Booth With a View

tsa-vintageThe Season, as it’s known in commercial circles, began in earnest on Friday, even while the turkey feathers were still flying. Can you hear the pleasant jingling sound of cash registers ringing up sales? Oh, wait, it’s all digital now. Sad.

If I want to think fondly about the Christmas season, I turn my thoughts to The Salvation Army, the one church in this country that never loses sight of what the holiday is all about, and focuses its energy on providing aid to the neediest.

No, I’m not a Christian, let alone a Salvationist: if anything, I’m an Omnibulist. But I’ve had the pleasure to know and work with many Salvation Army clergy and laypersons, and they are among the finest, hard-working, most caring and inspirational people I’ve ever met.

I found this typewritten document on the wall of an office in a Salvation Army facility in Gainesville and copied it. Only recently was I able to authenticate it (the link is provided below). I haul it out now and then to reread, especially when preparing to meet with prospective clients with the idea that I can somehow share General Booth’s indomitable spirit and commitment with them. I usually fail. But then, well, read on…..

1910 Sermon by William Booth

Founder, The Salvation Army

I am glad you are enjoying yourselves. The Salvationist is the friend of happiness. Making Heaven on Earth is our business. Serve the Lord with gladness is one of our favourite mottoes.

So I am pleased that you are pleased.

But amidst all your joys don’t forget the sons and daughters of misery. Did you ever visit them? Come away and let us make a call or two.

Here is a home, six in a family. They eat and drink and sleep and sicken and die in the same chamber.

Here is a drunkard’s hovel, void of furniture, wife a skeleton, children in rags, Father maltreating the victims of his neglect.

Here are the unemployed, wandering about, seeking work and finding none.

Yonder are the wretched criminals cradled in crime, passing in and out of prison all the time.

There are the daughters of shame, diseased and wrong and ruined, traveling down the dark incline to an early grave.

There are the children, fighting in the gutter, going hungry to school, growing up to fill their parents’ places.

Brought it all on themselves, do you say? Perhaps so, but that does not excuse us from assisting them.

You don’t demand a certificate of virtue before you drag some drowning creature out of the water, nor the assurance that a man has paid his rent before you deliver him from the burning building.

But what shall we do? Content ourselves by singing a hymn, offering a prayer, or giving a little good advice?

NO! Ten Thousand Times, NO!

Salvation Army Logo

Salvation Army Logo

We will pity them, feed them, reclaim them, employ them. Perhaps we shall fail, and many times, quite likely. But our business is to help them all the same, and that in the most practical, economical, and Christ-like manner.

So let us hasten to the rescue for the sake of our own peace, the poor wretches themselves, the innocent children, and the Saviour of us all.

But you must help with the means. And, as there is nothing like the present, who in this company will lend a hand by taking up the collection?



Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 13 Comments

Pin Number

In the days since Trump’s election, people have begun placing a single pin on their shirts to convey a message of support — of safety, and protection — to minorities, women, immigrants and others who may feel threatened by the strident rhetoric that carried the Republican billionaire to the White House.

The safety pin social media movement gained prominence in Britain on Twitter as a sign of solidarity with immigrant and minority populations facing a reported surge in hate crimes after the Brexit vote in June, with its strong anti-immigrant undertones.

Since the US election, the phenomenon has started catching on across the Atlantic — Yahoo news

Sure, I guess — so long as you’re not required to stick it through your cheek or tongue or eyelid. I remember extracting a few from my neck when I forgot about when hurriedly dressing in fresh laundry from the cleaners. Bloody unpleasant.

pinnedBut I’ll pass on this statement of solidarity, in part because I resist trends of any sort, but also because I’ve always thought of myself as a minority anyway. (Note to readers: Cue, then can, any reference to the psychobabble term “self-identified.” Thank you.) Given my ethnic roots, I’m not exactly white like a WASP, and politically, disgusted by conservatives and repulsed by liberals, I’m all over the map — and a registered Green. But most of all, I’m a card-carrying member of the single most distrusted and hated collection of human beings on the planet: atheists!

But lo and behold, even that is changing under Trumpf’s America:

About 40 percent of Americans say atheists “do not at all agree” with their vision of America, according to a new study from sociologists at the University of Minnesota who compared Americans’ perceptions of minority faith and racial groups.

But the study marks a grimmer milestone — Americans’ disapproval of Muslims has jumped to 45.5 percent from just over 26 percent 10 years ago, the last time the question was asked.– Religion news

It’s never easy falling out of first place — ask Hillary if you can find her — and given the direction America is going, I don’t think atheists will regain the lead anytime soon. Even though more and more Americans every day abandon their traditional religious beliefs and practices, they still seem to retain in their heart of hearts a healthy irrational bias against atheists, as well as a deplorable ignorance of Islam. Whatever else was demonstrated in this election, that sure as hell was.

So buckle down — or pin up! — for a long season, atheists everywhere — we’re not going to pull ahead in the race to the bottom anytime soon.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 5 Comments

Bye Bye Berkeley

After years of neglect perpetrated by a continuing state of abject denial exercised by one of this household’s occupants — wanna guess which one? — we’re making repairs. New roof. Holes in ceiling (where leaks rendered destruction) sealed up, entire exterior repainted, replace gutters, repaint interior, rework landscaping, and more. Chaos abounds inside and out.

outboundI vowed to divest myself of broken-down bookshelves and deteriorating books I will never open again. These number in the hundreds, including most of the philosophy texts I’ve carted around and stored since my graduate school years ended in the middle 70s. Adieu, Aristotle! S’long, Sartre! Hit the road, Russell! Bye-bye, Berkeley! Just Kant take it anymore.

It’s more cathartic than sad, which pleasantly surprises me. Here’s an example of what makes this relatively easy:

The distinction us illustrated by the pair of statements ‘my hand moves,’ expressing a mere event, and ‘I move my hand,’ expressing an act. The existence of a distinction here is evident: whereas ‘I move my hand’ entails ‘my hand moves,’ it is not the case that my hand moves only if I move my hand, since the movement might be caused by someone else or might be entirely reflexive. Both statements might refer to the same bodily movement, but in one there is reference to an agent that is lacking in the other. If ‘my hand moves’ is true, but not ‘I move my hand,’ then the former expresses an evet devoid of agency on the part of the speaker. If the latter is true, however, it expresses an act.  — Kenneth M. Sayre, Consciousness: A Philosophical Study of Minds and Machines, 1969, pp 15-16.

Thousands of pages of mind numbing shit like this, all underlined and annotated by an eager young student out to earn an advanced degree in an totally unemployable field of study. Working through nights until sunrise, processing this nitpicking drivel into thesis chapters, counting pin-dancing angels and analyzing glasses neither half-empty nor half-full, but half-assed.  To quote a famous American philosopher, “Seven years of college education wasted.”

And people wanna know what the hell is wrong with my brane? After this?

Thousands of books remain in this house, mostly the fiction I’ve pursued so happily over the last 30 some years. Disposing of boxes and bags of unwanted texts frees up not only space on remaining bookshelves, but floor space, both of which in short supply given our clutter-loving instincts and packrat habits. We both promised one another we’d winnow further, if only to reduce the layers of dust, mildew, pollen, and reptile droppings that have accumulated unseen but not unnoticed.

As for the departing volumes, my hope is they’ll find their way into the hands of readers who, for their own perverse reasons, want to immerse themselves in the intellectual anguish this rot inspires. Hume-ever they may be.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 7 Comments


Editor’s Note: Important to get this up before the game tonight to demonstrate my prognosticatory talent (True, I control the Delete button.)

Cubs fans everywhere lately — you notice? They make great losers. It’s only when they rebirth themselves as something else that they grow tiresome. Like the red-faced oaf I found myself next to at the foot binder’s on Wednesday.

nxtyr“Well, it was a great season.”

Yeah, if you like losing. You like losing?

“We didn’t lose. We won 103 games — the best record in the majors. Seven players to the All-Star game, including the entire infield, first time since the 1963 Cardinals. Broke a 70 year drought just by getting to the World Serious.”

And then lost.

“Take the long view. It’d been years since the Cubs had any real shot at doing something. The last time we finished in 1st was ’98, and we got promptly eliminated. So they tore up the team, brought in the new guy Epstein who turned the RedSox around, and started the rebuild.

“It was agony. In 2012 we lost 101 games, so losing 96 the next year felt like an improvement. In 2014 it was less than 90, and for the first time you could see a real team gelling in there. Boom! 2015 they win 97 games, but it’s a tough division that season and it’s only good for 3rd place. And then this year, they arrive. First place, 17 games ahead of the Cards. Beat the Giants, beat the Dodgers, win the pennant, head for the Serious.”

Where they lose.

“Yeah, okay. It was a great team, a great effort, and a great story, okay? That ain’t losin.”

No, that ain’t losing. Losing is what you did actually playing the World Series. It’s like you went to a great restaurant, beautiful ambiance, great service, and they bring you empty plates. Satisfied? remember to tip your server. Or hey — you meet this beautiful girl, you get her home, you hit the sack…..

“Yeah yeah yeah stop right there. You ask any Cub fan, and there’s millions everywhere, how they liked this season and they’ll tell you it’s the greatest one they remember and had the times of their lives.”

That’s because anyone who could remember the last World Series they won has been dead for decades. But still voting somewhere in Chicago. Hey, I’m glad you had a good time losing. You sound just like Red Sox fan before they broke through. Yankees fans have a term for this: Loosuhz.

“Yeah, well up theirs. Just wait’ll next year.”

Heard that before, too. Chicagapoligists. They want to mark everything on a curve, and they lose out anyway.

Posted in Playing With Balls | 7 Comments

And You Thought CREP* Was Bad

rpofWe have telephones in the house that call out the name of the caller. They’re a speech therapist’s nightmare. They also can’t differentiate between a name and an acronym, so when (e.g.) the call comes from an entity shown as CEO Ltd, the phone hollers, “Call from Cheeo Litid.”

Harmless enough especially when 90% of the time I don’t answer the goddam phone anyway as it’s almost always somebody selling something, a wrong number, or a robot. As Joe Walsh advised, “Just leave a message/Maybe I’ll call.”

Then there’s the endless political calls. On a daily basis, now, we’re getting calls from the Republican Party of Florida (god alone knows why). This shows up on the phone’s display as RPOF, and is announced as, “Call from Rip-Off.”

Rip-Off. Heh. Must be a smart phone, after all.

*For the youngsters: CREP (pronounced CREEP) was the “Committee to Re-Elect the President,” a fine American named Richard Nixon.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 3 Comments

The Ace of Cubs

The three of us secure perches at our usual spot on the rounded far edge of the bar, where we survey the churning curiosity that comprises the customer base as well as the teevee screens with updates on the latest world chaos and sports developments. We all have our priorities as well as our favorite beverages, and when ensconced here at the Liquor & Rubber Balls Sports Emporium and Underarm Lasering Center, we address them each in turn.

cubs-suckAs is their wont, professional gambler Duck Diamonds and retired sportswriter Lu Ann Senz are needling one another over the impending World Series. While Duck won’t say whose money is backing which team or state his own preferences, of course, he thoroughly enjoys tormenting Lu Senz — who spent over 30 years covering the Cubs as a Chicago beat writer — about the team’s prospects.

“How can they lose, Lu?” he asks innocently. “They win 108 games so far, what’s four more? What could go wrong? It’s not like they’re gonna collapse now, right? Not the Cubs!”

“What’s four more? I dunno, Duck, what’s 108 years? You’re talking about a team that perfected the art of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. St. Jude’s poster child.”

“Leave your snatch out of this, willya? Besides, the Injuns are as snake-bit as the Cubbies. They’re the only team to lose a World Series to Atlanta when the Braves kept finishing first every season but losing big ones. 1995, right? Last time they won a Series was 1948 against the Braves. The Boston Braves. They’re baseball’s Harold Freaking Stassen.”

So Lu — you think there’s something to the various Cubby curses? The billy goat? The black cat? The Gatorade Glove? Not to mention Steve Bartman.

“No, it has nothing to do with curses,” says Lu, dismissively. “Look — this Cubs team has extraordinary talent and youth, but more important, they’ve gelled as a team. If the regular season didn’t prove it, then the LA series did: totally shut down for two straight games and then they’re back with a vengeance.”

“Made the Dodgers look like the Cubs,”  observes Duck. “Dropped fly balls, runners picked off, missing cut-off men and tossing the ball all over the infield…..”

Soooooo — who do you like, Lu?

Lu Senz very deliberately pulls a cigarette out of the pack, fires it up, exhales, then sips her neat Jack Daniels. Her smile is sad but lovely; she sighs with both grey-blue eyes.

“What I came to understand all those years in the press box, dugout, locker room, and taprooms after the game and deep into the night is that the whole entire reason people love the Cubs is precisely because they’re helpless fuck-ups,” she says.

“Tomorrow two of baseball’s most snake-bit teams face off, and only one can lose again. The Cubs lucked out much the way Hillary Clinton did: drawing the only opponent they (she) could prevail upon.” She pauses for another drag. “I think they’ll win. But…..

“I will root for the Indians for historical reasons. What I and millions of fans love about the Cubbies, what makes them interesting, is their frustration and futility. I’m a traditionalist. Let’s preserve tradition.”

“You’re gonna root against the Cubs?” hollers Duck, incredulously. “After all these years of living and dying with their every season? Have you no heart, no loyalty?” He peers at her like a snake eyeing a rodent. “Hey — you crying?”

“Fuck off, Duck,” says Lu, eyes wet but jaw set. “You butt-sucking sportshole. You don’t know what love is. I love the Cubs, okay? Love ’em. My whole damn life. And that’s why they need to lose.”

It seems like with this the entire raucous bar stills, as time itself pauses to consider. A passing bird falls from the sky into the parking lot. Don Tequila, tending bar, becomes a statue. The ice in a dozen mixed drinks clutched in sweating hands throughout the room stops melting. And then somebody flushes a toilet, and a cell phone rings.

We’ll settle this. Play bawl!

Posted in The Adventures of Don Tequila | 6 Comments

Locker Room Talk

parlophoneLots of talk these days about abusive men, microaggressions, safe spaces on campus, male privilege, etc. Many of these conversations are accompanied by red faces, waving fingers, and spluttering insults, especially when alcohol is involved. Ask me how I know.

Anyway, here are the lyrics from a supergroup’s popular song in 1965. How would this sound today?

Run For Your Life

Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl than to be with another man

You better keep your head, little girl or I won’t know where I am


You better run for your life if you can, little girl

Hide your head in the sand little girl

Catch you with another man

That’s the end ah little girl


Well I know that I’m a wicked guy and I was born with a jealous mind

And I can’t spend my whole life trying just to make you toe the line


Let this be a sermon, I mean everything I’ve said

Baby, I’m determined and I’d rather see you dead


Story is that years later, John Lennon expressed regret about the sentiments reflected here, but I doubt today’s activists would cut him any slack, and probably call him a racist.

Reached for comment, Yoko Ono screeched unintelligibly.

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 4 Comments