By Larry Romanoff   July 11, 2020     


There are only two nations in the world whose existence seems to be founded primarily on historical myths. In the US, false historical mythology permeates every nook and cranny of the American psyche, the result of more than 100 years of astonishing and unconscionable programming and propaganda, a massive crime against an entire population. This condition pertains not only to past events we think of as history, but to the extent that most items permitting Americans to “feel good by being an American” are fabricated Disney fairytales. This essay is a brief introduction to only a minor aspect of this subject.

In the introduction to my series of books (soon to be published) I wrote that “Perhaps 90%, or even 95%, of everything we know, or think that we know, or that we believe to be true about history, is wrong. To express this another way, if we were to take the history of the entire world for the past 500 years and compress it into a book of 100 pages, a full 50 of those pages would be blank. That is the extent to which our true history has been suppressed, entirely deleted from the record and from our consciousness. Of the remaining 50 pages, 45 are false in whole or in part, photoshopped, sanitised, twisted, and with critical details omitted to deliberately lead the public to the wrong conclusions.”[1]

Einstein, the Mythical Genius

One of the greatest mythical frauds in history is that of Albert Einstein, the famous physicist who invented the Theory of Relativity, E=mc² and so many other esoteric things. But this is all fabrication. The claims about Einstein inventing any theory of relativity, or light and photons, or time, are false. Almost every claim – almost everything – attributed to Einstein is simply a lie. Einstein was an inept who contributed nothing original to the field of quantum mechanics, nor any other science. Far from being a competent physicist, he once even flatly denied that the atom could be split and, much later, admitted that the idea of a chain reaction in fissile material “had never occurred to me”.[2][3]

Einstein was a third-class clerk at the government patent office in Bern, and never progressed beyond this level even with years of experience. By all contemporary reports, Einstein wasn’t even an accomplished mathematician. It has been well documented that much of the mathematical content of Einstein’s so-called theories were well beyond his ability. Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute, stated that Einstein’s first wife Mileva Marić was a “Serbian physicist who had helped him with (his) math . . .”[4] Other prominent scientists have made the claim that his wife did most of his math for him.

Henri Poincaré was the foremost expert on relativity in the late 19th century and the first person to formally present the theories, having published more than 30 books and over 500 papers on the topics. Extensive documentation exists that Einstein and his associates had studied Poincaré’s theories and mathematics for years, yet when Einstein published his almost wholly-plagiarised versions he made no reference whatever to these other works.

In the accepted historical account, Einstein is credited with having written the correct field equations for general relativity, an enormous falsehood. It is an undisputed fact that David Hilbert sent Einstein a draft of his work (which had already been submitted for publication), containing precisely these equations, evidenced by the existence of a letter from Einstein to Hilbert thanking him for doing so. Yet a few weeks later, Einstein delivered a public speech of Hilbert’s work, claiming full credit for the derivation of Hilbert’s equations. Similarly, E=mc², the famous equation relating mass, energy, and the speed of light, had been published several times by Italian physicist Olinto De Pretto, long before Einstein was suddenly given credit for it. In multiple thorough reviews of scientific literature, prominent scientists have unanimously stated that there is “absolutely nothing to connect Einstein to the derivation of this formula.”[5]

Einstein’s papers, theories, mathematics, documentation, were almost 100% plagiarised from others. He combined the prior published works of several people into one paper and claimed ownership of all of it. His so-called theories were nothing more than a composition encompassing the prior work of men like James Maxwell, Hendrik Lorentz, Joseph Larmor, Olinto De Pretto, Robert Brown, Ludwig Boltzmann, Friedrich Hasenöhrl, and many more.

In a paper he wrote in 1907, in part responding to (already-virulent) accusations of plagiarism, Einstein declared that plagiarism was perfectly acceptable as a form of ethical research, stating “… the nature [of physics is] that what follows has already been partly solved by other authors. I am [therefore] entitled to leave out a thoroughly pedantic survey of the literature…”[6][7][8] In other words, scientists all build on each others’ work, so Einstein could freely compile the work of everyone before him and re-present it as his own, with no obligation to even mention them or their work. His view of ethical science was like building a tower where each person adds one stone and, if I add the last stone, I not only take credit for the entire design and construction of the tower, but I own the building.

Perhaps the most damning evidence was when in 1953 Sir Edmund Whittaker published a very detailed account of the origin and development of all these theories and equations of physics, with extensive reference to the primary sources, documenting beyond doubt that Einstein had no priority in any of it, and clearly stating so. Einstein was alive and well when Whittaker published his book, yet he offered no dispute to the conclusions, no refutation of Whittaker’s claim that he (Einstein) had been irrelevant to the entire process. Einstein made no attempts in his own defense but simply hid in the bushes and refused to make any public comment whatever.[9]

Einstein was almost certainly the greatest fraud and plagiarist in modern science, an unashamed intellectual thief but, according to sources like Wikipedia, this is all just a minor “priority dispute” about who said what first in the realm of relativity physics. These sources misleadingly imply that several people made a discovery independently and more or less simultaneously, and we are simply debating who went public first. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Wikipedia is renowned as being virtually useless as an information source due to widespread ideological bias and censorship.

Einstein was Jewish and had the support of the Jewish-controlled media who conspired to create yet another historical myth. His fame and popularity today, his status as a hero of the scientific world, are due only to decades of a well-planned force-feeding of the Einstein myth to the masses by the media. The propaganda machine simply airbrushed out of the history books all the physicists who formulated these theories, and credited everything to Einstein. Without the extravagant generations-long PR and propaganda campaign, Einstein would have remained in the dustbin of obscurity where he belongs.

There are many Einstein apologists who produce reams of heavily-documented irrelevancies masquerading as proof, items such as a schoolmate who claimed “the flight of his mathematical genius was so high that I could no longer follow.” Many scientists and scientific historians know the truth of all this, and the accurate historical record is readily available, but many appear afraid to speak out for fear of damaging their careers. I have put the question to several prominent physicists in different countries, eliciting similar responses, namely that “it will not further one’s career to open a debate which will inevitably produce a tsunami of invective and slander, to say nothing of accusations of anti-Semitism.”

Time Magazine published more than a dozen issues on Einstein, including a special Collector’s Edition, and even ran an issue naming Einstein the “Person of the Century”. As with all other American heroes, the PR machine has worked for decades to embellish the myth with a collection of possibly hundreds of wise sayings attributed to this man where there is absolutely no historical evidence he ever said any of those things. The NYT published an article on a small cleverly-selected scientific dispute, in which it claimed “Findings Back Einstein in a Plagiarism Dispute”.[10] And thus is history spun by those who control the microphone. This is why so many pages in our history book consist of misrepresentations and omitted facts, painting a picture so considerably at odds with the truth. As with Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright Brothers and so many others, the false historical myths have been so deeply entwined in American and world history that they cannot be unraveled.

Einstein, the “Man of Peace”

Similarly, there has been a great campaign by Einstein’s revisionist apologists to disavow his strong support for the development of the atomic bomb, claiming him to be “a man of peace”. I have copies of correspondence from Einstein where he stated his conviction that the United States should “demonstrate” the atomic bomb to disfavored foreign countries. In one letter to then-US President Roosevelt, he wrote, “… extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. I am convinced as to the wisdom and the urgency of creating the conditions under which that and related work can be carried out with greater speed and on a larger scale than hitherto”.[11]

That statement is part of one of Einstein’s letter to Roosevelt, suggesting he (Einstein) be “entrusted with the task” of managing the project. Roosevelt refused Einstein’s fervent requests to manage, or even to participate in, the project, because it was an open secret that nobody trusted him and the FBI had conducted extensive investigations against him. One FBI file labeled “Secret”, stated that Einstein was affiliated with 33 organisations which had been cited by the Attorney-General and/or Congress, as being politically suspect.

It is interesting that the respected National Geographic is one of the world’s worst publications for spinning historical fact and truth. In 2017, this magazine ran an article on Einstein claiming that Hoover and the FBI despised Einstein and built a 1,400-page file on him because “the world-famous physicist was outspoken against nuclear bombs”.[12][13]

The second portion of the same letter is rather more disturbing, and has to my knowledge never been publicly referenced anywhere. It clearly reveals that Einstein had had detailed discussions with some wealthy acquaintances in Europe who were eager to personally finance the US development of atomic bombs from their own pockets. Einstein was informing the President he had access to these individuals with whom he had already confirmed available funding, baiting Roosevelt with an offer that, should he be ‘entrusted’ with management of the bomb project, he could bring the necessary financing with him. He states that, as project manager, one of his tasks would be: “providing funds … through his contacts with private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause.”[14]

It would be appropriate for us to ask who were these “private persons” who had the money to finance the development of the world’s first atomic bombs, and why they would want to personally fund such a project. Einstein does not mention these individuals by name, but they would surely have been Jewish and who in Europe (in the 1930s) had the kind of money to offer open-ended funding for a scientific project the cost of which was unknown and unknowable, but clearly massive.[15] This offer was not spurred by patriotism but by the prospect of financial gain and control of both the technology and the application of this ‘science’. We can therefore further question who would have taken ownership of the technology, and who would have been the intended victims of this large personal investment. One plausible theory

I would add here that many of Einstein’s propagandists and apologists have made repeated efforts to pass the blame for the development of the atomic bomb onto Enrico Fermi, another monstrous falsehood. The US government offered Fermi a cash payment of US$100,000[16] to lead the research and development of the atom bomb, but Fermi refused. I have seen a copy of a letter from Fermi to the US President claiming that something so evil had “no right to exist”. In fact, it was Oppenheimer and Szilard who led the development of what was almost in totality a Jewish project, so much so that for many years in scientific circles the atomic bomb was widely known as “The Jewish hell-bomb”.[17] I believe it was Eustace Mullins who first coined the phrase, and I believe it was he who first suggested there was “circumstantial but compelling evidence” that the Jewish motivation for offering to finance the A-bomb’s development was to take control of the technology and use it for Germany’s total destruction.”[18] The theory is more than plausible if you are familiar with the heavily-evidenced proposition that the underlying purpose of both world wars was the total destruction of Germany). You can understand why items like this are restricted to the blank pages in our history book.

Alexander Graham Bell – The Man Who Didn’t Invent the Telephone

History books tell us the famous American, Alexander Graham Bell, invented the telephone. This claim has only two flaws; Bell was Canadian, not American, and he did not invent the telephone.

An Italian named Antonio Meucci patented a working telephone many years before Bell did anything.[19] Bell had obtained copies of Meuci’s drawings and patents and had attempted to obtain US patents on Meuci’s phone. Meucci discovered Bell’s attempted patent of his invention and filed a lawsuit against Bell, in support of which he brought from Italy all his documents, working models, original sketches and his patent, to present to the court as evidence of his prior invention. The delivery company – Western Union – was charged with the responsibility as trustee to hold this evidence for delivery to the court, but all of it “amazingly disappeared without a trace immediately prior to the court hearing, leaving Meucci with no proof of anything and thus losing his lawsuit against Bell.” It is worth noting that at the time Bell was employed at the Western Union lab where Meucci’s evidence was being stored.

The Italians are still angry about this. The Italian Historical Association informed us that their investigation produced evidence of illegal relationships between employees of the patent office and Bell’s company. And later, during a lawsuit between Bell and Western Union, it was revealed Bell had agreed to pay Western Union 20% of all profits from ‘his’ telephone, for 17 years, representing millions of dollars, sufficient temptation for Western Union to justify “losing” Meucci’s invention. US media have fabricated at least dozens of tales excusing Bell, a common one that “due to hardships, Meucci could not renew his patent” and therefore Bell could take it, but in fact the US government filed charges against Bell for fraud because of his telephone patent, but powerful friends had the lawsuit delayed year after year until Meucci died.[20] American history books and sources like Wikipedia omit these critical facts and twist the remaining information, and thus Americans grow up believing yet one more false myth about their country and their innovative ability.

I would make a note here that when doing historical research we sometimes discover that the landscape has been so badly polluted by countless individuals amending details to conform to opinion or ideology (or patriotism) that it becomes nearly impossible to ferret out the actual facts without an extraordinary amount of work. In this case, some have claimed (without evidence) that Meucci lost his patent because he hadn’t the funds to renew it. Others ignore Meucci’s lawsuit against Bell and claim Bell delivered his phone patent and samples to Western Union for evaluation and who later claimed to have lost all of it. And so on. Here are several articles purporting to tell “the real truth”[21][22][23][24]

Thomas Edison – The Man Who Didn’t Invent Anything

Every American child is taught in school that the famous American Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, Wikipedia claiming that Edison was “the fourth most prolific inventor in history, holding 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as many patents in the UK, France, and Germany”. Edison is given full credit for inventing the light bulb, electricity transmission, electric power utilities, sound recording and motion pictures. All these claims are completely false.[25] Not only was Edison not one of the most prolific inventors in history, he never invented anything. Edison himself made the statement: “patents 1047 – inventions 0”, in recognition of his situation.

The inventions for which Edison is credited by the Americans were all achieved by others, and his “1,093 US patents” were all either stolen, bullied, extorted or purchased from those same inventors. As another author pointed out, “a man who kidnaps or adopts 1,000 children can hardly be deemed the world’s most prolific father, and a man who steals 1,000 inventions and patents can hardly be deemed the world’s most prolific inventor”. Thomas Edison was unquestionably one of the world’s most prolific thieves, and widely known as a con-man and common thug who often resorted to threats and extortion, but he was no inventor. Edison was mostly just a thieving opportunist who extorted or stole everything that is listed to his credit, but in US history books Edison is revered in totally fabricated myths as the father of the light bulb and America’s most prolific inventor.

The light bulb had been invented by several people in Europe, one of whom, Heinrich Goebel, unsuccessfully tried selling it to Edison who claimed to see no value in it though he was more than happy to purchase the patent from Goebel’s estate when the man died, cheating his widow out of a substantial sum of money. In any case, another man, Joseph Wilson Swan developed and patented a working incandescent light bulb using a carbon filament 20 years before Edison made any such claim.[26][27] Edison first tried to steal Swan’s invention and, when that proved legally dangerous, he made Swan a minor partner in the Ediswan United Company, buying both Swan and his patented light bulb and claiming the invention for himself. Swan also invented sound recording and other items which are today credited to Edison.[28]

Every American is taught from birth that Edison labored for years, trying at least 1,000 different substances (some say 2,000) before he discovered that twisted carbon would function acceptably as the filament in a light bulb. The story is entirely false, a myth fabricated after the fact, a little religious morality play to support faith in the American Dream – that persistence and hard work will lead to unlimited fame and riches in the end. Edison did indeed try – and repeatedly failed – to create a light bulb, and he may well have attempted some of those filament trials. But all that is irrelevant because Swan had already proven the effectiveness of a carbon filament when Edison took ownership of his invention and patent.

Edison is given credit for the device which made x-rays possible, but the actual inventor was German scientist Wilhelm Roentgen who publicly displayed x-rays of his wife’s hand years prior to Edison’s fluoroscope. Similarly, Edison is given credit for inventing electrical transmission in various forms, but Nicola Tesla brought this invention to the US and offered it to Edison who took ownership of the process and patents under a promise of $50,000, then refused to pay Tesla and spent years in attempts to destroy his name and reputation.

The US-based Science website dismisses the entire truth about Edison in one cute sentence: “Even though many of his “inventions” were not unique – and he engaged in some well-publicized court battles with other inventors whose ideas he “borrowed” – Edison’s skill at marketing and using his [political] influence often got him the credit.”[29] And that means Edison patented items that already existed, created by others, and that had sometimes already been patented. Plus, he had a habit of stealing and patenting any ideas brought to him by other inventors. Hence, the lawsuits. But his marketing ability and some powerful political and judicial contacts kept him out of jail. Nevertheless, the myth has been so thoroughly weaved into American history, it could never be recalled.

The US government even issued a special silver dollar coin to commemorate Edison’s non-achievements. And we have an Edison museum complete with the requisite US flag, providing Americans with the unique opportunity to experience delusion and patriotism simultaneously. But the man did invent one thing the history books seem to have quietly deleted. Edison was a believer in spirits and regularly attended séances where mediums would receive and transmit messages from the dead. To more easily conduct these affairs, Edison invented a telephone that he claimed could talk to people in the spirit world, though he didn’t specify what numbers to dial. In a conversation with B.C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes magazine, Edison claimed, “I have been at work for some time building an apparatus … for personalities which have left this earth to communicate with us”. No idea what the spirits said to him, and no idea why his promoters deleted this important item from the history of the world’s greatest inventor.[30]


Coca-Cola, originally called Kola Coca, was invented more than 140 years ago in a small town in Spain, the creators of the formula for the world’s best-selling soft drink having been cheated of its ownership and billions of dollars. The process was a well-kept secret at the time and quickly became a world-famous product, winning dozens of international gold medals and other awards. Unfortunately, Bautista Aparici, one of the company’s founders, attended a trade fair in Philadelphia and made the mistake of giving a sample and a brief description of the process to an American he happened to meet, and a short time later US pharmacist John Pemberton changed the name to Coca-Cola and patented the product and process, the US government refusing to recognise the original Spanish patent.[31][32][33]

The official story is that this drink was “invented by Dr. John Smith Pemberton on May 8, 1886, at Atlanta, Georgia”, in the USA, and was named Coca-Cola because at that time it contained extracts of Coca leaves and Kola nuts, and that the company’s book-keeper renamed the drink because he thought the two ‘C’s’ would look better in advertising. None of that is true. The drink was indeed made from kola nuts and coca leaves, but the new name was a cheap attempt to differentiate itself after Pemberton stole and patented the original formula. All the stories about Pemberton inventing Coke’s secret formula in his laboratory are fabricated nonsense, with the company’s website cleverly designed to airbrush out the drink’s early history and avoid the truth becoming known. Beverage World magazine produced a special issue to commemorate the one-hundredth (American) anniversary of Coca-Cola, claiming Coke was:

“A totally American product born of a solid idea, nurtured throughout the past century with creative thinking and bold decision-making, and always plenty of good old-fashioned hard work. That is as it should be; it is the American way”.

Not by a long shot. Coca-Cola is just one of hundreds of products the Americans have stolen and patented with the full protection of their courts operating under the peculiarly American definition of ‘rule of law’. It isn’t widely-known, though well-documented, that for decades surrounding the turn of the last century, the US government offered between $20,000 and $50,000 to anyone who could steal a foreign patent or product, that amount representing a lifetime’s earnings for an average person.

To add insult to injury, Coca-Cola moved into Spain in 1953, sued the original Spanish owners, then bullied, extorted and bought the rights for a pittance, permitting the firm to continue producing only a single alcoholic beverage under their name. USA Today reported on this without even a hint of regret or shame about the rule of law or fair play or the evils of IP theft. Their only comment: “The Spanish factory has just four employees left and probably won’t last another generation.” Even more insultingly, ABC News dismisses this story as “The Spanish firm that inspired Coke”, although they do state correctly the claim: “Locals believe that the Spanish town of Aielo de Malferit is where Coca-Cola originated — and that the factory which developed the formula that inspired the world’s best-selling soda has been cheated of its rightful place in history. Not to mention profits.”[34]

The Wright Brothers

For more than 100 years, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington has had on display an aircraft that was piloted by Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in man’s first powered, manned aircraft flight, Americans therefore having created “The Age of Flight”.

But that was never true, and the Smithsonian was in on the fraud from the very beginning. In an agreement with the Wright family to donate the aircraft to the Institution, its officials signed a pledge to perpetuate the story that the Wrights had made the first flight, when all present were fully aware the claim was false. And for more than 100 years the Smithsonian Institution of Historical Mythology, with the full support of the US government and the media, has done everything in its power to dismiss, contradict, and just ignore, extensive documentation of other prior flights in an effort to prevent the dethroning of America in the public mind.[35][36]

Several people have thoroughly researched the matter and have written authoritative books on other prior flights but these have been “denounced by leading aeronautic agencies” (like the Smithsonian Institution), with the authors dismissed as “unqualified” and their books “unreliable”. In fact, there were many prior flights, some in Europe, Canada, South America, and others in the US itself, and the Smithsonian was fully aware of this. Recently, the editors of the authoritative Jane’s Aircraft firmly declared that Gustave Whitehead had flown years before the Wright Brothers. Alberto Santos-Dumont had done the same in Paris, as had another group in Alberta, Canada.

Moreover, there exists sufficient evidence the Wrights had access to all that prior knowledge in building their own aircraft, then claimed it as their own. In addition to other design features, the Wright brothers claimed ownership of the curved airfoil – without which no aircraft would ever have gotten off the ground anywhere, but, as one historian noted, “the Wrights stole both the concept and the actual design from an Australian who had recorded it years before, and who had himself deduced the concept from the boomerang of the Australian aboriginals.” The Wright Brothers stole the idea to build their aircraft, then patented it and sued others for using it.

Rumors had been circulating for decades that the Smithsonian had signed what was essentially a contract of fraud with the Wright family, agreeing to perpetuate the myth of the first manned flight, in exchange for having the aircraft on permanent display. But the Directors of the Smithsonian repeatedly denied the existence of such an agreement, stating that would be “tampering with history” and that they “would never agree to such a thing.” But then one day a US Senator collected a few lawyers and descended on the Smithsonian in a kind of political raid. And they did indeed locate the document, which reads in part: “Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor its successors nor any museum or other agency, bureau or facilities administered by the United States of America, shall publish or permit to be displayed a statement … in respect of any aircraft model … of earlier date than the Wright Aeroplane of 1903, claiming … that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight …”[37]

And now you know how the Wright Brothers became famous as the first men to fly. One historian wrote that the Smithsonian had no authority “to engage in political engineering of this sort”, noting that this “compromises history”. But compromising history is an American specialty. And this childrens’ tale will never end. Scientific American wrote a long, biased, and foolish article, claiming the other stories as myths and their myth as the truth.[38] Other eminent publications have done the same. This is how history is spun.

To give you an idea of the enormous influence of the US media and book publishers in maintaining these myths, in 2015 David McCullough ignored the judgment by Janes (and the world outside the US), and wrote a new book for Americans that not only perpetuates the myth but enhances it, with the major US media immediately writing glowing book reviews to help push sales and get the propaganda back into the public mind. The Washington Post modestly tells us how “two [American] boys taught the world to fly.” The publishers, Simon and Schuster, tell us the Wright brothers had “exceptional courage and determination”, and “ceaseless curiosity”.[39]

Daniel Okrent, in a review of McCullough’s book in the NYT,[40] adds that their progress was achieved through “excruciating patience and obsessive attention to detail” and with “an elegant demonstration of the creativity of their thinking”. They were “possessed by genius”. Their discovery of the necessity of a curved airfoil was not copied from Australia, but was the result of “endless calculation, application and recalculation”, every concoction being “a dazzling piece of reasoning” pursued with a “grandness of vision”, with the end result being “the most astonishing feat mankind has ever accomplished”. Yes. Except that it wasn’t.


[1] Jim Quinn: A Nation Built On Lies; https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-07-10/jim-quinn-nation-built-lies-part-2

[2] Einstein’s Plagiarism of the General Theory of Relativity 1st Edition; by Christopher Jon Bjerknes; https://www.amazon.com/Einsteins-Plagiarism-General-Theory-Relativity/dp/1544900872

[3] Einstein A Plagiarist Special Relativity; https://educheer.com/term-paper/einstein-a-plagiarist-special-relativity

[4] Time magazine, July 2006; http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1211594,00.htm

[5] The Guardian, November 11, 1999; “Einstein’s E=mc² was Italian’s idea”; Clark, R. W. [1984], Einstein: The Life and Times, Avon Books, New York. De Pretto, O. [1904], ‘Ipo tesi dell ” et ere nell a vita dell ” universe’, Reale Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, Feb.

[6] http://www.cartesio-episteme.net/episteme/epi6/ep6-bjerk-rec.htm

[7] https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/esp_einstein.htm

[8] https://www.veteranstoday.com/2020/01/02/was-einstein-a-wife-beater-womanizer-plagiarizer-and-eugenicist/

[9] A history of the theories of aether and electricity: https://archive.org/details/historyoftheorie00whitrich

[10] Findings Back Einstein In a Plagiarism Dispute; https://www.nytimes.com/1997/11/18/science/findings-back-einstein-in-a-plagiarism-dispute.html


Upon arriving at Arbontorium Kalmhout, I noticed that the gift shop was an attraction onto itself. Remarkable artistic ingenuity was on display throughout. Flower and tree-themed stuffed animals and birds all had a charming static animation if there is such a thing. The greeting cards all had top-quality and very imaginative designs. Framed pieces depicting whimsical figures that were composed of leaves, twigs, bark, and flowers were awesome. It’s always stuff like this that reminds me just how uncreative and pretentious much of modern and post-modern art really is. Especially famous modern art. Especially modern art worth hundreds of millions of dollars. What’s that got to do with anything? Nothing. Did I buy anything? Nothing again. We were in a hurry. Not to see depictions, but the real thing!

Hey, I’m not a flower guy and I’m not into prettiness, and many might describe this place that way. But the intense hues and lavish chromas of arguably tens of millions of flowers, which are surrounded by and against a backdrop of endless tones and shades of green throughout this estate, did it for Lieve and me on this bright, warm and sunny day. It is not so much that the flowers are singularly beautiful as it is that they harmonize magnificently within the vastly larger sphere of green, which they are surrounded by at every turn. This creates a synthesis of exquisite beauty. Wildflowers are abundant and they outnumber their cultivated cousins by a thousand to one it seems, yet rival them in beauty in their proliferation. My second thought, in this beautiful garden, is that I think I want my ashes scattered here after I pass from this mortal coil. What a splendid visual! A pageantry of flowers that seem to surround you at most every turn. The vast grounds are so thoughtfully laid out and designed. All without affecting a manicured look. There is a splendid naturalness to this place. Did I just see Monet, or was that John Singer Sargent setting up an easel to paint?. No. That was just a guy with a thick black beard and wide-brimmed straw hat taking a stroll through my imagination. How dare he.

Look! How positively refreshing. There’s plenty of benches to sit down and rest. Unlike many other venues of this kind. They must’ve known that a cranky American who was wearing cheap footwear while being besieged by chronic back and hip pain, was roaming the grounds. “No smoking anywhere on the entire grounds!, announced a sign. I guess a new species of the Rat Pack is roaming the grounds as well. Those that would rat or snitch to the domain management on any hapless smoker trying to relax with a Marlboro. The Rat Patrol must be proud that they have assumed a level of voluntary or delusional civic importance in keeping their fellow citizens from breathing second-hand smoke that dissipates in seconds on this vast estate.

This place soothes the soul. Harmony, serenity, and peace prevailed until that damn bee stung me (just kidding!) as the flowers almost sing to you in silence though mellifluous tonnes of joy while the sunlight filtered through the abundantly leafed old stout trees, splattering magnificent patterns of light on most every meandering pathway. Large, dramatic shapes of darkness defined shaded areas that were sliced here and there by intensely sun-drenched leaves. OK, it wasn’t quite as spectacular as that, but it sure sounds clever here.

We arrived at a large and well-developed frog-pond or kikker-vijver, which was half-covered with lily pads, some the size of small pizza’s. Here we heard the calls of these cute little tailless amphibians. Their wet and dark olive bodies were tattooed with dazzling zig-zagged designs of light olive and tan and glistened in the afternoon sunlight. Lieve’s great photos of them captured this quality, though she had to be quick on the shutter button for more than a few shots. Their collective calls, which came from every area of the pond, created a kind of orchestrated Frog Symphony in D-Minor. I figured that this shallow water was loaded with these tailless amphibians. As I continued to listen, I swore that I heard them calling out what sounded very much like Sympathy For the Devil by the Rolling Stones. Wow, I thought. Even though these frogs are in only a few centimeters of water, “these cats are deep!” Naturally, Lieve didn’t hear it, as she was engrossed, knee-deep, as it were, with her demanding photography.
A large and ancient tree trunk, which had a magnificent sculptural quality which only God could’ve created, was mounted vertically on a smartly-designed pedestal, turning it into an impressive work of art. It went perfectly with its surroundings, no doubt, being at one time a living tree from this very domain. It certainly beat those government-funded horrid monstrosities (there goes mister idée fixe yet again!) of post-modernist formless rusted steel which proliferate in many public venues in Belgium and elsewhere, and which are incongruous, or at odds with, their surroundings. Later in the afternoon, a light wind gave soft movement to all flora and leaves throughout the entire domain. The swaying, lazy, and peaceful movement soon had me falling asleep. Luckily a large bee, with a buzz like a Mercury 50-horsepower outboard, snapped me out of my mid-afternoon stupor.

As we departed, my nose started to itch. I soon discovered that tiny flowers of many colors had started to grow out of my left nostril. How lovely I thought, but does anyone have a scissor? Though there was confusion in this as Lieve insisted that it was my right nostril. Yet another instance of a disagreement over the left and right of a thing! As we continued to walk, and as I turned for one last look at the place, I felt something move in my most private dark place. I’m not that old yet, said I. What a relief when I saw a tiny cute-as-all-hell frog leap out of my pants near my sneaker. “Look at him go! Going back to sing with the Stones!” Lieve then asked what the hell was I talking about. “Nothing Sweetheart. Nothing”


I walk into Joe’s Deli anticipating a ham and swiss on rye so thick that jaw surgery may well be in my future.  This is a venerable place. Joe has been here forever.  The Cathedral of Sandwich. The House of Ham and Swiss. The Castle of Pastrami. The Temple of Dill. Entering, I see the perennial pre-bobble-head plastic models of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford on display in the front window. The early 60s Yankee icons are a bit dusty and yellowed by the relentless afternoon sun. Mickey and Roger are frozen in their swings, and Yogi is caught forever in the act of flipping his mask off to catch a foul ball, while southpaw Whitey is captured for all-time in fielding ‘set’ position following his delivery. These dolls represented the last of the Yankee dynasty days. Maybe this deli should be called The Church of Yankee.

The deli is empty of customers.  That’s great. If several were waiting before me, it could be forty-minutes before I’m out of here. Joe takes forever to prepare a sandwich.  But it’s worth it, and then some. At a dollar thirty-five, his ham and swiss on rye, with lettuce, tomato, and mayo is world-class, though I couldn’t verify that. Two lazy ceiling fans, of the type common in the 1930s and ‘40s,  are circulating the air which carries the wafting smells of comingled deli-delights.  The Yankee pre-game show is on the radio in the back of the store. To the left, shelves holding canned goods and other grocery and household items, are made of polished wood, and run the length of the long store and climb over halfway to the ceiling. On the right is the centerpiece of this operation: A long refrigeration case where baloney, hams, pot roast, pastrami several selections of salami’, all types of cheeses as well as several salads – not the least of which is a vast tub of potato salad – are on display to my right. The whole effect brings salivating anticipation and a sense of walking back into a safe and happy time of decades past.

Bald-headed and thick-headed, Joe is as deliberate in his movements as he is intransigent in his opinions. His relaxed demeanor is especially apparent in his constant rubbing of his palms together.  I used to be a big baseball fan, and as a kid a big Yankee fan. But after their dynasty crumbled in the mid-‘60s, I became an American League fan, rooting hard for the Yankees only when they played against the hated National League. They had whipped the Dodgers the year before in the World Series, after they had defeated them in the 1977 World Series. Back to back championships that ended a drought going back to 1962, though they had appeared in their last World Series in 1964, losing to the Cardinals in seven games. But trying to talk baseball involving any team but the Yankees was impossible with  Joe. His horizons rose and set with his beloved Yankees. Before long though, I  thought it ludicrous to discuss anything with him.

‘There was turkey, there was ham, there was  caviar’* sang the song. Who needs those high-fallutin sturgeon eggs to satiate one’s appetite anyway? “How positively delightful. And does your husband suspect anything?”  “How dreadfully exciting!” said the silvery coiffured heiress. Some demitasse? Have more caviar?” But at Joe’s  it was more like: “Hey Bobby, pop me another beer. Yanks up by two. Guidry. Louisianna Lightening with ten K’s and it’s only the sixth. This sandwich is awesome. Where did you get it”?

The overhead light catches Joe’s eyeglasses as he turns to perform his craft
He handles the slicing machine in an effortless manner, as if it were an extension of his hand. Three slices each of ham and swiss now rested on a slice of rye bread. With a deftness and I dare say tenderness, culled from some 25 years of such preparartions, Joe gently  places lettuce,  slices of tomato and a sizable glob of mayonnaise to complete this work of culinary art. As I watched this process, I’m thinking that I’ll be in my sign shop soon. I’ll hang my hand-lettered sign: “Closed until tomorrow” and lock the accordion gates.  Nobody to bother me. I’ll immediately pull all the shades down in the back room and blast the air conditioner.

I’m going to be removed completely from the noisy bleached-bright-hot. Hell, it must be 85 degrees today. And the humidity isn’t whistling Dixie either.  It’s sucking the will out of me. And that walk up the scoffing and insulting  hill on Mount Vernon Avenue from the train station didn’t help any either. It’s cool and dark in here now. I’m ready to pop a beer open, embrace this thick sandwich and watch the Yankees take on the Twins in the first game of a twi-night doubleheader. Excuse me, but this act of wanton and narcissistic indulgence is a religious experience.



*Lyrics from Leo Sayer 1974 hit record Long Tall Glasses






























A weekend in the city of Aalst, Belgium.  Population, plus eighty-five thousand.
Lieve and I were here to witness the annual Aalst Carnival, a festival that has existed for some one-hundred years.  An anything-goes-no-holds-barred spectacle whose moving caravan displays range from benign satire all the way to degeneracy. Giant fantastically created caricatured heads of Belgian politicians, religious figures and spectacular portrayals of topical subjects of all stripe, slowly wend their way through the city’s angular streets. This year’s event has made the international headlines and is embroiled in controversy over last year’s inclusion in the carnival of comedic portrayals of Hasidic Jews wearing their traditional costumes.

The city of Aalst was informed by the international UN subsidiary UNESCO, that funding for the event would be canceled if a promise to not include such figures was not forthcoming. The mayor of Aalst beat UNESCO to the punch by declaring that the organization could go ahead with their funding cancellation because Aalst had no intention what-so-ever of being a victim of censorship.  Thus, an intriguing scenario was about to unfold before us and the tens of thousands of other spectators in attendance.

As if on cue from the mayor’s proclamation, several carnival participants displayed traditionally-garbed Hasidics cavorting and dancing on caravans while we observed scores of festival onlookers adorned with Hasidic costumes. Some went perhaps an unnecessary step further by wearing large hooked plastic noses, of the type often caricatured in anti-Jewish propaganda. The caricatures, which measured several meters in height and appeared to be constructed of plastic or rubber, were actually impressive works of original art. No doubt better than what is on display in many major museums, where post-modernist garbage has intellectuals, art critics but not the general public, hoodwinked. We spent almost seven hours watching one spectacularly colorful and animated caravan after another. We were lucky to have a table at an Irish Pub, where we watched it all unfold in relative comfort, though loud thumping and formless music, which seems to accompany these types of events, was blaring from inside the crowded interior.

We stayed at the very impressive Astrid Hotel in one of the better sections of Aalst on Saturday evening through Sunday morning. The hotel appeared to have been built in the late-19th century and had a beautiful foyer-check-in and entranceway. The breakfast buffet room was a delight to be in, with its exquisite woodworking and high ceiling.  The buffet offerings were delicious and plentiful. The city of Aalst as a whole is quite another story.  Large swaths of it consist of a drab uninspiring quilt of treeless streets, few of which are routed straight long enough to afford much depth-of-field, as most are truncated by dissecting shorter streets. This arrangement created a certain claustrophobic flatness.  It rained on and off during our stay and I thought the heavy drizzle went well with the concrete and brick greyness of the place and suspected that any sunshine would be wasted here anyway. Sad clowns wear the fakest smiles.  Sad but still impressive classical 19th-century buildings, in need of repair, were too often surrounded by an inferior architectural species. The latter of which proliferated and seemed to define the cityscape. While the city isn’t impressive by any stretch, the people we met were friendly and very helpful when we asked for directions. All who participated in and those who attended the event were jovial and convivial and were enjoying themselves to the max. We witnessed no hatred, violence nor drunkenness during our stay. Of course, that might’ve changed later in the evening, after we had left the city.

I suspect that Aalst is preoccupied with the Carnival to one degree or another the remaining three—hundred-sixty-three days of the year. Everywhere in Aalst garishly and amateurishly painted shop windows that depicted all manner of degeneracy and licentiousness announced the coming spectacle. Many were pornographic. I guess that if publications such as the esteemed Charlie Hebdo can get away with what they define as satirical humor, but which often are slander and defamation, so can the Aalst Carnival. Right, my anti-Christian-anti-white-goyim-defining-deviancy-down-brethren of the big media?  Power-brokers, culture formers and propagandizers, all owned by the You-Know-Who’s?




This is the world of the young Jack London.
Based on a photograph posted on Facebook of Wyatt Earp’s
Second-Class Saloon. Nome, Alaska, 1901.

“We were those wandering hordes of ruffians, knife-fighters, drifters, Faro demons and con men with gold dreams, high hopes and low-down liquor and lust in our blood. Law and order came here to this cold place, but it was for them, the coiffured-city-dandies and thinned-skinned tender-foots, not us. Our law was as we wished it to be. Our order is filled at the lacquered pine bar of the Second-Class Saloon. We are forging this wilderness, whipping it, shaping it, cursing it, bending it to fit our will. But never do we run from it.  I would suggest wholeheartedly that that entitles us to our pleasurable indulgences.

We’re land-pirates. Gypsies of the Northland. Cutthroats with crowns. Scoundrels with thrones.  That’s who we are. We comport ourselves with swaggering righteousness. There’s righteousness, then there’s wilderness righteousness. Our woman-folk, both those with their inestimable sacrifices who accompany their husbands and those brave paid ladies, with their voluptuous endowments, have been an elixir to our strife and endeavors. Without them, we’re stir crazy, the lot of us.

Meeting resistance is our specialty. Loss of life or limb in our pursuits are incidentals in our mission. In our collective ambitions, only the stout of mind and body survive. ‘Come hither Darwin lad, and test your thesis! Gold or timber. It doesn’t matter. We’ll subjugate this place – till now an uninhabitable wilderness. We’ll dwell in those regions where the wolves once held sway.

Morality and civilization are such unnatural things. Takes lots of time to make a diamond. It’s more often the ill-timed, ill-advised neutering of Western function, duty, and destiny that besets and quivers discovery, expansion. From wars, disease, and traitors to destiny. Properness and goodness have their place, but not now and not here. Just ballast to be jettisoned, if not appropriate to our desires. We’re diving headlong into the belly of snowy fire and forging our trophies of conquest! If those who follow will polish and preserve it, all will be well. Though likely some bastard do-gooder will come along one day and break it into bits, such as a spoiled-brat-child would. So, let’s all drink, and be ready for any son-of-a-bitch who tries to stop us!”













Hi Vinney:  The Bird-Dogging story at the end was inspired by an ex-classmate in commercial art class at Mount Vernon High School named Paul Visser.  At the time, I was adjudged by the teacher, Mister Milonzi, and most others with having considerably more talent than Paul.  My my my. I finally hooked up with the guy after some 50 years. He has made a lot of money and has raised three university-educated kids who now enjoy successful professional careers. He became an art director for two different agencies in the ‘70s, then ran his own art studio, (1980-2000) employing five full-time artists in one of the pre-emanate art/advertising venues in the USA: Westport, Connecticut*.

I’m figuring that he had a great sense/mission of responsibility, professionalism, self-worth, social awareness, and was, above all else, a team player. He has carved out a life of maturity, responsibility, and accomplishment. This guy was shaking and moving, opening bigger and bigger doors and raising a family while I was squandering my life away falling off of bar stools, watching reruns of I Dream of Jeannie, wolfing down bags of popcorn and indulging in endless self- delusion and dwelling upon useless introspections.

Vinney, I can hear your old accountant friend Irish Mike Connelly in one of his straight-shooting wry-smiling soliloquies: “Visser? That’s a Dutch name. Means fisher or fisherman.  It figures this guy did what he did. Accomplished what he accomplished. Don’t get me started. His lineage, his antecedents, goes way back to Holland. That’s a hands-on country if there ever was one. Used to be a world-conquering country. Sailing and navigation experts. Canal and dike experts. Ship-building experts. Road engineering experts. Architectural experts for chrisesakes. Art and design experts. Photography experts. Carpentry experts. No wonder that they settled New York City in the what? The 17th century?  A little like the English but without the literary or theatrical bent.   They’re hard-working. Industrious. Stout and mentally fit! Morally fit, for chrissakes   Happy people. Not miserable decadent miscreants like over here!   Whole villages in Holland where all the streets and sidewalks are made of bricks. Set in two or three different shades brick-red and grey! Arranged in artistic patterns, no less.  Think about that!  Civilization builders, for chrissakes! Not mere maintainers. Don’t get me started. Get me another beer, will you Vinney, how’s that success story Tommy Briggs doing?”

Paul has zero pretention and warrants the ‘it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy’ tag. During our emails, he swore by my ‘talent’ and went on that he had told many in the art community down through the years about ‘this guy I used to know named Tom Briggs. He could do it all. Paint, draw and design’ I was flattered but wrote that he was crazy in overrating my talents and artwork like that. In those days, for every piece I designed that had a shine, there were fifteen that didn’t cut it. On the contrary, I wrote, ‘your talent had wheels, and counted for a lot more than mine did, in the way it influenced others in important ways’ . I was especially surprised that he had placed me on such a pedestal because I remembered being a big flop working free-lance a few times at Commercial Decal, where he worked full-time as a commercial artist. It was then, at age 23, that I noticed that he had made significant strides since Mr. Milonzi’s class.
This kid was hotwired to the professional milieu.


I always liked the term bird-dogging. It’s what they used to call what major league scouts did in the old days before free agency and technology turned the baseball talent landscape into a billion-dollar business of lawyers and agents. Bird dogging scouts usually wore a straw hat and had an unlit cigar or toothpick dangling from their mouth. They were all over the USA looking for talent that had major league potential. They could be seen, usually in small towns, watching a high school game from small bleachers. If they saw exceptional talent, they’d be on the phone immediately, excitedly telling a major league team owner or scouting director about a phenom they’d just watched lighting up the field.

“Mister Stowery, Lucas here, from Visalia. How’s the wife? And kids? Good news. I think. Just watched a high school game here in town. Now there’s two pitchers may be worth following. One of them is this Briggs kid, six-one, about one-fifty, righty, falling-away, sling-armed delivery from Marysville High. He can bring it up there in a hurry. I believe he could put it through a wall. Fifteen strikeouts last week against Stockton High. About 92 with the fastball, and a good late hook on his curve though he telegraphs it. Trouble is he rattles when things don’t go as planned, and control may be an issue.  Don’t know if he’s a team player. Could be a million-dollar arm with a ten-cent head.  Of course, it’s still too early to tell. Now this other feller, Visser, Visalia High, lefty, tall lean kid, maybe six-three, one-sixty, may be a sleeper. I figure low 80s with the heater, but he may improve on that. Hard worker and knows what he’s doing out there. Cool as a cucumber with men on, spots his curve real well, and has a sneaky pick-off move that’ll keep the jackrabbits thinking twice, if you get my meaning….”

*The residence of advertising man Gart Williams (James Daly) in the Twilight Zone episode ‘A Stop at Willoughby’ was Westport.




















Pictured below are frustrated losers of Antifa who wear the mask of ‘social justice’ that covers their mission of hate. They are actually street terrorists and punk psychopaths, but are referred to by the media euphemistically as ‘activists’ and ‘justice warriors’. They have an insatiable appetite for destruction because they don’t know how to create anything except trouble. They are the perfect “soldiers” for professional Communists and Marxists who wish to destroy what’s left of (mostly) the middle-class and all decency and order. They are likely an incarnation of prior residents from hell, rejoicing here on earth in their duty to Satan. The name Antifa is an oxymoron, in accordance with the technique by communists of inverting the meaning of words and phrases. It’s known as doublespeak and was described in Orwell’s classic, 1984. The left-leaning media for decades has propagated the idea that fascism is strictly right-wing Hitlerian-style extremism. They have obfuscated the truth. The meaning of the term, according to Merriam Webster is: …a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. A tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control…So they are only half right, at best. Maybe. Today’s left-wing fascists are very much seeking a “dictatorial leader and severe economic and social regimentation”, and especially ” forcible suppression of opposition”. But they are also using race as a tool to achieve their ends. They have designated straight non-progressive whites in general, and the white male of that demographic, in particular, and the goy-white male of that group even more particularly, as the “oppressor” who needs to be eliminated, squashed like a grape under the jackboot of their tyranny, or at least sent to re-education camps. So in reality, Fascism is very much alive and thriving in the USA. And don’t ever let the media fool you into thinking that it always wears a funny-looking mustache, has a swastika on its lapel and is thrusting a palms-out hand in salute of the fatherland.


Yeah, Vin. Was the desk clerk with the Satan tattoo behind the caged smoky office downstairs a guy or a girl? On a cracked, peeling and stained muted-green wall, next to a window that faced an outdoor alley wall three-feet away where water was dripping from somewhere above, a doomed fly was stuck on scotch tape on a three-year-old calendar that advertised Alameda County Hardware Supply Company. A ceiling bulb flickered while gasping for energy and a senile ceiling fan resigned to its lazy or arthritic repetition produced not a comfort in this sordid place of swelter with its yellowed sheets and pillow cases and unmistakable aura of derelict hopelessness. A liquor store with a perennially blinking neon sign and a checks-cashed place could be seen through a sliver where the alley let out to the street below where both mandatory city establishments sucked the blood out of many who entered. The former a portal into hell and the latter its ticket. Sporadic sounds of drunken disorder with its wild emotionalism could be heard not far away.  The radiator pipes played their post-modernist beats in the middle of July already, and how many tricks were turned in this sad box? And whoa the tales this frayed carpet, tattooed with traces of dried vomit and wine spill ghosts, could tell! Any suicides or murders here? This obscure room, this shabby hotel, this wanton street, this lost universe isn’t on a California postcard, but maybe some former residents or visitors might well have had their sullen countenances glowering from post office walls from time to time and earned some infamy for themselves. Is this San Francisco, Vin, or was that yesterday? Let’s tell Don Hendly that this is the real Hotel California, the end of the line maybe but not the beginning of the California Rainbow certainly, maybe more like where naïve dreams are snuffed out and nightmares rule waking hours and I was thinking of going out for hamburgers and a slurpy and something cheerful to read but somebody just banged loudly on the door and who-the-hell-could that be, the clerk?







We arrived at the campsite in Steenbergen, Netherlands, at around eleven on Saturday morning, with our caravan attached to the rear of our Jeep. A light rain was falling from the dark grey early autumn sky and a sharp wind held sway. The camping grounds consisted of a 100-plus meter square field of dense grass, surrounded by numerous hedges and trees. The area was empty, except for the owner’s caravan, which was parked on the far side. In spite of the bad weather, the property today was a very rustic setting of isolated tranquillity. After detaching the caravan from the car, we parked it after much effort, in a corner that offered a great view of distant trees and old farm buildings.

At around one pm, we drove to Steenbergen Centrum and had lunch on the terrace of a charming restaurant. Lieve ordered a green salad with mushrooms and I ordered an omelet. After Spikey had finished flirting with the waitress, he and Pepie wolfed down a few generous offerings from my plate.

Later in the afternoon, I watched, through the caravan’s half-door ‘window’, Lieve gathering walnuts on the far side of the grassy field. Pepie and Spikey couldn’t see her from where they sat, but as always when she went away for a short time, had their ears propped up and their snouts pointed in her direction. When Lieve returned, Spikey had an energized and happy time doing a great impersonation of a hyped-up otter rolling on the wet grass and later investigating with his seasoned nose, various bushes, and trees. In Spikenese, he was young-dogging it and he was Sherlocking it.

In the evening we drove back into town for dinner and dined at yet another very attractive and well-managed restaurant. Spikey kangarooed and Pepie begged like a lost street waif for some scraps of chicken. Lieve and I naturally gave in to these persistent solicitations. As it turned dark we all had a wonderful walk through Steenbergen’s beautifully designed marina, which appeared new. The magnificent setting was filled with glittering lights and reflections on the water. Exquisitely crafted boats and stout majestic sailing ships crowded every space in the water. Some boat owners relaxed inside their lighted cabins, reading, tapping computer keyboards, or watching TV. Some houses, with their windows exposing shelves of books and other rich soft-lighted interior settings, were built right on the water’s edge. This offered an image observed only in a dream or in fine glossy magazines about architecture.

Back at camp in the darkness, as I returned from the camp’s washroom facility, I observed the caravan with its lighted windows, 50 meters in the distance. An image of love, peace, security, and serenity. I’ll be together with Lieve, Pepie, and Spikey there, during this likely stormy night, I had thought. What else is there to ask for? We all went to sleep at ten, and I awoke around three. I had to use the restroom. As I lay there, I felt something hot and very wet on the sheets towards the lower end of the bed where Spikey normally sleeps. Lieve turned the overhead light on and we saw that Spikey appeared to be gravely ill. He was breathing heavily and his eyes were half-open as was his mouth. We both knew then that the end was near. As Lieve picked him up and held him close in her arms, we saw that his neck muscles no longer supported his head. Soon there was no longer a heartbeat. It was as if Spikey, who died in his sleep while never regaining consciousness, was waiting for Lieve’s arms to envelop him forever in his eternal destination.

It was still dark and it was now raining. The lights in the caravan were out and a candle burned bright on the small dining table by the window where Lieve sat, her silhouetted profile against the dark grey landscape and pelting rain outside. Spikey was now on the opposite seat cushion with a towel partially draped over him. The friendly, comforting cocoon-like vintage interior had been transformed into a cabin of death and profound sadness. At around 6 am Lieve started to organize our things to return home, while I went to shower at the camp facility. On my return, in the still half-dark morning, I saw in the distance, our beautiful vintage caravan, the place where the dog that melted the coldest hearts had played only hours before. The place where Spikey died.




Lieve and I lost our 12-year-old mini-pincher and best friend last night.Spikey died in his sleep early in the morning in our caravan while in Lieve’s arms. He enriched our lives beyond measure, and gave endless love and affection. Spikey brought joy, smiles and laughter to thousands over the past 12 plus years in Belgium, Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Canary Islands, Senegal and elsewhere. His magical personality asserted itself wherever we went, and he could ‘play a crowd’ at a restaurant or in front of any group. He was an intensely attractive dog outwardly and inwardly. Many passing on the sidewalk would turn their heads to get another look at him. Spikey remained a puppy, a clown and entertainer until his last hours.  He kangarooed (Standing up on his hind legs) for a snack at the restaurant and rolled in the grass like an otter during his last day. As he aged, he remained 100% Spikey. He was never less than that.

Thanks, Spikey, for all the love you gave. Thanks for the thousand facial expressions, the kangaroos, the beggars eyes that said ‘I want something from the table’, the clownish antics, the bursts of wild running, for licking our faces as if you hadn’t seen us for a decade, for stealing our socks and for a thousand other things that brought joy to our lives. Thanks also for being a pal and brother to Pepie. He will surely miss you as well. We are comforted now only in the fact that we gave him much love and that he gave it in return. We are sad knowing that the days ahead will be infinitely emptier without him.

We could get another dog, even one that looked like Spikey.
but the love and magic he gave will never be replaced.



We’re here in Baarle Nassau on the Belgian/Netherlands border, only a few kilometers from our campsite in Alphen, Noord Brabant, Netherlands. The city is literally on the border, as many of its streets have painted broken lines to indicate which country you were then occupying space in.

At midday, Lieve and I entered a cavernous second-hand shop or tweedehands winkel. This place could’ve been a bowling alley at one time, I thought. Or a used car dealership. Long rows of four-stack shelves filled with assorted homeless relics such as cups, glasses, ashtrays, vases and other glassware longing for a home, took up maybe a third of the shop. Retro and vintage discards of all description, which included the perennial music CD’s of mostly forgotten continental talent, moldy and faded books of mostly romantic and horror genre, garish couches, and ponderous and sullen wooden furnishings, occupied the remaining two-thirds of this household purgatory.  In case you’re wondering, vintage means the real-deal item from the past while retro indicates an item impersonating a vintage piece.  Could members of species-humanis also be one or the other?

Lieve came here in search of items that might go well with our recently acquired vintage trailer-camper. Atop the list of possibilities were orange coffee cups. I soon took a seat in what appeared to be vintage formed plastic, though to my untrained eye, it could’ve been retro/ersatz vintage. Soon I observed the owner making several trips back and forth to a rear storage area. At least he had the look of an owner. Like a long-retired guy who once ran a plus-five employee company. He had a resigned posture and gait as if he were relegated or consigned to this place. As if his shoes were weighted, or as if he had to do a certain amount of community service for discarded and orphaned items. With all this, I guess he loved the place. Suddenly a loud piercing buzzer sounded. Like a halftime buzzer at an NBA game. Or a buzzer announcing a prison break or mutiny. So loud and obnoxious that all the items on the shelves seemed to jump or hiccup, like in an old or vintage Warner Brothers cartoon. I then discovered that this audible intrusion indicated when people walked in and out of his establishment.

Still sitting, I pondered the tenacious hope that these discarded items might’ve had for finding a home. Some were once proud centerpieces. Others the holder
of a thousand drinks. Still others friendly accommodating items of comfort. Some silently pleading their worthiness. Others were resentful still at their previous owners for their abandonment. Still, others hoping to be accidentally broken to put an end to their interminable inaction. But did they ponder as well, a fate worse than the one they were presently entrapped in? Would some be tossed against walls and onto floors during hateful exchanges? Did all those music CDs and DVD’s dread probable permanent silence, never to sing for anyone again? Of course, I doubted all these possibilities. After all, they’re just inanimate items, but all this nonsensical musing, all this forlorn madness, passed the time that otherwise might’ve been spent thinking of what? My own obsolescence?

After some twenty minutes, Lieve announced that she had finally located a coffee cup – only one, unfortunately. This retro-or-was-it-vintage discovery was suitably orange on the outside and cream on the inside. Told by the owner at check-out (for a slow guy, he seemed to be everywhere) that the cup was 60 euro cents, Lieve protested while she pointed out a minor surface crack along the inner edge. Never changing expression, the owner then not unkindly retorted
“OK, 20 cents, then” Lieve, on whom no opportunity is lost, including the business ways of the Hollanders, answered with “How about 10 cents?
OK, literary license only goes so far. It was 20 cents.





Black, white, male, female, gay, straight, soul, blues, rock, hard rock, boogie-blues, country, teeny-bopper, doesn’t matter. If I like it, I like it. This obscure but snappy 1964 tune, with great vocals and background, is from three Southern California innocents who hit the charts out of nowhere.  Right in the eye of an incredible pop-music hurricane that included the English Invasion, Motown, Country and endless varieties of everything in between. While  Popsicles Icicles seemed incongruous to its time, there were certainly enough record buyers who thought otherwise. I still like this record. That either makes me Pter Pan or someone with an eclectic appreciation of pop music.

Several television family comedies of the period were similarly out of sync. This form of escapism had its place then but was mostly phased out as the decade closed. Leave It to Beaver, Dennis The Menace and My Three Sons were popular during or a little prior to the civil rights movement and Vietnam in a convulsively changing nation. Don’t forget that in just three more years, many of America’s cities were ablaze during race riots.

While this song is about adolescent puppy-love, the TV shows portrayed an idyllic, secure and safe suburban lifestyle. This top forty tune represents to me one of the last cutesy, naive cotton-candy numbers of innocence in a culture as yet completely sullied by the rapidly darkening, fracturing, and turbulent society that was then in its infancy. Reality is here, there and everywhere. So are illusions.  The Dick Clark world of 45s, bubble gum, soda fountain drug stores, ice cream parlors, skating rinks, turquoise Corvettes, and checkered diner floors, would start to recede by the decade’s end.

Kennedy had been shot the previous year and the Cutler family of In Cold Blood had been brutally murdered five years in the past, but this tune might’ve played on the diner Seeburg not far from Beaver’s house. But now there’s an old drug needle on his lawn. Dennis The Menace went to a carnival and this played on the radio at the hot dog stand. But now Mister Wilson’s neighbor has an ugly gang tag on his fence. One of My Three Sons is trans and another is dealing. The cotton candy doesn’t do it anymore. And the wind blew the carnival of old illusions away. Only to replace them with new ones. Where have you gone, popsicles, icicles?  Illusions nowadays are not what I want to play.




It only hurts when I laugh. It only hurts when I turn around. It only hurts when I hit the ground. Four weeks ago, I was on my way to Delhaize Supermarket, less than half a kilometer away from our apartment.  I had ridden my bike thousands of times on the uneven, broken-stone, terribly engineered bike path, miraculously without incident. I was just going for a morning breakfast roll, and after only thirty seconds or so found myself on the ground writhing in pain. I went down sideways, in half-a-second, as if pushed from a third-story window or thrown to the ground by an irate 800-pound gorilla.

I remember my head bouncing on the bike path. Did I just split it open?
I was in shock and in tremendous pain after a few seconds as I looked up at the sky. It was nice and pretty and seemed to smile at me.  Soon two guys helped me to my feet. I now felt that a telephone pole had been thrust through my abdomen. Maybe that same gorilla. What did I ever do to him? I mean, one little stone couldn’t have caused all this, could it? I couldn’t walk and thought that my hip was broken. It seemed that it had somehow worked its way into my chest. Maybe caused by that person who pushed me out of the window?  The two good-Samaritans walked me the short distance home, each supporting a shoulder. It was a death house walk, the longest walk I ever took. I half expected that a priest would appear and quote the 24th Psalm.

The two-kilometer ambulance ride to Middelhiem Ziekenhuis was a trial by fire, as the vehicle unnecessarily high-speeded it along the bumpy uneven streets. As if someone was working me over with a blackjack. I thought I was in a police van and had refused to answer questions concerning a felony in which I was the chief suspect. While the x-rays later showed three broken ribs, and curiously a key that I had ingested who knows how long ago, it’s likely that I had only one or two broken ribs before the ambulance ride.  Why did they have to drive so fast? I wasn’t a heart attack victim. But maybe I will be when I get the bill for the ambulance, x-rays and emergency room care. I was advised to move as much as possible, but every move I made caused pain, sometimes severe pain.

Lieve was a tremendous help during the first week, walking the dogs, getting my medicine, bringing me something to eat, driving many kilometers to pick-up a rental wheelchair, and especially for enduring my death bed moans of agony.  Later she made a herculean effort to hopefully/eventually get compensation from the Stad van Antwerpen, by taking photos of the malevolent knife-sharp stones that caused the accident, and by saving all documents from the hospital and police report. These will be presented to the insurance company as documented proof that the city of Antwerp was at fault.  She wins the Florence Nightingale award for putting up with me and attending to my comfort, such as it was.

I was advised by the doctors that it would take up to six weeks for a full recovery. Breathing is sometimes painful, but the frequent sensation of the lungs only filling up halfway is worse.  Is there something stuck in there, like part of my rib? Pain-killers have their limits. The first prescription caused dizziness and appetite loss.  The other, which I have continued to take, cause sleep problems. Recovery is an unreliable process. A little like the flu. One is assured that they’re getting better.  Then they jump out of bed start to get active again, only to discover that their fever returns along with headaches and fatigue. Broken ribs are similar in that as the pain starts to recede here and there, you start doing things that were undoable the week before.

But apparently some kind of message is sent by the muscles to the original pain center (the ribs) saying something like: “This is Latissimus Dorsi, you know me, the big back muscle? We worked together before. This guy is working me to death. Can you shoot two or three thousand units of pain enzymes my way, so he’ll lie down? On the double? Gee, thanks, bub”. It’s now been four weeks and even mister Latissimus Dorsi doesn’t complain so much. I even rode my bike yesterday. On the same path. Do I now have brain damage as well?




August 4, 2019. Our first time back in Vrouwenpolder in over eight years, and we’re here to pitch a tent for the weekend. This charming village, or dorpje is located in Zeeland, Netherlands and is surrounded by double-digit-hector farms. It is typically populated by hordes of well-fed tourists from Germany, a smattering of Hollanders and a few strays from Belgium during summer. The first day was pleasant enough, as we sat waiting for our sandwiches at a little boutique that also served lunch. We enjoyed free entertainment as we watched a spirited team of locals preparing a side street for the village’s annual Horse and Rings event. This was a spectacle of no small dimension, as a huge farm vehicle arrived, dumping a pile of dirt the size of a house, a 2-story duplex that is, onto the red-bricked street.  The team then levelled it along the plus 100-meter route so as to provide proper footing for the horses whose mounts would later attempt to adroitly snatch rings from posts planted along the path, as they galloped by while wielding a two-meter length pole. The ghost of King Arthur was no doubt well pleased.

Our lunch arrived just as Lieve’s cell phone rang. It was Chantel, who Lieve employs for occasional market research projects, calling from Brussels. Lieve had been displeased with Chantel’s performance and attitude during the past week, and in French let her know all about it. A high decibel tirade soon filled the village air, causing turned heads and raised brows from startled onlookers of this oh-so-nice-and-orderly-and-behaved Dutch/German-only linguistic milieu. I noticed that a few of the street’s bricks had cracked from the verbal deluge, and well as a sudden fracture appearing in the cup I was drinking my coffee from. Assaulting words. Verbs that cut like a serrated knife. Nouns that sledgehammered arrogance into bits and pieces. And adjectives that pulverized the cheap-china of false pride. When Lieve finally hung up, I said “smaakelijk!”

Our camp site was located on a 24-hector spread called Twistvliet, about a kilometre from the village’s center. The owner, a farmer, horseman and master carpenter of prodigious energy, rents beautifully crafted all-wood bungalows as well as spaces used for camping tents.  The main building, where the breakfast buffet is enjoyed, is magnificent with its raw-wood high ceiling, huge reinforced joists and old-world charm and warmth. In this interior, I half-expected someone from a Vermeer or Frans Hals painting to saunter in. Every item, every detail, every corner, is cared for and in great taste. A large half-covered patio area, which can accommodate hundreds, lends an aspect of relaxed airy outdoor charm with its wooden furniture and abundant flowered table settings.  A lovable lounging Saint Bernard, whose multi-generational uncle might’ve been seen in the 1947 film The Bishops Wife, greets newcomers and newly acquired friends with a wagging tail.

We have an inflatable Quonset-style tent that assumes final shape after three half-circle support tubes or ribs are quickly pumped full of air. The next day, we discovered that two ribs had a slow leak, (caused by an untightened air-cap) giving the tent an outward appearance of dilapidated disfigurement, as if from having been on an all-night alcoholic bender. During the second night, at around half-past ten, loud voices pierced the night air. For anyone who has never camped out in a tent, sounds that come from a hundred meters away can seem to be coming from right outside one’s tent. I quickly sprang from my inflatable sleeping mattress and deflated pre-sleep musings and proceeded barefoot into the darkness, towards the laugh-laced non-stop chatter.  Walking briskly on the moist grass, I was afraid at any moment of tripping over something unseen. I arrived at loud-chatter-central and asked in a friendly, though guarded low voice to the group of Stuttgart Eight if they could please dial it down just a bit while using a two-handed hand gesture for the purpose that I learned from Lieve. Thanking them kindly, if not profusely, I pirouetted back. Amazingly, they complied and everyone got ready for a good night’s sleep. That mesmerizing, obedience-instilling hand gesture was the ticket. No sooner than one can say “nighty-night, sweet dreams” the sound of a tractor was heard from a nearby field. Or was it a kilometer away? Who-in-hell is working in the fields at this time? Was it the maniac from Dark Night of the Scarecrow? Could it be that guy who was working all day on any number of things on this vast estate? That Zeeland tornado? The guy who built this place? Yes. And he plowed with a resolute will that laughed at consideration for others. It had to be done. Now. The next day, I was thinking of giving him a hand gesture that only required one hand and one finger. But he’s such a kindly guy. And he offers free toilet paper too. And you don’t need 50 Eurocents for the community shower either. But, come to think of it, this place cost double of other campsites.

On an overcast Saturday, while I sat resting my three broken ribs, Lieve took photos of stunningly beautiful wildflowers of intense orange, blue-violet, white and magenta in a small field by the roadway some 50 meters from Twistvliet’s main building. The shots are sharp focus/soft focus and capture a wonderful and magical glass-like translucency and delicacy of flowers and insects that is not remotely as evident in real-time. A good camera, with the right lenses, held by a photographer with patience, love, sensitivity, and vision got the job done.

On Sunday morning, as we waited for the breakfast buffet to open, we met an engaging and friendly thirty-something German who had a PhD in philosophy. His strong-featured intelligent face was an apt countenance for a philosopher. Or an artist or poet. As he spoke, he kept pushing back his intense and wild curly black hair, which seemed to have a will and destiny of its own. He appeared gratified that someone would find his scholarly aspirations interesting and quickly fell into a soliloquy on the thrust of his philosophic reasoning, all of which were lost on both Lieve and me. I had wished to ask many questions of him, including philosophical influences on economic and political theories, but his wife came, maybe quietly steaming because of his long absence, and planted their young son in his arms. Thus distracted, he was soon gone, but not before leaving his email address and expounding on his association with noted Canadian philosopher 95-year-old Charles Taylor.

So, adding up deep, abstract and hopelessly inscrutable thoughts, deflated ribs, loud chatter and a tractor in the night, a cell phone tirade in French, flowers from a micro-universe called sublime, chronic back pain, prodigious joists, and horse riders engaged in an ancient sporting ritual, it was a memorable and well-spent weekend.


One of my personal favorite kick-ass bands of the 1960s. A somewhat nerdy and introverted kid hanging with the biker-types who made up the rest of the band, Alan Wilson looked like he was from another band. But make no mistake, this kid was the heart soul of Canned Heat. Wilson was a veritable encyclopedia of blues history and its musicians from the early 20th century on and was sought out by others in the music business for his insights. This knowledge led the band to meet John Lee Hooker, the legendary bluesman who became a major influence on the band and on many others, including the Rolling Stones. Hooker called Wilson the greatest harmonica player he ever saw.

Wilsons death, like the more famous deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendricks a few months later, drew very little notoriety at the time. The musician had had a long history of depression, and to this day, some speculate that his death, on September 3, 1970, in Topanga Canyon, at age 27, was a suicide.

Canned Heats two big charters were Going Up the Country and, On the Road Again. The former was a remake of Henry Thomas’ 1927 song Bull Doze Blues. The latter was a cover for the 1953 song On the Road by Floyd James. Wilson was called The Blind Owl because of his near-sightedness and wisdom and knowledge of all thing’s blues. The band got its name from the 1928 song by Tommy Johnson called Canned Heat Blues, whose lyrics told a tale about an out-on-his-luck alcoholic who resorts to drinking the toxic Sterno Canned Heat mixture, when no liquor was to be had.

I first heard Canned Heat on my cousin Johnny’s 1968 Firebird car radio while on the way to Lake George in upstate New York in August 1968. On the way from New York City, we passed near Woodstock, where Canned Heat would play a year later. Their two hits went well with traveling in the Catskills and the Adirondack Mountains along the New York State Thruway. I was obsessed with the 1920s and 1930s then, a time less than 40 years in the past, and was always reading about the loosely organized gangs of bank robbers and kidnappers of the Midwest like John Dillinger, Baby-Face Nelson, and Bonnie and Clyde. I had thought then that that was so very long ago.

As I look back on 1968, wow, that was 51 years ago. In 1968, ‘51 years ago’ was 1917, almost 17 years before Bonnie and Clyde. The point I’m trying to make is that time is relative to how old you are at a particular time. Time seems to speed up as you get older, and past the age of about 50, it starts to move like a car on the New York State Thruway. In those relative terms, Canned Heat is playing on the car radio in my head, but it’s from a recording they made in 1917. Indeed, it took me some 50 years to really appreciate their music. I liked their sound and soul then, but I listen to it now with increased intensity and appreciation.

Part of this whole time-relevancy thing has to do with video film quality and YouTube. In 1968, images on film of fifty years previous depicted figures moving with often hilarious inhuman quickness. Also, it seemed that the world had undergone extraordinary changes during those fifty years. In my estimation, the greatest 50-year transformation up to that time in United States history. Two world wars and major depression, in addition to the development of radio and television and other massive technological advancements, highlighted this metamorphosis and an utterly new universe had been hatched. If one considers just the development of the music industry during that time, the changes are profound indeed. Enrico Caruso on a scratchy phonograph to Led Zeppelin on your car radio.

Today I can watch YouTube and be taken back fifty years right into the studios of the top rock music television shows of the period such as Shindig, Hollywood A-Go-Go, and Hullaballoo. All featured English Invasion bands, Blue-eyed Soul, Motown and US Garage Bands like Paul Revere and the Raiders. It also takes me right into Woodstock, (not that that event was a personal favorite) to watch Canned Heat. The video and sound quality are very good, and much of the footage has been digitally remastered. This is a time-warp and a rocket ship ride to that other universe. A universe I lived through, though apparently while in a thick cloud of myopia! I can now see and hear hundreds of groups and solo artists that I had forgotten about through the time-portal of YouTube.


We were in Paris for a Saturday, one-night-stayover Holiday to participate in yet another epic struggle for economic fairness for the dwindling French middle-class with our brothers and sisters of the Gilets Jaunes. (Yellow Jackets) We entered the city, past a two-kilometer snake of spray-painted hieroglyphics of the neo-Visigoths, past the eternal winding grey slabs of highway barriers, sullen glass and steel buildings of business and cold-faced opulent monoliths of Culture Nuevo, and finally exited. We then made a right, then left and suddenly were on a beautiful street of ancient trees and four and five-story buildings of 19th century French classical architecture. This had to be another city from the one we had witnessed only minutes before. It was another universe for certain.

The three-star Hotel Astrid was located some 400 meters down a slopping cobble-stoned street from the famed Arc de Triomphe, one of twelve such boulevards that converge on that venerable monument which was built to honor those lost in the Napoleonic wars and French Revolution.  (It’s where the tomb of the unknown soldier from WW1 is also located).  We checked in at the small receiving desk where a beetle-browed, efficient and friendly Parisian greeted us. The classical hotel lobby was adorned with refined wood finishing and had filigreed designs along the staircase balustrade. This fine hotel was suffused with the charm of Old Europe.

After check-in, we took seats at an already crowded brasserie terrace on the Champs Ellysée, not far from the Arc de Triomphe. Sipping from tiny cups similar to those suited for a child’s game of let’s play house, we drank our coffees slowly. That came to about a euro per minute, as each cost €3,80. We then observed the yellow movements before us. Groups, swarms and masses of Gilets Jaunes passed by, many in a festive mood, honking horns, carrying signs and loudly regaling all with shouts of Macron Demission!, along with other insulting tirades directed at those in power.  Suddenly, a small army of mostly black-attired youths,  (some were wearing yellow jackets and many had their mouths covered for potential tear gas), marched past us. These we surmised were the left-wing Black Block hooligans, the European version of ANTIFA. They marched past swiftly, resolutely, likely to confront police further up on the Champs Elysée or to start tossing bricks and firebombs. Amazing that these scoundrels infiltrate without a gesture of protest, all while police are seemingly within walking distance.

We left after an hour and wandered across the Champs Elysée where we encountered a person of partial derangement and a charming and engaging fellow of about 65 years of age who was decked out in a colorful La Grande Armée (18th & 19th century) French military uniform. A photo of this jewel of circumstance is now posted on Facebook. The maniacal denizen, who appeared to be around 45 years old, was shabbily dressed. He was at first kind and friendly, but then quickly showed his flip-side by screaming high-decibel expletives which sounded as if they represented the composite angst of the nation’s economically disenfranchised. Of the two, the former was committed and the latter should have been.

Lieve was interviewed by a television reporter from Abu Dhabi, (capital city of United Arab Emirates). The nervous little guy, as Lieve described him, staged the segment within view of a phalanx of Parisian police on the Champs Elysée. Cool, articulate and passionate as usual before a video camera, she expounded in flawless French on the… “disingenuous RIC – Citizens Initiated Referendum. The French government has rigged the game by allowing Macron to use the referendum as a campaign platform while locking out his adversaries, namely right-wing Marine Le Pen and left-wing Jean Mélenchon, both of whom cannot start campaigning until much later. It is fixed because the questions being asked are not exactly what the Gilets Jaunes would’ve liked. The questions are loaded and are ambiguous and misleading, and guarantee the result that Macron and his bosses desire, so in effect, it’s a fake referendum”. Revved-up now on all cylinders, Lieve continued with “Macron and his filthy-rich bosses and cowering acolytes should all hang by their ankles from the Eifel Tower until the crows peck their eyeballs out! All traitors of the people should do hard-labor at work camps designated for the purpose of re-education to instil attitudes of fairness to the middle-class tax-payers! For the more despicable scoundrels in power, they should all be given a life-sentence to work as counter people at Mc Donald’s! Viva la Revolution! Viva la France! Viva la Gilets Jaunes! Viva la… Excuse me, sir, a call from my father. We’ll have to stop the revolution, as it were, and continue this interview a little later.  Dear old dad wants some fresh brioche sent to Belgium, and right away”…*

The piece, with the ending cut, was seen by millions throughout the Persian Gulf, no doubt lighting a fuse of political discontent throughout the vast oil-rich region, even if none had previously existed.

Interview done with, we continued walking at a smart pace along the Champs Elysée towards the River Seine.  The weather was sharp, brisk and invigorating. On the other side, we met an energized and loquacious half-Senegalese Gilets Jaunes.  His name was Aina and he was hoisting a purple flag with the seal of the House of Bourbon or was it the House of Orleans (?) monarchy stitched on it. This guy is a gamer who hates the left-wing-bastards who are taking control as much as I do. His jacket was emblazoned with numerous hand-lettered slogans of the cause and two hand-made signs hung from the buttons of his coat. He was an encyclopedia of information and warned us not to proceed any further.  Less than a kilometer away, left-wing hooligan-anarchists were creating mayhem and thus might be inclined towards physical violence. If only the King and his horse soldiers could come now armed and ready to dispatch those worthless scoundrels!!

While taking a short rest back at the hotel at around three o’clock, we turned on the television. A recent-vintage Porches, with all windows shattered, its paint-finish totaled and with a steel rod of some sort impaling the seats from where the front windshield had been, (as if it were a slain animal) was flashed on the French news channel BFMTV. Inevitably, segments of the Gilets Jaunes movement are hoodlums wearing yellow jackets who are bent on destroying property, while fuelling the fire of anti-Gilets Jaunes sentiment in the media. These thugs target expensive cars to destroy, viewing their owners as the economic oppressors of the lower and middle classes. Or is it that they just like to set fires and break stuff? Or is it that they are paid for breaking stuff? Or is it that they are paid by Macron to sabotage the movement? Or is it that they are needed by the Gilets Jaunes after all? Mister Nice Guy never won anything politically and political movements find very strange friends within and from without. It’s a big pile of ambiguity, but one thing remains clear and unambiguous: The French middle classes are getting financially shafted and they are cornered with nowhere to turn but the streets, even as the candle of liberty flickers weakly in the relentless wind of oppression.

We had dinner at a neat below-sidewalk-level Vietnamese restaurant, half a block off the Champs de Elysée. Friendly, spiffed-out personnel greeted us in the smartly-designed and half-lighted establishment. Across the street, a fabulous 1930’s art deco movie marquee, similar to Harlem’s storied Cotton Club could be seen through the restaurant window. Before our order had arrived, 10 or 12 Gilets Jaunes entered the still mostly empty restaurant.  Soon another dozen yellow-hued revolutionaries barrelled in with their rivalrous and half-demented chants of Macron Demission!  Within another few minutes, the place was swarming with Macron’s beté noirs, perhaps fifty in total. After three hours of hilarious and invigorating comradery, (philosophy, politics, unadulterated vitriol towards anyone in power were bandied about), and after lavish portions of food and drink were served, we were ready to depart at last.  Oh yes, I forgot to explain that the owner of the destroyed Porsche had already paid for everyone! Amazing good fortune, not found in a cookie. Amazing recounting also, because if you believe this particular paragraph, I have a proverbial bridge that I would like to sell you. It’s a hot-steaming deal.

The Champs Elysée was a magnificent panorama at night, and a glittering spectacular array of lights were everywhere. Paris is indeed the City of Lights. Next up was a major commotion taking place about 100 meters from the Arc de Triomphe. Approximately 50 Gilets Jaunes were having a high time of it slow walking across the Champs Elysée, A veritable vaudeville-burlesque show ensued as participants blocked traffic on the eight-lane, car-flooded boulevard. Some were hilariously feigning injury while walking with a pronounced leg-dragging limp. This was a spectacle that Lieve couldn’t refuse and she soon joined in this rollicking demonstration of defiance. After a few crosses and re-crosses, she talked me into participating. I did my bit for the cause with a single round-tripper. We both had to go solo because the noise was tremendous and poor Pepie and Spikey needed to be as far away from the tumult as possible.  Our beautiful dogs were heroes for their courage and endurance throughout the day and night of demonstrations.

Returning to the hotel later that evening, we could see the Arc all lit up from our hotel window. We also saw, through the dense and squiggly tree branches that lined both sides of the Avenue Carnot, the lighted windows of the fine mansard-roofed white buildings across the street where opulence, comfort, and pleasure held sway. With its ancient trees and buildings, this street hasn’t really changed in some 140 years. We then spotted a stout and swarthy homeless beggar tucked in for the night on the sidewalk right in front of the hotel. Guilt, sympathy, and empathy were apparently on holiday as well, for none as far as I could determine, including Lieve and me, dropped a penny his way. (Though on countless other occasions in other places, we tossed a coin or two). We were guiltless. Were we heartless also?  On Sunday morning before our departure, we had breakfast in a well-fitted buffet room next to the front lobby. We ate quickly because it was then raining heavily and high-wind warnings were issued for regions further north. The coffee was good, as were the cheese pieces and fresh pastries. The corporate pink-colored chemically-bombed yogurt, however, was better ingested with a straw. Ah, for those halcyon days of five years ago when that nutritionally void product could at least be enjoyed with a spoon. That’s it, until our next Gilets Jaunes dee-mow- straa-see-own!







 I guess those monied powers in control of world entertainment accept and indeed sanction rebels, as long as they’re the right kind of rebels. The wrong kind, that is, the true iconoclast, is shunned, ridiculed and censored. In plain English this means that if an artist has left-wing/socialist views, he/she has unlimited freedom of expression. If, on the other hand, they, he or she holds views that run counter to this ideology, they should be prepared for censorship in one form or another. The latter most likely doesn’t have a place in major-market music. Pink Floyd’s (and Roger Waters) political opinions and views have had an unmistakable world socialist tone during their entire career(s) and have been characterized by ‘world-community’ accepted opinions.

For an example, where is Roger Waters on the genocide taking place right now in South Africa? Anti-Apartheid is radical-chick while Anti-White Genocide in South Africa isn’t. Maybe a concert on the evils of Antifa? Don’t hold your breath. Might he not do another concert called “Roger! Leave Those Kids Alone!” or “Satan Gives The Best Green Candy!” to condemn the massive lie being foisted upon school children by the new world religion known as Climate Change? Waters (and Pink Floyd) seemed to have taken the safe political positions (as defined by world socialist ideology) down through the decades.

Up until now, that is. Waters has recently dipped his foot in the mud of dissidence for truly the very first time by his stance against Israel. The 75-year-old musician’s South and Central American Us +Them tour has imbued untold millions with the Israeli/Palestinian situation. He is a member of the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) Movement, which calls for sanctions against Israel. Wow, an internationally-famous left-wing iconic torpedo takes on the all-controlling-all-knowing-perennially-righteous Juggernaut Zionist State. Fasten your seatbelts for this one. My guess is that a number of corporate sponsors will be pressured to pull out. His whole career has been about being the right kind of house-rebel, brazenly sporting the tattoos of socialism. Now some powerful people think he’s the wrong kind of rebel. I give him credit. On this one issue, he is now a sitting-duck iconoclast, and I salute him on his courageous stance. However, Waters, an unimaginably rich, power-elitist entertainer, continues to spout on about the utopian possibilities of world totalitarian socialism. Nothing new there. Hollywood and the recording industry have spawned this species for generations.

Most would agree that Waters/Pink Floyd have been one of the major creative forces in the history of rock music. I don’t dispute that, but why can’t he just leave it at that, instead of playing the Pope of Socialism? Concert-goers will be treated to both his music and his tiring political sermons, whether they like it or not. That’s like ordering something that comes with an attachment that you absolutely don’t need. “This is not what I ordered. I would like to exchange it for a product without the attachment” “Sorry sir, it only comes that way” Waters’ untold legions of young and old capitalist-fed deliriously-hip- foot-stopping, clench-fisted worshippers pay up the wazoo for his visual and lyrical evangelistic extravaganzas. He is indeed a man of indefatigable creative genius. But how-in-hell could they afford a ticket to see this ageless musical-visual and philosophical wunderkind unless they are the very products of such wanton capitalism? The kind he finds so abhorrent. The kind of capitalism that has sponsored Pink Floyds concerts, on and off, for over half a century. His next gig might rightfully be called “The Wall of Hypocrisy

Waters was the eldest son of a communist-party-member father who was killed in WW2 while fighting against the right-wing fascism of the Nazis. How ironic that Roger Waters remains blind to the left-wing Fascism that has engulfed the entire West over the past several decades. Or is that predictable? As frontman of Pink Floyd for 30-odd years, Waters and the band had received lavish corporate sponsorships while Mr. Waters was apparently in the midst of a life-long search for political sainthood. Waters has revealed himself to be breathtakingly ignorant on the consequences of world socialism. He should read some history books about the 20th Century. The bloodiest ever, because over 100 million were murdered or starved as a result of that utopian philosophy. But his world view, doubtless just like his fathers before him, ignores history.

“Hi, I’m Roger Waters, and my countless gigs have been sponsored in part by monopoly capitalism, while I courageously and brilliantly pontificate about world socialism. Come to my next gig, “The Wall of Hypocrisy”, where I finally let the truth out of the bag. Tickets start at ridiculously high-prices and are thus affordable-only-to-the-privileged-recipients-of-good-genes-and-capitalist-opportunities. I and my spongy mega-monopoly-sponsors have allotted 15 thousand seats to those unfortunate souls of the Western World or is it the Third World, who couldn’t afford a ticket. Come! You’ll be delighted, if not reprogrammed!”

Following are the top five rebuttals to the above diatribe.

You are a Nazi-right-wing extremist. You should be investigated, castigated and subjugated to a tribunal conducted by Barry, Barak, and Hillary.

Roger Waters is heard by what, a billion people?  You’re a nobody.
Who hears you? Who cares?

You should be banned from Facebook.
I will personally file a hate-speech complaint.

You couldn’t write your way out of a paper bag. At least Mr. Waters writes prose
and lyrics that will change the world!

You’re just a keyboard warrior. Roger Waters arm-wrestles with the world!
With history! With fate!  Go to hell, pal. Pink Floyd lives forever!







tom briggs

Holiday by The (pre-disco) Bee Gees*

Maybe I’m a deranged and myopic 71-year-old yearning for the halcyon days of yore when blossoms of youth perennially bloomed from the gutters even, but the 1971 black and white YouTube footage of this song reveals its stirring and spiritual quality like no other footage.  This is a number done with a rare and profound intensity of emotion. The solemn dirge-like strings and brass of the philharmonic orchestra seemed to portend the tragedy that would befall the Bee Gees decades later. The melancholy tones, from both Robin and Barry Gibb and the orchestra, are a thing of genius, in my (non-lugubrious) opinion. It seems to me that it somehow carries centuries the collective remorse of English history with it! Beautiful. I don’t really understand the lyrics in this one, as I do in their other songs of the period, but it doesn’t matter. While the studio/top-40 version of this piece is great, this live-concert show version is in another galaxy altogether. When I watch something like this clip, I am convinced that God assigns the wisdom of the heart to youth, which manifests in art, writing, and music.

Many had called the Bee Gees 1960’s stuff ‘sugary’ and adolescent and maybe some of it was. But much of it is deep, moving, and mature. (And I love hard-edged soul/rock: James Brown / Spenser Davis / Kinks / Stones, to name a few) Much of their pre-disco stuff still hangs with me. Massachusetts / To Love Somebody** / Words / Got To Get A Message To You / First of May / New York Mining Disaster 1941 are timeless.  Robin and Barry Gibb are considered by many to be among the greatest songwriters in the history of 20th century England, and the blood of that nation seems to run through every word and note of their early art.  Their immense talent was largely shunned by the ever-knowing’ media’, but heck, they sold over 220 million records, and a sizable part of that was from the pre-disco incarnation.  How many hearts and souls did they touch? Thanks, Bee Gees. May your early songs live forever.

*I had thought this was a Hollies number for over 50 years!
**To Love Somebody was originally written by the Bee Gees for Otis Redding


tom briggs

Ask yourself why the image of Ché Guevara is emblazoned upon millions of items sold worldwide from t-shirts to hats, greeting cards and posters that garner profits into the hundreds of millions. The dashing revolutionary. The courageous icon of ‘power to the people’. Obviously, his image is de rigueur, radical chick, always in fashion. Allowed and encouraged by those in control of government, media, and education. His socialist exploits are taught in universities around the world. Streets are named after him. Probably public buildings such as schools, as well. Then ask why wearing a ‘Support Trump’ hat or t-shirt can easily get you beaten up? Ask why if you don’t espouse ‘world opinion’ on campus you can lose your tenure as a professor. Increasingly, college students risk censorship or much worse if they have the wrong opinions. Ask why some 85%* of all college professors in the United States espouse a ‘progressive’ or socialist world-view, or why Hollywood is almost exclusively pointed to the left.

Any wrong speech can result in censorship, both overt and covert. Compliance to state-sanctioned ‘world opinion’ now includes being forced to alter one’s world-view through re-education classes, (Stalinist camps, anyone?) not only on campus but throughout the government bureaucracy and the business world as defined by national and international companies. All have re-education camps. Ask why all forms of hate speech from the left are designated as ‘free speech’ and what used to be free speech from the right or middle-right is now often called hate speech. Listen to some Gangsta-rap lyrics to get an idea of what now is considered ‘free-speech’, but what any sane person would call hate speech. It boggles the mind to consider the silence from women’s rights groups and other organizations that supposedly cherish ‘tolerance’ and ‘solidarity’. What a vile and slimy joke.

No automatic alt text available.

Street hooliganism, violence, arson, thuggery, and verbal intimidation is now invariably from the left wing. Masked and hooded youths running amuck and setting fires, throwing Molotov cocktails, upending cars, wielding blackjacks are now called ‘anti-fascists’ who are expressing ‘dissatisfaction’ with the ‘system’ and the ‘hateful opposition’. The fascists are now anti-fascists. How double-speak can you get? This criminal neo-Bolshevik element is swelling in number and appears on campus or at any political or public venue where real free speech is attempted. There have been for at least 20 years in the USA, training ‘boot-camps’ where left-wing neophytes learn the craft of social and cultural warfare and destruction. The ‘tolerant’ socialist left wing that spawned tyrants like Guevara is using violence and censorship to get its way. “Brotherhood or I’ll club you over the head”. “Tolerance or I’ll blow up your house!” “Love me or I’ll hate you!” “Live and let live or I’ll kill you!”

The left gets away with hate. The left lives on hate. The left gets away with street violence. The left condones hate lyrics, hate speech and hateful behavior and slander if it is directed at anyone they have designated as ‘the enemy of the people’ If you think that tyranny, whether physical or psychological, exists only in history, or textbooks or in some far corner of the world, think again. It exists right here right now, in the classrooms of the West from K-12 on into university. The major publishers of books and newspapers throughout the West have for decades censored the ‘wrong opinions’ and have stretched the meaning of hate speech to include any opinions that run counter to the accepted opinions on immigration, integration, global warming, race/genetics/demography, Islam, gender inclusion, anthropology, marriage, smoking, drinking, and a few others (that I can’t think of right now!).

Also ask the most salient question of all: Why haven’t there been any massive demonstrations around the Western world against all the wars started by the maniacal Jewish-run Neo-Conservatives in WashingtonDC? Because they too, very likely wish for an international socialist state and are green-lighted to commit genocide under the rubric of putting down’ radical Islam’.


tom briggs


This Rock & Roll Hall-of-Fame group, led by Frankie Valli,  was one of my favorite bands in the early ’60s. I loved listening to their great hits Rag Doll, Ronnie, Working My Way Back to You, Dawn Go Away, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Save It For Me, Sherry, Bye Bye Baby, Baby  Goodbye, Let’s Hang On!, Candy Girl and others on my little $3.99 turquoise transistor radio, the one that melted under my pillow in the summer of 1964.

In those days, the two major New York City AM rock and roll stations were  Music Radio WABC-77 and the Good Guy’s station, WMCA.  ABC had “Cousin” Bruce Morrow,  Scott Muni, Dan Ingram and Harry Harrison as DJ’s while WMCA came in with Joe Obrien, Jack Spector, Dandy Dan Daniel and Dean Anthony – Dino on Your Radio.

Without realizing it I had dropped out of being a big Four Seasons fan when the English Invasion came in 1964. I guess my musical tastes had changed by then. There was such an incredible variety of music played on AM radio at that time.  English Invasion, Country, Motown, Garage, One-Hit-Wonders and West Coast bands. In spite of this competition, the Four Seasons had one hit after another under such an avalanche.  They remain as one of two groups that had top-40 hits before, during and after the British Invasion. The other being the Beach Boys. That is significant.

The writing chops behind these hits was a band member and prolific lyricist Bob Gaudio. This from Wikipedia: Rag Doll is regarded by some as the greatest achievement of the Four Seasons.  Bob Gaudio was on the way to a recording session and his car was stopped at a long traffic light in Hell’s Kitchen.  Often kids would wash the car windows during the long waits and ask for some change. In Gaudio’s case, a scruffy little girl washed his window. When Gaudio went to give her change, all he had was a $10 bill. After a moment’s hesitation, he gave her the bill because he had to give her something. The astonished look on her face stayed with him and inspired the subsequent song.

What woke me up to the greatness of the Four Seasons as an all-time group was the 2007 song that I really liked: Beggin’ by the Norwegian hip-hop group Madcon. I had no idea that that hit was an original 1967 Four Season’s tune, written by Bob Gaudio, of course (with Peggy Farina) Another great original Four Seasons hit was Silence is Golden, covered famously by the English group The Tremeloes in 1967, who used the exact same arrangement.  It took 50 years for me to make the Tremeloes connection and  45 years to ‘connect the dots’ for the Madcon cover. I am certain that the Four Seasons have written dozens of other hits that others have covered.  I have indeed forgotten how many hits they had. Earlier, I stated that I had dropped out of being a Four Seasons fan. But now, 55 years later, it took Beggin and Silence to understand and appreciate their significance.

The Four Seasons lead singer then and now is  Frankie Valli, who was born Francesco Castelluccio in either 1934 or 1937, no one knows for certain. What is certain though,  is that Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, and Nick Massi -The Four Seasons –  remain one of the all-time rock & roll bands, who have influenced countless musicians down through the decades while providing cherished memories to untold millions including perennial teenagers disguised as aging rock & roll fans like me.





tom briggs

Lievie and I, Spikey and Pepie arrived in Paris, the City Of Lights, at around eleven am on an overcast and cold Saturday. We came to take part in a demonstration called the Yellow Jackets or if you prefer the French Gilets Jaunes. We had heard that possibly up to three million (who would announce such an outrageous figure?) would be on the street loudly airing their grievances and invectives at President Macron. All for his failure to reduce outrageously high gas and diesel taxes and other confiscatory taxes that have been emptying the pockets of the French motorists and middle class for way too long. In actuality, roughly 5000 almost exclusively white Gilets Jaunes were in attendance though this number appeared to be just a smattering on the immense boulevard. What a first impression of the Champs Elysees! Empty of auto traffic, its prodigious width was apparent to the degree that two 747’s could easily have simultaneously landed from opposite directions. Or so it appeared. Also observed right away were groups of police who were dressed from helmet to boots in commanding black beetle-like or Star Wars-like anti-riot regalia, including anti-street thug shields . Formidable protectors and defenders of the peace, they were a welcome sight.

We had taken part in a similar yellow jacket protest the week before in Lille, a beautiful city that could easily fit in the hip pocket of Paris and occupy only one of its districts or arrondissements. There, on a cold windy day, our fellow marchers during a four-kilometer parade were a good-natured group who were sincere and well behaved in their righteous demands on President Macron to lower taxes. All was peaceful and without incident. The collective tirade was limited to “Demission Macron!” (“Step down, Macron!”)  All this didn’t come off to me as a protest that would change the minds of the culprits responsible for the taxation. Things in Paris started out in a similar way. A festive comradery prevailed as we started marching up the Champs Elysees. Many Gilets Jaunes were intrigued by Pepie and Spikey and were taking photos and engaging us in the spirited friendly talk. But we soon witnessed scores of helmeted riot police at various locations in standby mode. This was both reassuring and disturbing as it signalled that things could at any time get rough and ugly.

I had considered this possibility days in advance, as I was aware of the character of many protest marches in the USA down through the past twenty years or so where (either professional revolutionaries or common hoodlums bent on mayhem and destruction or worse) groups of young masked thugs had infiltrated and co-opted the original peacefully-protesting group of marchers. This ignominious lot  would then commence to toss stones, beer cans and Molotov cocktails at police, while destroying public, and especially private property. They would often go even further by overturning police vehicles, committing arson and beating up innocent people and even assaulting police officers. Any infiltration today would not require masks, as those intent on mayhem could just don a yellow jacket. In fact, there stood a resourceful hawker on the Champs Elysees selling those items.

In less than twenty minutes, as we continued marching west on the Champs Elysees and away from the venerable landmark Arc de Triomphe, we observed smoke filling the sky in the distance some three hundred meters away. Suddenly a throng of yellow jackets started reversing course in a fast-stepping mode. They were running seconds later from the onrushing tear gas that was filling the air. Many in the by now chaotic crowd were yellow-jacketed youths that appeared somewhat menacing. I realize that this is all subjective, but I sensed the way they moved, that they were in small groups with other youths and not with what might appear to be family or spouses and that they had a certain swagger and gait that suggested an arrogance and bellicose intent. With all this commotion and mayhem surrounding us, we alighted towards the friendly-looking, blue decorated café/restaurant called le Deauville.

We found a place to sit and ordered two coffees and a croissant. It was fairly crowded with customers and had a congenial staff who were all dressed in blue and white stripped Marseille-style sailor’s shirts. On the wall in the adjacent rear dining area was a huge projected live television feed of what was going on outside not more than a hundred meters away. This had an eerie matrix-like effect on the senses. It was pure chaos. Smoke filled the air as fires were flaring at various points and as youths were seen hauling large pieces of metal barricade material onto the street. What was seen on television was then seen a minute later right outside the window. A large police vehicle was shooting water at yellow-jacketed bottle-throwing hoodlums. With all that was happening, Barry Mc Quire’s ‘Eve of Destruction started playing in my head even as the Pretenders ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’, with its fast and nervous pulse, played on the restaurant’s kitchen counter radio.

As the crowds passing in front of the restaurant started to thicken, as the noise swelled, as the smoke filled the air, a disturbing and threatening kinetic energy prevailed, like a plague of locusts or as if a major hurricane or tornado was intent on wiping away everything that wasn’t nailed down.  With its glass patio roof and large windows on three sides, we were in a kind of aquarium that had the effect of heightening tensions.

Suddenly a young guy who appeared to be one of the yellow-jacket street thugs turned with a swagger towards the patrons inside and gave a finger gesture that indicated ‘we’ll be back’ or ‘we did all this’ or ‘don’t get too comfortable’. In a flash, the jack-booted troublemaker turned and was gone. The staff of the restaurant started to move the chairs and tables from the outdoor patio area inside and to the rear of the restaurant. In this hurried task, they were helped by several friendly yellow jackets.

As we sat there, we watched the restaurant staff moving stacks of chairs from the back room. These they placed along the inside of the large front windows, turning the restaurant into a kind of crude and doubtlessly ineffectual fortress. I was now starting to think that a flying home-made missile might crash through the glass roof of the front inner patio at any moment. From the near distance, a tremendous ‘boom’ which sounded like a hand grenade, was heard that for a second shook the restaurant.

As someone opened the door to let a co-worker in, tear gas leaked in from outside and my eyes momentarily burned and watered. I imagined then what the horrors of mustard gas in World War One must’ve have been like. Lieve started to worry if it was ever going to be safe to leave. She was very afraid for Pepie and Spikey. I then decided to see if it was possible for us to drive out of Paris. As she remained in the restaurant, I walked towards the garage-park less than a block from the Arc de Triomphe. I quickly zig-zagged my way through a forest of what appeared to be friendly yellow jackets who were observing the fires and general mayhem that was going on towards the middle of the Champs Elysees.

Two blocks away from the garage, which was cordoned off and empty, I saw four battle-clad policemen. I asked one, who kindly spoke English, if it was possible to leave from the garage-park, and was told ‘yes’. When I returned to the le Deauville I saw that Lieve was upset and worried that something had happened to me. She also related how she had spoken to her father and described to him the mayhem going on around us. His curt reply to that harried account was: “Can you pick up some mandarins for me?”

The most heroic act of the day occurred when Lieve got us the hell out of Paris. The GPS route out of the city became null and void because we had to avoid the volatile situation in the area of the Champs Elysees. The result was a harrowing half-hour drive through the labyrinthian spokes-in-a-wheel-like streets of Paris. Lieve, who knows Paris very well, left and righted through an unending quilt of people, cars, buses, shops, and signs. A veritable ocean of citizens and denizens pursuing consumer pleasures and other ephemeral comforts engulfed us, all apparently oblivious to the street anarchy on the other side of the Seine. With no way out on the Rive Droite of the Seine, we tried the La Rive Gauche or Left Bank, where the same rat-in-a-trap dilemma persisted. With the help of a cop and a motorist, we finally saw a sign that announced “This way the hell out of Paris”



tom briggs

I had woke with a headache after a short nap. It was already hot that morning on our little beach near the marina, so I went in. I felt better after completing my usual hundred fifty meters to the buoy and back. It was just what I needed. I had felt out of sorts and dizzy and had been losing my balance, no doubt from the heat which I hadn’t yet adjusted to. We’d only arrived from Belgium at Marina Bai des Ange on the Coté d’ Azur two days earlier. After my rejuvenated swim, I was ready to enjoy sublime relaxation by continuing with my reading of The Steppe, by Anton Chekhov. An exercise of escape by one on whom most is lost from one on whom nothing is lost.

As I held the beautifully-crafted and handsome hardcover with the simple but elegant typography on its cream-colored cover, I noticed a glistening blackish mess along the pages near the top binding. I quickly discovered that most items in the main section of my backpack were similarly christened. As I emptied its contents of a hardbound pocket-size prayer book, an ancient ballpoint pen with partially obscured lettering that said Northwest Financial, Visalia, CA, 93277, four tattered pocket-size writing pads, a never-used ten year-old leather bound drawing tablet, a canvas pen and pencil holder and another paper-bound drawing tablet, I discovered that the source of this ugly invasion was the week-long remains of a banana. I was relieved when I realized that my prized copy of  A Narrative of a Pedestrian Journey Through Russia and Siberian Tartary by Thomas Cochrane, which was in the backpack as well, was miraculously unscathed.

By now totally unidentifiable as that yellow tropical fruit, the banana’s decomposition approximated any number of things. It had a very forensic aspect, not unlike the year-old remains of the Lady in The Lake from the Raymond Chandler murder mystery. The gooey substance could have also passed for a blob of grease from under a gearbox, the thirty-year accumulated phlegm deposit of a cigar-smoker, or any other repulsive substance that might be found in an abandoned refrigerator or along the girders of a rusting highway bridge.

As Lieve had remarked, the whole bloody business was normally the work of a ten-year-old. Maybe when I’m older still, I’ll be capable of forgetting a lot more than where I left a banana. Funny how youth and age overlap. The banana had oozed its way into every fold, crevice, and corner of the backpack’s largest compartment. It looked to be quite capable of breeding or replicating itself. Maybe I’ll find it one day reincarnated in another compartment, in another backpack, on another book or drawing tablet.

It had apparently thrived as a decaying entity in the warm dark interior. It was possibly decomposing and regenerating itself simultaneously. I’d half-imagined that it was pulsating, as it affixed its oozing self to everything in its path. I shook the backpack to expel this mass of organic pathology, but it clung to the walls of its dark hot sanctum. I shook it violently and finally with reluctance it slid onto the beach stones, soon disappearing as its by now liquid-like form found every space between the rocks apparently much to its liking. The tiny Chiquita blue and yellow sticker survived it all and had affixed itself to the lining of the backpack. The Chiquita lady with the big eyes and comely look was as fresh as ever and remained indifferent to this slow, dark and sullen metamorphosis.

I almost heard the banana lament: “I was once a delicious banana. Then I was a pasty darkening morass. Now I’m a liquid slime seeking the eternal darkness beneath the beaches hot stones. Would it have been otherwise had I embarked on the seemingly more natural destiny and journey of being eaten?”  I pondered this for a second or two, then proceeded to clean up the mess. Chekhov would have to wait until the afternoon.



tom briggs

Thumpity-thump-thump, thumpity-thump-thump went the loud music coming from a car parked nearby.  I was assaulted by variations or combinations of Electro-Lounge, Hip-Hop, Rap, Gangsta Rap,  Caribbean, and African music, most everywhere I went at the marina.  Most all were alien to my soul, an ice pick in my ear and a full frontal assault on any inner peace that might’ve been occupying my brain.  As I continued walking I noticed a smartly-designed sepia-toned poster for an upcoming Marina Bai des Anges Festival de Musique.  It announced Retro Rock: A Night of Vintage 60’s Hits.

That was curious since the annual music festival, with its typically bland offerings,  was already held back in June.  I assumed that this concert would also be held near the stairs of the Commodore and Ducal1. The poster didn’t indicate where only that the gig would be on the tenth of September.  The band was called Strange Brew.  Three band members were from England, and one each from Ireland, France, and the USA.  Authentic mid-sixties instruments used on all songs appeared at the bottom of the poster. ‘Maybe some real music at last’ I said to myself.

The festival was to be held on our favorite beach and our regular spot would be hijacked for three days. Lieve and I were disappointed and delighted all at once and soon witnessed a crew of about a dozen workers assembling a series of tribune-bleacher sections, right on the beach. The parking area was blocked for half a day as the crew unloaded a massive pile of hardware from a convoy of flatbeds. Three bleacher sections, each with a capacity to seat about two-hundred spectators, was completed in less than two days. It stretched from the beach jet ski rental to mid-way past the marina side of the Amiral condominium complex.

A clever construction of scaffold-like pipe sections was mounted on PVC pilings. The latter were punched into the ground with a jack-hammer vertical gun,  the size of a drill press on steroids. Thwap! and the anchor was a meter below grade. Amazing.  I wanted to borrow it, but was afraid to ask. PVC planks were then snapped into place.  While this was going on, a big black boat was hauling in monster-thick sections of material that would serve as the stage platform.  The whole business was then assembled, and presto! a stage big enough for two bands, the entourage of a major political figure announcing victory or a juiced-up Southern Baptist choir, was anchored just inside the swimming area and yellow buoys.

To conform to the age of social media intrusion and to have the admission fee waived, all festival goers had to prove Google, Facebook or Twitter membership. This was easily accomplished with a sensor and scanner. A cute bright yellow ‘FM’ tattoo was then applied to one hand. I guess the FM meant Festival de Musique, though it might’ve stood for ‘Finally! Music!’. Those without the required connection had to pay twenty-five euro’s and prove citizenship, show at least three credit cards, a statement of car ownership and proof of at least two years of post-high-school education.

Our twenty-five euro savings would cover for the outrageous prices that Upper Seb2  would be charging for drinks. Those lucky enough to have gulped down at least five-hundred liters of Coca-Cola or devoured the equivalent of sugar over the past ten years were given a free liter and a half of Coke. Proof of ingestion was achieved with a sophisticated apparatus that tested blood-sugar and chemical toxicity levels. It also determined within seconds the organic ravages that resulted from such ingestions. A few, in their rapacious delirium, later tried to acquire another free Coke.

The night of the fest was spectacular. The fact that it was scheduled later than normal at half-past-nine, made it more so. The bleachers were packed and those who brought chairs sat anywhere they could find a spot, while others just stood. People then began to crowd along the rocks that led up to the red and green lighthouses on either side of the beach. Those in inflatable boats started to find spots in designated areas of the water, beginning about a meter from the stage. We decided to watch from our own inflatable canoe, and had a perfect view of the performance, about as close as one could toss a cannonball(?).

It helped that Upper Seb had the vision and sense to affix a portable stairwell to the outer wall of the Pagode. This act of entrepreneurial savvy allowed patrons to buy price-jacked refreshments and use the restrooms. When I went for drinks, we lost our position on the water, but it all worked out, as we found another good spot.  In the midst of all the crowded excitement, some overfed idiot wearing a captain’s hat with a light on it actually had the audacity to plant four fishing lines in the beach but was quickly whisked away by five burly and confident-looking event staff. We should’ve gotten their number.

Large heatless LED lights were mounted high above the stage and their white illumination lent an almost ghostly effect to the players and offered an overall scintillating visual. As the night sky quickly turned a bluish-black, it filled with innumerable glimmering stars, many which seemed to come out especially to witness the show.   The twinkling reflections in the water lent a magical and mystical charm. Unfortunately, though predictably, corporate sponsorship banners were everywhere. Some were even on the water, mounted on small buoys made for the purpose. Coca-Cola, Heineken, Microsoft, Google, Starbucks and other corporate giants couldn’t pass it up, nor could the promoters. Pavlov had his dogs and we have product inundation hammered into us. We all love being told what to think and what to buy. Don’t we?

The band’s medley of vintage hits had me riding first-class in a time machine to the halcyon days of a half-century ago.  Over ten songs in all.3  The silky-smooth Classics Four rock/jazz hit Spooky was flawlessly done, as the black guy with the braids dropped his tambourine and took the (vintage 1959 Buescher 400, I learned) saxophone between his lips. The highlight of the evening was Strange Brew’s intoxicating cover of Strange Brew, the Cream original.  The blues-riffing guitar solo was so good I wanted to liquify it and shoot it through my veins.

She’s a witch of trouble in electric blue / In her own mad mind she’s in love with you / With you/ Now what you gonna do?/ Strange brew, kill what’s inside of you.

The band followed with an almost two-hour slew of gems including the high-octane Paul Revere and the Raiders 1966 hit Kicks, with its ‘galloping horses’ keyboards and guitars, and with the intense 1965 sitar-influenced guitar sound of the Yardbirds rock/soul-lament Heart Full of Soul.  This psyche and jazz-fuelled and doubtlessly drug-induced magical band had by then entered into a species of musical Zen where no thought was necessary. They were born to play these songs.

And don’t it seem like Kicks just keep gettin’ harder to find/ And all your kicks ain’t bringin’ you peace of mind/ Before you find out it’s too late, girl/You better get straight/No, but not with kicks, you just need help, girl

All instruments (the band did a lot of switching), including all three electric guitars, drums  (which I later learned were a set of 1965 Ludwig Super Classics) and keyboards & electric organ, (Fender Rhodes, said someone in another boat)  was as the poster had indicated, authentic vintage sixties instruments 4. (I learned the following day from an old guy that knew the band that one of the guitars was definitely a 1965 Fender Duo-Sonic, another was most likely an Airline bass guitar, a third  a Gibson ES-335 and a fourth Vox Teardrop).

The lead vocalist and guitarist was a tall guy with long blonde hair and mustache, who hailed from the same physiognomic neck of the woods as Keith Relf,  former lead singer of  The Yardbirds.  He was dressed in a black leather vest with a pink fluffed (probably charmeuse silk) shirt that had a collar so large that it seemed to be invading his vest. With his grey striped (probably Harrods Vucana wool) bell-bottoms and his Trotsky-like tortoiseshell pince-nez set midway on the bridge of his nose, he was “where it’s at, man”- no probably about it.

The lead guitarist was strangely and one might surmise ridiculously attired. Or was it that he was dressed so uncool that he became the Godfather of Cool? This tall, dark-featured long-haired late-twenties specimen was imposing in an outrageous purplish-grey pin-striped Inverness cape. This was topped off with a  yellow snapped-brim pork-pie hat, ruffled silk turquoise shirt,  tight-fitting white trousers, and knee-high gold-studded black riding boots with dangling chains. This cat was ‘far out’ and ‘deep’. He was ‘gone’  He was Haight-Asbury, The Filmore, The Whiskey A Go-Go, The London Palladium and countless other long-gone smoke-filled rock haunts all rolled into one.  Straight out King Pest, the hilariously macabre  Edgar Allan Poe short story.

The somber-faced bass guitarist and vocalist was in a black suit, white shirt, and mid-60’s thin black tie. All this went well with his Roy Orison shades and jazzy, silky voice. With his shock of blue-black combed back hair and an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips half the time, he was five parts jazz, one part rock, and all blues.  His solo of the Gershwin classic Summertime was so smooth and deliciously-sounding  I wanted it chemically analyzed, quantified, identified, and transformed into something I could spread on my toast for the next twenty years.

Back-beating and back-sticking away on the Ludwig Super Classic drums and cymbals was a swarthy bald-pated Popeye-forearmed guy. This thick-bearded mid-forties vintage was dressed in black slacks and black pinstriped shirt, topped off with a red bow tie. While most all the numbers obviously didn’t require his maxed skills, this cat could burn it up with enough energy to light up an entire city. This was evident during a five-minute solo riff at the end of  Keep On Running.  Rock likely wasn’t his thing,  jazz no doubt being his bag. This cat was the bomb. A sweet Strange Brew logo, which appeared to be hand painted, graced the vertical twenty-eight-inch bass drum.

The thirty-something all-arms and legs sax and tambourine player (with some guitar) was the sweetest-looking black guy I ever saw. Purplish black, almost like an olive, he was striking in a bright yellow short-sleeve loose-fitting silk shirt with screened floral designs. Wrapped around his forehead and Rastafarian Yellow-jewelled braids was an intensely red bandana. If this guy didn’t help write the book of smooth, he was perhaps its chief editor. His sax work for Spooky and for James Brown’s Night Train was superb. It was so good, I wanted it pulverized so I could snort it.

The very young keyboard and organ player was a ringer for Robert Crumb, the underground cartoonist of Mister Natural fame of fifty years ago.  Even though he was listed on the poster as Johnny Ryan from Bray, Ireland, the thick-rimmed glasses and nerdy college look convinced me it was somehow Crumb. Considering the absurd unreality of this show, why not?  Crumb had played keyboards for the Castaways when they recorded their only hit, the organ-heavy Liar Liar in 1966. If it wasn’t him, it was a one-hell-of-a coincidence.  One hell-of-an incongruity too. Dressed in his off-the-rack plaid shirt and chinos, he was way out of place next to his partners, who appeared from another realm altogether.

Strange Brew then curiously broke with their own program by closing with Ruby by the Kaiser Chiefs. They followed the high-energy mix of vocals, chords, and keyboards as if they had morphed, as they had done with all the other pieces they played, into the actual band whose hit they were doing.  Maybe they should rename their band The Chameleons, I had thought.

Not long after this riveting climax,  a loud and frantic scream of “Hey! Hey! was heard from a near distance. Two inflatable raft occupants had been fighting over a spot and a pushing and shoving match ensued. A scream went out, and bid-a-bing,  somebody landed in the water with a tremendous splash. A sort of bumper boat competition soon followed, with many half-drunk or fully-high combatants heading overboard. We had already started to deflate our own canoe and were not involved in this benign mayhem.

As Helicopters then swirled overhead, for reasons still lost on me, a fireworks show commenced and soon filled the night sky with its own galaxy of lighted gun-powder-filled rockets. This spectacle, which Lieve loved,  was an apt finale to a memorable evening of entertainment. Barring any travails of memory impairment that potentially might relegate this fabulous evening to a compartment of the psyche that has no key, I shall savor it until the day I am released from this swirling existence.

The whole extravaganza left me delighted and mesmerized and captivated but confused and bewildered and forlorn. Maybe these musicians were apparitions. Maybe the whole thing was crafted from an over-taxed imagination. Maybe it was a slither of time that I longed for, not a life-event. Maybe I’ll play it again in my head. Over and over again. But I can never play it with that crappy ear-splitting thumpity-thump-thumping sound of lounge music that too often surrounds me and takes over my soul.

1 Commodore and Ducal are two 13 story condominium buildings. Normally music festival goers would occupy the massive stairwell that separates the two structures to watch the entertainment.

2  Owner of the Pagode  Patio restaurant, a level up from the beach.  Referred here as Upper Seb because another Seb referred to as Lower Seb runs the jet ski rental at beach level.

3  List of songs performed: Kicks by Paul Revere and Raiders / Heart Full of Soul by The Yardbirds / The Last Time by The Rolling Stones / Spooky by The Classics Four / Night Train by James Brown /  Strange Brew by Cream / Keep on Running By Spenser Davis Group / Dirty Water by The Standells / You Really Got Me  by The Kinks  / Living on a Thin Line by The Kinks / She’s Not There by The Zombies /  It Ain’t Me Babe by The Turtles  / Ruby by The Kaiser Chiefs

4  Vintage instruments:
Vox Teardrop guitar for Stones Last Time and others
1965 Fender Duo-Sonic electric guitar, throughout

Ludwig Super Classic guitars for selected pieces
Airline bass guitar throughout
Martin D-18  Dreadnought acoustic guitar for selected pieces

Vintage 1959 Buescher 400 Saxophone  For Night Train and Spooky  
Ludwig Super Classic
drums throughout

1965 Fender Rhodes keyboard/organ  throughout
Twin Fender 65 Delux Reverb Combo Amplifiers

Heart Full of Soul  Distinctive neo-sitar-guitar sound originated by Jeff Beck. 
She’s Not There Bass guitarist did lead vocals on this.

It Ain’t Me Babe Bob Dylan original done in Turtle’s chord-heavy version.
Night Train  Strange Brew had the chops on this one, though a second sax  would’ve
improved last third.
The lead vocalist announced that the band regretted that “some idiot” forgot to ship the mountain dulcimer guitar, preventing the band from doing the Stones Lady Jane.
All costumes, except those worn by the keyboardist, and where otherwise previously indicated, were from Muskrat’s Vintage Clothing of Santa Monica, California.






tom briggs

Gus’s Diner was right in front of an old ironworks factory on the corner of West First Street and Sixteenth Avenue, in Mount Vernon. It was one of those classic boxcar-like structures, similar to thousands of others in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. It was very small and was painted red on the outside. It was tucked into a corner of an ironworks factory. The factory building and its large yard were likely there for a hundred years, the diner seemingly plopped down beside it, as if airlifted into position.

Gus’s was where my cousin Johnny, my brother Russell and I used to gather for a few hours in the morning while we were playing hooky from high school. We would eat breakfast and then hang out until a little past ten o’clock. Then it was it was off to stay at Johnny’s parents apartment until four o’clock. Uncle John left for work at eight, but Aunt Stella didn’t leave until ten. The radio said some snow for today, but not much, maybe an inch. Unfortunately that wasn’t nearly enough for school to shut down. I got good at forging my mother’s name, but not so good at phrasing and composing  the letter to the school from my mother.   We mulled it over and thought the snow might actually be a good excuse for not showing up anyway.

Russell and Tommy didn’t attend school yesterday because they both had diarrehea. Sincerely, Francis Brengel.

Johnny was eighteen, though he could pass for twenty-four. With his receding hairline, thick neck, wire-frame glasses and ruddy Irish complexion, he had the kind of face that pops up in old photos of a Belfast workers strike. He lit up a Marlboro, as I asked him what he was reading.

Finnegan’s Wake, said Johnny. It’s by James Joyce.
He handed me the book and after only a short glance, I knew I would never read it. Too much mumbo-jumbo.
What does all that mean, Johnny, I mean those crazy words? I asked him.
It’s dream associations and stream of consciousness, he answered.
I think I’ll stick with the New York Post sports section, I closed with.

This was our fourth or fifth illegal absence from school, all but one spent here. Once before, we had taken the  subway at 241st Street, and rode the IRT line to Times Square. That would kill an hour. The token was 15 cents each way, and that left us with just enough to buy donuts and coffee at a little stand along the shuttle stop, and later, a hotdog. We would board the free one-stop shuttle train to Grand Central Station, where we  would walk around aimlessly, oblivious to its magnificence. To kill more time, we would shuttle back to Time Square, then back to Grand Central, and would repeat this maneuver several times, like a hamster on a wheel. That was enough for us, and we vowed that next hooky-time, we would return to our alma mater, Gus’s.

We had some money today and would order bacon and eggs, toast and coffee, and sit at one of the yellow-colored table booths along the front, right by the window. As often was the case in winter, the effect of the place was heightened considerably when it snowed. A feeling of fantastic warmth and good fortune, as if staying there forever wouldn’t be such a bad idea. The air would be filled with the comingled aromas of all that Gus was cooking. He operated alone and moved around very well for an old guy. Gus had a lot of Popeye in him, and was straight out of the Great Depression thirties. He always had a cigar hanging out of his mouth and would wear a white cap and apron. He even talked a little like Popeye. Gus’s mumbled speech required some time to translate, to connect the verbal dots. Looking back on it, a signer might’ve made things much easier.

It was fun to watch Gus move around behind the counter. He was fast for a big guy and would adroitly pivot to get this or that, then return to the grill and start flipping pancakes and eggs and hash brown potatoes. We would be at Gus at least two hours. The snow started to stick and was accumulating on the street. Kelley’s gas station was right across the street. And one or another of the three Kelley brothers or staff would come in from time to time. Most of Gus’s customers were blue-collar types in dark coveralls and coats, many with embroidered script lettering on them. I suppose a few worked right there at the ironworks factory. We dreaded the possibility that a grown-up that we knew would walk through the door and rat on us. The only one who could be trusted to not slip a lip was my uncle Ralph. I remember that he once told me he had hated school.

I popped a dime in the red tabletop jukebox and played Runaway by Del Shannon and Popsickles Icecicles by the Murmaids. That’s a faggy song said Russell. My dime, I play it,  Those chicks are foxy, plus they’re from California, so get some cotton for your ears. Gus always had the radio going, and always tuned to the all-news-all-the-time station. That  morning New York City Mayor Robert Wagner was to meet with city officials over budget appropriations , a budget no doubt fattened by the previous summer’s World’s Fair. and there was bad business in Berkeley, where over eight-hundred students took over an administration building. If Gus had opinions about all of that, doubtless no one could make heads or tails of it.

Johnny had put his book down by now, and we  took turns and playing table football. One player would snap two fingers and kick a rolled up piece of paper between goalposts represented by the opposing player’s index finger and pinkie. How unimaginable then to think that harmless formation would be a gangsta salutation half a century later. Scores were kept in a meticulous way, though arguments would result anyway. If someone was clever enough to have brought along a rubber band, then other amusements were enjoyed. Johnny talked high about a senator named McGovern What a name for someone in the Mc Government. Johnny said he would be President one day. Russell told one dirty joke after another, then insulted and berated those passing by in the snow, all out of earshot naturally. Russell was in high gear: Look at this one, with his belly hanging over his belt. He hasn’t seen his dick in twenty years. It’s just a rumor. All of us were laughing then. Russell had an awful lot of Don Rickles in him.

Since both Johnny and Russell were occupied with what, with not much at that point, I drifted into  inner imagery. I looked out the window and saw my favorite football team, the Cleveland Browns playing against what appeared to be the San Francisco 49’ers. Right there on West First Street in heavy traffic. Frank Ryan was quickly dropping back in the pocket behind his blockers some thirty yards up the street, right by a passing 241st Street Bronx-bound bus, throwing a forty yard bullet-pass to his favourite target Gary Collins, who was running clear in his route right in front of Kelley’s. I yelled out first down! and Johnny and Russell asked if I was alright. I thanked them for their heartfelt concerns and then sought other reveries. In no time I conjured up the fantastical idea of Leslie Gore walking into the diner. I was in love with her, especially after seeing her on Hullabaloo, or was it Shindig, singing You Don’t Own Me. Suddenly, as my dream’s eviction of reality had demanded,  she walked in and went to a corner booth. She was dressed in a black trench coat, and some snow was still on her shoulders.

The diner was now empty except for Gus, me and the apogee of my dreams.  I was afraid to approach her, so I selected You Don’t Own Me on the Seeburg. She looked across the empty tables at me and smiled. Emboldened, I then asked if she wouldn’t mind if I sat with her for a minute. She smiled and accepted and we ordered two coffees, as that was all she wanted. I immediately asked her What are you doing in this…. place? If I may ask. She looked at me with eyes that went straight through me and said:  I  had arrived yesterday from California and had just finished some business with an agent in Manhattan and was en-route by limousine to Scarsdale to see a producer. She continued: I had had a premonition of sorts while on the ride up from New York.  A strong inner voice that told me to come here. Leslie went on that she discovered where her power of expression had come from. It came from the hearts of those who most admired her, and that she was here to thank me. She then reached across the table and kissed me softly on the cheek. The acne scarred kid who was afraid of good-looking girls felt like a light that guaranteed inner peace forever had entered him.  With that, she quickly turned and walked out the door to a long black Crysler that was waiting out front.  A rolled up piece of paper, probably  fashioned with spit, then hit me in the eye. Hey Rip Van Winkle, it’s time to go,  can’t stay here forever Chooch! The subtle and soothing voice of brother Russell had snatched me from my sanctum of bliss.

We left for Aunt Stella and Uncle John’s, and the snow was thick in its rapid decent. Maybe we wouldn’t have to write that note after all.  It was a windless snow that covered every grey inch of the cityscape in no time. Kelley’s gas station, with its big lighted Texaco sign and naked winter trees as background, was turning into a painting called Currior & Ive’s and Gas and Oil, maybe painted by John Sloan. We walked down the hill on South Street towards our destination. Along its entire two block length, heading down towards The New Haven Railroad tracks was Ward Leonard Electric Company with its three-shift two thousand employee workforce. This morning its windows were glowing yellow because of the dark grey sky. This whole thing was a very Pittsburgh-looking scene. The hell with sunny days in winter anyway, I thought.  What a waste of sunshine. What a feckless ineffectual sun, that winter sun, neutered as it is, by winters ground level realities. Give me grey, give me snow, give me rain, give me torrent in the mood of grey wintery chords, played to my heart and soul.

After arriving at our destination of the next several hours, we immediately pursued something more meaningful than Gus’s Diner. We turned on the television. From a selection which included Jeopardy starring Art Fleming, Truth or Consequences with Bob Barker, reruns of Andy of Mayberry and The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, we chose the most serious one. Bullwinkle was not only the coolest and smartest cartoon moose ever, but likely the  coolest thing standing on two feet in all of television. The smartest was Mister Peabody, with the second coolest being his sidekick, Sherman. I don’t know who the third coolest was, nor the second smartest,  but I suspected that whoever they were, they had a lot of catching up to do to surpass the smartest and second coolest, respectively. Peabody & Sherman excelled at going  back in time to help history’s hero’s achieve their fame. Rocky & Bullwinkle, on the other hand, were forever finding ways to outsmart the villainous Russian spies, Boris & Natasha. After Johnny advised us against raiding the refrigerator for obvious reasons, Russell, who hadn’t eaten since emptying a bag of Connecticut potato chips at Gus’s well over twenty minutes ago, waited, like the patient carnivore that he was, for our host to relax his vigilance. That moment came when Johnny got up to use the bathroom. Before one could blurt out the customary Jackie Robinson, brother Russell quickly wolfed down two slices of Kraft swiss cheese and the remains of a plastic bowl containing some unidentifiable  brown sauce.

I looked out the window and to my dismay, the snow had stopped. It was now time to write and forge the absent-from-school letter, which we would bring to Mount Vernon High tomorrow. And with Bullwinkle’s antics over, and with Peabody & Sherman having figured out what actually happened aboard the Santa Maria with Christopher Columbus, Russell and I left for home, leaving our hapless host to contend with an empty plastic bowl that needed washing. Two days later, Russell and I were called into Vice Principal Doctor Panitz’s office. Doctor Panitz was a impressive man of about fifty. With his piercing blue eyes and imposing and very administrative and authoritarian demeanour, I could easily imagine  Wehrmacht or Waffen SS medals pinned to his blue suit. He cordially asked Russell and me to have a seat.

Dr Panitz: So you both don’t like school so much?
Russell: No, Dr. Panitz, we like school fine, but we just didn’t feel like going last Monday. Tommy: I like school too, but it looked like it might snow that day.
Dr. Panitz: I see. You both know that it cost a lot of money to build this beautiful new school, don’t you? And to pay all the teachers and maintenance crew. Do you both realize how lucky you are to receive an education, and a free education, with no cost to your parents?
Russell: I bet it cost a lot of money. We’re sorry, and we won’t do it again.
Tommy: Yes, Dr. Panitz, we’ll be in attendance every day from now on, right, Russell? Russell: Every day, for sure.
Dr. Panetz: That’s wonderful, that’s what I like to hear, sensible students, appreciative of the importance of their education.
Russell and Tommy: Yes Dr. Panitz, it’s clear.

When we returned home that evening our mother announced that a truant officer named Mr. Gist was there earlier and had asked if she had signed an absent from school note on Monday. We were dead-to-rights, and it was KP and no after-school activities for the next two days. That evening, I started penning my composition, entitled Why I should attend classes. But in my brainless adolescence of ingratitude, it quickly became a farce resembling this:
Dear Doctor Panitz: While I see some reason for attending classes, I notice that all the adults that I know or ever heard of or that I like and admire don’t really use math, proper English, geography or history in their jobs. I mean, Joe the bartender probably didn’t learn how to tap beer and argue about baseball with customers because he went to school. Gus, at  Gus’s Diner didn’t go to school to learn how to smoke a cigar without  really smoking it. And he didn’t go to school to learn how to flip hamburgers or fry eggs in such a way that they were the finest of their kind. Then I know for a fact that Luigi of Luigi’s fruit stand didn’t learn how to sell fruits and vegetables without ever have learned English to all the people who buy from him, and still love him inspite of his linguistic shortcomings. And not for nothing, Doctor Panetz, but Mickey Mantle didn’t learn how to hit a ball over a building in New York that bounced on top of a moving train that went all the way to Eau Clair, Wisconsin, by attending geography classes. It’s not like he had to know where Eau Clair actually was, you know what I mean? And I’m just saying, but isn’t it true that it’s possible to acquire a decent knowledge of American geography by studying the backs of baseball cards? After all, the typical major league player has had to endure playing in some places with more cows  and chickens than people. But Eau Claire and Greensboro, NC and Augusta GA and Batavia NY and Visalia CA  and two hundred some odd other stops along the minor league trail on the backs of baseball cards taught me all about American geography,  few years ago. OK, I’ll grant you that there are most definitely worthy courses in Mount Vernon High School. Classes like Mister Milonzi’s commercial art class and Doctor Dodd’s drawing and painting class. However, if I had to fill up this composition with one thousand words, I’m more likely to be successful at it if I had to admit the ludicrousness of my duplicity which I do. None the less, if I consider the uselessness of gym class, here we go with at least three hundred words: I get a lot of exercise. Most of which consists of horsing around with friends on my block. We like to jump over parking meters. It’s a hoisting manuever that requires strength, thrust and a fair amount of courage, lest the participant go minus one or both of his testicles. Sometimes we play as teams, that is to say, two players against two opponents. This then teaches team play, a worthy endeavour, you have to admit. Other athletic games consist of playing touch football in heavy traffic along West First Street. Setting up complicated pass plays and patterns while the 241st Street bound bus is passing at forty miles per hour inches from your gluteus maximus,  is an activity that promotes awareness, courage, agility and quickness, all attributes of superior athleticism that I think to be a notch or two above what is prescribed in school gym class. Then there is the unique test of one’s determination to hang in there, and not flinch, from fielding  a sharply hit ground ball right at you that will very possibly hit a piece of broken glass or pebble, thus diverting its path and redirecting its trajectory to make hard contact with your eyeball or lip, resulting in a black eye, split lip or missing tooth. Of course I’d like to add that I a…

Of course I never sent such an abomination, just a sloppy, repetitively written and insincere apology describing my wanton recalcitrance and total lack of appreciation for a quality high school education. An education that  would in fact prepare me for a lifelong career as a commercial artist, and later as a sign artist. Following is a letter of gratitude that was unfortunately and shamefully never written to my commercial art teacher, Mr. Victor Milonzi.

Dear Mr. Milonzi: I know that this letter is over a half-century too late. But when I was a student of yours, in 1963 and 1964, At Edison High, then at Mount Vernon High, I didn’t know or care anything about gratitude or sacrifice. And I didn’t know or care about such things for the next fifty years. You provided me with a great education that equipped me to be a commercial artist.  I showed my thanks by jumping from your class and enrolling in Dr. Dodd’s fine arts class, without ever having said thank you. It turns out that you were the best teacher I ever had, including all of my instructors during my two years at Phoenix School of Design. And I can add that any bad professional  breaks that came my way during these ensuing decades  might’ve have been payback for such lack of character and ingratitude. I used to hate it when you would tear at my artwork just to remove a tiny imperfection, smudge or speck of dirt.  But this taught me to shoot for the very best professional quality in the way of presenting my artwork. It took me all these years to appreciate you as a first rate professional advertising artist, who sacrificed a lucrative career to teach young kids how to be successful commercial artists. I remember now how you would make special trips to Manhattan, to advertising agencies and corporate headquarters  like Coca Cola, just to gather samples of products, particularly new products, in the  pioneering stage, as you called them, so the class could redesign the package, label, billboard, or magazine ad. Or how you took us on field trips to offset printing companies and typesetting shops to see first-hand how it was done. You taught us about duotones, halftones and four color process printing. About register marks and bleed marks and how to do paste-ups and mechanicals. And how to make mock-ups for point-of-sale displays. You taught your students all about materials such as illustration board, Cellotac, Zipatone, Coloraid, Magic Markers, drawing instruments, and even how to operate an airbrush. You taught about typefaces like Bodoni Bold and Franklin Gothic and scores of other fonts. You gave us the opportunity to use those liquids that smelled like rotten eggs but that created magical halftone dot patterns for cartoon illustrations when painted on a special white board.  For this was how it was all done in the days before digital art. You offered your students the opportunity to compete in poster contests that awarded great prizes to first, second and third place winners throughout Westchester County. Contests, I might add, that were won by many of your students, including me. And you did all of this with a unique sense of humor. Your disarming wit was entertaining yet edifying and got the message home. Thank you, Mr. Victor Milonzi, for all you did for me.

Sincerely, Tom Briggs







tom briggs
Copyright Tom Briggs 2018

They moved out the old, and ushered in the new.
A bit too sudden, that much is true/
They regarded the past, with utter contempt.
They slaughtered the truth, now all beaten and bent/

They besieged heroic icons of yesteryear,
While turning common decency on its ear/
They constructed the new order, of totalitarian design
based on lies and manipulation of the worst kind/

It all came down as generations flew by.
Because what’s lost makes the knowing cry/
So welcome the new, the glorious now
It’s the One World Order where politicians cow/

To bosses unseen who wield the power
Of profit and control from their Ivory Tower/
Where are the dissidents of yesterday?
Who sang the songs that promised to slay/

Injustice, poverty, ignorance and vice ,
Their words were hollow but the glory was nice/
Now is the day where  iconoclasts are muzzled,
Speaking  truths that have the ignorant fools puzzled/

So hush, don’t say this or don’t say that.
Someone might snitch, the dirty rat!/

Getting protection from the State
Beneficiary and chooser of a cowardly fate/
Where are the Dylon’s, the songsters of protest?
When ability doesn’t matter, even for the best/

When Whitey and reason reel in geno-cide/
Because they’re the oppressors, when the truth has died/
A slow and calculated death of suffocation
A strangling of will and guilt equals desolation/

So they get the credit, those icons of ‘equalitee’
Who live behind gates, and yell ‘listen to me’/
Don’t build the wall, the world is my brother
Though I’m not home, they needn’t bother/

To knock on my door in Beverly Hills,
Think I’m going to solve these social ills?/
I’ve got a picture to make, pays ten mil.
So don’t bother me now, I’ve had my fill/

The conservatives who whine for the gloried past.
They think all good things should last and last/
But it never existed, at least not for all
They say more races have money at the mall/

But the ‘mall’ is fast closing, the lights they’re dim.
The revolution is over, it’s sink or swim/
Only the fat-rich-cats will stay above water.
The rest, hapless pigs – ready for slaughter.


tom briggs
Copyright 2018 Tom Briggs

Lieve and I boarded our train for Brussels at Antwerpen Centraal, a cathedral-like station of medieval styling with a vast steel and glass domed ceiling. The intricate stonework and painstaking detailing seem to have been created as payment to the god’s, perhaps for an eternal train  pass. It’s immense size and grandeur render all within its corridors into frantic ants. An exalted and cavernous entity where I half- expected a raven or bird-of-prey to swoop down from one of the sarcophagus-like window fittings. A gargantuan renewal and extension was completed a few years ago that has resulted in a pleasing melding of the old and the new. A great many boutiques and fine eateries are along its two level route.  No doubt one of the most impressive train stations in all of Europe.

The station’s prodigious depth was expressed when we had to take three very long gleaming stainless steel escalators down from street level to board our train. I still cannot figure out how it’s possible to descend halfway to China (ok, maybe a third) and exit from tunnel darkness into the light at street level, though come to think of it,  I vaguely remember seeing two people that looked strangely like Lieve and me, going up on another escalator during our descent. This station apparently has properties that occur only in transcendent realms.

We soon were passing  a wintery grey and uninspiring quilt of cities and farms. The stretch from Mechelen, (about half-way) to Brussels,  was a visual statement that has probably not changed since cities existed. The nearer to Brussels, the more defacement of property, the more bums on the streets, the more  displays of shoddiness and dereliction, in buildings, autos and signage. A depressing scene to say the least. But it makes Brussels no different than most other cities when entering  by train. However, Antwerp’s poorest enclaves thankfully don’t come close to what I saw. All this was in stark contrast to entering Brussels Centrum by car. Then one is surrounded by the grandeur of European architecture and style. Palaces of wealth and power, both historical and new, rise like a forest of opulence and grandiosity over a perspective-vanishing stretch of Regentlaan(D) / Boulevard du Régent (F)

Brussels main train station, Brussels Midi Zuid,  was a blur of humanity, giant lighted schedule boards and automated ticket machines. Along several walkways filtering out from the main area were dozens of fast-food restaurants and boutiques.  A sign on the floor warned to be wary of pick-pockets as we adroitly zigzagged our way about through a continuous crisscrossing of hurried pedestrian traffic. I counted five thousand, forty-nine heads bobbing on top of mostly anoraks, usually neutral in color. (just kidding) A few homeless and the requisite para-commandos on patrol, rounded out the human element. We had lunch at a veggie-joint called Greenway. Lieve and I both had a very good dressing-laden veggie-wrap. A wrap so thick  one could risk a dislocated jaw from eating it in a normal sandwich way. A knife and fork were the ticket.

When we entered the train bound for Lille,  all was quiet, with only a few other passengers on board. The interior was in fairly new condition, was litter-free and had  soft comfortable seats. I looked forward to the next forty-five minutes of conversing with Lieve, gazing at the passing countryside or reading.  A place and time to relax and think serene thoughts. Enjoy the romance of train travel. Such a short-lived expectation. A naive notion that was felled like a house of cards. Our car was soon inundated with the smiling, laughing, rosy-cheeked sons and daughters of privilege, many of them toting ski equipment.  In no time, every seat was taken. It might as well have been a city bus. The romance went out the window. Or at least the sense of relaxation.

Oh, I could still talk with Lieve, read a book or look out the window, but something had changed. Maybe if it were a crowd of touristy seniors? Of forlorn refugees? Or of hooded young street blacks? Would I then have longed for the relative merits of an inundation of twenty-something’s who had everything? Maybe this, this romance  was never possible to begin with. Maybe it was just my imagination running away with me. I might’ve been thinking of trains in old black and white movies from seventy years ago.  Because this seventy year old was longing for re-entry into a past unencumbered with the reality that it once possessed. Now that illusionary past glistens like a diamond against this, this time and world. This train. It beckoned with a beguiling smile, and said: That’s when trains sounded like trains. That’s when they looked like trains and smelled like trains. And moved like trains. The landscape went by slowly. The conductors shouted the next stop. “Willowby, next stop Willowby”  I’m damn well certain that I would’ve been as discontented or more precisely mal-contented about a whole slew of things had I been on one of those trains in 1947, at age seventy.  Back in my day only counts for my generation.

Lille, Capital of French Flanders
While we had visited Lille a few times in the past, we had always arrived by car, so this was our first time entering the city by train. The Lille station looked contemporary. I found out later that it was completed in 1993. The building is a grey, soulless, formless heap of abstraction. A concrete and steel pile of dung disguised as a railway station. A visual cacophony with ugly site lines everywhere.  No matter where you looked, nothing was pleasing to the eye.  Only a government financed project could produce such ugliness. Such alien form.  Every square inch of the place said to me that its designers and planners were well-pleased with this monument to their collective egos and vision. Most unfortunate that the proletarians who use the station would not ever get it.

Is it possible that a group of architects could be so unimaginative and so blind to aesthetic form or is it that the blueprints had to conform to the abstractionist post-modernist post-taste parameters of the Post-Christian-Post-Reason-Post-Sanity- State? There was a coldness to the place that made the February temperature of two celsius balmy by comparison. But that didn’t matter because if the station at first gave the appearance of being indoors, it was nothing of the kind. In fact, it may very well have been a degree or two colder than outside. We saw many warning type signs and I asked Lieve what they meant. Translated from the French, the signs read: You are required to wear a sullen, blank expression at all times. Failure to comply with this mandate may result in a fine or penalty.  Luckily, as is my habit in such an environment,  I was already wearing such an expression. Lieve tells me that I wear it more than I think.

Fortunately, amid this sea of alien formlessness, was a beautiful piano. There, a young lady of about fifteen sat, flawlessly playing what sounded to me like difficult classical and contemporary pieces. What a dichotomy, as beauty and form and rhythm and composition and taste and drama filtered through the pavilions and waiting areas and walkways and causeways and escalators of grey steel and concrete, all of which were devoid of those qualities. It reminded me that this train station experience could’ve been infinitely worse if Eminem-like sounds had been piped in through the speaker system.

A barren  area of some three city square blocks was at the ground floor level as one exited the escalator.  This vast, treeless, mindless concrete stretch of nothingness apparently served as a pedestrian mall of some sort. One could observe, going up the opposite escalator, an area at ground level of some fifty meters long by twenty five meters wide. This monstrosity served as some kind of pool, of perhaps ten centimeters in depth. Its water was a horrid rust colour and was decorated with all manner of debris. In the station’s near vicinity were tall buildings of an alien aspect, quite possibly designed by the same architects. No need to elaborate on that.

Ironically, only half a kilometer away (or about one hundred and fifty years away), is the other Lille train station, the Gare de Lille Flandres. This is a magnificent Neo Classical train station built somewhere between the mid and late nineteenth century. This is a building with heart and soul. There is love of craft in every brick and girder. It retains a quiet majesty and timeless beauty. A dignified and proud symbol of a by-gone time. This station is highly conducive to human beings who feel things and appreciate grandeur, visual harmony and great architecture. It invites you in, whether or not you are aware of it. If all this makes me a philistine, so be it. We only spent a few minutes there. Too bad we didn’t bring our cameras.

Lille Centre Ville has hundreds of beautiful mid-to-late nineteenth century buildings of ornate design. Wonderful and charming neo-classical structures of Beaux Arts and Baroque styling. Many painted in soft yellow or tan tones. Of course, while these buildings convey a past richness and glory, rats were still a daily menace while they were being built. I think about such things when I criticize the present too much! It also has an endless supply of boutiques and shops where corporate clothes are bought by the hordes of twenty-something’s  who come to Lille as if part of an orchestrated avalanche. After all, this is a university town. Thousands upon thousands, most not varying in age by more than five or six years, converge in the center of the city on weekends. A smattering of homeless, usually accompanied by a dog,  the inevitable Romanian beggars, or mendicants, no doubt trained at the Romanian College of Begging, a squad of four uzi-toting para commandos ostensibly there to protect everyone from terrorism, and hundreds of cafe/restaurant-goers bent on an hour or two of small talk, big talk, gossip, and other salacious verbal morsels, over  latté, Sauvignon or Kronebourg 1664.  This diversified mix rounded out the human environment.

Lille has many terrific cafés and terraces in the centre ville area. On the street where we’ve visited a few times in the past, there are some twelve to fifteen terraces, usually filled with happy people. It’s much more Parisian in character than tourist. Luckily, there weren’t too many other seventy year old Americans in attendance!  Lieve and I used to eat at a restaurant on this street called Le Chicorée, which is still there. One day around twelve years ago, Lieve had asked me to make a reservation for two people at our favourite table, table forty-nine. I approached the person behind the counter, using as many French words as possible, which was three. The rest was in English, which was not understood. Both languages were accompanied by hand gestures by which I tried to indicate that table forty-nine was upstairs. That section of the restaurant was off-limits during that time of day. This person then said something that indicated that he would check with another person. A minute later, I’m vainly explaining all over again in my three word French and useless English to this higher-up that I would like to reserve table forty-nine. So he’s nodding his head in a tentative way that suggests to me that he doesn’t know what-in-hell I’m talking about.

But then he gives me a half-smiling look of assurance, which communicated to me that he somehow miraculously understood me. Indeed, I thought he was going for a pen and reservation book. Some five minutes later, in comes a  third person, very well dressed. Very boss-looking. This boss-looking individual wore an expression and countenance that said authority, experience and stature, if not wisdom. So I went through my well-rehearsed plea for the third time. He is only speaking French, mind you. To my utter amazement, this boss-looking guy very confidently-like  grabs a reservation book and writes in my reservation. I am delighted and like a boy with a toy, I scamper back to where Lieve was waiting and proudly give her the good news, while describing the delightful time I had in arranging things. The following day we arrived at Le Chicorée at the appointed time and forty-nine tables that we didn’t reserve were ready. True story.

Return Trip I had to use the station restroom, but discovered that there was a charge of seventy-five euro-cents. I’m sorry, I don’t pay to open my fly., unless I offer to pay. It’s an insult, otherwise. So I determined to find a no-fee-pee-place.  After crossing two streets in heavy traffic, I entered the Ibis Hotel,  on the opposite corner from the station entrance-way, passing  a heroin addict curling in embryo formation on the sidewalk right in front. After a five minute search, I found the restroom, only to discover that a room key-card was needed for entry. Who could blame the Hotel for such precautions? What with long-haired seventy-year-old well-dressed Americans roaming the grounds?

So I exited and re-crossed the street, heading west.  I soon found an appropriate concrete corner. Sufficiently hidden, this had to be the vilest nook in Belgium. An epicentre of filth. A veritable shit-hole central. I reconsidered, and started walking. As I passed some forty meters under the darkly monolithic train trestle, a rusting red and white sign announced: This area is zoned for mugging. Enter at your own risk. The street was cobble-stoned and filled with litter. After another hundred meters or so,  I  entered a dingy tavern where a few haggard’s lingered over drinks and shattered dreams. I saw toilet on a door, then entered.  I almost fell down a flight of stairs, which began immediately and without warning. Into a solid black darkness I descended where I searched for the toilet. I felt somehow shanghaied, half expecting a club over the head. Miraculously I found the john and a light switch. The only light in this…..place. My business done, I then had to feel my way out in the black abyss. I offered pay the barmaid, but she kindly refused. All this for my thick-headed unwillingness to adapt to the changing times in which it goes without saying that one’s pocket will be picked here, there and everywhere.

We boarded our train without a problem, and were soon on our way. Then I saw through the train window at Brussels Nord, alabaster and olive-colored whores in  lighted store windows advertising their voluptuousness in a slum where any light, any color, any promise of pleasure, seemed a vain temporary distraction from drudgery.  But I guess the pimps must love it. And of course the Johns. I saw a giant banner that advertised: Forty Third Annual International Pimps Convention. Brussels Sharitoné  April 12-14. It made perfect sense in this European bastion of conventions. That’s it. Hey, you give me all of this grey steel and concrete and grey skies and grey-clad denizens and grey silvery rainy wind and grey food and I’m going to write grey. Color is for another day. And for another, more imaginative writer. Gratitude?  I had plenty of it for this delightfully grey day. I’m in my element of intoxicating sourness on a day like today.









tom briggs

At least three times a day, over the past eight years, I walk our dogs Pepie and Spikey. Pepie is an eight year old  black short-haired Mini-Pincher of about six kilo’s, while Spikey is ten years old and is a coffee-coloured Pincher-Jack Russell mix.  Spikey is a hefty ten kilos. I say hefty because he’s only around twenty-five centimeters in height. If my math is correct in figuring it for eight years, that’s one thousand ninety two times per year times eight which equals eight thousand seven hundred and thirty six walks with both dogs. Add to that  the two thousand one hundred eighty four times that I walked only Spikey and it comes to a grand total of ten thousand nine hundred and twenty walks. And that’s a conservative estimate because it doesn’t factor in  extra walks on weekends and innumerable vacations during that time, where the duration and frequency of daily walks was/are increased. So we’re looking at a figure somewhere between eleven and twelve thousand walks.

Now let’s have a little fun with the kilometers. The average daily Pepie & Spikey Walk or Pipey & Specky Walk (as my occasional attacks of  dyslexia inverts the names) in our neighbourhood is as follows: Two modest walks of minimally 200 hundred meters and one walk of about six hundred meters, on average.  These are round trip totals and bring the yearly total to three hundred sixty five kilometres per year. At eight years that’s two thousand nine hundred and twenty kilometers. Now let’s throw in the two years walking only Spikey. Three hundred sixty five times two times two equals seven hundred thirty. That brings the grand total to three thousand six hundred and fifty kilometres total. With those numbers, I think I know these dogs.

The Walk  It’s not aerobic walking, I can tell you. There’s walking and then there is Pepie-Spikey Walking. The latter are constituted of stop and go, standing and waiting and not infrequently doubling back a few meters when either dog needs another sniff or two to decide whether or not to leave his calling card. This appears to be their version of window shopping.  I‘ve learned to be fast on my feet when Pepie suddenly stops or crosses right in my path as I’m walking. It seems he is incapable of spatial judgement and as a result, sometimes gets his legs/paws kicked or stepped on. Lieve and I think he suffers from myopia or poor peripheral vision. Fortunately I’ve become an adroit rope-skipper, thus saving him from injury. So far. On the other hand, Spikey is in perfect sync with me, as he is adept at anticipating my movements. I also skip rope, pirouette, cross arms and hop on one leg when the leashes cross or when Pepie, wanders behind me, which is frequently. While I don’t get an aerobic workout with these two, I’ve developed the foot quickness of an NBA guard, the hand speed of a magician and have added several centimetres to my arm length. The latter as a result of both dogs pulling in opposite directions.

Territory, Curiosity and Bombs Spikey is The Master of Indecision and often takes forever to leave his mark. Like a guy in a pool hall who takes an eternity to line up a shot. First the left leg is raised. Then the right one. Then he looks right, then left. He decides ‘not this tree, I’ll try the next one’. Same routine. Right leg, then left leg. Looks around. No mark yet. Two, sometimes three trees later, he commits. I think he’s somehow contacting a special consulting agency embedded into his psyche, weighing the feasibility and complicated variables of such an action. Or weighing the long-term ramifications. Or maybe everything has  to be in alignment with the planetary system. It’s all about universal angles that only astrophysical geniuses, mathematicians and dogs like Spikey understand.

Spikey is Sherlocking when he’s walking with his nose fixed to the ground. He is searching for a very important clue, perhaps the Holy Grail of scents. Maybe some equivalent of a narcotic or some hint as to his antecedent identity. Pepie on the other hand, doesn’t want to miss anything, as his nose is everywhere, like a ball in a pinball machine. Hyper-frenetic to the max, reducing attention deficit disorder to tranquility by comparison.

On the longer walks, there are some sixty trees along the route.  Both dogs commit scores of times per day. Where is all this marking juice coming from? Is it somehow manufactured on the spot? Pepie, with his long black legs, has perfect form. Very high leg lift. Great balance. Acrobatic even. Not unlike those high-beam gymnasts in the Olympic games.  Deft, capable and athletic. All the cards show the number ten.  The dog is flawless. Sometimes Spikey and Pepie will do a ballerina gig together. While almost butt to butt, they’ll  leg-lift  as one. Beautiful symmetry and synchronicity. Score that a ten also. Spikey sometimes half-legs it or old-dogs it or trap-doors it. Meaning that he’ll lift his leg only halfway, which conveys a certain laziness or half-effort. The trap-door appears to require the least effort and differs from the other two half modes in that it creates a  little crease or fold in Spikey’s piglet-like thigh, giving the impression that his stream is somehow emanating from a hidden trap door.

On the underside of things, Pepie’s indiscriminate and wanton territorial presumptions have no equal. When it comes to leaving his mark, he defers to no one, and would lift a leg on the king’s or prime minister’s shoe if afforded the opportunity. It’s hilarious to speculate what might happen if Pepie were let loose in a Brussels chandeliered state room of antiquity, opulence and refinement, filled with the high-brows of importance and pretence. Pepie brings a bit of the hood with him wherever he goes.

Pepie squats in a kind of disciplined military by the book perfect form tripod-style when he sets to drop one. But he does so very suddenly, and occasionally leaves it vertically on the side of something,  such as a tree. Isn’t that special, that’s so cute. Or where it’s completely hidden and inaccessible.  A regular Houdini. It was just there. I saw it. Now it’s gone. Spikey is a cluster bomber  and often produces a trail of four or five products. Sometimes they indicate a letter ‘S’, ‘O’, or another letter. Is he using advanced coding? I should study this more closely. Very forensic. Both dogs will attempt to bury their offering, but spraying  one another with dirt, grass and worse is apparently much preferred to accuracy. Is each is getting even for past insults or slights? Perhaps attaching a rear view mirror to their collars is the ticket.

Spikey and Pepie sometimes go real-dogging. That’s when they attempt to eat the vilest, rancid-looking, decomposing substances available anywhere on the ground. Their genus canis wolf-like antecedents from way back had to scrounge for anything, so there you go. Food is food. Or is it more precisely like a Pollock is a Rembrandt to the blind. It’s as if they hadn’t eaten for days. Attempting to take it away from them is offering a wolf your precious fingers for lunch.  I cannot relax my vigilance, not for a second, not with these two Neo-Wolves.

Spikey is an instigator and provocateur. He’ll bark and snap out at other dogs for reasons only he knows. Even to dogs across the street, or from similar distances, he’ll aggressively bark and pull hard as if to say: Let me at him, I’ll kill him! But it’s all bluff, because I tested it once by dropping the leash. No attack. No punches were thrown.  Pepie, on the other hand, is OK with other dogs, at least until somebody says something about somebody’s mother. Then it’s an insult-laden war. Also, when Pepie sees that Spikey is upset, he’ll join in, for reasons that probably he doesn’t even remotely know. Or is it: What did you say about my brother?

Love is measured in different ways. I love Spikey because Spikey is Spikey, but I love Pepie because Lieve loves Pepie. Actually, I’ve come to appreciate Pepie, to understand and have empathy for him. So that’s love too.  Spikey is a uniquely handsome dog.  He’s also a real charmer with a circus clown’s sense of playing up to people’s reactions. He is magnetic and draws everyone’s attention. He’s also a bit of a prankster who plays the angles to get his way. Pepie doesn’t have those talents or endowments.

Pepie stands in the shadows while everyone admires Spikey. I’ve learned patience and tolerance in looking past Pepie’s short comings of judgement and recklessness. I feel for him because he is the outsider. The refugee dog.  A dog with a likely tumultuous past that nobody knows about. So if Spikey is the sun, Pepie must be the shadow. And with all of the kilometers in the sun and shadows, in the rain and snow and wind over all these years,  I never tire of walking them. And when one of them is no longer around, it’ll be a half-empty walk. Less chaotic for certain. And much less of an adventure. But I’ve been very fortunate for these past ten years, walking Spikey and Pepie. Or have they been walking me all along?


tom briggs

I remember there was a drug store on Thirteenth and West First, and the Daily Argus had a great smell when the ink was still wet and I delivered it to old people in white painted houses with shiny porches on Thirteenth and the summer of ‘60 was hot, real hot, and they had dark hardwood banisters in their houses but it looked like a dull place to live: too orderly and shiny with the smell of furniture polish wafting through the air,  because I liked the smell of model glue and paint and the dope used to stretch the model airplane paper. And Mad Magazines laying around my room and I still like paint smell. Then the bubble gum from the card pack stuck to my shoe and I got a Rocky Colavito finally, he looked confident in the shot taken at Yankee Stadium, who wouldn’t be with 43 homers, and everyone knew Schwerger’s was the place for pastry and Silver’s for rolls and Joe’s Deli for those neat little Table Talk pies. Then there was the Carvel soft ice cream stand near the Sunshine Biscuit garage where I once saw Robert Duncan, who had a marine’s neck like he was headed for Tulane as a running back or something, slap boxing with Tommy D’Nisco while the sun was setting beyond the New Haven tracks.  Where Robert & Willie Benvenuti and I used to lay large nails on the tracks and wait for them it to become a knife and it was sad, really sad about Tommy, because I saw him in uniform in Katherine’s Tavern on Fifth in 1966, I think, before he left for Vietnam. And me and my Irish cousin Johnny used to slap box too, reddening one another’s face while the candy store guy’s father looked on approvingly and  of course we all did those boyish things before then like stealing tomatoes and apples, burning tall heaps of Christmas trees and the suicidal sleighing-while-standing rides down Pearl Street all the way to the casket factory on the street with no name while the branches glistened against the purplish night sky. Then there was the parking meter straddling with the two hands, then over the top and do it right because your balls will squish like grapes if you don’t and the  Italian lemon ice melted on my arm after looking too long at Maureen’s ample pink Irish thighs. Then there was the music that played forever from Del Shannon and the Ronnette’s and with Cousin Brucie talking fast on ABC and the blizzards were fun, but adults hated them. And we threw snowballs with rocks in them at buses and close friends, then water balloons off the roof in summer and we should’ve all been in reform school.  I swear if it weren’t for the Grace of God, I  don’t know how we came out of it alive, but many did in a good way, I’m sure. But I’m still unraveling and rewinding the ball of psychological and spiritual yarn that I’ve been intermittently trapped in for seven decades and the years and decades came and went like the flashing lighted windows of a fast night train that disappeared into a tunnel and the Spaldeen I hit off of Junior Poliaka is still bouncing on the roof of Ward Leonard’s Electric Company on South Street and  I swear the fish my big brother Russell caught in the Bronx River is getting bigger all the time. And Russell was one hell-of-a jokester who made everybody laugh and the sun went down and the moon went up twenty thousand times since but Sonny Liston is still staring at me balefully from the cover of Boxing Illustrated, the one I bought in ’61 on Ninth Avenue along First Street, the magazine I loved to read, though I couldn’t fight a lick. Then Edwin Quinn got kicked in the head in gym class and died two days  later. All the kids were at Pat King’s big birthday party, except Edwin. I saw him in his room looking at his aquarium while I shied from dancing. And that wintery night when I walked past the vacant Coloruso house on Terrace Avenue. Andy Williams’ song Can’t Get Used to Losing You played on the radio in my head. The Coloruso’s were murdered, all five of them, by a guy named Hansen. The same street where Maureen offered her very personal jewels to me, a few years later. Then that kid who stood there and got smacked hard in the eye by the football I bulleted to Roy. Look, there’s  Mike Graziano getting smacked by his mother because all the Orange Crush we all stole from Bob’s  Candy Store cellar was in there. “What’s in the bag, Michael?”  And all the guys liked Bob’s wife Madeline’s tits which stuck straight out real big from her sweater. Then they had to lower gargantuan Mrs.Vertrano out of the fourth story window by special means. And Nate King Cole died and it was sadder than when Kennedy got shot. He had over two hundred suits but wouldn’t sing anymore. Then Junior or somebody lit a high pile of ashcan powder that took two days to clear from Kowell’s garage. And Doctor Panitz ordered me and Russell to write a thousand word composition on why we should attend school. I wrote that the diner where we hung out was better than Mister Altshuler’s geography class. That took up five hundred words. The rest was about how Gus’s diner served fried eggs and bacon, the likes of which were rarely surpassed. I was then told to write a two thousand word composition on the futility of writing smart-mouthed compositions.. Then that record by the Animals hit the radio in sixty four. House of the Rising Sun. All over the radio the English Invasion played. And we drove to New Jersey, I forgot why but it looked nice with the rain and red lights and neon along the Jersey Turnpike as the radio played Gene Pitney’s  Town Without Pity. Then the lights went out all over the east coast and Roy, a tall and good-looking fellow, walked a long way home from Eastchester in the dark, and bingo, eighteen months later he’s in Vietnam. Hooky from school was played casually and shamelessly in cousin Johnny’s apartment watching Bullwinkle cartoons and shooting rubber bands and cursing everything to do with school until Aunt Stella returned from work. Of course, the German butcher Gene Kramer was doing more than resting in the rear room of his store, what with perfumy Mrs. Kincher’s floppy bottom hanging and waving around. Lookout, Russell just threw a sizable rock through the New Haven Train engineer’s window, but miraculously avoided reform school. And the old Jewish lady on the fourth floor gave me a twenty-cent tip, all in pennies, with her shaky blue-veined hand for bringing her gevelta fish. And the autumn wind blew October into November and Tom Mack, the white-haired gullible and naive father of a West Pointer, always volunteered to run the store polling place… “ Schultz checks with McCarver, here’s the pitch…Mantle sends it high and deep to right. It’s going, going,  gone!” And the watery-eyed red-faced bums with too-short trousers left empty bottles of cheap wine and Mrs. Wagner’s Pie wrappers on the snowy ground in makeshift box-houses in the vacant lot near the Bronx line. Now the Christmas tree lights are reflecting beautifully on our living room window with the blackness of outside showing a little blue. Someone is out there in this black cold night, wandering, maybe lost in the mind and beyond hope is what I thought as I got ready to open a present. Did they have a tree and presents once? “Terry checks the runners, here’s the pitch, McCovey hits a line drive bullet, right at Richardrson, and the Yanks are world champions”.


 tom briggs

The first time I saw Sonny Liston was on the cover of the December 1961 edition
(35 cents!)of Boxing Illustrated. He was in a fighting pose and was wearing black Everlast speed bag gloves. He was also wearing a scowling, menacing look. He glared at me from that cover, like he was mad at me personally. Liston was the number one heavyweight contender for Floyd Patterson’s heavyweight championship. Since that issue, Liston has remained the most intriguing and compelling athlete I’ve ever seen in some fifty five years of following major sports. That covers hundreds of great athletes, including Sandy Koufax, Joe Montana, George Foreman and the greatest athlete I ever saw in any sport: Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali.

Liston was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in the early 1930’s. No one knows the exact year. At age fourteen he escaped to St. Louis from his share cropping family which included his parents plus twelve brothers and sisters. His often liquored-up father had regularly used him as a punching bag. To say that Sonny gravitated to the wrong crowd in St. Louis is an understatement. Soon the hulking youth developed into a formidable street mugger and armed robber and was eventually sentenced to five years in Missouri State Penitentiary. It was in the University of Detention where he learned how to box, earning a masters degree in jaw-breaking and rib crushing. In 1956, he assaulted a cop and did six months.

Upon his release, he hooked up with mobsters Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo, securing part-time employment as part of their shakedown and enforcement teams. He soon started climbing up the professional heavyweight ladder during the mid to late fifties, scoring impressive knock outs, usually early round, over rated fighters. One of his managers during this run of victories was mob appointed Joe Barone. Interestingly, his management team regularly matched him with tough fighters with hard punches. Liston could deliver and take, a tremendous punch.

Floyd was rather small for a heavyweight. At five feet eleven inches, he weighed between a hundred eighty five and a hundred ninety . Cus D’Amato, Patterson’s manager, made certain that Floyd stayed clear of Liston and several other hard hitting heavyweights. Liston weighed around two eighteen, some twenty five pounds heavier than Patterson. Sonny also had a tremendous reach advantage over Floyd But that was not the most remarkable difference between the two. While Patterson had fast hands and a decent left hook, Liston was a murderous hitter with either hand. Rib-cracking body shots. A right cross that would have you seeing five referees counting over you. And an uppercut that could send your mandible where your cranium was. Even when his punches landed on the arms, opponents complained of pain and soreness for weeks afterwards. Liston had fourteen inch fists. Sports Illustrated writer Mort Sharnic described them as ‘two cannon balls made into fists’. He also possessed a left jab that was described by many who fought him as if being hit with the butt end of a telephone pole. No doubt, the best left jab in heavyweight history, aided by an incredible plus eighty inch reach. Many still rate the prime Liston of 1958-1962 as one of the best heavyweights of all time. Certainly the best or second best puncher in the last hundred twenty years.

As if these endowments weren’t enough. During the referee’s pre-fight instructions in the center of the ring, Liston would stand, Reddish beside him, about two inches from the other fighter. I can still see it on television. Nose to nose. Sonny is wearing his customary white hooded terrycloth robe. His dark face is surrounded by white. The guy made Darth Vader look like a pink cupcake. He then would shake-down the other fighter with his jungle-like predators eyes. Sonny would mug him and take away his courage before the bell even rang. As his opponent walked back to his corner to await the bell, his legs were already a little wobbly.

Most impressive of Liston’s wins were his two demolitions of highly rated Houston heavyweight Cleveland Williams, 1959-60. ‘Big Cat’ Williams was a ferocious hitter with fast hands. Many fighters had ducked him. After taking some heavy punishment from William’s early assaults, Liston caught up with him, pole-axing and starching* the Big Cat in rounds two and three, respectively. One could only imagine what Patterson might’ve been thinking had he witnessed these demolitions. Check it out on You Tube. Liston Williams. One and Two.

In the high school where I went there were a few ‘Sonny’s. ’ Nobody, black or white, messed with this incarnation. They were built like grown men while in ninth and tenth grade, though they might’ve been left back a grade or two. Rumours flew that that one drove a milk truck before school or that another had three kids. They would shake you down for change on the stairwell. “Let me hold a quarter” they’d say. Horsing around in gym class, they could fracture your breastbone with a playful punch. They had that look that said ‘share something with me’. ‘Be my friend, you are my friend, and friends lend money to friends’.

Liston would do his speed bag, heavy-bag and rope skipping to James Brown’s Night Train with his head trainer, the beret-topped Willie Reddish, looking on.
“All aboard for the night train / Miami, Florida/ Atlanta, Georgia / Raleigh, North Carolina /Washington D.C. Oh, and Richmond, Virginia too/Baltimore, Maryland / Philadelphia New York City / Take it home And don’t forget New Orleans / The home of the blues /Oh, yeah, night train Night train, night train”

I’ve been to a few of those cities, and many others. Invariably the train or Greyhound bus I rode on entered the city from the poor side of town. Usually places where the Liston’s of the City hung out or were raised in. Sometimes I think I’m part black, because I can feel the rhythm in that song with a rare intensity. I can hear the crickets. I swat at mosquito’s that aren’t there. See the red lights and hear the sirens of the Man. Especially the hot summer city. Especially the night city. Especially the Southern city. This all is The Essence of Liston. Considering the milieu that Sonny came from, the Arkansas sharecroppers farm, the streets, the prison, the bullet invested world of the mob, facing a fighter who wanted to take his head off was like a vacation. “I’ll have another Daiquiri while I break this guy’s ribs with a body shot” “Ah, feels good to finally relax now, the bell is about to ring”

Patterson was articulate and sensitive. He didn’t talk like a fighter. He often sounded apologetic after beating an opponent. But he was a great fighter and he loved being a fighter. But he was better suited against fighters his own size. And he did very well against light-punching fighters. The anti-climactic results: Liston destroyed Patterson, first in Chicago in 1962, then in Las Vegas the following year. Both were first round knockouts.

In 1964, in one of the greatest upsets in ring history, Liston was stopped by Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, Liston failing to answer the bell for the seventh round. The odds for that fight were seven to one, Liston. Maybe Sonny had too many early round knockouts. Maybe he aged all at once. But could Clay/Ali have beaten the 1959 Liston? Maybe, maybe not. In 1974, in yet another huge upset, Ali knocked out George Foreman in the eighth round. The way I figure it, Ali remains the greatest heavyweight who ever lived. The only heavyweight to have beaten huge odds twice against tremendous punchers to win the title. Foreman was considered to be another Liston by many – a bigger and taller version with as much, if not more, punching power. I rate him the second or third greatest heavyweight in history. But neither had the essence, mystique, history or ability to chill the spine of other fighters quite like Charles Sonny Liston. The Night Train fighter.

It has recently been suggested that there is not enough character dialogue in my writing. This by someone very close and important to me as it gets. Also, the fact that I’ve always thought it would be great to interview Sonny Liston, here goes:

TB Sonny, I thought you were underrated, all-time.
SL Thanks.
TB It must have been tough being the son of a sharecropper.
SL Yeah. The only thing my father gave me was a beating.
TB Why did you look so mean during the referee’s instructions?
SL Cause the other fighter wanted something from me and I didn’t want to give him nothing. I wasn’t there to tap dance for him.
TB What was it like as a teenager on the streets of St. Louis?
SL Not as bad as the farm in Arkansas. I didn’t have any money then.
TB But you mugged people in St. Louis. You robbed them, using a gun.
SL That’s right. I was hungry. Plus I wanted to get even.
TB Get even? With who?
SL With life, cause the dice I was handed early on in life never won me anything.
TB What was prison like?
SL It was tough at first. But I got used to it. Boxing saved me from going crazy.
TB Did that somehow make things easier in the professional ring?
SL Yeah. That was easy compared to having guards watching me all the time
and cons asking for favours.

TB What happened in the first Clay fight? You said it was a shoulder injury, that you couldn’t go on.
SL I just said that. Clay was too fast. Too smart. He wasn’t afraid of me, like the others.
TB I have to ask this question. How was it working on the Braniff Airlines commercial with Andy Warhole?
SL It was ok. But we had to do it over and over again (laughs)
Warhole made me laugh too much.
TB So what do you think of Foreman and Tyson? Could you have beaten them in your prime?
SL Foreman was like me. Strong and he didn’t mess around. Somebody would go down, probably in a late round. Probably him. (Laughs)
TB And Tyson?
SL Tyson is crazy. He might bite my ear off. (laughs again) But he comes right at a fighter. That’s dangerous with me.
TB How did you die, Sonny? There was a lot of mystery surrounding your death.
SL It was an overdose of heroin.
TB Any regrets Sonny?
SL Yeah. I could’ve made some people happier. Especially kids. I should’ve gave them more time. Street kids like me.
TB Sometimes, I saw that in your eyes. Thanks for talking with me, Sonny.
SL Your welcome.

*Common boxing slang terms.
Stunned, as if hit with a poleaxe. / Starched, like a stiff shirt, not moving.



tom briggs

Sometime in the late eighties.

In the shadows of the 241st Street subway station, last stop on the IRT line, half an hour to Yankee Stadium. White Plains Road. DeLillo Country. The City Line twenty-four hour bakery and coffee shop. Where the bookies, hoods and dreamers  from City Island to Baychester hung out, talking about how Frankie done this, and Joey done that and how Jimmy Pepperoni got nailed for drugs and was headed for the Dannemora big house for at least ten years with good behaviour but that Jimmy never had good behaviour so forget about it. But maybe Johnny The Greaser could get him reduced, no problem. The protagonist in this story has ‘been there and done that and wishes everyone to know about it.

…..”Hear about Franky Tagliateli’s ’s kid Joey? Going to Fordham. Hey, any kid that uses the word perhaps instead of maybe is not cut out for our line of work. And not for nothing but Joey, not that Joey, but Joey The Plumber, his wife that is, makes the sweetest meatballs. Momma Mia. Better than at Antonio’s up in Yonkers. Then not for nothing again, but OTB is taking the action away from the local bookies and now the Feds and those crumbs in Albany are bigger hustlers and bums than all of the slobs in Wakefield. Look who just walked through the door! That Irish goon Mike Quinn. How in hell did he find time between hold-ups? Are you shitting me or what? Sit right here. Tell us all a tale of woe. Where you going? Hey! I was just saying…

Hey! Come here! Are you Tommy DeVino’s kid Tommy Two? You the guy that wanted to know about California from twenty-five years ago? Come over here. Sit right down. I was there when it was California. I got stories. You want to listen? Good.

I went there in sixty-four. I was twenty. Flunked the draft exam down on Whitehall Street the year before on account of eczema. I was shit-faced happy about that. I was working for a place called Wakefield Signs on 210th Street then, right under the el. It’s not there anymore. I was making good money already. Hand-lettering paper banners and sometimes trucks. Somebody there knew a sign guy from Los Angeles. Me and a guitarist named Frankie Jerome from Baychester Avenue decided to jet out there. He was a year older than me.

We rode on a seven twenty-seven. Coast to coast. First time flying. Never got the creeps from it though. Those wings cut through time like it was a tomato and the engines played a joke on three thousand miles. A few minutes after take-off, the whole city, the whole damn dirty Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island easily fit in the small window I was looking out of. I was right here at the coffee shop at five in the morning. I was in Los Angeles at two in the afternoon. Yeah, I know, the time zone changes didn’t hurt either. When I saw those orange rooftops of San Bernardino smiling up at me and all those swimming pools glittering like aqua-colored jewels, I knew I’d never go back. Naturally, I’m back now, but that’s a much longer story than the one I’m telling now. I’m just saying.

Everything was strange like in a dream. Looked nothing like the Bronx. Not even Westchester. Nothing like anything I ever saw. Another planet. All those pink and light green deco buildings and convertible cars. Those Googie signs. The kind that Huxley liked. Those wide streets. The palms shooting towards the sun. Santa Monica Pier. And Venice Beach was like an Annette Funicello movie that kept running. A carnival all year long. Three weeks later, Frankie got involved with some musicians in the Valley and I never saw him again. But I didn’t miss him. Too busy. I heard he wound up in San Francisco. That’s where everyone said to go. That’s where it’s happening, they said. Flower Power, poetry, guitars, sex and dope was happening for them. But I got good gig at Western Signs, after only a month. On Pico lettering trucks. Before the year was out, I had enough money to buy a 1956 M Series Mercury truck. Red. Good condition too. Paid seven hundred for it.

I met up with crazy Justin Thyme one day on La Brea. But that wasn’t his real name. He was lettering a window. His name was Arnold Goldberg or something. Around ten years older than me. What a fastidious bastard. Complain about a speck of dust. About anything. Come from Bushwick in Brooklyn. Did a little time in Rikers Island and Tombs for this and that. So he upped and moved to California. In fifty-nine, I think. Probably running from alimony. Or creditors. Or forgery. Or worse. Upped and joined the Krishna’s. You ought to get a load of those characters. Drifters, dreamers, schemers. Anyway, Justin lived free and easy. Usually got free board from the local temple. Moved around the state. What an operator. First in San Diego. Then Santa Rosa. Santa Barbara. Long Beach. Up and down the coast. When I met him, he had a shop in LA, compliments of Hare Krishna Temple, at La Cienega and Venice.

Hung with him for a few months. Justin always got the best weed. Knew every whorehouse from Long Beach to Daly City. The guy was a great sign painter. A real
Michelangelo. He made signs that you wanted to take home and sleep with. Signs that you wanted to walk right into. I’m not shitting you. They weren’t signs. They were events. Happenings. Mesmerizing they were. He would take a week just to prepare the signboard. Sanding, priming, painting. Drying. Sanding again. Then repeating everything a few times more. Something like the Dutch do with their doors and window frames. The surface would shine like a mirror. You could shave while looking into it. Then he would hand letter it, using One Shot enamels. That’s where I first heard about One Shot, because we always used Ronan’s in New York. That would take another week. But it looked like God made it. Or one of His right-hand sign painting angels.

One time I was lettering the door of Whiskey A Go Go on Sunset in Hollywood when I saw Johnny Rivers for the first time. Got to know him a little bit. Real name is Ramistella. Great singer, guitarist and songwriter. A legend. He even invited me for a recording session. I was there in the studio on Sunset when he recorded Poor Side of Town. A religious experience. I’m not shitting you. The guy had style. Class. Come from Louisiana. Memphis. Secret Agent Man. California Dreaming better than the Momma’s and Papa’s hit. I’m not shitting you. His stuff never ever gets old. The guy had phrasing. Emotion. Great guitar, too. Underrated something awful. The Whiskey was nothing until he made it big. Iggy and The Stooges played there. The Doors too. The Byrds. I saw them all. And the girls. They swarmed like bees that made the right kind of honey if you get my meaning. When I go, don’t send me to heaven, please. Just send me back there at the Whiskey.

Then there was the sign guy who wrote on the side. Rudy Dietrich was his name. We called him Rudy Kazootie. Real good sign guy. Knew about type and layout instead of just hand lettering. Better than most. He drank too much. First beer. Then wine. Then Mad Dog. That’s what he drank. At the end, he Short Dogged it on the streets. The little bottles. All he could afford. It got to him finally. Hardly ate. A bowl of cigarette butts for breakfast. Was full crazy without it and half crazy with it. A real shame. The guy had talent. A manuscript that nobody saw, nobody read. Thick as a phone book, it was. All about the demons of art, of love, of the abandoned soul, the alienated self. That heavy shit of what makes us all tick. After getting a little juiced, he would call in on KABC talk radio and read a satire he’d written. Got lots of laughs. He died on Jefferson one Sunday morning with the sun coming up. Laying there in the gutter. Thirty-nine years old. A frameless nameless sketch. Lost and never found. Missed for only a short while by a handful of bums from Venice Beach.

And ask me about that prodigiously talented nut case Phil Spector. OK, the guy was a musical genius. But a tough Jew with a temper like TNT. And brains. Always thought the guy was connected. Maybe Cohen’s Family bankrolled him. Who knows. Mickey Cohen was still running things Los Angeles underworld-style in those days. Maybe I was dreaming but I could’ve sworn I saw Mickey go into Gold Star one day. That’s where Spector made his Wall of Sound. A storefront right on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. I’m not shitting you. I was gold-leafing a window not two doors down the block. I was fascinated with that little store. But I never was inside. I would go by there once in a while. See who was showing up. I wouldn’t go near Spector. Not after I saw him once railing against some studio musician or poor slob technician. But I did talk with half of The Righteous Brothers one day. Bobby Hatfield was a nice guy. The king of blue-eyed soul had a simple heart of gold.
I’m not shitting you.

When I got enough money together, I opened my own shop on Montana, Horizon Signs three blocks up from the Pacific. Santa Monica was great in those days. The rent was only one hundred fifty bucks a month. Think about that. I ate at Zucky’s Deli on Wilshire and Fifth for lunch. I think it’s still there. Sandwiches. Ham and Swiss on Rye. Better than drugs. A BLT, thicker than a canned ham, was a buck and a quarter. Think about that too. Had those fabulous red leather seats. Same at Ships Diner in Culver City and a hundred other lunch joints in LA. Ships was right by the Metro Goldwyn Studios, where I lettered a few props. You would see all those TV actors coming in at Ships and Zucky’s. The ones that did all those series. Twilight Zone, Cannon, The Fugitive. I’m not shitting you. Jack Klugman, Peter Faulk Angie Dickenson. A lot of others. Everything was happening. The old and the new. I even saw Stan Laurel one day walking on Jefferson, not long after I got there. In sixty-five, right before he died. I loved the guy, but I didn’t want to bother him.

I saw a taping The Turtles were doing right in front of the LA Water and Power Building, Bunker Hill. Sixty-five, I think. I was working on a sign right across the street. They were lip-syncing “You, Nobody But You”. Nice kids. Goofing around while they did it. They were just like me, looking for the gold. They started out as nothing, right on Sepulveda, near LAX, but they found a lot more gold than I ever did. But those were the days. Golden days of flagrant youth. When courage was forged from delusions. Where dreams ripened like avocados in the California sun.
Hey, I even wrote a poem about it. I think I remember it. Goes something like this:

Those long gone LA days.
Tooling around in the warm sun rays/

In my old Merk truck, the one of red.
Now a sign on La Brea, pays good, ‘nuff said/

In the majestic light blue and tan of the city.
Though its style disappears, oh what a pity/

What a place, a regular paradise.
Even considering all its vice/

What a shame, that place on Fairfax upped and closed.
And now a few more while expectations dozed.

The sun has set, beyond the Monica Wheel,
Lovely sight, though blue I feel/

But the memories, they are mine forever.
And has LA died? Never never never!

That’s it kid. Thanks for listening. I got to go place a bet with Jimmy The Wop.
Say hi to your father for me.


tom briggs

Two huge pieces of footwear, one weighing almost sixty kilos, were hauled in from the Mediterranean Sea, seven kilometers off the coast of Villanueva Loubet, Cote D’ Azure, late yesterday. Julian Carpentier, 37, first caught a thirty-seven-kilo sneaker. An hour later, he hauled in an amazing shoe, which weighed fifty-nine kilos. Both are world records for footwear. Archeologists, anthropologists, oceanographers, criminal investigators, world media and their presstitutes, are descending upon the Riveria community known as Marina Baie Anges, to begin examining the incredible catches. Approximately half a million onlookers disguised as gawkers, pickpockets and busy-bodies have already amassed at the seaside community like so many pesky gnats.

While aboard his ten-meter inboard Jeanneau, Catch This, Carpentier had first netted a few plus ten-kilo striped bass. At about two in the afternoon, and after an hour and a half struggle, he landed the gigantic sneaker. “I felt, after landing it and observing its size and approximate weight, that I was lucky to have hooked it on the toe-end. This allowed much less water resistance.” He added: “ I’d landed footwear in the past, but obviously nothing like this. This is the highpoint of some twenty years of fishing”

Carpentier, a bagel baker from Biot who fishes these waters every week, had at first thought to have the massive footwear professionally dried and restored, then hung in his apartment as wall displays. Or to have them sliced up and given to friends for Christmas and as birthday gifts. However, he now has considered the lucrative monetary possibilities of the monumental catches. Barring any legal restrictions or jurisdiction limits, such as size limitations from Cote d’ Azure/Alps Maritime Ocean Regulation authorities. Indeed, suspicion is gathering relative to the unlikelihood of Carpentier landing such a massive object on 45-kilo test line. Nets would be the only other possible way to get them on board. And nets are illegal for private fishermen.

While initial conclusions of professional observers were that the footwear is of some promotional or advertising origin, early on-the-scene scientists, including oceanographer Dr. Christof Seafluer, MOS, and noted anthropologist Dr. Gesippe A. de Species, Ph.D., run counter to that conclusion. Their early observations are that the footwear’s material is unlike any they have ever encountered. They are intrigued by the strange molecular structure of both catches. They are also excited by the microscopic material surface deposits that indicate an alien form of DNA. The discovery will no doubt bring millions in funding to those scientists and universities fortunate enough to be selected to conduct extensive research.

Representatives from rapacious blood-sucking companies Nike, Adidas, Converse and other footwear ‘giants’ are en route. Nick Prophit, executive sales director for Nike International said: “This astounding discovery offers the possibility that a race of giants inhabit an area below the ocean floor. If that is the case, and it appears likely, we’re determined to be their supplier of footwear. A few million more slave wage workers is a small price to pay” Gideon La Monopolli, regional CEO for Adidas, quipped: “Adidas has already offered ten billion, give or take a buck, to any oceanographic organization willing to conduct a full-scale underwater investigation that guarantees results” Damian Bhotohmliny, Converse CEO, added: “We have already started overhauling our worldwide production apparatus in anticipation.” Executives for the National Basketball Association haven’t yet been reached for comment.


tom briggs
(A television news report)

“Rumors continue to swirl around the Cote d’ Azur regarding the ‘Gorilla of Ventimiglia’. But now it appears that they’re not just rumors. We spoke with several market goers, the mayor of Ventimiglia, a restaurant owner and even an anonymous celebrity. They all assure us that it is indeed true. A 200 kilo gorilla has been spotted throughout the world-famous venue.  Here are some eye-witness accounts from a few of those who were indeed present yesterday at the Ventimiglia market. Over to Jason Linquini, live in Ventimiglia”:

“Thanks Chris. Beautiful Saturday here in Ventimiglia.  Crazy day yesterday, though. Lot’s of happy faces still here.  Lot’s of excitement in the air.  A wonder what a gorilla can do. Let’s start talking with some of those happy folks who were here yesterday”…

“We were here yesterday. We come every Friday.  So we were very surprised when we arrived. We spotted the first of many signs that announced the gorilla’s presence. That and that traffic seemed heavier than usual. Translated into English, the sign roughly read: Gorilla on Foot Patrol (big letters) Do not be alarmed. (slightly smaller) He is an important temporary member of the Ventimiglia Market Police Force. Carry on with your normal shopping. Please do not feed, photograph, distract or attempt to converse with him. (much smaller) Penalties for these infractions start at €150,00 for all non-Senegalese and Pakistani persons.  (you need reading glasses) The above message was blared over loud speakers as well, in Italian, French, and English at regular ten-minute intervals, throughout the market. It added a somewhat disconcerting and unwanted edge of authority to an already uniquely novel market experience”.
Menton resident, Pierre Lafollett

“We learned at the info booth that the ape was added to the force for his remarkable agility and uncanny crime prevention instincts. I guess to help cut down on littering, illegal games of chance, shoplifting and such. I guess his size and potential for violence played into it as well. My wife and I witnessed one episode involving an elderly white-haired woman of a certain girth running as best she could, at that age, with the gorilla in hot pursuit. We heard screams in the commotion as the gorilla easily caught up with her, then quite casually stood in front of the culprit with his arms crossed. Funny, it looked like he was saying  “come on, hand it over”. He was waving his right index finger. Sort of like a grade school teacher. Damnest thing I ever saw.  The slack-jawed  woman complied as she handed over three watches and half a dozen shawls. But the gorilla kept on with his wagging finger. She then relented by handing over the remains of her day’s larceny – a pair of women’s shoes, two cigarette lighters and a beach towel with an Elvis portrait on it. Both of them then just walked on in opposite directions, like it was nothing.”
Billy Bob Williams, Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA

“We seea the gorilla in many places. We thinka maybe that there are many of him. At half pasta one, we see himma by the fountaina. He wassa throwing orange fruita over hissa  head. He then kick it witha his heel! It go over his head and he catcha with hissa righta handa! He thenna peela the orange. Everybody happy about dissa. Theya laugha. We too.  Later, he starta talking witha all the Senegalese! They, all of dema, theya  laughing and maka high five with himma. Theesa not normalla! We love thissa gorilla!”
Antonio Parmasiani, Ventimiglia resident.

“While budgetary considerations were an issue to add the ape to our force, the unfortunate inefficacy and misfeasance of several of the Ventimiglia market police was the prime reason for the experiment. With the market force reduced by some 40% on as yet to be determined future market days, the city will save upwards of €250 thousand per year with the ape on duty. More than a few vendors that I spoke with hailed the move, as theft and littering have been growing concerns.  While the publicity potential for the market was not a reason (really?), we certainly are aware of its advantages.  Incidentally, this remarkable  ‘deputy’ has scored very well on the intelligence tests that are administered to all deputies.  The gorilla outperformed many veteran officers as well as new recruits. Of course his huge strength, quickness and intimation potential is a big plus in the fight against crime, though we are assured by his trainers that he will never resort to violence”
Nino Zucchini Alfredo, Mayor of Ventimiglia

“I seeya fromma my restauranti. Thissa gorilla, he issa facinata witha the Pakistani toys. You knowa, the kinda thata turna into a frieda egga when you throwa atta the sidewalk. He looka  at thissa a many times, because the doll, you know, it comma back fromma a fried egga to a dolla. Thissa funny, but I no likka thissa gorilla. Maybe he throwa somebody to the sidewalk and waita to see iffa they maka into a frieda egga. Dissa I no likka. I no likka why the policia maka him a duputia and do dissa thinga”. I donta serve himma, thissa gorilla, if he comma into my plassa”
Luigi Bambino Meatiballi, Ventimiglia restaurant owner

“I like it. I saw the primate yesterday. Exquisitely beautiful. Charming even. The eternal majesty of primordial rhythm. The sublime otherness. It’s good for Ventimiglia. It’s good for Italy. It’s good for the world. For the universe, maybe. I love this place. Life is good. I’m good. You’re good. Ya got to keep it simple. Screw complexity. Burn it. Blow it up. I’m everything and I’m nothing. Everything is nothing. I gotta tell Martin about this. Maybe a picture. Who knows. Existential message in all this. Could be big. Shame Hunter couldn’t see it. He’d have run with it big. Hunter was crazy. Gonzo crazy. I gotta go. Cut some grapes. Make some wine.  Savour some boeuf bourguignon. Some coq au vin. Fine dine. Do a gig. Shoot a reel. Do a deal. Do a line. Make more wine. Live life. Love life. I gotta go. That’s enough for today”.
Johnny Depp Actor (incognito)

“ We saw him on the bridge. It looked like he was communicating by gesturing with the Romanian concertina player. Suddenly the music stopped and we never heard it again the rest of the day. (brother, do we need that ape in Antwerp) Then he quickly turned and climbed over the balustrade and leaped some fifteen feet to the ground below. He then disappeared behind some tall shrubs. I guess to take care of his natural needs. When he reappeared, he started picking up debris of all shapes and sizes.  ‘Yeah!’ I heard a few in the crowd yell. ‘Trash left by members of another two-legged species’, somebody said. He was moving really fast, arranging it on the ground. After around fifteen minutes, we all could make out the word ‘pigs!’ in lettering a meter high. Everyone started clapping loud and long.”
Dr and Mrs Ernesto Davilo, tourists from Peru

“That’s it from Ventimiglia for now. Back to you, Chris”.

“Thanks Jason. Great job. We just received word from anonymous sources that the ape ’s acquisition and duration as a special police deputy will remain secret. Only that he will work the market on unannounced selected Fridays. It remains doubtful that this uncertainty will keep the avalanche of humanity from inundating the City by the Roya every Friday. We’ll keep you folks posted on this amazing story as details come in.  In other news….”


tom briggs

Our ten day winter Marina visit was one quarter filled (don’t quote me on that, could’ve been a little over a third) with adventure, approximately one quarter misadventure and the rest filled with the usual predictable expectations. In week two, on a partly grey afternoon in Juan Le Pin, Lieve, I, Spikey and Pepie encountered, or more precisely were accosted by, a  wind storm of bad intent. Getting out of the car to face that meteorological event was a test of upper arm strength or stupidity or both.

As  palms swayed elastically, like in a cartoon, and violence besieged the slate-grey Mediterranean, we  walked, as if up a steep hill, straight into the whistling abomination towards a lunch place on the boardwalk. The wind seemed  determined to  take anything that wasn’t nailed down  (or bolted, glued, but not necessarily items affixed with Velcro tape) into a Wizard of Oz-like vortex of unknown destination. The slashing, metallic knife-like (OK, it could’ve been razor-like) waves danced crazily towards the beach and boardwalk, daring anyone fool enough to enter. The incongruous sun, seemingly observing all this, disdainfully laughed, and said “don’t look at me” while puffy, cuddly high up pinkish clouds yawned with indifference. This dichotomous meteorological  joke was on all who ventured out into the tumult.

Marina Baie Des Anges was peopled by the usual suspects, both resident and gawking anorak clad Yankee-ball-capped visitor types. Philippe and Mark, the two gays who run Lieve’s favourite eatery, the smallish quirky and garish Victoria Restaurant, were gracious as usual. Mark, the rotund one, laughs at everything. It’s all a big joke to him, lucky guy. Geeze, if they could distribute some of his laughter around the world, what a wonderfully hilarious place it would be. Hardly any time for strenuous thinking at all. The ponderous but Teddy Bear affable  Philippe creates great, simple dishes with the best and freshest ingredients, though for this New Year’s offering, the gastronomical compass curiously pointed towards Lunch Garden.

Their  New Year’s party was attended by some forty characters, (squeezed in the small joint like so many sardines) disguised as regular people. The veritable Three Penny Opera cast enjoyed the attendant hoopla celebrating, for God knows why, the New Year. Noise makers, hats, loud music, cold potatoes and chewy steak all welcomed 2018 in. Some were ‘dressed to kill’, others ‘dressed to the nines’, still others were attired in the commonest clothing, as though work-bound and  ready to board a creepy city bus or subway car. Lieve was stunningly beautiful and dressed appropriately for a much higher venue/extravaganza/soiree. Me? I was just sitting there not drinking, as usual, enjoying Lieve’s joy. That, and observing the benign madness that enveloped me.

Ventimiglia was a blustery, wintery experience, but fun as always. Lieve took many great photos there. Especially of the surfers on the Big Sur-like waves that appeared to be a few meters high. Scores of onlookers invariably messed up the best shots, though. We stayed one night at the  ironically named Calypso Hotel.  The manager/owner eyed us with suspicion as we registered. I suppose anyone talking with an American accent while his head is buried in his hood would warrant such wariness.

Of course we ate again at La Vecchia Napoli, (at the foot of the River Roya bridge) where Bruce Willis is the chef. At least that’s what Lieve calls the chef. Try to picture someone who never smiles nor blurts out three consecutive words, wears a white apron, has a bald pate that shines like a mirror, is built like a tree trunk with four thick limbs, has fingers like sausages, is usually carrying a large sharp knife while bearing  a slight resemblance to the movie star and you got it.

While going to our car to exit the municipal parking lot near the police station, we witnessed an altercation between a thirty-something Frenchman of slight to medium frame and a fiftyish Moroccan who was taller and heavier by some twenty kilos.  As the Frenchman was backing out, the Moroccan tapped his horn to avoid a rear/frontal collision. The former took offense to this perfect logic and harangued the latter with racial insults. Lieve was ready to step in between them. My feeling was let them settle it themselves. A shoving/pulling match then ensued, with the livid purple-faced Moroccan getting the better of it. This lurid entertainment only lasted a few seconds, as both Lieve and I stepped between.  We now rightfully qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize. When one considers some of the charlatans who have been honoured with that dubious award, we’re on the short list.

Recovering from a spectacle laced with international implications, we headed towards  ‘Catering’, the grocery store for restaurant owners, only a few kilometres away.  Philippe (yes, that Philippe) had asked Lieve to pick up some ‘Jambon Cru’ (I love the sound. A rock band, perhaps?) He assured her that while she couldn’t use his membership card, she didn’t need one and would only be charged an extra euro to make purchases. I waited in the car while Lieve shopped. After about twenty minutes, she returned crying. “What happened?”, I asked, as I tried to calm her. Lieve replied that she was told by store personal that she did indeed need a membership card.

She immediately called Philippe to explain the situation.  His curt response amounted to a  very convincing impersonation of a jerk and an asshole  “I’m very busy now. I haven’t got time, bye” “Don’t call me when I’m busy” A more wanton display of ingratitude we have never encountered. And from a friend.  When we arrived back at the Marina we immediately confronted him. After several minutes, his apologies started to leak out and before long turned into a veritable waterfall of remorse.  We didn’t accept his offer of a free dinner, but took him up on his whole-hearted and magnanimous offer of free drinks for the next five years.

(Just kidding)


tom briggs

While E.M. Cadwalada (American Thinker, Dec. 20, 2017) outlines some plausible scenarios that might occur in another USA Civil War, I think he is a bit naive in his assessment and understanding of what the main character that ‘war’ will be. Since all institutions, including the military in the USA have been forced during the past several decades into a new species of compliance (political correctness), it won’t take much to force the last bastion (white/conservative rural/suburban) into compliance. Once that is achieved the war, a largely bloodless war, will be over.

While there well may be sporadic armed uprisings, they likely will be futile. I think measures have long been in place that assure that a left wing authoritarian system will be permanently in place when the smoke clears the room. It also depends upon one’s definition of the term ‘civil war’. That term, I believe, was used to describe the Russian Revolution of 1917. To further assure that the rural areas (mostly white regions) fall into eventual compliance, possibly a domestic army, composed of early-release prisoners, gang members and other minority thugs will be organized. This may well take several years. It will be called the ‘Peoples Peace Keeping Army’. Impromptu visits to rural/suburban communities will likely be non-violent at first. Their mere occasional presence will instil the desired fear and intimidation. Look to history’s revolutions to understand the likelihood of this occurring. The further demographic reconstituting of rural and suburban America, as evidenced by massive infusions of immigrants, will continue.

Since the totalitarian eggheads behind closed doors have thought about this long ago, the trick will be to continue to throttle the rural and suburban white classes. Of course, many minorities will be expendable in the big picture. This demolition has been in full gear for decades and will continue. The fact that local police departments are being supplied at greatly reduced cost with high powered military weaponry is significant. It is also a fact that vast detention camps have already been built across the USA. It is a fait accompli because most, if not all, institutions and cities, towns, counties have been co-opted by Neo-Marxist doctrine, to one degree or another. Agenda 21 being one example. Federalization of police and garbage control being others. Protest(s) from those ‘white’ areas will be insignificant smatterings in the big picture. Kidnappings of politicians and bombings of government buildings might be considered, but will only delay the inevitable for a short period of time.

Creative ways will be studied to further demoralize those areas in question. Among them will likely be regional price fixing and various shortages of staples under the rubric of an invented crises for the occasion. Once the final ‘softening up’ achieves compliance, the ‘civil war’ will be over with nowhere near the carnage that has characterized history’s other ‘uprisings’. Unless the targeted segment comes up with a brilliantly creative solution to at least delay the inevitable for a few more decades, the game is up.

Commerce, including food supply and the internet will be largely unaffected (in urban areas), except where desired (rural and suburban) The US military has long ago been reshaped by PC, and it will continue to operate, business as usual, in its hegemonic insatiability, regarding foreign policy.


Anniversary day, the Twenty third,
that day in August, I received the word/

From Lieve of Antwerp, a beauty with shine
who answered my ad in Senior Friend Find/

She took me away, as if by wings not seen,
to a place in her heart, that could only mean/

My once empty life is now full to the brim
with love and adventure, but where is she,
Oh yes, she’s gone for a swim!/

But I rejoice in glee, that she stays so young,
and keeping me happy, while she’s playing her Kung(s)!


Thanks, Mom and Dad, for all the wonderful Thanksgivings back in the sixties and seventies at 253 West First street. Those were priceless occasions of joy and family togetherness. The food never stopped coming out of the kitchen and onto the table. Outside, the wind blew and the leaves sailed fast against and past the window. Uncle Artie cracked a joke and everyone laughed. Then everyone laughed at anyone. Aunt Stella asked for more turnips and I piled high the white meat on my plate. Johnny bought in two Schaefer’s from the fridge. Gene and I went and got more beer, after stopping at City Line Bar. Laura drew a horse and said she would ride it one day. Lorraine said “look, it’s starting to snow” A small argument momentarily sullied the afternoon and the wind blew harder and I heard Pat Summerall bellow “as the clock is winding down at Pontiac Stadium, Bear’s thirty-seven, Lions, three” The whole thing lasted forever or until everyone went home.

The living room light was warm and the laughter was too/
But the sky turned grey and my thoughts to blue/

For I saw high on a limb, across the yard,
a bird of black whose gaze looked hard/
He stared at me with beaded eye,
a forlorn look and I wondered why/

It announced a gloom, it seemed to me,
A portend I dared not wished to see/
The moments spent at the table that day,
were to live past the lives of the guests in a way/

At first, I concluded, as if at a chance meeting,
Love, live and laugh, for it is all so fleeting/

But I then inferred as if through a strange portal,
the only things that are truly immortal/
Are those moments spent together in love,
carried here and forever on the wings of a dove.

A bird so opposite of the one I just saw,
in the yard on the limb, in the wind so raw/

Not all is understood in the white of Light,
One has to see in darkness to attain the might/

That serves so well, in times of travail
of loss, and pain and spirits that fail/

For white makes black and pain makes pleasure,
and time is the guest that we all should treasure/

At the dinner table, we set in haste,
or of time ill spent that went to waste/

For better things are in the offin’,
before you get nailed shut in your coffin/

So show gratitude and mercy to stranger and kin/
to evade the demons you once invited in.


tom briggs

Neil Young, who recently flipped the bird to president Trump, has reached iconic status over a fifty year career by writing crappy song lyrics then singing them in a crappy soulless, whining voice.  A regular fingernail-on-the-blackboard sound that would be better excused if accompanied by great lyrics. I am truly exasperated that he maintains a huge following, by mostly educated people, no less. I must be deaf. Or blind. Blind as the guy who embarrassingly gazes at an absurdly minimalist painting and misses the deep hidden transcendent meaning that all of his enlightened friends see in it.

For my money, Neil The Squeal Young edges out Jim Morrison as the most overblown so-called poet of pop music since the mid-20th century. They both could win the Jackson Pollock of Music Lifetime Achievement Award. You might ask who-the-hell am I to criticize a musical icon? A nobody like me? While I’ve  never made a dime from writing, please excuse me for having a brain, a pretty good ear, a passion for great writing and almost fifty years of appreciation of top forty music. I haven’t listened to or read all of Neil Young’s hundreds of songs, (Better things to do, like clip my nails) and maybe he has written a few that are good,  but just by surfing  lyrics.com and other lyrics sites I detected a pattern of inanity loaded with vapid, silly, juvenile, insipid and laughable phrasing all punctuated by an overall lack of imagination and innovation.

I’ve naturally heard many of his hits (while a member of CSN&Y) and none of them are in my personal top thousand. Young’s lyrics are not so bad, some might argue. Especially when you compare them with some Gangsta Rap “lyrics” that promote killing whitey, burning the USA to the ground and demeaning and abusing women. Maybe they could then be called benignly mediocre. But if you compare them with  hundreds of other song writers, they are indeed bad. Very bad.

For some seriously beautiful, heartfelt, sobering, truthful, wise, simple, funny, happy, forceful, ironical, witty, sad  and intelligent lyrics, I recommend Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Leiber and Stoller, Allan Lee Gordon, Burt Bacharach, Neil Diamond, Ray Davies, John Fogerty, Berry Gordy, Ron Argent, Carole King, Simon & Garfunkle, Bobby Gentry, Don McClain, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Sting, and several hundred others.

I have such a visceral dislike for this guy, that I think I’ll write a song about him. “A guy named Neil, he of the squeal;  pulled a rabbit out of a hat, sang to millions ‘glad you liked that’; Words of a child, notes far worse, this bloody so-called singer is a musical curse; He’s a pompous ass, the worst of his kind, writes  so bad, they should issue him a fine; They swear he’s  a legend, his fans are agape, but I tell you as I stand here, he sings like an ape; His tortured phrasing, his butchered  notes, he’s a drunk in a musical China shop, I’d rather  hear the coyotes…

I admire many lyricists and singers who doubtless hold a left wing world view, particularly writers from the famed Brill Building in New York. However, my observations, from the people that I’ve met, clearly show that the leftwing musical compass always seems to point in one direction. That direction includes Young, John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, African music, especially Youssou N’Dour, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac and many others. I suppose I’m showing my age by excluding any artists post 1980’s.  I’m certain though, that AT readers can add to the list.


tom briggs

Lieve and I witnessed a dazzling, glittering, hopelessly kitschy spectacle at the Marina last night. Johnny Kool, Johnny Soul, Johnny Rock, Johnny Rhythm, Johnny Be Good, otherwise known as Johnny Vegas (and his band) put on a hell-of-a-show. The very alter-image of the French legend Johnny Hollyday, Monsieur Vegas, in full Post-Elvis-Post Hollyday, Post-Authentic regalia was the sublime affectation of the Real Thing that the crowd was waiting for.

One could reasonably conclude that this latest incarnation slowly morphed into the Legend, never to return to his former self, or that he was born with sideburns, swaggered before he could walk and donned a leather jacket at least a few months before he first sat on a toilet. He threw away the rattler and the bottle for sequins and a mike at six months.

Amid the multi-coloured puffed steam that swirled through the warm June night air while his  wax-like glossy face and shoe-polished black hair glistened in the  bright overhead lights, Johnny and his band wailed away through one electrically charged pop hit rendition after another. Included in the medley were the inevitable Elvis, Neil Diamond, and  CCR hits. The appreciative Marina throng consisted of those standing shoulder to shoulder twelve deep around the platform and hundreds who were seated on the Parthenon-like stairs of the Commodore-Ducal entrance way. You couldn’t slide a Visa card between them.

During intermission the crowd was treated to a Theater of the Absurd-like exercise disguised as group dance performance. Dozens of seniors, attired in colourful dress, were energetically lost in a kind of Arkansas barn or line dance –  amazingly to the music of Stevie Wonder’s “superstitious” I scored the intermission show nine of ten on the Fellini scale and still cannot determine if it was the highlight or the lowlight of the evening.

Halfway through the second half I did a double-take as Jimi Hendrix tapped me on the shoulder. Convinced  that I was on something I didn’t know about or dead, I stupidly blurted out: “Are you a Jimi Woodstock like Vegas is a Hollyday” He snapped back with “What you on, dude? I play real music. Where can I get some rock candy, some base, some nuggets?”  He then disappeared as quickly as he had appeared, while the air still hung heavy with vapors of the joint he was smoking. Naturally, Lieve didn’t see or smell anything, though she admonished me in no uncertain terms for talking to myself. But we both agreed that Spikey was barking and Pepie was growling.

Other band members included an utterly miscast grey-haired 50ish guy who played the sweetest delta blues harmonica. He looked like he belonged behind a desk of an insurance company. Then there was a twenty-something long haired shirtless leather-vested electric guitarist, the type that keeps reappearing in untold numbers of rock bands down through the ages. He was real good. A sax player and a drummer offered their soul, skill and considerable energy to the two hour gig to round out the ensemble.

I  must say that the show was well worth the price of admission which was free. Wise cracks aside,it was a great show!



Like a rogue wave it came. All in its path at its mercy.

In the game of slight-of-hand played by the left wing State controlled media, all focus is on bad white cops, the KKK, the Extreme Right Wing and ISIS. But beware of a most well kept secret. It’s my guess that United Gangs (of USA), also known as the Crips and the Bloods, will one day reign terror upon the citizens of the USA. They have for decades terrorized fellow blacks in most all major USA cities. The media silence about this is not just a dereliction of journalistic duty, it amounts to moral treason and racism of the ugliest kind.

It’s not a stretch to speculate that the cultural elites will then possibly summon the Mexican gangs to double the ranks of this new People’s Revolutionary Army. The Marxist/Corporatist regime thus armed, will then devour what is left of USA free society. Unlimited funding will be at their disposal. Money, women and drugs will be the magical enticer for enlistment.

Listen to some of the lyrics of Gangsta rap and hip hop. I dare you. The words of the prophets are written in those ‘songs” and most of us are, or wish to be, utterly blind to it. A bunch of ostriches . Or rabbits. Or spineless denizens of indulgence. Take your pick. These are lyrics that a sane person of any race would call hate speech. But as in Animal Farm, some are more equal than others. Some groups are charged with hate speech and others are not. Guess who is never charged with hate speech?

Of course, the power that comes with a government “uniform” will manifest in random acts of terror, assaults and rapes of whites particularly, but of hapless members all races. It will all be an added incentive. This already has been in abundant evidence over the past several years in thousands of cases of black on white violence, gang related or not, that go unreported by MSM. The Knockout Game and Flash Gang takeovers of shopping malls and other public venues go unpunished by Obama’s corrupted Justice Department. That once august institution has become a sad oxymoron.

This is free speech that you’re reading, but I will be accused of writing hate speech by many. This might get me into serious trouble. In a dictatorship, the truth, or unpopular speculation of a highly plausible truth, always will. All totalitarian systems desire that the people they supposedly represent and govern, have an alien conscience. That is, a conscience that is implanted in them by The State. A conscience that eventually devours their former or ‘host’ conscience. A conscience that has been built or rebuilt with the unrelenting lies and double meaning and newspeak of The State.

The Russian Revolution had Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka, the forerunner of the KGB, many of whom were released violent prisoners, social misfits and psychopaths. The USSA (United Socialist States of Amerika) will have at its disposal the Peoples Black Army. In a diabolical repeat of history, its ranks will be swelled by the wholesale release from prisons of minority violent offenders. A possible merging with other gangs might be named The People’s African Reconquista Revolutionary Army of gang members and drug dealers. Either way, they will be the unofficial or de facto domestic army of the State.

The National Guard, if it still exists, will have by then been thoroughly neutered and will be relegated to keeping the peace and offering assistance in natural disasters. It will thus be a mere spectator to the terror of the State domestic army, while maintaining an appearance as the official domestic army. The State Media, that way too many take as fact, is the equivalent of a sugared, chemically laden completely artificial breakfast cereal. Malnourishment of the intellect and soul is the result. Soon, enough will be malnourished. Open borders to the Third World increases the development of more malnourishment. It also makes citizenship worthless, increases social instability and guarantees a support base for anything anti white, anti European, and anti Western Culture. But citizens of all races will be the victims of the people’s domestic army, make no mistake.

When the time is right, and that time is sooner than you may think, when anarchy prevails, The State, in its imperious duty to restore order, will summon its domestic army to protect us all from one another and to guarantee that we all think and act in accordance with the best wishes of that self anointed body.


tom briggs

Frankie carried a switchblade because one was allowed.  He wore government CorpState-sanctioned oil-stained clothes, the kind with the Ché logo on them.  He was a Punkrebel, who was ready for anything the feds cooked up. Frankie liked the idea of “edging” and living close to death.  He said he did.  And I thought and talked like he did. The government shot real rebels but designated others like us,  as a sort of unofficially-sanctioned ‘rebel’  To the degree that we rebels distained civilized history and reason, logic and art, family and tradition, we were allowed a certain free reign.

Our two tickets cost two hundred eighty-nine demerits apiece on our cash card and that was for the back seats, over 350 feet away.  I had been to GangstaHit a few years ago in Hayward.  Three kills in that one. On the field that is. I think almost two thousand went down in Grand Stand Jam.  A third of the government armed escorts had arrived late.
I knew this would be good. The first place LA Crips were taking on the third-place Kansas City Bloods. They expected 50,000 or more.

The NFL, the CorpState’s  old game, went passé long ago.  GangstaHit is it for adrenalin and testosterone.  And for death.  The big beer companies and fat bureaucrats saw it coming and are making trillions. Nobody walks on the edge like at GangstaHit. On the field or in the stands.   Since the race riots were stopped by martial law, the big hitters behind closed doors decided that money could be made if the whole thing, the riot thing,  went commercial.

We get the rush, us Marin County punks, knowing we may not make it out of the stadium alive.  Living with one foot in eternities door is the only way they say. But we’re really here to get points on our safety cards.  Someone way up there thought of that one. White boys from money had to show something more, prove something. Participate in something dangerous to show what they were made of.  Too much safety, too much comfort, and you could be sentenced to hard labor.

Looked like there were plenty of escorts today. We found our seats while the hip-hop shook the building. The Gangs were warming up, swinging chains, fist fighting one another. The two shooters were taking target practice. Blood’s shooter Kool Papa Ice led the league in kills. He had twenty-six and there were still over ten Blood matches to go in the season. He could break the record.

The Event helicopter, with the giant BankCorp logo on it, hovered above the field. Violations were answered with precision laser shots. They could take out a gangsta or spectator for over a month. GetItOn started and right away Kansas City had three half hits. Crip’s  were down everywhere. This set the pattern for the remainder, and the final was six to two Kansas City.  A big upset.  Four full hits. The Bloods bled, the stadium emptied and we went home with three hundred thirty-four safety points. More than could be said for over a hundred – the tote board flashed – that didn’t make it, in Grand Stand Jam – but that’s GangstaHit.


BY DARREN JONESCU  americanthinker.com

“What was once unthinkable is now unstoppable,” boasted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More ominous words were never spoken.

Ban was congratulating himself and nearly two hundred of his global elite cohorts on their achievement in signing the Paris Agreement on climate change. In classic progressive style, however, his pep rally sloganeering was also a none-too-subtle threat, à la “Forward.” For as the Agreement makes perfectly clear, the “what” that was once unthinkable, but is now seemingly unstoppable, is the world’s drunken march into international neo-Marxism, aka global tyranny.    More




Since the Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, leading progressives, inspired by the coincidence of the attacks occurring in the host city for an upcoming climate change conference, have tried to exploit the anguish caused by terrorism to promote their global governance agenda. In a classic instance of never letting a crisis go to waste, these amoral snake oil salesmen, from leading Democrats to Prince Charles, have insisted we acknowledge a link between global warming and terrorist violence. Continue reading



Yebbit and Yabbit (without their ‘Boys’) left of center, front row, with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra before singing & playing Tin Pan Alley favourites and Madagasgarian compositions at the Roxy Theater opening in New York City, March 11, 1927. Over five thousand were in attendance. (AP Wirephoto)  


The musical duo sensation, mostly forgotten today,  were spotted in Madagascar by the enterprising adventurer and traveler Carl Denim in 1919. A music fan all his life, Denim immediately saw the commercial possibilities in the exciting rhythms of native music of the island nation. Brought to New York the following year, Yibbit & Yabbit and five of their fellow native musicians signed a contract with Owney Madden five years later. Madden was a notorious bootlegger  and owner of Harlem’s famed Cotton Club.  Yebbit & Yabbit first performed at the storied  nightclub in June, 1925 and were an immediate hit.  At times they drew larger (white only) crowds than the big name regulars of the club’s heyday like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Fats Waller. Continue reading


JENNIE DE ANGELIS    americanthinker.com

America is now learning that on the painful road to ‘fundamental transformation,’ Barack Obama has plans to diversify suburbia. The president’s suburban justice plan is one where HUD tracks the racial and religious composition of American neighborhoods and then, doing away with the choice of established populations, makes changes to reflect Barack Obama’s vision for a fairer, more equitable nation.  Continue reading



Class conflict once seemed so straightforward. Marx and Engels wrote in the second best-selling book of all time, The Communist Manifesto: “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” (The best-selling book of all time, incidentally, is the Bible – it only feels like it’s 50 Shades of Grey.) Read More



The United Nations Agenda 21 has quietly changed the makeup of our cities and rural areas through highly questionable tactics, clothed in lofty adjectives such as “smart growth” and “sustainability,” as we’ve written previously. Agenda 21 activists have quietly initiated laws that allowed the government to confiscate our land, water, private property, and wilderness areas. Their ultimate goal is to strip Americans of personal rights and freedoms, creating a socialist future and eventually a one-world government.  Not a pretty picture!   More…



The USA has been going to hell in a hand basket long before Obama came along. Much of what Obama has done as president, such as bureaucratic expansion, massive third world immigration and the selling out of the American worker, differs very little from what the Clinton and Bush administrations produced. However, his associations, past and present, indicate that his ideology is much farther to the left than any president before him. Continue reading


MICHAEL GRABLE     americanthinker.com    

A long story in The Desert Sun (a Palm Springs daily) recently manufactured a lake out of a puddle in California’s perennial water problems.  Maybe it’s just Governor Moonbeam’s gang feeding propaganda to the fourth estate, but it’s a good example of how government regulation and media indoctrination so often contrive to strain at capitalist gnats and swallow collectivist camels. Continue reading


CLARICE FELDMAN americanthinker.com

To entertain the citizens of Rome, circular arenas – circuses — were built to house staged events of various sorts, including the slaughter of Christians. After Rome fell, itinerant performers took their shows on the road offering somewhat less grand, but still popular, entertainments.    More



MATTHEW HOFFMAN     The Free Market 10, 1992

Eco-socialists have to find some way to “Sustainable foist their ideas on the public. The term “socialism” doesn’t sell anymore, but there are proxies. One is “sustainable development.”

Like most left-wing verbiage, sustainable development is designed to sound like something everyone wants. Unmentioned is who decides what development is and isn’t sustainable. Not entrepreneurs and consumers, but government.

This variant of central planning was conceived at a U.N.-sponsored environmental
read more




BY FRED SINGER    American Physicist

My background is basically European — and more specifically, Western European.  I have lived and worked in many of those countries, and I know most of the major cities intimately — from Stockholm in the north,
Read More…

Fred Singer is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project.  His specialty is atmospheric and space physics.  An expert in remote sensing and satellites, he served as the founding director of the US Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the US National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere.  He is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute and the Independent Institute.  He co-authored the NY Times best-seller Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 years.  In 2007, he founded and has since chaired the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), which has released several scientific reports [See www.NIPCCreport.org].    


By THOMAS SOWELL   www.news.investors.com

Just what happened last week on Election Day? And what is going to happen in the years ahead?  The most important thing that happened last week was that the country dodged a bullet.

Had the Democrats retained control of the Senate, President Obama could have spent his last two years in office loading the federal judiciary with judges who share his contempt for the Constitution of the United States. Read more…



PETER WILSON  American Thinker

Deaths from natural disasters are traditionally considered “acts of God,” or “acts of nature,” beyond human control. This view is being challenged in a French trial where prosecutors have charged a small-town mayor with manslaughter for deaths caused by storm flooding. The precedent of criminalizing weather-related deaths would delight climate-change activists who increasingly call for criminal trials of anyone skeptical of their agenda. More…