for, since you no longer had to conform to a commercial standard?

"I haven't been played on a country radio station in, God, 15 years... My audience is, you know, pinkos in big cities. It has been for a while."
SE: Absolutely. I didn't realize it, because I sort of dug going to war with labels. For years I just thought it was part of the creative process. Now I don't have to do that, because I record for Danny Goldberg. Danny and I have really fundamentally different orientations to our activism. Danny's a civil libertarian, and I believe everything Karl Marx said about economics. But we think the same things are important. We think free speech is important. We think government should do something for its citizens, and that nobody should go hungry in the richest country in the world. There's more than enough here to take care of everybody. Any reason someone offers you for why people can't get a job or can't get enough to eat or can't get medical attention is bullshit. There's no other explanation than greed. I really, truly believe that. I've believed that all my life.

Danny and I are both people who made a lot more money than we had any business making. Danny made a lot more money than I did, but you know what? There's no difference between the way Danny lives and the way I live, when it gets right down to it. You can only spend so much fucking money. That's why we do things the way that we do. I don't understand The Beach Boys' theory of spiritual evolution. I don't know how you get from transcendental meditation to being a Republican. I never made over $7,000 a year in my life until I was in my early 30s, and then suddenly I made, like, $300,000 in one year. Like, boom. I went from $7,000 one year to $85,000 the next year to $350,000 the next year. And I've never made less than $350,000 in a year since then, except for the year that I was on the street, and I still had royalty income that was an embarrassing amount of money. But you don't have to lose sight of your values.

O: You came to Nashville at the height of the "outlaw country" movement. What was the city like then for a young songwriter?

SE: I was 19, and I was an apprentice in that movement. I played bass for Guy Clark and I hung out at Jack Clement's studio and Tompall Glaser's studio. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings were suddenly selling a lot of records, and it was a pretty great time to be here, man. It was like, on any night, you could go into a hotel room or somebody's apartment in this town, and everybody was there. Me and David Olney and a few other people who were at street-level. Neil Young, if he was coming through town. Guy and Townes Van Zandt, when he was here, and Dick Feller and Rodney Crowell, before he moved to the West Coast. And the guitar was going around the room. This was a fucking university for songwriters. It was incredibly democratic, and it was a great place to learn. It doesn't happen anymore. Now, kids are herded into offices to write with other people, and to write a certain thing.

O: What was behind the shift? By the time you got signed in the early '80s, you were making records that your labels wouldn't release.

SE: In those days, Tony Brown had signed me and Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett in a six-month period, because Tony really believed that singer-songwriters were going to be the next wave in country music. Which at the time was incredibly naïve, because publishers controlled the town. This was the last Tin Pan Alley. The publishers, even the good ones, had a stake in artists not writing their own songs. Singer-songwriters got deals, but it was basically to placate them. No real attempt was made at breaking a singer-songwriter. Jimmy Bowen looked me in the eye after I turned in Guitar Town and said, "You'll have to listen to outside material for your next record, because you'll be touring and you won't have time to write." And I took that as a double-dog-dare. I've only recorded covers on a regular studio record one time, and that was right after I got out of jail and I wanted to make a record really fast. So it hasn't always been the most encouraging creative environment, but then again, the mainstream music business in New York and L.A. aren't, either.

The real problem with Nashville doesn't have to do with the music business, but living in a place with this many fucking Baptists. People come here from New York and L.A. expecting it to be a safer place to raise their kids, I guess because they're under the impression that it's easier to protect their kids from Baptists than gang members. That's not necessarily true.

O: Are there any plans to compile all the unreleased material from before Guitar Town?

SE: I don't know. Virtually everything I've recorded is out there, in one form or another. Even the demos. Almost anything you could fucking imagine. There's probably bootlegs of you. The technology is so good and so democratic. Bruce Springsteen sat in with me one night in Sea Bright, New Jersey, and somebody sent me a bootleg a week later. I had been thinking, "I wonder if anyone recorded that," which was like the stupidest, most naïve question in the world. [Laughs.] It's all being recorded, some by people perfectly innocently, and some by people not so fucking innocent, you know?

O: Your career has kind of come full circle. You were singing antiwar songs as a teenager, during the Vietnam War, and now you're singing antiwar songs again.

SE: Politics has always been in my music. Anybody who doesn't understand how political "Copperhead Road" is isn't listening very well. I'm more politically active right now than I've been since the Vietnam War, because I feel like I have to be. I believe we're good people who created this really amazing fucking document called the Constitution. I think it's what we'll be remembered for. Maybe rock 'n' roll. Maybe jazz. I'm one of those people who like to think maybe baseball. But believe me, we're not going to last forever. Every country that's ever been the most powerful country in the world ceases to be the most powerful country in the world at some point. Britain had to learn to carry itself differently after it wasn't the most powerful country in the world anymore, and I think they did a pretty fucking good job of it. Or you can be like the Soviet Union, start out with ideals, and end up ceasing to exist. The way we're carrying ourselves right now, while we're the most powerful country in the world, is going to determine whether we even exist in another hundred years, and how we're treated if we do. It makes me concerned for my grandchildren and their children.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Meg Does Manners - the latest

Dear Meg,
I was divorced four years ago and feel ready to date. My friends advised me it was okay to ask men out. I am 47 and consider myself relatively attractive but the men I approached seemed indifferent at best. Is it really okay for a woman to initiate a first date?

My Dear Apple,
Certainly there is nothing wrong with a woman taking the initiative in the dating department and I have it on good authority that despite the legend and the subsequent movies it was Jane who first approached Tarzan and suggested a swing from tree to tree. This said I'm going to advise you against taking this route. Many capable and attractive women have complained to me recently that after proffering such offers, they felt most men presumed their suggestion of getting together was a desperate plea on their part to be spared a life of bitter spinsterhood. These silly men seemed to feel my friends had bought hook, line and sinker those ridiculous studies that implied women after the age of 30 were more likely to be hit in the head by a wayward piece of the Sputnik satellite, hurled into an alternate universe and find themselves in a deserted Siberian labor camp with Dr. Spock—only it being an alternate universe Spock has a mustache and the climate in Siberia is tropical. Good grief.
My advice is to recognize your worth and hold out for a man who is well-mannered and confident enough to request the pleasure of your company. If I might remark on your name, in both Greek and Roman mythology the apple is the symbol of love and beauty. Be patient, do your own thing and soon enough you'll become the apple of some lucky guy's eye.

Dear Meg,
I've been unemployed for over a year which is a drag all by itself. What is beginning to bug me even more are all the people who want to give me a hundred suggestions of what I might try doing. Is there any graceful way of getting people to stop doing this?

My Dear Adam,
I can certainly empathize. Before I got this glamorous position advising folks like you on such matters, I had been pounding the pavement for quite sometime. Now I have to deal with all the trappings of fame. If it helps even a little, Adam, the grass is always greener on the other side. Some days I long for my former anonimity and a respite from all my fans.
As you've experienced, I found if I confided in someone I was looking for work they tended to be full of helpful suggestions which were generally anything but. It's not as if I didn't realize these amateur social workers weren't well meaning but how often can one nod one's head graciously at what are essentially the same five ideas? Eventually I began to modify Andy Warhol's famous line as a coping mechanism. I would smile blankly and nod, saying "Gee, that's a terrific idea," and then excuse myself ASAP from the conversation.
Unfortunately, this is the best I have to offer unless you have any duct tape purchased at Tom Ridge’s behest, lose your cool, and decide to apply it to helpful suggestor's mouths when absolutely necessary. Best of luck with the job search. Even the Wall Street Journal has admitted that the economic recovery has only benefited the nation's most wealthy five percent.

Fair Schmair

Okay, call me skeptical you certainly won't be the first and this trait is nothing my previous posts have not already revealed about about my character but really this announcement by Bush Lite and Co. about a "major troop shift" which will bring home as many as 70,000 troops and 100,00 family members less than 3 months before the election is so self-servingly obvious and manipulative it makes me want to go scream on the Ped Mall. Sure man, bring 'em home in time to look good to the voters and HEY get them happily to their voting booths as well. How many of these men and women were going to fill in their out of country voting cards for Shrub while they were sweating it out in some tent boiling water to drink and eating canned cheese day after day hoping upon hope they might just get a letter or package from a loved one in the States? Phew, I don't care if anyone lobbies for their own agenda, that's human and to be expected. What I do mind is being treated like I'm stupid--having a president so clueless that he treats the entire population like a bunch of idiot "cracker heads". Please, don't let him get away with this, okay? Vote early and vote often. Register in multiple states. Has anyone died recently that you can pretend to be? Fair schmair.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Thoughts on Susan Cheever's Latest Book

I just finished Susan Cheever's bio of Bill Wilson and it seems he was, in fact, a sexaholic and much of the writing in the two sacred texts of AA were written from his subjective (read~ guilt-ridden) POV on this problem. Some of the more entertaining items I came across in the book were discovering BW wanted to name the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, The Bill Wilson Movement and that he spent three years experimenting with LSD in the late 50's as a possible cure for his smoking. Oh, here's another good one, the reason it's refered to as the BIG BOOK is because Wilson was disappointed that his colleagues wouldn't allow him to publish the thing in the original monsterously long draft it was, so Wilson got them to use the thickest paper they could afford and had 'em use especially large type. He started refering to it as the BIG BOOK in order to compensate for what he perceived as a slight. In fairness, it seems he came to see the wisdom of all these group decisions but who knows, this is all Cheever's interpretation and then my interpretation of her's to boot. Iowa City writer, Mary Allen (The Rooms of Heaven) might be comforted to learn that Wilson and his pals were very into the Quiji (sp?), automatic writing and communicating with the dead. Cheever says Wilson once saw spirits in the kitchen of his house in Vermont.

All in all, it's an entertaining book and carries a strong message about never making any one person or method of self-betterment the be all and end all. Cheever's focus on class is annoying and tiresome esp. when she tries to justify it by saying it was Wilson who was obsessed by issues of money and class. There is not much evidence of that in anything she reveals about her subject. Ultimately, the reader comes to know a very sad guy. Bill suffered from long and debilitating depressions, cried around almost everyone, was a slave to his sexual impulses, nicotine and was driven into exile by the fame he once desperately sought. He abandoned his own program for a very long time and it's not entirely clear if he ever truely came back into the fold near the end of his life. Despite these things, it seems he never stopped giving to others in need and was always willing to pull himself together when he was needed. That sort of generosity and willingness to question even the program he had a huge hand in giving birth to is what I call "way cool".

Herkys, Mediocrity and Deepthroat

A weekly email newsletter I receive asked what its readers thought of the three zillion herkazoids littering the sidewalks and parks-- providing photo op's for the super eager parents of kids here for freshbeing orientation (am I gay, lesbian, bi , a tranie?). I've been wondering if the Herkys might be edible after their tenure frightening small children in and around the Iowa City/Coralville vicinity. Many people in the poorest nations in Africa survive on a root vegetable called manioc that has no nutritional value to speak of but does fill the belly and provide a smidgen of carbohydrates. Manioc is boiled and then mashed into a moderately edible paste.

I emailed a few University and Iowa City big wigs about the possibility of doing something like this with a Herky or four but I never heard back from anyone. I was shocked. In Washington, DC, the city is up in arms about the Pandas they've got everywhere. Hell, The Washington Post is covering the story. I think what we've got happening here is one big Herkygate. We need a Carl, a Bob and our very own deepthroat. With all things, all you really need to do is follow the money.

Any takers? My reputation around here is bad enough. Of course, that might be the very reason I should take this on. What do I care what people think anymore. Okay, the truth is I suspect most people who've known me for as long as I've been around actually think fairly highly of me. Maybe even a few new friends, as well. My real hope at the moment is that most of my readers find these silly Herkys as ridiculous and as big of a waste of money that could have been spent on real human needs as I do (phew, what a bear of a sentence).

Hey, way to go to the University Tennis team for having to be thrown off the courts by the police before the bulldozers came in to mow down the only outdoor courts in order to make way for the bigger, brighter, new & improved Kinnick stadium. Jeez, I hate to sound like such a WASP but tennis is such a beautiful and dignified sport. I'm about the worst player you will ever meet. My idea of a successful game is keeping a volley going--actually hitting the ball to the person on the other side of the net and having them return the favor. It's preferable if you've got a foursome who share a similiar definition of a "good game" because then you end up running around less and have more people around to laugh at how pathetic your game is. Tennis one of the few sports I love to watch others play (basketball & soccer being the others). My father has played all his life and still gets a round in every morning even at age of 72. I used to love watching him dash around the court, esp. with my "Uncle" John (he's actually my uncle about 4 times removed). They were amazing and when they played ping-pong you couldn't even see the ball it moved back and forth so quickly and with such precision. My friends and I watched in awe. We'd take a whirl at it when they were done, play miserably and then head up to my bedroom to set up Barbie's Dream House, her Camper and put Ken at the wheel of her red convertible.

The thing about tennis is that no one is crushing anybody else. There's no tackling, no hitting of one another, no pumped up, excessive muscle groups. In that sense it was akin to playing with Barbie and her pals --Ken, Midge and little cousin Skipper. Sure, every once and awhile we'd get wild and have Ken crawl on top of Barbie and have at it but that's about as daring as it ever got. Ultimately, Barbie and all her friends got haircuts and dye jobs from yours truly. Too bad punk didn't make it to the suburbs of Charlotte as quickly as it did NYC. Eventually I got wild and more daring. Charlotte was too small town for me. I headed north as often as possible, hitting some of the holy grails of the NY nightlife scene --CBGBs, the Peppermint Lounge, Elaine's (shitty pesto, fyi) -- when I probably should have been learning advanced calculus or something more useful than how to cop an eight ball. Hey, one time when a friend and I were staying in Times Square, "Deep Throat" was playing in the theater across from our hotel. There's a nice wrap for this little post although I have to add I have not been to NYC in almost 15 years and someone told me recently that Times Square has been completely Disney-fied which made me rather sad. Mindless, family fun schlock that serves to reinforce mediocrity and the status quo. I'm trying to remember which transcendentalist poet-philosopher warned that mediocrity would be the downfall of democracy. I want to say Emerson but I don't know if that's correct. It sure sounds like something he'd say, no?

Friday, August 13, 2004

News Flash! No Need to Even Vote in November

Thanks to Franklin Seiberling for passing this along. Now why on earth didn't I hear about this on NPR? I did enjoy the piece on "lemongate" this afternoon. Made me think of that old saying "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." But what if the Department of Homeland Security has sequestered and subsequently destroyed all the lemons thereby further alienating the Argentinians and the rest of the world and you have no lemons to beverage-ize? Xenophobia is just plain 'ol bad manners and is really fucking up the world.

OUTSOURCING ANNOUNCEMENT by Staff Reporter Melynda JillWashington D. C. -

Congress today announced that the Office of President of the United States will be outsourced to overseas as of June 30, the end of this fiscal year. The move is being made to save $400K a year in salary, a record $521 Billion in deficit expenditures and related overhead."The cost savings will be quite significant," says Congressman Adam Smith (R-Wash), who, with the aid of the Congress research arm, the General Accounting Office has studied outsourcing of American jobs extensively. We simply can no longer afford this level of outlay and remain competitive on the world stage," Congressman Smith said. Exporting American jobs has been a popular trend lately, ironically at the urging of President Bush.Mr. Bush was informed by email this morning of the termination of his position. He will receive health coverage, expenses and salary until his final day of employment. After that, with a two week waiting period, he will then be eligible for 240 dollars a week from unemployment insurance for 13 weeks.Unfortunately, he will not be able to receive state Medicaid health insurance coverage as his unemployment benefits are over the required limit."I'm in shock," Mr. Bush stated. "I thought for sure I'd have some job security around this here place. I have no idea what I'll do now," he further lamented.Preparations have been underway for some time for the job move.Sanji Gurvinder Singh of Indus Teleservices, Mumbai, India, will be assuming the Office of President of the United States as of July 1. Mr. Singh was born in the United States while his parents were here on student visas, thus making him eligible for the position. He will receive a salary of $320 a month but with no health coverage or other benefits.Due to the time difference between the US and India, Mr. Singh will be working primarily at night, when offices of the US Government will be open."I am excited to serve in this position," Mr. Singh stated in an exclusive interview. "Working nights will let me keep my day job at the American Express call center. I always knew I could be President someday."Congress stressed patience when calling Mr. Singh as he may not be fully aware of all the issues involved with his new position. A Congressional Spokesperson noted that Mr. Singh has been given a script tree to follow which will allow him to respond to most topics of concern. The Spokesperson further noted that "additional savings will be realized as these scripting tools have already been used previously by Mr. Bush here in the US. Such scripts will enable Mr. Singh to provide an answer without having to fully understand the issue itself."Congress continues to explore other outsourcing possibilities including that of Vice-president and most Cabinet positions.

Blazing Bunny Sacrifices Self in Suspicious Cricket Club Affair

Blazing bunny spreads cricket club fire
Fri Aug 13, 6:02 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - A rabbit set alight by a bonfire at a cricket club got its revenge when it ran burning into a hut and set it ablaze destroying costly equipment, the club says.
Reuters Photo

Members of Devizes cricket club in Wiltshire were burning dead branches when a rabbit caught up in the waste sped burning from the flames spreading a fire which destroyed lawnmowers and tools worth 60,000 pounds.
"After it had been going 5 minutes, the rabbit shot out of the bonfire on fire and went into the hut which is our equipment store," club chairman John Bedbrook told Reuters on Friday.
Two fire engines were called to extinguish the blaze. The rabbit's skeleton was discovered in the charred hut.

"The firemen were certainly concerned about the rabbit. They felt sorry for it," said Bedbrook.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Root Causes of World Hunger

To solve the world hunger crisis, it’s necessary to address the root causes of hunger. The current international economic system, has increased income inequalities, poverty and hunger worldwide. The IMF and the World Bank have forced the debt-stricken states in the South to adopt policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization. The globalized system of food production and trade favors large TNCs and reliance on export crops while discriminating against small-scale farmers and subsistence crops. AIDS is another cause of hunger. In societies affected by AIDS, famine is more deadly and difficult to combat. AIDS attacks the most productive age group, typically the men and women working in agricultural production. Global climate change leads to an increased number of weather-related disasters such as floods and droughts, which cause food shortages and famine.* Military conflicts disrupt food production and distribution. Moreover increased global military spending diverts spending from social and economic development. Oppressive regimes and corruption can also cause hunger, by draining scarce funds away from those most in need.

* Just in case anyone was wondering what the connection was between driving a gas-guzzling SUV or Hummer and world hunger, I thought I'd fill in the blanks.

Recommended Late Summer Reading, Updated

Jeez, I'm reading so much I forgot half of what I'd read lately when I made this list the other day. Here's a more comprehensive list. A number of these books are out of print but that's one of reasons the great Goddess invented the internet, I suppose.

I'm eagerly awaiting the first used copy of Sore Winners by John Powers to hit Murphy-Brookfield. I've been a fan of his column in LA weekly for some time.

I'd also recommend the following books which I'm enjoying or have enjoyed recently:

Food and Loathing by Betsy Lerner
The Merry Recluse by Caroline Knapp
Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (I've read this book at least 84 times and still love it)
Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett (this one makes the list for its cluelessness alone, not too mention it's not bad in the gossip department if you're a writer)
Tender in the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
Seven Tattoos by Peter Tractenberg
'Zine by Pagan Kennedy
It was Today by Andrei Codrescu
What Do We Know by Mary Oliver
Passwords by William Stafford (okay, anything by Stafford)
One Art by Elizabeth Bishop (oh my-- real letters-- what a lost art... indeed)
Farming by Wendell Berry ( I read this almost daily, it's the closest thing to a bible I own)

Aunt Meg Lives in Iowa, Remember?

While walking to the library to use the free internet (a mere 3.5 blocks), I passed 13 SUVs, each with only one driver and 2 Hummers equally passenger free. Do I still live in Iowa City?Meanwhile the Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought/starvation since 1974 and that one was unmatched in its history. Over a million people will be faced with famine or death and even the Wall Street Journal admits that the "economic recovery" has only affected the wealthiest Americans (the top 4-5%). While I hope to hell I am wrong, every fiber in my being and veteran politico instinct tells me that we are in for 4 more years of Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld. The sad thing about these Suburban Assault Vehicle owners is they probably don't even get the connection between what they drive and millions going hungry in Africa. Most of them will probably vote for John Kerry and feel as if they did a good thing for humanity. Oh well. Keep on living the good life. As for the American dream of having 2.3 kids, owning a nice house in the suburbs and getting deeper and deeper into debt.......I guess that's why they call it a "dream".

I seem to have gotten myself involved in a pointless argument over email with a well-meaning guy who believes this election is one of hope and that I have somehow lost my voice. I started another rebuttal and then it occurred to me that life was too short. I had a column to write and I'm still dealing with the Bob Edwards thing of being unable to suffer fools. This guy once told me he thought I was a "bitch" because I had facilitated a meeting with a steady hand because I had been asked to make certain the meeting lasted no more than 90 minutes and that's what I did. Oh well. If you ask me, this election has nothing to do with hope. What is happening in this country is terrifying. Of course, I've been saying this for close to 30 years. I've been voluntarily arrested for my beliefs and had the honor of standing in silent vigil with the late Phil Berrigan on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Hell, I was a party girl but I was a party girl with a conscience.

Anyway, I've always liked strong women. My 8 year niece, Emma, keeps confirming my intuition and meeting my best expectations as she continues to be the most positive female role model in my life. She and my nephew, Sam, were visiting my parents in North Carolina a few weeks ago and one night Sam (who is 6) had his heart set on going to McDonald's for Chicken McNuggets. Emma, on the other hand, was determined to go to the little Mexican place she had heard my parents speak so highly of. My mother tried to explain to Emma that Grandmother and Granddaddy had promised Sam he could go to McDonald's. Well, Emma wasn't having any of it. She just said, "Oh don't worry, I can handle Sam." She dashed off into bedroom where he was watching television and in less than 60 seconds, Sam came skipping into the den, exclaiming, "Alright!!! We're going to go eat Mexican!"

You could say Emma had manipulated Sam to get what she wanted but, hell, no one else really wanted to go to McDonalds. They all ended up with a much healthier meal and a small locally-owned business got supported as a result Emma knowing what she wanted and speaking her mind. If Sam has his mind set on something he is not so easily swayed, I promise you.

A few weeks ago, Emma and I were talking on the phone and she asked me what I was going to be doing for the "remainder of the day." I swear she talks like this, "the remainder of the day", how can I not adore her? I told her I was going to clean my apartment and do some laundry. She replied, "Aunt Meg, are you crazy? Why don't you have a party and eat a lot of cake?" In the background I heard my mother say, "No Emma, remember, Aunt Meg lives in Iowa." Emma said, "Oh yeah, I forgot." Hell, you'd think with all these Follywood wannabes driving around in their SUVs and Hummers there might be a decent party or four going on every once and awhile. Of course, being a somewhat strong, outspoken women in the Midwest has not put me on the top of anyone's guest list. I was hanging out at the Java House the other night reading the Times and yet another European man with exceptional manners struck up a conversation with me. Hey, before any rumors start flying he's married, okay? Anyway, the topic came around to the culture here and why so many people are so passive-aggressive. I've been trying to figure that one out for 12 plus years.

In some roundabout way this is related to the reason I have never cared for the public weeper. In my experience that person is the first to turn on you and bite off your hand. It's the old White Hunter's adage, that the wounded animal is the most dangerous one of all. At this point in my tenure here in Iowa, I much prefer the people who are honest about their feelings, resentments and anger to those who are not. The most likeable thing I've heard about Dubya to date is that he supposedly told some Senator that his daughters were a "pain in the ass."

Time to go eat a tomato sandwich. I've never cared much for summer. Around this time of year, I begin to feel as if I have mono, but if there is one thing I am extremely grateful for it is tomato sandwiches. Hell, I may even go crazy and have two of them.