Category Archives: pop culture

Chainsaw Phil


Once upon a time I lived on islands. Not always the same one, but always
islands. The first time I moved to one it was in the Caribbean and it was
supposed to be for a couple of months. I didn’t come back to the continent
for 12 years. And even then I lived on barrier islands. For awhile I lived on
two islands at once–one in the Caribbean the other a Florida barrier
island–and commuted.  On Fridays I’d walk to the dock, take a ferry to St.
Thomas, a surrey-bus to the seaplane terminal, then the Goose*–a
seaplane–to St. Croix, then a surrey bus to Christiansted or Frederiksted, do
my work and return home the same way.

I met a lot of interesting people.

One of them was Chainsaw Phil–or, as people called him more or less
affectionately, Chainsaw–the most consistently pessimistic, skeptical, cranky person I ever met.

BTW, on this particular island there were three things one was never supposed to ask.  “Where are you from, what’s your last name, what do you do for a living?”

Chainsaw just kind of appeared on the Caribbean island at some point,
having migrated from the Pacific Northwest where he’d been a lumberjack.

He was, and probably still is, the second most profane human being I have
ever met. Because of his profession, and the fact that much of the bush to
be cleared was cassia, which is full of thorns, Chainsaw was always
scratched, cut, bleeding, and with a patchwork of other occupational wounds in
various states of healing/scabbing. His T-shirts suffered the same fate and were invariably torn in several places.

Chainsaw, however had hidden depths. Brilliant, literate, and with a
massive database of general liberal arts information, Chainsaw was quite a
conversationalist. He could riff on various obscure philosophers, contemporary fiction, history, you name it. We had a number of fascinating chats over the years.

I only ever saw him happy once. After a huge hurricane had pretty much
squashed the island, all the locals had to pitch in to clear the roads and get
the power back on. None of the airports were open so each island was pretty much on its own.

I came around a corner and there was Chainsaw, dangling above the debris strewn roadway from one of the few trees still standing, by one arm, the other swinging along with the chainsaw like a damn bullwhip, cutting the hanging branches dangling from also-dangling wires and trees, just a-whoopin’ and hollerin’ like a cowboy gettin’ some little dogies along on the dusty trail.  He sounded like Slim Pickens in the final scene of “Dr. Strangelove” (one of the greatest films ever made).

Chainsaw had this huge grin on his face.  I’d never seen him smile–normally even when he laughed he frowned.  I wasn’t even aware he could smile

*BTW for Goose flights they would have to take passenger weights to determine if the lumbering aircraft could safely get airborne and land.  Seems as though I recall that here’s an old VI Daily News photo somewhere of the Lt. Gov. or Gov. or head of the legislature, something political…wading in the shallows having been forced to abandon a Goose plane for reasons I can’t recall.  The seaplanes had a reputation for being rickety but there were a limited number of ways to get to St. Croix from St. Thomas, and the Goose was the quickest one.

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Walking Mudpit Trump Sloshes Through Middle East


Personally, since I was in Palm Beach County when the Saudi 911 bombers
trained nearby, and lived there, I’m not a huge fan of Saudi Arabian
leadership.  Plus there’s that whole, women can’t drive or go out of their
house without a male to supervise them thing.  Sorry, but that’s not what
you’d call “endearing” to American women.

But I laughed out loud at the news story about the Saudis giving Trump a
“golden collar” during the president’s first trip to the Middle East .  Ya don’t necessarily think of them as having a sense of irony.

They’re gonna have a time of it teaching our perpetually distracted
president to heel, sit and stay though.  They’d do better with one of those
“zapper” collars that delivers an electric shock when a pet misbehaves.
That might possibly get the Saudi wannabe owners of Mr. Trump better
results.  But they’re gonna have to battle Putin on this one–he’s currently got
bragging rights on controlling our erstwhile Pres.

Maybe Putin and Saudi crown prince somebody or other could mud wrestle
for the right to lead Trump around by his golden collar.  (It’d give Putin a hard-to-resist excuse to flash his man-boobs again!)

Lots of people would pay cold hard cash to see that sporting event.  I’d put my money on Putin.  He sure enough knows how to fight dirty.  There’d have to be a written rule–no assassinating opponents; Putin has a history after all.

Yeah, our president–favored lapdog of brutal dictators.  MAGA?  But which one
would it be?  Who’d get the rose?  If the high stakes mud wrestling event
were televised it would blow American Idol and Bachelorette ratings off the
court, don’t ya think?

And I’ll just bet that Trump thought that golden collar was an
honor–because it’s expensive.

But, Trump wasn’t just visiting the Middle East, he went to Rome too.  (We’ll skip the part where he got confused during a press conference with Netanyahu in Israel and just wandered off!)   I was thinking the Pope might once again work his magic, as he did with John Boehner, who resigned the day after meeting with the persuasive pontiff.

Well, except that then we’d have President Pence–another empty suit nitwit.
On the up side he’s more photogenic than Trump, and really good at looking earnest and resolute.  Hard to tell if that’d be a real improvement in the long run, but, how much worse could it get?  At least he might not spend all day
watching TV and tweeting nonsense.  Unlike our current president, Pence
might even have policies and plans that wouldn’t fit into 140 characters.

Does anyone else wonder when the GOP is going to get it that they are
the ones colluding–in making all of us a laughingstock in the world at large that is?  Not to mention that leaving a country of nearly 350 million citizens unattended for several years probably isn’t going to work out well.

 

Whiny Trump Turning Out To Be Crybaby In Chief


Jeez, isn’t everyone getting tired of Trump’s constant whining and
complaining?  Far from being the strong and energetic leader we were promised, he’s turned out to be “Crybaby in Chief”. Wah, wah, wah “it’s not fair” is his less than stalwart battle cry. It’s so embarrassing to the country.

And at the recent summit, when all the other heads of state walked, sissy-boy Donald Trump had to be hauled around in a golf cart because he was too fat, lazy and out of shape to keep up with his more fit–and mostly elderly–world leader colleagues. Mortifying!  For us that is.

Mr. Trump, here’s a bit of wisdom Mom imparted to me when I tried
that same lame ploy (“It’s not fair!”) long before I even entered
kindergarten. “Life isn’t fair and the sooner you learn that the better off
you’ll be. Now go to your room until you can behave.”

Somebody, please, send Trump a binkie and a blankie to help him cope with
his monstrous inadequacy.

So far it appears that the only member of the Trump retinue/administration
who is actually ready for political prime time is Melania. And she looks
ready to bolt any day now.

Carpe Diem Young Journalists–Now Is Your Chance for Glory


I’ve been fretting for some time about how few opportunities there are for young journalists and journalism students to sink their chops into something really meaty and write about something meaningful.  In the first place they exist in a journalistic environment which is more froth than beer.   And, of course, if they are active journalists with a media outlet, they only get to work on what they are assigned rather than what they may want to pursue.  Puff pieces are the name of the game in the establishment media.

But recent events and the corrosive corruption which are exploding in our society’s public life present a rare opportunity for young millenial investigative journalists.  I’m hoping they’ll smell blood and pounce on the stories with the ferocity and energy which only the young have in abundance.  Their complacent elders are tiptoeing around and walking on eggs like fearful weenies, hamstrung by their bunker mentality.  Those old media whores are too chicken to do this.

Come on brave millenial journalists!  Young people are always supposed to long for glory and a chance to show what they’re made of.  Here’s your big chance.  I know you can sniff out the green, rotting meat of dangerous conditions and unworthy politicians undermining our democracy.  You know how to dig into real in-depth research.  You have the internet, where Woodward and Bernstein were limited to actual on-the-ground sleuthing.

This is some really ugly s— coming down in our governance.  Expose it.  Please. There are a ton of us out here who will be pulling for you, and cheering you on.

Go to it.  Because your flaccid, sedentary,  scaredy cat elders aren’t likely to do it.  They have kids and mortgages.  They play it safe.   You don’t have to.  Bare your fangs.  Un- sheath your claws.  Lay back your ears and raise your hackles. Dig, dig, dig until your paws are bleeding and your claws are broken and worn.

Here’s you chance for lasting journalistic glory.  You can do it!  I have the greatest confidence in your ability to rise to the occasion. (And the greatest scorn for your sissy journalist elders.)   Hup, hup get off your asses and jump into the fray for the truth.

We’re starving out here–for courage,  honesty, substance and real facts, instead of opinions.  Sink your fangs in, grab the truth by the throat and shake it until it stops shape-shifting.  Then drag it back to the cave, carve it up and serve it to a grateful nation.

Grampa–One of the Last “Old Florida” Rum Runners


Grampa was wealthy and old school.  School of hard knocks, that is.  He
(and my Dad and uncle) were bootleggers in Michigan during prohibition.
Grampa used to design, build and race speedboats on the Detroit River back
in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s, presumably as an adjunct to the family liquor transporting
franchise.  After prohibition he got into rum running in Florida.  I found that
out many decades later, from a local chiropractor who told me his first job in high school was putting fake tax stamps on Grampa’s un-taxed liquor.

He used to take me surf fishing with him.  He was a lot of fun to be around.  People were scared of him though.  I never knew why but it was obvious.

When Grampa got too old for such frisky pursuits he diversified into
medical fraud.  His company sold a device invented by his aunt’s husband.
It had absolutely no medical value, but it was shiny and looked like it might.
Grampa and his aunt’s family also sold (by mail) a patented salve which was advertised to possess great healing properties.  Numerous charges of mail fraud were sprinkled throughout that aunt’s family resume.  My older brother told me they used to mix the salve up with a trowel on the table where they cleaned fish at Grampa’s local bait and tackle store.

The store was on the inland waterway, a stone’s throw from an inlet.
Presumably the location was chosen for that proximity–so useful for
bringing in contraband with only a short window of opportunity for law
enforcement to apprehend someone driving a fast boat.

Later on Grampa built a house on an island north of Palm Beach, near a more secluded inlet, on land he bought that fronted on both forks of the St. Lucie River.  This was probably even better for smuggling since he had more options for fast runs from the ocean up the river in a very sparsely populated (back in the day) area.

Grampa used go on business trips to Montreal.  It must have been to buy shipments of liquor and have it sent down to uninhabited cays and islands in the Bahamas.  Because, as far as I know, his bait and tackle store didn’t require anything from Montreal.  Then from the Bahamas Grampa, Dad and my uncle would bring it into Florida in fast boats on moonless nights.

That was until my Dad met and married my Mom, who was a strict Catholic
and had no tolerance for his family.  She expected Dad to work at real jobs.
He was madly in love with her and gave up his wild ways in favor of true
domestic bliss.

When I was young and read about the death of Franklin Roosevelt I
mentioned to Mom that just about everybody in the world was sad when he
died.  She replied–with the bemused, exasperated look that was reserved for
any mention of Grampa–“Not your grandfather. He got drunk to celebrate
and danced in the streets.”  Apparently Grampa detested Roosevelt for
rolling back prohibition and ruining the very profitable family business.

Since I was a little kid when I knew him it never occurred to me to wonder how
Grampa came to have so much money when his small bait and tackle store
couldn’t possibly have generated that level of income.  He did spend a lot of
time at the stock exchange in Palm Beach though and that was ostensibly
the source of his wealth.  Actually, looking back on it, that was probably
where he laundered his illegal profits.

I only learned about Grampa’s past when I was grown up and living in the
Caribbean.  One time I was visiting a friend and her guest happened to be
another Palm Beach County native.  We were talking about growing up
there.  All of a sudden she said “Wait a minute–you’re not related to old
man ____ and his two wild sons are you?”  (I write under a pen name
because my well off and very respectable extended family would not want
to be associated with our family history, or with a lot of the things I think
and say.)  And I said, yeah.  And she said “Your family is legendary in Palm
Beach County.”  Surprised I asked “For what?”.  And she said “smuggling”.
When I mentioned this to my Mom she said laconically, “I knew there had
to be a reason that old goat always carried a gun.”

It all made a lot of sense.  I remember Dad saying once, at the dinner table,
that the only time he’d ever been arrested was in high school–for
bootlegging.  Then he smiled at the memory and mentioned that he’d gotten
off because the judge was one of his customers.  My tiny Mom, without moving
a muscle or changing expression, shot him the freezing look women use
when they’re about to lower the boom.  Dad, who was a big and very manly guy, afraid of nothing, shut up and never mentioned it again.  His family was not an allowable topic for discussion in our home.

So, anyway, this woman who’d made the remark about smuggling asked me;
“Weren’t you always just wild and didn’t quite know why?  Didn’t you do
stuff that was considered way, way too outrageous for a girl?”

As it happens, I was always in trouble back in the day when girls were supposed to be submissive, quiet, and conduct themselves “like a lady”.   I learned to drive when I was 12, after an exasperated governess let me drive her car just to get me to behave.   By age 16 I sought to “tach it out” whenever  possible.  (The first time I got to drive alone, within an hour I was flying along at 95 mph on A1A, after promising Mom I’d be careful.  I was careful–by Grampa’s standards.)

When he was in his seventies, Grampa got arrested in Palm Beach for being
drunk and running red lights at excessive speeds. The officer who stopped
him happened to have a Slavic last name.  Grampa didn’t like that one little bit.  He detested “Polacks” (and lots of other groups too, including Catholics).  So he told the officer that he should “Go back where you came from you goddam foreigner.”  Which is how he came to be arrested in the middle of the night and my Dad had to go and bail him out of jail.  My nonplused Mom just said her rosary and kept quiet.

When it came time for Grampa to go to court on the charges, he was, as
usual, driving about 85 mph on A1A.  He wrapped his car around a tree.
The engine wound up in the back seat, but Grampa survived.  When he was
finally able to return home, although he was still bedridden, my Grandma refused to let him have a private nurse because she thought he’d be fooling around with her.  (And she was probably right.)

He built his own runabout speedboat in his garage not too long before that, and used to take us grandkids on wild, screaming, full open throttle (with twin Mercs)  rides up the treacherously shallow St. Lucie in it.   Totally dangerous.  And soooo fun!  Well, it was anyway, until Mom found out and put a stop to it that is.

My Mom once said to me that if I didn’t learn to control my temper I was
going to wind up “just like your grandfather”.   Yep, fast boats, fast cars, plenty of money, runnin’ red lights, speeding through Palm Beach at 80+ mph and smarting off to an authority figure.  I’m still wondering if that’s a good or bad thing.

Grampa was a real life tough guy, not like on TV.  One of the last “Old Florida” rum runners.  He was wealthy, successful and did exactly as he pleased, when he pleased.  Doesn’t sound so bad to me.

That’s the “Old Florida” I knew.

Will Trump’s Castrati–His Male Appointees–Get Their Balls Back When They Leave W/H?


So I’ve been wondering–will all the Trump administration’s neutered
males–Priebus, Mattis, Kelly, Tillerson, Spicer, et. al.–get their balls back
after they leave office?  (Okay, Spicer and Priebus probably never had any,
but what about the rest?)  And where are those testicles stored anyway?  (Al
Gore’s lockbox?)  Or were they just thrown out with the rest of the trash?

Granted, most of the castrati are so old that they probably weren’t using
those balls for much anyway, except possibly to scratch occasionally, for
old times’ sake.  But the way these guys let Trump humiliate them suggests
that whatever manhood they still possessed had to be checked at the
metaphorical door to their new positions, as a condition of employment.

Some of the president’s paid lackeys used to have some pride, sense of self,
and independence.  Now they’re just a sad, pathetic bunch of saluting,
heel-clicking old castrati who have apparently sold their manhood
for–what?

Still, it could be worse. Über sack-shrinker Hillary could have been elected.
Just the sound of her voice is enough to make a red-blooded male’s testicles
ascend to the refuge of their owner’s thorax and huddle behind the ribs in
fear.  There’s no guarantee she would even have hired any manly men anyway.

It’s gonna be a long four years.

Hillary, Spare Us the Sackcloth and Ashes. Just Go Away!


For heaven’s sake, the election’s over, Hillary lost and still, eight days later, she continues hogging the stage with her needy supporters and forcing the rest of us to be their unwilling grief counselors.  What, exactly, are the protesters   expecting to achieve with all the marching?   We’re not gonna give you a do-over.  Forget it!  You lost!  It’s OVER!  Go home!

These folks’ histrionics have already made it clear that Hillary et. al. are far too
emotionally fragile and needy to be able to handle political power.  Last night’s
pathetic display of Hillary doing her version of sackcloth and ashes/Monty Python penance bit, was the last straw.  The only possible excuses for her giving a public speech now is that she’s simply addicted to attention and deluded enough to imagine that she’s still relevant.

Hillary, et. al.–you guys are weaklings.  Fortunately you lost before we could find out at some less convenient time that you’d fold like a cardboard suitcase at the first sign of adversity.  Just try to imagine these sobbing jellyfish being able to hold their own in talks or negotiations with, oh, say, Vladimir Putin and his KGB colleagues.

What really frosts me is that the rest of us are supposed to sympathize, empathize and otherwise coddle these whiners until they feel comfie enough to re-enter the over-protective bubble  they think is the real world.

Sorry, but, you election losers deserve no pity.  No one feels sorry for you except yourselves.  Go bake cookies or do whatever ya need to and pull yourselves together.  But stop expecting us to watch,  You’re an embarrassment to all of us and our country.  So…shoo!  G’way!  Scat.  Just get the ____ out of our lives wouldja please?