Archive for the ‘Childhood’ Category

A Manhattan Christmas Story

December 21, 2016

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NOTE: Not long ago we received this memory from an unnamed Hell’s Kitchen writer, who assures us that his neighbors all pass him on the street every day… without ever seeing him.

When my kids were little, long before I became what I am now, which is a booze-hound, Christmas time was always something special. It still is special for me ‘cause they haven’t yet closed down all the soup kitchens. The City Fathers missed a couple of soup kitchens in their drive to improve the quality of life in this town by killing off everybody who doesn’t work three jobs and make a hundred grand a year just to pay the rent. So I can still look forward to a meal of turkey with trimmings in some church basement somewhere. Along with the food, the do-gooders give us bums little Christmas presents. It’s nice. Don’t you like getting presents? I do. Last year I got some Old Spice and a soap on a rope. It was green and shaped like a seahorse. I liked the way it smelled. But I accidentally left my soap hanging in the rooming house bathroom down the hall one day and that was the last I saw of it. I don’t know why, but when I found the soap was gone I cried like a baby for two hours. And I never cry. A stupid piece of cheap soap. Archie the bartender who took the pledge was right. Booze does turn your brain to mush.

It was Christmas time and I ran out of money again. A card game this time. Looking for free things to do, I thought it might be fun to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. I usually enjoy the colored lights and all the happy kids giggling and acting like, well, like happy kids. So yesterday, even though I had no money to speak of, I left my room and headed over there. In the daylight you could see that this was one hell of a big tree. Why’d they go kill it? I stood in the part of the plaza they call the Channel Gardens cause on one side is a British building and on the other side is a French building. I was looking at the tree when I noticed this woman with her son. The kid was about six, I guess, no more than seven, and the woman had him bundled all up like he was Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon even though it wasn’t really so cold out. It couldn’t have been cold cause I was there and I don’t own a coat. That’s why I’m inside today, writing this. Today it’s freezing out. And I don’t own a coat. So this woman has her kid by the hand and says, “look, Lawrence, look at the nice tree. It’s beautiful isn’t it.” She wasn’t so much asking him as she was telling him. Surprisingly, the kid said “no.”

“But it is beautiful,” the mama said, giving the kid a little tap on the back of the head.

“It is not,” the boy insisted.

“Yes it is,” she said, giving him a harder tap.

“I don’t like it.”

“Yes you do!”

This time she gave the kid a clip on the head so hard that I could feel it. The boy wobbled a bit but held his ground.

“It isn’t beautiful! It stinks!”

“It is beautiful!” she says then CRACK! a tremendous shot across the back of the kid’s head. In my day, I seen prize fighters kiss the canvas on less.

“Isn’t mommy right? Isn’t the tree beautiful?”

When the boy didn’t answer, she lifted her hand again.

“It’s so beautiful, mommy,” he said like he really meant it.

“Don’t you just love it?”

“Yes mommy, I love it. I love it.”

“And do you love mommy?”

“Yes. I love mommy.”

She smiled and they went away, both of them happy. I’d hate to be around when this kid gets married. His wife cuddles up to him and coos, “do you love me?” and he says “I love you more than anything” then he proves it to her by belting her right in the sweetbreads. I only hope he finds somebody who’s into that kind of thing. There’s plenty of them out there.

I looked back at the tree, and so help me, now I didn’t think it was very beautiful. Then I cringed, almost feeling a swift hard smack on the back of my head. I turned around as fast as I could and went across the street and down the block to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I prayed for that kid.

Home, Sweet, Homeski

December 12, 2016

“What little children learn, they can never forget.”
– Rabbi Sardonicus the Elder (Collected Aphorisms & Sayings, vol. 18)

Surprised by the outburst of anti-Russia sentiments? Not me!
I saw us headed into “Cold War, Part 2” the moment I heard people calling Bernie Sanders a communist who honeymooned in Moscow. At that moment, I had not one doubt that the nation would head in that direction.

The Cold-War brainwashing of the 1940s-1960s lodged deep in the American psyche and there it will stay for at least 3 more generations.

The Anti-Russia propaganda which defined the Cold War filled an atavistic need.  It supplied us with a common enemy, fueled TEAM SPIRIT, and allowed us to cringe in fear without seeming cowardly. After all, the EVIL RUSSIA held our future in their hands!

Such good old days… After the USSR collapsed (as it always gets framed) Americans experienced a surge in jingoistic pride. Then came the let-down. After hating and fearing and feeling smugly superior, we found ourselves all on our own, adrift in a world of peace. Oh, the horror!

Since the USSR died, America has groped blindly for a new Big Enemy so that we may return to those shining days of pride coupled with mortal terror. Over the years, corporate media tried and tried to build up new enemies: Muslims. ISIS. Al Qaeda. Libya. Al-Shabaab… All fell flat, compared to our erstwhile partner in the Dance of Death. 

Yes, America failed to find a new enemy, so we had to gag on our pride and return to our comfort zone of fear: Russia.

As the swallows have no choice but to return to Capistrano, America’s destiny always lay back in Russia. We’ve longed to return to hatred and fear of Russia since the days of Mikhail Gorbachev, who ruined everything for us. Without Russia, whatever went wrong in America had to get blamed on… us! Nooooooooooo!!! Not that!!!!

Did you ever wonder about those couples who marry, then divorce, then get back together again, then divorce, then… on and on? Wonder no more! We have returned to our Number One enemy and it goes down like Mac and Cheese for many people.

Old enemies soothe us as nothing else can. So when all the election year fear-mongering hit a boiling point, it quite naturally spilled all over dear old mother Russia. It had to. Predictability-wise, nothing comes close.  The electioneering fear that filled us drove us right back to our DUCK & COVER, “better dead than red” training.

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Now see how happy it makes people? John McCain looks positively orgasmic! President Obama gets a new chance to please his parents’ generation. Liberals can now call anyone who disagrees with them TRAITORS! Conservatives can say WE TOLD YOU SO! The bile and vodka have commenced to flow in an orgy of hate and fear. Just like the old days. Our NATIONAL RELIGION HAS RETURNED.

And the benefits have already begun! We have no more internal problems in the Home of the Brave! THE RUSSIANS INSTIGATED EVERYTHING! We have clean hands… No matter what goes wrong, THE RUSSIANS DID IT!

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Oh happy day! Old-Timers have joy on their faces as they slam THE EVIL EMPIRE once again. Younger people can now score points with Gramps as they regurgitate the fears and hatreds of the past, all joining hands again in blast of retro-paranoia. 
After decades stumbling in the wilderness, a generation of Americans trained to hate and fear Russia has at last made it back home.

To those who cannot cope with reality as adults, and need to return to the safety of their long-gone childhood, it must feel so damn good.

We can now bask in a warm wave of nostalgia for the bad old days.
Our world has returned to normal.
We can forsake adulthood and return to a childhood where we never have to accept responsibility.

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HOORAY!!! We now have the right to hate Russia. Again. 

UPDATE: Nadine in Upstate comments below, “Next thing, the Hillary voters are going to blame the outer space UFO people and the shadow people for her loss.”
Just yesterday someone sent me this:
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Never Trust a “Cold-War Liberal”

October 7, 2016

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Never trust a “Cold-War Liberal”
They are war-happy.
You can spot them by the repeated warnings they issue about Russia and China.
Mostly Russia.
Cold-War Liberals live in the past.
In a dangerous past.
But to them, in their old age, in their dotage, it is a glorious past.
They are elderly now and the past is all they have left.
It is who they are, because it is who they were.
They cannot look forward.
This is not a game.
The world needs new ideas and new plans.
The end result of the vaunted “thirty years of experience” Withers cite for their candidate is where we are right now.
The people who put us here, right here, where we are right now, did so deliberately and they will not change things.
Unless we got here by accident, in which case, that “thirty years of experience” means absolutely nothing.
And if you want to see change: YOU ARE A SOCIALIST TOOL OF PUTIN AND CHINA!!!!
You know you have heard this empty imprecation again and again.
So how can you expect change from someone who denounces change?
See how cold-war senility works?
They got away with that garbage in the 50s and 60s.
They saw their dead parents doing it.
So the Cold-War Liberals need to relive their youth.
But their youth has evanesced.
It is no more.
It is gone.
Elect a Cold-War Liberal aching to recreate her or his heyday of youth and potency, and there will be war, misery, and blood.
The day of the Cold-War Liberal is over.
THIS is what the exemplary Cold-War Liberal had to say about war:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge–and more.”
That means regime change.
That means war.
That is from a liberal hero.
55 years ago.
We step back to those days at our own peril.
The world is different now. We cannot attack with impunity.
People hit back.
Remember that:
People hit back.

UPDATE:

Now the NY Times reports that Hillary Clinton, in a secret speech revealed by WikiLeaks, has announced her passion for SECRET WARS (click here).
She touts the joys of “covert-intervention,” to use the NY Times euphemism.
Covert-Actions. 
CoIntelPro was covert action
Installing the Shah as dictator of Iran was covert action
Killing Salvador Allende was covert action
Overthrowing Guatemala was covert action
The Bay of Pigs was covert action
The bloodthirsty School of the Americas was covert action
LBJ’s Operation Chaos was covert action
Sabotaging the Democratic Primary was TYPICAL covert action
Henry Kissinger is covert action personified
And Mrs. Clinton LIKES THIS?
Wants MORE of it?
Is she insane?
The Times writes: “Mrs. Clinton gave a tough-minded, realpolitik answer to the question of how to handle a problem like Syria. If the best chance of success was to act secretly inside that country, she made clear, she had no problem doing that.”
Oh… She has no problem doing that?
Unfortunately THE WORLD HAS A PROBLEM WITH YOU DOING THAT, you war-crazy maniac!
Mission Impossible was FANTASY.
I will not vote for more wars.
Especially secret wars. You know, like NIXON IN CAMBODIA which led to this:

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This is a democracy, despite what this Cold War Neoliberal thinks.
As to the Times: saying her call to secret war is “tough-minded, realpolitik” is not journalism, it is editorializing. You are putting lipstick on that pig.

How much more NIXONIAN will Clinton reveal herself to be?
She may well take the White House, this bloodthirsty Cold War Neoliberal, but not with my consent.

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FURTHER UPDATE:

Late in October, Tim Kaine CONFIRMED that Hillary’s first action will be to ask Congress for unlimited war powers.
As with all neocons, which the Cold War Liberals have spawned, Hillary actually believes that in wartime the nation will unite. She is a big step into the past. Cold War Liberals are in their dotage now and should just take the gold watch then go home to their republican grandchildren.
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Reading The Riot Act… Fair Warning, Withers.

September 8, 2016

There is a historical basis for the expression: reading the riot act. The act, known as “An Act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters,” was enacted by Parliament in 1715. Before arresting persons under this law, the law had to be read aloud, allowing people to disperse and to assure that they knew they were in violation of the law.

People talk of the death penalty being in the bible as a justification for capital punishment. But how was the biblical death penalty enforced back then? It was only invoked after a series of requirements were met – chief among them the criminal had to have been told in front of two witnesses that what he was about to do was indeed punishable by death.

People have to know before being held culpable.

Even the mythical Jesus of Nazareth said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Well I am putting Withers on notice: If you are With ➡︎HER then you side with murder and death on a global scale.

Hillary Clinton’s stated Raison D’être, from her own mouth, for being the president is to be able to launch war to ATTACK and DESTROY countries she sees as led by “bullies,” a mind-numbingly jejune attitude for an elderly woman to have. It reeks of the schoolyard she must have dreaded as a child.

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As Secretary of state, Clinton’s bloodlust and eagerness to fight anyone she perceives as a bully led to the massacres in Libya, and Syria, and Honduras. And she refuses to acknowledge it. Worse, she DEFENDS it.

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This is who Hillary Clinton is. A neocon warrior who will plunge the world into more wars. Neocon Republican Robert Kagan said to the NY Times in 2014: “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”
This praise is from the neocons who planned her run for years while you Withers were not paying attention. As the NY Times discovered in 2014. The people who needlessly invaded Iraq and Afghanistan – where America STILL wages war to this very day are WITH ➡︎HER.

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She is a neocon. Why do you suppose almost all the G. W. Bush team endorses her? Because they like change and peace?

Where Hillary Clinton gets her deep need to fight and destroy, whence her fixation with seeing bullies under her bed, I leave that to the psychiatrists she should have had treating her over the course of her life. But there is a clear sickness there. And for the world, there is stark  danger.

As the late-Christopher Hitchens cogently noted in 2008: “As for Mrs. Clinton, as for all she’s done for us and after all she’s suffered on our behalf, she feels she’s owed the presidency and who could possibly disagree? Her life is meaningless if she doesn’t get at least a shot and one can only sympathize. Unless you think, as I do, that people should be distrusted, who are running for therapeutic reasons,” said Hitchens. “Because the Presidency doesn’t calm those demons, as her husband has already proved.”

Hillary Clinton NEEDS war. Fighting is central to her stated image of herself. Fighting defines her. She is a HAWK who quotes Reagan at every opportunity.

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Last night in a softball TV interview on being Commander-in-Chief, Clinton said she will destroy Syria through air power.

Vote for her and you support that.  Period.  There is no wiggle room.

NO MORE UNCONSTITUTIONAL WARS OF CHOICE.

If you support Hillary Clinton, you support wars.

And more wars.

Your vote will say it is just fine with you. Hillary will use YOUR vote to claim a mandate. Then she will attack.

And the blood of innocents will be on your hands.
Not mine.
I will never support any conservative war-hawk.
You have been warned.
You have no excuse now.
This is the Riot Act.

People have to know before being held culpable.
NOW YOU KNOW

 

A Summer in the City Memory

August 11, 2016

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File this under: The World Moves On, Dept.

For me, as a child in the city, if my parents couldn’t send me to camp for the summer – and we didn’t know from year to year if that was possible – summer meant spending all day with “the gang” roaming Riverside Park or Central park with friends. Of course I use the word “gang” in its loosest possible sense. Crime didn’t enter into it. All that much.  We’d hit the park each toting along a canteen, generally filled with Tang, and a compass, and that most indispensable of exploration gear – walkie-talkies. We may have been in the park, mere blocks from home, but in our adventures we explored Mars! The Moon! We formed an elite commando unit moving through the growth to rescue The Boys trapped on a Pacific Island… we went everywhere and did everything. Not bad for city kids whose Boy Scout Troop met in what would shortly become Plato’s Retreat.

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There was a time – could it have been so long ago? – when low power, 100mw, walkie-talkies were so popular that every hit movie or TV show issued a set to go with the entertainment. 007, Batman, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Lost in Space – all had walkie-talkies. G.I. Joe had an “official” set! And the frequency they used crackled and buzzed with intrigue and derring-do, all punctuated by the calls of, “Can you still hear me?”

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Sometimes, for SUPER-SECRET tasks, we used Morse Code. Some walkie-talkie sets had a copy of the code printed on the front of the “transceiver,” as we called them with Popular Science bravado. But most of the neighborhood kids memorized the code. That was then… So “Twentieth Century.” Does anyone now in these sophisticated, Hi-Tech days, use Morse Code?

I still have a pair of “toy” walkie-talkies, circa 1981; late in the cycle to be sure, but just the same as they always were, right down to the bleating Morse Code key on the side. Today, my erstwhile passport to adventure serves a more mundane purpose. Like when one of us has to go to the tenement roof to adjust something, or stay in the apartment while someone investigates that leak in the basement… Where is the fun in that? Who needs dots and dashes for a leaky roof?

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A few afternoons back, I took out one of my vintage “toy” walkie-talkies to take a listen. 35-40 years back, in summer this gadget would have been a wall to wall mishmash of pre-teen messages flying through the ether among kids out at a hard day of play. Today? What did I hear? Static.

I suppose the fun of this kind of thing has been rendered passé by text messaging and cell calls… Or maybe kids just don’t go out on adventures when at home they have an XBox to play with rather than the real world… Do they know the fun they are missing? How does an old-timer explain it?

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As kids we had great fun with these – and we did some wild stuff – including a few adventures we all swore to secrecy. I will still never admit to those didoes and escapades even under torture. Now, instead of fizzing and buzzing with the sounds of kids exploring the moon, or raiding the enemy over the hill… these frequencies are silent.

I still get the urge now and then to take one out to listen. Sometimes I send messages to… to nobody. They all grew up and the magic is gone…

Have you got a set of these? Maybe one summer day you too may give in to the urge and dust them off, stick in a 9v battery and listen. If you find yourself in or around Hell’s Kitchen, you may hear me breaking the silence… and who knows… I may hear you and answer back.