Monday, December 27, 2004

The Mailbox

Eddie rolled over and pulled the blanket up around his neck preparing for another two hours of sleep before he had to get up. It was not to be. Before he had closed his eyes again, the shrill piercing sound of the alarm rang in his ears. "Damn, I hate when that happens", thought Eddie as he squinted at the red numbers on the clock: 4:45 a.m.

It was cold in his room, and he could hear the wind howling through the trees. It was light enough to see where he was, but he knew that in December, the sun didn't rise until after seven. He walked over to the window and looked out. To his surprise, there was a blanket of fresh snow on the ground and the sky was clear. A full moon was setting in the west and it made it appear almost like daytime. Really beautiful, he thought. What he wanted to do more than anything else, was to crawl into bed and go back to sleep the restful, peaceful sleep of the gods. "But", he thought to himself, "the mail must go through".

Continue reading story HERE

Thursday, December 16, 2004


I didn't go to Vietnam, although I was drafted in June 1965.
I avoided it by getting married and having a child. But I would not have gone under any circumstances. War is about the stupidest thing human beings can do. Sometimes you're forced into it as a last resort. But the most painful war is the war in which tens of thousands are killed and countless others are maimed or psychologically damaged for life for no good reason. Such a war was Vietnam.

Such a war is Iraq. It's Vietnam all over again in spades. A war for nothing, in which thousands die and tens of thousands are wounded, physically and psychologically.

Did we learn nothing from Vietnam?

From today's New York Times:

"The nation's hard-pressed health care system for veterans is facing a potential deluge of tens of thousands of soldiers returning from Iraq with serious mental health problems brought on by the stress and carnage of war, veterans' advocates and military doctors say.

An Army study shows that about one in six soldiers in Iraq report symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, a proportion that some experts believe could eventually climb to one in three, the rate ultimately found in Vietnam veterans. Because about one million American troops have served so far in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures, some experts predict that the number eventually requiring mental health treatment could exceed 100,000."

This on top of the thousands who have lost their lives and the tens of thousands who have lost limbs or gone insane. And the families at home. In Vietnam there were wives and girl friends back home. Now there are children who will lose their fathers and even their mothers.

They tell these soldiers that they're fighting to protect America and to destroy the "terrorists" before they can attack us here. They tell them they are "protecting America from the evil-doers". I'm actually glad that a lot of them believe that nonsense. It might help reduce the greater pain of knowing, as many Vietnam veterans do, that this was a horrible and pathetic waste of decent people's lives.

No, I didn't go to Vietnam. And I'm glad of it. I just wish those poor bastards who went to Iraq had made the same decision.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Christmas Tree

When I was a young boy growing up in Levittown, my family did not have a lot of money. Usually we waited until Christmas eve to buy our tree, assuming that since they would be worthless in a few hours, it would be possible to negotiate a good price. Old George had the christmas tree lot on Hempstead Turnpike, across from Times Square Stores. He always had the best looking trees in town, although they were a bit expensive.
My brother and I went there at about 6 o'clock this one Christmas eve with about twenty dollars between us, bound and determined to procure the best tree ever. There wasn't much left, but we found a fine douglas fir, just the right size and shaped as nearly perfect as one could expect. Old George was sitting in his usual spot in the office, right next to an old wood-burning stove. I prepared for combat. "How much for this scraggly old twig", I asked? "We'll take it away for no charge!" George looked up at us two insolent pups and replied "That's one nice looking tree boys, it'll cost you thirty-five dollars". "Thirty-five dollars?" I pleaded, "Why I can buy a better tree down the block for half that price." I should have seen what was coming. "Then go right down the block and buy that tree, because you're not getting this one for a penny less than thirty-five dollars." "But George", I went on, "You're only gonna burn this tree tomorrow morning, because you ain't gonna sell all these trees tonight."
Old George leaned back in his chair and glared at us for a moment. "Well boys, you can just come back here tomorrow morning and watch me burn that tree, cause you ain't gonna get it for one cent less than thirty-five dollars!"

By fate's decree, I now found myself back in the old neighborhood on Christmas eve. I was on my way to my mother's house and thought it might be nice to bring a fresh tree. She lived alone and didn't decorate a tree anymore but I knew the old ornaments were still in her closet. I stopped at the christmas tree lot across from K-Mart, which used to be Times Square Stores. I found a beautiful tree, not too big and nicely shaped. "How much for this tree?' I inquired. The kid who was working in the lot told me to ask the boss, in the office. I walked in, and to my surprise, there was old George. And even older still than I had remembered him. "George" I said "I can't believe that you're still here, after all these years. Do you remember me? I used to live right around here when I was a kid." He did not remember. But I remembered. And we sat for the better part of the next hour discussing old times. He told me about his wife, who had passed on some 5 years ago and about how he was laid off when he was just 52 when Grumman cut back the work force and how the only income he had now was his pension and the yearly proceeds from the christmas trees.
But this would be the last year for him. The land he had leased for over 30 years was being sold to a developer and he could not find another spot. He had no idea what would happen to him. We sat silently for a few minutes, contemplating our collective angst and pondering over the mysteries of living. Finally, I spoke again to him. "Well George, I'm sure everything will work out for you. How much for the tree?" He looked up at me with a look of defeat and resignation. "Well, that's normally a thirty-five dollar tree, but I'm only gonna burn it tomorrow morning, so twenty dollars will be just fine."
I guess that sometimes it's necessary to go a long way out of our way, to come back a few steps correctly.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Whoooo!

Rolling Stone Magazine recently listed the top 500 songs of all time. Now these kinds of lists are usually bogus and there are plenty of songs that don't belong and plenty more that were left out. In fact, it's really kind of ridiculous to try to make such a list at all.
Here are Rolling Stone's Top Ten and my comments:

1. Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan

Don't get me wrong, Bob is one of the greatest sogwriters ever. And I hold him in highest regard. But LARS is simply not a "rock and roll" song.

2. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones

Good choice for number 2. "Brown Sugar" is a better song, however

3. Imagine by John Lennon

Not a "rock and roll" song, but I'll let it slide.

4. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye

Good song, but it doesn't belong in the top ten.

5. Respect by Aretha Franklin

What about Otis Redding? He wrote it, he sang it. What colossal nerve!

6. Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys

"Help Me Rhonda" would have been a better choice.

7. Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry

Goode choice!

8. Hey Jude by The Beatles

They should have called it the top ten songs. This would be appropriately placed.

9. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana


10. What’d I Say by Ray Charles

One of the all time greats.

Here's the list I've been running on my website:

1. Brown Sugar- The Rolling Stones
2. Born To Run- Bruce Springsteen
3. Go Your Own Way- Fleetwood Mac
4. Imagine- John Lennon
5. River Deep, Mountain High- Ike and Tina Turner
6. Like a Rolling Stone- Bob Dylan
7. Horses- Patti Smith Group
8. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction- The Rolling Stones
9. Be My Baby- The Ronettes
10. Bad- U2

But there are so many great songs, how could anyone pick?
What about Pink Floyd?
The Beatles?
Every DooWop record ever made?
And let's not forget The Ramones!!

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Born in Georgia, in the former Soviet Union, Katie moved to Northern Ireland when she was 9 years old. Her first album is "Call Off The Search" and has a very pleasant bluesy, jazzy kind of sound. Not only does she write her own music, she's cuter than a speckle-bellied puppy on a red wagon.

Find out more about Katie HERE