Good morning world.  Here is one of my favorite poems.  It was not my first favorite poem but came early in that distinction when I was around thirteen.

I thought amidst all of this tension some beautiful words by Dylan Thomas  might be welcome.

 Fern Hill, by Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be
     Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
     And playing, lovely and watery
          And fire green as grass.
     And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
     Flying with the ricks, and the horses
          Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
     Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
          The sky gathered again
     And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
     Out of the whinnying green stable
          On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
     In the sun born over and over,
          I ran my heedless ways,
     My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
     Before the children green and golden
          Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
     In the moon that is always rising,
          Nor that riding to sleep
     I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

A Cosmic Protective Embrace

I wrote this for my daughter but think she won’t mind if I share it with others. She is tirelessly working to protect the health of the people she works for in Dallas, Texas-that is all the people of Dallas, and Texas, and all of us.

I’m throwing my embrace around you in a massive cosmic way to keep you safe from anything.

Notes From The Pandemic

These words are not anything more than thoughts evaporating into space.

Fate plays its hand when we take our eye off the ball. On a planet with between seven billion people, a crisis happens every day. It only feels real when it touches us. Today, it is real.

Many thought the horror of WW1-The War to End All Wars would unify the world and bring us to a more harmonious place (it did not). Robert Oppenheimer thought the destructive implications of nuclear weapons would arouse a spirit of shared horror and bring the world together (it did not).

Neither did we come together when we saw the moon from outer space, nor have we become of one mind from witnessing mass animal extinctions, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, tsunamis, global warming, destructive hurricanes, genocides, fires, droughts, deluge, or pandemics.

We are fragile little creatures no different than any other.

We react better than we plan. We grieve better than we prevent grief. We may have rational faculties but we seldom deploy collective rationality before a crisis. We are what we are.

Bus drivers in Mexico like to surround themselves with talismans and plaques with thoughtful sayings. One read, “God is my boss, but I do the driving.”

Before Super Bowl XII, both teams had self-professed “Born Again” quarterbacks. For The Denver Broncos, Craig Morton, and for the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach. In a television interview with both men before the game, a reporter asked who would win. Morton answered, “If God wants it, Denver will.” Staubach replied, “I think God wants us to win.”*

Take the reins of your life. Take care of yourselves and the people you love and the others who need your support.

This too shall pass.

*Cowboys won: 27:10.

Today

-I called an older friend to be sure he was staying in and that he had enough food. He reported back that he had stocked up on wine.
-No sneezes or coughs.
-I heard one person cough at Costco, fifty feet away from me. I abandoned my cart for a few minutes and washed my hands for thirty seconds. Good soap at Costco and air dryers. All the employees wore gloves but there were no pepperoncini. Checkout lines were long and the chicken cases were empty but the beef cases were full. Salsa was cheap. The hot dog and pizza stand was overflowing and the seating area was packed like sardines. I’m done with stores until things settle.
-Dug a fence post hole and am eager to start the garden
-Washed my hands five times today for at least thirty seconds each time.
-Hugged one person over fifty. Living dangerously!
-I believe I touched my face a few times but only after washing my hands.

“A Roll, A Roll, My Kingdom For A Roll!”

index

I worked on Soviet fishing vessels in the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea in the late seventies and early eighties. The Soviets were poor and the ships didn’t have amenities most Americans took for granted, like toilet paper! Ship latrines were open-pit squat toilets and daily visits, especially when the ship pitched and rolled in the waves, were not a pleasant experience.

But Russians, maybe as an expression of their ability to persevere in the face of great hardship, are inventive and find creative solutions to scarcity. They do not have an entitled sense of abundance and can build, modify, and fix anything.

No toilet paper, no problem!

One thing the Soviet Union never had a shortage of was written propaganda. If you’re old enough, you remember the Soviet Union’s main newspaper was called, Pravda, the Russian word for truth. Pravda was everywhere, even at sea. Waxing philosophical, the truth can take many forms.

On Soviet ships, the truth took the form of a triangle. In fact, ship latrines had stacks of triangles cut from Pravda; small, technique requiring triangles. The metaphorical irony of Pravda as toilet paper was not lost on the Russian sailors who frequently joked about the “appropriate use of Pravda.”

As Americans, in their frenzied response to the Coronavirus, sweep into to snatch up extra rolls of toilet paper, I wonder what it says about us that the first thought we have when panicked is to protect out toilet hygiene. Here’s a first, LOL.

Pravda

What does it tell us about ourselves that in the midst of a pandemic we stock up on toilet paper? (Another LOL thinking about a Freudian analysis of this) I’ll leave that for you to ponder, but one thing I know is that you can’t clean your behind by asking for help from Siri or Alexa.

And that is a little dose of the Damn Pravda!

Caged Beasts Unite! Flee, Flee Flee!

JoeyChimpanzee

The photo was shot by my friend, Eric Mirell, in 1972. It looks across the parking garage by where he lived on Kingsbridge Terrace. I was seventeen and had lots of hair. Albert was the young chimpanzee we took care of in my high school’s Animal Care Program, which trained students to be zookeepers at the Bronx Zoo. We also had a lion, Angela, who we walked through the Bronx one day.

On this day, Albert held me close as any young child would when out on the streets of NYC. I took Albert to my house where he promptly climbed the curtains and wreaked havoc on things. It was EPIC! New Yorkers are fairly naive about anything outside of the norms of the city and seeing a chimpanzee blew a lot of minds. I also had a boa constrictor that I trotted around from time to time.

On a personal note, I see my face and darkened eyes and it reminds me of why I left the city barely eighteen months later.

C

Humble Pie With No Foie Gras On The Side

What can I say, I grew up in New York City where snide was a valued art form. Yesterday I posted about NYC’s foie gras ban.

BUT: after posting the piece about foie gras I spent some time looking at images of modern-day foie gras “farms.” After seeing those I applaud any ban that seeks to end those practices. A bit to be funny is one thing but having seen the reality of how the geese are treated, I will not eat foie gras again unless I know the animal was raised with care and respect.

Today I eat a large slice of humble pie.

What’s Good for the Goose…???

Three weeks ago the New York City Council took a bold and courageous stand on behalf of animal rights by banning the sale of foie gras. Foie gras is the much-prized goose liver paté with a creamy texture and flavor served in small portions on special occasions in France. After studying French for three months in 2004 I tested my language proficiency when purchasing it in a small specialty shop in the Dordogne. Foie gras is typically spread on a cracker or piece of bread as an appetizer before a meal. It also adds flavor to some wonderful sauces. A close friend of ours spent her childhood on a foie gras farm in Southwest France and she tells lovely stories about early life on the farm. The NYC Council’s primary reason given for banning the product cites the practice of force-feeding the geese to enlarge their livers. The ban was opposed by some New York state farmers who no longer use the force-feeding method known as gavage.

To be fair, there are many practices in modern animal farming that are deplorable and industrial foie gras operations are frightening and a far cry from the image of a flock of free-roaming geese living in the bucolic French countryside. As someone who has raised and slaughtered animals for our own table, I know first-hand the importance of honoring, respecting and caring for any animal we consume. It isn’t the intention of the ban that I find laughable so much as the shallowness of targeting a product with such little significance. Even if you embrace the symbolism of a foie gras ban, it addresses little of the greater issues. Banning foie gras was easily done with little risk of political fallout or resistance.

For “giggles and grins,” as a friend says, I crunched a few numbers to calculate how much foie gras is affected by the NYC ban. The estimates utilize figures for consumption of foie gras in France only because foie gras is so uncommon in the United States that I could not find a meaningful figure. Per capita consumption of foie gras in France is about 12 ounces/year, equal to about one gram/person/day.

New York City has roughly eight million people. Let’s assume that most foie gras is served in restaurants to curious or appreciative diners in French restaurants. Even in New York, there aren’t that many French restaurants so it would be shocking if a thousand people eat it on any given day in the Big Apple. At one thousand people eating one gram/day, foie gras consumption in NYC amounts to about 2.2 lbs every day. Allowing that my estimates could be off, let’s step it up one order of magnitude to ten thousand New Yorkers eating one gram/day. In that case, New Yorkers consume 22 pounds of foie gras each day. Now, let’s step it up another order of magnitude (remember “giggles and grins”) so even if one-hundred thousand New Yorkers eat some foie gras, say on a slice of pizza (haha!) that would amount to 222 pounds each day.

Here’s the rub, based on per capita statistics of American consumption of beef, pork (think bacon) chicken and other meat animals, New Yorkers eat millions of pounds of meat animals every day. An overwhelming percentage of these animals are raised and slaughtered in industrial meat farming operations. New York’s City Council did nothing to address that nor do I expect council members to take up a bacon, chicken nuggets or hamburger ban anytime soon.

I have little patience for anything that soothes our conscience while allowing greater affronts to be ignored. In the spirit of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, I say to the NYC Council, “Give me a break and get back to dealing with something real!” And one more thing, “Bon Appétit!”

X Marks The Spot

The events of history may not change but who we are relative to them does.

I am standing in Dealey Plaza twenty feet away from where two modest X’s (shots 1 and 2) are painted on the road where John F. Kennedy was shot dead.

I turn around and look up to the corner window of the former Texas School Book Depository, now the Dallas County Administration Building where my daughter, Ruby works on the 4th floor, scanning to the sixth floor aerie where Oswald shot the president.

Anyone my age has seen numerous accounts of the killing from every possible perspective.  Standing on the street, the one clear thing is regardless of what theory holds about the killing; it was an easy shot.

Who, what, why, how and whether history changed because of the shooting I have no idea.

I was eight when the killing happened; too young then to grasp its implications.  Now, sixty-four,  I feel much the same.  A few quotes come to mind. Bob Dylan twice, “I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.” “There ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe, it don’t matter anyhow.” And from Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, “Time will tell, fades away.”

Standing here after visiting the museum, what is most clear is that Time-Will-Not-Tell.  All one knows is that a man died here and the violence of that death lingers.

On the street, and in the Sixth Floor Museum, are hundreds of people visiting the site, many, if not most in Dallas for a football game to be held later today. Most are half my age and born well after the killing.

I ask two of the young people why they’re here and they say because like 9/11 it is part of history and they’re curious. The mood of the people inside the museum is somber as with our guided headsets we walk through the events leading up to, during and after the killing.

I’m no different than anyone here. I’m bearing witness to an event that I will never fully understand and I’m spent when I leave.

For some reason I struggle to capture the emotions in a haiku.

A man was killed here
Fifty six long years ago
I know nothing more

Insomnia University

Insomnia University

As a child I listened to the clattering arrhythmia of elevated subway trains

Listened to the throttled urgency of a late-night bus and the piercing sirens of a police cars

while winter wind blew hard against rusted metal fire escapes

and windows with chipping paint drew deep breaths as if they might shatter

exposing the chill of a decrepit city in the hours when the owls flew

 

Today, alone with restless body and absent of the brothers and sisters

with whom I shared hidden conversations and whims of the wee hours

I sit listening to the howling wind outside my cave

The bite of cold encroaching on the remains of a dying fire

while the Earth spins within the darkness

We are the restless souls

Guardians of the peaceful sleep

of the unconscious river binding souls together

 

We who purify the dreams of others

We of Insomnia University

Sharing the world’s wisdom with night owls across the waves of time and space

Sweeping dirt from streets and dreams

Preparing the day for our innocent sleeping children

 

© JEB 2019

 

America. (with respect for Allen Ginsberg)

America

Why are you so cruel?
So mean
Why do you blame your cripples and your helpless for your failings
while you embolden your most powerful to express their bestial impulses
You conceal your blood lust
and drop bombs from the sky
on enemies you’ve invented to justify your greed
Your heritage is littered with the bodies of those you’ve crushed with genocide and racist lynching
Your innocent children are gunned down in schools and you do nothing
Your playful are gunned down in recreation and you do nothing
Your prayerful are gunned down in worship and you do nothing
as an army of faux Christians grasp hands in unity with the diabolical
Your homeless swell with desperation and you do nothing
Your henchmen lawyers tip the scales of justice to their favor while you desecrate the sacred earth
America, are you ignorant or are you criminal as you plunge aggressively into the abyss
America, why do you imprison your black men because you cannot face the shame of enslaving them to build your palace
You circle the wagons forming an impermeable membrane to repel those who still believe in your fading promise
The world fears you now that you are exposed as were the Romans, as are all imperialist empires
You hide in your Bible now cleansed of it’s Christ
Your favorite passages are of wrath not of love
You know more of bullets than of compassion
Even your warriors are confused
Are you lazy, America or are you simply the metamorphosed form of your fate
Don’t answer, please because your reply will only confirm the worst assumption
So I ask again, America, why are you so cruel
but I neither expect nor do I need your reply
You chasten your loving
You shackle your feminine
You feed the blood lust of your masculine growing more voracious
You do not seek peace
You do not embrace the balm of poetry or the soothing soul of art
but instead crush the soul of your poets, your writers and composers
as you commoditize their creativity
You churn out thousands upon thousands of predators whose certificates of pedigree manifest the commoditization of all human endeavors from kindness to empathy salvation, spirit, healing and empathy
You call these your children but what children are they who feast on the flesh of their mothers
I might forgive many of your trespasses but not this one
Shame on you America for neglecting those whom you should honor
Shame on you America for your smart bombs and your second amendment
Shame on you America for your Wall Street and your border walls
Shame on you America for the alchemy you practice that turns hope into greed into fear into materialist vampires
Shame on you America for destroying your wild creatures and rivers
Shame on you America for your laziness while burning sludge instead of embracing light
Say amen somebody, can I get a Shame on You America?