Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby Indicted

Five counts:

2 counts of perjury.
2 counts of false statements.
1 count of obsturction of justice.
Rove is still under investigation.

Not everything i wanted, but still a good day.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bye Bye Staffords...

I don't know how many of you know this, but this is what happened in the House of Representatives yesterday:

"House Republicans voted to cut student loan subsidies, child support enforcement and aid to firms hurt by unfair trade practices as various committees scrambled to piece together $50 billion in budget cuts.

More politically difficult votes — to cut Medicaid, food stamps and farm subsidies — are on tap Thursday as more panels weigh in on the bill."

Now I know some of you on this email are Republicans (I love you anyway), but this is simply bad for all of us and our families. I couldn't have gone to college without student loans, and I doubt many of you could have either. My total bill after graduating from UMass was almost $50,000, and I will be paying this thing off for the rest of my natural life.

I will also point out that we have spent $500 billion thus far in Iraq, given away $108 billion in poorly targeted tax cuts to people far wealthier than ANY of us, and $450 million to build a bridge to nowhere in Alaska (among other chunks of pork in the transportation bill). Yet the money set aside so our kids can get a quality education is cut, never mind the pittance that goes for food stamps, so the Paris Hiltons and Leona Helmsleys of this country don't have to share in the financial pain being levied on the rest of us.

Please remember in 2006 just who it was that made it harder for you to provide for your kids' education.

Your friend,
Brendan Skwire

Presidential Seal

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Ray at Philly Bits has a good piece about taking back the presidential Seal, given that the White House threatened to sue to Onion for using it.
If you blog, add the seal to your website. Fuck Bush.

A Better Idea for David Broder

Today in the Washington Post, David Broder opines, "It is not hard these days to find intelligent critiques of the budget policy and fiscal record of the Bush administration. Conservative and liberal think tanks alike grind out fresh analyses of the risks in the chronic refusal of the Republicans who govern the country to pay the bills they are amassing here and overseas."

So far so good. Broder's remedy? "Democrats need to help clean up the Bush Administration's fiscal mess by considering Social Security reform and cuts in
entitlement spending." [This is the lede to the piece, printed on the Post's Op-Ed page.] After this, he goes on a long explanation about how people need to listen to the DLC, the right wing of the Democratic party that sucks up to big business. These are the people who brought you Joe "I heart Republicans" Lieberman, and the people who enthusiastically supported the Bankruptcy Bill, which attacks the working class and the poor, and for which there is no constituency outside of MBNA, Citibank, and Capital One. When it comes to opposing Bush, the Republicans, and Big Business, the DLC has been little more than Vichy France, selling out labor, the environment, and the poor. The DLC candidates lost BIG TIME in 2000 and 2004. They have very little support among mainstream Democrats, and in fact attack progressives, most notoriously by putting the kibosh on Dean's candidacy.

"Help clean up the Bush Administrations fiscal mess"? Bush's entire career is made up of people cleaning up his fiscal mess, and enough is enough. If anyone is obliged to clean up Bush's fiscal mess, it's his supporters in the Republican Party: this is THEIR mess. Why should the Democrats be left holding the bag?

Make no mistake: Broder is spouting the corporate line here, but anyone who claims to be a Democrat who is still willing to bargain with the GOP is out of his or her mind. It's not surprising that Mr. Broder would take this position: after all, as a career pundit at the Post and as a frequent commenter on the television, Broder has made out quite well thanks to Bush's tax cuts, certainly a lot more than the rest of us who got our measly $300.00 checks in the mail.

I have a much better solution to offer than selfish Mr. Broder about rectifying our financial house: repeal Bush's insane tax cuts, which have drastically
reduced the revenue stream. It's simple and easy.

Perhaps it's time Broder change his nickname from "the Dean" to "the Shill".

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I am watching Plame

I am watching Plame, for any friends who are wondering. I'm not in a position to know what's going on, so in lieu of sophistry, I am keeping my mouth shut in temrs of opinion.
That said, i hope Fits nails some folks to the wall, including Bush, Cheney, Rove, Libby, Rice, Card, and a cast of others.
Now back to my hardcore and country piece, which is long overdue.

The Never Ending Bible Movie

Channel 48 out of Burlington New Jersey used to be really cool. An independent, low budget UHF station, they would broadcast everything from informercials to reruns of the A-TEAM to Inspector Gadget. I remember how the station carried me through the flu: in the afternoons when other channels veered toward ultra-insipid cartoons (FOX, UPN), ultra-insipid soaps (everything else except PBS), or adult education (PBS), channel 48 would be airing the Love Boat, Courtship of Eddie's Father, and the Hogan Family. Then one day TV Paradise was gone, bought up by Trinity Broadcasting, all Jesus all day. Goodbye Mr. T, hello unctuous-bordering-on-psychotic preacher.

The worst part of the takeover is the evening programming: beginning around 9:00, The Never Ending Bible Movie begins. It's shot in technicolor, the sets could have been stolen from the original Star Trek series, and the acting is as melodramatic as any Heston epic.

The movie never ends. I have never seen the movie end. On a given night, I have seen the walls of Jericho, apparently made of cardboard, come tumbling down; Moses parting the red sea; and of course, like some kind of fetish, the execution of Jesus Christ.
The Never-Ending Bible Movie: I stared this post On October 17; it's now a full week later, and the fucking movie doesn't end. It's on right now.
Read Age of Reason. It's much better.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Tom DeLay Arrested

the Smoking Gun has Tom DeLay's mugshot.
I've copied it here because... well, because it makes me so gosh-darned happy.

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I'll be breaking out a little bubbly tonight.

Happy Belated Birthday to Me

I will be playing at Fergie's, 1200 block of Sansom, on Saturday October 22. It is the "Son Volt After Party." As if.

It's also the day after my 35th birthday, which I'll be spending in NYC. NYC isn't bad, but I'd really rather hang out with my friends and family here in Philly.

Please come down with all your friends, have some drinks, and rock out with me and the rest of the Jangling Sparrows on October 22 at Fergies. It'll be a heck of a good time!

Richard Cohen is a Moron

Richard Cohen takes his daily laxative, and lays the following steaming pile of commentary in the fetid commode he calls his column: "If the best we can say for it is that the end justifies the means, then we have not only lost the argument -- but a bit of our soul as well." He is speaking of Roe v Wade: not content to be on the wrong side of the war in Iraq, the wrong side of Plame, and the wrong side of just about everything else, Mr. Cohen, the Washington Post's buck-toothed, brain-dead, boot-licking pretend liberal, turns to Roe versus Wade.

Someone needs to remind Richard that he sold his soul back when he supported the war in Iraq, and his insistence that the Plame investigation should be shut down is evidence that he has neither conscience nor brains. He is in no position to tell others about the state of their own souls.

Consider this dunderheaded pronouncement: "The prospect of some women traveling long distances to secure an abortion does not cheer me -- I'm pro-choice, I repeat."

Mr. Cohen conveniently ignores the post-Katrina reality that many women are simply TOO POOR to own a car, and can't travel from neanderthal states like Alabama or Mississippi or Pennsylvania to have an abortion. Never mind that the procedure costs around $400, which most poor people don't just have lying around. Make no mistake: what Cohen means by "some women" is "poor women."

Mr. Cohen is pro-choice, but only for those who can afford it. This belief is elitist, classist, and just plain wrong.

I do not know why the Washington Post keeps this Janus on its editorial pages: at best he's an idiot, and at worst he's a moral coward and a liar. Get rid of him and get someone who actually has some common sense (as well as common decency).

Brendan Skwire

The saga(city) continues (or, Thanks for the Traffic).

Some people are SO stupid, you really start to believe in eugenics and forced sterilization.

This past July, the owner of a local right-wing website dropped by the left-wing All SpinZone to start a fight with the owners and participants. She got what she wanted and was promptly hounded from the comments area, after which she went back to her own site to lick her wounds and gripe about what meanies we were. I wrote about the exchange here, and promptly forgot about it.
Obviously having some issues with obsessive compulsive disorder, the dummy wrote a follow-up article in September calling me "Mr. Snarky Pants" (never mind that I don't deal so much in "snark" as much as I deal with outright insults). I wrote about this exchange here. It's ridiculous: the girl's nursing a grudge from a mindless internet spat that SHE started, and holding onto her hurt feelings, for MONTHS. How can you NOT make fun of that?

As you'll notice, the last paragraph reads "And if your stupid friends come here to leave nasty comments, I'll just delete them unread anyway, so please don't bother."

I'm sure you can guess what happened next. This Monday, October 17, my brother needed to reference an older piece of mine, for which I was searching through my archives, where I belatedly found a whopping 21 comments on my response to "Mr. Snarkypants". I'd forgotten all about the post (I forget about most posts after they're up except the really super long ones, and fwiw I'm working on a good one about the time when I was 18 and my housemate got chlamydia), so it was a bit of a surprise. After reading the comments, I wasn't sure whether to sigh and write "what part of 'please don't bother' do you not understand" or to send a personal note reading "Thanks for the traffic, Petunia".

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I like the comments though: I never knew the developmentally disabled were so passioate! Don Tardo, who's the next contestant on "I'm Missing a Chromosome"?

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A photo of my recent visitors, sans hockey helmets, before they had to change their adult diapers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sunshine in the Shadows

There's a great song by The Carter Family called Sunshine in the Shadows. I can't say that I subscribe to the faith in Jesus part, but the title is, to me, evocative.

For the past two years, going on three, my life has been largely shadows with rare spots of sunshine. Last week, I went through an incredibly dark patch of shadows. I've been slowly learning to predict these dark psots: if Sam comes to visit, it's nearly guaranteed that within a week of his departure, I'm ready to throw myself off in front of the subway. Last week's episode was aggravated by all the other worries I've been shouldering: high-interest credit card debt, my enormous student loan, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and waiting for my home-equity loan to process.

Today, I got my spot of sunshine: the loan application was approved, the papers will be signed on Saturday, and by Wednesday, I'll have the funding available for hardwood floors and wall-to-wall, purchasing the car I don't want but need, and to pay off my remainign small debts.

Still, the sunshine is filtered through darker shadows that loom overhead: Melissa called to tell me Sam is talking even more and getting more directly communicative. He carried his bag of diapers out of his room, brought them right up to her and said "Dirty!" and hopped on the sofa waiting to be changed. I'm really excited: it's a huge step forward in terms of his communication skills. On the other hand it's yet another mileston that I didn't get to see.

I won't see Sam again until November 19, when he comes down for Thanksgiving. He's leaving on the 27th, so I get a week. I also don't get him for Christmas, and it looks like I'll be missing his 2nd birthday. I wasn't there for his first birthday either.

You might be saying, "Lighten up, man! At least you get to see him. And you got the money you need, so just chill out and be happy for a minute or two," and you would probably be right.

But the loan is nothing more than transferring my high-interest debt to a low-interest debt, and i wouldn't be buying the car if it wasn't for the commute to pick up and return Sam. The home improvements are to jack up the value on the house so I can make more money on it when I sell. The rest of the money is for facilitating the move to Burlington, a city which, as previously mentioned, I am unenthusiastic about moving to.

Sunshine in the Shadows. Story of my life.

Update: Things just took a turn for the worse with regard to Melissa. As I said, for every one thing that goes well in my life, at least 3 other things go poorly.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

4 accounts at Yahoo

I have four accounts at yahoo, but for the some reason for the past two days, the one I use most refuses to let me sign in for about two hours after 12:00 PM.

It's really fucking beginning to fucking piss me right the fuck off.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Modest Proposal for the New York Times

Mr. Sulzberger and Mr. Keller:

I read your account of the Judy Miller scandal, after which I read Ms. Miller's account, followed by lengthy analysis at the Washington Post, Editor and Publisher, and a number of reliable blogs. I found that they, like I, were disgusted by the contradictions inherent in both pieces. You promised your readers a full accounting, and delivered bupkes.

Needless to say, I will not take your newspaper's reporting at face value ever again. Judy Miller should be fired, after which the two of you, who enabled this nonsense and abeted the administration in the lies that led us into Iraq, should apologize the the American people, and resign. First Jayson Blair and now this.

It is probably too much to expect dishonest cowards like yourselves to commit ritual suicide, but I do not believe it is not too much to ask.

Pistols and shotguns are readily available at sporting goods stores everywhere (and some department stores as well), although after splurging on Judy's steak dinner and massage at the Ritz Carlton perhaps you need to "pinch" your pennies (do you get that one, Mr. Sulzberger?). I suggest one of the following options:

** Draw a nice hot bath, and avail yourself of any one of Gillette's fine line of razor blades. Remember, it's "up the highway" not "across the street" when you
make those incisions into your arteries. Make sure to do this in the bathtub, to avoid any mess on your fine towels and bathmats.

** Rope, made from nylon or all-natural jute, is inexpensive, and a noose is not a complicated knot. There are many handy places in Manhattan from where you could suspend your rope: Central Park comes to mind. Remember to put the knot on the side, so as to snap your neck when you jump off the stool, hastening death. If you leave the knot at the back of your neck, you will simply choke to death, but really, either method would work.

** Gas up your Jaguar, Cadillac Escalade, or whatever obscenely expensive car you guardians of the public's right to know are driving these days, and park it in your garage. Pour yourself a nice martini (maybe two or three), put in some relaxing music, close the garage door, and let the engine run as you drift off to sleep. Or skip the whole carbon monoxide thing and just douse yourself with unleaded and strike a match.

** You may simply wish to take the elevator to the top floor of the New York Times Building and take the plunge, although your eventual collision with the sidewalk may result in the death of an innocent bystander. However, given your enablement of the Iraq war, through Ms. Miller's reporting, the deaths of innocents probably doesn't concern you all that much.

** Finally, please don't forget to leave a note.

Best wishes,
Brendan Skwire

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Faithful America and Letters About the Obvious

I subscribe, for whatever reason, to a lefty group called Faithful America. I think I joined up during the Kerry campaign, when all of a sudden only Republicans had the right to be Christian or religious or whatever. I'm not a particularly religious guy (like Jesse Ventura, I kind of believe it's "a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers"), but hey if it's annoying to the religious right, why not.

Over the past year, I've received a number of emails from Faithful America, signed anti-war petitions, contributed money to Katrina victims and tsunami victims, etcetera, etcetera.

Today I got an email asking me to thank my Senators who voted in support of the anti-torture amendment that George Bush has promised will receive his first veto ever. Like the rest of the email campaigns I receive, Faithful America helpfully provides a model letter which can be edited (none of these letters get read by anyone; they're just dropped in a stack on some hapless staffer's lap), and so I gave it my best shot.

The thing is, I don't see why I should be thanking someone for righting a wrong they never should have committed in the first place. Thank Senator Specter for voting to prohibit torture of detainees? The real question here is why did he vote to permit in the first place?

"Thank you for paying for my medical care after you deliberately broke my arm."
"Thank you so much for paying to repair that priceless ming vase you destroyed on purpose with your 9-iron."
"It wasn't right of you to rape my wife, but thanks for picking up the dry-cleaning tab and getting the blood out of the sheets."

So here is my letter to Senators Specter and Santorum:

I am writing to thank you for your support of the amendment to the defense bill outlawing torture and degrading treatment of those in U.S. custody. That must have been one tough decision to actually come out against torturing people. Boy your morals are really impressive, that you would actually have a vote to decide whether to act like compassionate people or brutes. Most of us would just see this as common sense, but hey at least you took a vote.

I still think you're a scumbag for supporting the bankruptcy bill, the tax cuts and the PATRIOT Act, and kissing George Bush's stinky heinie again and again, but hey I'm not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth.

Whoop-dee-doo, you don't support torture anymore. Maybe someday you'll also vote to agree that puppies are cute.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

UncleFucker Photos

two new ones...

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[You'll notice that I sort of have abs in this picture. Those of you who knew me back when I lived in Massachusetts probably know how little bodyfat I had back then. It's amazing what cheesesteaks and beer will do to a guy, eh? So why the abs in this picture? Simply put, I got so disgusted with my condition from sitting for hours in a van, and sitting around for hours waiting to play, I started doing pushups and crunches every day. By then end of tour, I was up to three sets of 25 pushups, and hundreds upon hundreds of crunches.]

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Where's the Box?

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to tour with a psych-pop band through Britain. It was an excellent experience, especially so because I was just the touring bass player (my friend Neil was the touring drummer) and thus I was an outsider watching the internal band politics as they played out.

Two members of the band had, until quite recently been a couple. For over 5 years if memory serves. Not only that, they were in another, much more serious band together, thus they never had the opportunity to escape each other and heal after the breakup. Out tour was almost called off in the aftermath, but luckily everyone came to their senses.

Neil used to joke about the male counterpart. "OK. This is how Ted works. He takes all his emotions and says 'I don't know what to do with all these emotions. Look at them, so many and i don't know how to deal with them. Oh, I know! I'll just put them in this box for when I need them.'

"Then when he needs them he says 'Hey, where'd I put that box?'"

Lately, outside of "anger" and "unhappiness" and their many varieties and flavors, I have to admit, I don't know where I put my box.

I gotta find that fucking box.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

"How are you doing?"

Yesterday I was supposed to have some phone time in the morning with Sam, but Melissa never called, so i rang over at her apartment, where no one answered.

Duh, I thought. It's Canadian Thanksgiving, so they're probably over at her parents' house, and I dialed their number. Her father, Al, answered.

"Oh hi, Brendan, how are you?... No, Melissa's not here, she's at work; we're watching Sammy for the next couple of hours... yes, I'll tell her you called... Bye now."

"How are you" has devolved into a rhetorical question. No one expects an honest answer: as Jerry Seinfeld pointed out in Seinlanguage we spend our workdays in cubicle mazes asking the same ten people, every time we see them in the hall "Hey how's it going." The answer is always "Fine" or something like that. The question is so banal, you could answer honestly and in detail and no one would even notice.

"My leg was gnawed off by a shark and I'll never walk again."

"Oh good; say, when you see Bob down in fiscal, could you tell him to call me about the Transcom file?

Al's "how're you" was just that kind of empty sentiment, and maybe I shouldn't be so irritated about this, but I've been simmering since he said it.

Let me make one thing clear: since Melissa and I broke up, I have put my de facto in-laws very high on my shit-list. After all, it was they who helped convince her to stay in Canada, dashing two years of waiting for my burgeoning family to move in with me to the pavement, like so much broken china. It's my in-laws who never seem to have the time to help transport Sam to Syracuse where I can pick him up for the occasional visit. It's my in-laws who spent the past year badmouthing me to Melissa when I was unemployed, because they didn't want their daughter wasting her time on a bum like me, and it's those two who badmouth me to melissa now that we've broken up.

So the next time I have to call their house, when Al asks me "how are you," I'm going to tell him exactly how I'm doing.

"Oh not bad, not bad at all. For a guy whose girlfriend had him wait two years while she stayed up in Canada with their son, before she abruptly changed her mind about moving in and starting the family, yeah I'm doing OK. For a guy whose girlfriend's parents successfully lobbied to have her remain those 1000 miles from her son's father, and who refuse to help get their grandchild down to see his father, and who badmouth me behind my back, yeah I'm doing pretty good. I'm not doing badly for a guy who shells out $300 he can ill afford to part with to support a son he gets to see once every two months or so. Not bad for a guy who's been waiting for two fucking years to start parenting only to have a couple of dicks like you play a part in pulling the rug out from under everything. Not bad for a guy who just bought his own place, and now probably has to sell it so he can pull up stakes and move to Burlington, BURLINGTON FUCKING VERMONT IN THE FROZEN FUCKING NORTH WHERE THERE'S NO FUCKING WORK, to be closer to his son, yeah, for that guy, I'm doing pretty OK.

"But hey Al, by any normal measure of personal well-being, I'm doing pretty. fucking. shitty. How do you fucking THINK I'm doing you fucking moron, now that you've helped ruin my fucking life?"

Am I feeling a little bitter today? OH YEAH.

Comments: Another Message from the Proprieter

One of the reasons I enjoy blogging is because it allows me to have my cake and eat it too: I get to write for an audience without the pressure of a weekly or monthly deadline. I hate deadlines: I have to deal with them at work, and it takes away a lot of the pleasure I get out of writing.

I have never been the type of person to keep a journal. Tim? He keeps journals like mad, and writes for one of the free papers in Newport, Rhode Island; this is why (I suspect) he doesn't update his log all that often. He's one of those people who's lucky enough to get pleasure from journaling: I need to know, or at least think, that someone's reading my stuff other than me.

Another reason I started blogging was that my friends were getting tired of receiving two dozen pieces of email calling attention to the latest crime committed by the Bush junta. "Goddman it, Brendan," they would say, "Go get a blog or something. Get a blog and I'll read it, just stop bombarding me with emails.!"

Here's the turd in my punchbowl: this blog has been going since 2003, but it's a rare occasion when I get a comment over here in bcftu-world, especially from those of you who urged me, nay nearly threatened me with decapitation, if I didn't start blogging. Lately, I think I've been putting out some high-quality work, yet my comments remain empty, outside of a random word from Ray, Alex, and Wendy. Where the heck are the rest of you?
Kate and Alex?

Do I expect the same kind of activity that atrios gets? No, of course not: bcftu isn't that kind of blog. But when I churn out some quality work, like the "This Guy I Know" piece below, it'd be nice to hear what y'all have to say.

So speak up!

Monday, October 10, 2005

New Sam

Sam had a playdate with my friend Kate's son: here are some photos.

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You might think the H on his shirt stands for Hilfiger, but really it stands for "hurricane".

Thursday, October 06, 2005

This Guy I knew is Dead; This Guy I knew is Alive

This Guy I Knew Is Dead.
My younger sister Kate's ex-boyfriend Gordon, who I've written about before, somewhat less than charitably (and that is to my shame not his) is dead. If the autopsy comes out the way I think it will, it will be evident he was murdered.

I knew Gordon before my sister did actually; he was a presence, either as an audience member or bouncer, at pretty much every hardcore and punk show I went to growing up in Rhode Island. He was a good 10 years older than me. He was massive, 6'6" at least, a former Marine, lean and just fucking ripped with muscles. I don't mean the pumped out Schwarzenegger look: I mean that wiry, rope look that could rip a cow in half. Gordon was kind of a meathead, but basically a nice guy, the kind of guy who would beat the shit out of you if he absolutely had to, but would feel bad about it later and probably buy you a beer in remorse. He worked in construction, lobstering sometimes later on.

I guess Gordon and Kate got together in 1990 or 1991: she was still at Rhode Island College (RIC) when Gordon got sent to the ACI for stabbing someone in a bar fight. God bless her, my sister, all of 19 years old (Gordon must have been pushing 30), waited for him. Kate worked in the Stanley Bostich factory if memory serves, making staplers. The job was union, and Kate refused to let anyone in management push her around: I would see her at holidays and listen to her complain about the union bending over for management. It made her into one tough little bitch, I can tell you that. It's this toughness, this aggressiveness that never lets her give in to anyone or anything, for better or for worse.

When Gordon got out of jail, they decided to finally get the hell out of Rhode Island, and moved near my parents in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, getting an apartment in nearby Margate. I didn't keep in close touch with my family at the time because I was busy finishing college, but from what I recollect my folks helped them out a lot, giving Gordon work on their property. I think he worked primarily as a carpenter once he established his presence.

At some point I learned that the relationship was over: Kate had caught Gordon screwing around with the stripper that lived downstairs. This was about when I began referring to the guy as "Stabby the Clown". Unkind of me? Yeah, but I wasn't exactly happy about the guy cheating on my sister.

Like a lot of people (like my ex-girlfriend and me), Kate kept in touch with Gordon, eventually getting over the hurt and betrayal (I hope; who am I to speak for her?), becoming friends. My mom has had a soft spot for Gordon as well: I know he calls on the holidays to say hello, the same way I call my ex's family on the holidays.

Earlier this week, my mother called me to tell me that Gordon had died. The inital story was rough, that he'd been beaten by a teenager and 5 of his friends. The story I heard after the funeral was heartbreaking.

Gordon was dating a divorced mother. The estranged father apparently instigated the beating by telling the woman's son that now that Gordon had had the mom, he was going to try to bang the kid's sister. So the kid got 5 friends together and they jumped Gordon, with aluminum baseball bats and a gold club. They beat him so bad he lost an eye. After getting out of the hospital (at the hospital? I don't know all the details yet), the woman urged Gordon to press charges, but he refused, saying he didn't want to ruin the kid's life. That is the kind of guy Gordon was: he probably could have ripped the kid limb from limb with his bare hands if he wanted to, but chose to file the incident under "Fucked Up Things That Teenagers Do." I would have to assume that, having had his own stint in the pen, Gordon knew how situations could get out of hand.

Gordon and his girlfriend were asleep in bed when she heard a thud. Gordon had fallen from the bed, and was dead. An autopsy has been ordered. The irony is that Gordon wouldn't press charges because he didn't want to in the kid's life: why bother, when his assailant ruined at least three including his own?
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This Guy I Knew is Alive.

While Kate was waiting for Gordon's release from prison and working her ass off at the staple factory, I was living in New Haven. I've always been resistant to change, and the abrupt move from 18 years of my life in Newport to the completely alien New Haven fucked my head up for about 3 months. By New Years day 1992, I had gotten my footing a bit. I was playing bass in a rock band with two other guys, Greg Prior on guitar and Shawn whatever-his-name was on drums. They had been in a power-pop band in the late 1980s called Bleached Black: they had made it to the charts and were about to be picked up by Sony when their guitar player Steve-o blew the whole deal, though I never got the whole story. In any event, Greg and Shawn had started playing together again; I don't exactly recall how I entered the picture. At some point, the effort went on hiatus when Shawn quit the band, but a few months later I bumped into Greg again, and he'd found another drummer, this guy Todd formerly of the Jellyshirts (forgive any mistakes or incorrect names: it was a long time ago and things get jumbled), and we started playing together again.

Every time I've visited New Haven since I moved away, it has seemed a sadder, more dangerous, and less appealing city, but in 1992, there was a hell of a scene going on. Thurston Moore himself proclaimed that New Haven was "the next Seattle", apparently sincerely. Indeed, a week after I moved there, Nirvana played The Moon, a dirtshit, little bar in the Westville neighborhood. My friend Tim told me to go check it out. "They're gonna be fucking huge," he said. "Fucking huge." I ended up forgetting to go. I was never that impressed with Nirvana anyway; Mudhoney was more my style.

It was a fun time to be playing rock music. We called our band "Hempstead" because we were all a bunch of potheads; I still think it's a good name for a band. We practiced in the same place all the other bands in New Haven practiced: in the vacant space above Christie's Department store. In its day, it had been four stories of retail space and offices. The ceilings and walls were criss-crossed with long tubes through which interdepartmental messages had once been sent via vaccuum, but by the early 1990s, the store took up only the first floor and was desperately tryng to milk what cash it could from the upper floors by renting space to musicians and artists. Rumpleforeskin practiced there. Malachi Crunch practiced there. Nest door, where we used to practice, was VMJ and Sunflower. This was all up and down the easternmost end of Chapel Street, across from the Nude Haven Bookstore, a few blocks from Worcester Square and the best apizza you ever ate, where nobody lived and electric guitars caromed off the empty masonry, echoing down tarmac canyons.

Greg was a brilliant musician and a performer of staggering talent, with one flaw: he was totally out of his mind. I don't mean this pejoratively: he was seriously and self-admittedly bipolar, a condition he had inherited from his mother. Unfortunately, in the 1990s the available medications weren't as targeted as they are today, and they completely numbed him. "You know why I don't take them?" Greg said to me once over a couple of Elm Citys at Cafe 9. Elm City was a local microbrew, made by the New Haven Brewery riding the wave back when microbrews were new. [The New Haven Brewery is now defunct, and was never any Yards to begin with.]

"When I take the drugs, I can't play music. I can't write." I had to strain to hear him. For a guy who screamed his head off as a singer, Greg spoke only a decibel or two above a whisper.

From what he told me, Greg and his wife Ellen had met in a psych ward when they were teenagers. They had an immediate soul connection, and eventually they married. They had a little boy named Timmy, and a daughter on the way whose name I can't remember. In some ways Greg envied Ellen: becoming a mother had in many ways cured her of her insanity. They made a good couple though: both of them had issues with body hair, and kept their hair closely cropped ("above and below" he cracked). If Greg looked a little like Popeye, Ellen was a vision, in a camoflage pants, combat boots, and a bleached-white flat top, pushing Timmy in his stroller.

A little like Popeye. Greg looked EXACTLY like Popeye. The picture below only shows his shaved head. Greg was a wiry guy with a preference for tight pants; in particular, one pair made of black leather. Greg was one of the kindest, most humble guys I have ever met, but had an uncharacteristic swagger which made him seem cocky and arrogant, about which I'll write more later in this piece.

Greg was also a born-again Christian. He didn't belong to any church, prefering to worship at home in his own way. He was incredibly intense about his relationship with God, but he was a surprisingly open-minded person, unlike so many of the other devoutly Christian people I've met.

"It's not my business if someone has an abortion or is gay," he once said to me. "That's for them to work out with God, it's none of my thing. I don't have to approve, but it's just not for me to say. God has His way. And I don't care anyway."

The dark side of Greg's Christianity was depending on his mood, it went from preaceful to downright apocalyptic. His lyrics, which he sang in great yowls abnd yelps were nearly impossible to decipher, but when you could make them out, they were cryptic refernces and obscure Bible verses. On one particular song, he actually spoke in tongues. It was eerie.

One evening Greg came to practice. He pulled a pack of smokes out of his shirt, and dug his lighter out of the leather pants. "So, uh guys, I don't think I can make the gig in two weeks," he said. "I think we should cancel. I'm going in for surgery that week."

Todd and I looked up. "Surgery?" Todd said. "What's wrong? Is everything OK?"

"Oh no, it's nothing bad," said Greg. "It's just invasive, and I'll be laid up for a couple of days. You know that cyst I mentioned a few months ago?" He was referring to a benign water-filled cyst in his scrotum. "It's not like it's gotten cancerous," he added. "It's just gotten to the point where it's getting in the way, and I have to do something about it."

"How big is the thing?" I asked. "I mean..."

"Well, walking has been getting difficult, but I could deal with the Popeye walk," he said. So that's what it was from I thought. "But now it's getting in the way of me fucking Ellen. It's really... well, you wanna see it?"

"Oh yeah," said Todd. "Let's see the freakish thing."

Greg shrugged, and unbuttoned the pants, peeling them down to his knees, and dropped his whitey-tightties.

I wasn't prepared for what I saw. His nuts were pushed off to one side, and his scrotum was the size of a bocce ball.



Hempstead, like so many other bands, ended up breaking up. I would still see Greg around the neighborhood and though there were no hard feelings, by summer 1993 I hadn't seen him in months.

I had left my job at the natural foods store, where I ran the salad bar during the day and made all-natural kosher vegetarian pizzas by night. Our kitchen was blessed by Rabbi Whitman, a 30-something man with a round and ruddy moon of a face, probing brown eyes peeking out from his jowly pink face who dropped by to make spot inspections.

The store was at the crossroads of a dangerous ghetto, a struggling middle class neighborhood, and a growing Lubavitcher and orthodox Jewish community. Tired frumpy women with a line of children behind them would occassionally approach me as I poked through the produce section looking for a head of romaine, asking in heavily accented English, "Excuse me mistah? You Jewish?"

My inevitable reply, "on my father's side," was met with a shaking head, and a grumbled "Never mind."

If the Lubavitchers were dour, the Orthodox community was richly diverse and welcoming. Yoshi lived upstairs from me with absolutely stunning wife Hannah and their 2 year old daughter. Yosh was in his early 30s and a doctoral student at Yale divinity school. He would come downstairs every two weeks or so and knock on my door, dressed in birkenstocks, pleated khaki pants, an oxford shirt and tie under a knit vest like my grandmother used to make, and a knit yarmulke and ask "Hey Brendan? Can you uh.. can you get, get me any weed?" The first time I was stunned. "Oh no, there's nothing in the Bible against it," he assured me, "and I'm not a narc if you'rew worried about that. It's just that I kind of figured..."

Once I went upstairs with Yosh so Hannah could inspect the buds; if the idea of HIM smoking was funny, the idea of her smoking was mind-blowing. She was a vision, who never wore a wig like some of the other women, but revelled in bright head scarves.

"Oh Yosh," she said, "This is some good shit. Reminds me of the Golden Triangle, in Thailand."

"Thailand? Golden Triangle? What the heck were you two doing down there?"

"Oh we were missionairies," Yosh laughed. "But we'd get into the city whenever we could to score some weed."

Orthodox Jewish missionaries smoking weed in Thailand. I couldn't quite get my mind around it. "Are there a lot of Jews in Thailand?"

"Oh no, none at all," Hannah laughed. "We were on mission to the poor, helping out. Kind of like Jewish peace corps."

The downside of having a hippy orthodox Jewish family living upstairs was that every Friday night around sundown, the other guys on the way to temple would show up and yell at the top of their lungs, "YOOOOSHHHHIIIIII!!!!!!!" According to the Sabbath rules, ringing doorbells was considered work, and thus forbidden, while yelling at the top of your lungs was quite alright.

The pizza calls would start coming in early on Fridays; cooking was obviously not an option during the Sabbath, and our Jewish customers were eager to order ahead. Post-worship get-togethers seemd to be pretty common, with families ordering 2-3 pies at a time. Hilariously, the most popular topping was a tempeh product called Fakin Bacon. A typical conversation would go like this:

Riiiiiiiinnggg!! Riiiiiiiinnggg!!

"Hello, kitchen!"

"Hello, Brendan? It's Rabbi Whitman; can I order a pizza for tonight?"

"Of course Rabbi, what can I do for you?"

"Could I get 2 pies, one plain cheese, and one with olives and..." His voice would drop 10 decibels. "Do you have any of that... you know," and his voice would drop even further. "Fakin Bacon?" There was no meat in the product and it was kosher, but just the word "bacon" seemed to put the rabbi, and pretty much every other practicing Jew in the neighborhood, into the same shameful fever I used to get sneaking Hustlers into my room during high school.

Anyway, I had left this job, and was splitting my time between Pizza Pal Plus and painting condominum complexes in the suburbs. It was quite a crew. Todd had been one of the local rock scene's prime movers, but had since dropped out and was putting his energy into the painting business. Fernando was Todd's girlfriend's son; aggressively Puerto Rican, he spent his share of radio time blasting top 40 dance music. Paul was an older hipster; when Bleached Black was up and coming, he had been my age. Glenn was had the best stories; a recovered junkie, he had toured extensively with the Butthole Surfers as their drug purchaser.

And so it was that I heard the last of Greg for 5 years. We had just picked up our coffee and donuts on the way out to a job when Paul piped up, "Did you hear what happened with Greg prior last night?"

I took a sip of coffee and looked up. My new girlfriend had me drinking the stuff black and I was still getting used to it. "What happened?"

"Oh man, he lost it," Paul said, craning his neck to the back of the van, "He got picked up by the cops this morning walking downtown on Elm Street in his whitey-tighties." Heading into town from Greg's apartment at Norton and Whalley, the further downtown one headed on Elm, the worse the neighborhood got, a wasteland scarred by gnagland shootings between Los Solidos, the Latin Kings, and the Howe Street Gang. "He was throwing hex signs over his shoulder, saying over and over the Saint Peter was calling him."

I shook my head; it was so sad that Greg had finally cracked up. Again. A few weeks later I bumped into Ellen and little Timmy waiting for the bus downtown. Timmy held a silvery mylar balloon that read "Get Well Soon Daddy". It was heart wrenching, but at the same time, far-removed for me. I was preparing to leave town, applying to colleges out of state. Eventually, I got accepted at UMass, and spent the next 3 years absorbed in school, and three years after that looking for work in the area and propping up a dying relationship, with both Massachusetts and my girlfriend. When the one crashed, the other burned, and by 1999, I had moved to Philadelphia.


It was in New York during Halloween that I met up with Greg again. I was playing with Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops,appearing regularly in Manhattan at a little southern food place called the Old Devil Moon. My friend Paul from Newport was with me; he'd come dwn to see the freak show Halloween parade up 5th Avenue. I don't remember exactly how Greg and I bumped into each other; I think it may have been as simple as rounding a corner onto Avenue A and there he was.

"Hey man, how've you been?" I asked.

"Well, you know, up and down I guess," said Greg. "Ellen and I broke up a year or so ago. She's still in Connecticut, and I get the kids on the weekends. Good news though is that I'm finally on some decent medications that let me play my guitar. I've been doing a hell of a lot better." I invited Greg to the show that night, and in return he offered to let Paul and me stay in his apartment, which we gladly accepted.

It was good to see Greg doing so well. He gave me a tape of some of the latest songs he was working on. It seemed a little dated to me, a little run of the mill, but then by that time I hadn't been listening to rock for 3 years or so, nothing but bluegrass and country. Greg still looked exactly the same as he had in 1993, except for maybe a few new gray hairs.

It was around 3:00 AM when we got to Greg's place. "Timmy hasn't been up in a month and the bulb in his room is burned out," he said as he opened one door. "And I never had a bulb in this one to begin with." He handed me a flashlight and a lighter to Paul.

"I gotta get up early in the morning," he added stretching, "So I probably won't see you. You have my number?" I nodded. "Cool man, I'll see you next time you're up here."

I shut the door behind me and flicked on the light, looking for the bed. As I shucked my shoes and pants, I noticed the walls were covered with scrawlings and pictures, in thick crayon strokes. I began to look at them more closely; they weren't the scribblings of a child, but the work of an adult. Three altars, Two TEMPLES, one sacrifice! He shall COME when His time is near; the horn is blown.
I laid down on Timmy's bed and pulled the covers around my shoulders. It was good to know that Greg was still completely mad.


And thus I come to Hurricane Katrina, upon which I have started another entry that I haven't worked on lately.

I began this particular entry on September 20, when I saw this article. In all likelihood, you can't see this article because you don't subscribe to NY Times select [hint: try the username "myleftwing" and the password "motherfucker"], so I've copied the article here:


STORM AND CRISIS: VOICES FROM THE STORM; Just a Lucky Guy Who Left His Guitar in New Orleans

Published: September 20, 2005

Gregory Prior considers himself fortunate. A friend with a car and a tankful of gas picked him up in New Orleans before the full brunt of Hurricane Katrina hit. And because of the timing, Mr. Prior's regular disability check had just arrived.

So once he and his friend parted ways, there was money in his account for bus and train fare to Connecticut, where Mr. Prior has family and friends.

''I'm probably one of the luckiest people,'' he said.

He had tossed clothes and the hand-rolled cigarettes he likes into the car, but not his guitar. Mr. Prior got by as many people did in New Orleans: playing guitar in the street and in pickup bands. But there were other things on his mind four Sundays ago.

''I thought we were coming back,'' said Mr. Prior, 41.

Crossing the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain into Slidell, La., took seven hours. Hoping to go to Florida, the two men had to veer north when the Mississippi authorities halted eastbound traffic.

''People were breaking down, waving white flags because they ran out of gas,'' Mr. Prior said. ''Everyone was very somber.''

Eventually, he reached his parents' home in Shelton, Conn., where he slept on the basement couch. But his mother said her own health problems made it hard for him to stay there indefinitely.

A week after the storm, Mr. Prior learned that the City of New Haven had volunteered to take in 400 evacuees, who would be eligible for free housing, bedding, legal advice and bank accounts containing $100. He called the city's emergency line, and a soothing voice promised a reply within 24 hours. None came.

The second time he called, he was instructed to telephone the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He called and called, and finally got through on Sunday, but is still waiting for the help the agency indicated might be coming. ''I was a little disappointed,'' Mr. Prior said. ''I was hoping the city would help me.''

Local officials did solve one pressing problem. After he explained that the medicine he takes for a bipolar condition was running out, city social workers had his Medicaid eligibility switched to Connecticut from Louisiana. They also sent him to the American Red Cross, which has furnished a free hotel room for two weeks while he considers his options.

Reunited with some of his old Connecticut friends at Rudy's Bar and Grill here the other day, Mr. Prior treated himself to a hand-rolled cigarette and mulled over what he had left behind, perhaps for good.

''Everyone down there, to quote my neighbors, pah-tees like a rock 'n' roll star,'' he said. ''I don't know if it'll ever be the same.'' ALISON LEIGH COWAN

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Photo: Gregory Prior, back in Connecticut, is facing a decision on where to live. (Photo by Thomas McDonald for The New York Times)

It's good to know Greg's still around.